It’s December 2013. Did you Achieve Your Goals?

Fotosearch_k6336626Thought you’d like that headline. We have turned the January corner and if you are like many people in the corporate world you are still working on your 2013 goals. Yeah mine are done! Oh that was a bit smug wasn’t it. Well no matter, soon enough you will finalize them, get them approved, revise and then and finally they will be official. Perhaps you are one of the fortunate ones to be able to enter them into some goal tracking software your IT team created in their spare time. Oh boy, that’s a treat. Design is what you get free from your IT department (joke).

So what to do next? Well most of us breathe a sigh of relief that we finished the task and go back to doing “things,” otherwise known as our job. Time passes (quickly) and then there are the quarterly discussions. All of a sudden there’s only thirty days left in the year and panic sets in. “What are my goals? Maybe I should have a look?”

That’s followed by the self-evaulation. Piece of cake right? Naturally you were smart enough to have kept a list of your achievements each week during the year so the self-evaluation is largely a cut and past exercise. Oh, you didn’t do the tracking work? Bummer.

Did I say track accomplishments each week? Yes, you went to work every week right? Certainly you did important things like attend meetings. read emails, participate in fire drills and read reports. Blah, blah, blah. Why show up to work everyday if you don’t accomplish something? My guess is you accomplish a lot, so track it. What could be more important than your year end evaluation? Priorities people.

Pro Tip: Take some time right now, yes today, and write your end of year self evaluation. Transport yourself nine months ahead and envision what you would have accomplished in that huge block of time. Use your goals as a guide and be creative. What did you transform, create, fix, invent? This exercise helps you visualize what you want / need to do. It sets a psychological theme for the entire year. Yes things will change along the way and you will adjust and then re-envision.

Try this exercise, you will thank me.

Knowing where you will end up in December is most important in February.

I wish you success and victory in 2013.

Photo licensed from Fotosearch

Apples will Continue to Fall from Trees

It’s not so much that Steve Jobs has stepped down as the head of Apple that saddens me, it’s the reason why he is stepping down. Cancer invades so many people’s bodies and it’s a ruthless scourge. Regardless of which side of the technology war you are on, no one should be happy about the fate that has befallen Mr. Jobs. Go ahead and despise Apple, but keep Mr. Jobs on the good side of your thoughts. I had a brush with cancer a couple of years ago, but was one of the lucky ones. I am completely cancer free now and expect to remain that way for a very, very long time thank you.

With or without Steve, Apple will continue to grow and thrive. It’s not simply a computer manufacturer any longer. It has evolved well beyond the days when Macs were found in the occasional household. Apple has transformed the music industry and the personal computer industry, redefined the handset into a smartphone, remade retailing and introduced the tablet.

How did they do it? They broke with conventional wisdom and overcame the inertias that weigh down firms and industries. But the main ingredient of success in my opinion, is they made products that worked with people’s daily lives. Seamless integration and updates. No tribal language code. A near flawless user experience that are beautiful to look at. Not always plug and play, but pretty close. If you make products that people can use and fills a desire they have, you are more than halfway there. Apple actually went the full mile, closing the last 50% by making what they delivered emotional. They then amplified those products with superior positioning and marketing.

But most of all, they never gave up. No matter how dark the investor and pundit predictions were, or how large and dominant Microsoft became, they came in everyday and worked at it. Admirable.

Remember when no one wanted to copy Apple? Now everyone covets and races to copy them. Was this in large part the work of Super Steve? You bet. But there is no way he did this alone. It takes a village, and he has built a really big one.

Tim Cook, now the leader, did some amazing things. He got Apple’s on hand inventory down from months to days and is credited with being the supply chain wizard that allowed the firm to bring out so many products so often and quickly. Does he have the vision of a Jobs? No, no one does. But he does have a vision, and Steve is not walking out the door. He will be around and he will have more ideas and the wise folks in Cupertino will listen. His fingerprints will be on things for quite some time. It’s quite possible that not being CEO will give him even more time to be creative. That could actually accelerate Apple’s momentum. Perhaps he should have resigned sooner.

Don’t write off Apple or Mr. Jobs.

Inception – Film Review

The firm I work for is now one of those companies that advertises prior to the feature movie in the multiplex (sorry, I hate those commercials more than you do). In appreciation, the media group that sold us the space arranged a free screening of Inception as a thank you. Now I was planning on seeing it on a paying ticket, but this turned out to be great timing. Free is good.

I have to get this off my chest. Can you believe the nerve of those Inception actors? They command millions of dollars in fees then show up to the set and sleep, yes SLEEP through their entire performance! Despicable.

Despite that little annoyance (I’ll try to maintain control), I was quite stimulated by this labyrinth of a picture. It has been widely discussed that Warner Bros. allowed Christopher Nolan to make Inception as a reward for delivering large box office returns on The Dark Knight. Many people in the industry didn’t believe Inception had big box office potential and late in the game even Warner execs are rumored to have suggested that Nolan also release a 3D version. Thankfully he didn’t go along, holding the line on his film in that 2D form factor, and, taking in gobs of ticket sales anyway thank you. Well played.

Mr. Nolan’s gift is rearranging time and space in such a way that both his characters and his audience are exposed to clues and experiences at the same time, which leads to a richer viewing experience. He is one of the few directors today that puts us inside the celluloid. In fact, he traps us there and we are unable to escape until the credits roll. And even then we are haunted for the next few hours. I hope they don’t let him design roller coasters. Nolan is more concerned about pacing and sequence and is comfortable letting some of the details dangle. For example, there is absolutely no explanation of that silver, hard cased luggage that launches everyone into a dream state. And I’ve never seen a film where more bad guys fired bullets and missed their protagonist targets. They even fire them in slow motion and still, nothing. I swear all of them have “Maggie’s Drawers.” Nolan doesn’t bother with such things. He doesn’t need to since apparently he has access to a time machine in the editing room.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a tough, smart dream hijacker for hire. He specializes in corporate espionage with a bit of a twist. He enters the dreams of his targets and steals their ideas for money. Dabbling in these dark arts can only lead in one direction, further down into an inescapable blackness. In a sense, Cobb re-engineers the process and tries to implant ideas (Inception) into people’s dreams that alters their thoughts when awake again. Who hires him and why is not as important as how Cobb assembles his band of mind robbers. There’s a chemist, a techie, a strong man and a rookie, played by Ellen Page, who provides a fresh perspective to the entire operation. It’s carefully planned, but completely unpredictable. An experiment all around.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb and Marion Cotillard as Mal

The acting is strong, but the real performance comes from Nolan, the production design and the pacing of the story. It’s quilted together in a rich tapestry of drama with a wonderfully wicked back story driven by romance. It seems Cobb has, had (I don’t know, you figure it out), a wife named Mal (Marion Cotillard). They spent years building a dream world, only to have it backfire on themselves and their children. All throughout the job, Cobb is haunted by Mal, and it puts the entire operation at risk. It’s another intriguing aspect to this complicated set piece that few people could pull off. Cobb’s motivation is fueled by his desire to return to America, and his children, but he’s a wanted man in the U.S. and would be arrested immediately upon setting foot inside the country. He is promised complete forgiveness by the powerful man who hires him to perform this inception.

The film requires more than one viewing to unlock all its complexities. But it does tire one out a bit, so by all means, rest up and clear your mind before you enter the world of Inception. Then make good on that promise to yourself to keep a dream diary. It might be more important than you think. Highly recommended.

The official Inception site, pretty basic, is here.

Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers

The One Constant

The last pitch at Yankee Stadium

I grew up loving baseball, and save the few years when the game checked out (strikes, ignoring the fans, greed, etc…) I still do. I’ve written about my passion for the game and in particular about the hallowed ground on which it is played. The stadiums keep coming down and yesterday one of the most storied homes for the game saw its last crowd. Heard its last cheers. I went through this with my team, the St. Louis Cardinals a couple of years ago. You can read about it here.

Now my brother-in-law, a devoted Yankee fan, is having the same experience with his park. He was actually able to attend the final game at Yankee Stadium. What a thrill it must have been. A golden memory always to be cherished. Their life revolves around baseball in many ways, and for those who are initiated, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible. We don’t even try.

Jim and Ryan

My personal history related to the Yankees comes in two parts. One is a Reggie Jackson autographed baseball that is carefully stored in my home. The other was watching Roger Maris play. He came to St. Louis and was a key factor in the Cardinals series win against Boston (Jim happy) winning the 1967 series. It was the end of his career so he was slower, but he was an amazing hitter that delivered clutch hits day after day. Not too shabby of a connection with New York baseball for someone who grew up and still lives in the Midwest.

As another landmark fades away I’m reminded of a great film, Field of Dreams. The wisdom is delivered by way of a soliloquy from Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) as he explains to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) that he has no choice but to build the field and allow his dream to play out.

And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

So long Yankee Stadium. Thanks for everything. I wish I could have seen more of that history in person, but I’ve got my own memories. You can’t have everything.

Photos courtesy of James Roberts.

A WiFi Alarm Clock, But Will it Help You Remember Your Dreams?

Chumby is an alarm clock, music player and news reader. For less that $200 you can put one on your nightstand, connect it to your WiFi network and launch dozens of wizards to display on the 3.5″ screen. It runs on Linux and since it’s open source, I’m sure dozens of new wizards will come rolling in. Program it to retrieve photos from Flickr, show stock quotes or news while you emerge from your dream state. You can visit Chumby here. If you are near sighted, like me, you can’t see anything when you open your eyes anyway. So stick to the digital readout large numbers.

01chumbyl.jpg

Some things you may not know about dreams. Everyone dreams every night, unless you are textbook schizophrenic. Nearly everyone dreams in color, that is if you are normal. Do you remember your dreams? If the answer is no and you want to, then when you awake, don’t move. Remain still and track back your nocturnal adventures in your mind. They will stick with you longer.