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Pull the Plug and Boost Your Batteries

March 10, 2014

National Day of Unplugging 2014“Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

This philosophy, popularized by 1960’s counter-culture icon Timothy Leary, could nowadays be communicated as “turn off, unplug, get outside.”

Designed to help hyper-connected people celebrate the ancient ritual of a day of rest The National Day of Unplugging is a 24-hour period starting at sunset on the first Friday of March each year.

This year’s event took place this past weekend, beginning at sundown on Friday, March 7 and ending at sundown on Saturday, March 8. Of course you could theoretically have your own “Day of Unplugging” during any 24-hour period.

The project is an outgrowth of The Sabbath Manifesto, a creative project designed to encourage people to take one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, and reconnect with loved ones.

To help achieve that goal members of the organization abide by 10 principles:

  1. Avoid technology.
  2. Connect with loved ones.
  3. Nurture your health.
  4. Get outside.
  5. Avoid commerce.
  6. Light candles.
  7. Drink wine.
  8. Eat bread.
  9. Find silence.
  10. Give back.

I’m unsure how long I could embrace each of these principles, but I like the idea of giving it a try — it’s only 24 hours, right?

On a related note, The Sabbath Manifesto is involved with Connected, a film exploring what it means to be connected. Conversely, they also produced “Yelp” a short film that explores the experience of disconnecting.

So are you prepared to unplug?

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My 10-Year-Old Son’s 9 Rules for Life After 40

February 24, 2014

So this is 40.

This past Saturday my odometer clicked over from 39 to 40, changing my age and my paradigm for personal identity. At least it’s supposed to, right?

While 40 is the new 30 (or is it 50 is the new 40?), it remains a significant point in most people’s lives. According to Louis C.K.: “I’m 40. I’m half dead.”

Despite the truth in the clip above, I feel more positively about myself than ever before. While the past several years have been challenging personally and professionally, out of that adversity has arisen a greater sense of self.

Notably, Albert Einstein once said “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” (but check with Phil Davison about that).

Upon reaching 40 many people look back at what they accomplished, thinking their best days are behind them. I certainly take pride in my achievements, especially creating a new career as a teacher and trainer.

Yet I also chose to look forward to that which I have not yet achieved; I see many bright days and electric nights ahead. A big part of my future is a huge part of my present: my sons Jacob and Max.

Two years ago I celebrated my birthday teaching a class at UCSB; this year I got schooled by my kids in miniature golf and arcade games. And so the teacher becomes the student.

Taking that metaphor one step further, earlier this year Jacob wrote nine “rules” for life. I am unsure of their inspiration, but they are beautifully simple and remarkably poignant for a child of only 10 years old.

Jacob's 9 Rules for Life After 40Looking to my future after 40, Jacob’s list provides the perfect prescription for inspiration:

1. Always be kind.
2. Play fair.
3. Always avoid bad words.
4. Really work on good behavior.
5. Tell the truth.
6. Mean it if you’re good or bad.
7. Everyone makes mistakes.
8. Never tell a lie.
9. Try your best.

George Bernard Shaw might have been right when he proclaimed “youth is wasted on the young,” but perhaps my son is an old soul after all?

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Doctorious: 2013 In Review

December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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8 Entrepreneurial Insights from the Pilgrims

November 29, 2013

Richard Branson‘s got nothing on William Bradford.

As the governor of Plymouth Colony for more than 30 years, Bradford oversaw the development of what could be considered one of America’s first entrepreneurial ventures. An impressive leader, Bradford leveraged his clarity of vision and accuracy of decisions that lead to the Colony’s impressive growth despite adverse conditions.

But he wasn’t alone in his accomplishments: the members of Plymouth Colony also embraced an entrepreneurial attitude.Had that not happened, Bradford could not have succeeded. To paraphrase a popular leadership proverb: without followers, you’re just someone out for a walk.

Pilgrim's Pride in Legos

Flickr: Lego Junkie

In that spirit, having emerged energized from an exceptional Thanksgiving meal prepared by Eric Greenspan, another notable entrepreneur (and quite a cook), I prepared the list below of 8 entrepreneurial insights from the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims:

1. Have Vision: It took tremendous ability to envision life in the New World and the confidence to venture forth into the unknown. Similarly, in her noteworthy TED Talk, The secret structure of great talks, Nancy Duarte discovered that great leaders define “what is” and “what could be.”

2. Embrace Ambiguity: The Pilgrims had no idea what to expect when they departed for the New World they and, when they did arrive, they were 200 miles off course.  Yet they didn’t let that stop them from venturing forth into the unknown with determination and drive. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and approach a challenge from an unfamiliar perspective.

3. Confront Adversity: The Pilgrims endured an almost endless array of hardships and challenges during and after their 66 day sailing. During the first winter 45 out of 102 settlers died! Yet, they persevered and made the most of what they had. It is often through challenging times we discover a strength inside ourselves that might have otherwise been dormant.

4. Take Risks: Imagine how history might have been different if the Pilgrims had not taken a risk and boarded the Mayflower? I might not even be sitting here writing this blog post. Consider the thoughts of former hockey great Wayne Gretzky who is credited as saying “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Although he has no connection to the Pilgrims, his words are exceptionally relevant.

5. Celebrate Community: This idea is the most thematically related to Thanksgiving — after all, it is the reason the holiday is celebrated. Although the way we give thanks is different from the Pilgrims’ experience, the goal is the same: gather with friends and family to celebrate the achievements while embracing gratitude for everything you have, not what you don’t.

6. Leverage Partnerships: The Pilgrims were not fully prepared to flourish in their new home. Had they not signed treaties with Native Americans like Samoset (a member of the Abenaki tribe), Squanto (a member of the Pawtuxet tribe),  and Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoag), the Pilgrims very well might not have survived that first winter.

7. Encourage Innovation: Sometimes adversity can inspire ingenuity; necessity is the mother of invention after all. And, if ever there was a group of people who needed to be innovative when an original option failed, it was the Pilgrims. Even on of their original two ships, the Speedwell, proved unfit for the Atlantic crossing, which forced them to consolidate into the Mayflower.

8. Give Thanks: There are many things we don’t have enough of, but there are also a many things we have in great supply. The Pilgrims didn’t have much yet they appreciated what they had (they certainly didn’t fight each other over the latest Xbox the day after Thanksgiving). People want to feel appreciated, even for “just” doing their job.

Happy ThanksgivingAlthough the Pilgrim’s first arrived nearly 400 years ago, their entrepreneurial achievements are as relevant as ever.  

So, if you own your own business or are otherwise independently minded, consider integrating the 8 ideas above into your operations. 

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Does an MBA Make a Degree of Difference at a Startup?

September 15, 2013

Apple-for-the-TeacherSteve Jobs serves as a reminder that, sometimes, passionately pursuing your dreams — not a formal degree — is the secret to success as an entrepreneur.

Likewise, a Wall Street Journal article questions the value of an MBA degree at startups — both the knowledge acquired and the cachet of the degree itself.

The article introduces General Assembly and Starter School; both focus on action over excessive ideation — similar to educational innovators like Khan Academy, Team Treehouse, and Code Academy:

  • Offering courses in web development and user experience design, business fundamentals, data science, product management and digital marketing, General Assembly is as a “full-time immersive programs, long-form courses, and classes and workshops on the most relevant skills of the 21st century.”
  • Teaching people how to build software and start companies, Starter School focuses on learning by doing, emphasizing practical skills in three intense phases over 9 months.

Each program (and others similar to them) offer a simplified curriculum without the formality of a traditional degree. They’re designed to give attendees enough information to get an idea going without impeding their progress.

In a time when the median cost of a four-year degree at a public institution has risen to $16,000 per year, even people who aren’t business majors are finding themselves performing a cost/benefit analysis when it comes to higher education.

But, maybe these programs are irresponsibly encouraging acting on ideas without first thinking things through? Consider this Wired article warning that the ‘failure’ culture of startups is killing innovation.

Despite  Jobs’ achievements with Apple, an MBA is still a tremendous value to individuals with entrepreneurial aspirations — present company included.

Receiving my "Outstanding MBA Scholarship" award at Woodbury University (May 7, 2005).

Receiving my “Outstanding MBA Scholarship” award at Woodbury University (May 7, 2005).

Eleven years ago today I took the first step towards earning my MBA at Woodbury University.

I found tremendous value in my MBA program, learning a great deal about running a business and discovering a new career path into teaching.

In my experience with startups or businesses operating with that mindset, I’ve found that they don’t necessarily value an MBA.

Most startups are focused on producing “results” even if those results are rushed and need to be reworked later.

Conversely, earning my MBA taught me the value of “measuring twice and cutting once” which results in a more methodological approach.  This doesn’t always fit with the startup way of work that often values quantity over quality, usually in an effort to impress investors.

That’s not say an advanced degree holds no value in a startup, but there is no guarantee that it will. But, in my opinion, education is always a worthwhile investment, as long as you are willing to invest the effort to maximize its return.

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