October 29, 2010

Let's Invent a Sport Called "Turn Left"

The average age for a boy's peak love/interest in cars is what? Probably 3 or 4?

Now, I'm not saying there's not beauty in the sport. I fully confess that I simply don't get it.

But what might that stat imply about the average intelligence of NASCAR fans?

October 28, 2010

You Can Get Old Without Growing Up

Certain old people scare me. The ones who have given up. I think it happens over time. But, eventually, these people stop thinking they have the capacity to do something great.

I like my naivete. It keeps learning intentional. It makes me want to understand everything, because I feel a personal responsibility to change the world and believe that particular knowledge may be necessary for me to do it.

Human potential is insane. If you don't do something awesome with your life, you are wasting amazing potential.

So, press on. And as we get older, we can either become like Mr. Rogers, taking children on tours of a box factory one week, and a gumball packager the next. Understanding how things work. The mechanics behind things. The people. Getting smarter.

Or we can become like Andy Rooney. Hate everything invented after you were 12. Complain about the world. Get stupider every year. And die angry.

You don't automatically get smarter just by being alive. You have to want it.

October 26, 2010

Langston Hughes - Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore--
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over---
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

October 25, 2010

Winning isn't Everything

If Sarah Palin has taught us anything, it is that, "Winning is irrelevant to your relevance."

Back in the 60s and beyond, political losers were still the party front runners next time up. But, that's all changed. Gore lost to Bush, and he was politically done. Kerry lost to Bush, and he was politically done. Forever. No second chances.

Yet, Palin, if anything, has become a bigger leader in the Republican party since her loss. Why is that? Is it because since McCain's name was ahead of hers on the ticket, that "she" didn't really lose?

Or are the rules changing?

October 22, 2010

American Education: The Best and the Boredest

Last night, I met a young German student named Cornelius who was visiting his cousin, my friend Jake for the past month.

Fresh out of school and about to start his first real-world job, Cornelius tried explaining the German school system to me. Here's the gist, keeping in mind that I may have lost some things in translation.

In Germany, after 4th grade, children are separated by perceived potential and placed in different types of schools based on predicted outcome. The students with lower academic records go to trade school. The more successful students go to higher levels of education.

Now, they're not eternally stuck at the age of 10. Germany understands that they can guess wrong. And students who do well at trade school can move up. But, it still sounds really weird and creepy, doesn't it?

We used to do the same thing. In the 60s, when Kennedy said, "We're going to the moon." here's what we did. We tried to find geniuses. We plucked our perceived best and brightest out of high school and sent them to specialized schools. Gave them great teachers, so they could go help NASA. And we got to the moon.

"But why doesn't my kid get the best teachers? That's why they're not as smart!" the populace cried out. It didn't seem fair, and it wasn't.

So, today, the perceived best and brightest might get plucked out for an hour a day to learn slightly more advanced math. And for the rest of the day, they're stuck with the other kids their age, bored out of their minds, based on a weird assumption that like-ages equate to like-talents.

So, here's my question. Is our educational system designed to help geniuses create the future, or to help the average kid follow instructions?

October 21, 2010

How Safe is Safe Enough?

We hit on this briefly last week, but I wanted to develop a single conversation around it. U.S. "defense" spending equals roughly 25% of our federal budget. We spend more on "defense" than every other country in the world combined.

So the question is, How safe is safe enough?

At what point will a politician be able to say "We need to start seriously scaling back our global operations." without their opponent yelling, "Obviously somebody doesn't understand that there are currently terrorists working around the clock plotting our children's deaths!" received by giant applause at the town hall meeting.

In all reality, how can this conversation change? I'm sure the first candidate will have to maintain that R&D + intelligence system integration keeps us safer than our ever-expanding global military outposts, and that he could actually increase that spending while severely decreasing our actually costs of production, maintenance and manpower.

But, how do we even get to that point without being laughed out of the room? Because those bombs and parts and men get made in every city of this nation. And they have a vested interest in growing our system, not saving it.

October 20, 2010

Why Negative Political Ads? Because They Work.

These quotes are paraphrased to prevent voter confusion.


Jack Conway on Rand Paul - Kentucky Senate Race
"30 years ago, my opponent was reportedly involved in a hazing ritual in which he tried coercing others into worshiping a make-believe deity called Aqua Buddha."

Chris Coons on Christine O'Donnell - Delaware Senate Race
"20 years ago, my opponent dated someone who was involved in witchcraft."

Here's a local one for you Illinois' folk.
Pat Quinn on Bill Brady - Illinois Governor Race
"My opponent wants to take dogs destined to be put down via euthanasia and put them down en masse, rather than wasting the state money to euthanize them all individually."

These accusations all became television commercials. In fact, I am trying to recall a single campaign commercial I have seen during this election season that spent more than 10% of its air time touting their own beliefs, and not denouncing their opponents as morally bent, and unworthy of the honor of public service.

Why do they do this? Because it works.

We are obviously that stupid. We like the idea of "good" people being in charge of us, and when all we are fed is the candidate's dirty laundry, we pick the person with the smaller stain.

It works. There are really smart campaign managers getting paid a lot of money to win elections. It's not marketing. It's the opposite of branding in fact. It's denouncing. It's short-term bullying. And it works. What if you were to say you refuse to vote for a candidate who puts out a single negative campaign advertisement regarding their opponent? Because that's where I'm at. And I'm not sure if I'd ever be able to vote again.

October 19, 2010

A Print Ad That Doesn't Suck

I can't remember the last time a print ad in a magazine stopped me in my tracks.

Until yesterday. Right after the ad with the SUV carving through the forest (seriously, I am SO sick of car ads that tell me nothing new, driving in scenarios I would never attempt), this ad from Effen Vodka graphically startled me.

Yes, there are layers of innuendo in the ad, but I contend that's not the reason it grabbed my attention. The photography is jarring. The detail is beautiful. The monochromatic coloring is lovely. Her hat is awesome! It made me stop flipping through the pages. And that's exactly what an ad is supposed to do. Create a positive interruption. I had never heard of Effen Vodka. Now I have. And I have a positive brand association with it.

Check out the rest of the terrific ad series put together by Euro RSCG, and for those of you in the business, try to figure out how to bring this design strategy to your brand.

October 18, 2010

The Difference Between Jesus and Sesame Street



In this Bill O'Reilly interview with Richard Dawkins, O'Reilly gives the following reasoning for his faith in Jesus Christ.

"My thesis is that if everybody followed the teachings of Jesus Christ that we'd have peace on earth. Love your brother. Everybody love one another. And we'd be almost an idyllic situation."

That is NOT a good reason for belief. If everybody followed the teachings of Mr. Rogers, we'd have a pretty idyllic situation, too. Sesame Street. Buddha. Joseph Smith. Gandhi.

If we perfectly followed the morality of nearly any philosophy, the world would be a much better place. But Jesus wasn't simply claiming moral authority. He claimed to be restoration. The answer to every "Why...?" question about God and his universe. The answer to every "Why...?" question about relationship with God and each other.

Bert and Ernie don't offer that.

October 15, 2010

The Responsibility of the Offended

Last month, at Rutgers College, Tyler Clementi tragically ended his life after being outed by his roommate en masse. Dharun Ravi, Clementi's roommate, had been using his computer's Web cam to monitor and transmit live video of his roommate's romantic activity to all of his friends.

Upon learning about this egregious invasion of privacy, Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge.

This is a horribly sad tragedy that you undoubtedly have read much about. But, I wanted to bring up a new question. That the anger we feel toward's Clementi's roommate is not in direct response to his action's, but rather, the consequences.

If Clementi simply got mad, we would have rightfully called Ravi a horrible jerk. With these results, we call Ravi a murderer. For which do you penalize?

October 13, 2010

How to Win an Election in 2010: Cut "Wasteful" Spending

"I'm going to cut every bit of wasteful spending in our budget." This is an a-political statement. Everyone says it. The problem is that "wasteful" is subjective.

Is paying people 4x market wage to make road repairs wasteful?
Is research on squirrel mating wasteful?

And honestly, even if we could agree on these things, which we can't, that's not where our spending troubles lie. At least on a federal level, it's social security, medicare, medicaid and military spending. This is a whopping 75% of the Federal Budget. I can stop the university biologists from researching the amorous habits of our bushy tailed friends, and I will be praised for it. But, this doesn't really solve anything.

And no candidate is saying "I'm going to cut every bit of wasteful military spending and help re-think the long-term fiscal outlook for our social welfare programs."

Because that's scary. Even if some military spending is wasteful or unnecessary, someone's currently making the planes and bombs. And they're going to be mad you're cutting their gig. And your opponent can say we're so much less safe because of it. But, it's the very thing that must be said.

October 12, 2010

How to Win an Election in 2010: Economic Illiteracy

Let's be straight here. People who don't have jobs right now could care less about debt. People with jobs? The national debt is one of their biggest long-term concerns.

So, as a political candidate, how do you effectively and honestly balance the people's desire for both short-term growth and long-term fiscal responsibility?

Do you work really hard to educate people in understanding that the long-term plan is in everybody's long term best interest? Or do you talk about tax cuts and spending cuts and job creation and debt reduction in some super-string theory impossible strategy that has no chance of being realistic in the hopes that the economically illiterate in your crowd will cheer because you said the words they were waiting for?

October 11, 2010

How to Win an Election in 2010: Andy Rooney Voters

First things first. You need to watch this latest Andy Rooney Hates Video. Seriously. This whole week of thinking only works if you do.

Watch it yet? Ok. Yes, he's crazy. He's a crotchety old man, and virtually nothing would make him happy. So, what on earth could I possibly say as a candidate running for office this year to persuade the Andy Rooneys (+70 people, and a LARGE voting bloc) in my district that I'm going to make their life better during a recession? It's virtually impossible.

And it made me question how on Earth an average person, who isn't ok with lying, can actually gain broad political support while holding firmly to their beliefs.

You're at a town hall meeting with all old people, because no one else can leave work at 3:30 in the afternoon. What do you tell them that wouldn't be outright lies?

October 08, 2010

Human Stock Market: Getting in and Out

This week, we've been trying to figure out how to create a Human Stock Market, for both charitable and capitalistic reasons.

I think we're close folks. Not to having every single factor figured out. But to the idea that this could be possible. I really appreciate your thoughts on this. Who knows? This could be something huge one day, and you're all a part of it now.

One great question yesterday to end our week.

How easy would it be for someone to get out of the market?

Great question. This is definitely a little tricky, because it's easier for a corporation to get sold, bought out, liquidated or go under than an individual. I suppose there are two options: the individual could buy back their outstanding shares, or simply pay-out those unwilling to sell at some sort of pre-arranged market(+)  price. Anyone else have any insights on how this happens on real exchanges?

October 07, 2010

Human Stock Market: Valuation

This week, we're trying to figure out how to create a Human Stock Market, for both charitable and investment reasons.

Two great questions yesterday.

1) How do we valuate the person before investing?

Why do you invest in the stocks you do? Some people like Walmart because they see it has a monopolistic hold in its market. Some invest in Whole Foods because they not only believe in the growing market for organic goods, but feel like the company is creating a social "good" in the world as well. Some people invest in guitar manufacturing companies because they own one of the guitars and they believe in the product.

There could a whole lot of reasons for investing. Why do people pick the kids they choose to sponsor through World Vision? Probably the kid's face. If they seem cute, you want to help. Same reason you pick the puppy that seems the nicest at the animal shelter. But again, that's strictly for the charitable side of this human stock market.

As far as picking a long-term investment (assuming we keep our 18-year and older rule), IQ, high school academic record, career goals, parental background, country of origin and opportunity in that country, etc.

2) How do we track performance post-investment?

This gets harder. I think earlier in the week, we talked about how we'd probably only have access to a person's personal financial statement, since they're not a corporation. But maybe they'd need to be in order to get the debt information investors would rely on? But the individual has a vested interest in keeping their investors up-to-date with status reports and new goals in order to get new investments and keep their current ones.

Any big hangs up with either of these? I think I need help thinking the 2nd one through.

October 06, 2010

Human Stock Market: Adult/Child Conflict

This week we're trying to figure out how to create a working Human Stock Market, for both charitable and investment reasons.

Justin brought up a great question yesterday. Because securing funding for one's own education would likely be the greatest use of entering the Human Stock Market. But, buying and selling shares in minors would be problematic, and super creepy knowing you don't really have their consent.

So, I think an 18-year old minimum age is probably a great idea. But also hurts what I think might be a big market - helping put promising third-world children through primary school as well as college in hopes of both helping them succeed and profiting on the success.

Justin hypothesized regulation to prevent monopoly ownership or employer influence. The monopoly question is a great one. What if we make it so that no individual can give up majority ownership in their stock. The individual must always possess at least a 51% share. That would also keep the individual as the primarily "decision-maker" over their own life plan. Can you imagine a meeting where your Board of Directors tells you to give up writing to become a mechanic?

As far as employer influence, why shouldn't an employer be able to buy someone's stock before hiring them? I don't exactly know why they'd want to, because it would just be like taking money out from one pocket and putting it in the other, especially if the job was this person's sole income. But if they think this person is going to go places, sure, the more power to them.

What else do we need to think about ?

October 05, 2010

Human Stock Market: How to Do This?

So, I want to do this. Or at the very least, figure out it's impossible and give up.

Here's the premise. I love what Kiva's now doing in terms of student loan micro-lending. Having donors provide children with no-interest loans that are repaid upon completion. But, even if Kiva keeps their maximum gift at $25, like they do with their other loans, you're waiting a long time before you get repaid.

Which is fine. But, I'm nervous that the repayment period may scare people away. So, what if we add some risk/reward to the possibility?

Hence my original Human Stock Market idea from a few years ago. You invest in the person. Not the business. The idea-maker. Not just the one idea.

You invest in a promising child's education or other funding, and receive a small share of that person's life earnings. The person becomes the corporation. The share entitles you to a percentage of their net income.

So, here's the problem? Because this isn't going to work if it's on a honor-basis. How could I do this without insane regulation? I would just have to confirm their personal tax statements each year, right? But obviously, the person could funnel money into corporations and other businesses. How could this work?

As far as Justin's question to how share prices are decided. That's for the market to decide. The person could release an IPO at a set price. But based on the factors you mentioned, demographics, resume, parental successes (genetics), goals and dreams, the share price of funding your kid and another kid would assuredly be different.

Help people. If we figure this out by the end of the week, I'm starting it.

October 04, 2010

How Young is Too Young?

I was recently in a conversation where older people were warning a young girl (23) that she was far too young to get married. "Play the field." "Explore your options." "Have fun."

And my favorite, "You're way too young to be making a decision like that."

And yet, we think that 5 years before, she was intellectually ready to choose a collegiate career she could stick with the rest of her life? We can't have it both ways. Either 18 is old enough to vote, go to war, choose a future, and commit to a love.

Or we're getting too accustomed to children being stuck in arrested development throughout their 20s.

Raise your expectations for the youth of America. I've met 16 year olds who are vastly more mature than some 50 year olds. Just because you were a dope at 23 doesn't mean everyone is. Just because your marriage sucks doesn't mean everyone's will.

October 01, 2010

Kiva Student Loans: The Human Stock Market

You guys know about Kiva by now. My favorite micro-lending organization. You team up with strangers, each giving a $25 loan to a third-world entrepreneur, and as they succeed, you get your entire loan back to re-give to someone else.

It's awesome. Well, here's the news. Kiva is branching out into student loans. You team up with strangers to help ambitious children go to college who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. They pay you back after completion through the new career they're in.

This is awesome, but obviously takes longer for repayment. While traditional Kiva loans are typically repaid in 1 year, these Kiva student loan repayments take from 1-3.

And here's the wrench I want to throw into this system. Let me invest in these kids. Give me my Human Stock Market. I give $500 for a .008 (or whatever it is) stake in this child's future. I'm not just helping them. I'm betting on them. I believe in their dreams. I believe in their potential.

They get their education. I get paid off throughout their career if I'm right. I don't care if you think it's creepy. It's going to happen. Look how close Kiva is already?