Tag Archives: Money

Shonda Rhimes “Yes”

Shonda Rhimes “Yes”

Shonda Rhimes was a guest on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s annual DealBook Summit and I was intrigued by her intelligence so I read her 2015 book “Year of Yes” when she forced herself out of her writing shell by accepting speaking and social invitations, learning to stand up for what she really wanted, and how to gracefully accept a compliment.

I knew about “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” and “Scandal” all being in production at the same time but Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out that she had shed 150 pounds. Knowing, as I do, that the five food groups for writers are caffeine, sugar, nicotine, alcohol and fat, I wanted to learn more. I loved how she captured the nuttiness of TV production but the first three-fourths of the book has almost no self-disclosure. The photos start on page 233 and the good stuff follows.

She was the youngest of six to academic parents with a very strong marriage. Her older siblings are insightful and supportive and Delorse muttered, one Thanksgiving, “You never say yes to anything.” Shonda chewed on that as she realized that, as successful as she was, she wasn’t really happy. It’s nearly at the end of the book when we learn that she was engaged to a wonderful man that she didn’t want to marry and that’s when her weight started to really go up. By saying “yes” to telling the truth, she broke off the engagement and broke her pattern of suppressing her feelings with food.

Over the course of the year she discovered that healthy, kind people find each other and that some of her friends did not like how she was changing and growing. She realized they were not really on her side and she had to let them go. She explained, brilliantly, why it is SUCH a problem when people interrupt a writer who is in flow with dialog and story.

Five Miles

She describes “five miles filled with chocolate cakes, good wine, books I want to read, emails that have to be answered” and she has to get past this five miles every times she sits down to her computer to write. In the beginning it takes a day, or an hour, but it never takes less than 20 minutes to get past the five miles of distractions and get back into the flow. Even if the interruption is a well-intended, “would you like some coffee or water?” breaks the flow and she has start running again to get past the five miles.

You Needed Permission

At the end, Shonda explains to big sister Delorse how much the muttered phrase “you never say yes to anything” changed her life — saved her life. Delorse shrugged.

You did all the work, but it’s like you needed permission. I’m your big sister. I gave you permission and I’m extremely proud of you. You were joyless. All you ever did was sleep. Now you have completely transformed. You’re alive. Some people never do that. You are this happy because you said yes to not getting married.

Shonda explains that having it “all” is no guarantee of happiness, especially if what you want doesn’t conform. We spend our lives punishing ourselves for not living up to some standard we think applies across the board to all of us. The book is a plea to recognize that happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to.

Pathological Overconsumption of Food was Cured by Telling the Truth

Transportation Insights

Transportation Insights
Chicago Loop Map with notes

Chicago Loop: 1-Amtrak Train Station 2-Hotel 3-Art Institute

I learned a lot on this trip, including how to use Uber and when NOT to use it. When I arrived in Chicago by train, I didn’t really understand where my hotel was in relation to the Amtrak station or public transportation. I followed some young people from the train platform hoping they would lead me to where Uber picked up and they went right outside to the taxi stand. The Uber app told me that it would be $16 plus tip to get to my hotel but I was mesmerized by the very fit, very loud, very exprienced Black man directing taxis and fares. I asked him how much it would cost to 22 West Monroe and he said, “It’s not far. Less than $10.” In fact, it is just over one mile, but it crosses the Chicago River. I hopped in the cab and the meter said $6 when we arrived. With tip, it was $8, half of what Uber would have cost.

I doubt if I would have been able to find the hotel entrance by myself — it is a side door to a theater in a skyscraper office building! The hotel lobby is on the ninth floor and my room was on the 12th floor, sandwiched between offices above and below. I selected the Hampton Inn because it was close to the Art Institute (“3” on the map above) and I had shakily made the reservation by phone from the Amtrak lobby in Milwaukee, cringing at having to give my credit card number over the phone in a public place. The first night was $163 and the second (Wednesday) night was $195. I asked about the discrepancy and the front desk told me that if I stayed in the same room Thursday night the rate would be $358 because the national Oncology Conference was just starting in Chicago. What a difference from Milwaukee where the room rate was a flat $125/night.

My biggest surprise was the rates at the Radisson Country Inn near Newark Airport which I chose because my uncle Joey’s daughter Maureen (theMommee) was staying there, along with her daughter Mary Elizabeth and two of Maureen’s sister Annie’s daughters: Kathleen Anet and Brigit. The first night, when all of us stayed there, was $135. The second night, only Maureen and I were there: $215. I stayed a third night so I could fly to Milwaukee with the immediate family of the departed Mary Catherine: her siblings Janie and Johnny; and Danny the son of her deceased sister Maureen. The third night at the airport hotel, a Saturday, cost $263, nearly double the first night. Is this airport hotel a destination spot for Saturday nights? “Saturday night always costs more,” the front desk shrugged.

Milwaukee Ambassador Hotel

Chicago Hampton Inn – Majestic Theater

Saturday night was expensive in another way. Janie, Johnny and Danny were visiting Allison and Nick on Staten Island and the purpose of my visit was to spend time with them, but finding a ride for the 14 mile trip which crossed a toll bridge was a challenge. Following Mary Elizabeth’s example, I took Uber which cost $49 plus tip. When I arrived, Nick asked how much it was. I evaded, but he pulled his smartphone from his pocket and looked it up. “We will drive you back,” he said firmly. But Johnny protested and said that he would do it, but it wound up falling to Janie, when it was after dark and everyone was tired.

One reason my Chicago hotel reservation was so hasty was I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to drop off a rental car in Chicago, not realizing that there were no rental cars available in either Muskegon or Milwaukee. I suspect that when rentals plunged with Covid, and used car prices soared, the rental companies sold off their fleets, and have not yet been able to replace them because of the shortage of new cars.

O’Hare Airport ORD

Getting to O’Hare from the hotel cost $3 and took 45 minutes door-to-door. Chicago is truly civilized in this way. The hotel is at the “2” circle on the map at the top, and so is the Monroe station for the “El” Blue Line which goes to ORD. No escalators at the Monroe station, stairs only, so one must carry one’s bags, but the lady in the ticket kiosk was very friendly and helpful with information and buying the correct ticket. As you can see, just a few stops further goes very close to the Amtrak station “1”, so one can connect between the airport and train economically.

Even though United has a flight from O’Hare to SFO practically every hour, after their disastrous flight delays over Memorial Day weekend, I chose to fly Alaska. The flight went smoothly but we were on the tarmac in SFO, on the plane, for more than an hour because Alaska could not get the air bridge to work. They eventually tugged the plane to a different gate. I missed my Airport Express bus and didn’t get home until midnight. But I got a $50 credit from Alaska, half of which went to the cab driver who was willing to pick me up at such a late hour. Nevertheless, it cost $80 to get from SFO to home.

Newark Airport EWR

Airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights over the Memorial Day weekend and 20,644 flights were delayed, according to FlightAware, an aviation data site. Janie, Johnny, Danny and I were flying on the Sunday in Memorial Day weekend, and spent six hours at Newark trying to get a flight that took only about two hours. The delaty was a blessing in disguise because it gave me more time to hang out with the folks that I really wanted to spend time with.

Federal Reserve: Lords of Easy Money

Federal Reserve: Lords of Easy Money

Book The Lords of Easy MoneyThe New York Times called it “A Fascinating Page-Turner Made From an Unlikely Subject: Federal Reserve Policy” and it was exciting to read as inflation jumped so high that the Federal Reserve had to (1) bump up the interest rate a couple of days ago, (2) announce that there would be further interest rate increases, and (3) that the Fed would start off-loading about a trillion dollars a year from their “quantitative easing” reserves of NINE trillion dollars. If they continue at that rate, the treasury bills they hoovered-up would be cleared from their books by the end of this decade.

Now I know how to read an FOMC statement. Now I understand where the money came from that John Doerr was investing in environmentally-conscious startups. How interesting that his announcement of a One-Billion-Dollar-Plus donation to Stanford University practically coincided with the increase in the Federal Funds Target Rate. Now I understand that inflation is more than the price of bread, that there is also “asset inflation” like the price of houses and Picassos. “Quantitative Easing” pushed so much money into the hands of Venture Capitalists and big banks that they poured it into assets in an effort to create some positive yield, necessary for the pension funds and other investors that had built interest gains into their business models. The pension funds could not just put the money in the bank and earn interest — the interest rate was Zero and pretty much had been starting in 2009. The Feds had tried to raise the interest rate, but Covid put an end to that and we were back at zero. It was crucial, however, to avoid deflation during the two-year Covid shutdown.

Fed Funds Target Rate

The trick is to keep employment high, inflation at about 2%, and Federal interest rates at about 4-5%, but it’s like trying to manage a three-way see-saw. Right now, the economy seems to be strong and almost back to where it was before the pandemic, with robust employment. Jay Powell said, “We have essentially interest rates, the balance sheet and forward guidance, and they’re famously blunt tools. They’re not capable of surgical precision.”

What I really enjoyed about this very-readable book is learning about these three tools, what they do, what their unintended consequences can me, and the politics and drama that went into the policy. The abrasion between the academics like Ben Bernanke and those in the marketplace like Steve Mnuchin and Jay Powell is fascinating. It also made clear that fiscal policy is supposed to be made by Congress, such as allocating money to repair the crumbling infrastructure as a way to inject liquidity into the marketplace. But in the face of congressional gridlock, the Fed has been forced to try to play a symphony with its blunt tools.

The “quantitive easing” really boosted asset values, like houses and stock market portfolios, much of which was purchased with borrowed money. This increased the “wealth gap” between investors in the 1% and the rest of us. When interest rates go up, it is reasonable for investors to unload high-risk investments like start-up companies, so the stock market will go down. As interest rates go up and stock prices come down, highly-leveraged investors will face margin calls that will increase the speed of the market descent. This may lead to a very unhappy outcome in the mid-term elections later this year.

Excellent book. Highly recommended!

Speed and Scale by John Doerr

Speed and Scale by John Doerr

Venture capitalist John Doerr’s book with an action plan for solving our climate crisis. Opened my eyes about how hard it is going to continue to be. Mentioned Elizabeth Kolbert’s hastily-written “Under a White Sky” which described a strategy to cool the earth by dispersing tiny light-reflecting particles like diamonds.

Doerr says, “Be ruthless in identifying the key risk up front — and removing it. Consider:”

  1. Technology Risk – Does it actually work?
  2. Market Risk – Does it stand out?
  3. Consumer Risk – Will customers actually buy?
  4. Regulatory Risk – Will it get approved?
  • You are always raising money. Recruit a range of investors who can write large checks including corporate partners, foundations, and governments.
  • Costs are king; performance matters. Consumers won’t pay more for an inferior product no matter how “green.” It must be superior, or at least equivalent: Tesla, Beyond Meat, Nest.
  • Own the relationship with your customer. Sustain direct relationships with end buyers.
  • Incumbents will fight. The disrupted markets are built on the premise of free-of-charge carbon pollution.

Update May 5, 2022

John Doerr, a venture capitalist, and his wife, Ann Doerr, are making a $1.1 billion donation to Stanford for a new school focusing on sustainability and climate change.

Why I’m Not Rich

Why I’m Not Rich

Sometimes I wonder why I’m not rich. I have worked so hard, studied so much… When I was in graduate business school, I thought I would be rich by now. Here’s what I have learned about being a woman in business.

1. Men are not the problem.

2. Women are the problem more often than you would think. I have been back-stabbed and undermined by women far more than by men. When it comes to women getting ahead in business, the gender that is the greater stumbling block is other women. “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” seems to be a pervasive and self-destructive attitude in women’s culture. The only woman I personally know who got rich did it in the heavy construction business.

3. Sheryl Sandberg is right. Effective and Nice are mutually exclusive for women. The word bitch should be reserved for female dogs, who are the most powerful individuals in the dog-breeding world.

4. There might be a Glass Ceiling and it might be biology-based.

Y and X chromosomes

Y and X chromosomes

The Y chromosome is on the left in this image. Men have one of these, and one X chromosome, the big one on the right. Women have two X chromosomes. What is on all that extra DNA that women have that men don’t?

Why are there so few women CEOs? Is there something on that extra DNA that interferes with women becoming Chief Executive Officers?

Mary Barra is a rare example of a female CEO. She has worked for GM since 1980. She got a bachelor’s in electrical engineering on her own, but GM sent her to Stanford Graduate School of Business because she had so much talent. When GM went bankrupt, the government sent in a “rescue executive” to get it back on track and to find the best talent to lead the company back to solvency. He picked Mary Barra for CEO because she was “a car guy.”

GMceoWithin weeks, she discovered that faulty ignition switches were implicated in several deaths, and she publicly announced a recall, to the dismay of many. This move took a lot of courage because it would cost the company a tremendous amount of money and be a serious public relations blow.

But if she failed to recall the dangerous products there would be more deaths, unnecessary deaths. She eventually discovered that the cover-up extended to more models, so she issued more recalls. Interestingly, company revenue increased, and eventually, GM’s approval rating surged as her ethical way of dealing with the problem emerged in government hearings. Is biology an element here?

For a long time, women were excluded from combat. Why? “Because they take all the fun out of it,” my friend Todd Armstrong once told me. Women are not likely to participate in wartime rape or mayhem (the crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone, originally so as to render the victim defenseless).

The Glass Ceiling may be real because there are things that most women won’t do. It is possible that most women would not let customers continue to die to protect the company’s reputation. She had the courage to reveal a years-long cover-up, and to take a huge financial hit, in order to stop the needless deaths.

The male CEOs at the time of the cover-up did not choose this path. They stonewalled the inquiries and litigated them away.

So, I am not rich because hard work and being smart, while necessary for success, are not sufficient. An effective team is always more productive and innovative than a single person, and I am still working on that. Success also requires building a strong support system and good connections. It might demand being more ruthless than I am willing. And maybe a few more things I don’t know about.

So, I didn’t get rich, but I have enough.

On Being a Digital Immigrant

On Being a Digital Immigrant

I went to a lecture yesterday at SRJC by Ofer Zur, Ph.D. on “How the Internet Changes Brains.” He is about 65 now, and he spoke about “digital natives” which are people who grew up with computers, and “digital immigrants” who acquired these skills in adulthood.

Social-Media6logosTen years ago, when I started my business, I knew more than anyone else in Santa Rosa about how to increase revenue for a brick-and-mortar business by using Google advertising. To help these businesses, I used my extensive background in marketing and advertising, and my expertise in media buying, along with my web development skill. The oldest “digital natives” were about 15 and still in high school.

Now, they are 25 years old and they completely understand Twitter, SnapChat, YikYak, Pinterest, Instagram and all the social media channels that have left me behind. There is so much more to know about online marketing and finding the right audience, and I realize I am no longer the best in town. It is time to hire a partner.

Dr. Zur spoke about facing age-related limitations on his recent motorcycle trip to the Himalayas. Being a digital immigrant, alas, is another age-related limitation.

HOW we do things means everything

HOW we do things means everything

Dov Seidman, author of "How... Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything... in Business and in Life

Dov Seidman, author of “How… Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything… in Business and in Life

Philosopher, attorney and business consultant Dov Seidman was interviewed by Tom Friedman on a NYTimes colloquium and Tom spoke very highly of this book. Extensively footnoted and drawing from a wide range of sources, it is both scholarly and informative. But it boils down to, “if more people did the right thing more often, the world would be a better place.” Check out the website for the book HowsMatter.com

Several interesting insights included the paradox of the Hills of Knowledge. He ended each chapter with a graph showing two hills with a saddle in between. The lower hill, on the left, represented B students, the saddle represented C students and the higher hill, on the right, represented A students. He had learned, during his teaching years, that the students who synthesized the class material with their own experiences and ambitions and expressed their changed understanding clearly, got As. Those who did all the work and hit all the marks but created nothing new got Bs. Those who struggled to synthesize or expressed it poorly got Cs, even though they had a better grasp of the material than the Bs.

In this book, Dov mainly talks about a paradigm shift in business and life from following the rules to a values-based integrity that drives decision making and choices. He advocates inspiration rather than motivation. The Bs are the attorneys who write long documents in an effort to foresee every possible outcome. Dov talks about how the diamond trade has worked for centuries on a handshake and a “mazel.” He contrasts the management styles of blind obedience and informed acquiescence with the recommended Self-Governance. We would like to see better people and fewer rules. This book sets out the benefits to choosing to be a better person.

Also fascinating was the Afterward where he references Danny Meyer’s book “Setting the Table” for the insight that we have moved from a service economy to a hospitality economy.

“If you simply have a superior product or deliver on your promises, that’s not enough to distinguish your business. There will always be someone else who can do it or make it as well as you… Service is a monologue: we decide on standards for service. Hospitality is a dialogue: to listen to a customer’s needs and meet them. It takes both great service and hospitality to be at the top.”

The book I got from the library was not the edition with the forward by Bill Clinton. His take on integrity would have been interesting.

Search Engine Strategies 2013

Search Engine Strategies 2013

Search Engine Strategies
Got on Highway 101 at 6:30 a.m. and drove to Larkspur (took 90 minutes from Santa Rosa) missed the ferry I wanted, got off at the wrong bus stop in SF, missed most of the Keynote.  The audience was sparse, there were no free Google classes, the schwag was limited.  Worst of all was the total of three hours I spent in traffic on 101 because I was in rush hour traffic in both directions.  Not a good use of my time.  I won’t be going to SES again.

But going to San Francisco is always nice and, although it was foggy on the way over, the sky was clear on the way back and I saw the top of the 13-story sail of the America’s Cup contender from New Zealand. Shopping was fun but next time I will take the slow boat on Saturday.

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In

Sheryl Sandberg Lean InHow could she find time to write a book with all she does? She’s a mother! And a wife, not to mention that other thing (Facebook) which she said was “very hard for the first six months. And I know I’m supposed to say ‘challenging’ but it was hard.”

I have always struggled with the concept of “niceness” and I was thrilled that she addressed it head on. I felt that if I was nice, executive men wouldn’t take me seriously. But there was another element. I started working in the 1960’s, the sexually predatory days of “Mad Men” when it was assumed that ambitious women would grant sexual favors in exchange for opportunity. Meaning that in order to get a level playing field, it was hoped that you would put out. Failing to be “nice” eradicated that illusion for executive men. It also eradicated mentoring. But in those days, mentoring by a man often meant… well, putting out.

Sheryl is of a different generation where this sexually predatory element has been mostly exterminated (whew!) but there is still the burden of being called unlikeable if a woman is perceived as decisive or ambitious. She talks at length about how the same behavior in men is admired. She is very uncomfortable with the double-standard, often enforced by other women, and she does more than complain about it. She offers a recipe for dealing with it.

She quotes Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, who recommends combining niceness with insistence. “Be relentlessly pleasant,” by smiling frequently, expressing appreciation and concern, invoking common interests, emphasizing larger goals, and approaching each negotiation as solving a problem as opposed to taking a critical stance.

Sheryl Sandberg also quotes Professor Hannah Riley Bowles who studies gender and negotiations at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and adds to her observations. Professor Bowles has learned that there are two crucial things that women need to do in order to succeed in negotiations. First, women must come across as being nice, concerned about others and “appropriately” female. Taking an instrumental approach, as men do, doesn’t work (This is what I want and deserve).

Second, a woman must provide a legitimate explanation for the negotiation. Men don’t have to legitimize their negotiations, they are expected to look out for themselves. Women, however, have to justify their requests. One way of doing this is to suggest that someone more senior encouraged the negotiation (“My manager suggested… “) or to cite industry standards (“My understanding is that jobs that involve this level of responsibility are compensated in this range”).

Sheryl Sandberg offers a third crucial strategy to negotiating success. “Think personally, act communally,” she advises. Even if you you feel stridently feminist when negotiating your salary in order to get paid the same as the men for the same work, keep in mind that you are negotiating for all women. “And as silly as it sounds, pronouns matter. Whenever possible, women should substitute “we for “I.” A woman’s request will be better received if she asserts, “We had a great year,” as opposed to ‘I had a great year.’ ”

She's not bossy
I felt the book had the right balance of self-revelation and personal experience, and guidance from others. I liked the quote from Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology & Strategy Officer of Cisco Systems, and the former CTO of Motorola because it echoes Jeffrey Immelt’s thoughts on the subject. “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

How to deal with people successfully was my favorite part of the book. Sheryl quotes Alice Walker who said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any.”

You Are What You Tweet

You Are What You Tweet

Jamie Reuben Hosts Book Launch for 'The New Digital Age' By Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen“The New Digital Age” by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen points out that, “by 2025, the majority of the world’s population will, in one generation, have gone from having no access to (uncensored) information to accessing all of the world’s information through a device that fits in the palm of the hand.”

Eric Schmidt is the Executive Chairman of Google and Jared Cohen is the Director of Google Ideas, coming from a State Department and Security background. They have so many interesting scenarios of how things could be in the future that on page 53, I came up with a Movie of the Weeks idea about a fearless war correspondent working secretly because the system is set up so that even his editor does not know his/her identity. She was recruited “Charlie’s Angels” style by the senior editors who recruit and vet correspondents.

The focus of the book is quite international and the policy implications fill the last half of the book. They end with this thought:

the virtual and physical civilizations will affect and shape each other; the balance they will strike will come to define our world. In our views, the multidimensional result, though not perfect, will be more egalitarian, more transparent and more interesting than we can even imagine.