November 30, 2010

Expectations for College

My next question along the lines of "expectations" is in regards to college. And I'd like your help.

Because children are expected to go to college if they want to get a good job one day. So, in their minds, college = good job. Obviously, that's changing as the new economy breaks that reality. But, that idea was never real to begin with.

College does not = good job. Comparative advantage = good job. If you had a higher learning degree in the past, you were in a minority of the labor force more likely to do good work. But if one day, everyone has a college degree, who do you choose?

That's why the political promise of giving every kid a college education means nothing to me. Oh good, we have 2 million new English majors? That's going to help a lot.

Let's change the next generation's expectations of how you can have a great job growing up. I'm leaning toward the idea of "specialization" within a broader market, and being one of the best within it.

Because it's either being specialized, or being cheapest. And the second one sucks.

November 24, 2010

Expectations for Divorce

We touched on the idea of "expectations" nearly three years ago after I read the book, "It Takes a Family" by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Yeah, I know. You probably don't like the guy.

But, the book was incredibly thought provoking for me at the time - providing statistical evidence for the idea that children will become what they're expected to be. That idea continues to shape me. And I see evidence of it everywhere. For instance, yesterday, I sought out statistics to see if children of divorce parents have a greater likelihood of divorce.

They do. By 40%. Partially because of how their parent's experience has influenced their expectations of marriage.

More on expectations next time. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2010

Gate Raped by the TSA: News in Song



At the beginning of this year, I launched www.newsinsong.com. The idea for the site was to be a quick, aggregate news source for the ADD generation. Through one quick video/song each week, you'd be caught up with the big headlines from around the world - in a musically entertaining way.

It made more sense via description than it actually panned out. It was hard to create a single song while tying in 7 or more news stories each week - especially trying to do so in a humorous way. Not to mention it was incredibly laborious assembling the video clips. So the last few months, I've been trying something else. Take one news story. As it happens. And put together a quick song about it. Focusing on a single story lets me poke fun at it from a few different angles, while hopefully revealing some actual insights at the same time. Very similar to what I did for www.whyeverypresidentsucked.com.

This was yesterday's song. Let me know if you like this new approach. And if so, you can catch up and follow upcoming news story-songs at www.newsinsong.com.

November 22, 2010

I'm Not Going to Tell You About My Upcoming Vacation

You ever tell someone you're going on vacation, and they immediately respond with, "You deserve it."

It's not until they say that, that I start fearing I don't.

November 19, 2010

Cosmo's 30 Tips for Pleasing Your Man

I've never read a Cosmo magazine before. My only interaction with them is when standing in the line at the grocery store. But, their headlines have always confused me.

The idea of women being so fanatical about sexually pleasing their unsatisfied husbands that they need to learn 30 new tips a month to keep the spark alive just seemed incredulous to me?

But, then I wondered if I was assuming an incorrect demographic for this magazine's readership. And after looking it up, I was. Cosmo's biggest readership age (double any other group) was 18-24.

These are single women. Trying to get a guy. Under the delusion that by utilizing these 30 tips, they'll convince their boyfriend or date that they're worth the commitment.

November 18, 2010

Michael Vick: Future Poster Boy of Second Chances

Last year, Michael Vick was sitting in jail. And I rationalized it by telling my friends he was never that great of a quarterback anyway. Sure, he had unreal mobility and a killer arm, but he made really bad decisions on the field (and off, obviously).

I gave up on him. Today, he is on the cusp of becoming one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

My friend Justin and I have been talking about this lately. The idea of choosing who to get behind. This year, Justin is privileged to work in one of the best school districts in the nation. The kids are exceptional. And it makes him wonder if he's really needed there.

So, our discussion became...what's better? Teaching a kid to read who might not read otherwise, so that he can go to high school, get a good job, and have a family. Or mentoring the kids with the absolute best potential in the world, and turning guys who host dogfights for fun into an apparently redeemed man with matchless potential.

That's why there's more than one kind of person, I guess. I think Justin still feels that the better service opportunity for him is working with the underprivileged. And they need him.

I want to work with people who have disproportional expectations compared to their abilities. Think of how many Michael Vicks are probably in prison right now.

November 17, 2010

Mr. W by Epuron: The Best Commercial I've Seen in Years



This ad, created by German ad-agency, Nordpol Hamburg, is promotional art at its finest. To be fair, I had no absolutely no idea what was going on the first time I watched it. The second time, it's magical.

Physical humor works. Animals are easy. But, this? This is the stuff that's worth trying to create.

November 16, 2010

This is How You Debate

When in the course of human debate:

Don't assume authority. Don't get riled up. Be Socratic, and help them get there themselves. Also... be Jon Stewart.

These videos of Jon Stewart's interview by Rachel Maddow are absolutely must-sees. He has mastered the art of debate through conversation. You don't even see what he's doing. And yet, he wins every argument.

It's fascinating. And it can be learned. Thank you Jon Stewart for the reminder. Because too often, when I run into irrational people who won't follow logic, I give up diplomacy far too quickly and jump straight to condescension, which fails even more quickly. But, watching you has renewed my desire to win without fighting. Sun Tzu-style.

And yes, I would vote for you if you ran for President.

Watch the video clips.

November 15, 2010

How to Use Metaphors Appropriately

I was recently in an HR meeting, where local vendors pitched us discounted services based on our employer affiliation. And everyone in the room got to witness both effective and terrible uses of metaphors.

A pre-order pick-up grocery service called MyGofer, pitched us this way. "You try and squeeze in your weekly grocery shopping after church on Sunday. But your kids are being crazy. Your husband is mad because he's missing the start of the Bears game. And the cashier doesn't seem like she values your time nearly as much as you do..."

One lady in the room started laughing and said, "Are you following me around!?!"
A perfect metaphor.

The next pitch was from an insurance provider. The idea was that you may be paying too much for home insurance. Because some providers make you pay for what it would cost to rebuild your house from scratch, post-catastrophe. But this provider will only charge you for the current market value of your house.

This is a real benefit. But, here's how he pitched it.  "Let's say you own a $1,000,000 million mansion on a 20-acre estate. But, the house only takes up an acre of land..."

What? Now, to be fair, this is a metaphor. But, if no one in the room can relate to it, it's not a good one.

It's like when my allergist recently tried comparing my lung capacity to a carburetor. It may have been effective...if I understood how a carburetor worked.

November 12, 2010

Why High Speed Rail Doesn't Make Sense



I knew I didn't like high-speed rail. Because the idea of any new grandiose government-led initiative makes me uneasy. But now I know why. And this is one of the reasons why "Reason" is one of my most influential sources.

I Know Your Outgoing Voicemail Message

I know everything about you. I even know the message I'll hear if I get your voicemail right now.

Hi, this is "Your Name". I can't come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you!

Aren't you impressed? So, the question is, why do we all still record this weird antiquated boilerplate? We need a new, abbreviated solution that still rings full of etiquette.

Any ideas?

November 10, 2010

Why I Think Like I Do

My overall goal for this blog is that it serves as your daily devotional for critical thought.

More than that, I hope that this blog and my twitter account serve as some sort of aggregate for you in terms of keeping you up to speed on politics, marketing, faith and technology - with as little effort as possible.

But if you're interested in delving deeper into the sources that most influence me, here you go.

My Magazine Subscriptions

The Week - a weekly aggregate of the best stories from all around the World. If you only have 30 minutes a week for news, this magazine will keep you up to conversational speed on everything that is going on in the world.
Reason - this is a monthly libertarian magazine that gets more in-depth about specific policy issues, but in a very entertaining way. If you lean toward small-government, this magazine will help you understand both the moral and Machiavellian reasons why you're right.
Fast Company - this is a new find for me. A fabulous monthly mag about the latest technology, entrepreneurship and how to use the former to successfully achieve the latter.

My Favorite Blogs

Now, I subscribe to more than 100 blogs. Not all of them update regularly of course. But, since you read this one, here are my two favorite I think you might want to consider adding to your RSS feed or Google Reader.

Scott Adams - This daily blog (written by the creator of Dilbert) is what I want my blog to be. His creative thoughts will inspire your own. His brilliant humor makes even his longer posts extraordinarily readable. I would vote for him if he ran for President.
Seth Godin - As a marketing titan, Seth understands online attention span better than anyone, and utilizes my own "couple paragraphs" a day preference for every post. If you're business-minded, his brief daily thoughts on management, entrepreneurship and technology is better than grad school.

Now, since you guys all know me pretty well by now, what "essentials" must I add to this list?

November 09, 2010

People Have No Idea What they Want

When British Airways introduced the mini-fridge on long international flights, they held focus groups to figure out how to best stock these cold goodie bins.

The results? People wanted light salads and apples. But, what did people ask the flight attendants for when they woke up in the middle of the night? Candy bars.

People have no idea what they want. Steve Jobs talked about this recently in an interview regarding his predictive technological ability. And Jobs' replied that you should never give the customer what they ask for.

Because all a consumer can think of is how to slightly improve existing technology. Adding more features or performance to current laptops and phones. It's what you see Dell and HP doing. They're listening to their customers.

Apple is creating technology that people have no idea they need.

November 08, 2010

You Better Not Legislate Morality

I hear this far too often. The fear of a newly appointed Republican politician "legislating morality."

Here's the problem with this statement. ALL legislation is morality-based. Consider what the new healthcare bill was? That bill says that it's a moral injustice that those with pre-existing conditions can't qualify for healthcare at the same cost as those without them.

Since that's clearly not an economically advantageous legislative decision for the country at large, it's a moral one.

If you want to stop legislating morality, you need to stop legislation altogether.

November 05, 2010

Downsized: A Real-Life Snob Sob Story

If you watch Hulu, you may have seen previews for "Downsized", a reality TV show about a formerly rich family who are now on food stamps, and taking odd jobs and dumpster diving just to pay the mortgage on their mansion.

Here's the crazy part. In the preview, their lawyer explains that they can't qualify for bankruptcy...because they refuse to liquidate their properties!!!

We, the people, are buying these people's groceries because they don't want to lose their summer home, not to mention "downsize" their current one.

While this show is being pitched as an anti-celebrity show, a "real"-life story, it makes me even madder than one of the generic celebreality shows. At least I'm not subsidizing the Kardashians.

November 04, 2010

Government is Not a Business



This ad wasn't a joke. Did you read the bullet points? One said "Treat citizens like customers." This TV ad was created by candidate Rick Synder, who ran and won the race to become Michigan's governor this past Tuesday.

This idea of "running a state like I ran my business" has become a more popular talking point in the last few years. Because in times of financial suffering, it sounds appealing. This was Meg Whitman's big push. She ran eBay. eBay did good. So let's give her the reins to California, and she'll turn it into a successful online auction and shopping Website...wait.

It's not the same thing. The government is not a business. A state's role is not to increase total ROI, get bigger and buy-out other states. A state's role is not to take your tax dollars and invest them in blue-chip index funds.

Like it or not, government is charity. It's justice. It tries to right civil wrongs. That's what it is. And even if you think that's not what it should be - even if you think the role of government is simply to protect the constitutional rights of the populace, a business doesn't do that either.

If you want a balanced budget, elect an accountant. If you want social "justice", elect a community organizer. If you want a good ROI, invest in the market yourself.

November 03, 2010

Money Doesn't Buy Elections

No matter what your political views, we learned some interesting lessons Monday night.

One of the most important takeaways for me came from the California Gubernatorial election where former President and CEO of eBay, Republican Meg Whitman, spent a record $170 million on the race, which she lost to Democratic challenger Jerry Brown.

Money can't buy elections anymore. Whoever has the most gold can make the most ads. But, they're becoming a progressively decaying factor. Because P.R. spreads faster than billboards. Social media spreads faster than signage. Actions spread faster than ads.

So shut up with your "money will buy elections". It's true, but not based on ad budgets. People vote for the person that's going to be the best for their situation. If they are employed in an industry propped by subsidies, they're going to vote for the candidate who supports them.

That's what we should be focused on getting rid of. Not campaign budget and donor regulations.

More on Meg Whitman and the idea of "running a state like a business" tomorrow.

November 02, 2010

I'm Going to Vote

I wasn't sure about voting this year. I live in Illinois. And Illinois sucks...politically at least. The system is inherently corrupt. There's no getting around it. Except to not vote. And feel a sense of moral superiority in not embracing the system.

And I was mentally there. But, I needed encouragement. So, I asked my friend Wes Messamore, editor of The Humble Libertarian, of which I am a contributor, to write a piece in support of my apathy.

It worked. I was convinced. But then marketing guru Seth Godin wrote a piece in support of voting yesterday. And that worked harder. I hated the idea that sneaky marketing was working against me. That they want me to hate "hate" ads. That they want me to stay home.

And so the rebellion in my soul is driving to the polls on the way to work. I'm James Dean. Read both, and see where you fall.

November 01, 2010

Lessons I Learned This Halloween

My wife was sick yesterday, so it was my first time being in charge of giving out candy to the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Here were my lessons learned.

Lesson #1: I wanted to learn my script - exactly what to say when the ankle biters arrived at the door. (I'm a writer). My wife thought I was crazy, but since we had an assortment of candy, I wanted to give the kids their choice. My idea was "Choose 1 of your favorites." Kat told me this was a bad idea and that the kids wouldn't just take one. But, I remembered getting to choose when I was a kid, and loved it, so I gave it a try. Big mistake. With those exact instructions, 60% of the first group took 2 or 3 candies each.

Lesson #2: So, I quickly gave up on this idea, because we would assuredly run out of candy if I continued my sociological experiment to test the etiquette of these neighborhood miscreants. So, I switched to my brilliant wife's originally recommended strategy. "Just pick one and give it to them." So, I did this. And 90% of the kids, after they received their candy, looked into my bowl of assorted delights to see what they would have been able to get if they got to choose themselves.

Lesson #3: Kids are cute, and rude. Least favorite line of the night. "Are you kidding me?!! Just one butterfinger???"!!"

It's easy to say, "Kids suck these days." But, I'm more curious in the reality. Because I was polite when I was a kid. I nicely said "Trick or treat!" And I always said "Thank you!" And there were a whole bunch of kids like that yesterday who came to my door. So, was I simply unaware of the bad-mannered kids from my generation? Or, since I live in a lower-class area than where I grew up, is there a socioeconomic correlation to etiquette?
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Don't Approach A Commercial Property Investment With A Residential Head

This post has been contributed.   Image source Investing in any sort of property is a pretty sound bet to make, but please don’t think...