09
May 18

Someone who makes $5 a day is too expensive.

At least that’s what Foxconn, the largest manufacturer of consumer electronics in the world thinks when they announced to shareholders that they would replace 60,000 workers with robots. Over 2.5 million financial and IT services jobs in the US are on their way towards obsolescence. Radiologists have already been bested by machine learning algorithms capable of reading a single X-Ray a thousand times over to ensure accuracy in the same time it takes a doctor to review it once. Artificial intelligence doesn’t just affect entry level employment. It affects all strata of workers. And the prognostication of economic outcomes range from apocalyptic to utopian. Proponents of the beneficial AI movement are certain that technology will allow for a true renaissance of creativity, where all people are free to explore their passions while enjoying the fruits of machine labour. A dystopian view has AI dependency running amok, with power centralized to a small cadre of corporate or state elites and mass unemployment and despair.

In short, nobody knows.

Not literally…

And yet around the table at a dinner party, all we talk about is what we think our kids should be when they grow up. How our kids are brilliant and what their test scores are and how we can best prepare them up for the best jobs. We look at our kids and try to predict whatever future we think might exist when they emerge from school a decade or two down the line when we ourselves, have no certainty of what is going to happen to our own jobs next year. In the 80’s, the average time to transfer an information worker’s career worth of ‘expertise’ was about 30 years. Today, it’s about 2 to 3 years. Experience and education has already been priced-in and discounted by the going replacement rate of knowledge, which by all accounts, is negligible in an environment of democratized information. I’ve worked with hundreds of companies in the past ten years. Not one burst into flames with the departure a ‘key’ employee. Knowledge and the ability to do-a-thing is a commodity and as with all commodities, is a cost-of-goods sold that will be continually devalued with technology.

But none of this is new. Artificial intelligence and machine learning approaching critical mass is no different than the original Agricultural Revolution that birthed early civilizations. It will be just as disruptive as the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s and the Personal Computing Revolution of the 1990’s. Obsolete jobs were replaced by many new ones. The only difference this time is the speed of change and the pace of adoption. Our kids are born in an age of computing where we are quickly approaching the limits of Moore’s Law. They view momentous advances in science, medicine and technology as unremarkable feeds on Twitter and Instagram. Just as the gamers and computer tinkerers of the 70’s and 80’s are seemingly running the world today, our kids, more than ever, are crafting the digital world of tomorrow because they are all tinkerers. If you deem it your parental responsibility to protect your kids from technology because you yearn for the good ol’ days of less connectivity, note that Socrates said this about reading and writing:

“…this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”

Every parent thinks the next thing will ruin their kids. It happened with the printing press, with Mozart and Paganini, with the phonograph, with comics, with radio, with TV and now with the internet and connected devices. And parents were wrong every single generation about the impact of technology and media. So what makes us think we know what we are talking about now, especially with regards to what our kids are going to do in a decade? We are seeing the technological landscape change in real time. No matter how much wisdom and foresight we think we have, we don’t actually know as predictions are becoming less and less accurate due to the pace of change. Even the folks I have the privilege of working with at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning research shrugged when I asked them about specifics. In fact, they admit that due to the pace and open-source nature of AI research and development, not to mention the rapid growth of quantum computing, they have no idea where they are going to be in a few years. “Hopefully employed,”  is what one researcher working on neural networks told me.

I’ve long been a proponent of absolute free-market labour to the point where I believe each and every one of us should view ourselves as our own business, equipped with the ability to create, sell and deliver. Whether we work with our own businesses or contribute labour and talent to a larger one, the moment we all view ourselves as free agents, able to come and go and properly prepare ourselves as such, is the moment we empower ourselves to create real income security. 50% of the global economy is trending towards the gig economy in which half of all income earned are by freelancers, and independent contractors doing a specific thing for a specific time. If you have 20 customers and 3 leave, you still have 17 sources of income. If you have one employer, your entire financial wellbeing is from a single source. Why on earth would we continue to tell our kids that this is the way to go? I’ve written the same message multiple times across multiple entries; Don’t tell your kids to find a job. Tell them to create one. The current state and trajectory of technology and information means that facts, knowledge and experience will continue to count for less. Salaries on whole, have remained stagnant for over a decade if not more. And as labour becomes more available and undervalued, so too will downward pressure on employment income. This is especially true in sectors where human labour and speed is deemed inefficient compared to AI.

So what do we teach our kids?

Tell them their creativity, ideas and ability to communicate is what is valuable. Teach them that whatever facts and skills they know is far less important than the judgement, pragmatism and adaptability they employ to connect-the-dots. And most important, tell them that compassion, empathy and humanity is what is needed most in the era of machine dominance. I am on the side of the benevolent AI movement as are the  partners, customers and academics I am working with. Technology is amazing and it will be disruptive. Jobs that have been replaced by technology are gone forever. We have to stop telling our kids to only aim for what we can imagine based on what we know and tell them to create a path to what they actually want. And it’s ok to keep changing what you want as you go forward so long as you keep connecting the dots while looking backwards. More than ever, it’s critical to encourage our kids to pursue their creative passions because it’s how they monetize what they love that will provide them with the meaning and security that many of our generation and prior found so illusory. The marketplace is more efficient than ever. For those willing to embrace the available opportunities and information around them, the future will be amazing.


09
Aug 17

Brandon, nobody owes you anything.

My man! Eleven is a big number and you’re maturing into an awesome young man. One of the best things about us is I’ve never had to treat you like a kid even though you still are one. You’ve got a chill head on your shoulders and you’ve had it easy thus far. But you know that’s going to come to an end at some point, right? I assure you, you’re not going to be hanging around the house playing video games until you’re a grown man unless it’s your own house. So here are a few things you need to build into your expectations of adulthood right about now.

That's how it was for all most of us kid.

That’s how it was for most of us kid.

Nobody owes you a career when you are finished school.

You are not owed a fulfilling career just because you studied something you thought was going to be in demand. Your education is only as valuable as you are relatable and likable. Whatever you’re good at, you’re going to need someone to give you a chance to do it, whether it be an employer or a customer. Don’t begrudge anybody who knows how to work a network or sell themselves. That’s talent in and of itself. I’ve always stressed it’s much easier to find a customer than it is to find an employer. If you are as good as you think you are, create a business and find some customers. Learn to leverage the intellect and efforts of others to create the work life you want. Stop thinking about what job you are going to find for yourself. Think about the job you are going to create for others. Don’t bitch about the economy, the government or anything else outside of your control. You need to be adaptable and look for inefficiencies around you. Nobody owes you a job no matter how impressive your degree might be.

Nobody owes you recognition.

You know those kids who win athletic or academic awards when you didn’t? It’s because they’re better than you at those things. They likely became better than you because they worked at it more than you did. Sure, nature plays a part but it’s probably because they cared more. Don’t begrudge others for kicking your ass because they probably kicked their own ass first. Don’t be one of those losers who gripe when others do well. You don’t see the hard work they put in. Nobody owes you a moment in the spotlight. It’s earned.

Nobody owes you good health.

Everybody knows what is required to live a healthy life. Don’t eat so much. Don’t smoke anything. Exercise a lot and practice moderation in everything you do. Beyond the basics, all else is pretty much up to statistics whether you get sick or hurt. We like to celebrate people who’ve pulled themselves out of dark places when it comes to their health or well-being. But it’s far easier to make the right choices to begin with. If you make shitty choices with your health and body, expect shitty outcomes. If somebody tells you self-improvement won’t make a difference, ignore them because they are probably at a place you don’t want to be. Nobody owes you your well-being. Most of it is entirely your choice.

Nobody owes you companionship.

Life isn’t a movie where you are guaranteed love, friendship and reverence because you did a thing. If you’re a slob who doesn’t give a damn about how you present yourself to the world, you’re going to miss out on a ton of stuff. If you take your friends for granted and don’t positively contribute, you’re not going to have a lot friends. If your only value is that you’re just a nice guy but don’t have anything else to offer, it’s going to be a lonely road. Be useful and be a person who contributes value in real terms. Be reliable. Be someone people want to hang with because you’re interested in their well-being. Be kind to people and help people help themselves. But don’t just be a nice guy who does pointless favours for everybody and hope that it leads anywhere. Nobody owes a nice guy anything, least of all companionship.

Nobody owes you happiness. 

Happy is something you decide to be at any given moment. You can choose how you feel about a certain thing. If you want to make every inconvenience seem like the end of the world, then it’ll be that. You’ll just look like an asshole and feel foolish afterwards. Choose what you give your attention to. You’ll come to learn that happiness is when you get rid of things, not when you accumulate them. Know what matters to you and be flexible. You know those people who need everything to be perfect or they’ll lose their shit? You know how you feel about them? Yeah, that’s what people will think about you if you’re like that. Don’t let everything piss you off. Get used to discomfort. Words have emotional value only to the extent you grant them. Victims of oppression are not everywhere despite the media saying so. Stop needing things to be fair. Expect things to be difficult. Just get better and create the reality you want. You decide what makes you happy and how quickly you allow yourself to be utterly indifferent to things that don’t. The easiest path to happiness is to keep the number of _____ you give to a bare minimum. Nobody owes you peace of mind.

Nobody owes you the right answers.

Nobody will care about you more than your mom and me, even if we are making it up as we go along. In terms of other folks, at best, some will tell you when you’re heading down the wrong path. At worst, some will point you there on purpose. But ultimately you own the decisions you make and the decisions you make are largely determined by your interpretation of your environment. You are the company you keep so keep good company. Your peers will have significantly more sway over your happiness, direction and success than we ever will. Have meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships and cut negative influences fast. The answers you receive are entirely dependent on the questions you ask and the people you ask. Good people will encourage you to ask good questions. Shitty people will just tell you to be happy with the answers they give. Nobody owes you the right answers because nobody knows what they are. Listen to everything, filter and make up your own mind.

Once you accept that nobody owes you anything and everything is mostly in your own hands, you’ll never be a victim. You’ll never not know what to do next. Life is amazing when you take complete ownership of things you can control and not stress over things you can’t. Eleven is not too young to know this. In fact, eleven is the perfect time to know this. You’ll experience massive changes in the next couple years; some good, some bad, but all mostly confusing. If you’re ever in a headspace where things don’t seem fair, or right or just, remember how you feel is a choice. How you react is a choice. Both constructive and destructive behaviour is a choice. Expect people to disappoint you and expect yourself to disappoint people. Nobody owes you a perfect world and by the same token, you don’t owe anybody to be perfect either.

Do stuff. Make mistakes. Be a bro. Laugh. Cry. And reset.

Love you,

Dad


22
May 18

21 days of gratitude – Hokey but it works

I recently finished a few books on the topic of Happiness. In particular, if you haven’t read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, I suggest you abandon this blog and read his book instead. However, if you are a glutton for poor writing, read on…

Like many of you who’ve read self-management/betterment books with exercises and assignments, I’ve often ignored the exercises because they are hokey and also because I paid to be entertained with one-in-a-million underdog stories and miscellaneous feel-good anecdotes, not to do homework. But as this book came highly recommended from someone I highly admired, I decided to not only read the book cover-to-cover, but actually do the stuff it recommends. Similar to most ideas and movements about self-fulfilment, it preaches that happiness starts with gratitude. And the ability to feel gratitude in any circumstance is less a matter of innate wiring and more a habit that can be developed and refined with practice. See also The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

I enlisted a handful of friends and colleagues who had similar life paths as me to do the 21 Day Gratitude challenge. As expected, people thought it was weird. As an additional challenge, I chose the most cynical person I knew to keep me accountable. I didn’t even bother to ask him to participate because I knew exactly what his response would be. He’d bring up some singular personal anecdote and somehow extrapolate his personal opinion to include all of society, nay, mankind. Yep…we all know and love at least one of those types because they keep us on our toes.

After some intense cajoling, we got started.

The first couple of days

It felt weird. Even typing in the words expressing gratitude for obvious things felt forced and lame. Awkwardness aside though, it was relatively easy to rhyme off items to be grateful about – family, friends, dog, etc.

Middle days

It became much more difficult. All of us have generally happy and productive lives and while listing off the obvious in the beginning was a breeze, the middle days required more introspection about how we arrived at where we currently are. Some of the entries were quite raw and cutting. But what the exercise was forcing us to do was see positive where we normally wouldn’t. The book calls it the Tetris Effect based on the study that folks who were made to play Tetris for extended periods of time, started to see the same shapes and patterns in the real world. By forcing us to look for good in literally every nook and cranny, you start to automatically and reflexively see positive in every situation.

Final days

The final days were easy. Things we thought were negative in our past were actually seen in a positive light as contributing to who we are today. New revelations about people and long held ideas emerged. As kooky as it sounds, a few of us were actually ebullient and basically coasted for the last few days. It was particularly easy for me as it was my son’s birthday and we spent the weekend at the waterpark with his best friends. Seeing him splash around with friends he loved so much assured us we were doing the right thing as we felt just as fondly about the families those kids were from. Which leads to the conclusion of this little experiment.

What did 21 days of forcing ourselves to list things we were grateful for, reveal? Aside from the obvious purpose of the exercise to see positivity all around us, everybody in our little study group, all of which are professionally and personally gratified about life in general, came to the same conclusion; at every stage in our lives, we were the company we kept. We were who we hung around as teenagers, as young adults, as professionals and as parents. Our group of participants found overall success and happiness because at various stages of our lives, we chose the right people to associate with and proactively moved away from the wrong ones. More than any degree or diploma, family background or professional training, our group of participants attribute their greatest source of gratitude to the friends and role models they identified and kept; other folks who worked just as hard, had goals and consistently encouraged them to do more. Certainly our little group of ten is not representative of everybody but I for one, don’t need any more proof that the main reason for my success and happiness has been because of the people around me.

And that was totally worth the hokiness.

Here are the 3 recurring reasons (aside from family) we were grateful in our experiment:

  1. Positive people we associated with at different stages of our lives.
  2. Personal dignity. We all agreed that the life we created was the one we put effort into because we first wanted it for ourselves. None of us were ever ok with being slobs.
  3. Independence. All of us valued self-sufficiency and independence at a young age

31
May 16

Brandon! Welcome to double digits! Here’s why dad is harsh sometimes…

Life with me isn’t easy. It’s 97% happy-go-lucky, 3% WTF JUST HAPPENED?! I’m not going to pretend there’s method to my madness. Like all other parents, I’m just making shit up as I go along. But rest assured, the intention is good. I’ve always said to you, if I’m the toughest thing in your life, everything else will be a breeze. So far so good little buddy.

boy

How I’ll always see you… deal with it.

Why I push you hard in athletics.  It’s not because I think you’re going to make a dime in sports. It’s because sport gives you a safe environment to try your absolute best and still fail miserably. I like that you lose sometimes. I like that you don’t make the cut sometimes. But you know what I like best? That you keep you trying; that you’ve lost the embarrassment of failure. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without enduring failure. I’ve never protected you from disappointment and I never will. A kid who tries and fails is better than the kid who never tries. If you want to improve, find a kid that’s better than you and watch how they prepare. In most cases, they’re better than you because they’re better prepared than you.

Why I’m all over you about your grooming.  Appearances matter. Appearances have always mattered. We’re a visual species and you know the science (click here). Regardless of how brilliant, creative or able you are, you’re going to find that people tend not to give a damn if they’ve already written you off because you’re a slob. It’s not fair or right. It’s what is. It’s not about what you’re born with. It’s about the effort you put into yourself. It’s about taking pride in yourself and dignity in what you show to the world. You’ll come to realize that people who put little effort in themselves, put little effort in all other things.

Why I’m always barking at you to be active.  Horrible things can happen to anybody. Accidents and pathogens aside, there is growing evidence that indicate illnesses like cancer and heart disease can happen to anybody regardless of lifestyle. You can mitigate some risks by living well but someone has to be the 1 out of the 5000. You will get sick and you will get hurt. What’s unknown is where on the bell-curve you are. Far better to be of healthy weight and habit when it hits. Staying in shape and eating properly must be a way of life. Dealing will illness is tough. Dealing with illness with an extra 20 pounds roped to your gut is tougher. Eat sensibly and exercise. Forever.

Why we talk about everything in the news.  There’s a reason I encourage you to read and watch history and science programming with me. It gives you context about the day’s headlines. Nothing happens in a vacuum and you now appreciate that everything is relative. You need to know why the Middle-East is the way it is. You need to know why the LGBT movement is always in the news. You need to understand the origins of the religiously themed daily headlines. You need to know what’s going on in the world so you can identify those who don’t, simply by keeping your mouth shut and listening. You’ve seen how mob mentality can rally around a single talking point. It’s not your place to change opinions and beliefs. But it’s beneficial to know who holds them and why.

Why I’m constantly bugging you about homework.  Because it’s your job man. I can rein it in on most other things but school is something I will not. I have no idea what you’re going to do for a career nor do I know if your university degree will have any value when we’re all working for our robot overlords. All I need from you is the mindset of work before play. Not work while you play. Just finish the #@$#^& thing first, than play. This is where I messed up in university. Life with lots of options because you achieved stellar marks is infinitely better than life with few options because you didn’t. But even more important than marks and grades is mindset and habit. You know that awesome feeling when you accidentally finish an assignment a week before it’s due? Yeah, that’s what life feels like when you make getting stuff done before it needs to be done, a habit.

Although we’re proud and will happily share your exploits with others, we’ve never made you feel that you were any more than the sum of your own hard work. Nothing came easy for you and to be honest, that’s not likely to change. So until I can see you setting your own standards without me, you’re still going to have to deal with me.

Oh, and one last thing…

It’s far more important to be useful than to be nice. The world is filled with nice guys with meager self esteem. Guys who put minimal effort into self-betterment and only recharge their esteem meter by doing unappreciated favours. What is given away for free is valued the same. It’s far better to be reliable and helpful when it really counts than simply being nice and available all the time. Don’t ever get stuck in the zone…

You’ll figure this out soon enough.


28
Oct 15

Why your children need to be good story tellers

My son and I chat about his future all the time. Like a lot of boys his age, he’s certain he wants to be a DARPA engineer. Yesterday he changed his tune.

“You know what Daddy? I think it’d be cooler to own a business like you do.”

I beamed, “Why the change man?”

“All you do is have coffees with people. You don’t actually do anything.”

“Brandon! You finally get it!” I crowed. “Study to be the best engineer you can be so you know what to look for when you’re hiring other engineers to do the work that you sell.”

Continue reading →


17
Dec 14

A note for my 8 year-old son Brandon

I started this collection of ramblings with A Message to my 5 year-old son Brandon. Now that my kid is halfway to nine and showing more insightfulness than I exhibited at the same age, it’s time to tighten the tone of these notes. In the past I wrote about being ridiculously happy and living fearlessly, but that’s stuff for a younger, goofier Brandon. Even though I feel more ignorant about the world than ever, I think I’ve still got a few things to tell my boy before he out-books me… also if I suddenly keel over of a heart attack, he’ll have a few words to remember me by.

Continue reading →


03
Nov 13

The best advice on raising children I ever received.

We had our first parent-teacher interview when our son was around two years old. During the interview, one of the teachers said something that has stuck with me since.

“Whatever you tell your children will be the absolute truth to them.”

Continue reading →


27
Oct 13

Brandon. 3 things I want you to be when you grow up.

It’s every parent’s hope that their kid turns out to be successful. For some, successful means the kid ends up with a sparkling job title, double gold in Olympic fencing and has the name Sanjay Gupta. For others, as long as their kids grows up to be productive adults who can pay their own way, is a job well done on the parenting front.

My requirements are even simpler than that.  Here are three things I want you to grow up to be.

Continue reading →


08
Jun 13

1000 phone calls. The real fear behind cold-calling.

I own a contract sales company so if there’s one thing I know, I know how to pick up the phone.  Social media, predictive analytics, email lead-nurturing and spiffy cloud-based CRMs; that’s all awesome.  But at the end of the day, somebody needs to pick up the phone and call a guy.  All the purchased leads, list builds, trade shows and million dollar ad-spends don’t mean jack if your sales guys are only pumping through 5 calls a day.

Continue reading →


23
Apr 13

4 questions from a reader – Advice for Young Professionals

When folks start coming to you for ‘advice for young professionals‘, it’s time to concede that 37 is in fact ancient and it’s time to give up on your dreams of becoming a break-dance contestant on America’s Got Talent.

Here’s a recent chat I had with Jacqueline Cavalheiro (Student Awards) of Humber College in Toronto. Continue reading →