On June 15, I am leading a one-day boot camp for veterans on how to start and run their own businesses. Click below for more information!
The mean girl Delta Gamma president got attacked and kicked out of DG because of her language and tone – she should have been kicked out because of her content. Read the email again or better yet watch Michael Shannon’s dramatic reading. Notice that Mean Girl was telling her sorority sisters to disregard what they really wanted to do and instead entertain the fraternity guys; talk to them, listen to them, drink their beer. Don’t talk about boyfriends from another house, don’t get too embedded in conversation with anyone else. Look alive, be attractive, bat your eyes and make the frat guys happy they chose you. That DG president could be the madame in a whorehouse or the manager of a flock of Geishas in a okiya. But, what she isn’t, in spite of her language, was a modern woman leading other modern women.
I was in a sorority. I would have been the first to be asked to stay home from the fraternity party, but I would have been thrilled. Fraternity parties were dull events with cheap beer, clogged sinks and conversational death. Attendance was mandatory, and we were told not to cluster. Our chapter measured our success based on how many good fraternities wanted to pair with us for major events, a slippery yardstick.
But that was 20 years ago. Sadly, it seems that Greek culture still trades on a currency of sexual attractiveness, adoring looks, tossed hair and hangovers – a culture that ought to have died a long time ago. Sororities still produce women for the world – if the training ground is obedience and subservience to men’s entertainment, exactly how much leaning in and ceiling splitting are women going to do? If Delta Gamma, or any sorority, shapes modern women, then why aren’t they denouncing more than the profane tirade? Because that’s just another old timey attack on unladylike behavior. Instead, how about promoting a culture where kids get to skip the parties to work in the lab, intern on campaigns, chase down stories, rehearse a play, perform with their band or polish their business plan. How about creating a culture where women get to be something so much more than just junior Nancy Reagans hanging on every word of dopey guys at keggers.
I’m hiring an assistant. Profit and Laws has gotten to the point when it’s time to start hiring full time staff – no more part time contractors. I need someone to do all the stuff that eats away at my time – posting content, sending my replies, organizing seminars, formatting documents and assembling the thousands of pages of articles and wikis I’ve written over the last 3 years. My office is a little two room number, that overlooks a McDonald’s and a roof with an old timey satellite dish. The building is decrepit, the bathroom’s a crap shoot (not a metaphor) and the neighbors seem sketchy. But, be it ever so humble, the windows open.
I want to hire someone who may not exist. My ideal assistant has a sense of humor, unending curiosity and empathy. With any luck, my assistant will have enough kindness to genuinely want to help me for awhile. I don’t want anyone I already know well. I don’t want anyone normal – no one who always fits in. I don’t want anyone who doesn’t care, who won’t take responsibility or who won’t try to figure some of it out. Mistakes I can handle – but someone just going through the motions for the check I can’t.
I’m opting out of normal routes. No recruiters, no blanket requests for covers and resumes. Instead, I made a quiz – mostly multiple choice – on a web page. The quiz is odd. Normal people may be offended by the questions – that’s exactly the way I want it. I want someone who has felt like an outsider, who thinks a little differently, who wants something unique and marvelous. I’d also like someone smart, nice and noble that I can help with contacts or information or opportunities. Because contrary to current disregard for employees, I know the employment relationship is a sacred exchange of time, effort and care for money, time, effort and care. I just hope the right person fills out my quiz. If you know someone, send them my way.
Working people are always looking for a way to get more productive and make the most of their already-stretched working days. There are many ways in which humans get off track, thus losing productivity and leaving them wondering, “Where did all the time go?” Here are a few ways we tend to get off track, and a few tips on getting back to a productive path. Continue Reading →
Aereo demonstrates everything wrong with today’s version of American free enterprise. Well-funded, parasitic and amoral, Aereo will make money specifically by not creating anything.
Aereo streams network TV shows to internet devices. Aereo neither makes nor even pays for the shows. Instead, it intercepts network TV signals and sends them to each subscriber’s tablet or computer. The networks keep suing Aereo, but Aereo keeps winning. The reason Aereo keeps winning is because the copyright laws are made up of rules and patches with giant gaping holes. Engineered to slip through one of the holes (the one that also allows you to DVR your shows without a set top box), the model is a cynical collaboration between management and lawyers.
Aereo’s angle is to steal the stones owned by the networks and skip them across to users. It’s hard to fathom how this company makes it more than a few years after a momentary burst of profitability. Eventually, the networks will stream their own content to users’ cell phones, and they’ll do it cheaper and more efficiently. But, before that, Aereo can leverage its funding, public relations and lawyers to build a giant market footprint. Aereo can then go public, sell billions in stock to pension funds, mutual funds and to you – and then disappear. But, by then, the original investors will have made fortunes and will be on to the next deal. This is just another business created to sneak through the toll booth on someone else’s toss. Eventually, you’ll pay the bill.
If you think that the guys with the money and the guts are starting businesses to create real stuff, you’re wrong. American capitalism has become a game to just grab enough small slices to equal an enormous whole. Stop revering Wall Street, big finance and the already rich. Create something real and valuable and new, whether it’s a service, a product or execution of an idea. Shed your job and create jobs instead. That’s how you will create real wealth and real communities. That’s how you will revitalize American free enterprise and your American dream all at the same time.
7 years ago this week, I quit smoking. That I quit means I can do anything.
I was no social smoker. I plotted every second of my life around when I got to smoke again. It was deeply embedded in my habits and instincts. I grew up in a household where both parents smoked. Today, when you pass a car and see two people smoking in the car with the windows closed and kids in the back seat, you call Social Services. But, when I was a kid, you just called it a station wagon in the 70’s. I picked up my first cigarette just after I bought my first case of beer for my friends. I was 15, didn’t drink, but I could pull off older. I wanted to belong, so I took a drag. It tasted foul and the smoke felt dirty. But, soon enough, those cigarettes had me. And for the next 19 years, I either slipped in some nicotine or my blood boiled. I smoked – hard – in college in libraries, my sorority and the breakroom of the restaurant where I made my living as a graveyard waitress. When I did a short stint at the White House in Tipper Gore’s office, the sharpshooters had me in their sites when I snuck cigarettes on Mrs. Gore’s balcony. In law school, I spent as much on cigarettes as I spent on books and I took my law exams in the smoking room. I stopped smoking in my law office only when I set fire to my garbage can. I started wearing a patch during the day and smoking at night.
During the last weekend of March, 2006, my friend and lawyer, Mary York, a smoker, sent out an email announcing that she had kidney cancer. Mary was 14 years older than me, but it still freaked me out. I knew that my addiction controlled every choice I made. It made me cut out of parties early, it made me choose certain friends and avoid others. And, it made me cranky and muddy.
On Sunday, April 2, I sat in our home office and reconstructed my billable time for the past month to get it turned in the next day – a wicked, skin-crawling task – I smoked 2 packs to get through it. The next morning, I realized I needed to quit smoking (and figure out a new way in the law).
I put my pack of cigarettes in our key drawer and quit. During my first day, I started to waver. I found pictures of a man dying of cancer next to his crying wife and kid. That helped – the pictures are here. I also got some terrific advice: when I have a nicotine craving, I should observe it, but not answer it. The advice was so mature, I initially disregarded it, but it turned out to be enormously helpful. Over the last seven years, I’ve observed many nicotine cravings. I always realize that the feeling is temporary, but better health goes on. I also realized that I could smoke or live, but not both.
I’m a smoker, but I don’t smoke. I follow smokers to breathe their exhales. I sympathize with people who have to go outside at intermission. I can’t believe I quit. It dropped out of my life like a bad one-night stand. Suddenly, I could book a nonsmoking room. I could go the distance at dinner parties. I didn’t have to run downstairs at work. But, I had to face feelings of aggression and tension and fear. I had to relearn how to focus and create. Listening to music became overwhelming without that bit of anesthesia. I learned to cry (sort of) and to take the stairs. After awhile, I was able to think much more optimistically and long term. I learned that my ability to change was unlimited and that I was free of the chains that I chose to unlock.
PS: We just threw the pack of cigarettes away that I had stashed 7 years ago – it’s a small drawer and we needed the room.
Today on The Profit and Laws Radio Hour
In 1978, Apple had cool new computers, but no operating system and no one on their lean staff who could code one quickly. They had started publicizing the Apple II, but they couldn’t get to market without an operating system. Steve Jobs found Shepardson Microsystems and its employee, Paul Laughton, who promised to deliver in under six weeks. This was a bet the company hire. The initial contract was a single page, bare bones. No cash was spent on lawyers or risk management. Jobs and Woz worried about protecting their assets when they had actual assets. In the beginning, they put a premium on speed. Later, they started lawyering like mad. Compare the difference between the first, one-pager and the 8-page beauty attached – it’s a software development contract signed by Apple in 2012.
Here is the original contract from 1978.
A guy from Wharton School studied crowdfunding campaigns and picked out a bunch of things that can make your crowdfunding campaign a success. Below is a brief recap of features of a successful crowdfunding campaign:
- It’s easier if you already have a giant network on Facebook or in your site. (Ok, but don’t let a small network get you down. Move on to the next one.)
- Polish your pitch. Video pitches do best. Professionalism matters.
- Make it local in a creative town. If you can marry a local area with something it’s famous for (Kansas City BBQ), people are more encouraged to help.
- Make it short. 30 day campaigns have a 35% chance of success. 60-day campaigns are less than 30%.
- Get on the Front Page. Campaigns featured on the front page have an 89% chance of success. Everyone else has only a 30% chance.
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