[He] imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. “When you’re the janitor,” [he] has repeatedly told incoming VPs, “reasons matter.” He continues: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.” That “Rubicon,” he has said, “is crossed when you become a VP.”
Bill Clinton, the last president in office with a child of grade-school age, tried to be present in his daughter’s life. Craig Smith, a political consultant who worked for Clinton in Arkansas and Washington, recalled that when he and then-Gov. Clinton would travel for the day out of Little Rock they would start out at the Governor’s Mansion: “I’d get there in the morning and the first thing we would do is drop Chelsea off at school. He took Chelsea to school every day. He said, ‘Let me give you a piece of advice if you’re going to have a life in politics. Take your kids to school in the morning, because you never know what time you’re going to get home at night.’”
As president, Clinton did spend time with his daughter during evenings when he could. Like Obama, he helped with the day’s homework. When he was out of town, he’d supply the assistance by telephone.
But unlike Obama, Clinton always found time to connect with people. While the self-contained current president is said to hold only a few friends close, the extroverted former president craves constant human contact. He would spend hours on the phone with members of Congress and his Cabinet, cajoling them on a vote or asking their advice or gaming out their appearance the next day on “Meet the Press.” He also stayed in touch with friends — from around the country, but particularly from Arkansas. When he couldn’t make it to Little Rock to reconnect with home, home would come to him. Old friends would stay overnight at the White House, although they might not sleep much, given that games of hearts with the president would extend into the wee hours of the morning.
As busy as they have been, all presidents have set aside personal time. Many — Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, both Bushes, Clinton, Obama — have played golf. Harry Truman took his daily constitutional and played poker with his pals. John F. Kennedy sailed. Nixon bowled. Ford swam. Jimmy Carter, perhaps the most diligent worker of the bunch, played tennis. Ronald Reagan rode his horse. George H.W. Bush drove his speedboat. His son cleared brush. Lyndon B. Johnson found time for such activities as phoning a Texas clothier to order, in exacting and earthy detail, half a dozen pairs of pants. Nixon spent time, well-lubricated by Scotch whiskey, in Florida with his friend Cuban-American businessman Bebe Rebozo.
“Why doesn’t Obama like to schmooze?” – Michael Takiff
There is no hard and fast rule, but I would suggest incorporating a rest day once every seven to 10 days. The key is to listen to your body and its signals, irrespective of your planned training schedule. Spending the afternoon trawling the Gap for a bargain, pulling up every weed in your overgrown garden or trying in vain to assemble a wardrobe do not count as rest.
Buttocks-on-sofa is the position to assume.
To reiterate, it is not wasted time. Push aside any (unnecessary and self-destructive) feelings of guilt or laziness and trust that resting makes you better, faster, stronger and more resilient (and also gives you the chance to watch “Top Gun” for the 100th time).
Chrissie Wellington, four-time Ironman champ. The importance of R&R
OK. I’ll believe her.
It’s backed up by research on memory — doing nothing really seems to actually get things done. I can definitely attest that working too much is bad for your brain (and body, although I think the physical effects are more obvious). It’s almost like being depressed — it really takes everything out of you. The first time you feel this, you won’t even know what’s happening. It’s only when you look back after a while of relaxing that you can realize it.
The best warning sign: if you find yourself disliking something that you used to love, you should take a break from it. Time off can be a miracle cure, because too much of anything is a bad thing. Even water can kill you.
The dose makes the poison
Paracelsus aka Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim
And that’s when Young went radical, and in doing so launched his own fame. A door-to-door survey conducted by the advertising company had revealed that “every woman knew of Odorono and about one-third used the product. But two thirds felt they had no need for [it],” Sivulka says.
Young realized that improving sales wasn’t a simple matter of making potential customers aware that a remedy for perspiration existed. It was about convincing two-thirds of the target population that sweating was a serious embarrassment.
The advertisement goes on to explain that women may be stinky and offensive, and they might not even know it. The take-home message was clear: If you want to keep a man, you’d better not smell.
The advertisement caused shock waves in a 1919 society that still didn’t feel comfortable mentioning bodily fluids. Some 200 Ladies Home Journal readers were so insulted by the advertisement that they canceled their magazine subscription, Sivulka says.
In a memoir, Young notes that women in his social circle stopped speaking to him, while other JWT female copy writers told him “he had insulted every woman in America.” But the strategy worked. According to JWT archives, Odorono sales rose 112 percent to $417,000 in 1920, the following year.
There’s a blog post I’ve liked for a long time now. It’s from a guy who sent a postcard to Warren Buffett, asking for a piece of wisdom to someone who Warren had never met.
The reply on the postcard was “read, read, read”.
I’ve always liked this answer. And now I like it more.
Bob Rodriguez is CEO of First Pacific Advisors, and is a ridiculously successful investor. In 1974 he asked Charlie Munger (Buffet’s business partner) what would make him a better investor.
“In the fall of 1974 I was in graduate school at USC taking a portfolio-management investment course. The financial markets were in difficulty, and I didn’t understand how securities were being sold at such depressed levels. I had only recently discovered Security Analysis by Graham and Dodd when we had a guest lecturer come in named Charlie Munger, who went on about this idea of value investing. After the class was over, I walked up to Charlie and asked him if there was one thing that I could do that would make me a better investment professional. His answer was, ‘Read history, read history, read history.’ And so I became a good historian, reading both economic and financial history as well as general history.
“What I learned is that people relate to the crises they have experienced. So when the crisis of 2008 came, it felt like an old friend to me because it had so many similarities to the banking crisis of 1907. Asking Charlie’s advice and then reading history allowed me to put those things in context.”
And 34 years later, in 2008, Buffet tells some random guy to “read, read, read”. He didn’t use the words “read everything you can” or “be sure to read lots of books” or “get off my damn lawn”. It was “read, read, read”.
Makes me happy.
Bonus image from reddit the other day, titled “The Issue In A Nutshell”
This video is titled “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”. At about 3:38, Feynman discusses his father and how Feynman was raised.
This is video of someone who is arguably one of the smartest people to ever live, who is widely known for being able to explain things well, and who is at an advanced enough age that he’s had a lot of time to think about his own life, as well as watch other humans grow from children into adults (which means he’s been able to observe the process many times).
To me, that makes the next 90 seconds very interesting. I think he explains the secrets of raising genuinely smart kids (or rather, what to do with kids in order to raise a genuinely smart adult).
- Spend time with them
- reading facts to them
- and discussing what you’ve read with an emphasis on relationships between things, cause and effect, etc.
You’re teaching the kid how to process thoughts — literally a “thought process”. You’re teaching them how to process the written word (and spoken word), as well as what to do when they have the thought in their head: do I understand this thing? Is it true given all the other things I know are true? If this is true, what else must be true?
And the rest of the video is good too.
I like this. (emphasis author’s)
None of that would have been possible if I wasn’t willing to make a (polite) pain in the ass out of myself.
The world has a way of making room for those who just won’t give up.
There’s one other treat in here.
I wonder if it’s possible to trade away some self-control to get more grit. That sounds like a good bargain.
That is a fantastic speculation.
The guy who wrote has the name Adam Smith (not the Adam Smith of economics fame, but the Adam Smith of Silicon Valley-email fame). He successfully started and exited (b-school speak for “sold”) a company, something that is very hard no matter how many times you watch The Social Network. It certainly takes something that is beyond intelligence or talent, or ordinary “hard work”.
There’s a term that I like from the Finnish culture — sisu. It means something like “perseverance, determination, and level-headedness”, and it represents something that I want to cultivate in myself. Other than the nice end-rhyme we get from “true sisu”, I think I prefer “grit” now.
Check out this video that Adam referenced in his blog post. It’s definitely recommended for anyone who considers themselves ambitious.
Some people love to focus on their tools — photography comes to mind.
I don’t own any photography equipment that’s nicer than my iPhone. For me, always having a camera on me is much more worthwhile than having a very nice camera and lens set that gets left at home because it’s harder to carry.
I don’t own any film cameras, and I don’t own a DSLR (although I might rent something if I’m going someplace that I expect to be particularly photogenic). I have nothing against nice cameras, and one day I will get one with a good lens so that I can take pictures with a foreground and a background, but until then, I’m content to take pictures like these:
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/timrosenblatt/6576836929/in/photostream – I could have taken this picture with a Canon 5D and it wouldn’t make the picture any better — the camera doesn’t affect the content of this picture. There’s something that feels very human about this image.
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/timrosenblatt/6576795149/in/photostream – No camera on earth could empty the streets of downtown SF.
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/timrosenblatt/6374538519/in/photostream – Personal emotion. The best zoom lens in the world can’t take a picture of me in SF standing next to my uncle in NY. (Although not buying a fancy lens could fund several trips to NY to visit him, where I can take pictures with my cameraphone)
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/timrosenblatt/6323728306/in/photostream – Again, it’s the content. There’s something poetic about poor people camping outside enormous office buildings.
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/timrosenblatt/5724616222/in/photostream – Still looks classy.
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/timrosenblatt/4291638261/in/photostream – I’ll admit, I’m impressed at how good the color in this looks (and this is from the 3GS camera).
I’m not the only person who thinks this way. Here’s a walkthrough of the difference between pictures from cameras that cost $150 and $5,000.
I like when Ice Cube talks about how Mr & Mrs Eames took advantage of what they had. It’s easy to impress people by working with the best tools and supplies. If they had one-of-a-kind, oversize glass panes custom-produced for the house, it would naturally be impressive to many people. Instead, by using ordinary ingredients, and treating them skillfully, they create something impressive to untrained eyes, and they get respect from pros, because the only thing really used was skill.
You see the same pattern in other areas, food, for example. There’s an episode of Kitchen Nightmares (UK) where Gordon Ramsay trains a chef on how to make oxtail delicious — and he explicitly says that it’s always a sign of a talented chef who can take a plain and ordinary ingredient, and turn it into a delicious meal. In addition, it’s an easy way to make a nice profit: cheap ingredients, impressive results. (There’s a corollary here: it’s not what you’re drinking, it’s who you’re drinking it with)
Or in life…what’s more impressive? The child of an upper class family, educated in private schools, who goes onto become a Senator; or the child who grows up in urban projects, fought and struggled to succeed, and becomes a Senator. There’s a reason we love rags-to-riches stories in America — it ties into our belief that with the right skill and attitude, you can take ordinary inputs and produce extraordinary results.
I’m sure there are many other areas that I’m not thinking of where this pattern repeats.
I don’t mean to knock an investment in tools. Even Gordon Ramsay would have a difficult time trimming a steak if all he had was a butter knife. Or a spork. Ansel Adams would probably notice if you gave him a cheap camera. A good tool has a multiplier effect — it takes the level of skill and makes the result better. But that still means that if you want to see an improvement in results, as long as the tool is “good enough”, you’re better off focusing on improving your skills — the improvement in skills will continue to be multiplied by the good tool, and you’ll have gained something that can’t be taken away.
Or to be lighthearted about it: it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it that counts.
I like this. It’s a classic Zen story, and the video is good.
It reminds me of that speech Will Smith gave. Running & reading. It’s the modern day version of the body-and-mind connection that the Greeks talked about.
He’s got a phrase that he’s used in other interviews: “die on a treadmill”. I’m not sure if I should be proud that I’ve nearly done this.
There’s a story that I heard about Timbaland. Apparently if he’s got work to do but gets invited to a release party, he’ll show up for 15 minutes, shake hands, offer congratulations, and then go back to the studio. That’s how to hustle.
Of course, there’s another side to this, just to keep the universe in check: be careful what you wish for. You can get anything you want, make sure it’s what you really want.
I read an article today about Steve Jobs on Obama, and I know everyone gets all excited when it’s a Jobs quote, but I think his take on this is right, and if anything, the fact that he said it might push some people to pay attention.
‘You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” Steve Jobs told President Obama at the beginning of a one-on-one session the president requested early last year. As described in the authorized biography by Walter Isaacson, Apple’s founder said regulations had created too many burdens on the economy.
Jobs was an Obama supporter, but his just-disclosed comments are typical of a new frustration with Washington among Silicon Valley executives. Their high-tech companies are supposed to be the country’s engine for growth, but the federal government is gumming up the works.
Mr. Isaacson reports that Jobs offered to Mr. Obama to “put together a group of six or seven CEOs who could really explain the innovation challenges facing America.” But after White House aides got involved with planning the dinner, it became unwieldy and Jobs pulled out.
When a smaller dinner was arranged last February, the result was more estrangement of Silicon Valley from Washington. Mr. Obama was seated between Jobs and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The dinner also included top executives from companies such as Google, Cisco and Oracle.
According to Mr. Isaacson, Jobs “stressed the need for more trained engineers and suggested that any foreign students who earned an engineering degree in the U.S. should be given a visa to stay in the country.” The president reportedly replied that this would have to await broader immigration reform, which he said he was unable to accomplish.
“Jobs found this an annoying example of how politics can lead to paralysis,” Mr. Isaacson writes. “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done,” Jobs said. “It infuriates me.”
Jobs told Mr. Obama that Apple employs 700,000 factory workers in China because it can’t find the 30,000 engineers in the U.S. that it needs on site at its plants. “If you could educate these engineers,” he said at the dinner, “we could move more manufacturing jobs here.”
One of the benefits of free trade, including in the movement of labor, is that skills would go where they are most valued. Jobs made the point that Silicon Valley is mystified by a policy that instead educates foreigner engineers at top U.S. universities, then sends them home immediately.
Among the attendees at the dinner was venture capitalist John Doerr, who during an Internet conference in 2008 described the absurdity memorably: “I would staple a green card to the diploma of anyone that graduates with a degree in the physical sciences or engineering in the U.S.”
Foreign nationals in the U.S. now account for 70% of doctorates in electrical engineering and half the master’s degrees. They would be more productive if permitted to remain in the U.S. Academic studies estimate that a quarter of technology businesses started in the U.S. since 1995 have had at least one foreign-born founder. Half of Silicon Valley startups are founded by foreigners.
The U.S. issues 140,000 green cards a year, which is not enough to meet demand even in this soft economy. Worse yet, the work-permit laws say that the residents of no country can get more than 7% of the permits. This is fine for Andorra and Liechtenstein but not for India and China, which have 18% and 19% of the world’s population, respectively. The National Foundation for American Policy calculates the 7% limit means a backlog of 70 years of applications from prospective Indian workers and 20 years from Chinese ones.
Vivek Wadwha is a native of India who started two tech companies in the U.S. before becoming an academic specializing in immigration. He recently testified to Congress that the U.S. is “giving an unintentional gift to China and India by causing highly educated and skilled workers, frustrated by long waits for visas, to return home.”
There’s little prospect of reform, even though Mr. Doerr’s staple-a-green-card idea has been endorsed by everyone from Mitt Romney to Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York. Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, proposes the Staple Act (an acronym for Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy). As Pia Orrenius, author of “Beside the Golden Door,” says, letting more skilled workers stay in the U.S. is “as close to a free lunch” as the economy can get.
Jobs himself was the biological son of an immigrant professor father from Syria, who was lucky enough to be a graduate student in the U.S. in the 1950s when it was easier for foreigners to stay. (Jobs was adopted as a newborn.)
The culture of Silicon Valley is defined by engineers who approach problems logically, searching for the most elegant solution. Washington is different. Members of both parties prefer scoring political points on immigration even though this delays smarter approaches. It’s no wonder that people like Jobs who value innovation find Washington so infuriating.
I think that he’s right. I’ve been lightly involved with the IDEA Act going through Congress (thanks Craig Montuori and Tarik Ansari) which is trying to fix some of these issues.
The thing is, the IDEA Act is focused on entrepreneurs, but it’s also nuts that we kick out people who we have trained up to a very high standard who just want jobs. Not just jobs. Taxable jobs. High tax bracket jobs. For all the people freaked out about the economy, and how there are a lot of people not paying taxes (47% of Americans?), by keeping foreign-born, high-wage earners here, we’ll be benefiting by getting more money in taxes, which means lower tax rates for everyone else (what happens to the taxes after they’re taken is a totally different story, but…one piece at a time). Otherwise, we’re wasting money by training people to build up the economies of other countries.
Remember, it’s not “dey took our jerbs”, it’s “our jerbs got replaced by different types of jerbs that America isn’t doing a good job of training citizens for”
To reach more women, who account for about 10% of U.S. motorcycle owners, Harley dealers hold “garage parties,” such as one attended recently by Ms. Ruschman and several dozen other women. Scott Miller, marketing director of the Mentor dealership, spray-painted his hair pink and extolled the psychic benefits of cycling. “It’s about your ability to kind of extend your personality,” he said as the women sipped wine. “Or develop a new one.”
Harley pitches models with lower seats as easier for women to handle. The Harley website has a video showing how even a small woman can use leverage to pick up a bike of 550 pounds or more if it topples over. “The muscles that make it possible are in your legs and your butt,” the video explains.
Classy move…it seems like they thought through the feelings and mental state of what stops women from getting into riding motorcycles, and then went out to deal with the issue head-on. Much better than just making a new bike but not following through on getting women to enjoy motorcycling. There’s a lot to learn from this — excellent move on product-design-product-management. Might be interesting to watch these guys in the future.