Showing posts with label Consequences. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Consequences. Show all posts

April 23, 2019

Hopefully, All's Well That Ends Well

I liked this Hebrew sign that says (translated):
When the end is good, all is good. 

Or as we commonly say:
All's well that end's well. 

Lot of truth to this. 

And there are so many languages that talk to this.

I remember my father used to say it in German as well.

When things end well, it's as if everything went well. And when things end badly, it's as if everything was bad. 

The human mind seems to focus on the last thing (and forgets virtually everything leading up to it). 

Perhaps, we justify the means with the end (i.e. all the time and effort leading up to it). 

Or maybe we recap our lives as either a success or failure by how things ended up. 

In 20/20 hindsight, we can see the consequences of our actions.

- Was all the hard work worth it?

- Did we even focus on the right priorities and goals in life?

- Were the choices and decisions we made well-founded? 

- What was the impact on ourselves, our loved ones, and more broadly?

We look for meaning and purpose in our lives, and hopefully in the end when we look back, we are blessed to see that it was all for the good. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 22, 2019

You Ended Up In Hell City

So a friend told me something funny.

It was about being given what appears to be a wonderful opportunity, but in reality it's not all roses. 

In short, it went something like this:
There was an exciting competition and a prize at the end. 
Everyone prepared and worked hard to win it. 
But when the competition was over, what was the prize?
The 2nd place was two weeks in Philadelphia. 
The 1st place was one week in Philadelphia. 

I had to think about that for a second, but that is really pretty funny and true. 

No not about Philadelphia, but about life--that what we often mistakenly want so badly and strive for with all our energies, and then only to find out that it really wasn't as good or amazing for us and our families as we imagined. 

Yes, very often you set your sights on certain goals to win the competition, but then you find out that the BIG prize ("first place") is really not something to get excited about, because it's in Philadelphia!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 18, 2019

Struggling With Some Decisions

So I've been helping some family members with some really big decisions lately. 

As we all know, there are pros and cons to every alternative. 

I remember how you can diagram decisions out like the branches of a tree with probabilities for each branch to try and get to the highest value decision. 

The problem is we don't know everything that may happen down the road or even know the probabilities for each possibility--or as they say:
We don't know what we don't know.  

So it's hard to make a great decision and not second guess yourself.
Well, what if...

You can "what if" yourself to sleepless nights and death and never decide or do anything meaningful. 

We have to make the best decisions we can usually with limited information. 

Using gut or intuition is not a solution either--those can end up being very wrong especially when we let our raw emotions dictate. 

So I do not take decision-making for myself or helping others lightly, especially my family. 

I want to protect them and help them make good decisions that will bear fruit and joy down the road. 

I definitely don't want to waste everyones time and efforts and lead them or myself down a dead end or worse off of a cliff.

In the end, we have to turn to G-d and whisper:
Oh G-d, please help us to make the right decisions, because only you know what the results will be from it. 

And so, I am definitely whispering!

At the same time, we need to move forward and not let fear and doubt get in our way of living. 

Yes, we have to be prudent and take calculated risks (everything worthwhile is a risk), but also, we have to look at the potential rewards and the costs for these (every decision is an investment of time and resources) and then just try our best. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 4, 2019

Them Tables Always Turn

Just wanted to share a saying that I liked.

It is an ancient Mongolian proverb and was in the movie, "Mogul" about the rise of Genghis Khan:
Do not scorn a weak cub; he may become a brutal tiger. 
I think this is the Asian equivalent of:

1) Don't burn your bridges.
2  Don't start a war you can't win. 
3) Pick on someone your own size.
4) What goes around comes around.

The Asian version is better! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 13, 2018

A Social System that Inspires Pride and Shame


This story continues to fascinate me. 

China's social credit system started in 2015. 

China scores individuals based on public data (social media, financial, insurance, health, shopping, dating, and more), and they have people that act as "information collectors" (i.e. neighborhood watchers) who record what their neighbors are doing--good and bad. 

Each individual starts with a 1,000 points. 

If you do good things in Chinese society--helping people, cleaning up, being honest--you get points added. 

If you do bad things in China--fight with people, make a mess, be dishonest--you get points deducted. 

Fail below 1,000 points and you are in trouble--and can get blacklisted!

A good score is something to be proud of and a bad score is something that shames people to hopefully change for the better. 

But more than that, your social score has tangible social impacts--it can determine your ability to get into certain schools, obtain better jobs, homes, loans/mortgages, high-speed internet, and even high-speed train tickets/airplane flights. 

While maybe well intentioned, certainly, this has the very real potential to become a surveillance state and the embodiment of "Big Brother"!

On one hand, it seems like a great thing to drive people and society to be better. Isn't that what we do with recognizing and rewarding good behavior and with our laws and justice system in punishing bad behavior?

Yet, to me this type of all-encompassing social credit system risks too much from a freedom and privacy perspective. Should the government and all your neighbors be privy to your most intimate doings and dealings?  And should people be controlled to such an extent that literally everything you do is monitored and measured and counted for/against you?

It seems to me that the price of sacrificing your very personal liberty is too high to make in order to push people towards positive social goals.

Guiding people is one thing, and rewarding outstanding acts and punishing horrific ones is understandable, but getting into people's knickers is another. 

This type of social credit system really borders on social control and moves us towards a very disturbing, dystopian future. ;-)
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July 1, 2018

An Arrogant Model Who Defiles The Holy Temple

Please see my new article, Naked Before G-d, in The Times of Israel. 
"In such a G-dly place [as the Kotel], where we are all spiritually naked for our actions before our Maker, [Belgian model,] Ms. Papen displayed not soul, but her haughty flesh."

And like the Sotah in the bible, who drinks of "the bitter waters" for defiling the sanctity of her marriage, Ms. Papen will most certainly come to see the consequences for her defilement of the most sacred place of Judaism. 

I wouldn't want to be her, seriously! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 14, 2017

Wrapped In Bubble Wrap

So I thought this was an interesting risk management strategy...

One colleague joked with me that:
"Everyone should just wrap themselves in bubble wrap!"

Reminded me of that game where people put on big wearable inflatable bumpers and then smash into each other for fun.

The problem though is that sometimes we put on the bubble wrap, bulletproof vest, or seat belt, but then we get stupidly overconfident. 

We think we are protected, but nothing human in impenetrable. 

So the person with the seat belt and air bag drives too fast and off a cliff and still gets him/herself killed. 

Or the person with the bulletproof vest gets shot with a high caliber armor piercing shell or in the back of the head.

Like on many cars, where the mirror says, "objects in mirror are closer than they appear," we need not over rely on safety, protective, and risk measures and still do stupid things.

One guy told me, he backed up into the wall in the garage, because he thought there was more room and that's not how things looked in the mirror. 

Let's face it, there is no bubble wrap that can fully protect us from life. 

Everyday we face risks out there, and we need to manage them with common sense or else... ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 3, 2017

Manage The Crisis and Don't Exploit It

So I heard an interesting thought on crisis management:
"Never let a good crisis go to waste!"

Isn't that frequently how politicians and lobbyists use the crisis, rather than deal with it. 

In certain cases, some have even been known to actually create the crisis for their ends!

Whether it's some politicians calling for strict gun control when there is a mass shooting (perhaps infringing on other reasonable 2nd amendment rights) or it's right to life advocates demanding an end to funding for planned parenthood when some bad people are caught selling fetal body parts and so on and so on.

Maybe these things are the right thing to do--in which case, a very bad event can end up being an impetus for much needed change and thus, can facilitate in transforming society and from that perspective, be a good thing!

But is the change really and necessarily the right thing to do...or is the crisis de jure just an excuse to get what some people wanted all  along.

- Use (exploit) the crisis.

- Maximize the momentum from the crisis.

- Leverage the emotions from the crisis.

- Promptly turn the tables on the issue.

- Leave all compromise and negotiation aside, and seize the moment.

The lesson here is not to just react, because a sudden and impulsive decision may end up being an overreaction and cause negative unintended consequences down the road.

The pendulum tends to shift and swing widely in both directions--neither extreme is good.

Instead well thought policy, use of common sense, maintaining reasonableness, looking at all sides, and a general middle of the road approach usually yields the best results for the most people.

Crisis management should be just that--managing the crisis; the policy should be fully reasoned both before and after. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 25, 2016

You Changing My What

So change agents are some of the most sought after...yet most abhorrent individuals on this planet. 

We all recognize that things can be better, and on one hand, we want someone to come and help us make it so...a change agent!

However, change is painful and frequently results in unintended and unwanted consequences, and so on the other hand, we hate change agents. 

Many change agents may not just change things that need to get changed and fixed, but they may change a lot of things that were working just fine before, thank you.  

Can anyone say reorganization? 

Moreover, change agents may not be changing things for the right reasons like the good of the organization.

Instead they may be self promoters, control freaks who have to do things their way, or they may be serial job hunters--next stop change everything and get the heck out of Dodge!

Change agents may work with people to get requirements, input, and vet the issues and the solutions or they may just be paying lip service to others, only to really shove their or someone else's agenda down your throats. 

You see there is healthy change that is based on genuine learning, growth, and maturity, and then there is change that is destructive, diabolical, and selfish. 

When you decide to change something, what's your motivation and your goal--is it to right the wrongs in the organization, reengineer business processes, and introduce new technologies or is it to change for change's sake alone. 

Yes, we did something. Check the box. Tell the management committee. We earned our keep and oh yeah, then some. We changed something, anything. Hip Hip Hooray. Bonus time!

So either you'll get an award and promotion or you'll get asked accusingly and threateningly, "Who told you to change that?!"

Change which has no real support or merit is dead on arrival (DOA), and will be gone, gone, gone long after the change agent is gone.

So don't freak out--the b.s. changes are either going to kill the organization or simply end up in Fresh Kills landfill.

The real changes may actually make you stronger. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 28, 2016

The Federal Island of Insanity

So a colleague at work was supposed to get something done. 

Well it didn't happen, and someone else got left holding the bag--not really very fair.  

Too make matters worse, the guy sort of unapologetically and clouded pops in my door and says to me, "What are we doing here?"

Taken aback and not sure what this guy is talking about, I say "Excuse me?"

He looks up into space for a moment, and turns back toward me and repeats emphatically, "I mean, like what are we e-v-e-n doing here?"

Getting more than a little frustrated at this point, I ask quizzically and with some sarcasm, "You mean on planet Earth?"

Again, turning and looking oddly away and then back my way, he says, "In this building!"

I must've been looking at him at this point like is he on drugs, and I say, "We'll there are important laws that we're fulfilling here (implicitly referring to FOIA, Records Act, Privacy Act, E.O. 13526, etc.)."

Unbelievably, he continues, now shaking his head, "Well that's what I mean...why we need that?"

Having too much work to play out whatever this toxic game was any longer, I'm like, "[if you don't believe in transparency and safeguarding/security of information,] Maybe you should write your Congressman," [smile!] and with that went back to the million and one serious work things I still had waiting for attention.

In retrospect, I can't help but think that incredibly, there are people coming to work here in D. C. that either don't know why they are there in the first place (but should know!) or don't believe in the mission or meaning of what they are doing.  

In the private sector, I certainly don't think this conversation would've even gone on as long as it did...the consequences there seeming more pronounced, abrupt, and in a definite way connected with reality. 

With more than 16 years into the Federal sector, I still can't believe a lot of what goes on--both good and hopeful, and bad and more than a little disappointing. ;-)

(Source Photo: Danielle Blumenthal)
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November 4, 2015

Fearless = Reckless

I took this photo in the Metro in Washington, D.C. 

It says, "Be Fearless."

Why?

No, it doesn't pay to be wholly fearful--and paralyzed by anxiety or indecision. 

But it is stupid to be fearless--because being fearless is being reckless. 

It's good to think about possibilities and consequences--not everything that can go right will and more often then not, as Murphy's Law teaches, whatever can go wrong often does.

Better to think about what can happen--both good and bad--how to manage the risks and how to maximize the rewards.

Have fear of heaven and of bad things--and try to make them better, where you can. 

Fearless is for those who want to be stupid, act reckless, and end up mortally wounded or prematurely dead. 

Fearsome is for those who want to confront their fears head on, manage them wisely, and make the most of the opportunities in a risk-reward managed way. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 23, 2015

Does Every Problem Have A Solution?

So someone said something interesting to me yesterday.

They were going off about this and that problem in the world. 

Then seemingly exasperated by the current and desperate state of affairs, they go "You know what? Not every problem has a solution."

And that really took me aback.

As a student and then a professional, I have always prided myself on looking for a solution to every problem. 

Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don't, but I was always taught to try!

Now someone says to me this earth-shattering news that maybe there is not a good solution out there for every catastrophic problem.

So this got me thinking...

Maybe some problems are just too big or too complex for our mortal minds to even understand or our supercomputers to really solve. 

Or perhaps sometimes things have gone too far or are too far gone, and we can't always easily just turn back the clock.

Are there some things that we can't really make right what we did so wrong for so long, despite the best intentions now. 

And in life are some things just a catch-22 or a zero-sum game--where every way forward is another dead end or it has consequences which are too painful or otherwise unacceptable. 

This sort of reminds me of the sick brutal Nazi in the Holocaust who took a women with two beautiful young children to the side and said, "Choose!"

"Choose what?" she innocently replies.

And the sadistic Nazi pulling out his gun says, "Choose which of your children will live and which will die, you have 30 seconds or I kill them both!"

Indeed, some problems have no good solution as hard as that is for me to hear or accept.  

All we can do is our best, and even when we can't satisfactorily solve those completely vexing problems to us (because some things are not in the realm of the possible for mere mortals), we have to continue to go forward in life because there really is no going back. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 2, 2014

Money, It's Something

Just an observation today about there being so much poverty in the Nation's capital and around the country. 

Homeless, hungry, and sick people on the streets in one of the richest countries in the world. 


Yet, we have trillions going overseas to fight wars with seemingly little to no tangible benefits.


And so much ostensible waste with pork barrel politics, inefficiencies, and failed projects. 


A relative joked with me the other day saying, "It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor as long as you have money!"


Here we borrow money ($17.6 trillion ) and print money and the Federal Reserve buys debt ($4.1 trillion ) to keep interest rates low and the economy churning.  


People from real estate mogul, Donald Trump to Economist, Robert Wiedemer, who predicted the last recession, are warning of dire economic consequences because of these short-sighted policies. 


So do we have real money to continue to burn or is it smoke and mirrors and as Wiedemer says, "the medicine will become the poison"--what do you think?


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 2, 2014

Restraint or Recklessness?

Like many of you, as I watch the events unfold with the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, I am amazed at the "restraint" being shown by the West. 

But I can't help asking myself why a military invasion by the Great Bear into a sovereign nation that is leaning toward democracy is being met with restraint.

Sitting in Starbucks, I overheard one young women saying to an older gentlemen that she did not understand the reaction of the President in saying there would be "consequences" and that no one took that seriously as there was no specificity, almost as if their where no real consequences to even threaten Russia with. 

So why all the word-mincing, dancing around the subject, and restraint by the West in light of this very dangerous escalation in eastern Europe:

1) Surprise - Was the West completely taken by surprise by Russia's military intervention? Didn't something similar happen with Georgia in 2008--less than 6 years ago? Did we not foresee the possibility of Russia lashing out against Ukraine to protect its interests when Ukraine turned back toward European integration and away from the embrace of Russia that it had made only weeks earlier? After Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and with all our "Big Data," intelligence, and military planning--how did we miss this (again!)? 

2) Duped - Were we duped by the misinformation from Russia saying that the 150,000 troops they called on a "training exercise" was planned months ago and it just happened to coincide with the toppling of Ukraine's President?  Also, were we fooled when the "mysterious" soldiers showed up without national markings and Russia said they weren't their military--uh, where did they come from--did they float down from the heavens?

3) Apathetic - Are we just apathetic to Ukraine's plight? Are they just a poor country of little strategic value to us? Are we so war weary from Iraq and Afghanistan that we just want to place our heads in the sand like ostriches even when democracy and freedom is threatened in a European nation of some 45 million people?

4) Fear - Are we afraid of the military might of the nuclear-armed Russian Federation? Is America, the European Union, NATO, the United Nations all not willing to stand up and hold Russia accountable even if that means a military confrontation? Not that anyone wants World War III, but if we don't stand up and defend against wanton aggression, how can any country or anyone be safe going forward? 

5) Optionless - Are we just out of options? Russia got the upper hand on this one and they are logistically right there on the border and in the country of Ukraine now and what can we do? Despite the U.S. assertion that it can project military power anywhere around the world and a defense budget bigger than the 10 next largest combined--how can we be out of options? Are we out of options because we tacitly understand that one wrong miscalculation and we could end up with WMD on our homeland doorstep? 

6) Butter Over Guns - Have we retrenched from world affairs, downsized our military, and emphasized domestic issues over international ones? Have we forgotten the risk that comes from a world without a superpower that helps to maintain stability and peace? Are we just under so much financial duress with a growing mountain of national debt, a economic recovery still struggling, and the lowest employment participation in over 30 years that we can't even entertain spending more treasure to fight again? 

7) Leadership - Who is managing the crisis? We've seen our President speak, various other government officials from the U.S. and European Union, the Secretary General of the U.N., the Secretary General of NATO, and more?  Who is in charge--setting the tone--deciding the strategy? Who has point so that we and Russia know who to listen to and what is just background noise? 

What is so scary about this whole thing is how quickly things can escalate and seriously get out of control in this world, and this despite all the alliances, planning, and spending--at the end of the day, it looks like we are floundering and are in chaos, while Russia is advancing on multiples fronts in Ukraine and elsewhere with supporting dangerous regimes in Syria, Iran, North Korea and more. 

Whether we should or shouldn't get involved militarily, what is shocking is: 1) the very notion that there wouldn't be any good military options, and 2) that the consequences are not being spelled out with speed and clarity. 

In the streets, at the cafe, on the television, I am seeing and hearing people in shock at what is happening and what we are and are not doing about it. 

Even if we get Russia to stop advancing (yes, based on what happened with Georgia, I doubt they will actually pull back out), the question is what happens the next time there is a conflict based on how we've managed this one? 

I do want to mention one other thing, which is while I feel empathy for the plight of the Ukrainians seeking their freedom from Russia now, I also must remember the events of Babi Yar where, between 1941-1944, 900,000 Jews were murdered in the Soviet Union by Nazi genocide and Ukrainian collaborators. This is history, but not so long ago. 

All opinions my own. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Utenriksdept)
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September 22, 2013

Black and White and Gray All Over

My trip to South Florida this week was full of juxtapositions and lessons for me as a person:

1) Attention and Inattention—There were 2 father-son pairs in this gorgeous infinity pool at the resort.  One father and son (age maybe 3) were together—jumping, splashing, swimming, holding each other—it was really beautiful.  The other father and son (maybe 4) in contrast had the kid standing alone in the pool trying clumsily to pull a pair of goggles over his face, while his inattentive father stood off to the side glued on his smartphone.  The first kid was smiling ear-to-ear under the attentive and adoring eyes of his father, the second kid was clearly rejected and dejected. 

2) Beach and Poverty—I visited the beach in Hollywood; we were told it had a great little boardwalk.  When we got there at first, it seemed awesome with the sun and palm trees, music, eateries, skaters, and bicyclists, and more.  But as we started walking and exploring, it quickly became apparent that this was the poor side of town.  There were no high-rises here, no fancy cars, no eloquent shops, and sort of a menacing feeling overall. The contrast of the beautiful beach and boardwalk with the surrounding poverty left me feeling sort of confused about wanting to be there, but also wanting to leave.

3) Ocean and Starbucks—whenever, I come down to South Florida, I invariably end up thinking about finding a place down here.  This time, I saw some options that were attractive for very different reasons.  One place was an older building, nice and enticing with a direct ocean view.  The view from the apartment was so amazing; it literally made my wife cry.  But then we saw another condominium—this one brand new, about 15 minute walk from the ocean, but right over all the shopping, Starbucks, and conveniences.  The first place had a million dollar view, but the second place was practical and we could see ourselves really living there. 

4) Driving and Jolly--We took a trolley ride and the driver was obviously hard-working, but low paid. Yet he turned up the tunes and took us around town not just driving, but literally singing and sort of dancing to them too--waving his arms and smiling the whole time. It was great to see someone so spirited and happy in whatever they were doing in life. 

As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I see more clearly that situations in life are not simple or “black and white,” but there are lots of complexities, choices, and grays.

Do you choose self or family, live where you like or where you can earn a good living, go for the view or for the convenience, bemoan what you don't have or celebrate what you do?  Lots of decisions in life—each choice has consequences, so choose carefully.  

No one has it all—even if it looks like they do. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 6, 2013

Learning IT Security By Consequences


This is a brilliant little video on IT Security. 

What I like about it is that it doesn't just tell you what not to do to stay safe, but rather it shows you the consequences of not doing the right things. 

Whether you are letting someone into your office, allowing them borrow your badge, leaving your computer unsecured, posting your passwords, and more--this short animated video shows you how these vulnerabilities will be exploited.

It is also effective how they show "Larry" doing these security no-no's with signs everywhere saying don't do this. 

Finally, the video does a nice job summing up key points at the end to reinforce what you learned. 

I think that while this is simpler than many longer and more detailed security videos that I have seen, in a way it is more successful delivering the message in a practical, down-to-earth approach that anyone can quickly learn core basic practices from. 

Moreover, this video could be expanded to teach additional useful IT security tips, such as password strengthening, social engineering, and much more. 

I believe that even Larry, the unsuspecting office guy, can learn his lesson here. ;-)

(Note: This is not an endorsement of any product or service.)
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April 2, 2013

Decision-Making WIth Perspective, Please.

An article in Fast Company (1 April 2013) by Chip and Dan Heath tells us to use the 10/10/10 rule for making tough decisions.

That is to consider how you will feel about the decision in 10 minutes, in 10 months, and in 10 years--in order to "get some distance on our decisions."

But this doesn't make a lot of sense to me, if you are making a decision, looking at it with 3 future lenses does not provide a lot of additional insight even if they are at various points in the future. 

What makes a lot more sense is to examine the decision based on past, present, and future consideration. 

Past--At home, I learned from my father that when he makes a big decision, he thinks about what his father would've have done in a similar situation. My dad greatly respected his father, and believes that he is a guiding force in his everyday life. It is important to consider what our parents, grandparents, and other people that we respect from our past would do in similar circumstances--this is a social view. For example, would your parents and grandparents be proud of your decision and what it represents for you as a person or would you feel ashamed and guilty, if they found out. This is not to say that you can't express your individuality, but rather that your past is one important guidepost to consider.

Present--In operational law enforcement and defense environment, I learned that you have to respect the decision-maker at the frontline. The details of what is happening or the ground in the here and now can certainly be a decisive factor in both split second decisions, but also those decisions where we have some luxury of contemplation--this is an operational view. Additionally, in making a big decision, we need to be true to ourselves and base the decision on our values and beliefs (i.e. who we are). In contrast, when we make decisions that violate our core beliefs, we usually regret it pretty quickly. 

Future--In Yeshiva, I learned to strongly consider the future in all decision-making. The notion that this world is just a corridor to the future world was a frequent theme. From this religious perspective, what is important in how we live our lives today is not the immediate pleasure we can get, but rather what the future consequences will be on our spirit/soul (i.e. Neshama)--this is a strategic view. One teacher exhorted us to always look at things from the future perspective of our death bed--will you feel you lived your life as a good person and in a fulfilling way or did you just do what felt good or was selfish and fleeting? For example, he said, "No one ever looked back and wish they spent more time working. Instead, they usually regret not spending more time with the family and true friends."

Decision-making is not trivial--you need to consider carefully what you do, with whom, when and how. To do this, looking at 3 points in the future is minimally helpful. Instead, consider your past, present, and future, and you will make better decisions that will enable you to be true to yourself, your family and community, and your very soul. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 9, 2011

Losing The Edge, No More

For years, there has been all sorts of uproar about the U.S. and its citizens and businesses losing their edge.

From critics who point out to how our educational system (especially through high school) is not keeping up, how we are not attracting and graduating enough folks in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), how our inventions are freely copied overseas, and how innovation and entrepreneurship is suffering at home whether due to challenging economic or social conditions.

Yet, when it comes to losing our edge, nothing is more maddening than when the technological advances we do have are taken from us--this happens in numerous ways, including:

- Cyber Attacks: According to the Pentagon Strategy on Cyberwar as per the Wall Street Journal (15 July 2011) "each year a volume of intellectual property the size of the Library of Congress is stolen from U.S. government and private-sector networks." Cyber espionage has affected a broad range of our prized national assets: from Space Shuttle designs to the Joint U.S. Defense Strategy with South Korea as del as the plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more. Moreover and unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. For example, this past August, McAfee disclosed a cyber spying operation dubbed Operation Shady Rat that infiltrated some 71 government and corporate entities of which 49 were in the U.S. and which included more than a dozen defense firms over five years, compromising a massive amount of information.

- Spies/Insider Threats: Spies and insider threats can turn over state secrets to foreign powers or entities causing a major lose to our competitive advantage. This has happened with convicted spies from Aldrich Ames to FBI agent Robert Hanssen, and more recently to Army Corporal Bradley Manning accused of turning over troves of restricted documents to WikLleaks. And despite the amazing efforts to catch these subversives, presumably, there are plenty more where they came from.

- Expropriations: We lose our edge to foreign nations and organizations when our high-technology or intellectual assets are used without our consent or otherwise seized and compromised. This can happen from having our copyrights trampled on, our designs simply copied and "knockoffs" produced and peddled, or even when we are in a sense forced to exchange our intellectual property for basic entry into foreign markets. But this also happens more explicitly and violently when our assets are literally taken from us. For example this happened in April 2001, when Chinese fighter jets intercepted (in international air space) and crashed a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance plane and didn't return it until July in disassembled pieces. Similarly, when the tail of the stealth modified MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, with sensitive military technology, used in the raid in Osama bin Laden's was recovered and held by Pakistan for weeks before it was returned to the U.S. And we saw this again this week when the Iranians showed off a prized RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone they now have seized, and which secrets presumably may end up in Russian, Chinese, or ultimately terrorist hands.

Developing an edge is not something we should take lightly or for granted--It is based on lots of talent, experience, and hard work and we do not have an exclusive hold on any of these.

We must prize our scientific and technological advances and secure these the way a mother protects it's young--fiercely and without compromise.

No matter how much or fast we churn out the advances, it will not matter if we do not safeguard our investments from those who would take it right out from under us. We can do this by significantly increasing investment in cyber security, strengthening counterespionage efforts, and not letting any nation or organization take something that doesn't belong to them without consequences--economic or military--that restore our edge and then some.

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October 29, 2011

Visiting The Sins of The Fathers

Everyone was waiting for the big news this week out of the EU on how they were going to bail out their troubled economies--way too many: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland...and more.

Their debt is through the roof--Greece is at 164% of it GDP and Italy is saddled with 1.9 trillion euros with more than 200 billion of it coming due next year.

Unemployment is soaring...with Greek unemployment of 16.7%, topped by Spain's at 21.5%.

Economies are grinding to a halt: "Euro-zone economic data point to gloomy year-end...0.2% latest quarterly growth" (Wall Street Journal, 29-30 October 2011)

So news this week of a yet bigger (much bigger 4x or 5x) bailout fund of $1.4 trillion to backstop the losses, while sending the stock market soaring, left the pundits a little more than skeptical.

Why? Because where did the losses go...did they just disappear or is this a thoroughly massive shell game where the losses are spinning faster and faster under the shells of economic protectionism until they disappear altogether under the slight of hand of ministry of finance magicians?

I thought to myself this week--am I missing something? I wrote a friend--this guy is a genius--top of the class type, CPA, MBA and asked what he thought of the bailout? He too was baffled and said somebody just took a "50% haircut" referring to massive number of Greek bondholders who just took a huge loss--how is that a good thing?

And I thought what about the rest of the losses yet to be realized in the $1.4 trillion European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF)...by naming it "stability," does it actually make people feel more secure, better?

Then came the reports later this week--"Doubts rise about EU deal"--that the financial rescue plan is short on details, and as we all know "the devil is in the details." Moreover, it's just a plan--that's the easy part--words are cheap! The real test lies in whether the financial rescuers can actually execute this time or will we be back at the drawing board in 6 months time again?

Then I thought of the saying from the Torah (Bible)--Exodus 34:7 that G-d "visits the sins of the fathers on the children." Not in a malevolent way, but in an almost natural way--our actions have consequences.

While not limited to any individual, country, or continent, when we live beyond our means--when greed and gluttony surpass our ability to control our appetites for more, then a bubble builds and down the road, it eventually bursts--whether real estate, the dot com boom, stocks, commodities, or even tulips in the 17th century!

As we all know deep down, no shell game can go on forever--the hands tire, the players become more astute, and most importantly, the excesses of the past must be paid up--so that the next generation can eventually go on to a more stable and brighter future.

Both sides of the spectrum, the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street protesters know the same economic reckoning is coming--and even though not everyone can articulate the rising doubt and fear, we go toward resolution, hand-in-hand together.

(Source Picture: here and here)

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July 9, 2011

How Far Will You Go?

This week we watched with horror as a Texas baseball fan and firefighter fell to his death attempting to catch a ball hurtling into the stands.

This man overreached in this case, and went to his death in order to try and catch a baseball!

He did an ordinary thing and it cost him his life--right in front of his son.

It is tragic--unbelievable.

Ironically, the same day, the Wall Street Journal (8 July 2011) has an article called "The Taming of The Fans," about what they call "rowdy fan bases" and efforts to control the craziness.

In response, a "fan code of conduct" is being adopted by some.

"Among the no-no's:"

- Fighting
- Illegal drugs
- Laser pens
- Drinking underage
- And so on.

About a month ago, there was the riots in Vancouver after the Stanley cup was lost and from the chaos came the now famous photo of the kissing couple, the girl having been injured and on the ground in the mayhem.

We live in an unpredictable world--where things can get out of control.

When rationality, morality, and a sense of moderation get away from us, thenterrible things happen--death, destruction, chaos.

And of course, this is not limited to fans of sporting events and rock-and-roll concerts.

This week, we watched with mouths agape as people like Casey Anthony and Dominique Strauss-Kahn basically walk away from some very serious and terrible charges. While no one can say what really happened, we were all really shocked at the outcomes.

For months now, we have been watching with indignation as various Middle-East dictators shoot, kill, besiege, and round up their own people in order to maintain power in the Arab Spring.

Lara Logan, the CBS reporter, who was sexually attacked and brutally beaten by a mob in Egypt's Tahir Square during the riots in February, is another recent horror tale that speaks volumes about people going to non-sensical extremes and committing atrocities.

The images and sound bites are there basically everyday of people, organizations, and societies going to the extremes and doing unthinkables--really these are burned into consciousness (for others it's in their subconscious).

People are willing to go to all sorts of extremes to get what they want, do what they believe, or just to go sheer crazy.

Sometimes, those efforts are rewarded and others get their due--in the end, I believe justice prevails in this life or the after.

Our world sits on a fine line between sanity and insanity--life and death.

People are tempted "to go for it" to get what they want all the time.

But the challenge is to weigh the cost and benefits and chose our actions carefully.

There is a domino effect to our choices--and we own the consequences.

Will we pull ourselves back from the edge--when the ball is coming our way in life?

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