Live To Live or Live To Die?

Angel

In The New York Times today, David Brooks presents “two sets of virtues, the resume virtue and the eulogy virtue.”


The resume virtues are the skills you need to get ahead in the marketplace, and the eulogy virtues are “whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful.”


While we’d like to believe that most feel that being a decent human being is more important than how much money we earn, unfortunately our education and economic systems are geared far more toward the latter, where it’s widely acknowledged that “money makes the world go round!”


In fact, many will often sacrifice the moral high ground for landing on a bigger, cushier hill of worldly possessions and pleasures. 


Interestingly enough, my daughter asked me last week, whether it is better to personally live a happy life but die with a horrible reputation or to live selflessly, struggling with life challenges, but be revered after you die?


To me the answer was simple–live, learn, and grow regardless of momentary personal happiness. Do what’s right, period–honor and chivalry is alive and well. 


But my daughter told me that over 90% of people polled chose their happiness in life as their #1 goal.


I suppose it’s easy to say what’s the point of leaving a legacy if you were not happy living your life every day, but I would counter with what’s the point in chasing life’s daily pleasures, if you were a bum and everyone knows it?


The point isn’t even what people say about us when we are alive or dead, but rather that we know that we tried our best to live as decent, ethical human beings and that hopefully, we left the world a better place than when we got here.


Sure, there is no blessing in being poor or unhappy–but living purely to satisfy one’s voracious materialistic appetite is just being a selfish little pig–come on admit it!


On your deathbed, will you wish you that in your life you had more money and status or that you had been a better, more giving human being? 


I say forget the resume and the eulogy, just think about what will really gives you peace of mind and inner happiness and it’s more than any amount of money can buy or any seduction you can imagine.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

OJ x 6

OJ

Okay, I like orange juice like everyone else, but this is ridiculous.



At least 6 types of Tropicana OJ in the refrigerated section of this small neighborhood deli.

Get this:

  • No Pulp
  • Some Pulp
  • Lots of Pulp
  • Calcium (Enriched)
  • Orange Peach Mango 
  • Orange Strawberry Banana

Good thing is the juice cartons are color-coded or you might just pick up the wrong one–and then what?



Ah, I’ll just take the one made from oranges–the fresh ones from Florida!



Choice is a good thing, but consumers must be getting more picky.



Then again, maybe I am getting old, because I still remember when I only had to select between Tropicana and Minute Maid. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Living The Limits

 

Almost two decades ago, when working towards my MBA degree, I read the book, Beyond the Limits(1992) about how between growing world overpopulation and our disposition to living without regards to our limited resources, we were in danger of depletion and ultimately face an existential disaster. 

Now this theme continues with the movie, Surviving Progress(2012) warning that our unabated consumerism and overproduction is leaving in its wake diminished environmental resources and leading eventually to a collapse of our global ecosystem. 

In between the book and the movie, I have followed the warnings of well known and respected leaders, such as former Vice President, Al Gore on global warning, former Comptroller General, David Walker on our spiraling national debt, oil magnate, T. Boone Pickens on peak oil, and that is just to name a few. 

Yet, the warnings of our unsustainable living keep running up against our impressive technological progress–for example, oil and natural gas is being discovered and still plentiful, agricultural productivity keeps rising, and computers and automation allows us to continuously do more with less. 

So what are we to believe–are we on a unsustainable collision course with mother nature that threatens our very existence or is our innovative prowess and technological progress going to keep us ahead of the curve and out of any danger? 

As a technologist, and someone who promotes innovation, entrepreneurship, hard work and sound supporting ethics underlying everything we do, I am a firm believer that we can make a difference. Yes, with G-d’s blessings, it is possible to shape our destiny, so that we can continue to not only sustain ourselves, but also actually improve our standard of living. 

On the other hand, I cannot help but notice a generally gluttonous lifestyle in our society–where people almost always seem to buying bigger and better homes, cars, and even now yachts and private planes, and where buying and throwing things out is a vicious and endless cycle, where we live for the moment, rather than plan ahead. 

Despite initiatives to reduce, reuse, and recycle, we are still very much a single use society (use and discard), where compulsive shopping and a “mine is bigger and nicer than yours” mind-set and motive prevails. 

Now as humankind plans for Earth’s ultimate resource depletion, companies such as Planetary Resources  are researching and developing robotic spacecraft to mine asteroids to get water, extract raw materials, and find new sources of precious minerals, and government agencies like NASAare exploring orbiting space settlements as well as the permanent colonization of the moon and Mars. 

At the end of the day, the Earth–no matter how large and bountiful–is a finite resource and we should use innovation and technology to extend its use and at the same time reach out to find our next hospitable home. 

Watching two seasons of a Discovery television series called The Colonyabout how people in a simulation of a global catastrophe, survive–I saw that no matter how well they did for a number of weeks living off of existing resources where they were, eventually, they had to plan and creatively build their escape to a new sustainable living place. 

Unfortunately, this is not just TV fiction, but this is our reality–to thrive in our world today, but also to plan and build for the long-term–a new home for mankind.

>Turning Consumerism Into Collaboration

>

I’m sure you’ve noticed that we are historically and fundamentally a consumerist society.

We spend a lot of time and money shopping and buying things—many of the things that we buy, we acknowledge that we don’t even need—just check your attic lately? 🙂

Many compulsive buyers have even self-proclaimed themselves “shopaholics.”

Aside from being somewhat obsessive compulsive in the way we treat buying and owning things, we tend to be pretty wasteful in buying and throwing out things, often from individualized, single use servings—think fast food, as one example.

The result, according the Environmental Protection Agency (per WiseGeek), the average American produces 4.4 pounds of garbage a day or 1,600 pounds a year (and that doesn’t include industrial waste or commercial trash).

On the flip side of all the tossing out we do, are “hoarders” or those with the tendency to keep lots of things, often piled high in every corner of their homes and offices; there is even a show called by the same on A&E television dedicated to this.

So we shop a lot, spend a lot, buy a lot, and then consume it, hoard it, or toss it. And we do this with enormous volumes of things and in ridiculously rapid cycle times—for example, how many times a week do you find yourself in the stores buying things or then taking out the trash generated from it? (I can practically hear the lyrics of the Hefty commercial playing: ”Hefty, Hefty, Hefty—Stinky, Stinky, Stinky…”)

Overall, it’s a crazy system of conspicuous consumption driven by perceived needs for materialism, highly refined and effective marketing and advertising techniques, and people’s feelings of relative deprivation.

Yet despite these, there is movement underway to change from a society obscured by habits of personal ownership and consumption to a more healthy and balanced approach based on sharing and reuse.

And this is approach for sharing is happening not just in terms of personal consumption, but also in terms of our organizational use of technology, such as in service-oriented architectures, common and enterprise solutions, virtualization, and cloud computing.

We see change happening as a result of the huge financial deficits we have piled on individually, organizationally, and as a nation; the depletion of our vital natural resources (including concerns about our future energy supplies and other limited raw materials like precious metals etc.); and the fear of pollution and the poisoning our planet for future generations.

An interesting article in Wired called “Other Peoples Property” (Sept. 2010) talks about how we are moving finally toward a model of sharing through peer-to-peer renting sites like at www.zilok.com (with 150,000 items listed including cars, vacations, tools, electronics, cloths, and more) and other swapping sites for books, CDs, video games, etc. like www.swaptree.com. Of course, Zipcars and property timeshares are other fashionable examples of this new way of thinking!

Further, the article references a new book by Rachel Botsman called “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,” about how we are moving to a new consumption model that emphasizes “usefulness over ownership, community over selfishness, and sustainability over novelty.”

With new technologies and tools there is more opportunity than ever to share and reuse, for example:

  • Online repositories of goods and advanced search capabilities provides the ability to find exactly what we are looking for.
  • Embedding everyday items with microprocessors, networking them, and aiding them with geolocation, enables us to get self-status on their presence, health and availability for use.
  • E-commerce, electronic payment, and overnight shipping, gives us the ability to have the items available when and where we need them, and we can then return them for someone else to take their turn to use them.

If we can get over the stigma of sharing and reuse, perhaps, the day is coming when we can think of many non-personal items more in terms of community use and less in terms of mine and yours, and we’ll all be the richer for it.

>Apple’s Self-Sufficiency Model

>

Apple has an amazing self-sufficiency model, where they have only 6 desktop support analysts for 34,000 worldwide employees, 36 helpline agents for 52,000 computers, only 38% of their IT budget is for baseline operations and 62% for innovation, and their IT spend is just .6 of 1%. These are numbers that most CIOs dream of. And of course, that’s only the beginning of the Apple story…

There is no doubt about it Apple is firing on all cylinders. Apple has become a $50 billion a year company building and selling technology products that consumers are salivating for—whether it’s a MacBook, iPhone, or the new iPad—everyone wants one, and I mean one of each!

Apple’s slogan of “Think Different” is certainly true to form. It’s reflected in their incredibly designed products, innovation in everything they do, and the keen ability to view the world from their user’s perspective.

Here are some amazing stats on Apple (heard at the Apple Federal CIO Summit, 8 April 2010):

  • Apple as the highest gross revenue per square foot in retail at $6250.
  • Apple’s online store is the most visited PC store and is a top 10 retail website
  • iTunes has over 125 million user accounts and does 20,000 downloads a minute
  • The iPhone 3GS is ranked the #1 smartphone in customer satisfaction by JD Power Associates and has over 150,000 apps
  • Apple processes over 1.9 million credit card transactions per day
  • Apple’s MobileMe has over a million subscribers
  • Apple is ranked #1 in customer satisfaction by Consumer Reports, 10 years in a row.
  • Apple is ranked the most innovative company by both Fortune Magazine and Business Week.

Here are some of Apple’s self-proclaimed keys to success:

  • Steve Jobs—A leader who makes it all happen
  • Innovation—Rethink things; “If nothing existed, what would it make sense to do?”
  • Consumerism—Focus on the entire customer experience and make it excellent
  • Avoiding complexity—Simplify everything so that it completely intuitive to the users and be good at deciding what you are not going to do.
  • Attention to detail—This involves creating an immersive experience for the consumer that permeates the design process.
  • “The concept of 1”—Build consistency across products; standardize, simplify, and architect around commonalities.
  • Learnability—Users should be able to quickly learn their technology by watching others or by exploring
  • People—Smart, motivated employees and a special emphasis on their intern program

While the key factors to Apple’s success are not a recipe that can simply copied, they do offer great insight into their incredible accomplishments.

Next stop for Apple seems to be taking their success in the consumer market and making it work in the enterprise. This will go a long way to addressing users concerns about their technology at home being better than what they use at work.

>Technology, A Comfort to the Masses

>

Typically, as technologists, we like to point out the great things that technology is doing for us—making us more productive, facilitating more convenience, allowing us to perform feats that humans alone could not do, and enabling us to connect with others almost without regard to space and time. And truly, we are fortunate to live in a time in history with all these new unbelievable capabilities—our ancestors would be jealous in so many ways.

Yet, there is a flip side to technology—what some refer to as the 24×7 society—“always on”—that we are creating, in which life is a virtual non-stop deluge of emails, voicemails, videoconferencing, messaging, Friending, Linking-in, blogging, tweeting, YouTubing, and more.

We are becoming a society of people living in a Matrix-type virtual world, where we go around addicted to the online cyber world and yet in so many ways are unconscious to the real-world relationships that are suffering in neglect and silence.

A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal, 22-23 August 2009 entitled, Not So Fast, by John Freeman states that “we need to protect the finite well of our attention if we care about our relationships.”

Certainly, online communications and connections are valuable, and in many ways are meaningful to us. They can create wonderful opportunities to bond with those near and far, including those who would be normally beyond our reach geographically and temporally. For me it’s been great reconnecting with old friends from schools, jobs, and communities. And yes, who would think that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger would be but a FaceBook message away for me?

Yet while all the online interaction is fulfilling for us in so many ways—filling voids of all sorts in our lives—in reality the connections we make in the virtual world are but a tiny fraction of the real world human-to-human relationships we have in terms of their significance and impact.

The Journal article puts it this way: “This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, workplace meltdowns, and unhappiness. How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of a screen?”

One of the biggest fears that people have is not their own mortality, but that of being left alone in the corporeal world—for each of us, while a world unto ourselves, are small in the vastness of all that is around us. Perhaps to feel less alone, people amass and encircle themselves with great amounts of familiar, comforting, and loving people and things. And while people have these, they are connected, grounded, loved, and they are comforted that they are not alone.

But the harsh reality is that no matter how much we have in our lives, people are beings onto themselves, and over time, unfortunately and extremely painfully, all worldly things are ultimately lost.

The Journal states: “We may rely heavily on the Internet , but we cannot touch it, taste it, or experience the indescribable feeling of togetherness that one gleans from face-to-face interaction.”

Connections are great. Virtual relationships can be satisfying and genuine. All the technology communication mechanisms are fast, efficient, and powerful in their ability to reach people anytime and anywhere. Yet, we must balance all these with the people we care about the most. We cannot sacrifice our deepest and most intimate relationships by sitting in front of a computer screen morning, noon, and night and walking around with the BlackBerry taking phone calls and emails at our kids’ school play, on their graduation day, and during their wedding recital. We are missing the boat on what is really important. We have forgotten how to balance. We have gone to extremes. We are hurting the ones we truly love the most.

“We need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from efficiency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments, but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships.”

Finally, with all the technology, we are in a sense becoming less human and more mechanical—like the Borg, in Star Trek—with BlackBerrys and Netbooks as our implants. Let’s find some time to pull the plug on these technologies and rediscover the real from the virtual.