Shall Be…

IMG_20191120_075612Given the news of the day, I would be remiss if I didn’t pen some thoughts about impeachment.  Let me state, I don’t think the president should be removed from office for his horrible, imperfect, wrong, and illegal conversations with the president of Ukraine. This may be the first time since John McCain’s death, but I actually agree with Lindsey Graham here, the White House and the president are too incompetent and stupid to know how to do something like this intentionally.  You saw the interview with Stephanopoulos, Trump thinks this is his way of getting “oppo research”, he doesn’t even realize that what he is doing is factually illegal (soliciting a thing of value for political gain from a foreign government). Because he is an idiot, I don’t think that is grounds for removal.

What I would like to see, is some form of impeachment, conviction (because clearly he is guilty, he bragged about it) and probation.  Because when you are too stupid to be trusted to not do something again, the court places you on probation.  In this case, the Senate could impose a verdict of placing someone in the White House, or a recording system, that would document all of his actions, reporting back to the court (Senate) ensuring that he doesn’t do this again. We keep wanting an adult in the room, and then the president fired them all, so now we need to appoint one.  Problem solved.

But I don’t get to make that determination. None of us do. I have written about this before, and I will note it again, we haven’t lived through a system of tyranny. We don’t know what it is like to live in a world where a leader could change the rules or use his/her power to STAY in power (ala Putin). Remember that the founders specifically wanted to prevent against kings or despots that used the military or police or other powers as commander in chief to keep them in power. That is why they created ‘checks and balances’. That is why we have civilian leadership of the military.

The Founders knew that preventing against executive tyranny was so important, that they worded the Constitution to be unequivocal: The President has to be perfect at all times when it comes to his/her abuse of power.  “…shall be removed from office…”  They left no wiggle room.  If the President commits even a Misdemeanor, which are specifically known as ‘lesser offenses’ often punished only with a fine, they shall be removed from office. “Shall be” is a mandate. I don’t get to question if this is a “political process”, no, it is a Constitutional one. And if we are to preserve the rule of law, the very thing that sets us above other nations that are ripe with “corruption” (you remember, the thing that was so important to root out in Ukraine), then we MUST remove the President –  regardless of the political cycle –  when he/she strays from the rule of law, even a little. The arc of history is more important than people cheering at rallies and pointing in other directions, “But Hillary!”, “But Obama!”, “But Hunter Biden!”, “Squirrel!”  I wish it weren’t so, but I don’t get to make that call. The Founders knew better.

However, I cannot get over this passage from pages 327-328 of the Mueller report which somehow Congressional Republicans refuse to acknowledge…

The President then directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. 797 Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file “for our records” and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. 798 The President referred to McGahn as a “lying bastard” and said that he wanted a record from him .799 Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, “If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him.” 8oo Later that day, Porter spoke to McGahn to deliver the President’s message .801 Porter told McGahn that he had to write a letter to dispute that he was ever ordered to terminate the Special Counsel. 802 McGahn shrugged off the request, explaining that the media reports were true. 803 McGahn told Porter that the President had been insistent on firing the Special Counsel and that McGahn had planned to resign rather than carry out the order, although he had not personally told the President he intended to quit. 804 Porter told McGahn that the President suggested that McGahn would be fired if he did not write the letter. 805 McGahn dismissed the threat, saying that the optics would be terrible if the President followed through with firing him on that basis. 806 McGahn said he would not write the letter the President had requested

The President of the United States ordered a federal employee to manufacture a false federal document to make him look better, something that would go in the national archives. That is fabrication of evidence. A Class C Felony. And just because someone lower on the chain of command had to break the law (violating an order from the president) by not following through on that order, does not excuse the fact that the president violated the law by ordering a violation of it. Having adults in the room to prevent a 13 year old from doing the wrong thing, does not excuse the behavior of the 13 year old, aka our president.

For THAT, I think that Congressional Republicans have a Constitutional duty to ensure that the violator of law, when convicted, Shall Be removed from office.

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VCs as Justices, MBAs as Clerks

Breyer

I hear people use the metaphor of a “hill to die on” to refer to things they are passionate about.  I don’t like using that because it is based on battle experience and most of us don’t have a military background to truly employ it.

But everyone has their ‘windmill’.  I use this term as an homage to Don Quixotes to signify a quest against some wrong in the world. I may be as delusional in my quest as the ingenious gentleman from la Mancha…so be it. Those that know me have heard me rail against numerous windmills over the years.  My latest is the “warm intro” for VC’s.

Many venture capitalists insist that it is a show of your resourcefulness to get someone in their network to introduce you to them.  They filter their deal-flow based on only accepting these ‘warm introductions’ from people inside their circle. I think this is an incredibly bad idea and practice in the industry.  Some others have written about it.  These are some of my observations.

  • A VC places an unnecessary burden on their portfolio companies by using them as a de facto filter instead of doing their own outreach and funnel management.
  • When I reach out to befriend a portfolio company, I have no interest in a long term relationship.  That might evolve, but at the outset, I am using that person for an intro.  Essentially I am conning them.  The VC is encouraging me to con their portfolio company CEOs.
  • Serendipitous meetings that build your network happen in tech hubs, like SV/NYC/BOS.  This filters out large swaths of the country and talent. Most successful startups are built by experienced entrepreneurs in their 40’s. Do you see my contemporaries spending hours on end in coffee shops?
  • In the middle of building a product and growing, it is not a cost effective use of time to spend hours researching companies and their executives, followed by feeble attempts to woo them over email and Twitter, all for a 20 second ‘warm intro’.
  • Warm intro’s only come from people in your network.  Statistically, this is a bunch of white guys hanging out together in coffee shops or a co-working space.  And then people wonder why there is no diversity with women and minorities?
  • Showing interest in a company, with the intent of meeting someone so that they might eventually give me a ‘warm intro’ is not real networking. It is disingenuous.
  • A good networker is not necessarily a good CEO with a good product. They could very easily be a con-artist. Is that the kind of deal flow you want? While there are con-men/women everywhere in this world that need to be filtered out, why build a process that specifically encourages more of them to flow your way?

As technology has evolved, you would think that the community who funded that evolution would evolve their deal flow funnels. Yet many insist on a 20th century methodology of gladhanding and nepotism (VC’s “marry” their portfolio companies). Shouldn’t you also advocate for disrupting your deal-flow acquisition systems? While some engage on Twitter, I don’t consider this very revolutionary.

Let me be clear on two things. 1) I mean this with a sincere amount of respect for professionals who invests OPM and have a fiduciary responsibility to generate returns. That is a very hard job. 2) If I ever get a term sheet, one of the first things I will say to a VC is that I will not allow them to offload their funnel to me.  Maybe I am being ignorant here (never being a VC) but I think that is inappropriate.  I’ve got enough to do.  If I happen to meet someone building an amazing company, I am not just going to tell my VC, I AM GOING TO TELL THE WORLD!  Hopefully my VC would hear that too.

One of my proudest moments was Sept 29, 2010.  I got to ask a question to Justice Stephen Breyer at a live interview at the JFK center in Boston.  I had seen a CSPAN interview where he talked about the process the Court uses to grant certiorary to appellate cases. It was a very manual process involving all 36 clerks on the court. Being a technologist, the first thing I wanted to do was make this better. So I was dying to ask the question, could you offload that responsibility to more than 36 people so the court could take more cases?  While there were many partisan questions that he politely brushed off that day, Justice Breyer launched into an extensive lecture for me, a snippet below…

Now, the first reaction you will have, most people will have, is why are these clerks doing the job? The judges should do it. It is their job. To which I say, I would rather, with 150, I would rather have a person called a clerk, who is very bright and works for me, reviewing those because occasionally the scrawled, hand-written petition, you don‘t know what in heaven‘s name it is about. It is obviously a lunatic who is locked up somewhere in a prison. That could be right. That lunatic could have a point. That scrawled petition could actually make a point., and we have taken cases like that, occasionally.  And the chance of finding something like that — I would rather have a human being called a clerk review five and find it than to have me, called a judge, pretend to review 150 because that is what it would be. It would be pretending.

Now, in your specific question, there was a committee that was set up under Warren Burger and they recommended that they have a different court trying to decide what the docket would be. That was rejected and I would reject that, too. I don‘t think there is a need for it. I think it is bad.

I was blown away. And I even get choked up now thinking about what he was saying. The diamond in the rough, that is what they are searching for. And justice knows no special treatment. It doesn’t matter if some fancy law firm petitions the court. They want to see them all and have smart people reviewing those petitions, because maybe, just maybe, genius comes in places you never suspect. Like a solo/female/minority founder. People who don’t fit the mold. People outside your normal network of lawyers and paralegals.

But Justices acknowledge that they are not super heros. Granting cert is analogous to a VC granting a pitch meeting. No, they don’t have time to review all. But we can set requirements, like the format of an initial pitch. We can use new technology, like video instead of slides. And who are the clerks of VCs? MBA candidates!!! A whole infrastructure exists already, and we don’t even use it.

So here is what I propose. VC’s should leverage their MBA’s to review 1 minute videos and dive deeper on ones that “actually make a point”. These should be accepted from ANYONE. Do it for an hour a day. Thats 60 companies a day. They could then ask for more info like a longer video, or a pitch deck, before recommending to a VC. You could even pool your MBA’s with other firms to cover more ground or have more reviews of the same videos. Find a new way. Stop complaining about diversity statistics unmoved by feeble attempts to broaden your base by inviting more people to conferences. Do something structurally different to make a change. I hate to steal the line, but we need “big structural change”. 

Do your own work. Find a new system, below is my 1 minute video for your MBA team to peruse while eating lunch. Interested? Email me if you get excited and I will send you more. Want to have a #GiveFirst mentality? Email me back and tell me why you think it sucks. I would really appreciate that. No intro necessary.

 

Sept 29, 2010  JFK Library in Boston

https://www.jfklibrary.org/events-and-awards/forums/past-forums/transcripts/conversation-with-justice-stephen-breyer

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Taking First

Taking First

I am a people pleaser. That’s not usually a problem. For the most part, giving first and paying it forward makes me feel good. I give on things that are easy for me. I have a pretty strong back so I can help people move. I do a lot of house projects so I don’t mind helping out on construction. I turn yardwork into a workout, so I don’t mind digging ditches or post holes.

I’ve always done things that are nice for my friends. I try to make it a point to offer first. I do it because I feel bad asking for help. And sometimes asking for help is hard, so I hope you won’t feel bad. I build relationships with people so they hopefully never feel guilty asking for or accepting my help.

For me, it’s about the relationship. It’s about building an air of trust and congeniality, of teamwork and shared mutual interest that makes it feel like there is no need to keep score. I don’t count chits. I want to know that there is a support group, a village that I am part of that supports one another without judgement.

I offer help so people want to offer me help. I try to go the extra step to further the sincerity of my desire to help. I bring tools; I use a square to cut a 2×4 even when it really doesn’t need to be that perfect. I hope the receiver feels good about offering me help or at the least is not bothered when I ask for it. “Josh needs help? No problem. He’s always there for me.”

Over the years I have come to say “No problem” when people thank me. I really want the receiver to feel it is not a burden to accept my help. I’m not much in the way of emotional support, but doing ‘things’ is my strength. So that’s what I give.

I have always been proud of the fact that while I believe fervently in my convictions, I actually CAN be convinced of an alternative. This morning I worked through something and changed a whole belief structure. I realized an outcome that I never intended. Offering to do things for others can be a form of manipulation. It hurt to realize this. Let me explain.

As I said, I have always hoped that my desire to want to help, would create comfort in a relationship where the other side also WANTS to offer me help. I was searching for balance. But sometimes, offering help creates an atmosphere where someone might feel guilty not offering it back. This directly contradicts my notion of not keeping score. Inherently, people start to feel obligated to help me. My help will eventually become a burden. That just sucks.

What I realized is that this is my own fault on two fronts. First, when I say ‘no problem’, I am discounting the usefulness I provide. There is no closure on that transaction when I make the action seem like nothing. Without closure, there is a layering effect on each act of kindness that builds resentment in accepting help. But if someone says ‘thank you’ and I reply with “You’re welcome, it was my pleasure” I make it ok for them to accept help and not feel the pressure to reciprocate. Second, the notion that someone wants to help me, starts to feel like an expectation for the other party. And my own views pervert my perception on the give and take in that relationship: I am polluting my ability to see the receiving side of ‘help’.

A few weeks ago I met a fellow founder through The Capital Network. He came up to the Zone and we talked for a little over an hour. It was SUPER helpful to me. Part of being a people pleaser is that I wanted to give back. Honestly, I don’t even remember if he said “you’re welcome” when I expressed thanks. I felt such an obligation to be a giver that I felt guilty taking help. I offered him a few local connections where he might be able to expand his business. But I was the taker, and it felt strange.

I don’t think Joel was looking for anything in return. He just wanted to Give First. I have been so stuck in my ways for so long, that I felt like it was my obligation to WANT to give back to him. That is wrong, and it almost cheapens his act of kindness to me. For a long time I have had a need to give. In my personal life, it felt ok to receive because I have always had a way to give back. This incident in the startup world where I have nothing to give, was strange. I felt guilty taking. I guess my big lesson for the day is that for me, I am Taking First, and because I believe in having honor, I will eventually give back. I am Giving Second. As I look back on how I have always thought about giving I realize, for the first time, blindly accepting his help is a good thing and I am ok with it. Thanks again Joel.

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A Nice Young Boy?

Too often we see acts of terrorism and friends/family come on TV to say, “he was such a nice boy, we never saw this coming.” I call BS. There were signs. You chose to bury your head in the sand and disavow your responsibility to “see something, say something”. Once before in my life, I saw someone perform a heinous act, after the fact. No one knew it was coming. But in retrospect, I talked to some of his family…there were signs.

I have come to live my life not to be “that guy”. This is me speaking up and controlling the narrative, because the person in question keeps deleting his dangerous content from Facebook. As a data person, I know that FB has never pretended to be ephemeral…if we need a subpoena, please secure one.

My cousin’s son Dylan (his real name) has long shown tendencies for anger and vitriol. Over the past weekend, in the wake of the Ohio and El Paso shootings, it has reached a new level. Dylan has come to believe that all guns should be removed from society. He thinks they are the sole cause of the shooting deaths and evil now pervading our country. He is young (~25) so he has not seen much of the world and he has lived a very sheltered life, shielded from the realities around us. He believes in his opinion unequivocally, further, he can’t even conceptualize that there are other opinions. Because of his childhood and being told that he was ‘special’ and afforded all sorts of praise (and possibly being On the Spectrum) he believes that his opinions are beyond reproach. Our family has long had a diverse opinion-set, and we argue them fervently. But you will ALWAYS see respect and love for one another. Not from Dylan.

My memory of these events and quotes may be slightly diluted because Dylan either deleted posts or unfriended me. On Sunday, Dylan posted some anti-gun message in the wake of the shootings, proclaiming that we need to take guns away from all the ‘crazy people.’ My mom responded with a question asking something to the effect of, ‘how do you respect a person’s right to self defense.’ Dylan proceeded to tell her that if she felt that way that she was a “fucking moron.” My sister came to my mom’s defense with a well worded message respecting his opinion and asking him to not use vile language. Dylan’s response was to also call her a “fucking moron” who if she believed anything other than what he believed “deserved much worse” than that language. Haley and I were driving to Cornell and she informed me of this skirmish. I was alarmed, but did not have a chance to reply for several hours.

You don’t mess with someone’s mom, siblings and definitely not a spouse. You just don’t. I will not tolerate it, from anyone. But Dylan has no respect for family. My parents watched from within the same car, as his mother said something to which he disagreed, and a 13 year old Dylan launched into a profanity laced tirade against her. There was no negative repercussion. A woman who sacrificed so much of her life for him and his special private schools, couldn’t get an ounce of respect. He had an embarrassing male role model of an incompetent father who wanted a buddy, not a son. Years later when his mother finally gained the strength to leave an emotionally abusive marriage, Dylan’s father weaponized her choice to ally the son against his mom. Those of us who have gone through divorce know how devastating even the smallest slip of letting your relationship into the lives of the kids, can be on them. Imagine intentionally using that situation as a tool to alienate a parent. I believe Dylan has not spoken to his mother in 8 years. I have email correspondence he addressed to the family referring to his mother by her first name in the third person, calling her a “whore” using language that ALL of us found offensive. A few years ago he leveraged his family’s love to extort money from us through a Kickstarter campaign for a movie that never came even close to fruition, but informed us another movie was released in its stead. Huh?

So on Saturday Dylan was bullying my family. He clearly has no respect for his elders. In my first reply, I told him he was being a bully and “trumpist” and that despite people who are scared to stand up to the president’s vitriol and anger and bad language, I am not. I would use the same tools in reply unless he issued an apology to my family. He of course did not. He doubled down. He said he was sick of trying to formulate intelligent arguments and now he was just going to insult and express anger. As promised, I replied by making fun of his naivety, age, and weakness. When you are bullied, punch the bully in the nose.

Ironically, Dylan replied by accusing me of being a bully and deleting his posts where he was bullying my mom and sister. He altered his history to conform to the narrative that he needed to justify his actions. This is scary. This is a psychological case study in the first stages of the angry young man about to do harm. You know it. My family should know it. My family that continue to enable and defend him for being “who he is” SHOULD KNOW IT!!!

When I am interviewed after Dylan does some harm on the world and they ask me did I see it coming I will say, “Hell yes I did, Dylan has been a psycho for years.” The world is full of these people operating in the shadows. Showing their true selves in private circles. The irony of Dylan’s anger and hate about being against gun ownership, should not be lost on someone observing the irony of a pro-lifer who kills the abortion doctor because they “killed” babies. My mom is scared of Dylan. I am concerned about what he might do.

I have written before about being Sheepdog Strong to foresee a potential tragedy coming. And I know that because of people like Dylan so close to me, this vigilance is pertinent at all times. The world is a scary place. In reality, you can’t just love away hate. You have to always be ready to protect yourself, to be self-reliant.

People like Dylan are the reason why I own guns for self-protection. Full stop.

There is only one remedy for the self-absorbed egocentric wacko with an agenda. Dylan needs medical and psychological help. I want to say it loud and publicly. I am too far away to confront him directly. All he has are a few friends around him. I hope they will do the right thing. Someone is going to get hurt by this young man. Let it be known, this was preventable. This unstable radicalized man showed lots of signs. There will be no surprise when he self-justifies his actions to hurt people that disagree with his opinion. He doesn’t have the mental capacity and EQ to absorb the reality of the world. Thus he lashes out with anger. Anger taught by his father. I understand that he is dating someone now. What if she disagrees with him? What if she breaks up with him? What if she cheats on him?

If you know someone like this. Write it publicly. Make it known. Mental health is in a severe crisis. As a startup CEO, we experience a unique kind of stress. My role models write about it often. I recognize my own limitations in dealing with these challenges and how they cause problems with my personal relationships. It’s ok to admit that you need help. I have, I am working through it. Until we change HIPPA laws and re-examine the stigma of mental health challenges, we will do nothing to prevent unstable youths from doing the world harm: There will be more chaos. It will happen with any manner of weaponry (see McVeigh, Atta, Tsarnaev), anything these wackos can get their hands on to justify their egocentric anger.

I saw something. I said something. He is NOT a nice young boy.

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Choosing Your Opponent

Bill Weld Tweet

Every year when the playoffs start, in any sport, all of the fans start talking about brackets and who we want our team to match up against. Even if your team doesn’t make the playoffs you look for a strong team to face off against your arch enemy. Because if it’s not the Pats, I don’t care who takes the AFC East as long as it isn’t the Jets and please o please don’t let the Giants win another SuperBowl. The Yankees? Lakers? Habs??? Ugh! We almost never get to pick our opponent, though we surely analyze their strengths and weaknesses in matchups.

I’d like you to think about the ‘anyone but the Jets’ notion for a second. If you are a Democrat, you have to acknowledge that there is a possibility that Trump could win re-election. How frustrating would that be. He’s got the same annoying ego as Jets fans and who wants to stoke THAT flame?

What if you could mitigate that risk? Right now, I’m a Seth Moulton guy on that side of the aisle. But who really cares if it is Seth or Pete or Kamala or Cory or Amy or Kirsten. They’re all kinda the same. We should be able to hold the Senate so nothing super liberal is really going to happen. Wouldn’t it be nice to guarantee someone with honor in the White House? So as a Democrat, don’t throw your vote away, make it count. Here’s how…

If you are in an open primary state, ask for that GOP ballot. More importantly, if you are in a closed primary state, go see your town clerk and switch your party registration now. It’s just a label and you can always switch back later. In the 2020 GOP primary, be a passionate devoted Democrat…and vote for Bill Weld. If Weld takes enough of the early primaries, all of those who blindly support the party will start to vote for him too, they just want a conservative. And I know for a fact that “countless” (h/t Sarah Sanders.) GOPrs voted more against Hillary than for Trump. Their ‘support’ is for the party and the ideals, not the guy who can’t see his toes… “and other things” (h/t to Trump for that grammatical stroke of genius… like his knees. See how that let’s me get away with saying a blatantly obnoxious comment without actually saying it?)

Imagine if you could pick your opponent for the Prez election in 2020. If Bill Weld wins the nomination, just think about the possibility of civility down the stretch. While there may not have been any “collusion”, there shouldn’t be any ATTEMPTED collusion either. Bill Weld is a good guy. If John Kasich steps up, I’ll root for him in the same role. Either way, they are both opponents that a Democrat doesn’t have to hate.

Editorial note: When I lived in Massachusetts in the 90’s, I was a Bill Weld fan. At the time, the “W” governors (+ Whitman and Wilson) were making a splash with fiscal conservatism tied to social liberalism. They were realists and saved many states after the early 90’s recession and budget fiascos. Shortly thereafter Newt and my man John Kasich (as budcom chair) showed that Congress could actually get stuff done. While Reagan is viewed with high regard because of the military buildup and his communication strengths, these were the guys getting real work done. I’m psyched that Weld is running for Prez, though I had hoped Kasich would have gotten there first. I’ve had this post in my head for a while, well before the tweet above and the interview Weld gave.

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A Unified Theory: Networkism

fountainhead

Recently, I was listening to the Reason Podcast hosted by Nick Gillespie and his interview of Jonathon Hoenig.  Both are Libertarians and Hoenig in fact just published a new set of essays revisiting Ayn Rand’s Objectivist writings.  Their Libertarian contemporaries like to call her philosophies “Americanism” because the country was founded on the belief of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which are all very Individualist notions of importance.  They postulate that Government only exists to protect these individual freedoms.  (Objectivism)

Hoenig is a critic of Collectivism, which is what we commonly refer to as Socialism (doing what is best for the collective good) as well as “America First” which puts the nation above the individual; heresy to Objectivists.  These criticisms and the hosts’ conversation around other political philosophies, got me to thinking about where I stand.  I acknowledge that I don’t fit comfortably into any of these philosophies or the political ideals that attempt to embody them.  But since I hate inconsistency and hypocrisy, I thought it would be impolite to not find a theory that fits for me.  In the process I think I have stumbled on the beginnings of something new that people intuitively know, but don’t necessarily put into practice as a basis for policy prescriptions.

As to the ‘norms’, I like how Conservatism focuses on market forces to create incentives to always be improving your lot in life.  But I have no taste for the cultural conservatism that pretends to know what is best for people based on religious or ‘moral’ grounds.  Those fly in the face of the aspects of self reliance that reflect the pride in doing something for yourself (the basis of my life).  The fruits of which have greater value than anything given to you by Progressive policies that feel the need to redistribute wealth because of a pejorative sense of the need to ‘save’ the less fortunate.  I actually agree with the theories in Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes a Village because it is hard to argue against the fact that teams are more effective at a great many things (think national defense).  I just don’t think that we should take Progressivism as far as Liberals want, where society-wide entitlements are created to make sure everything is equal all the time.  Protecting the rights of the less fortunate is paramount, but I would start by giving people the tools to be self reliant (everyone need not be equally successful).  In most cases this plays out as targeted education and to a lesser extent, health care, which needs to be coupled with exercise (back to the self-reliance thing).  But I also think this extends to work and job creation for those that need a little nudge to kickstart their personal journey.

So I like the idea of people being self-reliant.  But I know that most can’t do it on their own and need help.  Yet I don’t want to give them things for free.  At the same time I see the socio-economic need to evolve the entire human race, which can only happen if certain parts aren’t dragging down others.  To this end, I believe in an economic butterfly-effect in both push and pull directions.  For example, if I leave a light on unnecessarily, I am pulling resources in a way that adds wasted demand on the electrical grid (increasing prices), necessitating the need to make more.  The same is true of using any natural resource.  There are also push effects, where a soccer mom in Florida who leaves her car running for the AC, is adding unnecessary carbon dioxide to the environment, creating a warming effect, and incrementally ruining my ski season.

All of these micro-connections mean that we are networked to every single human, whether we know it or not.  And this network is not mono dimensional.  Rather it is dynamically constructed by the metadata characteristics of each of us and our actions and beliefs in the world.  Some racist in West Virginia has an impact on me, by propelling anti-Semitic norms which eventually change hearts and minds, even if he does nothing but ‘like’ some Tweet from a Russian bot.

It used to be that these networks were created at a very local level for simplicity’s sake.  And geography was the only dimension easily constructed.  ‘State’s Rights’ is probably the first incarnation in the US.  Conservative policies to control education spending at the local level reflects this notion.  Individual rights guaranteed in the Constitution take this one step further.  But what if technology allowed us to dynamically generate network connections on the fly.  We could use these cohorts to ascertain answers to questions historically solved only with speculation.  We could also apportion resources as needed.  Pushing and pulling based on supply and demand.  This would be a spectacular tool for policy decision makers.

How would this work?  Imagine that individual nodes could pull in education/health/financial resources when a part of a network (ie derived by geography, social status, race or gender…or multiple dimensions at once) seems less capable of serving itself.  We surmise that they need help.  A network would be able to measure the gravity-well effect of this group dragging down tangentially related neighbors.  A cost:benefit (capitalism is good) evaluation of lifting that part of the network would take into account all the other relationships of those nodes.  Today we only evaluate how poverty effects real estate values on neighboring communities, but a network could fully-load that cost so that we recognize other benefits to different dimensions of relationships, ie happier people might make parks nicer, decrease crime, lower health care costs, create jobs, and grow our cultural footprint.

I have no idea how to build such a network.  But I think we are starting to scientifically realize that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon extends to all aspects of the real world as well.  We are connected more than we realize.  Technology driven social graphs (FB, Twitter, Instagram) are starting to enable the quantification of all of these connection points.  But a metadata derived social graph would enable us to measure the butterfly effect of every single action at the individual node level, across all of humanity.  We have nowhere near the computing capability (nor the data to drive it) necessary for macro calculations that could justify spending of public funds.  [Note: set aside data privacy concerns for now]  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to take baby steps.  Social media tools show that some of this is possible now (Russian election interference).  I wish smarter people would start to pick some use cases to estimate the fully loaded cost of policy decisions to help educate us all about what happens when we pull an economic lever.  We can start to evaluate policy choices based on all of the ways that a policy touches people.  I have long wanted to fully load the cost of decisions and the absence of decisions.  I think Networkism is the first step in creating a model that lets us frame policy choices with a broader focus than the myopic effects of the current political parties.

Networkism – a framework for evaluating public and private policy decisions based on the sum total of the positive and negative effects of every possible node touched by each action effected by that policy, regardless of how small the individually measured effect.

Yup, I’ll take one of those for the win.

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NH: Pathway to Work

Pathway to work

Several years ago I wrote about the notion of government affecting change in society by giving it little “nudges” rather than expansive all-encompassing entitlement-like programs.  The GOP under Trump is in a state of chaos, but luckily some of these programs still exist.  I’d like to call out one in particular that I think should be a model for small government nudging of the economy and society as a whole.  This was signed into law by a democrat, but I still think it’s right on the mark.

At the end of 2017 I left my last job.  After almost 24 years in the corporate world, I decided it was time to strike out on my own.  To help ease the pain of a transition in jobs, the State of NH has unemployment programs, just like most other states do.  The NH benefit caps out at $10k and runs for several months. It’s not enough to live on, but it provides a reasonable safety net.  That’s what it should do.  The Massachusetts benefit I believe is more than twice as generous.  I continue to think that is too much.

When you file for unemployment, the objective is to get a job as quickly as possible.  You are expected to make job-searching/applying a full time job.  For professional workers, this can be a little unreasonable. While searching, I found only 3 jobs in the local area that I qualified for.  But I dutifully made efforts to find work.  There are resume writing and job search workshops and other programs that are mandatory, and can aid in the process.

While meeting with my unemployment counselor and discussing my goals, she noted that I might qualify for a program called Pathway to Work, where the state recognizes that they can continue to pay my benefits, while I search for work in a non-traditional way…I am starting a business.  I am creating my own work.  This program shields me from the full-time-search requirements so I can focus.  It was a blessing.

Months later my benefits have ended and I am on the path to actually generating revenue.  But more importantly, the program assigned me a different type of mentoring relationship.  I was paired with an advisor through a grant funded program at UNH.  THIS HAS BEEN INVALUABLE TO MY SUCCESS.  My advisor, Julie G, has done so much for helping me navigate decisions, the bureaucratic nightmare of starting a company and most importantly, has helped me build a local entrepreneurial network.  Yesterday I met with someone based on her warm intro, and it could shake out to be one of the most productive partnerships I could have ever hoped for.  I am still excited.

Here’s the lesson.  The state could have just handed me some cash and told me to go out and do more of what I was doing.  But instead it recognized that there is way to create growth, by a simple policy shift and flexibility that accounts for nuances and talents within the workforce.  In this case, the government is actually helping me grow.  I in return hope to pay this forward with profits and tax receipts and new jobs.

There is a place for a small government nudging its citizens forward.  I have been lucky for the wind in my sails and hope others avail themselves of the same opportunities.  Create your own pathway.

 

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