Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Human Mind is on a Collision Course with the Computer Processor

You are either in one of three buckets when you read the title of this post. You’re intrigued because you find the idea of artificial intelligence interesting and you believe that one day we’ll be able to create robots that can actually think. Or maybe your frightened because you think if computers get too smart they will take over the world and exterminate human beings. Or maybe you just think I’m crazy. In any case let me explain what I mean.

I believe the human mind is just like a computer processor except that it’s entirely organic and is far more evolved. Whether you agree with this or not, most people would say the human mind is exponentially more intelligent than even the most sophisticated computer processor. Ironically I think the human mind is inferior to the computer processor in some ways. When it comes to processing our waking thought, human beings actually move at snail’s pace relative to a computer processor. Think about it. When presented with a mathematical problem it takes noticeable time to process and come up with an answer. Whereas presented similar questions, a computer processor can calculate the answer nearly instantaneously. Even a $1.99 calculator demonstrates this power, but computers can only do this in a binary fashion. By this I mean they cannot make “reasonable decisions” based on inputs, they can only process ones and zeroes to get to a binary decision; essentially answering yes or no based on rules. There is no wavering from that. That’s the goal of artificial intelligence, to take a binary decision and empower the processor to do some reasoning. So the processor is faster, but the human mind is much more dynamic and sophisticated.

Ok, so how the heck are they intersecting. Well, like this. As computers get smarter and we figure out how to enable them to learn and reason they will start to get closer to the capabilities of the human mind. Of course you need to take a leap of faith that this is even possible, but who would have thought we could build airplanes and travel to the moon a thousand years ago. The mind on the other hand is getting faster. I always loved the old wives tale about how we only use 10% of brains. Well this has largely been disproved, but I like to think that the truth is we use our brains only 5% at the potential efficiency level. That means we can become exponentially more efficient, that’s processing. So as the human mind begins to process information faster and the computer starts to reason and think through problems they two technologies start to intersect.

Ok, now take this in. As this starts to occur I believe that at one instant in time, just like the ping pong ball experiment that demonstrates a nuclear reaction, the human mind and the computer processor will become one; literally one living, breathing, organic and man-made being. Humans will not be taken over by computers, they will become them and vice versa, computers won’t become the rulers of the universe they will evolve into them. It’s out there, and maybe I can’t fully explain it, but I just believe it. That’s what this blog is about so it doesn’t matter how out there it is.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anything is Possible

I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this story I heard about Steven Spielberg’s childhood. One night when Steven was a young boy his father came home abruptly from work and hustled his mother and sister into the car. It was dusk as they drove off into the unknown. His father hadn’t told them where they were going. Of course Steven had mixed emotion I’m sure. In part he was probably a little afraid but he also must have been excited and in wonderment of where his father was taking them. After all, he trusted his father and until then believed that he could do no wrong.

After while, the family arrived in a big open field with no trees and a perfect view of the summer night sky; there were many other people there, on blankets, seemingly with their families. Steven must have felt a calm sense of safety seeing others there, and his excitement and wonder surely grew into a fever. His father put out a big blanket and the family sat down in the nearly pitch black field. The moon was nowhere in sight that night, but when they leaned back and looked up they must have been astonished by the sight of a perfectly marvelous meteor shower. To Steven it must have looked like the stars were dancing just for him. To Steven the whole universe opened up and said one thing, anything is possible.

That experience not only stuck with Steven Spielberg, but it literally defined him from that point on. He had been imprinted with an extraordinary cosmic event at that perfect age where the most significant events are burned into our subconscious as more than just experiences; they become fundamental organizing principles that drive everything we do and how we perceive the world. You don’t have to see more than one of his movies to know that Steven Spielberg is driven by the organizing principle that anything’s possible.

I think in my heart I’ve always felt this way. But I know that many of my defining experiences have told me the exact opposite. For some reason the events that made me who I am today said something I’ve been fighting from the inside out for my entire life. It said something to the effect of, hey, most things are possible, but you should keep it to yourself or you might freak people out. That just sucks. That’s my organizing principle, you can think anything’s possible, but just don’t say or do anything about it.

Now, organizing principle can be pretty powerful. In fact, they’re like your subconscious, it’s pretty much uncontrollable. On top of that, I believe that human beings are part of a greater system, an energy that everything in the universe is part of. Pretty much every religion has some concept of that type. That system is designed to work like an equation, both sides are equal and if you have organizing principles that have you thinking and acting positively, then the universe wants to respond with the same. This concept of like attracts like is age old and most recently publicized in the book The Secret. The really sad thing is that if you have organizing principles that have you thinking or acting negatively, well, that’s what you get. People, places and things in your world will naturally fall into place that supports your organizing principles. Yeah, that can be a great thing if you’re Steven Spielberg and you think and act like anything is possible, but it sucks if your natural state is that you think everything has been done and there is little more out there. Of course I don’t believe or act like that, but I’m caught somewhere in the middle. My heart is dying to explore, but my mind wants to do everything to hold me back. What is that? Is God ironic?

In a lot of ways I’ve built up a community of people places and things that keep me stuck. The older I get, the more I feel like one day I’m going to wake up and realize that I’ve just got too much stuff blocking the door and too many people holding it shut. What am I supposed to do?

I recently spent a day in New York and met up with some old high school buddies. In fact, only now did I stop to realize that these two guys we the best two friends I ever had in my life. I was best friends with one and best friends with the other, and the two of them were good friends, not best, with each other. It was an interesting dynamic. Growing up I actually had a few different types of good friends that naturally wouldn’t have been friends with each other, but I created, not intentionally, several intersecting circles of people. I was the common denominator that connected everyone. Of course each of those friends had some things in common with the others, but they individually had more in common with me. I’m a bit of a connecter, but in high school I never realized it. So my trip to New York, and meeting with these guys was really quite incredible, fascinating really. First I met up with one friend, we spent time hanging out in the city, at lunch, walked around, caught up and enjoyed each other’s company. After a few hours, my other friend met up with us. The three of us talked, laughed, and everyone had a great time together. We went to dinner, walked on the pier, and had a blast. Then the first friend had to go home, leaving me with the second friend, and he and I spent another several hours together. From start to end of the day, the conversation transformed as I transitioned from one friend to both to the other one. It was really amazing to see. I know it was me that enabled that, and I know both friends left feeling inspired, motivated, excited, and maybe even a little bit of that sense that anything is possible. God, what if everyone believed that?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Do We Only Use 10% of Our Brain?

There is much evidence to refute that idea, as seen here and here. But most of that data refutes the idea that we physically use only 10% rather than the idea that we do indeed use 100% of our brain, but that the brain has the potential to be 90% more efficient and effective. Do we have a way to accurately measure how certain brain activity is more effective? Which is faster or more efficient? Which can process more concepts, ideas and calculations simultaneously? I think the answer is no. So what if the real way to think about it is not percentage of usage, but percentage of effectiveness.

Think about using your brain during a tough work day. You’ve got a lot on your mind, your processing numerous task and thinking through a handful concepts. You can only do so much. So what if you could do more, faster and simultaneously. I like to think of it more like a computer microprocessor. Comparing the early processors to the ones commonly found in personal computers these days is like comparing apples to motorcycles. They couldn’t be more different. The processors today are exponentially faster and capable of doing many many more calculations at the same time, multi-threading. So why can’t the human brain become capable of processing more faster?

As a side concept; I like to think technology and humanity are converging. As computer processing become more “intelligent” human brains are becoming more “effective”. It makes sense that we would strive to create a brain in our own image; it’s what we know, consciously and sub-consciously. In other words organic intelligence and artificial intelligence are converging because they were both born out of the same paradigm. More on that later.

So how do we access the potential power of our brains? Part of me says it’s time and evolution, that there is nothing we can do to accelerate it. I think that even if that’s true, it’s already accelerating exponentially. Think about the timeline of the human race. We’ve probably learned and accomplished more in the last 50 years than we have in the previous 1500 years. Our mind has also expanded and become more effective at that same ratio. I think it’s expanding like the ping pong ball experiment, all of the sudden we will have total knowledge and achieve the pinnacle of our potential.

On the flip side, perhaps we can accelerate it independent of time and evolution. Christopher Nolan in his latest masterpiece, Inception, came up with a very intelligent way to explain how the brain may not be maximized. His way of explaining the concept is that during our dream state, our minds are exponentially more effective and efficient. He shows how it not only has the ability to design and create the world we operate in but also experience that world in real-time. That creation, as evidenced by anyone that has had a vivid and strange dream, can be quite incredible (i.e. buildings falling on each other, or walking on walls). He also suggests that time is accelerated in dreams; 10 minutes in the real world could equate to hours, weeks or longer in the dream world because our minds can imagine and create a dream reality and experience it much faster than we could while awake. It’s such a brilliant way to explain the concept that we aren’t maximizing the potential of our minds… he says, look, why can we do so much more while we sleep with our minds than we can while we are awake. I just love that.

So, yes, there is proof we use 100% of our brains; I’m not doubting that. But is there proof that we can’t use 100% of our brains 1000% more effectively?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Earthquakes are the Closest we can Get to God

I think most people are afraid of earthquakes; quite contrary to that I love them, to a point anyway. To me, earthquakes are the closest I get to understanding God. Sure, that’s a pretty big statement, but if you’ve ever felt an earthquake, you may understand what I mean. Earthquakes grab you from the inside. The feeling is like nothing else on earth; nothing can replicate it. No matter how much you simulate the shaking of an earthquake, the feeling can’t be re-created. Those who have never been in an earthquake think of it as a “shaking” type feeling, that’s true of course, but it’s so much more. Earthquakes start deep in the earth, they don’t simply shake the surface beneath your feet, the grab the entire space you occupy and take control of it. Imagine it more like energy than shaking. The energy from an earthquake grabs everything within a certain radius, in all directions – up, down, left, right and everywhere in-between. You can feel the energy from deep within your soul, it starts from the inside and grabs your organs and shakes them. It is so vastly different than the feeling of someone shaking you that I can’t even begin to articulate it. Your adrenaline fires the moment it feels the earthquake and for that one moment you are connected to the earth, the universe and everything that is out there, explainable and not explainable. You are one with the universe and you feel just how connected everything really is. That’s how I think of God; an all powerful energy that has the capability of moving mountains, literally. If an earthquake is big enough, then the physical danger of falling objects, walls, roofs, buildings, etc. ultimately put you at real risk. But before we had all those things, back when the earth was just dirt and rock, even the biggest earthquake probably wasn’t all that dangerous. If you were in a wide open field, and a huge earthquake struck, more than likely you would be fine, barring a huge fissure opening and swallowing you up in the earth. But the feeling that goes along with an earthquake is unmistakable. The bigger and stronger the earthquake, the more connected we feel to everything. That’s why I love earthquakes. I fear them, and I have concern over my physical safety, but I love knowing that I’m part of a greater system. For that brief moment I’m more connected to God than I’ve ever been. It’s a spiritual experience from the inside out. No matter how holy you are or how much faith you have, nothing produces the same feeling of connectedness. It makes sense that we would feel fear so intensely at that moment. Every feeling comes out, fear, joy, anger, anxiety, love, the list goes on. We are completely powerless over everything. The power of an earthquake makes us feel totally out of control. There is nothing we can do but wait it out. If we just let go, for one moment, we are with God. Next time there is an earthquake I encourage you to try it. Enjoy it. Appreciate it. Don’t underestimate it, but don’t undervalue it. We’re all connected by a common thread that runs directly through out body piercing the soul. When an earthquake hits, that thread is pulled taught and everyone who feels it knows, for a moment in time, that God is within and without us. It’s a pretty fantastic feeling if you think of it that way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Success is Having; Excellence is Being

It seems like we’re taught from an early age the exact opposite though, I think I was. Or maybe it was that success and excellence are synonymous and you should therefore acquire as much as possible. I’ve acquired a lot of shit; literally that’s really what I got. Sometimes I find it hard to stop having and just being; lately I’ve been really struggling with it. I think that it’s a self fulfilling prophecy in that when I’m not “being excellent” I’m trying to fill a void by having more, then I look successful so it’s easier to ignore being excellent. It’s a viscous circle -- like a merry-go-round that never stops; it doesn’t even slow down enough for me to jump off. I’d like to know what it’s like to just be. Be me. Be free to enjoy whatever is at that moment. Be happy that things didn’t go my way, or be even happier that they went yours. If you stop and think about it, being is a lot simpler than having; so why do we work our asses of to have when all we have to do is relax to be. What a trick. What would happen if I didn’t get anything for one month; not acquire one thing for a whole 30 days. Could I even do that? I’m not talking about starving myself or buying gas to drive to work. I’m talking about having things, additional things that don’t get consumed or used; kinda like that movie Brewsters Millions. I think that movie said a lot more than people gave it credit for. What would happen if I wasn’t successful for one month, just 30 days of my life all I did was be and not have. It just seems so strange, but I’m going to try. In every situation I’m going to deny having something and if I can’t deny it, I’m going to write down those where I am forced to “have” something for whatever reason and I’ll post it here. An experiment, I wonder how it will go?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Child Development Right In Front of My Eyes

I just got back from vacation with my family and I had some pretty interesting insight about my kids development. My twins Wolf and Dahlia are 14 months now and this is our first vacation longer than 2 nights since they were born. For me, it was the first time I ever spent that many consecutive days with my kids. Even when they were born, I only took about a week off. Ten straight days of constant contact with my kids, in contrast to my normal schedule (see them in the morning and night on weekdays and all day on the weekends). That’s what lead to a fascinating insight.

Child development is exponential and can be observed in real-time. That’s my insight. I think you’re somewhat blind to it if you spend all your time or only limited time with the kids. My wife is a stay at home mom and so she is able to spend every day with them. I’m an entrepreneur which has me see them on a frequent but limited schedule.

I watched my kids evolve right in front of me. One minute they understood how to say “bye bye” and wave when we explained that someone was leaving. The next minute they realized that people leave through the front door. I saw my daughter go to the door, when nobody was there, point and say “bye bye” and wave. She knew that was the place people leave from. We didn’t teach her that, she just figured it out.

They learn exponentially. My kids love their shoes. They love putting them on and walking around. They have many pairs. They know where we keep the shoes and go get them when we say to. One minute they know the concept of shoes. The next minute they know that there are different styles of shoes, different colors, ones for my son and ones for my daughter. I ask my daughter to get her shoes and tell her to get the pink Nikes, first try, nope; it’s my son’s white Adidas. I tell her no, those are Wolf’s shoes. She brings them to Wolf and disappears. She returns with the pink Nikes.

I think they even enjoy learning. They get a certain satisfaction when it “clicks”; it’s just inspiring to watch. When it’s cold, they wear hats. I think sometimes the hat’s itch, especially with the beanies. It was particularly cold one afternoon. We put the beanies on both Wolf and Dahlia. She didn’t like it so she tried to take it off. I said sternly, “no honey, it’s cold, you need to keep your hat on” and she did. About 30 minutes later, we were inside where it was warm. My daughter looked at me and pointed to her head. She friggin pointed at her hat and looked at me with questioning eyes and in silence she said “now daddy, it’s warm, can I take the hat off now?” I nodded and she pulled the hat off. I nearly lost it.

My wife see’s this stuff every day, but I don’t think she appreciates it as much because there is so much going on and she sees it all. Like me she is blind to the little things. It takes a change in perspective to see them. That change happened for me because I went from seeing them a little to seeing them a whole lot; I noticed a lot and I’m so happy to have had that experience and look forward to many more.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Henefer: Week 2

Another week down and more demo, serious demo. It looks like a bomb exploded in our living room!

Next week they start with the foundation work then soon framing, yaaay; here are the rest of the pictures from week #2.

Henefer: Week 1

Finally, permits in hand we break ground. Demolition goes fast and is kinda scary.

I hope it doesn't take too long; here are pictures from week #1.

Henefer Remodel - Before

So we finally bought a new house. We decided on Westchester again, we just love it here. This time, we moved a bit west to Kentwood. It's just awesome there. We got luck and found a fixer on Henefer, which is one of the nicest tree-lined streets in all of Westchester. We had made a number of offers for various houses in the area over the past 18 months, no luck. Finally, after switching agents, which is a whole other story in itself, we bought 7818 Henefer, and we're so happy.

The house could have been lived in, it wasn't a total tear-down, but it was never really remodeled, so it was perfect to put some money into. It was by far the oldest and least updated (i.e. ugliest) house on the street, perfect!

So I'm documenting the whole thing, here are the before pictures

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Capitalism, Democracy, Socialism… huh?

I’m not a sophisticated finance guy. I really don’t understand much about politics. I was never really good in math and didn’t take too much to history. Some people might say I’m a bit of a simpleton, but most people that know me see more than that. I’m actually pretty interested in the things I mention above, I just come from a pretty “streets” view of it

I just finished watching Michael Moore’s latest documentary about capitalism and I really enjoyed it. He has a great way of simplifying complex concepts for people like me. The interesting thing about his movies is that in the process of simplifying things, he manages to debunk and in some cases make even the seemingly smartest people in the room look pretty dumb. Take his inquiry about “derivatives” for example. He first asks an Ivy League educated wall street guy to try and explain them, stumbling, he can’t. Then he plays a video of some head of Harvard economics board guy and he sounds more confused himself than even I was. It was pretty amazing.

So my question is this. I’m torn. I can’t figure out what’s best, or really, I can’t figure out what really works. Is it democracy, capitalism, socialism… or what? There seems to be good and bad in all of them? I’m also reading Atlas Shrugged (I’ve been listening to it actually, and since October) and Ayn Rand makes a pretty compelling argument for capitalism and a pretty gloomy portrayal of socialism. What works? What’s the political term for DemocraticSocialistCapitalism; a balance of all three maybe? I’m not interested in my slice of pie being limited in size, nor am I interested in handouts for “looter” and the straight up lazy; but I’m also not keen on the rich essentially stealing from the poor or pilots making 20K per year.

What to do?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

That Newly Remodeled Taco Bell Says Alot

There is a Taco Bell on Roberson at Beverlywood. I pass by there often on my way to a meeting I frequent. For a long time I noticed how ghetto that Taco Bell looked. It seemed to fit just fine in the landscape of other retail shops, donut stores and fast food joints. Beverlywood is actually a really nice area, but like most areas in Los Angeles, the adjoining commercial landscape is often pretty battered.

Well, to my surprise I saw that Taco Bell had been remodeled, and not the Home Depot vinyl window style either. The store is just incredible. I saw it at night so the landscaping and wall coverings were lit up with spotlights and wall sconces. There was architectural stone siding, great new Taco Bell signs, newly paved and lined parking lot, new tables, floor tile, windows, everything. It was quite stunning.

Whats the point? Well, although I do like Taco Bell, it’s not about Taco Bell in this case. It’s about progress. I love progress. That slight remodel to Taco Bell completely transformed the landscape of that block. I believe that one Taco Bell will drive the whole neighborhood upwards. Other stores and shops will follow-suit. Taggers are going to be less likely to spray their lame names on walls near there. Crime will go down. Happiness will go up. People like to be around things that look good. If we just improve the little things in our world, they will have an impact on the big things. After all, why can’t the Taco Bells look good too?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two Words, Space Travel

This is my response to just about everything these days. Well, not exactly, but I’m starting to think it should be. The concept has always fascinated me. I’ve posted before about my willingness to go on a 1-way journey to Mars. But now I’m thinking space travel is more than a dream, it’s a solution. I believe that space travel holds the keys to all our problems. Global warming, war, money, energy, food, natural resources, shelter, happiness, love and just about other issue mankind is facing today. Let me explain. If you haven’t seen this recent photo taken by the Hubble Telescope here it is.

Think about it. This one photo (Hubble Ultra Deep Field - HUDF) represents a small patch of our universe. Just look at how much “stuff” there is. I mean if we think that human beings are the only intelligence out there and that earth is the only source of “life”, we’re pretty damn self-centered. There is no question in my mind that there is so much more out there. Everything from intelligent life to unlimited fuels; there are food and energy sources, beauty that will make you cry and sadness that will make you feel alive. There is anything and everything we need and everything we can’t even comprehend. It’s limitless. Just imagine what we could discover if we spent 1 trillion dollars per year on space travel. Just a simple discovery of some rock hurling out there that filled with oil, or natural gas, or some other energy source that burns perfectly clean that we’ve never even heard of; or gold, or iron, or diamonds, who knows. Just stop for 10 minutes and dream about what could be out there and you’ll agree our problems are sill and surmountable.

Who’s on board?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seriously, my pumpkins are SICK!

I've nearly perfected the pumpkin carving process. Check out pictures from 2009.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Who is John Galt?

Every time I travel I get to thinking. I get impatient too, and I often find myself sitting on a plane, agitated, needing to be somewhere else and doing something more. No, I’m literally stuck sitting center seat and listening my book. But there are few coincidences and I think not that my entertainment is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; oh how appropriate. I get to thinking about how much more I should be doing. I get to thinking about how much more we could be doing, as a company, and it frustrates me. We’re having a good year but success is a devil inside me and I can’t seem to sit back and enjoy it. It’s a sickness I know, but I love it. Although I’m not nearly finished with her book, I love Rand’s exploration of Hank Rearden, the steel tycoon, who has become such a monster for success; he cannot separate himself from it. He’s almost molten of the same liquid ore that pours the metal rails for Taggart Transcontinental. I see myself in him but I wish I was even more like him. Even as I cringe at the sad, numb assent his wife has for her husband, whom she deeply loves, I don’t care. I want it even more. But then I am alone most of the time. I imagine the truly loyal entrepreneur is alone. He must be. It’s not a good thing, but what can be changed in each of us. If I wasn’t meant to be this way then why would I feel such deep lows and precipitous highs? If one shouldn’t take business so personally then why do I derive so much pleasure from it? How many people don’t love what they do? Who is John Galt?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Great Men Always Have Too Much Canvas

Have you ever heard this, neither had I until recently, but I love it. I think there is a number of ways to interpret this statement. On the one hand, it suggests that remarkable people often have too much going on to be effective. Or it can be construed that such people are cursed with a vision that extends beyond what can be accomplished in a lifetime. Or maybe it means that a man is as great by virtue of having too much to do.

I often feel like I’ve just got too much on my plate. I also feel like there is just so much I want to do but don’t know where to begin. Sometimes I have a hard time finishing things because I’m just on to the next. I’ve also found that the more knowledge and experience I gain, the less I know. In other words when I learn something new, I’m just a novice at that thing. So my breadth of understanding widens (my canvas) but my ability to paint on that canvas is limited. How do you manage your vision?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It’s Not What I Think; It’s Not What You Think. What is it Then?

Aren’t most of us concerned about what other people think of us? I’m certainly afflicted with that character defect. But is that really my problem? Maybe not. As many times as I’ve been stopped by the fear of what others think about me I’ve come to realize what I thought they were thinking of me was entirely different than what they were actually thinking. In other words I was afraid of something that ended up not being true at all. Imagine living in constant fear of monsters in your closet. Of course most of us have grown out of that one because we now know that monsters aren’t real. So why do we let the fabrication of other peoples thoughts affect us? The truth is I don’t’ think we realize it. Since we can’t yet read minds, how then do we arrest this behavior? In my experience what I think your thinking is in fact what I’m thinking about you. In other words if I’m worried about you thinking I’m fat, or ugly, annoying, dumb, whatever, more than likely I think one of those things of you. The good news is that’s something we can control, what we think of others. If you want others to think good things about you, think good things about them.

Dog is God Spelled Backwards

I’ve never been a deeply religious person. I do believe in God, but I don’t subscribe to the idea of there being one specific God, or the picture of the flowing robes and wild gray beard. For me God is just something greater than myself. It’s a force that I can’t really explain, only that I know it’s there and I can call upon it for help whenever I wish. Unfortunately I don’t do that very often, call upon God that is. I think that may be true of many people. God is something we look to when all else has failed us. But I know some people that seek the support of a higher power in just about every situation, and in my experience I get a lot more than I ask for when I am open to it.

On Sunday nights it’s my job to take out the garbage. This ritual is much loved by my dog Lewis. No matter where he is or what he is doing, when it’s time to do this chore, he’s on point. Lewis is well trained (unlike his sister, which is another story), so I can let him outside off leash. It’s a short exercise, but he loves it.

On more than one occasion after finishing our trash duties and coming inside, I realized Lewis wasn’t around. Due to the fact that his other pastime is sleeping, it could be an hour or two before I noticed he wasn’t here. A short look around the house proved he must have never come in with me. Upon opening the door I see Lewis coiled up on the front door mat, just waiting there. No scratching to come in, no barking, no whining, just waiting there for me to open up. I guess that’s what good dogs do.

But maybe it’s more than that. When I think about my relationship with God, I realize that he too is just waiting there for me on the doorstep. All I have to do is open the door and let him in.

One time after sharing this story with a few friends, one asked me if I knew that Dog was God spelled backwards. As someone who doesn’t believe in coincidences, I’d say that was about as good of a sign as I could ask for.

When was the last time you left the door open?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Great Filmmaking is a Subtle Foe

It was suggested to me to try and articulate the following concept so I’m going to try. I apologize in advance if it makes no sense.

There are many facets to a good movie; the acting, story, writing and so on. But there is something subtle about a truly great film. I think most people don’t realize it’s happening when it does, but it creates a subconscious connection with the audience and brings everything together. It’s delicate and fleeting but it’s there. Sometimes I see it; in fact, for me I really tune into it. I don’t know how to describe it but I’m going to try.

I’ll start with a movie that I would never have thought I would have liked. In fact, when it first came out I wasn’t at all interested and almost embargoed it. That movie is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was of course critically acclaimed and many agreed. But there were those two that didn’t get it and found it childish. I actually understand both sides. There is one scene in that movie that not only communicated the essence of the film, but also exemplifies my point about the subtleties that make great movies.

The scene is early on when Yu Shu Lien, played by Michelle Yeoh, first realizes who the thief that stole the Green Destiny sword. The thief, who we later learn is Zhang Ziyi’s character Jen. For most people watching the movie, this scene probably just flies by. The two of them are sitting at a table talking with a member of Jen’s family. Suddenly Yu Shu Lien knocks a cup off the table knowing that Jen will instinctively reach for it and catch the cup, which of course she does. The beauty of this scene is so subtle. What’s the real point here? Well, that’s the hard part. It just felt good when I was watching it.

I’ve tried to explain to people before but people don’t see it. One of the underlying themes of the movie is about raw talent untrained and the importance of training. Jen’s character is more gifted than anyone before her, but she has had no training. Yu Shu’s character has less inherent talent, but has been thoroughly trained. Later this is proven more when she fights Jen for the first time (the second best scene in the movie for the same reasons). Yu Shu’s subtle dropping of the cup demonstrates her superiority over Jen and for the first time Jen has a sense that maybe she doesn’t know everything. In this one scene the film is told and I fell in love with it then.

This is one example. There are many others.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BSG; Nuff Said

So I don’t typically post about television (which is odd b/c I watch a lot of it), but I can’t end the weekend without talking about the grand finally of one of televisions greatest shows, Battlestar Galactica. Here’s the deal.

It’s a good time to share one of my recurring waking dreams as it relates to this final episode. I’ve had this image in my head for more than 20 years. One day I believe we discover another planet that supports life. I don’t assume there will already be life there (although I do believe there is life out there), but we will be able to inhabit it. Some people will want to explore it and others will fear leaving our planet. I am an explorer and would give up anything and everything to be part of the community that creates civilization there. I want to be involved in everything from building shelter to creating government. I want to develop barter systems and currency. I just want to be part of creating a society from scratch. The idea fascinates me.
Ok, I could go on forever on that, but let me bring back to BSG. One of the reasons why I’ve always loved this show was because of the underling and intertwined theme of a divine power. The show is based on the premise that there is something out there; something intelligent and more powerful than one species alone. This Higher Power so elegantly weaves the fabric of the universe that you are unable to believe in coincidence or that there is no plan.

The final episode of BSG brings all of this to head and leaves no loose ends. And, for me, best of all, the remaining “beings” are conveniently dumped onto a new planet that is at the beginning of evolution. Rather than bring the baggage, technology and history with them, they choose instead to start anew. They choose to be exactly what I’ve been dreaming of since being a kid. They choose to create a civilization from scratch. I just loved it.

The universe is vast and based on constructs of our own knowledge and imagination. What about what we don’t know we don’t know. There is much more out there, and I it is my fervent belief that our paths will cross and I will play a role.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Attraction Rather than Promotion

Have you ever heard this before? Attraction rather than promotion is the belief that ideas are better communicated through actions rather than suggestions. Some may know it as Gestalt Protocol or more simply, lead by example. Well, I’ve had a lot of success approaching life this way, but I forget easily. I was recently reminded of this principle and I’m trying to put it into practice.

In my experience, people don’t like to be told what to do. And the more I try to do that, the more they resist, and the more frustrated and ultimately resentful I get. If I can focus on my own behavior and take actions that are congruent with what I want to communicate to others, it rubs off. This is true in business as much as it is in my personal life. I need to focus not so much in what needs to be changed in others as what needs to be changed in me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How Ford, GM and Chrysler can Win Back Americans and Save the Auto Industry

I often find myself day-dreaming about important business topics; I find it is a good way come up with innovative ideas. My current circumstances have me thinking about marketing a lot these days and in one such brainstorming session I began to think about our failing auto industry. I believe I have a solution to the crisis, albeit radical, one that will not only stimulate the economy, but also address the energy emergency as well. Here it is.

People are already not happy with the “big 3” because they have not stayed progressive; they have not adapted with the needs of consumers and the needs of our environment. I think everyone would agree American car manufacturers are way behind. On top of that, the American public is angry about the continued government bailouts and I believe are particularly perturbed that we now need to use tax dollars to save failing auto makers that don’t even make cars we want.

For these companies to succeed, even with the bailout money they need to win back the trust and dollars from the American people. I suggest they create a national advertising campaign and pledge to Americans that they are going to change. Ford, GM and Chrysler must promise to meet extremely aggressive timelines for new fuel efficient vehicles. Not just the same cars with slightly better efficiency, they need to take a stand on radical change. They must commit to building cars that get 50-100 MPG and that meet the needs of current and transforming consumers. They must assure the public that they will use the government money wisely and invest in this future, and share the progress openly. They need the public to see that they are making a do or die bet. If they fail to deliver on this promise, the go bankrupt and everyone loses.

In return, the car makers ask the American people to join the fight for change; ask them to make an investment in the future of our country and for energy independence. I propose the Big 3 offer them an incentive program to buy now and save later. The car makers would sell current makes and models today at fair prices where they can still make reasonable profits. In return, consumers that buy a car in the next 12 months at these prices, will get a coupon for the purchase of a car at manufacturer cost (that means below wholesale) of the future in 3-5 years. In addition, they would issue common shares of stock to these consumers so they are effectively investing in the future of the company.

This type of program would generate the much needed cash today for the automakers to invest in R&D and keep operations running while they develop the cars of the future. The key is that they actually must achieve the promised delivery dates of these new vehicles or they die. This is a marketing play into the current revival of American pride, which is being largely driven by the new government administration. In fact, there is a potential to get the government behind the program with more financial support if they actually achieve very specific milestones.

I equate the situation much like when the United States was determined to go to the moon. There was going to be no stopping us. We made an incredibly aggressive and radical commitment to achieve a goal that was almost inconceivable. The fact that American car makers traditionally sell to the middle class and the core of the country, I think they are in the best position to make an impact. To use an expression from Obama, the Big 3 represent “main street” more than any other companies. The car makers can take advantage of the human, especially American, spirit of renewal; that inherent desire to achieve greatness. They can simultaneously help fortify the economy, rally the masses and lead the way to energy independence.

It has been proven throughout history; people cause change. Rally the people and radical change will occur.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Twins! Nuff Said

UPDATE - Pictures Here!

Well it’s been a long road, but my twins arrived safely yesterday. Please welcome Dahlia Pink Solomon & Wolf Patton Solomon. I’ll post many pictures including videos of the c-section soon, but I’m at the hospital still and I don’t have my camera transfer cable. What an amazing experience. Everyone says that. It’s just very cool. It’s exciting and scary. There is so much unknown. When they popped out I checked the basics, 10 fingers, 10 toes, etc. They look fine but I’m worried about what I can’t see. I guess over time parents just get used to the feeling of not having 100% control over the kids. I have to trust that God has a plan for them and everything will work out how it is supposed. I believe that anyway.

I think of myself as a pretty accomplished guy. I don’t know everything, but most of the time I feel like I know the things I don’t know. When it comes to raising these kids, I don’t know what I don’t know. I mean just in the last 24 hours I’ve had to learn and do things I’ve never done before. Feeding and burping and keeping track of this poop and that pee. I can’t tell you how many times these nurses have showed me how to swaddle these monkeys and I just can’t get it. Show me how to us a power tool once and I’ll build a house. Show me how to wrap a baby in a blanket and watch it fall to the ground after I pick them up (more videos on that soon).

Aya (my wife) lost a lot more blood than she should have after the c-section. She ended up having to get a transfusion. That’s a little scary because we don’t really know where the blood came from. She’s also quite sore and will not be at full power for weeks. I guess parental instincts just kick in though. I’m doing what I need to and I’m really enjoying it. A friend told me that kids are the best thing that ever happens to you, and whatever is second is light years behind that. I’m a really happy dad just trying to figure it all out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Built a Wall and I’m Proud of It

Click the Image to View Photo Gallery
You’d probably think the title of this post is a metaphor for something; but the truth is I built a wall and I’m proud of it. My wife and I have a two bedroom house. A few years ago we decided that we could have a bigger master bedroom if we took down the wall between the two rooms, so I did just that. It was great for a long time. But, with babies on the way, we needed a second room (and then some). By the way, we are having twins in a few months if you hadn’t heard.

So a week ago I started putting back the wall. Well I love construction. I’m quite handy and I’d been itching to do a project around the house. Seeing as our room was going to shrink, I thought it would be a good time to replace our old “tube” television with a flat LCD in the bedroom. If I installed it on the wall, I would gain much more space on our dresser. And, since I was building the wall from scratch, I could run all the cables/wires/etc. in the wall so nothing would be seen. It was on!

Step by step, day by day I worked on this wall. First I framed it. Then I ran electrical. Then I worked on a conduit for the satellite, phone, network, HDMI, cables, etc. Next I put up one side of the drywall and the insulation; after that went up the other side of drywall. Then tape the seams, patch the nails and prep for painting. Finally, paint and baseboards. In about 8 days (not fulltime) it was done.

Aya photographed step by step my progress. You can check out my progress by viewing my Kodak Gallery. It turned out great, and yes, I’m very proud.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reverse Marketing; Using Google AdWords for B2B Target Marketing

I’ve had this idea for some time now and I feel like it’s time I posted it on my blog so I can at least claim it as an original idea before Google releases it, if they ever do. The concept came to me, like most of the ideas I have, from a frustration or limitation of some other activity or product. In this case the frustration that drove the idea was marketing to other businesses using Google AdWords.

I’ve been a long time Google AdWords customer and began using the advertising method for Leads360 about 4 years ago. While I have increased my keyword list and developed different strategies that have produced incremental performance benefits, I still can’t fully target the businesses I want to reach in an effective manner.

The great thing about Google is that when a potential customer searches a relevant keyword term and click on your paid AdWord, in theory, you get highly targeted and “interested” leads. For the most part this is true, however in the world of marketing, only a small percentage of you potential prospect base is actually looking for what you have to offer. In other words, if you sell widgets and you know there are 1 million people out there that want, need, could benefit from your widgets only a small subset of that group actually knows they need or want it and only that group actually searches for widgets on Google and get’s connected with you. What about the other, let’s call 95% of that pool that doesn’t search for widgets. That’s the age old marketing challenge and why television and radio have been a medium that continues to work, at least for targeting consumers.

In the B2B world TV and radio only work if you have a huge budget, that’s one of the reasons that the internet has exploded as an advertising medium. Still, the internet and search marketing is largely dominated by B2C advertisers. This leads me to my idea.

When I think of the businesses that I’m trying to target, they are actually B2C companies. That is they target consumers for their products; whereas I am B2B and target them. My question became: how do I target the 95% of B2C businesses that are not searching for my keywords on Google. The answer I came up with is that while they may not be searching for my product, they are actually using Google AdWords to promote their own products and services. And because I can research and understand what keywords they are buying, why can’t I “reverse” market to them?

Let me give you a real world example of how Reverse AdWords Marketing could work. One of the industries that we target is Debt Settlement. If you are not familiar with this industry you will be soon or you can read about in on Wikipedia. I estimate there are about 1000 businesses of reasonable size that are in this vertical. Of those thousand, most are doing some form of marketing (you’ve probably heard the radio commercials… “if you have more than $10,000 in credit card debt call debt savers of America…”). A good portion of those companies are advertising on Google using AdWords. It’s a great channel for these companies because they are targeting a growing sector of consumers that are in debt and need help. This trend will have them start at Google searching for terms like “get out of debt” or “eliminate my credit card debt” and so on. My potential debt clients are buying these keywords on Google and seeing a great return from them. What if I could also buy those terms but instead of showing my ad when a consumer searched for them, I would show up in front of the business while they are managing their AdWords account.

It’s pretty simple actually. When you login to AdWords to create an advertisement you must enter the keywords that you want to target. As soon as the debt company, in this example, put in one of the keywords I bought, my highly targeted ad would show up for them. Now I’m targeting the right customer while they are in marketing mode. Its not quite as good as a company searching for my keywords on Google, but it allows me to now target a bigger portion of the 95% that aren’t searching for me. Hooray!

The system works the same. I pay per click and I battle against my competitors or anyone else that wants to advertise to those companies. And, if there was pushback from advertisers not wanting to see ads when they are using the AdWords system Google could offer a small discount on the AdWords they are buying just to show the ads to them, which may just be valuable and less obtrusive than a cold call or spam email.

For Google this could represent a huge incremental and untapped revenue stream. Just my example alone I would spend an additional $5,000 per month on top of the $10,000 per month I already spend on AdWords. I would just move some of my marketing dollars from some other non-targeted method.

There are many hurdles to overcome I’m sure but when I think about it from a marketers perspective it’s a great way to advertise to a very targeted group of businesses and with my entrepreneurial hat on it seems like a pretty great way to make more money and dig deeper into the B2B internet advertising dollars.

Ok Google, run with it if you aren’t already. If you end up getting the idea here, throw me a bone.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why Rising Gas Prices are a Good Thing

The faster and higher the price of gas goes the better. Here’s my theory. History has proven that necessity is the mother of invention. Right now we need some serious invention to get the economy on track and develop long term sustainability for our country. Enter the price of gasoline. I believe that the country is largely driven by large corporations, and corporations will always do what’s most profitable; it’s capitalism after all. So when it comes to alternative fuels or vehicles, corporations will not change heading unless they can make more money. Why would Exxon shift focus from making fuel from oil when it’s the most profitable route, they won’t. So if gasoline slowly rises, say to $10.00 in the next 5 or 10 years, they will not be incentivized to do anything about it. In fact, they will likely model out that they will make dramatically more money by dragging US consumers through the mud and slowly bleeding them with up and down fuel prices.

But, if gasoline was at $10.00 say in the next 12 months, or sooner, the economy and consumer spending would come to a screeching halt. In particular any products, services or activities that require the use of gasoline will be avoided at all costs. Therefore the more profitable route for Exxon and GM would be to embrace the need for change, put all of their money into R&D and innovate new products as quickly as possible.

The bottom line is that if we wanted to create a sustainable, environmental friendly, inexpensive and plentiful energy source or if we wanted cars that looked cool, had great features and drove 500 miles per $1.00 gallon of whatever, we could. We have the technology. It’s all about how profitable it would be to figure it out. When it becomes more profitable to figure it out for our big corporations, then they will.

So next time you go to the pump and the price has gone up yet another 25 cents, be thankful. We’re well on our way to radical innovation.
I have much more to say on this topic.