Take a quick break from business to laugh a little

Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, November 27, 2017

My very first technology company was funded by Patricof Ventures, led by the infamous and still active Alan Patricof. Alan was a man who lived at 10,000 feet and so closing the deal fell to a few fellows, one of whom was Eugene Levy. I remember Gene fondly since he exhibited the unfounded faith in a brand new CEO who had never done it before. The story has twists and turns — I was ultimately fired after a few years (if you want a friend, get a dog), but in the final revenge I was the guy who got the dog sold for $80 million, and Alan was happy.

So Gene Levy, who is now over 70, has been a force in my life for almost 20 years. He recently sent me a list of “ paraprosdokians” — a figure of speech in which the latter part of the sentence ends in a surprising way. Since we are entering the craziness of the holiday season, I thought we should take a respite from entrepreneurship and simply laugh a little.

Take my wife — please! — Henny Youngman

I find it ironic that the colors red, white and blue stand for freedom, until they are flashing behind you.

If I could say just a few words — I’d be a better public speaker. — Homer Simpson

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening — but this wasn’t it. — Groucho Marx

Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president of the United States, but 50 for Miss America?

Take my advice — I’m certainly not using it.

This one haunts me a bit at times. My assistant of 25 years, the noble warrior, Nicole Rockstead, reminds me frequently when my walk does not match my talk. She is relentless in holding my foot to the fire. If you fancy yourself an executive coach, mentor, turbo-charger, or business problem solver, you cannot do what your mother did to you when you were six — “do what I say, not what I do.” That will no longer cut it. Authenticity is the commerce of the millennial.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended a column with a headline from the Stanford Institute that suggested that big ideas are harder and harder to find (not to mention solve).

To my great surprise it turns out that there were more than a few readers who were appalled at that idea and shared their thoughts. Here are two.

Fred Noble: “I am dumbfounded. Big problems engulf us.” He points to excessive cellphone use, compounded by excessive fast food use, aggravated by excessive marketing, social media, influencers and general elevated noise and stupidity. He suggests that we focus on the big problems of “global warming, homelessness, racism and disproportionate prosperity.” Fred, to your credit, you have hit the trifecta with room to spare. To top it off, he takes one last whack at our confused idea of capitalism and why we reward the wrong things — and asks us where has “Yankee ingenuity” gone?

Daniel Falla: “How about we focus on the robot/computer revolution, as well as a new airport?” He goes on to say, “we need to face our problems and not elect a simpleton who lies to a public that wants to be lied to.”

I love my readers.

As I think about the problem of ingenuity and innovation, I turn to a literary icon, Walter Issacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He has written recently about the connection between technology and emotions. How do people experience things? His conclusion is “the best innovators embrace art as well as science, who have a feel for poetry in addition to processors.” Wow — those words should be on the doors of every incubator in this town.

He makes the case for Thomas Edison, Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and on and on. Issacson says there is a “simple but profound principle of humanity – beauty matters.” Go to a museum before you go to the Apple store. Take a poet to lunch.

Finally, Issacson takes a whack at artificial intelligence and machine learning as the next big thing. “The robots may intuit and they may know and they may predict — but will they connect emotionally?” Can Picasso be reduced to an app?

Rule No. 538:  The cure for cancer will be beautiful and poetic.


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