What the (Modern) Approach to Fatherhood Should Be

This was published by Mike Jones CEO of Science, Inc. June 2019. Read it.

For starters, there should be no dad or mom, only a parent, with time to give. The term “father” to me has always had a low-ish bar. Even the best portrayals in the media are likely to show men who value work over family so that that family feels blessed just having his presence.

The worst portrayal, meanwhile, is of an angry individual whom the family simply tries to not disturb. So, often, we’ll see a hybrid of a drunk and an angry 1950s door-to-door salesman. Or we’ll see a character like Bobby Axlerod on Showtime’s Billions, who shows up in a helicopter to his sons’ baseball games, yet doesn’t visit the kids more than once a month.

The higher up the ladder a father is at work, the less family time is expected of him. Because of this portrayal, fathers who are entrepreneurs often have the lowest bar of all. Steve Jobs, who initially denied he was the father of his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs, despite a DNA test showing otherwise, often gets a pass. Some reviews of his 2011 biography don’t even mention his daughter’s existence.

These are some of the reasons why I end up hearing what I describe as low-bar father statements at social events. “It’s so good you come to her games,” one person will say. Or, “It’s so nice of you to visit for parents’ and teachers’ day.” But let’s face it: Society already has a low bar when it comes to fathering, reflected by the fact that just showing up from time to time is enough to win you a “congratulations!” from another parent.

Replacing “father” and “mother”

Before I dive into what I do as a father to make the most of my time with my kids, I want to start by just replacing the words “father” and “mother” with “parent.” As a parent, there is no “have-it-all” mentality. If you want your kids to grow up to be happy, self-actualized individuals who stay connected to the family, you’re going to have to put in some time — and time demands sacrifice.

In this world of ours, that kind of sacrifice needs to come from both parents, regardless of their individual roles. And those roles? We are past gender-based roles. It’s time we moved into a more functional approach to parenting duties.

Beyond that, as an entrepreneur who’s a parent, you will likely have a degree of flexibility that not all parents get. You call the shots, which means you’re fully in charge of how your time is spent. Not all entrepreneurs take advantage of this, and many take it completely for granted, opting for unproductive late nights at the office and work trips with little chance of ROI.

With that in mind, here are the ways I focus my time and optimize my life around my kids. Everyone’s situation is different — certainly these won’t work or fit for everyone — but they do for me in my role within our family and may be of use.

Do the math.

If time is what builds amazing family and kids, then time is our most precious resource. This exercise is easy: You have 168 hours in a week. Assuming you sleep on average 7 hours per night (and if you don’t, please do), you have roughly 119 hours per week to spend on waking activities. If your kids are in school, that really leaves just 6 hours per weekday, and 12 hours per weekend. That means a total of 52 hours per week of possible family time.

For me, the numbers break down like this: I work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., which is 45 hours per week. Add in my commute, and you can assume I am not 100 percent with my family those 55 hours per week.

I also have access to my kids during the week. I get one hour in the mornings on weekdays, three hours in the evenings on weekdays and all day on each day in the weekend — totaling 52 hours a week.

This means I’m already behind. My family is my priority, so I should try to spend at least the same amount of time with my family as I spend at work. If my work time is a minimum of 55 hours per week, and I only have 52 hours per week with my kids during the school year, then something has to give: I have to be home in the evenings to grab those few precious hours.

And I need to book all weekend with them — otherwise, I won’t even get close to matching the time I devote to work.

This means that if I want to spend those hours with them, I cannot do things like go to the gym, hang out with friends or participate in non-family outside-of-work activities during the times my children are available to me.

In addition, work dinners or time that eats into those few hours each day needs to be cut to a minimum, which means eliminating all non-essential work evening meetings.

Another result is that I can rarely travel for work unless that’s absolutely necessary. If I do travel, I need to keep the trip as short as possible and book it with back-to-back meetings until I’m back in the air.

If you’re an entrepreneur who’s fallen into the trap of late nights and pressure to network (even though 99 percent of networking is a waste of time), I recommend adopting this same mathematical approach to how your time is spent and then being fiercely protective of the time you reserve for your family.

President Obama, for example, set a rule that after he was inaugurated he would have dinner with his family five nights a week, and he enforced that rule strictly. His former body-man Reggie Love used to say that the meal was “like a meeting in the Situation Room. There’s a hard stop before that dinner.”

Establish one-on-one time with your kids.

My wife Jenn and I have two kids and want to give them equal one-on-one time. The only way we have found to do this is to switch which parent puts which child to bed each evening. One night, my wife might put our son to bed while I put our daughter to bed, and the next night we’ll switch.

If you can’t get home in time for a few hours with your kids after work, then this bedtime ritual is the next most precious thing. That 30 minute-to-one-hour time before lights out is the most critical time we get with our kids. It allows one-on-one conversations, and it opens up time and a space for our children to express their feelings to us about their day.

While my daughter likes to provide a chronological expression of her day, class by class, with detail, my son prefers to play. After he plays, he relates the positive or negative experiences he had at school that day.

I try to not bring my phone to their rooms during this time — and I try to let them set the conversation. I don’t probe; but I do work to hear more about their day. The longer we have done this as a family, the more meaningful conversations we have had.

Find shared interests.

One thing that seems universal to all kids is that they learn and thrive within play; and structured play means games. Games allow children to have a dynamic with you that is at an equal level. They can be equally matched and have the chance to beat you (which frankly they love).

When our kids were younger, we got very deep into card games. They played Pokémon, not the iPhone version, the card game. In order to connect with them, I played too. We played aggressively and competitively. I got as deep into it as they did; frankly, just talking about this makes me want to play. I saw other parents placate their kids by pretending to play; they didn’t really care about the games they were playing, and they looked for opportunities to exit the game.

I took the opposite approach; I played to win. I discussed and researched strategy with them. We took our cards with us on trips. And, yes, although their first choice would be to grab my iPhone and play an iOS game, their second choice was Pokémon. By playing, we developed a wonderful rapport and competitive spirit that satisfied their desire and need to play games but also satisfied my own desire to interact directly with them and engage deeply and genuinely with what they were doing.

Then, as they aged out of Pokémon, we graduated to chess. Similarly, we traveled with our chess board and competed in chess on the road. Again, Jenn and I played to win. This was not us just humoring our kids, but us honestly engaged in gameplay.

On a related note, video games aren’t the answer, but they aren’t avoidable. As a kid who grew up gaming, I love video games. But I didn’t want to lose my kids inside a monitor for eight hours a day — which is where I often found myself as a kid. I wanted experiences where we could work together, without hearing my 10-year-old yelling “Headshot!” as he took a sniper rifle to someone’s cranium.

Eventually, we found our way to League of Legends, a team-oriented, five-on-five game with defined roles for each player.  I learned the game with my kids, and now we play together exclusively. They don’t play without me, and we always play as a team together.

As for immersive video games, we restrict any immersive video game time to two hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. At times we’ll play a little less or a little more, but we use our time prescription as a guideline for our kids. And during that time, I have to be playing with them for the entire two hours. I won’t tolerate seeing them locked in a room talking with strangers on a headset.

Instead, we’ll talk with strangers now together, and if things get out of hand, I can cut off the conversation to keep the game civil.

Overall? As a society, I believe we need to move past the idea of separate roles for mothers and fathers. We are all just parents — that role should not be a societally defined gender role. It should be a mutual approach to raising incredible people who go on to do amazing things in the world.

And behind all this energy stands one thing that can make it all go well, or not: time. So, my best advice to current and future parents who want to lead by example, and build amazing humans, is to give them your most precious asset, time.

Cut out things that are non-essential to reduce your time away from them and engage with them genuinely. Find activities you both love and do them together. Also, find dedicated rituals where you can connect personally and have non-rushed open time to hear them. Because hearing them is what it’s all about.





The current culture of “I ‘Gram therefore I am.”

This was written by Tom Goodwin, EVP Innovation at Zenith.                It’s brilliant.

A Life Without Focus

I didn’t take my phone to Hudson Yards, the screaming new development thrusting above the once empty train depot on the west side of Manhattan. A mistake on my part, because this isn’t a place to go, or be in, it’s a place to share. It’s a place to be seen in, but from afar, digitally, with your cliched pictures, your pre-set shot list, your pose on the step and repeat. Hudson Yards is a new permanent fixture on the Instagram game, holding up the Tower of Piza, glimpses at the Mona Lisa, crafted Cappuccinos, wonderful wing shots, we now have a new destination.

This is a shopping mall with seemingly nobody carrying shopping bags, just phones held aloft while people stand pointlessly stand in queues for the celebrated food du jour, FUKU Fried Chicken, Van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream, Kith Treats, being the same as people you aspire to be like has never been so easy. The global aesthetic has never been more accessible.

For years, we’ve had destination architecture: Frank Gehry put the post-industrial gloom of Bilboa behind it and the city on the map, with one of the many buildings as icons, as catalysts, or as travel brochure fodder for a visual age. From Roger’s Pompidou center to Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum, we’ve seen the late 20th century move towards architecture as bait. A way to bolster civic pride, foster identity, signify change, but now about all else lure in the tourists and let them make our city go viral.

As McLuhan said, “First we shape our tools, then they shape us”, and the rise of a visual web, the social platforms of Instagram, and an attention span that favors quick rushes over slow delectation, we see the world become one filled with the same visual cues and metaphors. We now see Instagram not just as a way for people to share the moment, but as a creative brief for chefs, interior designers, and architects. From the relatively benign, oversized 3D-lettered place signs to real-life photo filters to Instagrammable meal kits and to the now ubiquitous fiddle-leaf fig trees and Edison lightbulbs, the world becomes a backdrop for images. Pop-up stores exist on the single premise that one day, they won’t be there. Hurry to buy something you don’t need because you won’t be able to later. Museums curate collections around one strong image for the Instagram generation, with perhaps a hashtag thrown in.

Hudson Yards becomes the new proof of concept. A new case study in the Urban Millennial. A place for two audiences. The Peloton and Juicero class-goers to spend their unexpected wealth on $160 Heretic candles, ironic mechanical typewriter iPad keyboards, underwear as a service, and other expensive things to make up for a life without problems, but also without meaning.

The real crowd is those with a thirst for validation, who seek meaning from likes, purpose from followers, and for them, this isn’t a shopping mall to buy from, it’s a stage set for Instagram. For those collecting images, not experiences or memories, turning life into a game of social media metrics, an ever-changing leaderboard of high scores. Art, like those wings on walls, becomes dating app profile fodder. This is a destination for those who don’t live life, they broadcast it. If it’s not liked, it didn’t happen.

This is a shopping mall for a planet where each destination becomes a collectible stop in life orienteering. The Eiffel tower, the Marina Bay sands pool in Singapore, the tower of Pisa, the wing sunset shot. It’s not Starchitecture, it’s Inst’Architecture. Expensive stores attract meandering, purposeless shoppers inside, with things not to touch, feel or buy, but to take pictures in front of; space capsules, ironic signs, taxi cabs with plants, big quotes with accessible wisdom, but at the center of it all, like a fountain for a quasi-public square serves as a focal and social point, the ancient lay lines of Instagram run right through the Vessel.

The Vessel is part stairway to nowhere, part giant Kebab. It’s the centerpiece and alter to a lost tribe, whose religion is social validation. This becomes their cathedral. Some think the sculpture come building is Escher-like, with its strange angles, its complex array, it’s mesmerizing, curvaceous and impossibly deep copper shiny-ness, pulling in phones with its gravity. Perhaps the Vessel is a real-life demonstration on lost perspectives. A moth-like generation, drawn towards it with the captivating light of screens, and the drug-like rush of social engagement. This development serves as a monument to a planet with lost motivation, confused sense of reality and the hypnoses of a blended and digitally augmented world.

We’ve only ever said yes to technology, without asking why or how. We’ve let it fill the pores of our lives, hack our feedback mechanisms and biochemistry. We’ve added phones and a barrier to all moments, including real-life interactions. The phone becomes the shield behind which boredom cannot hit, we waft nonchalantly down our feeds so we never have to feel empty, sad, disconnected or self-reflect. We can celebrate the metrics of connectivity, not discuss with close friends the futility of it all.

We live ever more isolated and connected, more adept at ever on social media, less capable than imaginable in real life. We’ve lost meaning and purpose, we’ve lost the ability to bond, but we’ve become better than ever at curating moments in our lives, to broadcast who we are, to live the lifestyle our personal brand demands through brands that specifically represent who we are.

As technology continues to exaggerate and propagate divides, we feel empty if we let life in for one second. Loneliness only sets in when we are without our digital pulse. Maybe now is a good time to reflect on the role of design and culture and technology in our lives. Maybe we need to fight to feel alive in earnest ways, embrace the delight of reality, enjoy the poignance of smells, get validation from accomplishment and connection, feel part of a tribe of one, and more than anything else, fight the current culture of “I ‘Gram therefore I am.”

The world now allows frictionless experiences. We can buy culture without worrying about feeling it. We can live in large cities and deal with the stink of garbage, the threat of interest, the authenticity of reality. This is a world where efficiency has streamlined life like a critical path analysis. A world driven by optimization and code, in which our steady path to death becomes not about touching the sides, but of winning.

Perhaps now is a time to take a step back, to welcome boredom, to celebrate the hard, to enjoy the weird, to feel alive.


Did The Little Piggy Go Wee Wee Wee ALL The Way Home?

Interesting. Another example of Insightvertizing. Worth a read. 5 mins.

Over the years, Google has embarked on countless quests, collected endless amounts of data, and spent millions trying to better understand its people. One of the company’s most interesting initiatives, Project Aristotle, gathered several of Google’s best and brightest to help the organization codify the secrets to team effectiveness. Specifically, Google wanted to know why some teams excelled while others fell behind.

Before this study, like many other organizations, Google execs believed that building the best teams meant compiling the best people. It makes sense. The best engineer plus an MBA, throw in a Ph.D., and there you have it. The perfect team, right? In the words of Julia Rozovsky, Google’s people analytics manager, “We were dead wrong.”

Selected to lead the efforts was Abeer Dubey, Google’s director of people analytics (HR). Eager to find the perfect mixture of skills, backgrounds, and traits to engineer super-teams, Dubey recruited statisticians, organizational psychologists, sociologists, engineers, and researchers to help solve the riddle. Included in this all-star lineup was Rozovsky. Fast forward two years and Project Aristotle has managed to study 180 Google teams, conduct 200-plus interviews, and analyze over 250 different team attributes. Unfortunately, though, there was still no clear pattern of characteristics that could be plugged into a dream-team generating algorithm.

As described in an article in The New York Times, it wasn’t until Google started considering some intangibles that things began to fall into place.

“As they struggled to figure out what made a team successful, Rozovsky and her colleagues kept coming across research by psychologists and sociologists that focused on what are known as “group norms” – the traditions, behavioral standards, and unwritten rules that govern how teams function when they gather… Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound.”

With a new lens and some added direction from a research study on collective intelligence (abilities that emerge out of collaboration) by a group of psychologists from Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Union College, Project Aristotle’s researchers went back to the drawing board to comb their data for unspoken customs. Specifically, any team behaviors that magnified the collective intelligence of the group.

Through Google’s Re:Work website, a resource that shares Google’s research, ideas, and practices on people operations, Rozovsky outlined the five key characteristics of enhanced teams.

  1. Dependability: Team (group) members get things done on time and meet expectations.
  2. Structure and clarity: High-performing teams (groups) have clear goals and have well-defined roles within the group.
  3. Meaning: The work, or service, has personal significance to each member.
  4. Impact: The group believes their work/service is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.
  5. Psychological Safety: We’ve all been in meetings and, due to the fear of seeming incompetent, have held back questions or ideas. I get it. It’s unnerving to feel like you’re in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope.

But imagine a different setting. A situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones, so employees can let down their guard. That’s psychological safety.

Google found that teams with psychologically safe environments had employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately, who were more successful.

We Can Look Back, But Let’s Not Stare

Welcome to the Failure Hall of Fame.

I used to hate my history class at High School. No interest, and zero relevance. History is full of failure and strife. Story after story of plagues, famine, wars, and pestilence. Crashes, and more crashes, one step forward and half-a-dozen back. Discord. Dissension. Epic fails.

But study it we do. Heck, there are very erudite History Departments at major educational establishments worldwide. Well done. And now, I love it.

Those who work with their own episodes of failure will gain a sense of acceptance that allows them to process their experiences, learn from them, and move on without guilt. How many of us experience the success of failure with a deep feeling of shame for how we have lived?

Just think about it for a moment.

How many of us are confused about what we have done, and what that might mean about who we are?

In improving my self-awareness, I have the incredible opportunity to connect with others through the sharing of my past failings. Experience and understanding tell us we should not want to shut the door on it. When we embrace our past and learn how to see it in a new way it opens new entries for the future. It has for me.

You may have heard the saying, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” That is one of the main reasons we are told to remember our last failure. This belief tells us we can face our past, not live in any shame about it, and not run away from or deny it. Our past does not have to define us, who we are, or how we live our lives. We see this come alive every time someone in our lives tells their story of “failure experiences” with their head held high.

There is the time-tested adage that we “are as sick as our secrets.” The secrets we carry around with us that weigh us down. The same secrets that we promised we would take with us to our grave. Maybe we can be free, truly free, from the chains of the past that haunt us.

Let me be clear. Disruption is everywhere. We are people who have messy, three-dimensional, and often stress-filled lives. Every single circumstance that a traditional, past-way of living we had been able to count on to protect our behavior over the decades, has been upended. Untidy, chaotic, and muddled.

The discomfort of the truthiness of my self-realization was to appreciate that I lived in a constant state of instability and that I cannot possibly help others, at least to the best of my ability, when my own stability and assuredness is on shaky ground.

But I have found that the antidote to stress, or feeling overwhelmed, is not more sleep, not more rest, or to turn-away, but is a commitment to whole-heartedness. So, for me, it was a whole-hearted effort that was required to develop a full and attentive heart and mind.

I come from a Celtic heritage where all of our love songs are sad, and our war-songs are happy. And importantly, my new way has taught me, not to celebrate any battle-victories, or wins associated with my past ill-fated behavior-isms, but to stand self-assuredly amid the gritty combative confusion of times past.

And it’s true, that my life is built not around consistent, continued success, or who has won-through, but is a foundation that helps me stand with a sense of self, in the midst of defeat and loss. Who can sing when they are grieving, who can know the story from which they’ve come, and tell it no matter how difficult and fierce the origin of that story is? What a cherished gift it is to celebrate and to ‘sing’ with quiet, reasoned humility at the end of each day.

The reason that living in the now, just for today, occupies such an astonishing place in my life is that it represents a chance to celebrate during such incredible difficulty. And I need to know how to do that.

Living in uncertain times, I need some kind of assured presence which is independent of my past outside accomplishments, regardless of how conflicting they may be, with a new sense of happiness, of self-achievement which is instructive and resides independently of any definition of what it means to be successful.

It is often enlightening to hear at a memorial service of a friend or family member, once the more formal reflection on how they lived their life and the recitations of all their accomplishments have been shared, which is just a prelude to hearing what they held in their true affections, and what they truly treasured.

The atmosphere then quickens when you hear what they really loved, and what they cherished – the home-made telescopes, the sense of humor that kept the meetings alive at work, the outings with the grandchildren, the times together on the back porch – and you realize that what you learn when someone goes out of their life, is the loss of what they actually loved. Everything else is like chaff that is blown away. The embodiment of a grand life is a sum of what they held in their true affections.

You only have to know what you hold in your affections, what a first priority is for you, and then live your life as an emblem of faith in that belonging. By sharing the richness and abundance of our failures provides a therapeutic release that so emancipates us from our past and, more importantly, provides us with the gift of pure gratitude to share with others.

My approach (and the accompanying required work-effort) for living for today has helped me better understand that it is this natural gravity of well-belonging that is the secret key to self-compassion.


MaxCo Advisors

November 5th 2108

Welcome to The New Economy of Optimism

We’ve felt it for a while – disruption is everywhere, and every single condition and dynamic that traditional marketing companies had been able to count on to protect their dominance over the past several decades has been upended. Moreover, we are people who also have messy, three-dimensional, and often stress-filled lives. Every single circumstance that a traditional, past-way of living I had been able to count on to protect my behavior, has been upended. Untidy, chaotic, muddled and disordered.

I’ve never felt it more than I feel it today.

The following piece contains some reflections on The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s latest study, “The Rise of the 21st Century Brand Economy”, which was released earlier this year at their Annual Leadership Meeting.

Colleen DeCourcy, Chief Creative Officer at Wieden + Kennedy was asked to address IAB attendees on “How to Build a 21st Century Brand” and provide the agency perspective in response to this research. Her perspective, “Welcome to Optimism: Brand Building in a Post-Advertising World” is summarized in the post below.

It’s brilliant, read on.

Disruptive innovation is one of the most misunderstood concepts in modern business. It’s rooted in just one thing: more people having access to tools that used to be available only to people with lots of money or skill. The printing press put the monks out of business, the camera put portrait painters out of business, iPhones took cameras out of business, and Instagram took Kodak out of business. And there’s Uber.

Progress is direct access to the means of getting to an end. A shortening of the distance from A to B. Each step, friction taken out of the process. This one thing is the biggest thing we need to remind ourselves of every day.

Chance The Rapper didn’t need a record label. In fact, records didn’t need a record store, and music didn’t need records. Chance was just “taking the friction out of the process.”

Hollywood looked at digital disruption and cried “Please defend us! This will kill creativity.” But it didn’t.

Serialized content had a creative renaissance. The removal of friction through the audio and video content delivered over the Internet (OTT, Netflix subscription, etc.), and use of data actually intensified Hollywood’s creative output. It’s also quite possible that a weakened studio system will bring an end to the power dynamic that is at the root of sexual harassment. Maybe.

It’s hard to let go of something that has worked, that you like and that you’ve built a massive amount of infrastructure around. Not unlike Hollywood or, even big advertising or research and insights infrastructures are all victims of the same logic.

Bigger buildings for more people with more departments and more workflow to handle the global scale of a rush of product that creates endless exponential growth for the stock market. Turns out it that was wrong.

More delivery, less friction.

That’s the challenge we all have in front of us.

So, to recap the situation:

  • Changes at the top. It’s almost a completely different shape of market. We moved from a market of things to a market of systems.
  • Changes at the bottom. Size is no longer your friend. It’s hampering reinvention to match the shape of the market, and competition is coming from everywhere.

This unprecedented access to the means of production has accelerated and created The New Economy.

Look, great insights and advertising can still drastically change the fortunes of a brand, New Economy or old. But, there’s no role for mediocre work anymore. Where advertising and insight hasn’t gone data-driven and friction-less, the job has gotten harder.

The upside however, can be huge.

What we have learned is that to build anything on top of what we have now is a fool’s errand. A lot of the current infrastructure of marketing amounts to friction. If Direct to Consumer (D2C) companies have taught us anything, it is this:

  • Any move that isn’t in the direction of nimbleness, emotional intelligence, transparency and collaboration, is building in the wrong direction.

There is no way to un-see this once you’ve seen it. Fear is the enemy of innovation (action).

It appears that brand building for a more-than-a-five-year horizon may be a luxury brief, and even for New Economy companies, a direct model is not a guarantee of long-term success.

Loyalty is hard to find. Many of these D2C companies have gone through their own white-knuckle days. The Glossiers and the Outdoor Voices, and the Warby Parkers are not just internet companies that figured out supply chain and targeting.

They are ideas. They also live offline. They create content. They make meaningful gestures. They capture their audience. The biggest difference is they do it without massive infrastructure. The implications for marketers are seismic. We used to invest in advertising and brand-building to raise awareness and drive sales in physical stores.

Now we don’t.

Rising to the expectations of New Economy clients put bruises on every shin in our respective businesses, and then some. Some of us have started to move forward, forging relationships with direct and digital brands, companies that are setting the pace for business going forward: Airbnb, Lyft, Instagram, Spotify, Harry’s, SmileDirectClub.

At the same time, we need to work with and help companies who are doing the hard work of evolving for the new realities of business, and marketing, and winning.

This is the New Economy core stack – it rounds out the move from mass target audience reach to individual precision on a mass scale. So easy to say (and write) but hard to actually do.

It puts direct-to-consumer brands into shared culture where memories live, and values are appreciated, and here, data is a form of empathy. It’s how we find truth in a non-monolithic culture.

There is still a zeitgeist that 21st century marketing is about humanity. People are more interested, and willing to play with brands than they ever have been. They also expect more from brands than they ever did.

The brands that are audience-centric - human centric – that are focused on creating value for people, that combine tech with human insight and empathy, and that look at their people as more than consumers – they are the ones we will mark in history as the 21st Century Brands.

Optimism lives there. But they will also use “the work” to do something bigger. Work that creates conversation and lives in the real world not the marketing world. Brands that are ideas have so much more permission to engage.

Everything and anything a brand can do to work with consumers in their world will thrive. There really are no limits. Media doesn’t dictate the terms. Culture does.

Old process, new process. So, let’s talk about ride-sharing. It matters how you get there.

A Silicon Valley D2C company doesn’t really need insights (or an agency who gets that)…until it has a competitor. One of the first things ride-share companies needed to do was create a connection to their most important constituency — their drivers.

Companies like Lyft and Uber don’t own their biggest assets: the regular people who bring their passion, their resources and their commitment to the table.

The creation of a community that works in concert with the brand gives the whole endeavor a larger purpose in society that matters, and at the same time as we move to a market of automated and friction-less transactions, we hasten our search for some confirmation of our own humanity, and is something we can carry forward into a scary and quickly arriving, automated, post-work world.

Think of how astonishingly earth-shattering that last thought is. A post-work world. The Fourth Industrial revolution is upon us. Work, a thing we know and frame our existence with, will change in this century for most of us.

Wondering why you see so much social consciousness creeping into advertising? The data is telling marketers that the world is looking for confirmation of “who we are.”

In better and worse times advertising has been that role in our lives. With automation taking people out of the work-force and a massive explosion of personal identity politics underway, the world might just need brands right now.


MaxCo Advisors

October, 2018

Mental Mash Potatoes

A self-made billionaire reveals the one mental hurdle that you must overcome to reach your potential. People who can do this are winners; those who can’t are losers, according to the world’s most influential hedge fund entrepreneur.

Billionaire Ray Dalio founded Bridgewater, one of the world’s largest and best-performing hedge funds. A true entrepreneurial success story, Dalio started his company in a two-bedroom apartment. He was a self-described ordinary kid and worse-than-ordinary student. Forty-two years after starting his company, Dalio decided to share his success secrets in his new book, Principles.

I received an early copy of the book, which weighs in at a hefty 560 pages. But Dalio says one chapter in particular is the most important. In it, he reveals the one roadblock to success that is so engrained in the human experience, and in our DNA, it’s difficult to overcome. But those who recognize it and take steps to knock down the barrier will be in a much stronger position to get what they want out of life.

Dalio’s advice: Be radically open-minded

Good decisions aren’t necessarily the ones that stroke your ego. A good decision is what’s best for you and your company. To make good decisions, argues Dalio, a person must have the ability to explore different points of view and different possibilities, regardless of whether it hurts your ego.

Ask any of your friends or any entrepreneur if he or she is open-minded, and most–if not all–will say they are. But are they? Are you? According to Dalio, here are some cues that will tell if you are truly open-minded.

  • Close-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged; open-minded people are not angry when someone disagrees.
  • Close-minded people are more likely to make statements than ask questions; open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong.
  • Close-minded people focus much more on being understood than on understanding others; open-minded people always feel compelled to see things through others’ eyes.
  • Close-minded people lack a deep sense of humility; open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear that they may be wrong.

Dalio believes that recognizing these traits in yourself is just the first step. The second step is recognizing them in others. Once you do, “surround yourself with the open-minded ones,” he says.

According to Dalio, it’s critical to reframe a disagreement not as a threat, which is what your primitive brain sees, but as an opportunity to learn. “People who change their minds because they learned something are winners, whereas those who stubbornly refuse to learn are the losers,” he says. Dalio points out that being open-minded doesn’t mean that you blindly accept another person’s conclusions. He recommends being open-minded and assertive at the same time. “You should hold and explore conflicting possibilities in your mind while moving fluidly toward whatever is likely to be true based on what you learn,” he says.

Dalio offers several recommendations to help you develop the habit of being radically open-minded. Among them:

“Sincerely believe that you might not know the best possible path.” Dalio says that recognizing what you don’t know is more important than whatever it is you know for sure.

“Recognize that decision making is a two-step process: First, take in all the relevant information, then decide.” Dalio says it’s here that many entrepreneurs get tripped up. Most people are reluctant to consider information that is inconsistent with their worldview or the conclusion they’ve already arrived at.

“Remember that you’re looking for the best answer, not simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself.” This last piece of advice could be the most important. Dalio points out that when two people disagree, there is a good chance that one of them is wrong. What if it’s you?

For most entrepreneurs, their goal is to build the best company and the best life they possibly can. Disagreements, debate, and feedback all serve the ultimate purpose–to reach the best decision. Setting aside your ego could be your ultimate competitive advantage. “If you are too proud of what you know … you will learn less, make inferior decisions, and fall short of your potential,” says Dalio.

MaxCo Advisors

Feb 10, 2018

You Can Have The Most Impressive Title In The World And Still Not Be A Leader

According to the late Bill Campbell, who established a reputation as the “coach” of Silicon Valley, only one thing determines whether or not you’re a leader: the opinions of those you’re supposed to be leading.

A former Columbia University football player and coach, Campbell went on to work with and mentor with some of the biggest names in tech, including Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt.

Former Apple CEO John Sculley poached Campbell, hiring him away from Kodak to work as Apple’s VP of marketing.

Sculley shared one of the best pieces of advice Campbell ever gave him: “Your title makes you a manager. Your people will decide if you’re a leader, and it’s up to you to live up to that.”

Campbell himself told Sculley he’d come to that realization about leadership from working with Jobs.

“The reality is that you have to earn leadership from the people that you’re working with and who are working for you,” Sculley told Business Insider. “The title doesn’t mean much unless you can earn their respect as a leader.”

Later in his career, Campbell served on Apple’s board of directors. He went on to also become CEO of Intuit from 1994 to 1998 and eventually became the chairman of the tech company’s board.

Current Intuit CEO Brad Smith said he got the same advice on leadership from Campbell, too. Sculley and Smith both said it was the best career advice they’d ever received, and that it’s stuck with them ever since.

“Basically, how you make that happen is if you believe that leadership is not about putting greatness into people, leadership is about recognizing that there’s a greatness in everyone and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge,” Smith told Business Insider. “That’s our definition of leadership. We don’t think leadership is the same as people management.”

MaxCo Advisors

Feb 10, 2018

9 Things You Never See Successful People Do

Here’s what successful people avoid, and why you should, too.

BY CHAD PERRY, VP of Sales, Motivosity

It’s fun to read lists of what makes successful people tick.

Their morning rituals. Their habits. Their goal-setting routines. The things they do before calling it a day. What they eat for lunch.

But sometimes, it’s interesting to see what they don’t do.

In life, simplicity is more. Less is more.

In that spirit, here are a few things to do less of, so that you can experience more success.

Never Live in the Past

Individuals that live in the past miss seeing what the future holds. They’re blinded by what could have been, instead of seeing what can be.

Unsuccessful people trade yesterday for today, and forfeit tomorrow.

You can let your past shape you, but don’t let it imprison you.

Respect Risk, Don’t Fear It

The fear of risk will lead to a lifetime of regret. That’s because when you don’t take that occasional risk, you’ll spend a lifetime looking back and wondering “if only” and “what if?”

Educate yourself. Do your homework. Trust your gut.

But don’t be afraid to jump every now and then, even when the only thing you can see is what your imagination believes.

Never Dwell on Failure

We live in a world obsessed with perfection. With winning. With succeeding at every attempt. With participation trophies.

The reality is: That’s not real.

Success doesn’t come without bumps and bruises. Great wins rarely come without great losses.

If you fail, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep going.

(Nobody is watching that close anyway.)

Never Make Excuses

Excuses come because you’re afraid to take a risk. They come because you tried and failed.

Sometimes they come because you didn’t try…and you failed.

If you didn’t try, don’t cover it up with an excuse. You were lazy. No one will buy it.

Go back and try again.

Never Hold a Grudge, Ever

Let it go.

Holding a grudge is living in a past that you can never change.

Holding a grudge will only keep holding you back. Not them.

Never Hold Others Back

If someone else succeeds, it doesn’t mean you fail. There’s plenty to go around.

Let them try, and win.

Be a gracious winner, and an even bigger cheerleader.

Never Rely on Luck

The funny thing about luck?

It finds the people who look for it, not the ones who are waiting for it.

Unless you’re playing the lottery, your chances of finding luck increase the more you’re out there working, hustling, and not taking no for an answer.

Successful people find luck because they work at it.

Never Waste Time

Not wasting time isn’t the same thing as always being busy.

It means making time count.

It means not trading your valuable and limited time for something of little worth.

Unlike a bank account, you cannot increase the amount of time you have. Once you use it, it’s gone. There’s no getting more of it.

Choose carefully how you invest your time.

Never Accept Limitations

Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run his first time at bat.

Michael Jordan didn’t sink a three-pointer on his first attempt.

Tiger Woods didn’t hit a hole-in-one on his first swing.

Being successful takes practice. It takes courage. It takes persistence to work through the kinks.

Each of us has brilliance in us. You just have to get beyond the limitations you create in your own mind to find out how successful you can become.


MaxCo Advisors, October 2016

Love Can Beat This.

Written by Mauricio Estrella

In the heat of arguing, it’s human nature to do our best to win. However, arguing can get quite irrational when we lose focus of what we’re trying to resolve. If we’re not focused on solving a problem, we’re wasting time and energy that can be diverted into something more positive.

In a bad argument, our empathy for the other person disappears, and we become self-centered and defensive. We basically turn into angry, snappy Chihuahuas or cursing sailors. All that matters is our own perspective on the problem. Our proposal to resolve it. Our solution. Screw everything and everybody else.

But what if we’re wrong?

How do we know we’re right if we’re focused on forcing our reasoning onto the other person? Some people just can’t handle arguments.

For many, a sudden spike of adrenaline during an argument directly proceeds a bout of cursing. It happens right before they throw a plate off the table. Before slamming a door. Before sending an angry email. Or right before physical aggression. Losing control of an argument can end in terrifying ways.

The journey to conquering a problem is tedious enough. I’d rather have an extremely simple shortcut than a deep and detailed run-down of methods and processes to do so. I try to focus on finding paths—and in the case of a heated disagreement, I tried to find a direct path, a shortcut, to resolve conflicts.

To put things in the context: My fiancée is Chinese, I’m Ecuadorian, so cultural differences do make an impact in our lives. Sometimes these differences are funny. Sometimes they’re not.

Here’s my recipe for navigating conflict.

Step 1: Shut up

It’s such a waste of time to spend your energy arguing. Once the discussion reaches the point when you’re irrational, there’s no way in the world you’re gonna end up victorious. Instead, you’re gonna end up sleeping on the couch. Eating some ugly microwaveable food. Watching TV till late. Drinking a beer on your own, pretending you’re reflecting on your brilliance.

Why go through all of this? Just…shut up. Let the silence embrace your anger. Put a pause to the conflict.


Step 2: Turn around

I came up with the idea of sitting (or standing), leaning my back against my girlfriend’s back whenever a discussion heated up and we needed to resolve a dispute over something.

That’s right.

“Stand, or sit down, and lean your back against the other person’s back.” —Me, scientist.

Step 3: Continue arguing

That’s right. Continue where you left. With the same energy. Just imagine you’re still facing the other person, as if nothing has changed, and watch how magic happens.

After a couple of minutes, this always helps to end the discussion. Thanks to this method, we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other. And saved countless moments of angry body language and words bouncing between the walls of our home.

But how?

“What happens is that the arguing immediately becomes more objective.” —Me, scientist.

There’s no better way to realize if you’re right or wrong than speaking with yourself, with honesty. Honesty, however, is hard to achieve when we can’t control our emotions and interactions.

By standing back-against-back, you no longer have another person across the room to argue with. You become vulnerable, because your words are aimed at nobody in front of you. You’re on your own, looking at a corner of the room. Your voice reflects off the walls and yells back at you. You will hear what the other person in the room hears. It’s a wonderful experience.

“You will trick your mind. For your brain, it is illogical to be arguing with nobody. Your mind’s logical self-preservation instinct will fight against doing something as dumb as yelling at the air.” —Me, psycholoscientist.

You will be more clear and objective and think, “Well, I do have a point!” or maybe, “Oh, this is wrong. I am wrong.”

For me and my fiancée, it usually takes a few minutes to end the discussion for good. The best part is when you turn around and you get to face the person who you just agreed with.

Step 4: Turn around again, and enjoy your peace

This is exceptional with couples. It’s a moment of relief and happiness where you go: “Ah! There she is!” or “Ah! There he is!” Feel the beauty of a peaceful moment.

This often ends with a silly smirk, a tiny laugh. Or a slap. Or sex. Or both. Depends. Results may vary.

This post originally appeared at Medium.

MaxCo Advisors, September 2016

Trying To Make Other People Happy Is Counter-Productive

I really like this article, written by Christine Carter. I’d encourage you to read it completely.

People ask me all the time what the secret to happiness is. “If you had to pick just one thing,” they wonder, “what would be the most important thing for leading a happy life?”

Ten years ago, I would have told you a regular gratitude practice was the most important thing—and while that is still my favorite instant happiness booster, my answer has changed. I believe the most important thing for happiness is living truthfully. Here’s the specific advice I recently gave my kids:

Live with total integrity. Be transparent, honest, and authentic. Do not ever waiver from this—white lies and false smiles quickly snowball into a life lived out of alignment. It is better to be yourself and risk having people not like you than to suffer the stress and tension that comes from pretending to be someone you’re not, or professing to like something that you don’t. I promise you: Pretending will rob you of joy.

I’ve spent the better part of my life as a people-pleaser—trying to meet other people’s expectations, trying to keep everyone happy and liking me. But when we are trying to please others, we are usually out of sync with our own wants and needs. It’s not that it’s bad to be thinking of others. It’s that pleasing others is not the same as helping others.

People pleasing, in my extensive personal experience, is a process of guessing what other people want, or what will make them think favorably of us, and then acting accordingly. It’s an often subtle and usually unconscious attempt at manipulating other people’s perceptions of us. Anytime we pretend to be something we aren’t or feel something we don’t, we lose personal integrity.

And any time we’re doing something that is more about influencing what others think of us than authentically expressing ourselves—even something as simple as a Facebook post that makes it seem like we are having a better day than we actually are—we lose personal integrity.

Losing integrity has pretty serious consequences for our happiness, and for our relationships. Here’s what happens when we aren’t being authentic:

  1. We don’t actually fool anyone

Say you are at work, and you’re doing your best to put on a happy face even though your home life is feeling shaky. You may not want to reveal to your work friends that you and your significant other had a major fight over the weekend, but if you pretend that you are okay—and you’re not—you’ll probably make the people around you feel worse, too. Why?

We humans aren’t actually very good at hiding how we are feeling. We exhibit micro-expressions that the people we are with might not consciously register, but that trigger their mirror neurons—so a little part of their brain thinks that they are feeling our negative feelings. Trying to suppress negative emotions when we are talking with someone—like when we don’t want to trouble someone else with our own distress—actually increases the stress levels of both people more than if we had shared our distress in the first place. (It also reduces rapport and inhibits the connection between two people.)

  1. We find it harder to focus

Pretending takes a huge conscious effort—it’s an act of self-control that drains your brain of its power to focus and do deep work. That’s because performing—or pretending to be or feel something you’re not—requires tremendous willpower.

Tons of research suggests that our ability to repeatedly exert our self-control is actually quite limited. Like a muscle that tires and can no longer perform at its peak strength after a workout, our self-control is diminished by previous efforts at control, even if those efforts take place in a totally different realm.

So that little fib at the water cooler you told in order to make yourself seem happier than you are is going to make it hard for you to focus later in the afternoon. A performance—or any attempt to hide who you really are, or pretend to be something you aren’t—is later going to make it harder to control your attention and your thoughts, and to regulate your emotions. It’ll increase the odds that you react more aggressively to provocation, eat more tempting snacks, engage in riskier behaviors, and—this one is pretty compelling to me—perform more poorly on tasks that require executive function, like managing your time, planning, or organizing.

  1. We become more stressed and anxious

Let’s just call it like it is: Pretending to be or feel something that you don’t—even if it is a small thing, and even if it is relatively meaningless, and even if it is meant to protect someone else—is a lie – and it’s exhausting.

And lying, even if we do it a lot or are good at it, is very stressful to our brains and our bodies. The polygraph test depends on this: “Lie detectors” don’t actually detect lies, but rather they detect the subconscious stress and fear that lying causes. These tests sense changes in our skin conductivity, pulse rate, and breathing. They also detect when someone’s vocal pitch has changed in a nearly imperceptible way, a consequence of tension in the body that tightens vocal chords.

The physiological changes that lie detectors sense are caused by glucocorticoids—hormones that are released during a stress response. And as you well know, stress hormones are bad news for your health and happiness over the long run.

Research shows that people who are given instructions for how to lie less in their day-to-day lives are actually able to lie less—and when they do, their physical health improves. For example, they report less trouble sleeping, less tension, fewer headaches, and fewer sore throats. These improvements in health are likely caused by the relative absence of a stress response.

And that’s not all: When the people in the above study lied less, they also reported improvements in their relationships, and decreased anxiety.

We don’t lie or pretend or perform all the time, of course. But when we do, it’s important to see the consequences: increased stress, decreased willpower, impaired relationships. Although we might actually be trying to feel better by putting on a happy face for others, pretending always backfires in the end. Living in-authentically makes life hard and cuts us off from our sweet spot—that place where we have both ease and power.

This post originally appeared at ChristineCarter.com.

MaxCo Advisors, September 2016