Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

So Maybe I’ll Climb Everest

Young Adam

“First of all Rat, you never let on how much you like a girl. “Oh, Debbie. Hi.” Two, you always call the shots. “Kiss me. You won’t regret it.” Now three, act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be. “Isn’t this great?” Four, when ordering food, you find out what she wants, then order for the both of you. It’s a classy move. “Now, the lady will have the linguini and white clam sauce, and a Coke with no ice.” And five, now this is the most important, Rat. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.

I remember when my dad turned 40. I thought he was so old. The grey started to appear. It was barely noticeable but noticeable enough to know things were changing. He carried a few more pounds. But, when I think about it, what really made him seem old was the fact he talked more about my future than his own.

40 seemed like a lifetime away. As I celebrate 40 trips around the sun, my first thought is, wow, that went by fast. Too fast, to be honest. Is half my life actually over? Wow, but there’s still so much more to do and so much I haven’t even started to explore.

I’m not sure I have it all figured out and I’m definitely not sure what the right thing is to say. But, I get the feeling that when you turn 40, you’re supposed to say something of meaning.

Kids can be cruel. As a kid, I was called camel jockey, sand nigger, spic, and yes, much worse. I don’t believe children are born mean. I really do believe that they become what we teach them and show them. At 40, I don’t look back and think negatively about those kids who bullied me. I instead think this is what happens when our children don’t have positive role models to look up to. Our responsibility as parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends should be to set a positive example for the children in our lives.

If you can count your great friends, on one hand, you’re fortunate. My mom would drill this message into my head repeatedly. Earlier this year when I created my last will and testament, I felt fortunate to have 5 great friends who resemble family and whom I’d trust to take care of Cora and John, should something unfortunate happen.

Show the world your character and you will have no regrets. Show up early. Do what you say. Open the door for others. Ask, “how can I help?” Share your talents with others. Have principles and don’t compromise on them. I’ve known Karen and MJ for nearly 18 years. I’ve always marveled at their warmth, honesty, and compassion. I think of them as family. For 18 years, they’ve shown me that if you show the world who you really are, some may shun you, some may be bothered by the real you, but some will embrace you. Treasure those people.

When in doubt, always buy the shoes, take the trip, drink the top-shelf liquor, and say “yes” to that which gives you the butterflies. The best stories and most vibrant memories come from when we stop thinking about life and simply start living it. “You’ll never believe what happened, right after you left” is a sentence to avoid. Your life will be more fulfilled if you’re the one stating it, instead of being on the receiving end.

Life isn’t short, it’s long. People will tell you differently I disagree. There’s time. It’s never too late to make amends, forgive, admit you were wrong, ask for forgiveness, love, start over, or change who you are. As more and more time lapses it gets harder to right wrongs or summon the courage needed, but there’s time.

At 40, I’m satisfied, I’m happy, I’m fulfilled. I’m all of those things at 40 more than I was at 30, 21, 18, 13, and any age in between. I have 2 kids that I love beyond words and who offer me joy that hearts weren’t built to accept. I have friends who bring me smiles as I watch them navigate life. I have family that frustrates me, inspires me, and reminds me that we are all connected to something bigger.

To quote Anthony Hopkins in “Meet Joe Black”, “…I’m going to break precedent and tell you my one candle wish: that you would have a life as lucky as mine, where you can wake up one morning and say, “I don’t want anything more.”

Podcasts, Talk Radio For The 2000s

From Wired. https://www.wired.com/2016/06/this-week-in-podcasts-june-8-2/

I hated talk radio growing up. Driving in the car with my dad meant listening to WFAN 660 or Suzyn Waldman on WCBS 880. This, I did not like. Of course, growing up in the 80s meant there wasn’t an alternative for long car rides. I couldn’t simply put on my earbuds and stream Spotify. The idea of a Gameboy while a visual alternative would not fix the noise going into my ears.

As I’m sure all kids are wanton to do, when I finally had my own car, a transition took place. I found myself listening to WFAN and enjoying the sports talk radio. Parents, there always right…eventually.

Fast-forward years ahead and what I would say is that living in a city, be it Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis or Philadelphia – greatly reduced my talk radio consumption. I’ve never been an earbud wearing person and when you travel by train or bus, signal reception was challenging. Right at this time, podcasts started to have a moment, if you will. It just never caught on for me.

After moving to Minneapolis in 2017 and purchasing a Tesla I’ve become a total podcast junky. The key inflection point was the Tesla Model 3. While my Tesla can play music from an iPhone, it’s not elegant. It also doesn’t have an FM/AM tuner or XM Radio. That means – if what you’re listening to can’t be streamed, you aren’t going to be listening to it.

Tesla uses TuneIn and Slacker Radio as the foundation for their audio/music capabilities. Podcasts are elegantly integrated into the user experience. And with a 35-minute commute to and from work, every day, podcasts have become my go-to listening experience.

I know I’m late to the party. It’s like 1997 all again and my dad (all of you) was right…again. To be fair, there’s a lot of garbage out there in podcast-land, but there’s also an incredible amount of great content. A few of my personal favorites would be:

  • The Rewatchables: A movie podcast from Bill Simmons and his team at the Ringer. They take rewatchable movies (doesn’t mean it’s a great movie), rewatch the movie and then break it down. You get some history, some pop culture and interesting trivia. Plus, you get to relive a movie that you’ve seen before.
  • Stuff You Should Know: The hosts Josh and Chuck take on fascinating topics that cover history (Cleopatra) to topics of the day (Gig Economy) and so much in between. I laugh a bit and feel smarter after listening.
  • Total Soccer Show: As a soccer nut, this podcast speaks to my brain and my soul. Tactics, game breakdowns, transfer talk and pre-match analysis are part of this pod.

So yeah , I should have embraced podcasts way earlier than 2019. Thankfully, with the internet, you can always catchup…quickly.

Throw In The Floor Mats

Image Credit: elektrek

Over the years my dad imparted an incredible amount of wisdom on me. But, none was more sticky than “throw in the floor mats”.

He found a tremendous amount of pride in always negotiating a “free” set of winter/rubber mats…in addition to the fabric mats they give you with a new car. The cost of the mats are cheap. I think on average they’re about $95. But, my dad took such pride in spending $35K on a new car and somehow saving $95 on a second set of mats.

For years, I thought he was crazy. Every car I ever purchased, there he was reminding me in reality and in spirit, “make sure you ask them to throw in the floor mats!”

Well – crazy, until at the end of 2018 when purchased my Tesla Model 3. Try as I might, I could not inspire Tesla to throw in the floor mats. I tried every which way I could, but no dice.

I think the point of what my dad was trying to teach me, was that no one would ever want to lose a sizable sale over $95. For years I always believed it only applied to the seller. But, after my Tesla experience, it’s clear that his advice was for both parties.

In truth, I actually don’t know if that was point. I really wish he were still on this Earth, so I could ask him. But, I’d like to believe it was his aim.

It’s a valuable lesson in life and business. Don’t let the small things stand in front of the big things.

Also…if you don’t ask, you don’t get…but just because you ask, doesn’t mean you get.

Building My Vinyl Collection – 1 Amazing Album At A Time

High Fidelity

I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth…

Rob Gordon, as played by John Cusack in, “High Fidelity”.

Rob Gordon was a genius. I don’t think he was being shallow. I once dated a woman who remarked that Justin Bieber was the greatest musician of “ALL TIME” and when pressed as to if he were more talented than Michael Jackson, Prince and Paul McCartney…she doubled down. That was the last date.

I’ve always been an audiophile and I’ve always been fascinated with vinyl. I blame my dad for having a killer vinyl collection that he refused to let me touch as a major reason for my interest. If you can’t have it. If you can’t touch it. But, it’s universally believed to be desirable. Well, you kinda get attached.

What I never had any interest in doing though, was to collect to just collect. I have friends with stacks and stacks of wax in milk crates. I think I’ve evolved beyond the milk crate. Also – across all walks of life, I’ve always been about quality and not quantity. To that end, I never purchased a record player because I wasn’t sure about the type of vinyl collection I wanted to have.

A few years ago I decided that my vinyl collection would be limited to 100 albums. I’d get to pick 50. Nichole could pick 50. And then…that was it. As stated in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “choose wisely”. The beauty of vinyl was that you couldn’t really skip around like you could on a CD or just create your own playlist from the best songs on an album. For all intents and purposes, you have to listed straight through from the first song to the last. Because of that, there was only one rule – no greatest hits albums. And that’s what makes choosing my 50 so dang tough.

I can finally say that this project is complete. Well, to be fair, my portion of the project is complete. I have a list of 50 and have them in-hand or on-order. Choosing the albums was an incredibly fun adventure. I started with albums that were no-brainers that I’d been listening to for years. For example Abbey Road by The Beatles and The Notorious BIG’s debut album, Ready to Die. Then I thought about songs that I had on repeat and explored the album that they came from. Where it got tricky were albums that only had 1 or 2 songs I really loved, but the rest of the album was meh. For example Dr. Dre’s 2001 or any Johnny Cash album (sorry Cash fans). That’s when I started investigating live albums. Any wow…there are so many amazing live albums. A few I already had on my list, like, Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive album. But, others I had never heard before and it was a joy discovering them.

Here’s where I landed:

  1. AC/DC – Back in Black
  2. Adele – 21
  3. The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East
  4. The Band – Music From Big Pink
  5. B.B. King – Live at Cook County Jail
  6. Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
  7. Beastie Boys – License to Ill
  8. The Beatles – Abbey Road
  9. The Beatles – White Album (From my Dad’s collection)
  10. Billy Joel – The Stranger
  11. The Black Keys – Rubber Factory
  12. Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline
  13. Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind
  14. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Live (From my Dad’s collection)
  15. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. (From my Dad’s collection)
  16. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman
  17. Cheap Trick – Live at Budokan
  18. Chris Stapleton – Traveler
  19. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
  20. Dave Matthews Band – Crash
  21. Elton John – Honky Chateau
  22. EPMD – Strictly Business
  23. Frank Sinatra – The Main Event Live
  24. George Michael – Faith
  25. Guns N Roses – Appetite For Destruction
  26. James Brown – Live at the Apollo II
  27. Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced
  28. John Mayer – Room For Squares
  29. Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison
  30. Kanye and Jay Z – Watch The Throne
  31. The Killers – Sams Town
  32. Led Zeppelin – IV (From my Dad’s collection)
  33. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (From my Dad’s collection)
  34. Michael Jackson – Thriller
  35. Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
  36. The Notorious BIG – Life After Death
  37. The Notorious BIG – Ready To Die
  38. Paul McCartney and Wings – Band on the Run
  39. Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive
  40. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon (From my Dad’s collection)
  41. Pink Floyd – The Wall (From my Dad’s collection)
  42. Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain
  43. The Rolling Stone – Let It Bleed
  44. Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News
  45. Santana – Abraxas
  46. Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
  47. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness
  48. The Who – Tommy
  49. U2 – Joshua Tree
  50. Wutang Clan – 36 Chambers

Beyond the list – the hunt for which version of an album was truly fun. The albums from my dad’s collection are all original first pressings and that makes things damn cool. Not only was it an original and not a re-pressing, it was the same wax he spun in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

I can’t say this approach is for everyone, but it was definitely right up my alley. It was the perfect mix of left brain and right brain thinking. Now – to listen and enjoy.

Escalate or Defuse – Don’t Be A Skutch

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon

Generally, when we think about the idea of a defusing a situation there’s a picture of two sets of people engaged in a conflict that needs a resolution or something catastrophic could happen. We’ve seen this play out time and again on the big screen – someone robs the bank, takes some hostages and subsequently triggers a series of events where a hostage negotiator is brought in to defuse the situation. But of course, in parallel, there’s a hard charging law enforcement leader that simply wants to stop negotiating and start taking action. If only it were so black and white.

There’s a fine line between being clear, specific, declarative, honest and being inflammatory or intentionally abrasive. What we often mistake for a certain nastyness, is in fact simply being direct and objective. Let’s not mix these two concepts up. Being direct, consise and clear are hallmarks of succesful communication techniques. But, choosing to be “skutch”, as my aunt would say, is bad form. For those not 100% up to date with East Coast / Long Island slang, a “skutch” is defined as “someone who intentionally behaves in an irritating or annoying manner.” Yeah, I was a skutch on occasion…when I was 11.

What I’ve come to appreciate are leaders, friends and team-members who actively look to be direct and honest, even when it’s about critical feedback, but avoid seeking to escalate situations. Doing this well requires a strong level of emotional intelligence. You have to be capable of understanding what might exacerbate a situation unnecessarily. It requires reading people and the situation. It’s a soft skill, that when not executed well, cuts like a sharp knife.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been very clear about what his organization does with its brilliant jerks: It gets rid of them. As he has said in the past about them: “Some companies tolerate them. For us, the cost to effective teamwork is too high.”

I love that passage from an Inc. story about the famed Netflix culture that refuses to accept jerks, regardless of how brilliant they are. While this language isn’t in the Netflix culture manifesto, I think it’s safe to say, Hastings would accept the idea that those who seek to instigate and escalate, instead of defuse are not welcome.

I’d encourage your to think about that line between defuse and escalate – look at your team-members, look at your leaders, look at your friends. Who’s escalating? Who’s defusing? If you can defuse, but still be clear and direct, you’ll almost always be more effective than using language, that while clear – simply seeks escalate the situation.

A Year Away From Social Media

Image Source: https://futurism.media/forget-hal-9000-theory-says-wall-e-is-the-most-evil-robot-on-earth

Every year I try to do three new things. I find the personal challenge combined with the knowledge gained to be incredibly satisfying. In 2018, I tackled the elimination of social media from my everyday diet. During the middle of the year, I checked in for a week to see what, if anything, I was missing. Now with 2018 firmly in the rearview mirror, here’s what I can say about taking a year off of social media.

It’s impossible to completely escape social media. So much of how the web works today is reliant on the idea of leveraging social media for the purposes of access, consumption or communication.

  • Access: How many platforms, sites, apps, etc. do you belong to that require some type of social connection to log in? Every time you use Facebook Connect to create an account or access a digital property, you’re using social media.
  • Consumption: Much of the news and information we consume is on social media. In the last 20 years, we’ve seen a clear shift from consumption on site (e.g. ESPN.com) to consumption via the inbox (e.g. remember Daily Candy?) to consumption via the “feed”. If you want news, in all its forms and you want to know what’s going in with friends, co-workers and family, social media is the fastest and often easiest way to catch up.
  • Communication: Yes, it’s been said before, social media is the modern day water cooler. It’s full of gossip, casual pleasantries and respite from our jobs and life. However, even traditional communication methods like texting are becoming more social. And, when done right, the conversations that take place on social media are interesting, thought-provoking and memorable. It’s also fascinating and often times, helpful how quickly you can share something and have it reach so many. I was reminded of how wonderful social media can be for that purpose when my father unexpectedel passed away.

So, if we can’t escape it completely, the real question for me after a year away is, how do I make social media work better for me? If you will, how do you make it an enriching experience?

I still believe what I wrote in July when I checked back into social media:

  • We see the very best in humanity, but also the very worst.
  • Garbage in, Garbage Out: What you see in your social media feed is directly tied to what and who you follow.
  • As Gregory House once said, “People don’t change. They just become more of who they really are.” Social media is a mirror, megaphone and magnifying glass.

With that in mind, what I’ve decided is Lincoln was right, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” In this instance, if you want social media to be a cesspool of stupidity, arguments over politics and incessant updates about Peloton/Soul Cycle rides, well, you will find it. If however, you aspire to see all the good out there, well, you will find it. To that end, in 2019, I’ll be doing 3 things with my social media habits:

  1. Clean the Feed: Follow what’s interesting and enjoyable to me. Remove the accounts, people and content that takes away from my enjoyment.
  2. Restrained Sharing: If there’s one thing I really enjoyed about being off of social media, it was not having to broadcast and share everything. I could just watch John’s basketball game or Cora dance during New Year’s Eve at a bowling alley, in a sparkly dress. Yes, that happened. In fact, you can have brunch without telling everyone about it on Instagram.

That’s it. Just those two things. I’m convinced if I do both, I’ll find social media to be the wonderful connected and inspiring forum it once was to me.

2019 Will Be A Year Of Haves And Have Nots

milky way [étude 9]

2018 was a strong year for my predictions. I don’t want to overstate, but I feel like I crushed them. Considering the complexity and difficulty of many of the predictions, I’ll take 18/22 and an 82% success rate as a win across the board. As we enter 2019, it’s time to think forward over the next 365 days to consider what will happen.

On the whole, I see less grey in 2019. I think we’re either going to see huge wins or massive stumbles. We will see wild success or critical catastrophic failure. There will be increased consolidation and acquisition. For many, it will be the only path for survival. I also think, at a broad strokes level we will see a major break between legacy organizations who were too slow to move (e.g. Sears) and those who continue to take control of their own destine (e.g. Walmart).

If you’re a first-time reader, please note, my predictions typically are focused on the marketing, advertising and technology industries. This means I’ll generally cover social media, data, agencies, product development and consumer trends. However, on occasion, I’ll offer thoughts that cover pop culture, polictics or frankly, areas that interest me.

I never use any insider information I may have. What you see as predictions are just me trying to read the tea leaves. Also, please understand, my belief that something will happen is not a declaration of my desire for something to happen.

At the end of the year, usually, in December, I’ll review each prediction and score it. If I get a prediction right I earn a single point. Getting it wrong results in no points.

With that out of the way, here’s what I think is going to happen in 2019. First, I want to start by revisiting predictions in 2018 that didn’t happen, but I think will happen in 2019.

  • Whiskey will have a down year. Year over year we will see a decline in units sold. The plateau is right around the corner. Rum and Gin will fill the sales gap.
  • “Robert Mueller’s probe will conclude and will yield nothing of substance. Substance will be evaluated as yielding something that would have grounds for an impeachment vote. There will not be an impeachment vote.” While this didn’t happen in 2018, I think it’s clear we’re nearing a conclusion to the investigation and I don’t see an impeachment happening any time soon.

Beyond what I considered in 2018, here are 18 more things I think will happen.

  1. Apple will make a bid for Tesla.
  2. Snapchat’s stock will fall below $5 AND the board will entertain methods to replace Evan Spiegel.
  3. Pinterest and Uber will IPO at billion dollar plus valuations.
  4. Amazon or Walmart will make a play for Target.
  5. Netflix’s debt and expenditure for content development will force one of two things to happen. One, it will sell/merge with Fox, Amazon, etc. It will take on a massive share buyback undertaking.
  6. More than 25% of states in the USA will offer recreational marijuana policies and laws. That tax money is too seductive for it not to happen. The country-wide adoption by Canada simply adds more pressure.
  7. Accenture will make a bid to extend their ad agency competition model, by doing one of two things. They will either purchase/merge with WPP, ironically becoming that which they’ve tried not to be. But, they’ll need to if they want a foothold on the paid media side of the equation. Alternatively, they’ll avoid the agency models, but instead, choose to own more pipes. Building on their 2018 acquisition of Adaptly, Accenture will look to purchase an organization like MediaMath.
  8. Liverpool will win the English Premier League. Manchester City will finish second but will win the Champions League. In doing so, Pep Guardiola will be back to manage Manchester City in 2020.
  9. Kevin Durant will stay with the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers will fail to recruit another big name to play alongside Lebron James.
  10. In 2014 I wrote about the idea of a Human API, where people would be operating in a more transparent environment and become brokers of their own data. 2019 is the year where it starts to happen. This will be lead out of the E.U., who have a far more restrictive approach to a free economy and are infinitely more anti-data use for commercial purposes. I think in 2019, it starts with a mandate to opt out of certain data being collected or used and a means for compensation if you specific forms of personal data.
  11. Roku will be acquired. It’s too small to beat out the direct competition but just big enough that with the right partner it could scale. I could see AT&T, LG, Samsung or Verizon being potential buyers.
  12. Travis Kalanick will be back in a big way. Since I try to be specific, I think a “big way” means founding another primetime startup or returning to the CEO role at Uber.
  13. Globally, we will see a decline in mobile/cell phone purchases. We are at peak saturation. Last year’s phone is just as good, if not better than this year’s phone. Little reason to upgrade.
  14. The 5G cellular spectrum will be made broadly available and two things will happen. One, Apple will NOT release a 5G phone. 5G will be so fast and accessible, organizations and countries will forego WiFi in favor of 5G.
  15. LiveRamp will sell to someone in 2019. It won’t be Salesforce. If you’re a company like Publicis an acquisition of LiveRamp makes far more sense than yet another “disruptive” creative agency. However, I don’t see them or another large holding company purchasing LiveRamp. I think it will come from someone like Google or Verizon. Why them? They’re two companies who rely on data for ad-targeting, but are generally blind to many forms of 1st party data, but for whom have enough data about people that a LiveRamp acquisition would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.
  16. We are at peak subscription box services. Blue Apron, Kiwi Crates, Birchbox, Trunk Club, Hello Fresh, Frank and Oak, and the list goes on and on. Too many services. Not enough money to go around. We’re going to see massive consolidation in the marketplace happen through merger, acquisition or bankruptcy.
  17. Ford, GM or Fiat Chrysler will have a bailout/bankruptcy situation. We will see the same happen for one of Indian Motorcycle, Harley Davidson, Triumph or Ducati. None of them offered a lower cost, less exciting and more electric offerings. The market isn’t big enough to sustain all of them.
  18. The scooter rental craze taking over the country will hit serious resistance. The South Park Scooter episode will become art imitating life imitating art. Too many scooters. Too little regulation. Too many potential problems.

Phew! That’s a lot. 2019 is going to be a heck of a ride if even half of my predictions come true. I certainly welcome your thoughts. Where am I completely offbase? What’s a sure-fire win? I’ll conduct my review of how well I forcasted in December.

What Happened In 2018? Was I Right?

Twitter vs. Snap Stock Price

2019 is just around the corner. While there’s still time for something crazy to happen, I think it’s possible to fairly judge how I did with my 2018 predictions.

The standard rules still apply. Each prediction is objectively reviewed. I’m a notoriously hard grader. A prediction that came true receives a single point. Predictions that missed the mark are awarded no points. While I do try to avoid half-point situations, there are on occasion circumstances where it’s fair to indicate I was partially correct.

For a recap of how things have gone over the years, here’s the quick summary:

  • 2017: 7.5/10 for a 75% hit rate.
  • 2016: 8.5/15 for a 56.7% hit rate.
  • 2015: 6.5/10 for a 65% hit rate.
  • 2014: 8/10 for an 80% hit rate.
  • 2013: 3/5 for a 60% hit rate.
  • 2012: 9/10 for a 90% hit rate.

To paraphrase the late Denny Green, was 2018 who we thought it was? Let’s find out. The original prediction from 2018 will be listed first in bold font followed by the analysis.

  1. The Apple HomePod will flop. The launch delay was the first sign. The significant ground it has to make up with Google and Amazon are another. But, it will be Apple’s walled garden approach, combined with price, that will ultimately make it dead on arrival. Umm, yeah. This was a horrible rollout for Apple. Everyone, including the analysts, thinks it was a flop. One point for Kmiec right out of the gate.
  2. The AT&T – Time Warner merger will not happen at all or will only happen if they choose to make significant divestitures. This is one that might change before the New Year. At present, it doesn’t look like it will happen this year. But, as is, this is a point.
  3. The contrast of #2 is that the Fox – Disney merger will happen without issue. Nailed it. Like taking candy from a baby.
  4. This will be a big year for M&A, mostly out of necessity. I predict 3 large deals beyond the above, from lands of media, retail and CPG. This definitely happened. Take your pick on which three examples you want to highlight. I’ll take Home Shopping Network and QVC merging. Huge. I’ll also take CVS Health joining forces with Aetna. And, I’ll take Hershey buying SkinnyPop. Those weren’t even the most exciting. I casually left out Amazon buying Whole Foods.
  5. Augmented Reality will plateau in interest and adoption. It was always a gimmick and the slow death knell of Pokemon Go is the tip of the iceberg. Yep and yep. AR is basically flat at best, to the most optimistic person. PokemonGo’s leadership indicated user growth has decreased, but in fairness, the hardcore users are still there. That is the clear definition of a slow death that’s begun.
  6. The concerns over Net Neutrality will be for naught. There will be at least 1 major initiative that shows how deregulation leads to innovation. This is a half-point. There’s yet to be a major upside or a major downside to the ruling. I could argue it’s been for naught, but I’m struggling to find that 1 major initiative.
  7. Facebook growth slows, but Facebook the company continues to see enormous growth, buoyed by WhatsApp and Instagram. Definitely happened across the board. Facebook growth slowed to an all-time worst. WhatsApp and Instagram continue to grow. Open and shut case.
  8. Tesla and Netflix will have down years. Netflix’s debt will be a problem for investors. That debt combined with continued growth from Hulu, YouTube, Disney and others will force changes. With Tesla, they will once again miss shipments, over-promise, under-deliver, but this time, it will catch up to them. This is a classic half-point scenario. As measured by stock price, they had decent years, albeit with Tesla a rollercoaster experience. Tesla did under-deliver and did miss shipments. Netflix took heat for cancellations and debt. I don’t think it was a good year for either, but a clean diagnostic like stock price disagrees. It’s a push and I’ll take half a point.
  9. Bitcoin and all its variants will see a massive fall off in valuation. This will happen as traditional monetary institutions continue their assault on Bitcoin and a massive data breach / hack / fraud / theft will take place. Bitcoin indeed cratered and continues to crater. Oh and yes there were hacks. Take your pick, like this one.
  10. Robert Mueller’s probe will conclude and will yield nothing of substance. Substance will be evaluated as yielding something that would have grounds for an impeachment vote. There will not be an impeachment vote. Another scenario where I could take a half-point, but I won’t. While there was no impeachment vote and still no substance, we still don’t have a conclusion.
  11. There will be a backlash against the #MeToo movement when false accusations are made and found to have been made for political or corporate gain. Definitely happened. The statistics show a backlash took place. The examples of false allegations for gain are definitely out there and some were significant. This is more than unfortunate, but not all that surprising. Sadly, one significant misstep hurts an entire populace. For every Rolling Stone Virginia Frat story, there are numerous real victims who will suffer.
  12. Twitter will have a better year than Snap, as measured by stock price change. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. As the photo at the top of this post indicates, it was was no bueno for Snap. Nailed it.
  13. Amazon will face a large government inquiry. It won’t antitrust, but it will be something in that area. I’m shocked this didn’t materialize in 2018. With the announcement of HQ 2 and 3, I think we might see it happening in 2019.
  14. Three things will happen in the gaming world: Nintendo will have a bad year. They will struggle to grow with a walled garden model, inferior hardware and a poor understanding of how gaming works on phones. The uproar over EA’s approach to microtransactions for Star Wars Battlefront II will shape the industry at large. Specifically, there will be an effort to curb or eliminate micro-transactions altogether. Microsoft will announce the next evolution of the Xbox. This won’t be a minor upgrade like the “S” or the “X”, it will be the next generation. Oh man, this was a mixed bag. Despite Nintendo Switch sales being better than I ever thought, Nintendo had a down year. The stock opened around $45 and now sits at $35. Not good. Microsoft did not release a new Xbox. As for microtransactions, which are often called “loot boxes” or “loot crates” in games, there’s a definite effort to curb this. In Belgium, they are now outlawed and considered illegal. This won’t be the last country to do so. I award myself a half-point.
  15. A major sports league will adopt technology on the field to assist with calls. For example, FIFA will adopt replay or the NFL will add chips into footballs to determine if they break the goal line. Sorta happened, but I don’t feel good about it, so I’m only taking a half-point. The Premier League became the latest to adopt VAR (video assistant referee), which is similar to replay challenges adopted by the NFL and MLB. We didn’t see chips introduced, but we did see things like the Los Angeles Clippers’ CourtVision product. It provides fans the ability “to customize what they see, including play diagrams in Coach Mode, real-time shooting percentages in Player Mode, and special effects and animations in Mascot Mode.” Very cool. The digital and sports collision will continue in 2019.
  16. Whiskey will have a down year, with gin and rum seeing a resurgence. Technically I could claim this for a half-point. Gin, particularly in the U.K. is up. Ditto with rum. However, whiskey isn’t even close to being down. It’s still growing. We can thank millennials! This was a miss.
  17. Star Wars: Episode VIII, the Last Jedi will go down as the worst fan rated Star Wars movie, as measured by Rotten Tomatoes. This is a good example of where I need to be even clearer with articulating what might happen. When I said, “as measured by Rotten Tomatoes”, I meant the fan score, not the critic score. If you go by the fan score, this absolutely happened. How bad was the Last Jedi? Well, it was worse than the Phantom Menace. Seriously. The Phantom Menace carries a 59% fan rating while the Last Jedi is only at 45%.
  18. Harley Davidson will introduce a mass-market electric motorcycle. This happened depending on your definition of “introduced.” The Harley Davidson LiveWire was introduced/announced in Q3, but can’t be bought til 2019. I’m claiming it.
  19. A major motion picture will be released simultaneously at the box office and for streaming. It didn’t happen, but we’re closer than ever. Netflix “announced in late October that it would begin releasing select movies in theaters before making them available on its streaming platform, rather than on the same day. ” The lag was 3-days. We’re getting there!
  20. There will be 5 states that will legalize/introduce recreational marijuana laws. The tax money is simply too good to pass up. This happened, and then some. In 2018 we saw the approval of legislation in Michigan, Missouri, Utah, Oklahoma, Vermont. Additionally, Indiana and Kansas made the usage of CBP legal for any use. The green wave, if you will, continues.
  21. Pinterest will IPO. It will be successful. This did not happen. Next year maybe?
  22. The lesson from Mashable will be repeated. So-called “new media” companies, once considered darlings, will start to implode. I see bad years for Vox and Buzzfeed. This happened and happened hard. As the Financial Times stated, “Vice, BuzzFeed and Vox hit by changes in digital media industry” and “New generation of once-hot groups forced to adjust models as rules of business alter”. And how. Was this really surprising? I mean think about it. When you’re overly dependent on Facebook for traffic and are so blatantly one-sided while catering the lowest possible form of literacy, wasn’t a downfall inevitable?

So, how did we do? Well, I started strong by nailing 1 – 5. Stumbled a bit on 6 – 10,  where I picked up a half-point on 6 and 8, a full point on 7 and 9, but whiffed on 10. Then another roller coaster of results on 11 – 15. There were clear wins on 11 and 12, with a clear miss on 13 and half-points on 14 and 15. On 16 – 20, I missed mightily on 16 and 19, but nailed 17, 18 and 20, while closing out the list with a split on 21 (no) and 22 (yes). That makes the tally 18/22 for an 82% success rate. I’ll take it.

With a solid 2018, my cumulative 7-year score is 60.5/82 for a 74% successful prediction rate.

I’ll have predictions for 2019 up sometime in late December.

“Nothing Left To Do But Smile”

My dad loved Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. Jerry sang it best, when he said, “Nothing left to do, but smile.” I think my dad, would have agreed. He passed away at 12:13 AM on September 11, 2018, after suffering a brain stem stroke, following open heart surgery. My brother and I were there with him, in the room, when he finally left us. It’s a surreal experience to watch your dad slip away. But, I’m glad he’s no longer on machines that were artificially giving us the false representation of life. There were only 3 things, my dad habitually reminded me, when it came to his passing:

  1. Don’t let me become a vegetable, connected to machines.
  2. Make sure you cremate me. When I go, I want to just fade away. Spread my ashes at Washington Square Park.
  3. At the end, that’s when you can finally have all my f!$%ing vinyl.

We agree on #1 and #2. Except, when I go, sprinkle me off the BROOKLYN Bridge. As for #3, the man had an amazing vinyl collection. We’re talking first pressings of the White Album, The Wall and Born in the USA. He refused to give me a single record and would playfully remind me, only when he’s not there to play them, will I get my hands on them. I loved him for his simplicity, consistency, and facetiousness.

My Dad, Robert Kmiec.

My dad was never much of a religious man. As a scientist, I think it always bothered him that you couldn’t prove the existence of a higher power. And yet, the dreamer in him, always acknowledged it was possible that there was an afterlife.

I started writing this in 2013. I knew it would be incredibly difficult to put into words what I wanted to say about my dad. Having spent the past few days finishing this, I’m glad I started it 5 years ago.

I want to tell you about my dad. He was my best friend. My dad once remarked fathers should not have to bury their children. He was right. But, just because the natural order is that a son should bury his father, doesn’t mean this is easy.

I wish I knew my dad before life got in the way. Before a car loan. Before a mortgage. Before life wore him down and turned him into a semi-recluse. I wish I knew him as the confident young man who walked into the small shop where my mom worked and sweet talked her into a first date…using Peanut M&Ms as a conversation piece.

I wish my kids knew my dad, the way I knew my dad growing up. I wish my son could have thrown a baseball with him, while he explained the physics of a curve ball. I wish my daughter could have posed tough questions, requiring lengthy, rich explanations that were bound to spark further curiosity. I just wish there was more time.

My dad was many things.

A Teacher
He taught me how to ride a bike. He taught me to catch a ball. He taught me to be a father.

A Contrarian
He so enjoyed taking an opposing position, if only to inspire better discussion and dialogue. He knew exactly what to say to make my mom’s blood boil. And he’d do it with a smirk.

A Romantic
For all of his sarcasm and wit, the man loved a good love story. When love would make you do something stupid, he was the first person to look the other way. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants.

A Movie Enthusiast
He loved a good movie, especially those full of symbolism. His ability to quote a movie and tie it into a life lesson was uncanny. And it stuck with you. I can’t begin to count the number of times he quoted ‘The Natural’. He’d tell me, “You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift… then… you’ll fail.” I remind my own son of that wisdom, on a routine basis.

Above all, he taught me how to live. When life would punch me in the gut, he knew what to say. If work was complicated, he found a way to make it simple. When my kids would make me crazy, he made me appreciate that madness. I would not be me, without him.

Some of the best moments in my life were spent on my drives home, talking with my dad on the phone. For years it was a nearly every day occurrence. Then we stopped. I really wish we hadn’t.

As we celebrate his all too short and complicated life, think back to a moment; I’m sure we all have one, where my dad said something so profound, it made you pause. It made you hesitate. It made you think just a little bit longer and a little bit deeper. He had such a knack for that.

Our lives are all a bit emptier because he’s no longer with us. But, even in death, he’s still teaching us. We get one body, take care of it. We get one life, fill it with memories.

What I Missed In Social Media

House, M.D. Quote

It’s been nearly 7 months since I gave up social media cold turkey. Every year I take on 3 challenges and one of this year’s three was giving up social media. The decision was ultimately quite easy. Towards the end of 2017 my social media feed and morphed into a cesspool of political posts, complaints and anger. That’s not what made social media fun, interesting or satisfying. Heck, even, Facebook admitted social had gone off the rails.

At the start of July, this year, as I was working on my mid-year analysis of my 2018 predictions, I decided to log back into Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Swarm to see if I had been missing anything. To be clear, while I have been completely off the platforms, I do log in to Facebook Messenger when I receive a message and LinkedIn to accept requests and respond to messages. With that out of the way, the real question of course was, had I been missing out on anything of substance? The short answer, no.

However, there’s a much longer answer that provides more nuance and specificity. Let me start with the broad strokes.

  1. There wasn’t anything happening on social media that I wasn’t learning about from someone or someplace else. For example, person A started a new job. I got a text from person B asking me if I’d heard that person A got a new job. Person C got a new dog. Heard about it from person C, in person. Person D, went on a trip to location Z. I heard about it from person E.
  2. News still traveled, but it traveled slower. Apps like Apple News and Flipboard are great aggregators of news and information, but they’re delayed in providing updates. Twitter, in particular, is lightning fast and I would say of all the social platforms, the one I miss the most.
  3. Of the things I was missing out on, after re-engaging for a few days, I’m glad I missed out on them. Social media has an ability to turn everything into a tempest in a teapot. We see the very best in humanity, but also the very worst.

So, it’s fair to say, I didn’t really miss out on anything, but it’s also fair to say the absence of social media from my day slowed down the speed of information and altered the impact of information because of how I was learning about it. Seeing a photo of someone’s 1st house is different than hearing they bought a house.

My two weeks back in social, as a lurker, confirmed a few basic rules about social media that I’d become lax on.

  1. Garbage in, Garbage Out: What you see in your social media feed is directly tied to what and who you follow. If you follow a person who Instagrams 50X a day about how they run every day and lust to travel all the time, guess what? Yep, your feed is going to be taken over by photos and videos of running and travel photos. If you follow political zealots, you can’t complain about the multitude of “the sky is falling” tweets or status updates.
  2. As Gregory House once said, “People don’t change. They just become more of who they really are.” Social media is a mirror, megaphone and magnifying glass. If there was ever a thought that things might change in the 6 months I was off social media, within the 1st 10-minutes, it was clear what a misguided thought that was. This isn’t necessarily bad. If there’s a person who generally shared photos of their family trips, it was likely that’s exactly what they’re still sharing. Conversely, if you’re the person who takes the approach of, let me share with you slices of my life that make it seem that I have the most amazing life ever…it’s pretty much unlikely that’s going to change in 6 months. Thus, if you’re expecting people to change, it’s a fool’s errand and you only have yourself to blame for expecting people to do so.

On the whole, dropping social media has been more good than bad. I’m happier, less frustrated and certainly more engaged in the moment. There’s a certain freedom that comes from not having to wonder how to best Instagram this meal…before I eat it. Now, I just eat.