Sugar and Smiles: That’s How I Roll

The smiley face. The smiley emoticon. They’re all over my offline and online world. I spotted these cookies at a Noe Valley cafe this morning. I just had to capture them and share them with you. If you do a Search for  “happiness” or “instant gratification” or #American I think you may just find these. The sweetness and comfort of sugar and the warmth and power of a smile generates the Pollyanna state of mind that we need to keep us buoyant in this weird world.

These smiley cookies are labeled as “Holiday Cookies” and convention dictates that we should try to be kinder, gentler and happier during the Holiday Season. Shouldn’t we try to be that way all the time? Or at least project that? I’m trying. See, that’s me in the photo below during SantaCon San Francisco. I’m smiling. 🙂 SantaCon is an annual event inviting hundreds of people to dress up in Santa like costumes on a Saturday in December. In San Francisco, the masses first congregated at City Hall and then walked up to the Polk Gulch/ Russian Hill neighborhood for a pub crawl. It was a fun experience. Find out if it happens in your city. Or just start one.

 SantaCon San Francisco 2011

So that’s how I roll. Armed with a cookie and a smile. That’s my dual weapon of hope for the New Year. What’s in your arsenal of hope for Twenty Twelve? 2012 –> 🙂 🙂 :-] :-}

 

 

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Love and War: Genocide, Human Rights and Angelina Jolie

I’m excited to participate in the San Francisco private screening tonight of In the Land of Blood and Honey as there will be a panel afterwards featuring speakers from the Global Fund for Women and the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley. It’s a film re-living the Bosnian genocide of the nineties and tells the story of two Bosnians from different sides of a brutal ethnic conflict. There is a lot of press surrounding the event because of the face associated with the production. This is Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut and I believe she also co-produced and was involved with the writing. She’s all over it, but not in it. Here’s an interview with Angelina Jolie by Charlie Rose in YouTube format. The interview appears to be broken up into different videos so this is just ‘Part I’ and you’ll have to follow “screamingangie11” if you want to continue with this channel sequence. I think the beginning of the interview which also includes a trailer of the film will provide you with a good sense of why she embarked on this project.

I’m also excited for tonight since I get to see my friend Karen who was out of town for the Holidays. She’s very passionate about human rights in the Middle East and Taiwan. I  look forward to participating in one of her Amnesty International events in a couple of weeks – another screening featuring My Tehran for Sale.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film in a real movie theater setting. And the subjects for “In the Land of Blood and Honey” and “My Tehran for Sale” sound very compelling. Film, Human Rights, Foreign Lands, Culture and Politics in San Francisco. Not a dull blend.

Lesson Four: Design Counts (not Price)

…..cont’d from

Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

Lesson Two: Do Not Listen To Customers

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work

Lesson Four: Design Counts (not Price) People do care about Design. Mr. Kawasaki believes that it is about the “skin” of the product and not the algorithm. He learned this at Apple. Put simply, looks matter. Apple product owners have a sense of emotional pride from being an Apple product owner. They believe in the value of beautiful products.

This sense of emotional pride also reminds me of the luxury market. Think Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry, etc….People buy luxury products because it provides a sense of status and equips them with emotional pride. Some would argue that a Toyota runs just as well as a Mercedes, or even better. Some would argue that a $100 handbag functions just as well as a $5000 handbag. So why do people make such purchases when the function is clearly met with a less expensive alternative? Emotional pride. People buy what they want, not what they need. Such high-end purchasers also believe that a luxury product delivers a superior quality compared to a non-luxury product. Price is not important to luxury consumers because they will pay for the Best, or the perception of the Best.

So off to a semi-tangent here…..Consider this photo below of a designer handbag I took from the December 2011 issue of Vogue. On a purely design level, some may consider it attractive, beautiful, cool, awesome, etc…..Others may consider it…..well, ugly. Why would I want a handbag with holes? Why would I want a handbag with these vulgar logos emblazoned all over it? But that’s not the point. These Brands such as Apple (for technology) and Louis V. (for luxury) have become the arbiters of good taste and the authorities for cool in their respective niches. So the irony is that consumers may initially be drawn to a universally accepted “beautiful product”, but the Brands evolve into tastemakers which tell the consumer what they need to buy. They also develop the power to declare what is desirable.

So back to Lesson Four. Design trumps Price. Looks matter. Beautiful products beget emotional pride. Emotion wins. Don’t forget what it means to be authentically human.

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work

…..cont’d from Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots and Lesson Two: Do Not Listen to Customers

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work. This seems to be in line with conventional wisdom. In the same vein as, “What Won’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger” this could be filed in the ‘Character Building’ box of Life. Mr. Kawasaki believes that if you provide the challenge, employees will rise up. They will rise up and bulid something quite revolutionary, perhaps. As an entrepreneur, how would you motivate your team members to perform with excellence?

I also believe that Freedom Begets Creativity which Begets the Best Work. If an individual feels totally free and uninhibited it becomes an opportunity to create magnificent work. Some people feel that Apple products are a result of creative genius. What products do you possess that are a result of creative genius?

Lesson Two: Do Not Listen to Customers

….. cont’d from Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

Lesson Two: Customers cannot tell you what they need. According to Mr. Kawasaki, Apple does not use focus groups. As an entrepreneur, if you want to make a revolutionary change it is not effective to listen to customers. They will only describe their needs in terms of “better” and “cheaper.” They will not describe them in revolutionary terms. So does this mean, “As an entrepreneur, you need to tell your customers what they need”?

This is interesting. Compare the above Lesson from an Apple disciple with how Eric Ries and his book The Lean Startup posits the value of the customer. The Lean Startup movement or being “Lean” is a very popular topic in the Valley and the Start Up World which has developed somewhat of a cult following. The Lean approach of’ “build, measure, learn” quickly and efficiently  seems pretty customer-centric to me.

So what role does the customer play? Does it depend on the nature of the product/service? Would you prefer to Listen or Tell?

Everyday is Halloween in San Francisco

I took this picture on New Year’s Eve in Union Square, San Francisco:

The Sparkly Rainbow Guy was out in full force in Union Square. He seemed to be hustling for attention for a while until this lady approached him. San Francisco is full of performance artists. Whether you want to dress up or dress down, whether you want to dress in full regalia or or simply play a role, whether you are crazy or non-crazy, all are welcome in this town. You are free to express yourself.

2011 was an explosion of self-expression all over the digital landscape. Social media is about self-expression and we witnessed major political change globally through this medium and because of this medium. And I believe you will see more acts of self-expression committed by citizens of nations trying to make institutional change in 2012 and beyond.

I remember meeting a New York transplant who told me that his friends back East call San Francisco full of “crunchy” types. I look at it this way. New York has New Yorkers.  Paris has Parisians. And San Francisco has people who understand the value of self-expression to change the world.

Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

This post is for the entrepreneur or aspiring one. Guy Kawasaki worked for Apple and Steve Jobs twice. He learned some things. He shares Twelve Lessons with you that he learned from Steve Jobs. Here is the YouTube video of that presentation which was given after Mr. Jobs’ passing. It’s about 47 minutes long. I will summarize each lesson in twelve entries or if you want to listen to its entirety here it is:

Lesson One: Mr. Kawasaki thinks that experts are clueless. Especially the “social media experts” or the “social media gurus.” If someone tells you that they are one of these, run the other way. Experts can’t help you. They are arrogant and will just tell you to do the better sameness. They are disconnected from customers. Steve Jobs did not listen to experts. In fact, experts listened to him. As entrepreneurs, you are supposed to figure it out for yourself. Social media has allowed you to get close to people and influencers very fast. Use it correctly and learn something.