Month: March 2021

Have we stopped thinking?

Almost everyone I know uses Google search engine, yeah the geek friends I have use duck duck go, but most everyone is so lazy not to change the default on their browser and for most of us its google. But I am going to ask you a question, how many times have you gone past the first page on a search? How many times do you even click on a link? According to this https://sparktoro.com/blog/less-than-half-of-google-searches-now-result-in-a-click/ – the answer is many don’t even click.

Now the article talks a lot about the google algorithm, and how the rankings work but I have a different worry. Think about how you have used google, how many times have you googled “weather” – and google responds with the weather for the next 10 days. What about a sports score, it ends up right there for you. In fact there are dozens of searches that google returns results for that you don’t need to click on the link. While this is an impressive feat, there might be something else happening.

Your brain starts to trust google results. The more you use it for these simple tasks that google can do well, the more you trust the results without questioning it, or checking other sources. I would call this the Linus Pauling effect. Side bar Linus Pauling was an American chemist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry 2x. People though he was a genius so when he started claiming Vitamin C would cure everything from the common cold to cancer, people believed him. He actually died of cancer, but all of his claims were proved wrong. But people believed him cause he was so smart.

Well you start to believe google, well because you think it is so smart. But what if you ask it something that is not so black and white? What if you are not asking it what something that can be returned in a coded answer? Say you ask something like what happened before the big bang? or something like what tastes better thin crust pizza or thick crust pizza? Or what is the best way to lose weight? Or What to do when you are feeling depressed?

If you trust google so much, you might look at the first answer to these questions. Or click on the first link. At that point you might not realize either an ad or googles “formula” will be what you click on. Is this the best answer? Does google always have the right information? Are other search engines better?

Let start with google is a public company, their mission (as they put it) is to organize the worlds information. Of course being a company they are in business to make money. So they need to monetize searches. Now a computer may execute the search, but humans have written the algorithm that have multiple goals. First obviously, is to get a good answer for the user, but second to get a good response for the advertisers. Google has done a good job about managing these competing options. If thy were bad at it, then users would leave and go to bing or other engine.

Now the Post office is a company that fails at this. The two goals the post office has to deliver mail, and second to make money. In doing the second their biggest source of funding is junk mail. Well people hate mail because of the sheer amount of junk mail they get. Do you like google or the USPS as a brand? Thought so.

Let us go back to the original point. If you trust google, is that trust warranted and are they betraying your trust? As we said they are a business, and although we would hope companies have a moral compass, sometimes profit comes before the moral compass. It is on us, the users to know what is happening. We need to read the pay, and make a choice of which link is and “Ad” or a calculated bias and find the right answer. Or we need more users to setup alternate search engines, or even alternate browsers. Adam Grant once said more successful people use chrome, but now I think chrome is ubiquitous, its more like those who use brave etc. are the people who go out of their way.

But we need to challenge google, like we challenge anyone who acts in authority. We really don’t want to be in a situation where the Linus Pauling effect is taking over our lives.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

How many of these do I have to write….

I look around and there are lots of people who write blogs and musing get famous, get a ted talks, and have their own youtube channels. Well I guess I would have to make a youtube video instead of just writing to have my own channel, but no one is clamoring for any of it, in fact I don’t have more than a few friends asking me to write more. Ok So I do not buy Adwords from search, I don’t have a big social media presence. But my ADD is taking over and I should get back to the topic at hand.

I have been writing and posting for years and wondering if I have gotten good at it, or at least got better. That what I write touches a chord, makes a difference, or even gets someone to think. When I started writing It was to get some personal stories out, then it transformed to really brain dump of things in my head. I stated in another blog I write to have a hobby thats is my outlet (non-paid) and its also theraputic.

I started to take stock as I was discussing with my management team about building a good team you need to make them feel like they are making a difference. So I started to think am I making a difference with this and if not what is my motivation to keep writing. So my secondary motivation is to get better at writing, better at expressing myself and better at getting my point across. Well how do you get feedback, or even rate one article vs another. It is not like a sport where you can look at the scoreboard and see who won. Wow, the last article only had three dangling participles vs the first one had 7 that is 2 extra points.

So how do I know, and how many do I have to write till get to the goal. And what is the goal. Then I thought what if there is no finish line for this, there is no “wow I am done…” point. That this is a journey, and there there is no end goal other than to improve how I communicate, document my thoughts and not worry about comparing one post to another. The more I write the better I would get if I did not write at all. The people who get better at something are not always the people with the most natural talent, but the people willing to practice and do something, not the people who read on how to do something. I realized the fear of me not doing has to be greater from the fear of it not being good. And people who are willing to be game changers, people we see famous (bezos, musk, jobbs, etc.) fear of failure was supplanted by the fear of not doing something.

Hope this one helps you think about what you are afraid to do, and pushes your fear of not doing something to be stronger so you go out and do it.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

Understand you carry you own stuff….

If you know me personally you know my love of live music. I will anything from local acts at some small venue to national acts at stadiums. I prefer not to go to stadiums with crowds etc. but that is not what this story is about. In the 80s I was fortunate to go see a few concerts, like many kids we stood in line at some local record story that had a ticketmaster machine and waiting outside in line to get them. If there was a hot act, they often gave wrist bands out to get tickets. And get this you got physical tickets (iphone didnt exist.)

I won’t mention the act, but is was one of these Arena shows (at the time the local arenas were the Brendan Byrne Arena or Madison Square Garden. Living in central jersey it was easier to get to MSG as it was an easy train ride. Well we got are tickets, took the train ride to the city, walked around the Arena saw a bunch of trucks and a few tour busses. Teams of people setup the stages, get their food, organize their day etc. Its like a small moving city to get this band on tour. We get in to watch, always going early. Dozens of people walking across the stage etc. Well the show was fantastic.

Not that many years later, the same band is on tour. But this time playing a local venue. For those who lived in central jersey at the time, it was Club Bene (Joe Beninato was a great guy, but thats a story for another time.) Well this time no multiple trucks or giant tour busses, no entourage building the stage etc. I saw the musicians setting up their own equipment. The show was even better than the MSG one, well sitting in one of the front row tables helps) – but they were tight, played with fantastic energy etc.

After the show, well the musicians were breaking down their rigs. I felt bad for the dummer and the keyboard player, definitely had more to do than the bass player/singer. Well after the show I go chit chat with the band, cause I saw them there. I mentioned I saw them at the Arena tour also, the laughed and said that was a fun tour. After talking the seemed incredibly happy to still be playing live, thought the crowd was fantastic and I seemed to be in shock. To me, they were playing arenas one minute, a club of 1500 next.

That night I came to the realization. The tractor trailer, giant tour busses, entourage, the stage setup etc. all of that really was not for them. It was for the popularity of the band, it was for the place and time they were in. They were most likely bar musicians before this, and now playing just bigger bars. But in the end, they are just regular people. And they understood this. They love fans, playing for 15,000 or 150. They didn’t care. So I learned that respect you, perks you get may not be for you, it may be for the position you hold. At the end of the day treat everyone from the janitor thru the CEO the same, with respect.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

Why do I work….

It is a question I pondered a lot. I wonder why I took my current Company (2004 – leaving Merrill Lynch for Morgan Stanley) why I took my current Role (Head of Corporate Tax Technology) and why I work at all. I ask my question is the reward (compensation and non-compensation) the work I do. Simple answer if it wasn’t I wouldn’t be there, probably would have left long ago. But notice I put both types of rewards. But do you question why you work?

For me it has to go back to how I was brought up. I have mentioned time and time again, I am the definition of white privilege. I had two working parents, middle class in a town that was a bubble. And watching my parents work, I learned different things from both of them as they both looked at work differently and somewhat the same. I saw the notion of wanting to change the world, wanting to make a difference balanced with the need to provide for your family. And that often the cost of wanting to provide some advantages/or necessity seemed to be a stretch.

After my upbringing, then it came to the society I was brought up in. I was born in 1967 – so my teen years were mostly the 80s (The last great decade, the decade of me… how ever you want to put it) This was a time of prosperity. But in the town I was brought up in, and the era we lived the way I saw Darwinism was that it was money that drove the world around. That with money not only defined success, but also was the change agent, it is what made a difference. It was having the nice car, or donating to causes that needed it.

It is strange that Humans are the only animals that put faith in an abstract concept (money) and tie it to physical manifestation (dollars etc.) We also put arbitrary values on items, and change the cost depending on who is buying, where they are buying etc. If you can feed someone in Africa for $9 a month are we being overcharged for groceries in NJ? It is a humorous thought, but it is a part of the reality we live in.

But back to why I work.. When I first started working, it was because money seemed to be the driver of the world. And although I have written a blog about what do you want to be remembered for, and the charities I spend time/money on, I am talking about the teenage me. My parents instilled the notion of the value of a dollar, and would not buy me everything I wanted, and after I ran up some bills, I had to pay them. But I wanted certain things (nicer car stereo, new synth, computer stuff etc.) and went to work for them. This created my personal value, but I didn’t see it that way.

I never stopped working, but some of my thoughts why I did work started to change. I enjoyed going to concerts, working out at a gym etc. And all these things cost. But then came I wanted to be like my parents and support my family. I took some bigger risks in jobs, switching a few times eventually landing up at Merrill Lynch. I never knew what my true Value was, I just getting increase in Salary as I changed jobs and accepted the offer as is. I was slowly making enough in my head to afford the house/kids and the American dream.

While at Merill Lynch I discovered a few things. Though we work for a paycheck and it was allowing me to buy a condo, pay bills have extra etc. I didn’t find going to work wonderful for those reasons. I found it slowly was the people that I worked with that made the difference. And building a good team to work with was worth more than the compensation. Wanting to go to work, not for the paycheck, and not for whatever we were building, but with a team that could build anything. One day some genius manager decided our team was so good we should be split up and maybe other teams we join would be just as good.

I left soon after, to join a friend who was at another company. Again to go work with people that I wanted to be around. I have managed and run several teams at my current company. And each time I feel frustrated with the job, I focus on this lesson, build the right team and what can’t be done, is doable. I learned to surround myself with people who don’t say “It can’t be done” but people who say I will try. I lay out expectations for my team, and getting your code completed is not even in the top 5. The first one, enjoy your job and come in with a positive attitude. The second one ask for help, and give help when asked.

The best feedback I get is from people who used to work for me telling me how they take the ideas they learned from me and apply it to their current role. Which goes back to why I work. I work because I think I can help change people one person at. a time, to enjoy what they do, not cause what they do is great, but they work with a great set of people. A team they would spend time outside their job with, a team that would be there when anything goes wrong and help. I work where I work because the place gives me the ability to build the team. And when I switch roles, it is about making that new team enjoy working together. The side benefit is that I can support my family (and it is a great side.).

I keep thinking I should write a book on how I manage. Because the funny thing about jobs is they take the best people and make them managers. Just ask how many Stanley Cups Wayne Gretsky (the greatest player) won as a coach (zero.). But I’ll leave that for another time. Right now the take away is not about managing, but whatever role or job you are doing, is working with the best people you can find. The rest will fall into place. “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” … Jim Rohn

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

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