Internet of Things Is Changing How Media and Entertainment Companies Operate

IoT is helping helping industry marketers gather (and make sense of) valuable data.

While the “internet of things” is still in the early stages of development, the media and entertainment industry already has many of the digital building blocks in place to make it a reality. Large publishers and broadcasters—many of which control the content and its delivery—have switched to digital business models and have the network and IT infrastructure to support high-speed transmission, new formats (e.g., 3-D, 4-D, 4-K ultra HD, high dynamic range, virtual reality) and multichannel delivery, as explored in the new eMarketer report, “The Internet of Media and Entertainment Things: What Marketers Need to Know Now.”

Because a growing percentage of media and entertainment content is consumed on digital and mobile devices, the number of industry-related IoT connections is rising. In its “State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2015” report, Verizon Communications found that IoT connections on its network in the media and entertainment vertical increased 120% in 2014 compared with 2013. The industry was third in terms of growth, behind manufacturing (204%) and finance and insurance (128%).

Other research reveals similar growth potential. An April 2015 survey of worldwide business executives by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) found that while the average per-company global IoT spending by media and entertainment organizations wasn’t remarkable when compared with other industries, it was expected to increase nearly 54% over the next three years, to $72.6 million in 2018 from $47.2 million in 2015. And as a percentage of average company revenues, this spending was 0.57%, second only to the travel, transportation and hospitality industry.

The same study found that the bulk of IoT activity in this industry involved the use of apps on smartphones, tablets or other digital devices. More than six in 10 global media and entertainment executives polled said they monitored customer data through mobile apps. To a lesser extent, survey respondents also reported IoT use in production and distribution operations to track product flow (33.3%), the use of digital sensors in products (12.5%), tracking devices in business locations (8.3%) and customer wearables (4.2%).

While nearly all types of media and entertainment businesses will benefit from the IoT, publishers and broadcasters are ahead of the curve. Many can already harvest various forms of data—location, behavioral, consumer-preference and demographic among them—from a variety of devices and systems, construct detailed consumer profiles and use them to create and instantly deliver personalized content across multiple screens.

Other companies seeking a piece of the media and entertainment industry IoT pie include telecom and cable service providers, advertising and marketing agencies, information technology firms, consumer electronics manufacturers, TV and movie studios, sports organizations, recreational facilities, event promoters, gaming companies, casinos and many others.

This Is (Going To Be) Big: How the Internet of Things Is Transforming Travel

Mobile Devices Play A Key Role In The Travel IoT

Whether it’s monitoring the performance of airline engines, enabling keyless entry to hotel rooms or helping tourists find their way around Disney World, the internet of things (IoT) is creating exciting opportunities for the travel and hospitality industry. By connecting smart devices, systems, processes and people in new ways, it is streamlining the back-end operations of airlines, hotels, resorts, cruise lines and rental car fleets.

At the same time, data from these connections is helping marketers deliver more personalized campaigns and enhanced traveler experiences. Simply put, the IoT is helping this highly competitive and schedule-driven industry turn information into action, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “The Internet of Things: What Travel and Hospitality Marketers Need to Know Now.”

As technology becomes cheaper and more powerful, much of the innovation has shifted toward enabling these smart devices and systems to communicate with each other and with larger systems. Many travel and hospitality brands already have some IoT functionality in their back-end operations and are experimenting with ways to put the technology to work for customers. With potential to transform nearly all aspects of the travel experience, the IoT will enable these companies to collect and integrate large data sets from different sources and instantly personalize traveler experiences.

Travel and hospitality companies are under constant pressure to provide better service at the lowest possible cost. For this reason, they have been early movers with the IoT, at least by some accounts.

According to an April 2015 study by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the industry topped the list with regard to current IoT spending per company. The firm reported that industry executives worldwide expected their organizations to spend an average of $128.9 million each on IoT initiatives in 2015, or 0.60% of revenues.

While nearly all types of travel businesses are likely to benefit from the IoT to some degree, larger hotel chains and airlines are leading the charge out of the gate. On the enterprise side, many have IoT systems already in place to boost efficiency and streamline operations. Hotels manage use and maintenance of their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), security, plumbing, elevator and other facilities-related systems. Airlines employ sensors to gather real-time information from aircraft parts and systems that are then used to track flight data, optimize fuel consumption and anticipate maintenance issues.

In a March 2015 survey of 200 airline IT executives worldwide conducted by Airline Business for IT company RSW/US SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques), 86% of respondents believed that the IoT would deliver clear benefits in the next three years, and 37% had already allocated budget.

eMarketer, January 21, 2016
– See more at: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/How-Internet-of-Things-Transforming-Travel/1013487?ecid=NL1001#sthash.K5TmC9El.dpuf

 

MaxCoAdvisors
January, 2016

Be Careful Not to Lie To An Uber.

We were dressed and ready to go out for a dinner and theatre evening. We turned on a ‘night light’, turned the answering machine on, covered our pet parrot and put the cat in the backyard. We ordered an Uber ride though the app on my smartphone. The Uber arrived, and we opened the front door to leave the house. As we walked out the door, the cat we had put out in the yard scooted back into the house. We didn’t want the cat shut in the house because she always tries to get at the parrot. My wife walked on out to the Uber, while I went back inside to get the cat. The cat ran upstairs, with me in hot pursuit.

Waiting in the Uber, my wife didn’t want the driver to know that the house would be empty for the night, so she explained to the Uber driver that I would be out soon. “He’s just going upstairs to say good-bye to my mother“.

A few minutes later, I got into the Uber. “Sorry I took so long”, I said, as we drove away. “That stupid lady was hiding under the bed and I had to poke her butt with a coat hanger to get her to come out. She tried to take off, so I grabbed her by the neck. Then, I had to wrap her in a blanket to keep her from scratching me. But it worked, so I hauled her downstairs and tossed her out into the backyard. She’d better not crap in the vegetable garden again“!

The silence in the Uber was deafening.

 

MaxCo Advisors

January 2016

 

Heros. David Bowie, January 10th, 2016

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time,
just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing,
nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes,
just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
(over our heads)
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
(nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day

Oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-ohh,
just for one day

———————————

Good Night Major Tom.

MaxCo Advisors
January 11th 2016

The “F” Words You are Ignoring and the “G-Spot” You Need to Remember

It seems to me that many people today yearn for happiness, joy, and love – all terrific things –but strive seemingly, to no avail whatsoever.

We live in a world with so many choices, and resources, and freedoms, and so much technology, yet so many of us seem to live lives that are filled with even MORE stress and precipitously LESS enjoyment than ever. Why is this? What are we missing?

There are, of course, many ways to try to answer this question, but over the past year I have had the chance to experience that there are, indeed, predictable patterns of perception in people (nice alliteration). That is, there are ways of examining and labeling our experience, and of the events that occur in our lives, that lead many of us to feel constricted and sometimes confused with life.

Conversely, I have also met a few amazing people who consistently experience a life filled with abundance and purpose. They are those who lead meaningful lives, and they are truly, genuinely and authentically happy, and it’s rarely, if ever, because their lives are any easier than yours or mine.

The remarkable thing is that no matter how blessed a life may be with health, romance and finance, family, close friends, opportunities to learn and grow, and a chance to give back, the number one pattern that denigrates, and for some people, completely destroys their lives, is expectations.

That’s the catch, and enigma.


 

If you really want to be stressed, all you have to do is expect life and all the people in it, to think, behave, speak, and act the way you have predetermined they “should.” If you hang-on to your expectations, I can guarantee you plenty of stress and pain.

So, it occurs to me, that we all have different values, beliefs, fears, habits, and needs. That’s the reason why even the most kind and loving person you know can, in an instant, be insensitive, mean-spirited, snarky, or at least unconscious of the impact they may have on someone else, including you.

Therefore, if the only way one can be happy is for everyone to act or communicate every moment in ways that meet your own expectations, you might as well best plan on a life of continuous disappointment, frustration and pain – and that’s a miserable way to be. It is to me, for sure.

What’s the solution to being disappointed all the time? Trust that people do the best they can with the resources they have. When you experience someone doing something unconscious, it’s helpful to remember that it’s rarely ever about you, and almost always just that person feeling so much stress and pressure that they have literally activated their, what I call, loony mode. People in loony mode can go blind in a moment. It happens to the very best of us. It’s part of being human. We can’t expect anyone to be perfect all the time.

So, what I’ve newly experienced for a pleasurable and satisfying life is to trade your expectations for appreciation. The moment you do, your whole world transforms.

You know how it feels when people expect you to give them something, it takes away the gift of spontaneous surprise and the joy you’re able to feel from giving. By contrast, when YOU appreciate whatever life or people bring you, you are choosing to guarantee openness and invite the joy and wonder that young children have … before we spoil them with ever-expanding material things or events, and create unrealistic expectations in life to meet their desires and needs.

So much frustration, angst, hurt, depression, and sadness burns from consistently expecting people to be loving, generous, courteous, compassionate, proactive, present, supportive, caring, etc.

I have found that sometimes people will be all of these things, if they feel secure in their life, or, if you are lucky to know one of those people with a habitually bright disposition. Just maybe you are lucky enough to have these kind experiences with close friends who love you and have the high standards to consistently act this way. But, the larger the group of people you interact with, the greater the chance that you’ll receive a variety of responses that will behave in a certain way back to you, you simply will not experience much joy, well-being or wonder.

Enter the power of the F-words… Forgiveness and Faith.

Other than perhaps gratitude – which is the underpinning of both – no two human emotions have had a greater impact on the quality of my life. We will always carry anger and hurt in our hearts as long as we have expectations of other people and life conditions we can’t control. Forgiveness is really an understanding that the only person you hurt when you’re upset (no matter how justified it may be) is yourself. Even if everything in you wants to blame someone else, consider giving yourself the gift of forgiving your expectations.

Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies or setting yourself on fire and also hoping the smoke will choke those who you wish to harm. Now that’s nuts.


The author Tony Robbins has spoken about the time he met Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s and was so moved by his ability to be imprisoned unjustly and yet come out and forgive the very people who took away a quarter-a-century of his life. He asked him how he “survived” those years incarcerated. Mandela told him he didn’t survive – he “prepared.” He prepared to forgive so that if, in fact, he did survive, he would be able to let go and be free to grow. He knew that only in letting go would he be able to lead himself and others to transform his beloved home of South Africa.

Mandela is often quoted as saying, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear… Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.” He said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Nelson Mandela understood fundamentally that forgiveness is not a gift we give others; it is a gift we give ourselves. It is true freedom from stories of our past and from the pain, fear, and anger that can eat away at our mind and body and soul. Mandela’s antiquity, like all our pasts, is just bravery in training.

But Nelson Mandela is not the only person capable of this kind of radical forgiveness. The truth is: we all are. When we do, we raise our standard.

Ask yourself, as I ask myself: What if everything in life really did happen for a reason? What if everything really did have a purpose and it always served us in the long run? What if life was always happening FOR us, not TO us? What if even the pain and problems had a higher purpose in the growth and evolution of our soul and our own purpose?

If you were to look back on your life, I am sure you’ve had some painful experiences that you would never want to experience again, and yet, thank your Higher Power, your Universe, your Spiritual Being or whatever you chose to call It, because IT caused you to develop a depth of insight or caring, or a level of inner strength, that shapes your compassion, and the greatness of what you can give to others.

When we tap into this level of consciousness, we can find a higher meaning in our past fear and pain. Our faith can move us beyond the experience itself and through the higher purpose we can free and strengthen our spirit.

To me, it’s the people who give-up the story of what happened to them and find a higher meaning who, in the end, are the ones who lead, grow, give, and experience life’s deepest joy, gratitude and fulfillment.

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself, not a gift you give someone else.

Over the last couple of years, we all have witnessed insane tragedy in schools, movie theaters, and public shootings, massacre and bloodbaths in Paris, horror in the skies over Egypt, carnage and murders in Mali, and suicide bombings in Beirut.

I am truly in awe of, and am struck deeply by, those people who through their faith have found a deeper meaning, and have found ways to forgive and use what has happened to them to help others, whether it be those who lost a child at Sandy Hook in CT, family and friends in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, or loved ones in Paris.

These people have experienced something way beyond physical pain; this level of atrocity is truly spiritual pain. Spiritual pain is a level of injustice that is almost unfathomable, but if you can make it through, you develop an almost indestructible spiritual strength. That strength reinforces the ability to reach and help others.

We all think our problems are so huge, but there is always someone out there who is being asked to bear even more. To be truly free and happy in this life, we must recognize that our expectations are limiting and are not the finish line. Our biggest problem may very well be the belief that we are not supposed to have problems! But we do – that’s life. We are powerless over that – so let’s not worry or fester over this, rather let’s change our attitude and behavior in real and tangible ways, to manage them. I have heard the phrase “just let problems pass through you”…not avoid them, or let them pass over us, or dodge them, or side-step them – that just avoids addressing them. Letting them pass through us allows us to experience them but does not allow them to suffocate or stifle us in such as ways as to stymie our actions.

We are presented each day with the opportunity to live life on life’s terms. Our true power is in our problems as they release our resourcefulness, willingness and actions, and cause us to grow in order to respond consciously and compassionately to them. Radical forgiveness and faith in guidance or a higher meaning in our experience is, I would suggest, an (the) answer

Clinical research shows biochemical changes in blood flow to different parts of the brain when we are angry and conversely, when we choose to forgive. Numerous studies prove that hosting anger and chronic emotional distress erodes physical health, alters cardiovascular homeostasis, impoverishes sleep quality, and stimulates the production of stress-related hormones like cortisol. Conversely, forgiveness promotes wellbeing, cardiovascular health, and may increase survival rates. It has for me.

So how do we do it? How do we find it in our hearts? Try channeling a role model like Nelson Mandela or parents of Sandy Hook, or, tap a time in the past when you found forgiveness and choose to unleash the healing power again today.

When did you forgive even before someone said they were sorry? When can you choose to forgive without requiring an apology, or any conditions, or even a change of heart? Where can you own a higher meaning and finally set yourself free? How can you just let it go?

Forgive includes the word “g i v e”.

It all goes back to trading-in those useless expectations. And one way to get in the habit of this is through activating gratitude. I try to make a daily habit of finding a few minutes to be grateful for as many little things as I can think of every single day. What’s interesting is that we are incapable of being angry and grateful simultaneously. So let’s get grateful in a hurry! Cultivating this emotion each day creates the “mental and spiritual connectivity” so that it’s easy to forgive for what others get stuck and stressed over. Our ability to feel, or actually BE grateful more often over little things will, I believe, result in the capacity to forgive quickly and more easily and free yourself of pain and fear.

…And I’m going to place the blame on others.

Finally, if you’re still not forgiving then you are STILL blaming something outside yourself – which is quite normal. Most people are not good at forgiveness at all, but they’re good at blame. It’s human nature, and it’s easy. So consequently, if we’re going to blame someone for all our pain, then we’ve got to blame them for all our joy, too. Don’t we? If we’re going to blame our higher power for all our tragedies, we’ve got to blame our higher power for all our gifts. If you’re going to blame your family and friends for being so terrible, you’ve got to blame them for the strength it gave you later on.

So let’s go ahead and pick someone in our life today and go blame them for their impact on our life. Blame them intelligently and consciously. Tell them all the good we all have because of the “gift” they gave us. This kind of blame makes forgiveness automatic because instead of expecting anything, you are appreciating their impact. Try it for a bit, and use the F words of forgiveness and faith, and their partner G-spot, Gratitude, to set yourself free

Remember: What’s wrong will always be there; so is what’s right. Growth, joy, new insights, purpose, happiness, freedom, and love are just a little forgiveness and faith away.

Happy New Year!

 

Alastair

MaxCo Advisors

January 2016

 

 

When in Doubt, Copy

Sing, “If You Can Make it There, You’ll Make it Anywhere”…

…and Other Learnings from Entrepreneurs in…

China.

A story shared by Isabelle Roughol, International editor at LinkedIn.

A few weeks before markets crashed and the word China came to be systematically juxtaposed with “crisis,” “devaluation” or “slowdown,” I went on a study tour of Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. The picture our group was presented with was quite different: a booming economy where opportunities abound if only you could sustain the pressure. You’d expect the people we met – tech executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists – to be upbeat about the economy. They live in a world where success depends largely on believing you’ll succeed. But it’s also true that as much as China’s slowdown is real, the growth rate it does experience – 7% in dubious official data, 6.3% according to economists’ consensus – would be the envy of any US or European government. There are real entrepreneurs creating things at a speed that boggles the mind. Here are a few things they taught us.

When in doubt, copy.

Our study group met with Baidu, Xiaomi, Alibaba, Tencent and more. Nothing has felt entirely original or unseen in Silicon Valley. In fact, a fun game to play is to mix and match Chinese companies with their US inspiration: Alibaba is the Amazon of China, Baidu is Google, Xiaomi is Apple, Didi Kuaidi is Uber, Sina Weibo is Twitter, Renren is Facebook… It’s called the C2C, or Copy to China, model.

Some companies go so far as to copy US sites to the pixel. Exhibit A: Jianshu is (nearly) Medium. But that model is on its way out: the biggest companies may have been inspired by US counterparts, but they quickly morphed to better fit the particular Chinese market. The failure to adapt to local idiosyncrasies is one reason, though by no means the only one, why so many US companies (Google, ebay, Amazon…) failed to make their mark in China. It’d be a gross underestimation of Chinese entrepreneurs to think they can only copy. And why reinvent the wheel? First you catch up, then you pass. They’ve done all this in a decade or so. Where will they be in 2025?

You don’t know what fast means. The Chinese market is so insanely competitive, if you haven’t implemented your idea within a couple months of having it, someone else has. One entrepreneur we met was developing 20 apps – 40 really if you count the iOS and Android versions – and has already created, piloted and ultimately killed another 20. When we talked, one B2B app he built was just a few months old and on track for $15 million revenue this year.

The pressure matches the opportunity: Six-day workweeks seem to be common, not just for founders but for employees as well, and I suspect a few must have laughed at the outrage following the Amazon work culture piece in the New York Times several weeks ago. Remember that? Par for the course here. Which is why I say, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

You know nothing about scale either. You don’t build an app for a couple million users; you start with a couple million users. One app with 300,000 active users was casually referred to as “a pilot.” Tencent acquired up to 200 million (!) mobile payment users during Chinese New Year by building a digital version of the traditional red envelopes. China is one of two, maybe three, self-contained Internet markets. Everywhere else, you have to build international in from day 1 if you hope to appreciate and experience scale.

In China – the other two would be the US and India – the domestic market will keep you busy a while. One sight really brought this home: looking down on the city from the Shanghai World Financial Center, I had in my sights more living souls than in all of Australia.

Your users may be here today, gone tomorrow. Over and over again, we were told that Chinese users are sophisticated, pragmatic and open to new things. Even older users will send stickers on WeChat or sell their wares on Alibaba. (Caveat: we visited urban China and the Chinese people we met were very much the 1%. There are three Chinas: the international metros like Shanghai and Shenzhen, the tier 2 and tier 3 cities home to the manufacturing masses (Nanning), and rural China.) There is little friction to trying something new – and little friction to leaving one app for the next best thing. To succeed, you must be hot, new and in front.

You can never throw too many people at a problem. While showing us around Baidu, our host sheepishly admitted the company only started with 70 employees. When a Tencent app isn’t really popular anymore, they don’t kill it – they keep two people on staff to maintain the app until it dies its own slow natural death. Everyone’s eyes – especially the product managers’ – in the room widened: do you know what we would do for two more headcounts on our products?

This may not last much longer though: a Shanghai venture capitalist told us the war for talent is heating up. Wage inflation is high, and so is turnover. (The economic slowdown may temper this.) A developer here already costs half of what they do in Silicon Valley: cheaper sure, but not cheap enough to hire blindly.

Nothing’s so different as it looks. If you’re an older tech company, you’re wondering how to move your desktop business to be more mobile and social without compromising your legacy revenue lines. If you’re an upstart app, you’re rushing to capture more of the market before your competitor does. And if you’re in the transport business, Uber is your biggest nightmare. Ha! Different language, same problems.

Do you have experience building tech companies in China? What else would you point out to an entrepreneur moving into the Chinese market?

With thanks to all our Chinese hosts for organizing a fantastic trip and to the many colleagues who helped me put together my thoughts and let me read their notes.

This article was first featured in Entrepreneurship, International Trade & Development, Summer 2015.

Alastair
MaxCo Advisors
December 15th, 2015

Please Can We Get Rid Of The “Yes, Maybe” Button On Evite Invitations.

It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s exceedingly confusing. If you are planning to host a party this Holiday Season and invite, say, 30 people, and then get 10 Yes’s, 10 No’s and 10 “Yes, Maybe’s”, how much food do you prepare?… enough for 10 or 20? The “Yes, Maybe” button is a huge impediment. It’s disruptive, problematic, confusing, and impractical. It’s useless.

Heck, why not just add a few more buttons…

  • No, well, hang on a minute, if I can get a babysitter, then Yes button.
  • No, no, no, no, absolutely not, ONLY maybe Yes if you guarantee that your “ex” will not show up button.
  • Yes, most likely, if you serve that nice veggie dip, buy if you’re not, then it’s a No button.
  • Possibly button.
  • Perhaps button.
  • Most Likely button.
  • Almost Certainly button.
  • Conceivably button.
  • Undoubtedly button.
  • Probably button. (love that one)
  • Yes, if there’s parking button.
  • I’ll decide on the night, if something better comes along then No, but if nobody else asks me out, and I feel a complete loser, then Yes. But I may leave early if I get a text for something else more fun button.
  • Not sure, so don’t buy any food for me, and I may or may not even bring a bottle button.
  • OK, do you need to know right now button. (no, but that’s why you got the Evite, moron!)
  • Oh Gosh, I’d REALLY like to come but, you know, I still have that hemorrhoid flare-up thing going on button.

All this thinking about Holiday partying reminded me that I should get cracking my own Holiday gift-hunting. While looking at various websites for creative and different ideas this past weekend, I came up with a new word, “Wotelzyakot”. Having been utterly uninspired with the choices offered, I was left feeling a little frustrated and longing for more creative ideas.

What else could I find?

What else does the http://www.wevegotreallycoolgiftsforeveryoccasion butnothingthatwillworkforyou.com have?

Nothing apparently. I’ll keep looking.

Wotelzyakot came up again a few days later when I was having dinner with a good friend of mine. We got talking about work, movies, our families and friends, sports and the like. We also talked about religion. Not surprisingly, he felt that despite everything he has been taught, and all the literature he has read, he is still left wanting. I think for many people the concept of God – or A God – can be confusing, ambiguous and very unreal. I get that.

He went on to question, what else is there, what else could have made everything in the world? “There is now proof that there isn’t a God. You know, I’ve never seen him, it, or whatever you call it. So if there is no God then, what else?”, he quizzed.

This caused me to reflect on my own relationship with my own conscious contact with a higher power, God, or whatever we choose to use as a label. I’ve am not a fan of labeling, or compartmentalizing, that’s claustrophobic for me, but identify we must, whether it be the “label” of God, HP (not the sauce) but my Higher Power, Alternate Being, Buddha, Mohamed, Christ, Spirituality, Idol, Deity, Conviction, whatever. But as long as it’s not me.

So, as I continue my Holiday errands  –  not necessarily buying, but shopping – then sure, I’ll keep thinking about what else can I find, and what else can I get, but more importantly, what else can I share and what else can I give. Consequently, rather than feeling uninspired, as I was, this has inspired me with some new words…wotelzcanIhelpwith, wotelzcanigive, hooelzcanIhelp, wotelzcanIshare, wotelsecanIgiveback, hooelzcanIlisten2, and wotelzameyegratefool4.

Over the next few days I’ll keep an eye on my Wotelzyakots (“what-else-you-gots?”), and maybe, just maybe, try to givemorealots.

 

Alastair

MaxCo Advisors

December 12th, 2015

 

Happy, Grumpy, Dopey, or Sneezy: Which Dwarf Are You?

With these choices, I’ve found that most of us want to be Happy. In fact, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t.

But how does an adult achieve a high level of contentment (happiness) while living a frenetic and distraction-packed life? How do we not be Grumpy all the time?

It’s not easy.

You first have to figure out how you’re spending your time personally and professionally. More analysis – urgh! We really are a nation of analysts and should be, in my opinion, a nation doers. This subject will be discussed on a later post.

One can look at this in two dimensions: short-term satisfaction and long-term benefit. Both have value. It can be just as disappointing to live our lives with no meaning or pleasure in the present as it can be unfulfilling to live without thought for tomorrow’s plans and aspirations.

Questions like, “Does this activity make me happy?” or “Do I find meaning in the activity itself?” can help gauge the degree of short-term satisfaction that we get from any activity or behavior. Questions like, “Are the results achieved from this activity worth my effort?” or “Is the successful completion of this activity going to have a long-term positive impact on my life?” can help gauge our expectations for potential long-term benefit.

The graphic below shows five different modes of behavior and how they can characterize our relationship to any activity—either at work or at home.

Dwarf Graphic

Stimulating activities score high in short-term satisfaction but low in long-term benefit. The use of drugs or alcohol, for instance, can provide short-term satisfaction yet be dysfunctional for long-term benefit. At work, gossiping with co-workers may be fun for a while, but it is probably not career – or business-enhancing. A life spent solely on stimulating activities could provide a lot of short-term pleasure but go nowhere.

Sacrificing activities score low in short-term satisfaction but high in long-term benefit. For instance, dedicating your life to work that you hate because you “have to” to achieve a larger goal. Or working out (when you don’t feel like it) to improve your long-term health. A life spent solely on sacrificing activities would be the life of a martyr—lots of achievement, but not much joy.

Surviving activities score low on short-term satisfaction and low on long-term benefit. These activities don’t cause much joy or satisfaction in the short-term, nor do they contribute to the future. We do these activities because we feel we have to and we do not have much to show for our efforts. A life spent solely on surviving activities is a hard one indeed.

Sustaining activities produce moderate amounts of short-term satisfaction and lead to moderate long-term benefits. For many professionals, the daily answering of e-mails is a sustaining activity. It is moderately interesting (not thrilling) and usually produces moderate long-term but hardly life-changing benefit. At home, the day-to-day routine of shopping, cooking, and cleaning may be viewed as sustaining. A life spent solely on sustaining activities would be “okay”.

Succeeding activities score high on short-term satisfaction and high on long-term benefit. These activities are the ones that we love to do and get great benefit from doing. At work, people who spend a lot of time in the succeeding box love what they are doing and believe that it is producing long-term benefit at the same time. At home, a parent may be spending hours with a child time that the parent greatly enjoys while valuing the long-term benefit that will come to the child. A life spent in succeeding is a life that is filled with both joy and accomplishment.

[No one can define what short-term satisfaction or long-term benefit means for you but you.]

Consider an immigrant who leaves a poor country and come to the U.S. She works 18 hours a day at two minimum-wage jobs, yet has a great attitude toward her work and saves every cent for her children’s education. She defines her life as mostly succeeding. It is filled with short-term happiness and long-term benefit.

At the other end of the professional scale, a CEO is resentful about her work because a drop in stock value means that she will have to work another couple of years to have the savings she thinks she needs in order to retire. She sees herself in the surviving category.

These two people have completely different perceptions of what an activity means to them.

My suggestion is simple. Let’s all spend a week tracking how we spend your time. At the end of the week examine how many hours we spent on stimulating, sacrificing, surviving, sustaining, or succeeding. Then ask ourselves what changes can we make to help create a life that is both more satisfying in the short-term and more rewarding in the long-term.

While the activities that take up our time can be one factor in determining our happiness and achievement, our attitude toward these activities can be an equally important factor in determining the ultimate quality of our lives. If we cannot change our activities (behavior – it’s all about the behavior), we can at least try to change our attitude toward them and thus become who we’ve always wanted to be, Happy!

 

MaxCo Advisors

November 25th, 2015

Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.

Massacre and bloodbaths in Paris; horror in the skies over Egypt; carnage and murders in Mali; suicide bombings in Beirut. Choosing gratitude may be very challenging today but choose it we must.

The following is a wonderfully poignant article for this week. For those who have not read it, please do. For those who have, please re-read. It’s worth it. Really.

Many of us in the US are offering gratitude this week as we celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday. It is perhaps therefore, a good time to pause for a moment to take stock and cherish the gifts that we have, and appreciate in anticipation, those treasures still to come.


Arthur C. Brooks. Op-Ed. New York Times, November 22, 2015

TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month, my wife and I married in Barcelona, Spain. Two weeks after our wedding, flush with international idealism, I had the bright idea of sharing a bit of American culture with my Spanish in-laws by cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner.

Easier said than done. Turkeys are not common in Barcelona. The local butcher shop had to order the bird from a specialty farm in France, and it came only partially plucked. Our tiny oven was too small for the turkey. No one had ever heard of cranberries.

Over dinner, my new family had many queries. Some were practical, such as, “What does this beast eat to be so filled with bread?” But others were philosophical: “Should you celebrate this holiday even if you don’t feel grateful?”

I stumbled over this last question. At the time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. This point will elicit a knowing, mirthless chuckle from readers whose Thanksgiving dinners are usually ruined by a drunk uncle who always needs to share his political views. Thanks for nothing.

Beyond rotten circumstances, some people are just naturally more grateful than others. A 2014 article in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience identified a variation in a gene (CD38) associated with gratitude. Some people simply have a heightened genetic tendency to experience, in the researchers’ words, “global relationship satisfaction, perceived partner responsiveness and positive emotions (particularly love).” That is, those relentlessly positive people you know who seem grateful all the time may simply be mutants.

But we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.

This is not just self-improvement hokum. For example, researchers in one 2003 study randomly assigned one group of study participants to keep a short weekly list of the things they were grateful for, while other groups listed hassles or neutral events. Ten weeks later, the first group enjoyed significantly greater life satisfaction than the others. Other studies have shown the same pattern and lead to the same conclusion. If you want a truly happy holiday, choose to keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, whether you feel like it or not.

How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions. In one famous 1993 experiment, researchers asked human subjects to smile forcibly for 20 seconds while tensing facial muscles, notably the muscles around the eyes called the orbicularis oculi (which create “crow’s feet”). They found that this action stimulated brain activity associated with positive emotions.

If grinning for an uncomfortably long time like a scary lunatic isn’t your cup of tea, try expressing gratitude instead. According to research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).

It’s science, but also common sense: Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things. As my teenage kids would say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” In the slightly more elegant language of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.”

In addition to building our own happiness, choosing gratitude can also bring out the best in those around us. Researchers at the University of Southern California showed this in a 2011 study of people with high power but low emotional security (think of the worst boss you’ve ever had). The research demonstrated that when their competence was questioned, the subjects tended to lash out with aggression and personal denigration. When shown gratitude, however, they reduced the bad behavior. That is, the best way to disarm an angry interlocutor is with a warm “thank you.”

I learned this lesson 10 years ago. At the time, I was an academic social scientist toiling in professorial obscurity, writing technical articles and books that would be read by a few dozen people at most. Soon after securing tenure, however, I published a book about charitable giving that, to my utter befuddlement, gained a popular audience. Overnight, I started receiving feedback from total strangers who had seen me on television or heard me on the radio.

One afternoon, I received an unsolicited email. “Dear Professor Brooks,” it began, “You are a fraud.” That seemed pretty unpromising, but I read on anyway. My correspondent made, in brutal detail, a case against every chapter of my book. As I made my way through the long email, however, my dominant thought wasn’t resentment. It was, “He read my book!” And so I wrote him back — rebutting a few of his points, but mostly just expressing gratitude for his time and attention. I felt good writing it, and his near-immediate response came with a warm and friendly tone.

DOES expressing gratitude have any downside? Actually, it might: There is some research suggesting it could make you fat. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology finds evidence that people begin to crave sweets when they are asked to express gratitude. If this finding holds up, we might call it the Pumpkin Pie Paradox.

The costs to your weight notwithstanding, the prescription for all of us is clear: Make gratitude a routine, independent of how you feel — and not just once each November, but all year long.

There are concrete strategies that each of us can adopt. First, start with “interior gratitude,” the practice of giving thanks privately. Having a job that involves giving frequent speeches — not always to friendly audiences — I have tried to adopt the mantra in my own work of being grateful to the people who come to see me.

Next, move to “exterior gratitude,” which focuses on public expression. The psychologist Martin Seligman, father of the field known as “positive psychology,” gives

Next, move to “exterior gratitude,” which focuses on public expression. The psychologist Martin Seligman, father of the field known as “positive psychology,” gives some practical suggestions on how to do this. In his best seller “Authentic Happiness,” he recommends that readers systematically express gratitude in letters to loved ones and colleagues. A disciplined way to put this into practice is to make it as routine as morning coffee. Write two short emails each morning to friends, family or colleagues, thanking them for what they do.

Finally, be grateful for useless things. It is relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life — a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America. But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles. Ponder the impractical joy in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Pied Beauty”:

Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

Be honest: When was the last time you were grateful for the spots on a trout? More seriously, think of the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks.

This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds you back from your bliss. As for me, I am taking my own advice and updating my gratitude list. It includes my family, faith, friends and work. But also the dappled complexion of my bread-packed bird. And it includes you, for reading this column.

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing opinion writer.

 

Alastair
MaxCo Advisors
November 25th, 2015

How We Became A Little More Impervious to Failure

Please read this truly delightful piece on the very precious and wonderful delusions of growing up, by Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin. It’s one of my current favorites.

Redfin are a next-generation real estate broker. www.redfin.com


When my brother and I were 11, our father designed a 17-foot boat for sailing around the world. He’d never ventured more than a few miles from the U.S. He’d never sailed, or designed a boat before.

Dad bought a book, “Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design,” and a RadioShack computer. Then he spent a year programming the computer to produce the optimal shape for a sailboat hull. The unloveliness of the result was proof of its genius: where most hulls curve up at the stern and bow into a smile, ours curved down into an oval.

After another year drawing in by hand each joint and winch, our father drove the family across the state to meet a naval architect. We played catch in the parking lot while he went in. He came out an hour later, defeated.

The architect had said that such a small boat wouldn’t have enough wind in the open ocean, where the mast would dip below the level of the swells. But then Dad spent most of the family’s savings buying a boat of the exact same size.

From Here, You’d Spend the Rest of Your Life Swimming for Shore

Now we had to learn how to sail it. From home, he’d call a Coast Guard hotline for small-craft advisories, announcing each as an opportunity to learn reefing or heaving-to. Once we passed the first channel buoy, he relished reminding us how cold Puget Sound was by saying “From here, you’d spend the rest of your life swimming for shore.”

For landfalls, he built a dinghy in the exact shape of our tiny cockpit, so it could fit inside it like a matryoshka doll. The dinghy had room for only one person, but he attached a fishing line to it, reeling it back for a second passenger. When I got in for the first time, water began spilling over the sides until I sprawled across the bottom to distribute my weight.

I learned from this to be careful, which doesn’t come naturally to me. I learned other things too: that people will endure any hazard, such as coming about in a strong wind, if you can calmly explain first what will happen. I learned you don’t always get to decide when you have to make a decision.

I learned that looking miserable was a family betrayal, even when we came sputtering past all the other boats at the dock near midnight; this has been useful to remember when I’ve felt like the only unsuccessful person in a room.

I learned that to win a race, you have to develop a feel for the trim of the sails, freeing your eyes to scan the waters for wind-shifts; in any competition, it’s easy to spend too much energy sorting yourself out, and miss the world around you.

And I learned from being becalmed so many times that all of us, even car-seat-bound infants in a traffic jam, like going anywhere much better than going nowhere, a tendency that can lead you astray.

But mostly I learned about the power of delusion. After years of boom bashings, lee shores, near-misses from container ships, hypothermia and passengers’ hollered prayers to God, I was shocked to see that his ship’s log consisted entirely of entries like “Successfully crossed Strait of Juan de Fuca. Arrived Port Angeles 0200.”

How to Resist Growing Up

These delusions became my world. Growing up is mostly the process of having to acknowledge the differences between your world and the whole world. Bizarre displays of affection for the family pet or bedtime stories deep into adolescence only become embarrassing — only begin to die — the first time someone else sees them.

But part of what our father taught us was how to resist growing up, how to keep seeing things the way only our family did. After a young adulthood trying to get him to see the world for how it really is, my brother Wes and I have come back to the way our dad is, realizing that it’s sometimes our job to see the world as it could be, as we want it to be.

Any New Enterprise Is a Sustained, Collective Delusion

This is what I try to do at work; what after all is a startup, if not a sustained, collective delusion? And this is what my wife and I do dragging the family out for a two-mile hike, telling the grumblers in the backseat that the Seattle rain is refreshing.

It turns out that you can recognize a delusion’s a delusion and still refuse to give it up. On an overnight crossing to Dry Tortugas, my dad and Wes got caught in a squall. “I wasn’t scared,” Wes said, “until the storm cleared, and the moon showed the waves towering above the boat.” He saw our father at the tiller, happy as ever. It was the same for me in Bellingham Bay, when Dad tried to reassure me about the water gushing into the cockpit by explaining the center-board’s rising moment arm and the changing force vectors on the sails.

Back on shore, I told him in all seriousness I worried he was nuts. He just laughed. It was the sound an only child makes, who never tried fitting in, and who probably always knew he was never going to make it around the world.

My mother has died, and my father, 81, now lives alone in Florida. He still has a boat filled with his jury-rigged inventions. He struggles to maintain it, and I barely know how to operate it. He has decided that the boat is too dangerous for his dog, but seems puzzled that I spend so much time trying to find the life preservers for our small children. We go out, with nobody on the ocean to tell us how foolish we are, on every visit.

 

MaxCo Advisors
November 24th, 2015