Almost Perfect

I’m sitting at my kitchen table here in Colorado with the beautiful sunny fall day shining in through the windows typing on an iPad Pro 12.9” which I picked up at the Apple Store this morning. I have owned many iPads over the years, starting with the very first and including the last 2 12.9” iPad Pro models with the Apple Pencil. They have all been very useful, and dramatically reduced the amount of time I spent on my Macs because I could do so much of my work on them. I got the Smart Keyboard for my gen 2 iPad Pro 12.9”, and liked using it a lot, and I used the Apple Pencil a fair amount, too. 

But... 

There were still a few annoyances. The device was just a little bigger than I wanted it to be. The Pencil was great in use, but that silly cap was always a concern (I did not lose mine, though), and charging it was inconvenient (and I did find it without a charge a few times). The keyboard had only one angle, and it worked well for table use, but not so well for my lap, especially on planes. And in landscape, the home button was an anomaly. 

All of these went away with this new iPad Pro. So, I sit here with the keyboard using the more angled position, the Pencil is snapped to the top, and the white background of this text looks brilliant due to the True Tone. 

I’m hooked. I think this is likely to be my primary device for a while. 

Even if I am a fanboi. At least according to Audree, my Apple Business consultant. It was ‘cause I was wearing my WWDC Levi’s jacket. She’s right. But not for the reason you might think. I’ll write more about that soon. 

Words Matter

I was enjoying being at the table with my daughters, son, son-in-law, grandson, and wife a few weeks ago during the hurricane in Florida, since Rachel and her family evacuated and were visiting. We sat talking about family topics we hadn’t been together recently enough to share. With Rachel’s amazing insights into books (her Instagram is great!), we often unpack language and explore ideas together as a family. One of the fascinating explorations we have is about words.

Words are used to educate and manipulate. They can be used well and correctly, or poorly and incorrectly. As a result, I’ve worked hard to develop a vocabulary which allows me to express myself, teach, coach, and communicate as well as I can, and am committed to constantly learning how to improve.

Which is one reason I’m saddened by much of what passes for communication these days, the methods used, but also the approach many have to consuming it.

Here’s an important line of questioning: can you separate truth from falsehood? Are you able to differentiate facts from opinions? Are you able to detect when you’re being manipulated?

Words matter. They have meaning. Using words that are accurate and clear are important to relationships and communication. My commitment to you is that I will do my best to be clear and to communicate within my lifelong values of honesty, integrity, and excellence.

Lowering Friction

Last Friday morning, I arrived at Heathrow airport outside London after traveling on two flights after more than 13 hours of travel. Although I had slept for about 3 hours on the trans-Atlantic flight, I was tired! The shower and breakfast at the Arrivals Lounge helped me wake up a bit, then, I headed to my hotel. Or, more accurately, I tried to head to my hotel.

In most cities, hotels near the airport have shuttle bus service. In some cities, like San Francisco, multiple hotels team up and share the same shuttle service. At Heathrow, though, that's not the case, although it may seem to be. There are two bus lines that serve the hotels: London transit and the Hotel Hoppa by National Express. While the hotel web sites say the London transit buses are free, I was unable to find them in the area for the hotel busses. Rumor has it there's a bus station somewhere in the airport, but I gave up trying to find it. I just wanted to get to my room.

The Hotel Hoppa, on the other hand, is relatively easy to find, but you have to find the right one for your hotel. That can be a challenge. Signs are limited, and the bus marques don't show all the hotels. I did eventually find the right one, though, and got on and put down my bags. The driver asked if I had a ticket.

Um... No.

How would I get one? I have no idea. He said he could also take cash. However, he couldn't take a credit card, or the London Oyster card, or anything else I had. So, off the bus I got after collecting my bags and headed for the cabs.

Since the hotel trip was such a short distance, they would only take cash, too!

Frustration!

So, I schlepped my stuff back into the terminal, found an ATM, got some cash, went back out and got in a cab and went to my hotel. Still frustrated, and now tired, again.

Think about how hard that was for a customer of the hotel! Heathrow caters to many travelers from all around the world who, like me, who come off an international flight and want to find respite at a Heathrow hotel. Why not make it easier?

Think about this in your business: it is easy for your customers to do business with you? How many hurdles do they have to cross before you serve them? Do you give your customers opportunity to be frustrated or do you deliberately work to eliminate challenges before it causes you to lose business?

Take the time to figure out the answer, and then reduce that friction to be as low as possible. How many customers give up before they get to the end?

How to Reveal Future Features

As the sun set over London recently, I sat by the window in my hotel room overlooking Heathrow airport having a conversation with a friend who is a start-up CEO. She was navigating a tricky situation with competitors and industry thought leaders. As we talked, the topic of all the things the product could do in the future emerged, and we discussed how it didn't do nearly all of the things she envisioned. This is a typical challenge for those with vision and a clear understanding of the value their product can bring as its capabilities expand.

However, as a member of a product or services team, do not even consider communicating futures to anyone. When it comes to what the product will do in the future, ask questions, take notes, and communicate gratitude for their input. Be prepared to communicate with customers your recognition that there is so much more you are planning to do without being specific. Be sure to draw clear lines between reality (what's available today) and futures (what may be available down the road). Honesty, clarity, transparency, and listening all go a long way to developing long-term customer relationships.

Having your conversations be about the customer's success, prioritizing value you plan to deliver according to their needs, and aligning as much as you can with what they need and want in the priority order they need and want it will lead to success for both you and them.

Shifting focus from who you are and what you do to who the customer is and what they need and want is hard! It's so fundamental to building a successful business, but it's also incredibly rare.

Do it in your business and watch what happens!

It's Your Own Fault!

The age of the Internet, with always-on ubiquitous connectivity to everyone, has created a friction-free path to exposing the worst of people: attacking others for their own failure. It's ugly and mean, but ultimately only smears the person doing the attacking. I saw an example just today posted to a support site for an app I really enjoy. The smear didn't just complain about the app, but used an expletive and called it the "worst ... app ever." Now, this is obviously an exaggeration. And the expletive just gave it a bigger barb to do greater damage to the indie developer who wrote the app. It worked. The developer was hurt by the attack, although he responded with grace and humility in the best way possible, and that's really hard to do. I already respected him. I now respect him even more.

That said, what's behind this is an attitude that may be missed, so I'd like to underscore it: many people today want to blame others for the consequences of their choices, but only when they don't like them.

So, in this case, for some reason, the customer bought the app but doesn't like it. I'm not sure why. I love it. But, to each his own. Regardless, even though he can easily get a refund from the Apple App Store, he chose to blast the developer and the app on Twitter. Instead of owning that he bought something that he doesn't like, or going on to the developer's (very active) support site to get help, he just slammed it on social media.

When I read it, I just thought, "Here's a guy who isn't willing to accept the consequences of his choices and expects others to agree that they are wrong and then fix them when he doesn't like it."

This isn't healthy. It hurts the one who is using it to feel better. It represents an abdication that cannot actually be made: your life is your life. Your choices are your choices.

"I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day." --James Joyce (1882-1941)

When we try to blame our consequences (regardless of how harsh or challenging) on someone or something else, we give up our power. We convince ourselves that we cannot control the outcomes of our lives. Instead, we try to stay risk-free and "undo" the consequences that turn out different than we expect or want.

But, it never works. And therein lies the rub.

We know. Under it all, we know what we did, we know what we deserve as consequences, and over time it eats away at our character. Our integrity is stained by the cheating. Even if no one else sees it, we know. And we die a little each time.

Take back your power. Own your choices and their consequences. Succeed on your own merit.

Customer Success

When you apply this reality to customer success, you begin to see a few things. One of them is that the old adage "The customer is always right" is clearly false. This is the first principle I discuss in my customer relationship success program. While the customer isn't always right, it's critically important to show respect and humility. This is a first step towards success as a business, especially in the age of the Internet.

The Morality of Blocking Ads

Whether sitting at my kitchen table last week checking the latest news or viewing my Twitter or Facebook feeds on the run, the conflict over iOS 9's new ad blocking capability has created as much controversy as the Pope's message being in conflict with both the political right and the political left. Why?

I've read a number of useful insights into the ranging from Seth Godin's long-term perspective on caring for customers first to Dennis Seller's report of its impact on publishers and the advertising perspective of Randall Rothenberg.

However, as an analyst with a focus on root causes and the purpose of business, it's clear the none of these actually go far enough to get to the bottom of the real issue: value.

Fundamentally, advertising is a communication medium from the provider of a product or service to the prospective consumer of that product or service. So, for example, Apple wants to sell you a new iPhone, so it creates an advertisement to communicate to you so you will purchase it. The communication may take virtually any form, from the promise of a better life to the description of various iPhone features, but its goal is always to get you to buy.

So, how do they get that message to you?

They use middlemen who have your attention for other reasons. Perhaps a medium you use to enjoy entertainment, like TV, or maybe a blog you read for education. Since those media have your attention, they sell it to advertisers to support their production of more content. There are other middlemen, of course, including those who create and produce the ads, those who do the work necessary to deliver the ads on whatever media, and so on, but ultimately, that's the picture: a producer buying access to consumers to convince them to buy.

The problem is, the exchange happens between all the other players without the permission of the consumers. Your permission is assumed. It's the price you pay for consuming the content, and the various providers believe that you know this and are conscious of the arrangements. Ironically, the prevalence of the advertising means that consumers learn to tune it out and avoid it. We buy a DVR that allows them to skip over commercials, we change the radio station when a commercial comes on, and, yes, we install and use ad blockers for our web browsers on iOS.

There are times we don't, however. The Super Bowl, for example, has become a showcase for advertising. Super Bowl ads are ranked and discussed for weeks both leading up to the event and following it. They have created massive demand for brands, and web sites have crumbled under the crush of interest they generate.

But, these times are rare. We become jaded. It gets harder and harder to get our attention. So, the ads get more and more intrusive. Remember those animate GIF ads? How do you like hover ads (the ones that block the page so you have to look at them before you can read whatever you came to read)? More and more obtrusive, more and more expensive to experience.

So, we get ad blockers.

Now, some advertisers and the ad networks are working on options to get around blockers and the consumer choice they represent. What does that say about the entitlement they feel towards the time and attention of those they target with the ads? Exactly.

What about those who earn their livings by the ad revenue they receive and who are damaged by the loss of your attention?

The solution is simple, but hard: it takes a shift in paradigm, but the time has come. Change the way you think about ads, whether you buy them, create them, deliver them, host them, or consume them! Create value, and find ways to effectively "pay" consumer for their attention. If you have something to share with me that matters to me, I'll pay attention. If what you want to show me is something that has no value for me (like the mortgage ads I see any time my ad blocker is off!), it's a waste for both of us. Figure out a way to stop doing it!

Advertisers complain about the poor return on their online advertising investment. Here is why they have the issue: the ads are ugly, inconsiderate, obtrusive, and irrelevant. In a world where time is the most value commodity most people have, this is insulting. Stop doing it!

I understand that this means more work than has traditionally been done in advertising, except by the most advanced and creative teams. It's time to follow their lead.

To publishers who make their living from advertising: Don't blame Apple or those building the best-selling apps. You brought this on yourself.

For those who are primarily consumers, I have a challenge for you, too: don't expect great content to be free. It costs time, energy, talent, and effort to produce, and just because you can get it for free doesn't mean you should. Artists deserve compensation for their work, whether it's a news report, a painting, or a song. Compensate them for the benefit you get. It's the right thing to do, and it feels good to do it!

The Gift of Social Video (infographic)

(Megan Ritter reached out to me a few weeks ago about her excellent infographic on video for marketing. I invited her to write this post to describe the details of the graphic for you to consider. - ssh) When it comes to boosting the awareness of your brand and increasing engagement with your consumers, many businesses turn to social media as their primary outlet. However, with the amount of competition between brands trying to get the most reach with their content, it’s going to take a lot more than some cute animal images and a few hashtags to get the attention your social media efforts deserve. This is why a lot of businesses today are also starting to incorporate video into their social media marketing strategy, and the great news is that a lot of these social media networks already offer a lot of video options.

Video is naturally engaging, and because we live in a world that is overloaded with information, it’s important that whatever content you’re producing can be easily digested by your audience, or else they will move on. We are all familiar with the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and in the case of video, we can bump that number to 1.8 million.

By 2017, it’s being estimated that video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic, and it’s clear to see why. Simply put: video is the future of content marketing. And as online video continues to become a key means of bringing entertaining and informational content to the masses, businesses who fail to incorporate video into their own plans can count on missing out on a lot of new opportunities. Fortunately, with the help of the Social Video Starter Guide infographic below, getting started on your social video campaign doesn’t have to be as difficult as it’s been made out to be, even if you own a small business and are limited by a strict budget.

Megan Ritter is an online business journalist with a background in social marketing. In addition to social media, she also enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, business communications, and globalization. Follow her on Twitter today to view more of the awesome infographics she's found on the Web!

What is "The Economy"?

More than a decade ago I sat in a data center staring at a screen containing backup logs for a major agency of a state government. The logs made it clear that backups had been failing for months. My job was to find out what happened. I'm just built to get to the bottom of things, and part of my skill is to take apart the complex, interconnected pieces and find the simple parts. It makes it easier to figure out what happened.

Recently, I've done this with "The Economy."

People, especially experts and those who want to sound knowledgeable, talk about "The Economy" like it's an entity unto itself. Like it has a mind of its own, and it will head in various directions based on select, complex ideas like GDP, trade, and unemployment rates.

But, it's not. "The Economy" is nothing but a set of metrics (values of measurements) that communicate various historical truths (since most measures are 3-12 months ago). Economists, politicians, and pundits all use the numbers to beat up their opponents and to bolster their own theories, with all sides claiming proof for their viewpoints. And it's all mostly a great big show.

"The Economy" is nothing more or less than the collected decisions of human beings, including those responsible for making decision for corporations and governments. People decide to buy, save, or invest. As a result, funds become available as revenue, for loans, or in exchange for equity. The cumulative impact of these decisions results in the measures that become the economic metrics.

Underneath it all, however, are these decisions. They are made in an effort to keep a job, to profit, to look good, or to benefit one's own financial position. Sometimes, the decisions are speculative in the hopes of creating a large, fast gain. Other times, they are extremely conservative in an effort to avoid any risk or any possible loss.

But all of these are the decisions made by individuals and (sometimes) multiple individuals as part of a collective.

That's all "The Economy" is, though. It's the consequences of financial decisions of collections of people: cities, counties, states, countries, and the world.

When people stop spending and/or investing, we have a recession or depression. When business managers stop hiring, joblessness goes up. And so on.

We are a society that attempts to avoid the consequences of our actions. We want to believe that our intentions drive the consequences. They don't. The only thing that drives consequences is the natural laws that apply and the decisions that others make.

You can't escape consequences forever.

Getting It

To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that. Steve Jobs

When I read that quote on Quoth Steve today, I thought about this series on Apple's recent announcements and the ongoing discovery that many in the industry are communicating as the Apple WWDC continues this week. It underscores a key differentiator between Apple and most of the rest of the technology industry. In doing so, it also illustrates why so many in the technology press are fundamentally confused about both why Apple does what it does and why people buy Apple products.

Back when Japanese cars first began to gain a real foothold in the US, there was a similar dichotomy: Japanese cars had virtually no "options," while US cars were effectively custom built for each customer from an extensive list of options. Since I grew up in Michigan, the capital of the car industry in the US, I remember the derisive laughter about the limited options, the lack of this or that feature, and the expectation that the Japanese manufacturers would have to abandon the US or offer a better Chinese menu.

In retrospect, all of those observations and expectations were completely wrong. It turns out that the consumers appreciated the simplicity of getting a car without having to decide what to get on it -- and without having to wait for it to be built to their specifications. In fact, I lost out on a Pontiac Trans Am when my order turned out to have a very limited edition engine and the dealer decided he could get more for it from someone else, even though I had ordered it and waited for months.

1986 Trans Am

Today in technology, we have a similar situation: Apple is working on design in a way that Jobs thought about it. Most companies don't. Most put in a faster processor, more memory, more pixels, and expect those changes to compel purchases. Even customization is touted as a primary desire for consumers when that's not the case for many who just want to purchase a system that is ready to go, isn't bloated with a lot of distracting extras, and is designed in a way that allows it to disappear with use.

How do you want the products you purchase to be designed?

What's Really Up With the Economy?

What's the most clear path to ongoing financial success for you? Creating value others desire to receive.
What happens when things turn sour (layoff, reduced business, financial challenges)? Being of value to others! Finding ways to communicate your value becomes critical. Knowing what your value is is the first step.

How does money really work? Where does it come from? What are your answers to these questions?

1) money comes from an employer

2) money comes from the government 

2) money comes from those to whom I provide value 

3) money comes from the divine

My challenge to you is to change the way money shows up in your world: money is tangible gratitude.

Think about it. What does it take for you to hand over money that is in your possession? Exchange for something you value, of course. For example, if your dishwasher dies (like ours did just recently) and you decide you want a new one, you'll be willing to pay an amount that aligns with the value you receive from having one. If the cost is too great, you'll elect to wait, to change the options, or reassess what matters.

Similarly, when someone is considering handing you money for some reason, whether for a used treadmill or for a month worth of skilled labor, they are assessing the value received against the cost. Are they grateful enough to make the exchange? Or not?

As you consider the current economic realities, ask yourself one question: are you creating enough gratitude to earn the compensation you seek? If not, find new customers or deliver greater value -- or both.

Invisible Technology

As is often the case, immediately after I posted my thoughts about Apple's announcements yesterday (The Next Technology Shift), a number of my friends reached out (especially on Facebook) to point out that other companies and technologies had similar features (like Android, Microsoft Surface 3, and so on). Because they did, I fear that I wasn't as clear about the major shift as I could be, but I also became aware that it is a paradigm shift, and as such will require explanation and expansion. One aspect of my perspective that isn't universal and is often misunderstood is that I am primarily a futurist. I am looking at where we are headed as a society and how technology can help us to become more human and to experience greater joy in life. Although I have spent most of my working years as a technologist, I have not done so from my love of technology. I have done so from my love of people and my desire to see them benefit personally and corporately from what it can do for them.

It is from that paradigm that I approach the recent Apple announcements.

Before I say any more, let me be clear: nothing Apple announced is entirely new. Most has parallels elsewhere on the technology landscape. However, that fact is entirely meaningless from the perspective of what these announcements mean for individuals, for corporations, and for the software development community. The importance of the announcement boils down to the facts that Apple is doing it and combining the technologies and devices together into a single, unified, simple offering. It is those facts which will change the world.

Over the next few days I will unpack the elements of the announcement from this perspective.

Apple Just Changed Publishing

It is very rare indeed when I disagree with Seth Godin. He is a brilliant man, a best-selling author, and an insightful coach for the emerging economy, but he's missed it on the latest announcement from Apple. I don't blame him. It's easy to do with all the changes that are bouncing around like a Heisenberg Uncertainty experiment. Today, in a useful post on his Domino Project blog, he says that Apple did not just make publishing easier with their announcement of the iBooks Author application. He rightfully notes that the iBooks Author application is about authoring books, not publishing them, and there's a difference between printing and publishing. All true.

However, the iBookstore itself is a new way to publish. In much the same way that iTunes changed publishing first for music and then for movies and TV. And the iOS App Store and then the Mac App Store changed the economics and dynamics of software publishing, so will the iBookstore change the dynamics of book publishing. The iBook Author app is the disintermediation of book creation and the iBookstore is the creation of a publishing platform designed for social discovery and long-tail economics.

Unfortunately, I think that Seth falls into a bit of myopia here due to his experience with and success in both using publishers and creating a brilliant new publisher in his Domino Project. He sounds like some of the doomsayers in the early days of iOS apps.

Publishing will never be the same. Neither will making and selling music or making and selling other creative works. Seth knows this. Perhaps the world changed publishing and Apple is simply building tools for the ride. Regardless, anyone can now create and publish a book. Selling it requires building a tribe, just like it always did, but now you get to do it on your own.

Farewell, Steve

Yesterday, just after hitting "publish" on my iPhone 4S recommendation post, I received the news that Steve Jobs had passed away at the too-young age of 56. I never met Steve, but his uncompromising focus on doing the right thing has influenced me. Today, Ken Segall (I read his blog religiously) shared the impact that Steve had on him, and I must agree, although I never had the experience of working directly with him.

Although I have been accused of being an Apple fan boy, my relationship with Apple is relatively recent and based on only one thing: my use of Apple products has given me a far more productive and pleasant experience than any of the environments I have used in over 25 years of daily technology use.

...and the reason for that is the insistence that Steve had on building products for people, not "users."

Yesterday, I was struck by how sad I felt when I learned of Steve's passing. I was rocked when I first saw the news, and found myself grieving far more than I would have expected.

Why?

I think one of the reasons is the rarity of Steve's insistence on building technology that works for people. Just reading the industry commentaries about Apple products shows this clearly. The complaints are universally about "speeds and feeds," complaining that this phone has a bigger, higher-quality display than the iPhone or that tablet is available in a 7-inch form factor, missing the only thing that matters: how the product works as a whole. This is why the iPhone is the most popular phone in the US and the iPad is really the only tablet that matters.

So, farewell, Steve. You have inspired me and I am grateful. My commitment is to apply what I have learned from your approach.

Thank you.

All Clouds are Not Created Equal

After I read about another Google customer losing all of his Google data when Google decided to delete (or at least suspend) his account, I got to thinking about all of the times that Google has made a mistake and deleted user accounts or deleted email for Gmail users, I thought about how the different approaches of the key players in the emerging world require you to make some choices, some of which may be untenable. So, I thought I'd lay them out in clearer form than you will get from the hard-core technical blogs or the companies themselves. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this year (WWDC 2011), Steve Jobs and the Apple executive team introduced iOS 5 and iCloud. During his iCloud introduction, Jobs said this: "We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud." This is Apple's philosophy: the iCloud is the sync-master for  your digital life. It provides the axle to your devices that are the spokes. However (and this is a vital distinction!), your digital content lives on your devices when you are using it. The iCloud, then, is the master copy, but Apple expects you to have copies on one or more of your devices.

This is in sharp contrast to Google. In Google's world, the cloud is the only place where your data resides. You'll use your browsers (on your PC, your tablet, or your phone) to access, manipulate, create, and use your content. You may even cache some of it locally for performance reasons (for example, caching the first part of a video so you can watch it without "stutters"). However, the content is in the cloud and your devices are simply windows into it from Google's perspective.

...and then there's Microsoft. They want to get in on "this cloud thing," too, but they really aren't sure how to do it. Their business is Windows and Office, so how can they use the cloud and keep those lines humming? What they are doing now is having the cloud be a glorified backup service with some of the capabilities of their apps. The best experience, however, is to use their native apps on a PC and hook them into the cloud for backup and collaboration. This means that Microsoft Office 365 is a different perspective than iCloud (which is personal) and Google (which is all about the data being in the cloud only). It's effectively a hybrid of the two.

Regardless, you will want to make a choice based on these distinctions, because to the cloud you will go, one way or the other.

Keeping Account: Accounting Software for Small Business

Yesterday, I heard from David Matthew after he completed a very thorough review of small business accounting systems from Intuit (the company that brings you the venerable QuickBooks) and Peachtree, a long-time PC-based accounting system that has played second-fiddle to QuickBooks. His review includes a couple of very useful charts to compare the two, giving you a very good way of selecting between the two.

In our conversation, I mentioned to him that I'd encourage an expansion to include my current tool, Less Accounting (http://lessaccounting.com/), which is a hosted solution that I find exceptionally productive.

Check them out and let me know what you think!

Define Your Terms

In a scene from "The Princess Bride" that keeps running through my head these days, Inigo Montoya turns to Vizzini and says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

It seems to me that much of communication suffers from the same issue: in a rush to reduce conflict, words have been watered down and their meanings changed to the point that one person says or writes a word intending one meaning while the hearer or reader interprets another. Then, communication doesn't happen.

So, it's time we review one of the first rules of good communications:

Before you say something important, define your terms.

It's easy to assume that your listener understands your words as you intend them, but we've discovered that more often than not, they don't. Often, it is very difficult to precisely define some terms, and it is those that it is best to address in your communications.

For example, I've lately been struck by the use of the word "love" in contexts as varied as Sunday sermons and teenage gigglefests. While I'm working on a series of articles about it that I'll post here in the future, right now I'll make the observation that many people would not agree on what it means. Is it a good feeling? A commitment? Physical intimacy? Or something else? How is it different from "like" or "devotion"?

Furthermore, it's not that any of these uses is wrong. It is simply that you, by using a word without clarifying what you mean by it, may deliver a very different message than you intend.

What words do you think are particularly troublesome in this way? How do you define your terms?

CES 2011 - Verizon's Big Splash with 4G LTE

It is 10:00am PST on Thursday, January 6, 2011, and the CES show is now open. As I mentioned in previous posts, the CES show has a gigantic focus on mobile, broadband, and portable devices. Since I have spent the past 3 months working with team members from Verizon and Ericsson developing a 4G LTE demonstration, I am looking forward to letting you in on all that Verizon is doing.

The Verizon booth shows the breadth and depth of the 4G LTE ecosystem, showing LTE-connected devices ranging from enterprise telepresence to gaming, home automation to live broadcast television, a connected OnStar car to a broad range of smartphones and tablets. The point is that high-speed wireless access is available today from Verizon nationwide, the footprint is growing, and the capabilities are imaginative and useful for virtually everyone.

In the smart home area, Verizon is showing devices that control home temperature, shades that are remotely controlled, and of course entertainment over both FiOS and LTE. Alcatel Lucent is showing augmented reality systems running over the LTE network. Panasonic is showing HD enterprise teleconferencing over LTE, and Nomad Innovations is showing their LiveEdge.tv system for broadcast media electronic news gathering.

I will get a closer look at devices both in the Verizon booth and in other booths in the area and I will let you know if I uncover anything surprising or especially innovative. But, right now, if you're in the market for wireless broadband, Verizon has to be on your list.

CES 2011 - Apple Follow the Leader?

As I have walked through the CES halls as all the exhibitors prepare for the onslaught of attendees starting tomorrow, the pre-show expectations have largely proven true. As expected, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are all the rage, and Verizon is making a big splash with the 4G LTE network roll-out. Since I am spending my time working with Verizon and Ericsson in the Verizon booth, I'll hold off on specifics until tomorrow. Suffice it to say for now that there will be a lot of high-speed mobile devices to discover and explore. I've been getting Facebook and Twitter messages with questions about what technologies people are interested in understanding, so I'll be looking especially hard for those. If you have areas of interest, be sure to let me know either with a comment here on the blog or a message on Twitter or Facebook.

My observation thus far is this, however: CES is going to be a game of "Follow the Leader," and the leader isn't even here.

That leader is Apple.

With a $300B market cap and the most innovative products in the markets it serves, Apple's leadership cannot be disputed. Here are CES, smartphones are compared to iPhones, tablets to iPads, and mobile business to Apple's iOS ecosystem.

My question is this: Where's the innovation? I'll be looking for it. Any idea where I might find it?

CES 2011 - What do you want to know?

I am sitting inside the Las Vegas Convention Center helping to set up for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Since I am both working with a client who is exhibiting and am also a member of the press, I will be able to learn from both inside and outside. Just from walking the floor yesterday and today, it's clear that the anticipated focus on 3D TV, tablets/slates, mobile phones, and high-speed wireless will be the central themes. Sitting in Verizon's booth, you see a broad range of products that will take advantage of their 4G LTE network, including tablets and phones, but extending into other imaginative areas that I'll reveal after the show opens on Thursday.

RIM's booth is very large, and is all about their PlayBook. Android looms large, as well, and I'm sure there will be a broad range of announcements.

One of the more interesting booths I've seen is for the technology center in Beijing, China. Clearly intended to recruit companies to the "entrepreneurial center" of Beijing, reading the booth signs were reminiscent of reading an authentic Chinese restaurant menu.

I'll be bringing you more thoughts from CES, but if there are any products or categories that particularly interest you, let me know in the comments, by Twitter, Facebook, or any other means you have of reaching me.

How to Succeed, Part 2

In the first installment in this series, I mentioned the first law of success in Zig Ziglar's terms: "You can get anything you want out of life if you just help enough other people get what they want." As you dissect that concept, you will begin to see how powerful it is. The value you generate to others will determine what you receive in life. There is a value that you generate for one person which is multiplied by the number of people you find who want it. As you grow the per-person value, your reward grows. As you expand the number of people, it also grows. While outlining this law in his famous record "The Strangest Secret," Earl Nightingale articulated it in this way:

Your success will always be measured by the quality and quantity of service you render. Most people will tell you that they want to make money, without understanding this law. The only people who make money work in a mint. The rest of us must earn money. This is what causes those who keep looking for something for nothing, or a free ride, to fail in life. Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success — and success is in direct proportion to our service.

Most people have this law backwards. It's like the man who stands in front of the stove and says to it: "Give me heat and then I'll add the wood." How many men and women do you know, or do you suppose there are today, who take the same attitude toward life? There are millions.

We've got to put the fuel in before we can expect heat. Likewise, we've got to be of service first before we can expect money. Don't concern yourself with the money. Be of service ... build ... work ... dream ... create! Do this and you'll find there is no limit to the prosperity and abundance that will come to you.

Apply this rule today and you will begin to see a change for the better.

Rule 2 will become present in your life very quickly, then. In fact, it has been often on my mind this week and has come up in multiple conversations. Here's the story of one of them:

I met with a good friend for lunch this Wednesday. He's an Elder in our church, and I have served with him on the board of directors for a local non-profit. He is a wise and successful man. We met to talk business, challenges for some of the people we know, and the influence of spiritual truths on our lives. During our conversation, we shared our thoughts on helping two of the men we know. These men have been challenged in the job market that has emerged during this time of economic uncertainty, but they have given up. Their wives are working, but they are not. The stress on their marriages have them both on the rocks. Unless something changes, it's likely that we will see both of their marriages rendered asunder, kids damaged, and souls devastated.

All because they have been broken against the rocks of the second law.

Ironically, during the conversations with my wise friend, we talked about his response to the economic conditions. His story was much like my other wise friends, and went something like this: "When the economy changed, on of my primary sources of income stopped. Suddenly. Overnight, services that had been providing 30-50% of our income dried up. I had to find ways to replace it. I went back to school. Renewed my license to broker loans, and added that to my services."

Do you see the difference?

During the second world war, Viktor Frankl was taken prisoner first to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and later to Auschwitz. During his time in the camps, he came to a profound understanding of the strength of human consciousness in the face of difficulty and suffering. It was he who said, "Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible."

And it was he who first pointed out, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

"...our power to choose our response." This concept is pregnant with potency. So many avoid this truth and hide from their responsibility by pretending that their lives are not their own; that somehow the faceless "others" dictate the direction of their lives. They seem themselves as powerless to make their own choices. Yet these thoughts are all lies... and they lead only to pain, suffering, and failure.

It is you who chooses. They are your choices. No one controls you, although many will work to influence you using a broad range of tools from their words to their threats and from there to the exercise of authority. Ultimately, though, as Frankl so thoroughly proves in his seminal work, "Man's Search for Meaning," it is up to you what you do and no one else is responsible, accountable, or capable of living your life or making your choices.

Recently, my friend and mentor Matt Furey has expressed this truth in this way: "You are not to blame for everything in your life—but you are responsible for how you think and feel about everything in your life."

This is the second law of success.