Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

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.

Partnerships, Tough Decisions And Non-Negotiables

Come Together

It took me about 12 years into my career, to realize 3 critical things that would help shape the past 8 years and ultimately, make me a much better leader.

  1. You will get more done, go further, move quicker and have higher performing teams if you’re willing to partner. I think a lot of people think they’re good partners or are willing partners, but in fact are only doing it half-way. I was guilty of this too. What made all the difference was a willingness to give up, in order to get. Trying to protect your scope, build a wall around your function or restraining / controlling your team will only get you so far. But, if you’re willing to operate with blurry lines, give up control and realize you don’t need to own it to make it a success, you’ll be all the more successful for it.
  2. There is no joy that comes in making tough decisions, but joy and satisfaction can be found in making them. Too often what goes unsaid are the most important things. When someone asks for your honest opinion, you owe it to them, your team and yourself to say it…and say it with impact, in plain language.
  3. Some things simply matter more. Think about buying a car. You might want that car to be grey in color, have 4 doors, be blessed with heated seats, include a moonroof, etc. But, when push comes to shove, some of them are nice to have and some of them are mandatory. Those mandatory features are the non-negotiables. They’re the ones you can’t live without, no matter what else is thrown in. Knowing those non-negotiables upfront makes for better outcomes, faster decision making, and clearer expectations.

In 2012, Michael Eisner, the former CEO of Disney published a book titled, “Working Together, Why Great Partnerships Succeed” – It’s a great read, with each chapter highlighting different seminal moments in his career, where it was clear, partnerships lead to better outcomes.

The best passage, for me, and the one that hits on all 3 of the lessons I’ve learned, is in the first chapter. In it, Eisner tells the story about what happened when he was offered the job of Co-CEO at Disney. As Co-CEO, he would have shared the CEO title and responsibility with Frank Wells.

This is the passage:

“You and Frank,” Stanley summarized, “will be co-CEOs. You will share power at the top of the company, and together report to the board of directors. You’ll handle the creative side. He’ll handle the business side. But you’ll be equals.”

“I really don’t want to do this unless I’m the sole CEO,” I heard myself saying. “I’m extremely flattered, of course, but I just don’t think that arrangement makes sense.”

There was an utter quiet in the room. As I would tell Jane that night, I couldn’t believe what I had just said. Sure, I believed what I was saying, but still: the most storied entertainment company in the world was offering me a parachute away from what threatened to become for me a Hollywood dungeon, and I was telling them their plan wouldn’t fly.

Maybe, though, I had an instinct. Even if I was overplaying my hand, maybe, just maybe, it might work.

Less than three seconds later, Frank Wells broke the silence. “Okay,” he said. “You can be chairman and CEO, and I’ll be president and COO.”

If I had stunned myself by blurting out my own demand, I was, silently, at least doubly shocked by Frank’s reply. After all, he had set up the plan that they proposed. Fortunately, I had learned early in my career to take yes for an answer. Too many times a person is told okay, and then says, “Really? You must be kidding. I can do that?” I knew when to say yes. So I simply said, “Great. I’m in.”

But in the days and weeks ahead, I found myself wondering about Frank. What kind of person would spend his life so successfully climbing his way up the corporate ladder and then, at the very top, step aside for someone else—and someone else, for that matter, he didn’t know very well? I had spent the previous twenty years working in a terrific partnership alongside Barry Diller, one of the most brilliant executives the entertainment world has ever seen, but now, this Frank Wells appeared to be a different sort of animal: an executive who could cede power just like that, and be as comfortable as a number two as he was as a number one. Could that really be true?

I was about to find out. Frank and I got the jobs, just as we had defined them that day on the terrace at Stanley Gold’s house. We were headed into the toughest challenge of our professional lives, together. For the next ten years, that journey would be as exciting, enjoyable, rewarding, and triumphant as either of us could have dared to hope. From our first day in the office that fall, my partnership with Frank Wells taught me what it was like to work with somebody who not only protected the organization but protected me, advised me, supported me, and did it all completely selflessly. I’d like to think I did the same for Frank, as well as the company. We grew together, learned together, and discovered together how to turn what was in retrospect a small business into indeed a very big business.

We learned that one plus one adds up to a lot more than two. We learned just how rewarding working together can be.

I’ve referenced that book and this story before. It’s a book I refer back to quite often. That story always sticks out. But, it’s incredibly telling not only about the type of leader Eisner was, but also the type of leader Frank Wells was. While the story is from Eisner’s point of view, I would love to have heard it from Wells’ as well. I suspect it would have been something to the effect of:

In that moment, I realized that having the title of sole CEO was Michael’s non-negotiable. I couldn’t care less about my title. Disney was big enough for both of us to be busy, inspired and impactful. What I did know is that there was no way I’d be successful without someone like Michael as a partner. For me, the decision was easy. I would take the role of COO, Michael could be CEO and we’d accomplish more together than apart. I’d have to give up the title of CEO to get something much more valuable; the success for Disney that we both craved and the board demanded.

Maybe not 100% what he would have said, but I suspect, pretty close. It’s also the approach I’ve taken of late and I couldn’t be more satisfied.

Mary Meeker Is Santa Claus

Christmas is Christmas, but my “work” Christmas has always been the day Mary Meeker publishes her state of the internet report. Meeker is a legend in the industry and works for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the largest venture firms in the country. This is the 23rd year she’s compiled her report. That’s just astonishing and honestly something worth applauding. Her report is always a treasure trove of data, insights, and trends that can benefit any organization.

This report is often well covered and this year’s installment is no different. My personal favorite link of the coverage is This One from Business Insider.

It’s a long deck, but worth the read. However, I went through the slides and the analysis to create a cliff notes version of trends that I found the most interesting, with my notes in bold.

  • Meeker asks, “Will market forces finally come to health care and drive prices lower for consumers?” Everyone industry, right now, is focused on value and experience. Retail is redesigning stores to improve experience. Hotels are improving the experience. Restaurants are focused on creating better experiences. Health care is doing the same. People will want more value for their health care dollar.
  • The number of Internet users now exceeds 50% of the world’s population. This is a big-time inflection point. While 50% isn’t 100%, it’s still mainstream and you could argue saturated in mature markets. That means growth is going to slow. It also means everyone, is basically on the internet. Remember when we questioned who was on the internet?
  • The average person spends 6 hours a day with their digital devices (eg smartphone). Building on the above previous point, if we want to connect with audiences, we really need to think about using digital more. And, digital isn’t just one channel or location. It’s MANY locations, tools and methods.
  • People spend 30 minutes each day watching video on mobile devices. I was equal parts surprised with how small this is and yet, not surprised we aren’t tilting our neck down for hours at a time. That said, building on the previous 2 bullets, to connect with people, we need to consider video and mobile. But, mobile is unique. We can’t copy and paste what we’re doing elsewhere. For example, a press release doesn’t read well on a mobile device.
  • Voice is no longer a plaything. Amazon has sold over 30 million Echo units and the accuracy of voice platforms (Alexa, Siri) is well over 90%. The future is closer than we think and understanding how voice “works” is really important. Creating content so voice can find it and use it is different than creating content for a laptop or phone.
  • Amazon has usurped Google as the starting point for product searches. Even as big as Amazon gets, they still need Google and Facebook to be successful. I think it’s important for a few reasons. One, yes, focus on Amazon, but if all you focus on is Amazon, you’ll miss out on all the opportunity. We need to focus on everyone.
  • Uber is not as ubiquitous as we think. In 4 of the 5 largest cities it’s cheaper to Uber all the time than own a car. The outlier? Dallas. We can’t just adopt a mass approach to a trend. Uber is big, yes, but not everyone uses it. When we think about transportation (aka ACCESS), we need to think about all the barriers and enablers.
  • There are an estimated 6.8 million people working in the gig economy. This is huge. Most of this is in transportation. But, what’s the next major industry to rely on the on-demand / gig economy? Would it be crazy to see this extend to health care? Probably not. It also makes me think about the need to take this into consideration when we consider talent / “hiring”. Not everyone wants to be full time.
  • We’re entering the age of the privacy paradox. Companies (mostly tech) are stuck between using data to make the experience better and using it to further their bottom line. This isn’t overly surprising and quickly this is going to move from tech companies to other industries. The fine line I’ve always advised the organizations I’ve worked in to adhere to is, be helpful, not creepy.
  • WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat have more than 1 billion monthly active users. I know people who use FB Messenger more than they text or email. We’re going to see these platforms, became real, well…platforms. For example, would it be crazy to use FBM for a virtual doctor’s visit? We aren’t far from it.

The above was designed to condense the 200+ slides into points that represent the opportunities and interesting points that caught my attention. Happy reading and let me know caught your eye.

It’s Been A While

Getty

Wow! Is it May already? It’s been nearly 3 months without an update/post. It’s certainly not for lack of things going on and thoughts worth sharing. But, this ‘digital detox‘ has a way of making you think less and less about the internet and more about just enjoying the moment. I’ll have a full update in June about how the digital detox is going, but at a high-level, it’s been easier than I thought it would be. The first few weeks were more challenging. Habits are hard to break. But, by February, I had little interest in social media and I was so much happier without it. Social media had become a dumpster fire of negativity, political views, and social justice warrior-esque reasons to complain. Without all of that in my life, every day, I’m genuinely more energetic, happier and relaxed. I also feel like a bit of a trendsetter. If Facebook is creating this commercial, I’m sure I’m not the only person who decided to get back to a more analog life.

Changing the page, in June, I’ll have my mid-year analysis of my 2018 predictions. But, at first glance, things are looking good. That new crystal ball I purchased on Amazon must be legit.

Some other odds and ends:

  1. I saw Avengers Infinity War, helping to make it a box office success. Although, I’m in the minority when it comes to not being enamored with the film. Too many characters, too many questions, too many plot holes and the ending wasn’t my cup of tea.
  2. Also saw, finally, Blade Runner 2049. While it performed poorly at the box office, by every metric it was critically acclaimed. I second all the people who gave it a high rating. Stellar performances across the board, beautiful (albeit at times, dark) scenery and a plot with so much subtext you need time at the end to really think about what it all meant.
  3. Nichole started a new role at Riley Hayes and also decided she wants to run her first 5K. I’ve been training her since January. That’s always a dicey proposition, but I’m happy to say, the training is paying off and she hasn’t wanted to strangle me (as far as I can tell).
  4. Despite being hit with mountains upon mountains of snow this winter, I resisted the temptation of purchasing a snowblower. I actually find shoveling to be therapeutic. I put in the earbuds, listen to a podcast and get to work.
  5. Had a gift card to the Verizon store. Used it on a pair of Apple AirPods. I’m not a fan. Good sound quality, not great. They fall out to easy for me to consider using while working out, biking, etc. I will say, however, the pairing with Apple devices is as seamless as it gets, the battery life is very good and the packaging is genius. Having the case also be a charge was incredibly wise.
  6. I joined the Instant Pot revolution. No pun intended, but while they’re much better than the old school pressure cookers, they’re not fully baked. That said, when it works well, it makes a world of difference in flavor and meat tenderness. For the record, I ordered the Instant Pot Ultra.
  7. John and Cora wrapped up Winter basketball with mixed results. This was their first year playing in Woodbury. To say that the same small town politics I grew up in the 80s and 90s are still alive, would be an understatement. I actually had a player’s mom come up to me after a game to lecture me about John. He’s a 3rd grader. He had to try out for the 4th-grade team he’s playing on. The mom of a 4th grader on his team was none too happy that John was playing up and taking minutes away from her son. She said, clearly, “He doesn’t belong here. He should be playing with his own kind.” Stunning to say the least.
  8. The kids are headed to the FC Barcelona USA soccer camp this Summer, in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m excited for them to learn from a different class of instructors and to train against talent from all over the country. I’m also incredibly thankful that UnitedHealth Group has such a progressive philosophy for remote working. I’ll be working out of our Atlanta office that week. Without that type of flexibility, it would have been very difficult for John and Cora to attend.
  9. Two years ago I decided to get into soccer and in doing so, I picked Manchester City as my club. Wow, that was a smart choice. After a meh first year where we came away with no trophies, this year we set the world on fire. We broke records left and right while dominating the Premier League. On top of that we won the English League cup. We were a questionable red card away from most likely going on to win the FA Cup. And, we made it to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League tournament. The kids and I had our first early morning pub viewing experience when we watched City best Manchester United at Brit’s Pub. I’ll always remember John yelling at a United supporter, “You spent $100M on that? On that?”, after a total whiff by Romelu Lukaku. What a year/season. Soccer truly is global and it’s helped me connect with team members at work and random strangers. As global as it is, it’s also incredibly local. This celebration campaign by Manchester City shows that well.
  10. Took the family to Vernon, NJ to celebrate my niece’s 1st birthday. Ahead of the party, we took a tour of Vernon and I showed the kids my old school, the fields I played baseball on and the courts where I learned to ball. John being John, found a ball and then proceeded to shoot and shoot and shoot.

The first 4 months of the year flew by. The list above only scratches the surface. But, I guess when you’re not busy trying to stream your whole life, you have a lot more time to enjoy life.