pablo

The holidays have arrived… along with all your relatives

Ah, the holidays. Depending on your luck (and your perspective), you may find yourself surrounded by near and distant family sometime over the next few weeks. And you may remember why distance makes the heart grow fonder. It can be daunting, amidst the pressure of finding perfect gifts, getting everyone where they need to be (and when), and struggling to keep the real spirit of the season in mind, to have extended family lurking in the shadows.

You remember them, right? The in-laws and their list of demands, the crazy uncle who always seems to be one cocktail ahead of everyone else, the branch that’s global-warming-denying/social-medicine-supporting/Obama-hating/Hillary-loving… There are at least two sides to every issue and when most families get together, there’s plenty of room to choose sides and get into a good old-fashioned boondoggle.

Family. The very mention of them sends some people heading for the woods. Maybe it’s because we’re all so damned flawed and no one knows your flaws better than they do. Or has longer memories. Or quicker tongues. Growing up around my house, it was common to hear the admonition that you’d better have thick skin to withstand all the shots that would be taken. The result? You either developed that thick skin or adopted a complicated schedule that kept you from having to show up too much.

Families are designed to prepare us for the world outside, so it’s fitting that you get tossed out of the nest with a full suit of armor. The world, as everyone knows, is a difficult place; shouldn’t hurt you a bit to know what you’re getting into. On the other hand, not everyone is naturally attuned or easily prepared for the cruelty outside. There are some (including at least one among my own kids) who simply prefer to see the world for the mesmerizing, beautiful place it is. She doesn’t need thicker skin; she needs the rest of us to have brighter, more perceptive eyes. We should all be so lucky to see the world as she does.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this:

Our families are a gift (as screwed up as they may be). A gift that, for most of us, can’t be returned. With all their flaws and our misgivings about them, they provide a window into our own personalities, which can ben mighty painful. But they’re here for us, they have our back, and they usually mean well. Really, they do. They also give us love and courage to face the world at large, and provide a safe haven where we can go to be reminded of our shortcomings when we get weary of strangers pointing them out.

Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have some of your family around in the next few weeks. I hope you try to be patient, and kind, and forgiving. I was reminded of this when I watched the short film “Denali.” pictured above and viewable here. In it, the narrator says, “There was this really smart scientist guy who thought that people could learn a lot from dogs. He said, ‘When someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.’

It won’t be easy, but I promise it’s worth the effort. And wouldn’t it be nice if it happened that way for you, too?

Here’s wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday filled with moments totally insane with joy.

[Note: Read “What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging” or, if you’re the video watching type, don’t miss Denali.]

Phillipe Petit crosses between the Twin Towers, August 7, 1974

How you can use Phillipe Petit’s secret for accomplishing great things

In 1974, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center complex stood as the highest buildings in the world. On the morning of August 7, Phillipe Petit, a 24-year-old Frenchman, stepped off the edge of the south tower to walk the wire he had rigged between them.

This was not an official stunt. In fact, Petit referred to it as his “le coup, the artistic crime of the century” and spent six years planning. It all led to roughly 45 minutes spent on the wire, where he made eight passes back and forth between the buildings — including kneeling and lying down on his back — before walking off the other side to the waiting handcuffs of police.

The entire story was captured by Petit and his crew and was later turned into a documentary called “Man on Wire,” in homage to the description from the original police report. “Man on Wire” was completed in 2008 and won several prestigious awards, including the Grand Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Documentary. The movie is terrific; I recommend you make an effort to see it.

I was reminded of Petit recently while watching a TED Talk he gave in March, ’12. As he described what it was like to take that first step from the edge of the building at the top of the world, I couldn’t help but think of how his words applied to every endeavor, every project, every effort we make.

Those of us who work at desks are not often faced with being on the edge, but there are certainly events that push us beyond our comfort zone and raise the blood pressure. Expectations, either internal or external, exert tremendous forces that must be dealt with in order to succeed. Here is how Petit describes these moments and how he quiets the “inner howl” that assails him. The words are his, the emphasis is mine:

On the top of the World Trade Center, my first step was… terrifying.

All of the sudden, the density of the air is no longer the same. Manhattan no longer spreads its’ infinity; the murmur of the city dissolves into a squall whose chill and power I no longer feel… I lift the balancing pole, I approach the edge, I step over the beam. I put my left foot on the cable. The weight of my body rests on my right leg, anchored to the flank of the building. I ever-so-slightly shift my weight to the left, my right leg will be unburdened, my foot will freely meet the wire.

An inner howl assails me: the wild longing to flee. But it is too late. The wire is ready. Decisively, my other foot sets itself onto the cable.

‘Faith’ is what replaces ‘doubt’ in my dictionary.

When he puts one foot on the wire, he has the faith — the certitude — that he will perform the last step. If not, he says, he would run away and hide.

You cannot have a project or goal if you don’t have faith. If not, it will be like ‘Oh, I hope, one day, you know, that success will fall from the sky and I’ll be there to receive it.’ It doesn’t work like that.

“There is no recipe, there is no algorithm, parameter or algebraic formula that I could give to say, “If you need to concentrate in duress or in an amazing moment in your life, do this or do that…” it all depends on who we are.

But I believe he has provided the formula: We have to know both where we’re starting and where we’re going, and we must have absolute faith that we’ll get there. If we do, taking that last step will be as certain as the first.

The big announcement from Apple wasn’t the Watch or the new iPhone

Apple Watch

A game-changer for the fitness industry, but not the biggest announcement of the day

Let’s be clear: everyone (except me, apparently) wanted a bigger phone. They’re going to get that with the new iPhone 6 and 6L. And the Apple WATCH, with it’s beautiful design, fitness tracking capabilities and deep integration with the iPhone is going to be a big hit. (A very big hit, in fact.)

But the announcement that stole the show was also the one that you might have missed. It was the introduction of Apple Pay. Apple’s new payment system will work in tandem with an NFC chip built into the phone and rely on the already-popular fingerprint scanning security features. In theory, it will make it simple for you to pay for nearly anything without ever reaching into your wallet.

At launch, there will only be about 200,000 place where you’ll be able to use this new process, but look for that number to grow very rapidly over the next couple of years. The reason this is such a big freaking deal is this: everyday, Americans process more than $12 billion dollars in credit and debit card payments. If they can convert these transactions to happen in their ecosystem, Apple stands to make a tiny percentage on each one of those transaction. A tiny percentage; so small no one will really notice. But pick almost any tiny number you like and then multiply it by 12 billion. The result won’t be so tiny anymore. That’s the size of the market, theoretically available for a cash influx, every single day.

Of course, they won’t get all of them and there are certainly competitors in the market. To be sure, Google Wallet has been around for awhile without making much of a dent in the market. But let’s not forget there were other MP3 players before the iPod and there were other phones before the iPhone and there were other tablets before the iPad. Apple has consistently shown they can become the dominant player in key industries by exercising a willful amount of patience and skillful execution. I fully expect Apple Pay to have precisely the same results.

Might be time to take another look at picking up some Apple stock. (AAPL)

(For a more detailed look at Apple Pay, see this article from The New York Times Technology section: With Apple Pay, a Push Into Mobile Payments)

Six-Word Memoirs help provide focus and inspiration

six-word memoir

For this: “I love you, Dad.”

There’s a legend that the Hemingway wrote the greatest short story ever using just six words:

“For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”

There are many indications that Papa didn’t pen those words or— if he did— was not the first to do so. But the Hemingway attribution persists, as these things often do.

The baby shoes story is illustrative of trying to tell a story with the absolute minimum of works. Generally referred to as flash fiction, the six-word limit led to the idea of the six-word memoir, including a collection published in book form by Smith Magazine in 2008.

Regardless, the point remains: you can say a lot without saying much at all. Which brings me around to my question today.

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Or, put another way, when you’re gone, what do you want people to remember about you? 

Recently, my CEO group was tasked with considering these questions and writing our own six-word memoirs. It’s a great exercise that will help you hone in on the things that really keep you going, enabling you to marginalize all the noise and trash that just interferes with clear thinking.

It was also surprisingly difficult to do. In the end, I finally settled on:

For this: “I love you, Dad.” 

Do you have your own six-word memoir? If so, I’d love to read it; share it in the comments below. If you haven’t written one yet but want to try, Smith Magazine has some great examples and good inspiration.

Heartbreak leads to a tiny, lovely tribute from a worldwide community

rebeccapurple

Rebecca Alison Meyer
June 7, 2008 – June 7, 2014

Eric Meyer is an expert in what we call Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which are used to control how things “look” in your web browser. Truth be told, he’s a bit of a legend who has spearheaded the development of making it easier for us to build beautiful things. At Rare Bird, we’re all familiar with his work and some of us have either heard him speak or read his books (or, in a few cases, both.)

A couple of weeks ago, on June 7, his daughter Rebecca passed away. She was six.

Eric and his wife, Kathryn, requested that those who attend the services and are comfortable wearing purple do so in honor of Rebecca and her favorite color. Upon hearing this, a member of the WC3 staff, Dom Hazaël-Massieux, requested that a purple in the CSS color list be named “Becca Purple” in her memory. Eric suggested that it be named “rebeccapurple” instead, because his daughter wanted everyone to call her Rebecca after she turned six, and – after all – she was six for almost 12 hours.

On Saturday, June 21, Rebecca Purple (#663399) was officially added as the 141st color to be recognized by name by all web browsers.

And so, from this tremendous heartbreak, a color is born.