The Problem With “Friends”

I have lots of “friends” online. These are folks who I may or may not know in the real world, but I tend to see a lot of them online in places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. What I’m finding is that my “friends” who have pretty hard set political views tend to share the same kind of stuff, whether they’re liberal or conservative. If I were to put them in the same room together they would all probably be civil, get their views across in a relatively sane and measured way and then afterwards in the safety of their own environs they’d point out the idiocy of the other in a prototypical, Southern, bless-his-heart kind of way.

However, those same people have no problem sharing the most banal and inflammatory crap put out by “infurianators” on an almost hourly basis. Below is a picture of two “shares” that literally showed up on my Facebook timeline in order, one from a liberal and the other from a conservative. I deleted the friend info to keep the names off a public post, but believe me the items are legit. I get tired just thinking about the crap that’s gonna show up online until the 16 election, which thankfully is just a short 14 months away.

FBJuxta

And you should see the comments under these things. Believe me when I say that both conservatives and liberals are prolific in their hyperbolic outrage.

My Pentathlon of Pain for Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC

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I’ve been talking about this for a while, but now I’ve finally decided to pull the trigger. From 9/11/15 to 10/11/15 I’m going to engage in what I’ve dubbed Jon’s Pentathlon of Pain to raise money and awareness for Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC. What exactly is it? Actually it’s pretty simple: it’s five physically trying or embarrassing activities that I will undertake to raise money on behalf of the food bank. Here’s how it will work:

  • Someone sponsors me for a certain amount of money and they get to pick the embarrassing or physically challenging thing I will do. For example I jumped in a pool last year wearing a tiara, tutu and high heals and with a slogan painted on my back. In exchange the Blue Ridge Companies gave hundreds of dollars to Second Harvest.
  • Another option is that I will do something trying and people will donate to the food bank after I complete the task. So if I run 15 miles then they’ll donate a dollar a mile – that kind of thing.

So how can you help? Well I’ve already signed up to do the 9/11 World Trade Center memorial stair climb. That’s 110 flights of stairs I will climb and descend on the morning of the 11th. You could agree to donate a certain amount per flight if you’d like. Or you can suggest an activity and have your company sponsor it. I’ll gladly promote your company in the process and every single dollar will go to Second Harvest.

If you want to simply make a donation just visit the online donation page and when you make the donation please just put PoP next to your name so I know that it’s for this effort. Or check out the schedule below and if you see an available slot and you have something crazy or challenging for me to do, then just reach out and see what we can work out!

Schedule of Events

  1. Sep 11, 2015: World Trade Center Memorial Stair climb – I’m gonna climb 100 stories!
  2. Week of Sep 13-19: To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.
  3. Week of Sep 26: Salem Lake 7 mile OR 30K Trail Race – if I get more than $1,000 in sponsorship/donations to Second Harvest for this week I will do the 30K, which is 18.6 miles. I’ve never run more than 13.1 before.
  4. Week of Sep 27-Oct 3: To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.
  5. Week of Oct 4-10: To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.
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Click on this image to donate today!

Living in a World of Red Herrings

Every time we have another gun-related tragedy in the United States, like yesterday’s killing of a reporter and her cameraman live on air during a morning news broadcast, we are all fed a predictable diet of red herrings. It’s tiresome and, worse, prevents us from even starting to address the problem. For those of you not from these parts here’s how things currently work:

  1. On a daily basis some Americans die of gunshot wounds for a variety of reasons, but on a fairly regular basis multiple people are killed in such a way that it makes the news.
  2. Before the gun smoke has even dissipated people in favor of gun control cite the story as a prime example of why we need <fill in the blank gun control proposal>.
  3. At the same time gun rights advocates invoke the mental health argument, i.e. “The shooter was mentally ill, and if he didn’t have a gun he would have found another way to kill him”, or the “if the victims were armed they could have killed the attacker” argument, or the “gun control only takes the guns out of the hands of honest citizens since criminals would still find a way to get them” argument, or some combination of all three.
  4. Everybody argues about it for a couple of days.
  5. We move on.
  6. The next tragedy happens.

Quite frankly both groups are right and wrong. They’re also being manipulated by various constituencies – the most obvious being the NRA – in those groups’ attempts to avoid any kind of rational approach to dealing with what everyone agrees is a national problem yet might require them to make some kind of compromise from their entrenched positions.

Since people can’t seem to be rational about this issue, and since I’ve long since grown tired arguing about it, I’m starting to take the following approach when people bring it up to me:

If a gun rights advocate uses the “he was mentally ill and would have found a way to kill them” argument I simply ask: “Given the choice of being confronted with a nut-case armed with a gun or knife (or hammer, or crossbow, or bottle full of acid, etc.) which would you prefer?” If any of them answer “gun” then I stop talking to them because they either aren’t interested in having a rational discussion or they shouldn’t be allowed to walk without a helmet.

If a gun control advocate invokes an “it’s all about the guns” arguments then I ask, “If confronted by a mentally deranged man armed with a handgun would you rather have a gun or a knife (or hammer, or crossbow, or bottle full of acid, etc.) to defend yourself?” If they answer anything but a gun then I react the same way I do to the answer from the gun rights advocate.

My purpose in asking these kinds of questions is to try and move the discussion away from the red herrings thrown out there by the gun rights/control advocates and toward a discussion about how we might take a rational, comprehensive approach to solving a very serious societal problem. Of course that won’t work with those who firmly believe that ONLY gun control or ONLY absolute gun ownership rights are the solution, but those folks could never be part of the solution anyway. The people who can and should come up with a solution are those who believe the answer is somewhere in between.

Top 25 Letdown

The Wall Street Journal recently had an interesting item about the win-loss records of the football coaches in all the major conferences against AP top-25 teams. Here’s the current ACC coaches’ records:

School Coach W-L Career W-L Current
Boston College Steve Addazio 1-6 1-4
Clemson Dabo Swinney 9-18 9-18
Duke David Cutcliffe 9-26 3-14
Florida State Jimbo Fisher 12-6 12-6
Georgia Tech Paul Johnson 10-22 10-13
Louisville Bobby Petrino 14-19 4-7
Miami (FL) Al Golden 3-13 3-8
NC State Dave Doeren 1-4 0-3
North Carolina Larry Fedora 3-9 1-5
Pittsburgh Pat Narduzzi 0-0 0-0
Syracuse Scott Shafer 0-7 0-7
Virginia Mike London 4-9 4-9
Virginia Tech Frank Beamer 45-50-1 45-50-1
Wake Forest Dave Clawson 1-9 0-2

Add it all up and these guys have won 39% of their games against Top 25 teams while coaching at their respective schools (the current number above), which is only nominally better than the 36% collective career average. Why’s that important? Because many of these coaches came from head coaching positions at smaller schools and you would expect them to have more losses there since they would have been homecoming/early season fodder for larger football schools. You would think that once they got to the larger schools their records would have improved with access to more resources, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Of course you can also look at it this way: it takes time to build a winning program and in today’s “win now” culture these guys just don’t get the time to lay the groundwork needed to have a strong sustainable program. That’s why Virginia Tech stands out. Beamer might have a sub-.500 record, but he’s had almost 100 games against Top 25 teams which indicates that they don’t run away from a tough schedule and they also give their coach plenty of opportunities to build and rebuild.

Love it or hate it, the reality is that college football is big business on college campuses and the head coaches are among the highest paid people on campus. And to be clear the ACC isn’t the only conference with coaches with numbers like these – the vast majority of coaches have losing records against Top 25 teams – so you have to wonder how so many keep their jobs right? That’s why we have the FCS which is chock full of teams from smaller football programs willing to take a beating in exchange for some cash. Everyone wins – the big schools get two or three almost-guaranteed wins a year, the coaches get to pad their records and the small schools get their biggest paydays of the season before playing their peers. It’s the American way.

The Make Me Barf League

This might be the single most nauseating thing I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s a Business Insider story about something called The League and as I read it I kept trying to find the “Parody” sign, both for the story’s subject matter and writing that’s so bad you want to believe it’s purposeful. Sadly, I suspect it’s real. Here’s a taste:

The League, a selective dating app for successful people, launched in San Francisco earlier this year, and a few months ago it launched in New York City.

Stanford graduate Amanda Bradford founded The League and raised $2.1 million to match up highly motivated and interesting single professionals.

The League founder Amanda Bradford, pic from Business Insider

On July 31, The League held a party out in Montauk, exclusively for its selective group of New York users. Actress Mischa Barton was among the party’s attendees…

The attendees had a lot in common — good schools, similar jobs — so conversation came easy for them…

During the first hour of the party, League guests were given an open bar. This undoubtedly made people loosen up…

So what does it take to get into The League? Its users often hold degrees from prestigious schools

To get in, The League uses a secret algorithm that looks at both your LinkedIn profile and your network of friends.

Secret algorithm? Good Lord, all you have to do is check out the article and its accompanying pics to figure out that the service’s secret sauce is based on a time-tested recipe concocted eons ago by a bunch of teenagers. I suspect the algorithm involves a bunch of perfectly coiffed folks sifting through profile pics and saying, “She’s, like, hideous. Oh, he’s dee-lish. OMG, look at that hair!”

I wish I could find something redeeming here, but honest to God it makes me want to move to a desert island.

Getting Back Up

Fred Wilson has a post at AVC that isn’t mind blowing, but it is oh so right:

I recently had breakfast with a friend who is an entrepreneur. He had a really rough start to 2015. His business had a tough year in 2014 and he realized at the start of 2015 that if he didn’t make some big changes to the team and operating structure and costs he was going to hit the wall. He sort of did hit the wall to be honest.

He cut out a layer of management, he cut costs across his entire operation, he got back involved in his product and operations, he worked harder and longer than he has ever worked, including when he started the company…

After he told me all of this, I told him that I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who didn’t get knocked down in the ring at least once or twice. I told him that you can read all you want and get all the advice and coaching that is available and you still will not learn the hard lessons that one has to learn to become best in class at what you do. I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to learn some things the hard way to really learn them well.

Back in the 90s I started a small b-to-b newsletter publishing company. For the first couple of years things went well, and then they didn’t. Before long the business was running on fumes and my personal life was in a shambles. In retrospect the traits that allowed me to start the business in the first place – being young, dumb and brash enough to think I could do it – ended up being my greatest weakness when the business struggled. I didn’t know how, or who, to ask for help. I thought I could figure it out on my own and I couldn’t.

In the end I shut the business down because I didn’t have the energy to save it and my marriage/family life. I moved on to another publishing company and actually got to do some pretty cool things for them that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. My marriage and family stayed intact and became stronger as a result. Eventually I went back out on my own as a consultant and had a great run before taking the job that I’ve enjoyed for six years (and counting).

The lessons learned from that “failure” included:

  • Family first. Always, and forever.
  • Know the value of humility. You can’t, and shouldn’t, do it all and you should surround yourself with people who can do the things you can’t.
  • People actually like being asked to help, and if you do ask almost everyone will do what they can to help you.
  • Never stop learning and trying to grow. This applies both professionally and personally, and as Fred points out in his post, your failures are actually great opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Small example: I didn’t use a payroll company because I didn’t want to spend the $100/month for their service. Let’s just say the mistakes I made ended up costing far more than that. One of the first things I did at my current job? Got us set up with a payroll company.

Are these common sense bromides that you can find in any small business/entrepreneurial website, book, blog or magazine? Yep. So why am I sharing? Because I read all those things and the lessons still didn’t sink in until I lived through them. I’m hoping at least one of you will be spared the pain if you hear it from one more source.

I also believe in paying it forward, so if you ever find yourself in a bind and think there’s no way out I’m more than willing to listen and hopefully find a way to help. If nothing else I can offer a sympathetic ear.

There’s no shame in failing but it’s a huge mistake to not get back up and push on. Another well worn sentiment that you’ve probably heard a thousand times, but it’s worth saying again because it’s true. Believe me, I learned the hard way.