Sunday, May 31, 2009

Measuring from Baseline

I had an interesting conversation tonight with the esteemed Liz Topp and the lovely Miss Clemmer. We were talking about happiness in New York. New York is a special kind of place. The city that never sleeps. The city where anything can happen, or more to the point anything does happen all the time. Is this infinite carnival of culture, culinary adventure and continuous partying the perfect recipe for happiness?

Perhaps it depends on your metabolism for consumption. As a child of New York, raised and molded by it's frenetic hands, I have always loved the constant stimulation and unlimited potential. When I lived in Austin, I distinctly missed walking in traffic and seeing a couple thousand people each and every day. The endless possibilities of each and every night. Who might call with the 411 on some soiree? Where might the next turn lead?

But is this really the environment for happiness? Kristen realized it was her time to go one night when I called her with an invite to a intimate party with Liv Tyler, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even Keith Richards (who BTW looks many decades past dead). She was just 3 blocks away and just didn't care. She was too tired. At that moment she realized, NYC was just not the right pace. Mainlining adventure was not her thing.

Austin is more Kristen's pace. Where scarcity breeds appreciation. Where 1 great event a week is plenty, and well appreciated for all that it is. Where distinct amazing times are not lost in a blur of velocity. Where appreciation trumps frequency.

Happiness is relative to a baseline. Where's your natural baseline and are you living your life that way?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chivalry and the Toilet Seat

I think I have spent more time than most thinking about the age old dilemna of the toilet seat. I never really bought the whole fall in the toilet argument. I mean really, who doesn't look down when putting your bare ass on a surface? I do every time, and it really is because of one time I didn't in a public bathroom. The details are too unnerving to describe. But I don't think it's just me.

So what is it then? A mathematical approach to the problem aiming to minimize the total effort of the system reveals that I should not put down the toilet seat to avoid the useless effort of putting down the seat only to lift it back up in the event the males of the household go twice in a row. So conveniently, minimization of effort leads us to believe that I shouldn't put it down.

Then again, if effort minimization is the absolute goal, I should just always go with the toilet seat down, and we wouldn't want that would we? Cleanliness is key.

So I am not such a big fan of public bathrooms. You never know what the last guy had on their hands when they pulled the flusher handle or even the faucet at the sink. So I try to avoid contact. Using your shoed feet is a big help here. This includes, probably more than anything else the toilet seat. Women may not be as privvy to the joy of lifting the seat to discover the untold splatter whether fresh or dried. Needless to say, it's never a positive moment in my day.

And that's what I think this is all about. If I put the toilet seat down, a woman doesn't have to encounter arguably - and hopefully - the least sanitary surface in the house. And that is a simple enough luxury to make demands.

But, I have never heard this sentiment expressed directly. Is this it? If so, I think I can put it down. But I am going to do it like I do it in the public bathroom, with my shoe. ;) See, we can all win.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's not what you say, it's how you say it

I continue to be reminded in every day conversations both in business and socially that how you demonstrate the idea is almost as important as the idea itself. And with the struggles we have in healthcare, the economy and the environment, it's almost impossible to see the big picture.

Is 1 trillion dollars enough of a stimulus package? Does cutting 1.5% of health care cost growth save the system? How important is domestic recycling to the problem of waste management (Answer: domestic waste is 1/70th of industrial waste).

As annoying as the UPS commercials are, they do show the power of graphical teaching through video. Here's an even better example, one that predated UPS's chalkboard that brilliantly explains the environmental challenges we face.

Einstein once responded to a woman's questions about math, "Do not worry about your difficulties with math. I assure you mine are greater." The focus being on the untold complexity of Einstein's understanding. Instead, think about the relative simplicity of the woman's mathematical model.

With ideas as groundbreaking as we are throwing around, how do you let people build simple, comprehensible understandings of things that are complex beyond their reach?

Perot did it with chicken farming in Arkansas. Gore did it with global warming. And TED does it with everything. Shouldn't we be creating video presentations rather than press releases and press conferences?

PS Let me reiterate check out