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Moving Your Life Forward While Seemingly Still

This week I had coffee with a friend I've known for many years.

She looked incredibly happy.

"I just came from a really good interview," she said.

We talked about that one, and the others she'd been on.

It was clear to me that some of these jobs would not be good. But she was exhilarated to be away from "that micromanaging bully of a boss."

Yep. Understood.

My friend asked me how I am doing.

"Incredibly, incredibly grateful."

We went on to talk a little bit about me. I shared that my priority right now was work-life balance. While I am happy to be productive at work, it is time for me to focus on my family again. On social causes, and friends and of course spend as much time as possible writing.

"I don't get it," said my friend.

In effect the question was, Why aren't you more ambitious?

I understood her perspective completely. For many years, I was that person running on the treadmill. Nobody could keep up with the kind of expectations I set for myself.

And it never seemed to end.

Neither did the misery of trying to attain some kind of goal I couldn't even articulate in my own head.

Somehow this all came to a head for me during Sabbath last week. I was in synagogue, involuntarily as usual (it's not my favorite place) and reflecting that my daughters had both advised me to pray at least once a week.

Prayer is not for me, I told them. G-d can hear me even if I do not speak.

"Pray anyway."

So I stood there and put my head in my hands for a minute and really thought about things.

I realized my endless worries about money, career and success were only hampering me, not helping.

That my fear of poverty, which I've always had, was getting in the way of my life. For too many years it has translated into workaholism, which in turn fed my ego. I had become the kind of person that needed a pat on the back just for waking up and facing the day.

So I took my daughters' advice and prayed. Looking into my soul, I realized the negative impact that all this stuff had had on my life. And I asked - no, begged is a better word - I begged Him to help me just let go of all of it. To have more faith, and just do what I need to do.

Well, it felt like many minutes that I stood there asking for G-d's help. Felt (to me at least) as though I'd shouted out to Him from the rooftops.

But all around me there was quiet. As usual, everyone was immersed in the service. They didn't even look at me; my prayers were invisible.

I think about this today as Sabbath approaches, and this saying pops into my mind that I learned as a kid. "If you keep the Sabbath, the Sabbath will keep you."

Many years I spent working so very hard on the weekends, trying to advance my career.

The older I get the more I realize, there is no better way to advance yourself as a human being - as a human being - than to spend 24 hours a week simply stopping.


All opinions my own. Photo by ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ - เทวประภาส มากคล้าย via Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0).

Understanding Twitter's Failure To Monetize Its Brand

The August 2, 2016 edition of the Wall Street Journal had an interesting opinion piece by Christopher Mims,"Twitter Fails to Harness Its Importance." Mims argues that Twitter fails to turn a profit because it fails to control where its content appears. Here's Mims' logic:
  1. The main utility of a Tweet is on the consumption side - people tend to read them not create them
  2. Readers get the content mostly outside of Twitter, not inside it (313 active users vs. 800 million people actually reached monthly)
  3. Twitter knows this, but its "enhancements" don't get to the root of the problem, which is controlling the environment where users access content
  4. Third party developers are doing a better job than Twitter of serving up Twitter's own content - pulling users away
  5. As a result of leaking content to third parties, Twitter fails to turn a profit.
While this argument may seem logical on its face, it is flawed in three ways:
  1. Social media is inherently about sharing content, not controlling it. Trying to control a Tweet is like trying to choke firefly in a football field.
  2. Seemingly controlled-content environments are actually fairly uncontrolled due to the free flow of social interaction that takes place there. For example, people don't want to see a cut-and-paste of Facebook comments; they want to situate themselves within the flow of conversation.
  3. Content providers become valuable based on their ability to leverage a brand, not a commodity-level ability to deliver opinions, research, etc. For example, the Huffington Post brand signifies "a mainstream view" regardless of who actually authored a particular post.
Twitter is a valuable brand - so valuable in fact that a Presidential candidate has built his entire campaign on reaching people through his verified status updates. Based on that and the other factors above, here is an alternate model for Twitter to reach profitability.
  1. Leverage the brand. The overarching framework within which Twitter can make money involves leaning on its name, logo and what those signify. Bottom line a Tweet is an in-the-moment status update from a real human being, any human being, from the President to a grade-school student; from Milwaukee to Marrakesh.
  2. Respond to user demand for identity verification. Twitter has been astoundingly lazy about jumping on the articulated demand by consumers for a way of verifying their handle. With so many impersonators, trolls, spammers and hackers out there, I can't imagine why they don't charge $25 per user per year to verify and protect your account. This would also make Twitter a more valuable property because it would cut down on irrelevant and even harassing statuses, which have in some cases driven users off the platform.
  3. Co-sponsor verified Twitter "conversations" with entertainment, political and other brands. Right now television shows and news broadcasts routinely ask users to Tweet questions in. This is homemade usage of the platform. Twitter could no doubt work directly with such entities to create a richer user experience with polling, directed conversations, etc. and also an easier experience for those who find it difficult to participate. Twitter could even create a device for home use that lets users interact with their TV screens only over the Twitter platform.
  4. Let advertisers pay for users to feature their logos on personal banner pages.People like to "dress up" in their favorite brands. Advertisers should be able to give Twitter a code that users can cut and paste into their header, making a certain logo appear. For every 24 hour period a user features this coded logo on their site, Twitter gets a small fee from the advertiser.
The bottom line: Break out of commodity competition. Thinking "brand first" is a critical and often overlooked way to address deficiencies in one's business model.
All opinions are the author's own.