Difficult and Interesting Problems

Just – how are we to find difficult and interesting problems to solve?

Being locked out of your car is not an interesting problem. Call five locksmiths, hire the cheap and fast one, you’ll be fine.

And getting a script written or a book cover designed isn’t that interesting either. There are thousands of trained professionals happy to do it for you.

On the other hand, if you need a script that will win awards, sell tickets and change lives, that’s difficult. And interesting. Or if you need a book cover that will leap off the shelf, define a segment, make a career—that’s hard as well.

See in full here from Seth’s blog.

Our “Sharing Economy” and Startups

Has the emergence of the sharing economy really made life more convenient for people?  Maybe, but to be quite frankly, probably not for most people.  While we don’t seem to ever have to worry about hailing a cab at airports or getting things shipped to us overnight from the other side of the world, we are constantly distracted and are becoming more and more incompetent at doing simple things ourselves without turning to our “smart” gadgets.  Then there is also the nationwide global “startup fever” whereby app development is consistently idolized as the most powerful engine to progressing our economy.

But what about the people?  Are we, as intellectual, thought-processing, and emotional beings, better off as a result of all that our sharing economy has so far delivered?

An interesting piece from Medium offers a fresh perspective:

These tech companies position themselves as heroes. They talk about “changing the world” constantly. Yet all they do is churn out technology for rich, white dudes in their 20s/30s who live in big cities and want apps to fill in the blanks for what mommy used to do.

Mommy used to pick me up from soccer practice. A: Uber.
Mommy used to do my laundry. A: Flycleaners.
Mommy used to clean my room. A: Handy.
Mommy used to buy me groceries. A: Blue Apron.
Mommy used to cook me food. A: Seamless.

And they even call it “mom-tech.” We’re letting our lives be dictated by brogrammers who want to breastfeed forever.

Read in full here.

Why We Donate

The short answer is because it’s easy.

Donation (i.e. giving to charities) is an easy way to help others without bothering much. Does that sound a bit too harsh on us who give regularly? Maybe. But there’s probably some truth to it. Many of us give because we want to do some good to the rest of the world and yet realize that we just don’t have what it takes to give just “too much.”

In this short Federalist article below, Huenink writes that donations are not what a poverty-ridden community needs in the long run. The modern humanity’s tendency to want a “quick fix” to everything makes the prospect of dropping off our no-longer-needed household items, clothes, and food to a donation box quite appealing. But in the long run, what a poor community needs is development, not charity:

If charity hurts the poor and increases poverty, why do we do it?

Because it’s easy to spend an hour at the grocery store buying food, or scrounging through the cupboards to find an old can of spinach to donate. There’s no planning. You don’t have to meet new people, or try to understand the complex web of relationships in a new place. You can even think you have all the answers to someone else’s problems.

It’s easy to push our duty to care for our neighbors onto the government, too. But bureaucrats can’t do development. They don’t have the flexibility to make decisions or the time to get to know the people they are helping. They can only plug someone into a program that distributes according a formula written in a legislative chamber or governor’s office far away. Relief is just easy.

Read in full here.

Learning from the Japanese

Japan is an interesting country. Some say the country has no future, and yet so many things about the country are so fascinating to so many of us that articles like this take us by surprise.

A small island nation that once used to lead the rest of the world by its top-notch technology, global companies, and, well, a plethora of cute stationery has long remained somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. Just think of how few Japanese students have been choosing to study abroad — maybe because of their high loyalty to their homeland or their lack of interest in international education. Regardless, the country recently received a NYTimes coverage when a traveling journalist noted highly of their culture of work.

This particular blurb cracks me up:

On another occasion, while waiting at a bus stop in the seaside city of Kobe, I found myself watching a group of five men who were drilling a hole. Or rather, one of them was; the other four were watching him. For the whole 30 minutes, that’s all they did. But they didn’t do it reluctantly, or while checking their smartphones, or gossiping, or anything. It was like a demonstration: ‘All other techniques for watching a guy dig a hole are incorrect. This is how you watch a guy digging a hole.’

A Painful Trade-Off?

How true, and yet how difficult!

At some point in our lives, I think we all realize we can’t do it all. I don’t think I am old yet, but I am starting to really get that now in my head. What do I choose when it’s absolutely not possible that I do it all — that is, if I have to choose?

The best way to build a brand that matters, a story that spreads, an impact that we remember, is to understand a simple but painful trade-off:

If you want to stand for something,

You can’t stand for everything.

“Anyone can be our customer and we will get you what you want…” is almost impossible to pull off. So is, “we are the cheapest and the most convenient and the best.”

H/T to Seth Godin.

Trump Wins

Last night was a pretty special night. All over the world, that is. I was sitting in an airport in Germany when this all happened, and I am pretty sure the entire world was watching what was about to happen, hoping for what they believed was the best.

As of sometime early this morning, Donald Trump is officially the President-elect of the United States of America to assume the office on January 20, 2017.

I don’t think I still know enough about Donald Trump to comment on the outcome of the election. I did not support him (even though I don’t get to vote here in this country), but now that he is the President-elect, I do wish him well and pray for him. Ultimately, as Abraham Lincoln put it at the beginning of his second administration, we, as a nation, are to strive to “achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations” (H/T to TGC). I am convinced that this can only happen when and if all — not just those elected to offices — strive and run together. Maybe, just maybe, then, it might not matter on the most fundamental level who gets to be the next president, as much as we fear.

Corrosion

Reblogged from Seth Godin’s blog:

The things that break all at once aren’t really a problem. You note that they’ve broken, and then you fix them.

The challenge is corrosion. Things that slowly fade, that eventually become a hassle–it takes effort and judgment to decide when it’s time to refurbish them.

And yes, the same thing is true for relationships, customer service and all the ‘soft’ stuff that matters so much.

One Day’s Wages: Walking the Talk

There is no doubt about how many wonderful NGOs have come about to helping to alleviate extreme poverty of the world. Love it, and I hope this trend continues it.

Here’s one I came across yesterday, One Day’s Wage. I particularly liked what I found on its website:

Walk the talk. Donate your day’s wages on your work campaign and let others know that you’re not asking them to do something you’re not willing to do.

More of us need to walk the talk that we deliver. Will you consider giving your one day’s wages to the extremely poor?