I was getting my hair cut today, and I mentioned I was going out to dinner for my wife's birthday tonight. I told him we are vegan so we don't tend to go to the kind of high-end restaurants most people do when they are out celebrating. He seemed really interested, tho. He asked what restaurant it was (Vegetarian House), where it was (in San Jose), and what the menu was like (mostly Asian influenced with some American fare, but all vegan).
That got me thinking, what if the tables were turned? What if he were talking about an issue that I was interested in hearing more about? I realized that being a hair stylist was a great opportunity for dissemination of information. They meet with 8-12 clients a day, and they probably have several hundred unique clients. And especially at an up-scale place like where I get my hair cut, these are likely powerful and influential people. You could reach a lot of people in a short amount of time an issue you care deeply about.
But then again, the savvy stylist is thinking about the long-term relationship with the client. It's all about them, listening to their stories, laughing at their jokes, making them feel good about coming to see you. They wouldn't want to risk alienating these folks and driving them away. So maybe it wouldn't work as well as I initially thought.
Humans are lazy. We tend towards paths of least resistance. And this is one of the main reasons why I believe more people aren't vegetarian or vegan. It's not really that hard, but it does require a little bit of effort. And that little bit of effort is a big deal for most people.
I came up with this thought experiment I call menu roulette. Take the list off all restaurants in the US and pick one at random. Then take the menu of that restaurant and pick an item off it at random. What are the odds that it is vegetarian? or vegan? 10%? 5%? I bet it's less than 1%.
As a product designer, one of the aphorisms I follow is make it easy to do the right thing, and difficult to do the wrong thing. Since eating meat and dairy is bad for your health, the animals, and the environment, it is pretty clearly the wrong thing to do. Yet our whole society is set up to encourage people to do the wrong thing.
So how can we change this? That is the hundred billion dollar question.
After my last post on choosing between a start-up and an established company, I talked to a few people about my decision in a bit more depth. There are clearly a lot more factors that go into picking a job, including scope of influence, the people you'll be working with, career growth opportunities, the particular domain you'll be working in, etc. But for me, the deciding factor turned out to be a simple one: how excited the company and the team was to get me on board and work with me.
I understand the economy is tough. I understand that there are more great candidates vying for fewer positions. I understand that the hiring managers have the upper hand these days. But even taking all that into account, when you find someone you really like, you still need to recruit them. You need to get them excited about joining your company. You need to convince them that this job is by far the best option among all the others out there.
I interviewed at many companies where, after the interview I was on the fence about them. There were pros and cons and no clear yes or no. In this situation, how a company reacts to me has a major role in helping me decide. When those companies come back with responses like "we're interested, but we still want to interview a few more candidates" or "would you mind starting off as a contractor with the option to convert to a full-time hire?", it speaks volumes. It says they don't really want to commit to me.
When I was at Microsoft, the hiring process was pretty simple. At the end of the day, either the candidate was a "hire", or they were a "no hire". There was no "maybe" or "hire, but for another team" or "let's try them out as a contractor first". All of those responses = "no hire". Either the candidate is an emphatic "hire", or they're not. I guess that's why when I hear these sort of wishy-washy statements, I immediately hear "no hire". And I move on.
But the company I took the offer with was clearly excited about me. I went in really tentative about joining a massive enterprise company. But they really made me feel comfortable and won me over. They called me to check in. They sent me a gift basket. They followed up with me. And that makes a difference. And that, for me, was the deciding factor.
I just completed the most extensive job search of my career. I originally thought that I wanted to work for a start-up, but I ended up taking a position at an established company. Why?
I ultimately decided there is really only one reason to work at any start-up: you need to passionately believe in the vision of the start-up to the exclusion of every other opportunity out there. It needs to resonate with you at your core. You need to think that this is such an amazing opportunity that you can't imagine why anyone would work on anything else. You need to fully submit to the reality distortion field.
Because when it comes down to it, start-ups can't offer the guaranteed compensation that an established company can. You are betting on the dream — the one that nearly all start-ups have — the dream that they will become a runaway success with massive impact and profits to match. But we all know logically the odds of that happening. Which is why you need to be emotionally involved to have it work.
There's another twist, and that's your percentage of equity. Because even if a startup is successful, it's a bit irrelevant if you hold .01% of the company. That $100 million payout translates into $10k. Sure it's a nice bonus, but it's not life changing. And it's no different than a bonus you might recieve at an established company for a great yearly performance review. So even for those few companies I talked to that I could get passionate about, there still wasn't enough equity on the table to make up for the reduced compensation. Well, unless it went onto become the next Microsoft or Google.
So at this point, I think I'll need to be a founder of a start-up to make that jump. And I need to find that idea that I just can't help but tackle. I'm still looking for it...
I love this. Josh Freese released his album Since 1972 with several pricing tiers. $7 gets you the digital download. For $50, you get a CD + DVD and a phone call from Josh. $250 you have lunch with him at P.F. Changs.
And for $75k, you get to go on tour with him, take home one of his drum sets, have him write a 5 song EP about your life, and he'll hang out with you for a month as your personal assistant. Oh, plus you get to take 'shrooms and cruise around LA in his friends Lamborghini.
The album is just OK. Pretty generic rock. But you gotta love the unique marketing for it. Hey, it got me to write about it.
I've been through my share of internet service providers over the years. I started with Earthlink dialup, then Telocity DSL, Comcast cable, and most recently, Cyberonic DSL. It was reliable and tech support was good. But at $50/month for 3/.75 mbps, I knew I was overpaying -- especially since I no longer needed static IP addresses.
I did extensive research on the broadband options and ended up concluding what my geeky friend David Creemer had already figured out: Sonic.net had the best service out there for the money. They have multiple tiers of service available, including a bare-bones plan for only $15/month. I splurged for the Elite plan and get 6/.75 mbps for $35/month. I doubled my download speed from what I had at Cyberonic, and I'm saving $15/month.
The service and support has been excellent so far, too. My new DSL was installed and working 3 days after I ordered it. And when I needed help getting the modem working with my Linksys wireless router, the phone support guy happily walked me through the necessary steps.
If you do order DSL from Sonic, I'd appreciate it if you use my ID as the referral: davecort.
It's true. Eating meat and/or dairy is as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes or prolonged exposure to asbestos.
T. Colin Campbell wrote The China Study, which unequivocally shows the direct link between eating animal protein and a plethora of the most common diseases (all types of cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis...).
He also gave the talk I've embedded here. He presents research data that show the direct correlation of casein (the protein in milk) and cancer. Even more damning is that based on the International Agency for Research on Cancer's own definition, casein should be classified as a carcinogen.
But it's not just casein. Looking at the correlation of animal fat intake to breast cancer rates around the world, there is once again an undeniable link between the two. His conclusion is clear. All animal proteins are unhealthy.
It is really sad that something so profound and essential to the health and well-being of everyone on the planet is something that gets little if any attention. Even the American Cancer Society is pathetic in this regard. Despite this evidence, they still list animal products and recipes on their web site that increase the risk of cancer.
I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. Meat and dairy are big business. They get massive subsidies to produce their carcinogenic products. They're also quite influential on everything from the USDA's nutrition guidelines to the national school lunch program. And of course these products will never go away. Despite all the evidence and warning labels on tobacco, a fifth of the US population still smokes.
But I am optimistic. I do think the evidence will win out eventually. It will probably be in a country other than the US, and it may take a decade or two. If I had the money, I would force the issue myself. I can't think of a better way to spend a billion dollars than to compete against the current school lunch program and give free, tasty, plant-based meals (and accompanying information) to all the kids in all the schools nationwide.
And who knows, maybe someday we'll see something like this in the supermarket.
Here's my unscientific minor contribution as to why 2 out of 3 US car manufacturers are going broke. This morning I took a thirty minute walk around my neighborhood, in the southwest corner of Palo Alto, California. I estimated the number of cars I saw as I went along, and somewhat carefully noted the brand of each and every one. By the end of the walk, I had seen about 350 cars. Not counting non-US brands owned by US companies (like Volvo and Saab), I saw 11 cars from Chrysler, 21 from GM, and 32 from Ford. That's about 20% of all the cars I saw this morning.
I should actually say "vehicle" instead of "car," because the majority of all of the vehicles from each of the US companies were trucks and vans. Also, with the exception of Ford, most of the US cars tended to be older (though that bit of data is even more of an estimate).
This tiny sampling lines up pretty well with the current financial situation of the US auto makers. Ford seems to be hanging on OK (their 10% "market share" in my neighborhood isn't too far from their US market share), while Chrysler and GM are have huge, possibly insurmountable challenges. My conclusion from my 30 minutes of data gathering is that these two companies are failing because individual consumers are choosing other brands in huge numbers. This sampling is surely weighted towards my urban / suburban demographic, but the last time I looked that population was growing. I'm sure GM and Chrysler have many other problems to overcome (see for example GM's profit margins), but making products that people don't want seems a pretty good way fail.
Finally, wow -- there are a lot of Priuses and Volvos in Palo Alto.