Occupy Seattle Described as a Poker Game

You won’t see this analysis written anywhere else – this content comes from part of an email chain where a bunch of people were discussing the differences between the original Occupy Wall Street and the local spin-off versions such as Occupy LA and Occupy Seattle.  It all stemmed from an LA Times article that explained it would cost Los Angeles $2.3 Million to clean up the park which had been Occupied.  I’ll keep the whole email from this anonymous person for context, but the paragraph with the poker analogy is the one I found most compelling.

Note: At this point the discussion had moved to talk about whether the movement, or the offshoots of the movement, would be successful on getting student-debts absolved.  (And no offense to puppetry and history majors.)

People take risks and develop new and improved goods and services because they believe that they will profit from it. That is at the root of our free market economic system. That is exactly what Adam Smith wrote about all those years ago. Plus, where do you think all that money comes from to pay off people’s debts (whether student loans or mortgages or bank bail outs or whatever)? Government takes in revenue through taxes. The inhabitants of a country pay the taxes. So, if one group of people want money from the government (and that is exactly what asking to have your debts payed off is- getting money from the government), in essence those people are asking other people to pay for their choices. Why should I have to pay for the choices that another person made (that is the root of the whole social contract and the obligations of citizenship)?

For example, I am OK with helping to pay for education in general- most people are. That is why we have free public K-12 education. It is an investment in the future. I am also OK with student grants for college kids who can not afford college. That also helps society and is an investment in the future. But if some guy takes out a massive loan from a private business (i.e. a bank) to fund his two years in college to get a masters degree in literature or history or puppetry or what have you, and then the guy can’t get a job with his worthless degree, why should I have to pay to get his loan written off? That guy is in essence begging money from me. He better be able to explain why and persuade me to pay off his loan, or I will not want to pay it off for him. And if his first attempt to persuade me to pay off his loan is to “occupy” the park down the street from my house and threaten to stay there until I pay for his loan, then frankly he has failed at making his case from the get go.

To put it in poker terms,  imagine if some guy at the table made big risky bets over and over, chasing long odds on flush draws hand after hand, borrowed money repeatedly from other players to buy in on more hands, and when he finally craps out and has no more money, he demands that everybody else pony up money to pay off his debts. How would you feel about that? How would you react to that? How would the other players react to that? Now imagine if that guy- rather than to try to logically explain why you should pay off his debt- decides to go sit in the bathroom and “occupy” it for several weeks. He messes the place up, refuses to clean it up, disturbs other people who are just trying to use the bathroom, refuses to leave even though he is on private property and the owners ask him nicely to leave, and becomes belligerent when the police to evict him. How would you react to that?



Man vs Plumbing, or, The Great Kitchen Sink Adventure

It all started innocently enough.

It was a Friday morning that looked like any other Friday morning.  Except this time, as I headed through the kitchen on my way to work, I noticed the sink was backed up.  I’m not very handy, so these kind of things fill me with dread.  So, I walked over and followed the process adhered to by every man who suffers from my lack of home improvement ability.

  1. Look at sink and say to self, “(Sigh) This doesn’t look good.”
  2. Turn on garbage disposal, and think, “I’m a genius” as the water goes away.  However, as soon as the disposal was turned off, the water returned.
  3. Stare at garbage disposal and try to figure out what law of physics caused Step 2.
  4. Grab plunger, plunge, and watch water spray out of the silly useless little release valve on top of the sink that I had never noticed before.  Plunge more, and notice how all the water from one side of the sink was being pushed into the other side of the sink.  Stop plunging, and watch the water return to its original home.
  5. Look under the sink.  I’m not sure why we do this.  It’s like we’re expecting to see a little elf with his hand stuck up the pipe, and a sly mischievous grin saying, “Ha, you caught me.”
  6. Look at sink again and say, “Well maybe it will magically fix itself while I’m at work.”

I successfully made it through all 6 steps, and headed to work.  And to my surprise and delight, when I returned home, the sink was clear.  Sure, there was residue, but no more clog.  Life was good.  I was a home repair genius for not panicking.

Now just to be safe, I called for a moratorium on kitchen sink usage.  I wanted to make sure we were safe.  No dishwasher, no washing machine, no sink.  And so when I looked that evening at a messy (but not smelly) kitchen sink with dirty water backed up, I had to scratch my head.  Where did that water come from?  I decided to worry about that later.

Attempt 2: The solution seemed easy enough.  If it was a clogged kitchen sink pipe, all I needed to do was undo the pipes, find the clog,  replace pipes. Piece of cake.  So, I emptied the sink out the kitchen window, pulled out the pipes and…..found no clog. (Sigh).  Now I had an empty sink, but one that wasn’t connected to the pipe system.

Attempt 3: After careful consideration, it was now my expert plumbing opinion that there was a clog somewhere below the second floor.  So I grabbed about a gallon of Drano, and dumped it down the kitchen wall pipes.  Surely, a gallon of Drano would do the trick.  Environment be damned.  It was with a certain amount of displeasure that I watched the Drano come back out of the wall pipe, and into the bucket below the pipes.   Side effect – Child was starting to find this quite funny, and I was becoming a trending topic in her text world.

Attempt 4: It was clear I needed some professional help here, so I consulted the place that all amateur home repairmen go – the Internet.  And the Web provided a genius solution – the baking soda and vinegar bomb.  Child was particularly excited to find out how this would play out, as my battle with the pipes was achieving Movie of the Week status, and her frequent updates were giving her unemployed friends something to focus on.  So the next day, I carefully mixed a few boxes of baking soda with water and salt, and poured them down the pipes.  Then I dumped a bottle of white vinegar down the pipes.  I could hear the compound getting ready to fizzle back up, so I shoved a sock in the pipe to force the mixture in the right direction.  In my head, I imagined a gigantic, organic explosion, blasting its way through my invisible clog, like a supernova soaring through space……In reality, I have no idea what happened, but the clog seemed unfazed.  All I had were pipes with baking soda in them.

Now, somewhere along this time we had a discovery.  Remember, I still never figured out how that sink filled with water again a few days back.  However, suddenly upstairs I heard a toilet flush, and watched with horror as water came from the pipes and filled my bucket.  Our problem was somehow related to the pipes associated with the toilet upstairs.  Not a happy discovery. The upside was that now we had introduced a new set of drama into Child’s broadcasts, and ratings were up.

Attempt 5: It was time to do some real man’s work on this thing, so the next day, I commandeered a 25′ snake from a friend, and shoved it down the pipe.  I went down 25′ without issue.  No blockage.  I thought maybe I had saved the day, and confidently went back upstairs to flush a clean toilet just to test and confirm my successful snaking effort.  Alas….I once again had a full bucket.  At least the water was clean.

Attempt 6: It was time for some real professional macho man work on this thing, so I did what us men do when we want to release our inner caveman.  We head to Home Depot and rent big tools.  Tools so big, they get their own room in the back corner of the store, back where women refuse to wander. In this case, I got the big ol’ 100′ mechanical snake to run through the clean out valve.  It was dirty, heavy and nasty, and I prepped myself for the mess that would come from opening the clean out valve.  Except….. I couldn’t get the clean out valve open.  It was glued shut.  Now, I could have forced it open, but I took a moment to pause and reflect.  Whoever had built my house had gone through a lot of work to stop a yahoo like me from successfully acting upon the thought that it would be a good idea to open the pipe.  He obviously knew something I didn’t, and I trusted that opinion.  The clean out valve would stay closed, and I would return the super snake.  Child had mixed emotions on this.  She was anxious for some real open pipe drama – though admittedly less so when she realized the clean out valve was in her room.

So now we’re close to a week without sink, laundry, dish washer or upstairs toilet, and the natives are getting restless.  But I’ve invested enough hours into this process that stubbornness trumps practicality.  It’s been kind of the theme for the month anyway, dealing with some toxic people and situations, so what’s one more.

Attempt 7: There seems to be one solution left, and if I had known what I know now, it would have been Attempt #1, not #7.  It’s time to remove the toilet, and go in through the pipe.  I’ve never removed a toilet before.  It certainly doesn’t look hard on YouTube, so what the heck.  I get another mechanical snake, this time a slightly smaller 75′ version.  And I go to work on it.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to use this machinery without either getting my hand or shirt stuck in the wire and almost getting flipped upside down.  I mean, there was a pretty good chunk of time where that snake was beating the heck out of anything in the bathroom that it wanted to.   But for the grace of god did I make it through that “training period” with all my fingers and not winding the power cord into the spinny thing.  But I eventually settled into a nice rhythm, and only had to jump out of the way and hit the emergency stop button every 10-15 minutes or so.

And then suddenly, success!  There was a silence down the hole, as whatever the snake had been banging on for 30 minutes finally gave way.  I recoiled the snake, and the size of the clog I brought back up made me pretty sure I’d solved the problem.

I was riding a pretty high level of confidence, and thus the re-assembly of the sinks and toilets were accomplished at a speed normally reserved for someone who knows what they are doing, not me.  It was a pretty crowning achievement in my home repair merit badge list.  I felt like Foursquare should have a check-in for “I fixed my plumbing” and give me 100 points.

Anyway that’s my story.  9 days, 3 snakes, 4 trips to Home Depot, 2 trips to hardware stores, a gallon of Drano, a few boxes and bottles of Baking Soda and Vinegar, and about $80 in supplies.  But in this episode of Man vs Plumbing…..Man wins.

NWEN First Look Forum – Connecting the Dots

The Northwest Entrepreneur Network hosted one of its signature events last Wednesday, the spring version of First Look Forum.  (For those who want to know the whole format, check the appendix at the bottom of this post.)  In a nutshell, it’s a several month process that brings 12 entrepreneurs who have never pitched their business before, together with 60-70 VC’s and Angels.  Very cool format. 

This year’s group of 12 finalists spanned the gamut from fusion to chocolate.  My colleague Shelley Whelan already posted a nice follow-up on the NWEN blog.  But Alissa Johnson from the Alliance of Angels had a clever idea for a blog post, and allowed me to steal it from her, since she is too busy at VCIC to put it together.  Her idea – explain how if all of these companies became successful, how might one use all of them in a single day.  So here goes, using me as the example.

As soon as I woke up, I’d log into the dashboard of FLF winner Guide Analytics.  The company helps patients manage heart failure and avoid hospitalization through the continuous monitoring of edema.  Patients wear a bracelet around their ankle, measuring ankle size and relaying that info via bluetooth and wireless devices to the main computer.  Now I don’t have heart problems, but I’d be able to check on my aunt’s status, and make sure everything was ok.  The system will tell us when she is in danger of a heart attack, and lets us get her to the doctor before it happens.

I’d get in my car and head to work.  I’d stop for coffee first at a certain store, because I could get some valuable points to help me in the BodSix game I was currently engaged in.  (This is still in development, so I can’t share too much here.)  But soon I’d get into the office and say hi to the staff.  One of my team members, a woman getting married soon, would be choosing bridesmaid dresses from Little Borrowed Dress. Her bridesmaids would be able to rent these silk dresses for $75, rather than spend $230 for some taffeta number they’d never wear again anyway.  Our happy bride-to-be is also showing pictures of the bridesmaid dresses to her fiance, who lives in New York, on their private page at SnuggleCloud, a personal online space for couples.

We’d probably have a client coming in that day, and undoubtedly, there’d be some furniture issue in some hard to reach angle of the room.  Thankfully, we’d have our new Flipout Screwdriver, which would enable us to fix it.  Before the client got to our office, we would have downloaded the reports from ReadyPulse, a company that provides insight on what works best to grow your audience on Facebook and Twitter.  Our client – a software company – is probably using AgileEVM, a product that helps with agile software developments.

We’ll want to take the client to lunch afterwards, so we’ll check UrbanQ a way for us to discover places and experiences we’ll like, from our mobile device.  UrbanQ might recommend a nice waterfront restaurant, where we notice all the ships using Fusion Engines developed by Woodruff Scientific.  These ships are actually sing sea water and the elements inside of it, to generate fuel through fusion.  The restaurant is great.  So I log into Meevine and ping my friends about it.  Hopefully we’ll all be able to pick a date soon.  

It was a long day.  So when I get home, I open up a high-end chocolate bar I got from Chocolopolis, something that goes nicely with my Spanish Rioja, and that I’ll probably pick up more of for the dinner party I’m throwing later this week.  I end the day reading a book about baseball history that had been turned into an iPad application by Appitude.  I use this app because I get to do more than just read the book – I’m part of a virtual book club, chatting on my iPad while scrolling through the text and pictures.  Some of my real life friends happen to be reading, and I’m connecting with other baseball history fans. 

That’s how I’d be able to utilize all the businesses who made it to the finals of this First Look Forum.  I encourage you to go check out the companies who already have products live, and signup to get ont he beta list for the others.


Appendix: About First Look Forum

  1. Over the course of several months, about 70 entrepreneurs, who have never pitched their business plan to an investor group, apply to FLF.  Everyone who applies gets some business plan coaching from NWEN’s Exec Director, or someone from the investment community.  
  2. A screening committee then whittles those 70 plans down to 20.  More coaching.
  3. Those 20 get parsed to 12.  Still more coaching.
  4. Then the even itself.  Each of the 12 gets 5 minutes in front of the most influential group of VC’s, Angels and investors in the Puget Sound.  5 finalists are chosen for 2 more minutes of pitching, and then a judging panel selects a winner.


A Story For Those of You Who Gutted Out Time at the End of the Bench

If you’ve had conversation with me lately, you’ve probably had to hear me tell the tale of Niki, the Senior JV player who got called up to varsity for the last game of her senior year for Senior Night, and got in a fun 15 minutes of play at the end.

Well, the story gets better.  Here’s a story from the Seattle Times from last night’s Girls High School State Tournament:

Defending Champs Skyline Advances | Girls 4A State Soccer

SAMMAMISH — Fresh off its ascent to the No. 1 spot in the nation, top-ranked Skyline immediately went out and validated that status.


Two quick first-half goals and stout defense propelled the Spartans one step closer to their third consecutive Class 4A state championship with a 5-0 win over Mount Rainier in Tuesday’s first round of the state playoffs at Skyline High School.

Junior forward Michelle Bretl scored her first high-school hat trick and has four goals in the postseason for Skyline (17-0). She leads the team with 15 goals this season.

The Spartans’ depth showed, as well. Reserve Niki Gerlach, a senior playing in her second varsity match after a last-minute roster switch when Nicole Candioglos came up ill, booted in a rebound shot in the 78th minute. Gerlach, listed on the roster as a team manager, had been playing on the junior varsity.

“With Niki, it’s kind of a fun story,” said Skyline coach Don Braman. “On Senior Night, she had an assist and nearly scored a goal and was kicking herself, so it was fun to see her stick one in the net. She has worked hard.”


If you’ve ever sat on the sidelines and wondered why you are putting in all that effort for no guaranteed payout, this should remind you.

Pete Carroll on “How to Run a Social Media Program”

(Republished from Spring Creek Group blog.)

It’s not often that you get the chance to sit down with a two-time NCAA National Champion, and current NFL coach, to talk 1-on-1 about business and strategy.  And sadly, this was not one of those times.  But I did get to share a room with 300 other people to listen to the new chief Seahawk, Pete Carroll, share some wisdom and philosophy about business and coaching.

Carroll’s presentation was not actually entitled, “How to Run a Social Media Campaign.”  But with 400,000 Twitter followers, he could probably run an entire event on the matter if he so wished.  He spoke about general leadership and business philosophies, but when you peel away the adjectives, they are also extremely sound strategies for a social media program as well.  In honor of the 12thman, here are 12 philosophies I walked away with (and which will likely soon in up in one of our presentation decks).

(Quotes are paraphrases of Carroll’s speech, not necessarily direct quotes, and the photo is from the PSBJ recap.)

1)      “I wasn’t ready to be a head coach when I ran the Jets.  So it was a mistake to get involved.  But when I finally figured it out and was ready for the next role, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and what it would take to put it together.” Social media translation – If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t rush in.  Figure out what you need to do, and what it will take to get there.  Write everything down, start your program and make refinements along the way.  But know what the goals are, and what pieces you need to make them happen.

2)      “Look forward to the challenges ahead of you, rather than worry about them.” – If you’ve built out a solid plan, you can anticipate where there may be hurdles. When you are prepared and ready to face difficulties, whether they are organizational, technical, or content centric, you are in the proper mindset to find the right solutions in an efficient manner.

3)      “We all win sometimes.  But if you want to win forever, you figure out why you are winning.” –It’s not just that anyone can get lucky, it’s that everyone will get lucky at some point.  If you rest on a few wins without figuring out what exactly got you that bump in traffic or spike in friends, you’ll only be successful until the next company (possibly a competitor) gets their stroke of luck.

4)      “Winners battle for a competitive edge in everything they do.  Find those who want to do things better than other people, and you all will achieve greater things. Fight, scratch and claw to find a better way.” –Don’t just pick an employee or agency because they are convenient or easy.  Pick those with drive and passion to be better than others, and your campaigns will reflect that more so than someone who just wants to get a check.  Simply doing something because, ‘it’s how we’re used to doing it’ is not acceptable for a social media or marketing program.  Do what it takes to make something special happen.

5)      “Accomplishment is one thing, but it’s more important to understand how someone feels about that accomplishment.” –A line on a resume or a completed project only gets you so far.  Understanding whether the person thinks they could have done better, and how they’d do it over, is a better predictor of who is going to execute a quality campaign for you, and how your campaign is going to evolve over time.

6)      “Find the folks that other people are listening to.  Make an impact on them first, then the rest is easier.” –Identify your influencers.  But don’t try to sell them garbage.  Carroll used the word “impact” which is key.  Be “impactful” to those who matter the most, and you’ll get their support.

7)      “3 or 4 people in a crowd out of 15,000 can change a community.” –Carroll’s program to fight gang violence had a monetary return.  It cost about $100k to support each of these 3 or 4 influencers.  Each gang-related death costs the city $1 Million in legal fees.  So for every death Carroll’s group prevents, the city avoids having to pay out $1 Million.  Social media may not lead to direct sales, but can you determine if it is preventing additional costs on expensive PR efforts later?

8)      “Do things better than anyone else has ever done before, in all the things you choose to do.” — You don’t have to do everything, but if you are going to do it, don’t just do it well, shoot to do it better than everyone else. Basically, “mediocrity” not “failure” is the enemy of “excellence.”

9)      “Know your philosophy.  If you can’t articulate your own philosophy in 25 words or less, how do you expect anyone who works for you or around you to explain it to others?” –Your social media program needs a vision and a voice, and it needs to be articulated to everyone in your company.

10)    “John Wooden had his own way of doing things that were unique.  He could draw on people from all walks of life, because they could all focus on his unique way.” –Your brand needs its own unique identity, philosophy and vision if you want people to be drawn to it.  If you do things out of a standardized process or playbook, you only cater to those people who agree with that playbook.  If you do your own thing, you can draw everyone who believes in the vision.

11)    “Empower yourself to do everything you can do, in the areas you control.  Don’t worry about the things you can’t.” –Don’t stress about whether people will say something negative.  You control the product you develop, the price you sell it for, and the way you promote it.  You control how you respond to your customers and how you cater to their needs.  Focus on that, and don’t waste energy on the other stuff.

12)   “Evaluate, Address areas of concern, and fill the holes.”  –This goes to the Spring Creek Group philosophy of 1) Analyze Data, 2) Develop a Strategic Plan, and 3) Engage the Community.  Take a good hard look at what you have, figure out the best course of action, and then be relentless in fulfilling those needs.

You can follow Carroll on Twitter at @PeteCarroll.  Also, a full-length video of his speech can be found on the Seahawks web site.

Iceland Day Seven-ish

We’re getting into the home stretch here in Iceland.  It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, which enables/forces us into a coffee shop for some much needed picture uploading.  We spent the middle of the week on the northern coast, based out of Akureyri.  From there we launched into day trips to Husavik for some whale watching, Grimsey Island to officially hike in the Arctic Circle, and around Lake Meadv (sp ?) which included some of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever seen first hand.  More info to come when the shock of 168 consecutive hours of daylight weares off….

Iceland Day Three-ish

There will be a series of rather long posts as more time presents itself.  If you want to cheat and see the preview version of the first three-ish days in Iceland, check out the pics on my Facebook page.

I say three-ish, because it’s hard to really keep track of days when it never gets dark.  We landed about 6:00am Sunday in Iceland.  So the pics begin at around 8:00am at the Blue Lagoon, then inlcude some random shots, and then really pick back up again Monday night on a tour of Geysir and Goldfoss (waterfall).  It really doesn’t get dark here.  Around 11:00pm, if it’s dark, cars need to use headlights, but you could still play a game of catch without any problem.

Off to Aukreyri (sp?) on the North coast today (Tuesday).  More soon.

Why 30+ Year Olds Have More Fun on Facebook than Our Junior Counterparts

I just don’t understand when people my age tell me, “Facebook is just for kids.”  I will argue that the best part about Facebook is in fact lost on these newbies, and us more mature folks are getting the best it has to offer.

To wit: My friend’s daughter is 15.  She has something like 700 friends.  Basically every person she has ever met is on her Facebook page.  There has never been a time in her life in which she was not keenly aware of what her people were up to.

No consider the 30-something year old who is tip-toeing into Facebook for the first time.  First he finds some work friends and maybe some folks he plays soccer with.  Then a few folks from his last job.  Then a few people from the town he used to live in, then college guys and then back to high school and elementary school.  People he hasn’t talked to or heard from in 20 years are now available.

I mention this because this has happened to me twice now in the last few weeks.  An old friend from college disappeared off the planet, reappeared on Facebook and it allowed us to have lunch and catch up.  Meanwhile, the next time I’m in New York in June, I will be able to meet up with a friend I last saw in New Orleans circa 1986.  

Now, today’s 15 year olds won’t get to enjoy this type of reunion.  So I’m sticking with my story – Lil’ Green Patches and SuperPokes may be fun and all, but it’s the reconnecting with long lost friends that makes Facebook as powerful as it is.

Happy Holidays

Dear Santa:

This year I would like an additional 15 hours a month.  I certainly think it’s a reasonable ask, since if you would just give me an extra 1/2 hour a day, I could really do a lot more for mankind.

First off, I’d write on this blog more often, and while that doesn’t seem like it’s really going to benefit society that much, follow me on this.  If I write more, more people will continue to read.  And if more people read this, I’ll feel better when I look at the traffic numbers.  And if I feel better after looking at the traffic numbers, I’ll be less grouchy at the end of the week.  And if I’m less grouchy, I’ll be able to spread that joy to all your loyal subjects, or customers, or whatever you call them.

Now before you say no, hear me out.  Because I don’t need all 15 hours to write.  So, I’ll make you a deal.  Give me 5 to write, I’ll donate 5 to charitable causes, and give me 5 more to deal with work stuff – not the boring work stuff – but helping employees and clients to make sure they are all in a good mood too.  So then, that 5 hours you give me would pay itself forward to a lot of people, and then they’d all be in a better mood too.  It’s really a sound investment on your part.

This isn’t a whim, and I have the logistics all figured out.  With the exception of one weekend in Las Vegas that really shouldn’t count, I have not been awake between 4:30 and 5:00am for a long time.  So, all you need to do is let me repeat that 1/2 hour every day, which would then give me an extra 1/2 hour of sleep.  So, instead of my normal bedtime, I’ll go to bed 1/2 hour later, since I know I’ll get it back.  See, the plan’s simplicty is it’s greatest attribute.

So look, have one of your guys run the numbers on this, because I think you’ll see this is a win-win-win Xmas present.  More content on the blog, more smiles from the author, more smiles from everyone 2 degrees away, plus a healthy benefit for a charity (you can even choose the charity.)  It sure beats a BB Gun.  Let me know what you think.

Yours Truly,