August 14, 2013 § Leave a comment
Change is not easy. Most of us will not set out to dramatically reinvent ourselves (or our products) by choice. This goes for individuals and businesses.
Think about the people you know, including you, who would love to make a change. What does it take to get to the gym, eat healthier, quit smoking, quit the detested job, go out on your own with the passion project, write the book? The list goes on.
And, with the exception of Apple under the direction of Steve Jobs, who regularly conceived of and launched products with the potential to take a bite out of the sales of their predecessors (think: iPhone and iPod), and PayPal, led by current President David Marcus who is in the midst of radically remaking the online payment leader back into a tech startup from the slow-moving, risk-averse global financial institution it has become, very few organizations have the stomach for it either. It’s too easy to stick with what’s working and worry about tomorrow, well, tomorrow.
Author Steven Pressfield recently published a piece written by his agent Shawn Coyne, “Stories Are About Change,” in which Mr. Coyne explores the extreme difficulty people experience when trying to change, oftentimes with tragic results. He suggests that the reason for the resistance is the risk of loss and associated anxiety experienced when one contemplates a change, even of something as seemingly simple as our chosen brand of toothpaste.
According to Mr. Coyne, what does seem to help is hearing the stories of others who have taken a risk and successfully made a change. (There’s a reason The Biggest Loser is now casting Season 15).
Stories give us scripts to follow. It’s no different than young boys hearing the story of how an orphan in Baltimore dedicated himself to the love of a game and ended up the greatest baseball player of all time. If George Herman Ruth could find his life’s work and succeed from such humble origins, then maybe they could became big league ball players too.
We need stories to temper our anxieties, either as supporting messages to stay as we are or inspiring road maps to get us to take a chance. Experiencing stories that tell the tale of protagonists for whom we can empathize gives us the courage to examine our own lives and change them.
Which leads me to Chef Daisy Martinez. She has a great story.
If you’re a fan of cooking shows, whether they be on PBS or the Food Network, you may have heard of Daisy – she has series still running on both.
Chef Daisy Martinez has had many incarnations. She started her career as a model and actress; left those careers behind to devote her time to her family; then went on to attend ” the French Culinary Institute; was a prep- kitchen chef for her long time mentor, chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich; worked as a private chef in New York City; owned a small, boutique catering business called The Passionate Palate; starred in PBS’s Daisy Cooks! and FoodTV’s Viva Daisy! and wrote three global-best-selling cookbooks.” Nice life.
But, as Daisy says in “Episode 1: Chicken Wing Therapy,” of her new web series, Daisy, the kitchen of life tossed her some changes her way: her four children grew up and moved out of the house; she began the painful process of working through of a divorce from her husband of many years; and, with food preparation being given the reality television treatment with the advent of Food Network stars, she found herself without demand for new episodes of her series. Scary stuff, with risk baked in.
What’s a cook to do? Take to her bed. Or whip up a new act. This one by her own design (okay, recipe). One that capitalizes on the rise of Latino population and the proliferation of Latin cuisine as something more than “rice and beans.” One that uses her newly acquired sommelier certification to create pairings, as readily as one would with French or Italian dishes. One that uses her emotional connection to food and its preparation to get through the change and come out the other end, happy and in control of her gifts and work.
Perhaps in doing so, Chef Daisy Martinez will provide one of those stories that empowers and inspires the rest of us to change, maybe even without “the other shoe having to drop.” With Daisy, she’s giving us a front row seat.
Here is “Episode 2: Potatoes & Tigers & Crepes, Oh My!”, filmed earlier this month at her summer cooking school at Whitehead Light Station in Maine . I want to be in the kitchen with Daisy! This is Daisy 4.0.
Watch, cook, eat, enjoy.
July 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
Back in March, Fast Company’s Co.Create staff writer Joe Berkowitz published a short, humorous piece about the suggestions displayed by Google Search’s auto-finish based on other people’s searches. He titled the article “The Accidental Poetry of Google’s Predictive Search,” and opened it with, “Half the fun of finding what you’re looking for online is finding what you’re not looking for.”
When Google updated search to include “sentence-finishing capacity,” a user was given the gift of an unanticipated selection of potential searches to complete. Some of these are funny, in that they are in no way what you were looking for when you set out on your search, and there is no way on earth you would ever have thought to. For example:
As Joe Berkowitz points out, “A new thread called Google Poems opened up on Reddit recently, showing off the accidental poetry of four different variations on a theme.” It still has legs.
But what if, instead of opening up your world to unforeseen possibilities, all of this auto-suggesting is actually limiting it?
There is a piece in today’s New York Times, “Apps That Know What You Want, Before You Do,” that details the next phase of “predictive search — new tools that act as robotic personal assistants, anticipating what you need before you ask for it.”
These applications, from the likes of Google (Google Now), Evernote, reQall and Mindmeld, to name a few, pull data from your smartphone, calendar, email, social network activity, search history and sites visited, and merge it with “public” data, such as the weather forecast and movie showtimes, to make suggestions as to what you should do, where you should go, and when.
Glance at your phone in the morning, for instance, and see an alert that you need to leave early for your next meeting because of traffic, even though you never told your phone you had a meeting, or where it was.
The intent is essentially a good one: take the massive amount of information on the Web and present it to you in a manageable way that helps you make decisions and better manage your life, day-to-day. Journalist Claire Cain Miller digs into the current shortcomings of the technology, for example, suggesting movie times for a movie whose trailer you viewed but did not like. But these glitches are of minor concern; challenges in functionality will be overcome in time. What I find disconcerting (or “creepy”) is this:
The technology is the latest development of Web search, and one of the first that is tailored to mobile devices. It does not even require people to enter a search query. Your context — location, time of day and digital activity — is the query, say the engineers that build these services.
The companies providing these new tools make some sweeping assumptions: that you want to be defined as “your context;” that you want to be presented only results that are determined to be of interest to you by some bit of code that bases your potential options on your previous online activity and the activity of those you have never met; that you want all of that activity tracked to make your life easier.
What if “your context” has changed? What if you’re not the same person that you were yesterday and want new opptortunties? At what point does “helpful” cross the line? And, when it does, will you have the opportunity to opt out?
Something to think about next time you Google “why is…“
July 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
I still have a Hotmail account. Although it’s now technically a Microsoft Outlook account. But I still consider it my Hotmail account, and I still type Hotmail.com to access it. I’d like to do away with it, but it’s like a legacy system – it’s my back-up and I am afraid to let go. I am afraid that by disconnecting it, I’ll lose some thread connecting me to something about which I need to know. Not to mention that, no matter how many times I email my mother using my Gmail address, to which she will readily respond, when she initiates an email exchange between the two of us, she uses my Hotmail address. So, how can I cut off my mother?
Given it’s secondary status in the hierarchy of my modes of communication, I don’t check the account all that often. And, until recently, I checked it exclusively in my secondary browser. For some reason, I kept two browsers going – Broswer A and Broswer B, one work and one personal – and relegated various sites and tasks to each. The trouble is, that at some unknown point, I abandoned the original premise and used both for, well, both. Then, worse, abandoned the back-up browser entirely, with the exception of checking my Hotmail account. This went on for weeks (okay, maybe months), until one day it suddenly came to me that there really was no reason to open Browser B, I could just type Hotmail.com into Browser A, and, voila, my mother’s emails would appear.
Yes, I know this is not “rocket science.” But it got me wondering how many other little habits I’ve formed that had absolutely no purpose whatsoever or, worse, were total time sinks … like opening another browser when there was absolutely no reason to do so. Here is what I came up with:
- Not bookmarking a website, thinking, “of course I’ll remember,” and then spending 20 minutes trying to pry the name of the restaurant out of my memory and search history and NYMag.com.
- Not keeping a notebook with me at all times, including the oft-recommended one beside the bed, knowing with certainty, I’ve got this; this is so great, there is no way I won’t remember it in the morning. Then an hour or two after waking, remembering that I had a brilliant idea, but having no idea what the idea was – for the theme of an pretty damn important proposal.
- Not signing up for fabulous (free) online tools to help me manage, sort and actually read the copious amounts of content I seem to need to feed my brain, and wasting more time trying to find it (again). Feedly, anyone? How about Pocket?
- Not hitting “Control S” nearly often enough, and losing my work when the program gets irretrievably hung up, especially Word, or not frequently clicking “Save Draft” when I am preparing one of these posts, with the same result, when my Wi-Fi goes on the blink. Re-do.
No doubt there are more – but you get the gist – and I am determined to find them. In the name of productivity, not to mention my sanity, I am on a quest to question every habitual thing that I currently do without thinking.
Care to join me?
June 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
June 14, 2013 § Leave a comment
Friday, June 14, 2013 – Flag Day. I realized that I didn’t know much about it and thought there must be a few more like me. So, a brief history.
Each year on the 14th day of June, the country marks the day on which the country adopted “the flag of the United States of America, which happened on that day in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.” As National Flag Day Foundation explains on their site:
Our mission is to carry on the tradition of the first flag day observance. On June 14th, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19 year old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance. This observance, commemorated Congresses adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. This observance was also the beginning of Cigrand’s long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day. The crowning achievement of his life came at age fifty when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nation wide observance of Flag Day. Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act Of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Waubeka Wisconsin.
In 2012, photographer John Madere shot the September 11 Memorial Flag and created a time-lapse video of the process.
And, now you know. Happy Flag Day. Happy Weekend.
November 16, 2010 § Leave a comment
Though I’ve been keep an eye, and a Google Alert, on the topic, I’ve not written about microfinance in the United States in some time. As there continues to be daily interest on this blog, no doubt prompted in a part the slow recovery in the job market, I thought I’d share a sampling of the more informative and promising pieces that I’ve come across. If you have any of your own, I’d love to hear from you.
In no particular order:
Kiva: Visa has donated $1 million to Kiva to “Expand Opportunities for U.S. Businesses to Benefit from the Power of Microloans,” serviced by ACCION Texas-Louisiana.
Suite 101: “Domestic Microfinance Organizations Help Small Businesses in U.S.” by Christine Welter, Feature Writer, Poverty/World Development.
Creating a World Without Poverty, A Grameen Foundation Blog: “The Dog Whisperer, Microfinance in NYC” by Christopher Kellen, Bankers Without Borders volunteer.
The Financial Women’s Association’s Microfinance Initiative: On November 9th, hosted The Rise of Microfinance in the United States event in New York.
The Washington Times: “Micro-finance: Let’s get it going in the U.S.,” by Making Change contributor, Donna Rae Scheffert.
YourNabe.com: “Citi touts microloans in Jackson Heights,” by Rebecca Henely.
And, although it’s off-topic, I’m including the links to two pieces from Sunday’s New York Times:
“Can Microlending Save Haiti?” in the Business section.
Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed, “Here’s a Woman Fighting Terrorism. With Microloans.” Both speak to the power of microfinance to change and potentially save lives.
Small business create the majority of jobs in America. As banks continue to hold onto their wallets, microfinance increasingly seems like a viable alternative, in my humble opinion.
August 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
Are you a small business owner, or do you dream of being one? Do you need funding to expand your business or meet your day-to-day needs? Or maybe know someone who does, Have you heard of microfinance? And, if so, are you aware that the availability of microloans is on the increase in the United States? Far too many people are not.
Operating for almost 20 years, ACCION USA is one of the leaders in domestic microfinance. They are hosting a webinar this Wednesday, August 11th at 12:00 noon EDT to educate entrepreneurs on their history and that of US Microfinance.
One hour of your time. August 11th, from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.