Motivate Yourself To Be Big And Bold

I’m not sure who the first motivational speakers were. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates come to mind, though it could have been Adam & Eve’s parents.

Then there was Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I have said that death will catch you someday so just go for it. And years ago I was captivated by Tony Robbins and his concepts of pain vs. pleasure.

Jack Canfield
Author Jack Canfield at METal breakfast. Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

On Saturday I had the pleasure of being motivated by Jack Canfield, best known for his “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, which along with writing partner Mark Victor Hansen has reached 225 titles in 47 languages with 500 million copies in print.

Canfield presented at the Saturday METal breakfast group in Los Angeles. At one point he had about 100 of us standing and swaying like drunk sailors at closing time. More on that later.

Canfield said his original book idea was rejected by 144 publishers in 18 months. They said the title stinks or the concept was too cute or not edgy enough. He never quit.

Neither did a man who had a Lexus auto dealership, according to one of several stories by Canfield. Business had been fine until the 1990 recession struck. Sales hit the skids. Rather than wait for potential buyers to come in the man went to where the customers were instead. He started visiting country clubs, golf clubs and other upscale places. The opportunity soon came for the man to make a sales pitch. Sales boomed.

Plato

“He took the Lexus to where the buyers were,” said Canfield. “It’s easy to blame something or someone else. Your goal should be to change your response to events. Navigate and shift. Don’t let yourself get stuck.”

Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t have. Don’t focus on the problem but instead a vision on how to solve it.

And focus on Big Hairy Audacious Goals, an term coined by Jerry Porras and James Collins in their book “Built To Last.” What can separate leaders from losers is the use of ambitious and outrageous goals.

“Think big and create a breakthrough goal, a quantum leap goal,” said Canfield.

If you reach for the stars you might might not get there but you could land on the moon.

“Along the way you’ll grow. It’s not the achievement of the goal, it’s who you become trying to reach that goal,” he said.

It’s like what businessman and entertainer Jimmy Dean (1928-2010) once said, “I’ve been broke a lot of times, but I’ve never been poor.”

Cliff Young in 1983

Another success story is about Albert “Cliff” Young, an Australian potato farmer and childhood sheep herder who won a 544 mile ultra-marathon at age 61. It’s a true life story of the tortoise and the hair. He arrived to the race, in 1983, wearing overalls and rubber boots. He ran at a slow loping jog and lagged far behind the leaders.

“He had an advantage know one knew,” said Canfield. “He didn’t know you are supposed to rest, get some sleep sometimes in a race that long.”

He ran while others slept and eventually won my a large margin, finishing in five days and 15 hours, shattering the old record. The lesson here is that what you think is right might be the thing that’s holding you back.

“Don’t let your thoughts block you from being successful,” said Canfield. “Believe in yourself. Understand how powerful the mind is.”

You can read more about Canfield from this blogger here.

Now, back to the swaying sailors at the METal breakfast hosted by Ken Rutkowski. Canfield had the breakfast group stand up. The lesson was that your whole body can sometimes provide you answers the mind can’t. In the standing position ask yourself questions that have a true/false, yes or no type of response. Notice which way you body leans when the answer is yes and when the answer is no. This exercise can provide clues on which direction to lean toward when you’re not certain of the answer.

I am leaning toward wrapping up this column to focus on some big ol’ hairy goals. I will wind up with something Canfield said about the state of our nation.

“We are a country right now without a vision,” he said. “No one is excited so we are divided. We are focusing on what is wrong rather than what we want to create.”

So let’s create something big and hairy.

Strength & honor,

Brian

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Manufacturing Bits On The Highway To Prosperity

Many Americans lament the loss of manufacturing jobs to China and elsewhere, fueling high U.S. unemployment and nothing for workers to do.

Robert Tercek, speaking at the METal breakfast on Saturday, laid out a scenario how the loss of some manufacturing may not be a disaster in the long run.

Robert Tercek; Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

Look at Foxconn Technology Group, the Taiwan-based maker of Apple products and the world’s largest employer outside government. Last month Foxconn announced plans to replace workers with robots. Foxconn, which has one million of its 1.2 million workers based in China, currently has 10,000 robots. That will increase to 300,000 next year and one million in three years.

“We are an Information Society, moving away from a manufacturing economy,” said Tercek, a respected veteran of 24 years in the digital media business with TV, online, mobile and music.

“People will be glad those jobs left the U.S. because those jobs can be done by robots,” he said.

As robots replace workers China will have lots of unemployed workers on its hands, “and China does not have the structure in place to deal with this,” he said.

The U.S., however, is moving in the right direction by focusing on creating and moving information electronically, instead of making physical goods.

It’s part of a tectonic shift Tercek calls the “Vanishing Point.” In the Information Society things are vanishing, like newspapers, book stores, video stores, CDs, DVDs, as well as car dealerships, travel agents and much more. This observation was perhaps first presented by MIT visionary Nicholas Negroponte in 1995 with a book titled “Being Digital.” He urged us to “Push bits, not atoms,” Tercek noted.

World trade has traditionally been about the exchange of atoms, or physical goods. Negroponte said the change from atoms to bits is “irrevocable and unstoppable,” which Tercek agrees with.

For example, people are holding meetings online rather than in person. People are meeting on dating sites, rather than pickup bars. People are shopping online, not at stores.

“The medium is the market, with virtual exchanges,” said Tercek. “It’s a massive change,” with much more to come.

At the METal breakfast; Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

“Books and DVD’s have been vaporized and turned into virtual goods,” he said. The shift to digital is also changing society, where people are moving from passive observers to active participants. Mass demonstrations and other forms of civic action are occurring spontaneously and shaking governments, through the use of social platforms like Twitter and cell phones that broadcast information far and wide.

This shift is also on the cusp of disrupting television as we know it. Tercek’s speech at the METal breakfast, hosted by Ken Rutkowski, was titled “What Happens After Television.” The digital disruption will engulf every information industry, he said.

With products and services such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, Google TV and Apple TV, and digital delivery devices such as Roku, PlayStation and Xbox, the broadcast industry is headed for big change. In time, Tercek thinks pay-TV cable subscribers will continue to cancel and replace that with on-demand viewing through platforms of their choice. Consumers will increasingly be the content creators as they continue to upload massive amounts of video to YouTube and elsewhere.

“All this will cause massive change and the cable companies are not thrilled,” he said.

It’s causing massive change in the advertising business and will further transform industries such as healthcare and education as well as governments.

The shift to all-digital, all the time is evident by cellphone trends. In 2001, there were 250 million Internet users and 500 million mobile phones, said Tercek. Today there are two billion Internet users and six billion mobile phones.

“Things are not slowing down, and the fastest growth is in mobile,” he said.

The phone wars between Apple and Google, which just bought the cell phone business of Motorola, will lead to more “creative destruction” that, ultimately, will weave its way into the world of TV and content delivery.

Tercek said that for a nation and businesses to be successful, they have to move to where the markets are headed. In today’s Information Society, the U.S. has the intellectual capital and a growing base of experience to be in the right place at the right time. Along the way there will be plenty of disruption, just as there was when the world moved from an agricultural society to an industrial one. But when the dust settles in the move to an Information Society we’ll be better off making and moving bits of information rather than building another iPhone, brought to you by Robot XYZ.

I previously wrote about Tercek, in March, which you can read here. You can learn more from Robert Tercek at his blog site here.

Let me know if you have another point of view.

Strength & honor,

Brian

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Fear, Calamity And The Republican Tea Party

I will do what I said I wouldn’t when starting this blog and write about naked politics.

What compels me is fear, which I am led to believe is at the root of almost every unsettling emotion we have.

I have fear of calamity.

Consider the recent London riots. It started with anger over a fatal police shooting and spread wildly without a cohesive reason or message. People were simply pissed off about lots of things, urged on by some British hooligan losers.

The world is very wobbly in an economic sense. That’s evident by the sharp drop in stock markets worldwide. People are feeling unsettled about lots of things, like unemployment, government spending and debt. Heck, we may indeed see a global economic meltdown.

What I see now is people more boldly venting their frustration toward Barack Obama, as if he is the sole reason for what ails us. I’ve seen it in recent chain e-mails and Facebook postings where conservatives are more openly venting their spleen on our President. It’s a moment they’ve been waiting for because, deep down, they really do want to see Obama fail, despite implications for the well being of this nation.

They will deny it, unless you press them gently but firmly and watch the slime ooze forth. The desire to see Obama fail was first uttered early in his presidency by Rush Limbaugh. Deeply disguised racism is also surfacing, though it has been there all along. This occurred recently when Obama was referred to as “boy” and “tar baby” by two elected Republicans.

When people do admit they want Obama to fail, they then claim it is to prevent his“socialist policies” from taking effect. Their explanation is a combination of bullshit and ignorance. The truth is conservative Republicans simply go nuts when a Democrat is in the White House. They can’t stand the thought. Look at what happened to Bill Clinton. The impeachment hearings, the Vince Foster case and numerous other faux “scandals” were demonstrative of Republican angst that a Democrat was in the White House. It drives them crazy.

Consider what happened to Jimmy Carter, who conservatives love to vilify as the worst president ever. Decades after Carter left office they continue to ridicule him.

Let’s be clear. Clinton and Carter were more fiscally responsible than Reagan, Bush Sr. or Bush Jr., who engaged in massive deficit spending with nary a peep from Republicans. For more on this read my previous blog post titled “Until Debt Do Us Part.”

And for all the Republican ranting about smaller government, can someone name one major program they cut or where they reduced the size of government?

What I am driving at is this: Republicans need to wake up and chill out. This includes Tea Party activists and some who call themselves “Independent,” even though they vote Republican all the way. Your two Republican thought leaders are now Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, who are the titular heads of the Tea Party. This is not the way you want to go, seriously.

Michelle Bachman

Unless what you really want is to see our economy and government collapse, bringing down with it the safety net that holds our society together. And that is what many of them really want to see happen, tragically so. Because it would confirm their desire to see Obama fail, the United States of America be damned.

It is a testament to deep seated anger, frustration, lack of tolerance and fear. Using the backdrop of God, guns and country they display a fake bravado of being dearly concerned about the future of the United States, as if they are the penultimate statesman. Give me a break.

Deep down inside is a fear that’s not been identified or addressed. Maybe it’s a fear of tolerance, acceptance and letting go. Maybe it’s a fear that the world isn’t exactly the way they want it to be and don’t know how to handle it. Maybe it’s fear they have lost control of their life and need someone to blame.

But it’s not really about having some glorious love for this country. That’s a charade to hide whatever it is that really boils your kettle.

Please, splash some ice water on your face, wake up, and get rational. There are better and smarter ways to fix the mess we are in than bringing down the house. And stop hating Obama. It’s not good for your health, or mine. When Reagan was president and getting criticized I saw bumber stickers that said, “America, Love It or Leave It.” Heed your own advice, perhaps.

If this group collectively keeps pushing the same buttons, the riots in London or the riots we saw in the Middle East, in Greece and elsewhere will seem like a tea party.

Is this what you really want?

Strength & honor,

Brian

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Until Debt Do Us Part

 

When Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom addressed the METal breakfast Saturday morning one thing he said made me think of the debt ceiling mess in Washington.

“I just came back from the Sierras,” he said, from a retreat put on by Southern California Edison and the League of California Cities.

Whenever politicians buddy-up with business and lobbyists this way I feel uneasy. Santa Monica is a nice place, where I’ve lived for 15 years. But my local taxes never go down and traffic and parking is a big problem. Bloom is focused on solving that and maybe I should be pleased, but I’m not.

I feel that politicians always do the bidding of whoever pays them off or threatens to bring them down. Which brings me to Washington’s “Big Mess” over government spending and the debt ceiling. News reports tonight say a deal was reached, but let’s not click our heels just yet.

A few days ago I posted comments to the e-mail list of METal, run by Ken Rutkowski. METal is a networking group of smart professionals in the field of media, entertainment and technology. I expressed concern that our government will default on its debt and destroy my retirement fund and asked for other viewpoints. It generated some lengthy and passionate responses.

Richard Bloom (left) and Ken Rutkowski at METal breakfast. Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

Political discussions feed off anger and resentment. And the other side is always wrong and at fault for the mess we’re in. But maybe we’re all wrong, or all to blame.

“Most average people are completely confused by government finance,” wrote Joe Benowitz, a corporate executive with diversified experience in finance. “But the basics are really no different than personal finances.”

In a perfect world you should earn more than you spend. But when you’re short on cash you borrow and pay it back in time. The U.S. has failed miserably in this regard and is using debt as a revenue replacement, Benowitz wrote. Some presidents have done better than others in trying to shrink the debt, he pointed out.

When it comes U.S. finances a common measure of success or failure is the ratio between debt to gross domestic product. What you want is to lower debt relative to GDP.

“Since 1977, only two Presidents have reduced the debt to GDP ratio,” Benowitz wrote. “These two Presidents were Carter and Clinton. All other Presidents have increased the debt to GDP ratio, or failed economically.”

You often hear Republicans say those “tax and spend” Democrats are the problem. But the data show otherwise.

Alex Lightman noted, “Republicans ran on platforms that included smaller government, but no Republican in the last thirty years has reduced the size of the US government.”

Among his many thoughts in the debt issue Lightman added, “Structurally, the US has set itself up for failure.”

US Federal debt as a percentage of GDP

Among the problems is U.S. spending on wars and defense. One METal list commenter provided this chart from the New York Times that shows the enormous size of defense spending relative to other departments. Still, overall spending has gotten progressively worse and there’s no obvious fix.

“The dialog degrades into ‘eliminate the Department of Energy‘ or ‘eliminate the Department of Education,” he wrote. You could eliminate these along with transportation, veterans benefits, law enforcement and a whole bunch of other programs “and STILL have a deficit!”

Yes, it seems we are wallowing in one big wretched mess, with no end in sight. And while a few comments on the e-mail list bagged on the Tea Party, this person said they are owed “a HUGE thank you” for pressing the issue of debt reduction, even though most of them don’t realize to address their desires means they will see cuts to their own personal benefits, to include Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, “And I bet they won’t like that!”

He added, “Both sides are deluded. Both sides try to muddy the issue by keeping us focused on issues that are not even CLOSE to the core issues.”

Michael Robertson chimed in, “What I find amazing is that this battle is not even over the real issue, which is entitlements. The sides are battling over piddly little items without the courage to tackle the real issues related to runaway spending. I wonder when THAT day of reckoning will come.”

Robertson also took issue with comments that heaped blame on Republicans.

“The House controls spending and Democrats have controlled that wing of the government during the biggest debt explosions. It should be clear to all that it’s too easy for politicians to give away other people’s money to curry favors and get re-elected.”

Perhaps the best way to wrap this up is using comments from one venture capitalist who agreed with Robertson that entitlements are the problem as he wrote with exhaust, “I don’t believe we will see any substantive changes on the core entitlement programs in ‘the land of junkie politicians and complicit citizens‘ until the den of feeding rats have sought out every last form of taxable capital.”

In my office the other day I was discussing the debt ceiling matter with a Republican colleague who was giddy over the thought the debt ceiling mess would bring down our government.

“Take it down!” he exclaimed, “Take it down.”  I responded, “Perhaps, but I don’t want my house to come down with it.”

And that seems to be the case here. We all want the problem to be fixed. But it seems that it won’t until ALL of us are willing to absorb some real serious pain. Are you ready?

Strength & honor,

Brian

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Why, Why, Why, Why Care?

A story was told at the METal Saturday breakfast about a brave soldier in Afghanistan who thought his time to die was at hand, along with his troops.

Manning a hilltop outpost they were suddenly surrounded by Taliban forces. With explosions and gunfire all around his perimeter, the troop leader was sure they would be overwhelmed and presumably slaughtered, but not without a fight. He gathered his men for a final talk.

He said three things, according to Mark Thornton, an author and teacher, who had interviewed the troop leader, later at Ft. Hood.

The first thing he said was, “Men, it’s been a pleasure to serve alongside you,” followed by, “This looks like the end.”

Then he said, “Be brave and do your best.”

The leader wanted just one thing – to help his men survive and return home safely.

“When I heard that story I realized I didn’t have a big enough ‘why’ in my own life,” said Thornton, a former investment banker who now teaches meditation to help people overcome fear and anxiety and discover clarity and purpose. Thornton is author of “Meditation in a New York Minute” and also teaches a course at Harvard Law School.

At the breakfast, hosted by Ken Rutkowski in Los Angeles, Thornton didn’t say how those soldiers got out alive, so I asked him later. It seems that a French fighter-jet pilot in the area performed a low level flyby just to say hello. That drew Taliban fire and thus informed the pilot that troops were in danger. The pilot returned fire and help was on the way, allowing the troops to recover and escape.

Mark Thornton; Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

The soldier’s tale touched Thornton deeply and inspired him to dig deeper, to discover his why, his purpose in life. He now focuses on helping military personnel and athletes with meditation practices that help reduce stress, elevate creativity and achieve higher levels of success.

Someone else who has clearly found his why is Cameron Sinclair, co-founder and “Chief Eternal Optimist” of Architecture for Humanity, which brings innovative housing and building solutions to communities that need help.

Sinclair also presented at the Saturday breakfast with updates on what he’s doing now. He is soon off to New Zealand to help rebuild Christchurch, which has been wracked by a series of devastating earthquakes. His organization creates architectural solutions to humanitarian crises. This includes the building of health centers in Sub-Saharan Africa, community centers in Southeast Asia and low-income housing on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. In the past 12 years they’ve worked on 400 projects in 44 countries. Current projects include Haiti and Japan.

As an example of the boldness and creativity of Sinclair and his team, they developed a project in one of the most violent areas outside Cape Town, South Africa.

Cameron Sinclair; Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

“For years this was an area where women were routinely raped and where people killed were dumped,” Sinclair said.

Architecture for Humanity used what Sinclair calls “urban acupuncture,” sticking the needle right in the heart of the problem. After building community and health centers the area showed a sharp drop in crime and a big jump in perceived safety.

Sinclair has clearly found his why in life.

Which brings me to the story of my friend Ed, who I recently saw for the first time in 32 years. Ed was my roommate back in the days we were paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was a photographer and I was a journalist.

Ed had some amazing stories of significant highs and serious lows. Through it all he emerged a much different person. Ed had found a serenity I’ve not often seen.

In recent years he had delved deeply into meditation with teachings from a master. He claimed the ability to attain out-of-body travel which, if you’ve read about this experience, is so incredible that most grounded people consider the claim nutty. I was intrigued. Suffice to say that Ed had reached deep inside himself. He said that what we experience here on Earth is just a tiny dot on a fingertip of what’s really happening.

Our Universe as we know it

I always knew Ed as being strongly creative and highly inquisitive. It seems those traits held. He was also being very sincere when he said to me, “Brian, you are perfect.” He wasn’t referring to just me but also to all of you. And he was being real. He explained how everything happens for a reason and how each experience is for us alone.

Ed had found his why and in the process set out to help me realize that my place in this Universe is unique, and that I am part of all it’s glory and beauty.

I drove home that afternoon feeling different, as though some of Ed’s energy had entered into me. And I can only describe it as a life-changing experience, albeit a very subtle one.

I am searching for my own why, and now have new tools to reach that goal.

I hope you have found, or will soon find, your why too.

Strength & honor,

Brian

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Prince William & Kate Brave LA Tech Event

 

Prince William and Kate brave through a Beverly Hilton tech-panel event

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their first visit to Los Angeles with the unglamorous task of sitting in on a panel of tech executives that were hard pressed to put on a jolly good show.

Prince William and Kate flew in to LAX Friday afternoon after a rapturous 9-day trip to Canada. They adapted to LA customs fast – arriving casually late to the event at the Beverly Hilton. A crowd of about 400 stood and clapped as they entered the ballroom and took seats alongside the panelists.

Kate wore a classic A-line, knee-length dress, bluish gray with asymmetric draping at the shoulder. William looked tidy in a navy blue suit, white kerchief peeking above the top pocket, with burgundy tie and blue-white shirt.

Their weekend visit to LA aims to promote interest and investment in technology and film industries, with charitable events tucked in-between. There was no pomp or fluff to the Friday tech event. Paparazzi were strictly persona non grata.

The Royal Couple took their seats at a specially designed panel with the stunning title of “Case Study On Tech City,” which defines an area of east London seen as “the fastest-growing technology hub in Europe.”

True or not it seems the Brits have a perception problem to overcome, judging by some panel conversation that took place before they arrived. A question was asked about the difference in entrepreneurial activity between the U.S. and UK. One of the panelists, a Brit who is now CEO of an innovative U.S. Internet technology firm, was rather blunt. In the U.S., entrepreneurs will build a company from scratch and if it blows up will pick up the pieces and start over, he said. But in the UK, “there is a fear of failure.”

The chairman of a London-based software company acknowledged that’s true.

“The problem in the UK is we nickel and dime startups and ask them what is the least amount of money they need to get off the ground,” he said. “In the U.S. if someone wants $10 million they give them $20 million.”

In short, there is no place like Silicon Valley. Countries all over the world for the past 20 years have tried to replicate its success. No one has succeeded. So good luck, Tech City.

Prince William did his part. He lent his name and presence to the LA tech event, though he never spoke a word for the 30 minutes he sat through the Q&A with the five panelists and moderator. When the panel was over he and Kate strolled over to 4 mini-booths set up to show off some U.S. technology. It was here that Prince William let loose with his British sense of humor and interests.

One display was to show Hewlett-Packard’s new tablet computer. Tablet in hand Prince William was asked to type something in. He keyed “Aston Villa Football Club.” Seems he had soccer on his mind.

Aston Villa emblem

It gets better. His next stop was a demo by Qualcomm, the cellphone chipmaker. It was showcasing “augmented reality.” With this whiz-bang technology, by holding a tablet computer with the camera enabled over an image, the picture comes to life on the tablet screen. In this case the image was that of the Royal Couple in a family photo. Holding the tablet over the image was designed to call up some news video about the family. But before the demonstration was about to take place, after being told the image would come to life, Prince William asked with a flair whether the photo of the family portrait would convert to show them not wearing any clothes!

Another demo was by tech firm Randian, which offers a unique software application for tablet computers. The user, when watching a TV show on a tablet computer, can tap their finger on outfits being worn by cast members. Those selections are catalogued and can then be viewed and purchased.

Thinking about the possibility of Kate having access to the technology Prince William said, “We’re only going to watch cartoons from now on because this will make her want to buy everything.”

Now that moment was a jolly good show indeed.

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A Trip To Mars That’s Out Of This World

 

 
 

 

 

 

Welcome to Mars! Wish you were here!

Mars doesn’t seem all that inviting. Hawaii is a much nicer place.

But NASA has a detailed vision about how to put people on Mars, what to do, and how to get home.

If you’re interested here are some of the skill sets to have on your resume:

*Able to rapidly recognize and respond to unexpected findings.

*Capable of lifting rocks, hammering and selecting samples

*Able to react quickly to new and unexpected situations, problems, hazards and risks

*Efficient at equipment manipulation and problem solving

Only six will be selected and you’ll be gone for 2.5 years. That’s about one year in travel time – up and back – and about 500 days on the planet. It’s dry, dusty and cold with no palm trees and such, so bring skin moisturizer and your iPod. The average temperature is about minus 78 degrees Fahrenheit, so pack warm clothes. But it can reach a pleasant 68 on a good day at the equator.

The good news is you will weigh less and there is a lot of radiation so you should be able to get a good tan. Just be careful!

Details on all this were provided by Mike Paul Hughes, a senior staff systems engineer, specializing in entry, descent and landing systems at Lockheed Martin. He presented at the Saturday METal breakfast in Los Angeles. Hughes previously worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to design, test and operate control systems. He also worked on the Deep Impact mission to Comet Tempel-1 in 2005. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from USC.

Deep Impact strike on Comet Tempel-1

Hughes began by walking us through the history of our fascination with Mars, starting with the time Galileo made the first telescopic observation in 1609. Things start to get interesting when Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observes “canalis,” meaning channels, which gets mistranslated into English as canals. This sets up waves of hypotheses, speculation and folklore as to the possibility of intelligent life on Mars. That set the stage for American astronomer Percival Lowell to spend his life trying to prove there is life on Mars, with the canals being excavated by intelligent beings.

It leads to a corpus of science fiction books, among them the 1898 classic “War of the Worlds” from H.G. Wells. In the book, an armada of octopus like Martians “regarded our planet with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

The bastards come to Earth with three-legged fighting machines and destroyed England. Fortunately, we later kill them with bacteria and live happily ever after.

That was until Orson Wells on Halloween night in 1938 dramatized War of the Worlds on a 60-minute radio program to suggest an alien invasion by Marians was currently in progress. It causes panic and scares the bejusus out of New York and New Jersey.

As it turns out there was no real need to panic.

Starting in the 1960s the first close-up flybys of the Red Plant showed no canals or Martians. Viking 1 in 1976, the first spacecraft to land on Mars, reveals Mars to by a seemingly lifeless expanse, with no hotels or beaches.

Sunset on Mars

We’ve learned a lot since, especially with the highly successful Rover missions of Spirit and Opportunity. Among many things, they discovered past evidence of liquid water on the Martian surface.

As we humans understand it, life requires water. And while the Rover missions have not discovered life they have offered valuable information on how to go about building a parking lot on Mars. NASA has laid out how to get there with its “Human Exploration of Mars” report.

The idea of putting men on Mars always brings the question of “Why?” I mean, we spent billions going to the moon and came back with a bagful of rocks that weren’t all that interesting, really.

On the other hand the Moon mission ignited a generation of engineers and techno-enthusiast of which all manner of products that enrich our lives today have come forth.

Hughes briefly responded to the reason of why put humans on Mars at the breakfast, hosted by Ken Rutkowski.

“If life did evolve on Mars then we are not alone,” said Hughes. If so, “We stand on the new threshold of evolution” just as important as learning that fish crawled out from the oceans and evolved, eventually, into us, or so the story goes.

But there are people who take this whole Mars thing a lot further. They believe there was indeed a civilization on the planet. I won’t go into detail now but among the discussions is a place called Cydonia.

When the results of the Deep Impact mission that examined what comets were made of came in, Hughes said, “It was hydrocarbons and organic molecules,” meaning “The Universe is made out of stuff of life.”

Other METal notes:

We had the pleasure of having Ron Rice, who in 1969 founded the suntan lotion company Hawaiian Tropic. He was a poor country boy from the mountains of North Carolina who, after getting degrees from the University of Tennessee, spent time as a lifeguard and came up with the idea for his suntan lotion. It became a huge success thanks to Rice’s role in guerilla marketing, which he defined as marketing without having to pay any money.

A big break came when he got a woman to walk into a popular story in Florida and asked the man at the counter for seven bottles of Hawaiian Tropic, which the store did not carry. The owner offered some Coppertone instead, to which she replied, “I don’t want that crap.”

That evening the owner called Rice and demanded he come to the store, which then began selling Hawaiian Tropic.

“You’ve got to create your own demand,” said Rice.

Another brilliant idea of Rice was the creation of the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Beauty Pageant, “which became famous in every country in the world,” he said.

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Cleaning Up On The Mideast Cesspool

The lead story in the Sunday L.A. Times was on a topic I heard an expert speak about the day before – on the God-awful mess in the Middle East.

The story was about panic in Saudi Arabia over “The Arab Spring” uprising that started in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt and elsewhere. The uprising threatens the Mideast power elite because it might bring some democracy to the region.

Amatzia Baram at METal. Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

According to the L.A. Times story, Saudi Arabia has been dolling out billions of dollars to Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and elsewhere. It’s also offering Jordan and Morocco entry into an exclusive boy’s club called Gulf Cooperation Council that offers investments, jobs and weapons. The reason is simple. The good old House of Saud – the pinnacle of power in the Mideast cesspool – wants to maintain the autocratic grip it’s held on citizens for centuries. The Arab Spring threatens to crash that party.

Amatzia Baram, professor at the Department of Middle Eastern History and director of the Center for Iraq Studies at the University of Haifa, Israel, presented at the METal breakfast Saturday in Los Angeles on the topic.

One of the things Saudi Arabia is trying to do, said Prof. Baram, is create a Sunni fortress to counter the Iranian backed Shiite front. Saudi Arabia is shelling out billions of dollars to neighbors in hopes they will resist political change while trying to strengthen ties with Sunni monarchies.

Saudi Arabia is packed with Wahabi people, a branch of Islam that thinks Shiite people are just icky.

“To Wahabis, the Shiites are idol worshipers, they are not Muslims,” said Baram. “They believe every Shiite deserves to die because they left Islam.”

Now, the Wahabi and the Sunni are not quite bedroom buddies, so let’s use the axiom that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The Sunni’s think the Shiites suck as well. Hence, the boys of Saud are willing to be pals with Sunnis in order to thump the heads of those undesirable Shiites.

What happened?

Many centuries ago, it seems this giant group of Muslim people went separate ways. Before then, they were happy followers of Mohammed, who created the religion of Islam. Like many religions, it started when Mohammed got a visit from above. Sort of like what happened to Moses, an angel dropped by and presented a vision, and it became a religion.

Everything seemed to be going OK until Mohammed died. Unfortunately, Mohamed did not have a succession plan. The result was the followers started arguing over who’s in charge and – poof – the tribes split.

So now we mainly have the Shiites vs. the Sunnis. Mix religion with politics and you get one big stinking mess. But it seems the people have had enough.

“The Arab Spring is a result of years of people who are tired of tyranny,” said Baram.

A big part of the problem is the Arab world is only producing about half the number of jobs needed and many of the jobs pretty much suck.

“At some point it had to explode, and it did,” said Baram.

One solution to the problem, said Baram, is more and better education that emphasizes job skills and not religious doctrine.

Seamus Conlan at METal. Photo by Cooper Bates Photography

When the METal breakfast was over I had a conversation with Seamus Conlan, a photographer who has chronicled wars and conflicts in places all over the world. In 2001 he created World Picture Network, which became the 4th largest photo agency in the world, with 5,000 clients and 700 photographers. At the breakfast, hosted by Ken Rutkowski, he presented a slide show of his photographs chronicling the downfall of Saddam Hussein. He is now co-founder of Objective Cinema, an online content distribution network.

In my conversation with Conlan he presented a view that wars and conflicts are part of the process of the powerful attempting to weaken the weak. The more fortunate in this world are able to maintain a pleasurable lifestyle because groups of subjugated people will work for pennies.

So let’s bring it on home. One line in the L.A. Times story said that the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia which has held up for 70 years will continue for this reason: “Saudi oil for U.S. military protection.”

The Saudi leaders get military protection to maintain stability and we get the assurance of oil.

In the process a lot of people over there are getting screwed. There’s something wrong with this picture.

Strength & honor,

Brian

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All Hail The Mighty Entrepreneur

I’ve long felt the most exciting and intriguing people in the world are entrepreneurs.

Many of them I know are bold, daring, innovative, creative, philanthropic and – very importantly – they create jobs. More jobs are created by entrepreneurs than all the largest corporations. They also destroy jobs by disrupting old ways of doing things. In the process new products and methods emerge and make the world a better place, which creates more jobs and a higher standard of living.

There is also a misperception that all entrepreneurs are rich. Many are but they earned every penny of it. Statistically, most small business owners could make more money working for someone else. The entrepreneur does it not for the love of money but for the love of creating something and working independently.

Recently I’ve watched many entrepreneurs present and explain their ideas and vision. This week I attended the graduation for the Los Angeles chapter of Founder Institute, a four-month training ground for people who want to launch a business. I attended most of the weekly classes during the semester in a role both as a mentor and journalist and have blogged about on this site. Of the 54 individuals that started, just 15 were left when it was over.

Among them was Matt Kim-Perek, whose company VidaPort seeks to provide affordable heath care services. Scott Herring worked on ZenCX, developing software that improves relationships between banks and customers. Kieve Huffman’s company Dather provides a social media marketing application for event sponsors and organizers that expands brand awareness and community. Melissa Jun Rowley is creating Incentivize.us, which promotes socially responsible brands. Narb Avedissian is founder of Trendest, which is developing a Web site for video product reviews and drive new online sales. Frank Mastronuzzi is president & founder at OneGoodLove.com, a community for relationship-minded gays and lesbians. Talia Goldstein and Val B are developing EventWho, a Web application to enhance connections at networking events. All the graduates are really good people.

On hand for the graduation were the mentors who helped educate and inspire this group. They were asked to provide some parting thoughts. Among them was Simon Mainwaring, a branding expert whose new book, “We First” explains how brands and consumers use social media to build a better world.

“Don’t look to the market to find out who you are,” said Mainwaring. “Look inward.”

Tony Greenberg, a serial entrepreneur whose companies include RampRate Sourcing and DeepStrat Consulting was the most animated of the evening, as Tony always is. About starting a company he said, “It will fail seven times. You’ll run out of money 15 times. You will fail again and again.” But, he said, with perspiration and inspiration, and for those who move fast, listen and stay open minded, “You will win.”

Tayrn Rose, another dynamic success story with a top-selling line of shoes for women, encouraged the graduating class to power through difficult times.

Ken Rutkowski

Other mentors in the course, run by Ken Rutkowski, encouraged graduates to follow their passion, stay in motion all the time, build relationships and network, never give up, learn from mistakes and have fun.

An example of entrepreneurial passion comes form Pandora Media, the popular Web-based music listening site. The company launched in January 2000, two months before the Internet bubble would burst and blow up an ton of Internet companies along with it.

It almost brought down Pandora. According to venture capitalist William Quigley, four years later no company employee at Pandora had yet taken any salary. One employee had maxed out his 12th credit card. More than likely that was founder Tim Westergren, an award winning composer, musician and record producer, who is now the company’s chief strategy officer. The two other founders were Will Glaser and Jon Kraft.

The company had made 347 pitches to investors over three years and struck out each time. That is stunning in that most founders, after about a dozen strikeouts in funding attempts, head for the painkillers and wonk out. At one point Pandora was down to $25,000.

The founders considered betting it on black at the roulette table, figuring their odds of winning were better than their odds at betting on investors. The Pandora execs, on try No. 348, got $5 million in financing and the company took flight. Today the company raised $235 million in a solid initial public offering.

That’s passion, determination, sweat, perseverance and victory. May we all have some of the same.

Strength & honor,

Brian

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Living And Loving Los Angeles Life

I love L.A. I always have and always will.

I was born in Burbank, grew up in “the Valley” and have lived on the west side for the last 20 years. L.A. is in my DNA. I have many friends who came here from elsewhere but I’ve never felt the desire to leave. My friend John who has lived in many major cities worldwide said rather emphatically to me, “L.A. is the best city, no question.”

Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss once said that if it wasn’t for the earthquakes and smog all the flakes would live in this town. And someone else said, “L.A. – where we shake, but we also bake.”

The beautiful and sunny beach at Santa Monica, Calif.

What got me to reflect on this was a column written by Hector Tobar for the L.A. Times. The story offered tips on how to be a true Angeleno. It was spot-on.

Among them: “Don’t fawn over celebrities.” True, but at the office we love talking about “star sightings.” As a young kid I saw Steve McQueen driving a Porsche. I’ve been in an elevator with Dick Van Dyke and gave a high-five to Jack Nicholson, to name a few. Neat.

Another tip offered was “Barbecue, garden, enjoy the outdoors – at all times.”

True. I even barbecued in the rain once.

Tobar also said, “Don’t wear your civic pride on your sleeve.”

He added, “Your typical Boston or Seattle resident can get pretty snippety about how great his city is. A real Angeleno, however, is too world-wise to claim his city is perfect. We know ours is a flawed paradise. We recognize and complain about its faults, but we still wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

It can take a newcomer a year or more to get adjusted here. L.A. can feel like a giant, unfriendly asphalt jungle. My advice is always this: “L.A. won’t find you. You have to find L.A.” When I mentioned this on my Facebook page my friend, Thom, replied, “This is so true…it took my moving here for the 3rd time in 2005 to truly appreciate L.A. for what it is, and love the life here.”

Los Angeles

L.A. has hundreds of unique pockets. Find the one that fits you best. If you don’t then you won’t like L.A. Otherwise, this is the best place in the world overall for a long-term lifestyle. It has everything, and I mean everything, one could need. I knew someone who once surfed L.A. beach waves in the morning and was snow skiing in the afternoon. Where else can you do that, in total comfort.

The one thing I have never adjusted to is the traffic. Getting by requires you to know all the shortcuts and side streets.

Most of the reader responses to Tobar’s article affirm my feelings, but there were some stinkbugs in the mix. One person said, “Los Angeles is a stinking hole.” Another said, “I can’t wait to leave this cesspool of a city.”

Angelenos responded with comments like “I’m so sorry,” and “Peace be with you,” and “Later to you, then.”

Exactly. Take San Francisco for example. They may say unfriendly things about us but the fact is (and this annoys them) “We don’t care what you think.”

If we wanted to be somewhere else we would leave. But we don’t. As evidence that a lot of foreigners choose to live here, go to a Dodger game. When a team from New York or Chicago is in town, half the crowd is rooting for the away team. But that’s OK. Those people apparently didn’t love their city enough to stay put.

We welcome you. Just be cool, please.

Nick helped compose the photo at the top of this article, a photo I love so much. “Don’t Stop Believing.” That photo is what this town is all about. L.A. has everything under the Sun, good and bad. Just choose the good and don’t stop believing that each day is going to be a good one.

Strength & honor,

Brian

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