Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

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What’s Eating Brother Elon?

By on Sep 17, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Let’s start with what needs to be said before all else: I am an enormous fan of Elon Musk. I think he is quite likely the most important and visionary entrepreneur today leading the way in technology, business, and innovation. He walks in the American continuum of Edison, Disney, Gates, and Jobs.  I wrote as much in a post dating back to 2014. So when a guy as brilliant as Musk goes sideways, I start to ask myself some questions. Like, what’s up with all the weirdness? Clearly I have no ability to understand what’s going on in this amazing individual’s life, other than to observe the monumental toll that stress can take on even the mightiest of titans. To guess at what might be at the root of Musk’s recent unpleasant run in the headlines would seem a fool’s errand. While I am unable to fashion an informed evaluation of why Musk appears in many ways to be undermining his own success of late, I am thinking about the learning that might be had from observing his stress. I am reasonably certain he will have no interest in my reflections of what his behavior could be telling us, but perhaps this will provide a mirror for others on what some of this means and how it possibly could be addressed. Here are five thoughts on that. Focus Is No Small Trick Can one person really be an effective CEO at more than one company? It’s hard enough to be a decent CEO period. Now add longevity to the CEO run and enormous competitive forces, and you start to wonder if running both Tesla (after integrating SolarCity) and SpaceX is remotely possible. Let’s also not forget that Musk is additionally CEO of Neuralink and The Boring Company. If you have ever been CEO of a high-growth company or even know one, you are aware that the job requires super-human energy, and even then the clock is always ticking against the corner office. Musk is beyond super-human, not only as a leader but as a founder who tackles some of the most difficult problems of our day. Will he succeed at all of his goals? I am sure a lot of...

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Three Thousand Ears in Cape Town

By on Aug 20, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

You’re probably thinking there is a typo in that headline. Nope. It’s correct. Not years. Ears. This is a story about service. This is a story about choices and not enough choices. This is a story about experiential learning and tangible human impact, one small moment at a time. Three thousand is an estimate of how many children’s ears were recently screened in Philippi Township, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. At best count and two ears per young child, a volunteer team screened about 1500 children for otherwise undetected ear infections. If left untreated, this preventable and correctable condition could easily have left many of these children permanently deaf. About ten required immediate surgery. Six had cysts that could have resulted in meningitis or death. A project of this scope had never been attempted. The average number of children screened by public health services in the township for ear care is 150-200 per year, largely based on referrals. The team we assembled, working hand in hand with local clinicians familiar with medical infrastructure in the township, took on more than that each day. Once this model partnership committed to the challenge, there was nothing stopping them from achieving a new record they can’t wait to break or see broken. The ear clinic was only one of many innovative projects our group of volunteers tackled earlier this month near the far-away Cape of Good Hope. One team worked on AIDS prevention and education in a place where HIV remains epidemic, potentially impacting the vitality of an entire emerging generation. A construction team built bookshelves for public schools across the township. Another team focused on robotics learning, with young children lighting up as their minds opened to the basics of computer programming. We also ran a dance program led by a former champion from television’s Dance Fever. We engaged a team of professional journalists to start a school newspaper. We organized a series of open discussions on women’s health and personal well-being. We developed a peer-to-peer math mentoring program for high school students. My own team focused on business consulting with micro-entrepreneurs, working with an NGO called Business Activator to help bolster start-up companies. We were based in a unique...

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A Beguiling 20%

By on Jul 18, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

This month our nation celebrated its 242nd birthday. As I was sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium on July 4 watching a spectacular and patriotic fireworks display (following a wonderful midseason win) something quite obvious but strange occurred to me: I have been alive for over 20% of our nation’s history. That may not seem curious to you, but it does to me. No one in Russia, China, or most of western Europe can say that. It is only because we are such a young nation that our lives constitute such a significant portion of our nation’s entire state of being. I have been trying to put that in context. I am over a half-century in age, and the nation is less than five half centuries in age. For sake of context, I have tried to segment those de facto quintiles into what I have experienced as current events (the most recent 20%) and what I must study as history. Latest 20%: Age of economic triumph, the information age, and age of civil rights. Prior 20%: Age of two world wars, one Great Depression, and vast immigration. Middle 20%: Age of Civil War and Reconstruction. Second 20%: Age of Manifest Destiny & Industrial Revolution. Initial 20%: Age of our Founding Fathers, American Revolution, and the visionary foundation of secular democratic governance. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time for all that to have happened when you think about it. I guess that’s because it really isn’t. What’s 242 years? These days, it’s about three full lifetimes. If you time them correctly, you could talk to someone who talked to someone who knew someone who experienced Independence Day as current events. That’s just wild. Mind-boggling! And look how far we’ve come! Or have we? Well, we have sent humans to the moon and probes to Jupiter and Pluto. We have air conditioning, spiffy kitchen appliances, and running water in our homes (when we don’t run out). We have lots and lots of TV channels. We have supercharged computers in our pockets we call mobile phones. We have this Internet thing that has eliminated almost all barriers to information access and makes globalization a reality. Yet we still...

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Why Do We Do Difficult Things?

By on Jul 2, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve been out on book tour for the launch of my new novel, From Nothing. At one of the early talks I began with a simple question: Why do we do difficult things? I’m not talking about ordinary-difficult things like schlepping yourself to work every day or paying all your bills. I’m talking about really big stuff. Pick a career path. Marry someone. Divorce someone. Start a company. Write a book—without an advance check. Why do we decide to tackle extraordinarily hard challenges? Why do we embark on the kinds of things that change our lives? I’m going to give you the answer in just a few more carriage returns, but before I do, think about what your answer might be. Why do you do exceptionally difficult things? Is it for money? Is it for status and ego? Is it because someone else pressures you to do it? I think those enticements can play a role, but I don’t think it’s why most of us do difficult things. I think we do difficult things because we can’t not. Try repeating that in your head. Read the words “Why do we do difficult things?” Then answer aloud: Because we can’t not. If you’re not alone, say it rather quietly under your breath, but do say it aloud. If you are alone, shout it from your gut. Why do we difficult things? Because we can’t not. Excellent, I think I heard you that time! You’ll note the purposeful application of a solid double negative. Don’t worry, the grammar police aren’t coming for us, at least not this time. I want this message to encode in your mind: Because we can’t not. The topic of my book talk was why I choose to write for what amounts to the tiniest part of my income given the full span of hours invested. The question at hand was why I didn’t spend more of my time on lucrative business projects instead of sitting alone in a room for half my waking hours banging out words without much promise of real financial upside no matter how well I write. There are obstacles to book distribution at an enterprise scale that are beyond my ability to...

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It’s a Hard Rock Life

By on Jun 2, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

From Nothing, my third and most personal novel, has moved from my ownership to yours. I hope it will mean something to you. It certainly has been an odyssey for me. The book is rock and roll, the process of performing it no less so. As I write these words, I am preparing a number of public book talks, thinking about what I want to say about this story beyond letting it speak for itself. That’s always hard, and particularly difficult this time because I did choose each word in the book carefully. My dear editor and publisher at The Story Plant might say I deliberated on them too carefully, which is why this one took so long, but hey, that’s who I am. Spontaneity for me is a highly composed orchestration that only sounds top of mind when recited. Since the majority of my readers won’t hear me speak on this book, I wanted to share some of those thoughts with you. I also want to be extremely careful not to give away any spoilers, which is quite a task when I want to tell you everything. I will do my best to restrain myself. I have an eclectic process I use to write a novel. It begins years before I write a single line of expository or dialogue. I usually have a protagonist identified and a very rough roadmap of a plot that will deliver that character’s arc, but even before I begin the detailed process of outlining, I start a page of ideas I call “collecting.” That can take a decade, or in the case of this book, several decades, because this book began as a long abandoned screenplay treatment I wrote in my 20s. I share with you here some of the ideas and concepts I wanted to explore that landed over the years on that collecting page. Some of these have been transcribed directly from the many scraps of paper that got stuffed into my project folder. It all started with the notion of the soundtrack of our lives—to be fully confessional, the soundtrack of my life. I believe our music carries us through the bad times and encodes the good times. Each of...

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Sam and Rosie: An Odd Couple

By on Jun 2, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

I can’t defend Samantha Bee because the harsh, offensive language she used this week was wrong. I have been a fan of her show since it launched, but I actually think it has gotten progressively worse as she has allowed her indignation to overcome her humor. My sense for some time is that she is not currently at her best. Indignation is the call to fight. Humor is the sword that slays dragons. A strong producer could steer her back on track. I don’t see a lot of evidence she has one, and I think her talent is taking a hit as a result. If she looks to some of her peers and mentors, she’ll see where she may be losing ground on that illusive concept of “crossing the line.” I’d like to see her rebound because she does have a unique, important voice in our nation’s dialogue. When Roseanne Barr launched her latest damning tweet, I believe she was in an entirely different universe of free expression. Here are a few points on the false equivalency: 1) There is no equivalency between a random racist tweet and a few unnecessary hateful words deployed in the context of making a point about the morality of separating parents from children. Lenny Bruce pretty much died for this point. Context is inseparable from language. 2) Complain all you want about who should get fired or cancelled, but the two performers have different employers. It’s the employer’s decision to exercise a response to the free speech exercise of an employee or contractor. Had it been the same employer, there might be an opening to hypocrisy, but even then, don’t mistake what happened. These were considered business decisions. 3) If you want to know the true horror of our nation, do a few internet searches and see what some of Roseanne’s supporters are saying about the underlying truth in her remarks. The defensive outcry over an alleged double-standard does little more than fuel the fire of racism as some kind of macabre social norm too many people can easily dismiss as overblown. Racism is institutionalized hatred bolstered on ignorance. Celebrities choosing to fan that flame know what they are doing. To the contrary,...

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