Category Archives: Economics

The Importance of SXSW & Why You Should be There Every Year

South by Southwest is officially over which means that it is only 51 weeks away until the next SXSW festival which mean you have plenty of time now to save up and buy yourself a badge for next year and attend. For those that can not afford SXSW badges, I will explain to you what I learned doing SXSW this year for less than $20 dollars. Yes you read that correctly, having done SXSW so many times, being a resident of Austin, and living right next to downtown has its many perks.

SXSW had tons of opportunities for everyone to enjoy and experience so saying that it had nothing that appealed to you means that you really have no clue why this festival is considered to be one of the top festivals to attend in the whole world. It is ranked number one by Fuse website for Music Festival, which is understandable since half of the week is dedicated to just music acts. Business leaders, investors, and startup wannabes all come to SXSW from all corners of the world to find out what the latest trends are. Film makers, producers, and celebrities all come to Austin to screen their movies and make deals and talk about what new projects studios have in the works. The number of new movie ideas that blossomed during the film portion is enormous considering all who were here. If you went out walking about you would have seen celebrities all over the place just enjoying themselves. I told a friend some of the hot spots celebrities like to relax and enjoy themselves at and you know what he did? He spent most of his time at those places getting to meet people he thought would be surrounded by body guards just sitting down and enjoying a drink and talking to people. It completely took him by surprise how approachable some of them were but he was happy because he got to meet some of his favorite movie stars all in person.

Understanding SXSW Hype
You hear about this festival down in the southern region of the US and think, “what could those people possible know down there? They are so far away from where all the action is going on how could they say what the trends are?” Easy, SXSW brings the best minds down here to get away and talk with similar minded people about what it is they do all year. People attend these events because they all are trying to find the same answer to the same question, on hopefully what is the company’s dime, “How’d you get so successful doing that?”

The hype about this festival is surrounded around the same idea of seeing all these successful and important people walking about with those special badges around their necks that get them into private events. If you don’t have the money for those badges then you miss out on all the big stuff (hint: I got into some pretty big events and didn’t have a badge so it can be done). The truth of the matter though is that most of those badge holders are there trying to keep up with the trends so they can run back to their companies and help them prepare for what is coming in the next few months.

The big stuff for nerds, educators, and geeks all happens a week before the music festival portion. The education portion brings teachers, educational entrepreneurs, school district administrators and even technology companies down to learn about some of the new teaching styles, innovation in apps that improve learning, and other ways teachers can engage more people to learn now that we live in a world where being connected is constant. The challenge for educators in any form is how do you get people to take learning seriously now when information is always there online now?

This poses a challenge for many other people, especially companies that have to hire those students later on. People with shallow educations are a liability to companies later on that depend on creative individuals to innovate. Hence why they send their best employees down to SXSW to catch up and stay ahead.

SXSW is all about finding out what will be happening in the coming year, in terms of, technology, startup companies launching (remember Twitter exploded at SXSW in 2007), and new gadgets but also what films to look out for later in the year. So when you mix all this information together with other little films trying to screen and small businesses trying to expand their brand at SXSW with a zero dollar budget you begin to understand why hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world come to Austin for a week or two.

Remember SXSW does everything it can to help those first-timers navigate the large open space that is Austin by creating a page on their website for newbies. You can check out their page but I will point out one thing that their page does not cover, how to get the most out of the event and what to pay attention to, with or without a badge. SXSW does not cater to those without badges so that is why other opportunities have popped up to fill that need. SXSW has the official events they list on their website, twitter, and app but they do not list the unofficial events and knowing how to find that stuff takes skill and talent.

What I got out of SXSW 2015
Every year I learn something new about SXSW and the people who come to Austin. This year they included this in an infograph and the books they hand out only to badge holders. I got my hands on one and found some surprising information.  The average age this year was 36 and the top skill that all badge holders had was social media skills. This tells you that this is not a young person’s festival for Interactive and judging by all the tweets that I read over the past week, while showing people how to do SXSW, I learned that a lot of them couldn’t wait to get back to their hotel rooms, lock the doors, order room service, and enjoy the peace and quiet that they don’t normally get back home because a certain portion of them have kids.

One of the first events I attended was the Job Market fair that was in the new JW Marriott hotel. I went, not looking for a job, but to find out what kind of jobs companies were hiring for but also the kind of people they were interested in talking with. I will say it is funny when recruiters find out that you are not there looking for a job but instead want to learn about the new hiring trends because you already have a job. That is when their whole personalities change and they switch from presentation mode to letting down their guard. They are so used to selling all day long that it is rare for them to talk with someone that is NOT looking for work.

Here is what I learned from that job fair
– Companies are mainly looking for coders in all languages
– Sales, marketing, business, finance, and all the other regular areas they are hiring for as well
– The well prepared come dressed up ready to hand out resumes but few ready to relocate
– Most had just resumes to handout but nothing different to offer – here’s what I mean
– Recruiters are only interested in a few things about your skills – how many years of experience you have doing one or two skills really well, what have you created recently on your own, if you are willing to move, & are you currently employed. They don’t care about the name of your school.
– The well prepared carry business cards with them everywhere
– The top items of swag given out were tech gadgets (powerbanks, USB mini stereos, flashdrives, & styluses for tablets and phones)
– Employers will ask to see some of your work right there on the spot if you are a coder
– Companies expected that most people attending were either proficient or experts with basic business software programs, used social media fluently, and understood mobile technology well.

All this information is great to know if you are looking for a job but more importantly it tells you what companies are expecting people to learn in school and college. Coding is not just a skill that only a select few should learn now it is a skill that all people will need to learn because right now companies do not have enough of them. Check out my list of education resources to find out how to get started learning how to code for free.

Attendee Statistics
People come from all corners of the world to attend this great festival but what are most of them looking for? I pulled these stats from the interactive book that polled their badge holders asking what they were after. Here were the goals for those that attended
– 62% said Find New Business Opportunities
– 36% Connect with Existing Clients
– 24% No Particular Goals
– 16% Seek Employment/Contract Work
– 15% Hire Talented People
– 11% Launch a new Product or Service
– 9% Seek Investors
– 6% Invest in New Companies

The last stat corresponds with the number of attendees who are considered wealthy and probably investors, which is around less than 10%.

So what do these stats tell you about what people are looking for at this festival? Remember, these are all those people who purchased badges and look important walking around. Most of the people there wanted to either quit their job or find more work and a quarter of them had no clue what they wanted to get out of the festival. If a quarter of the people had no clue then that means they were just walking around and taking in all the sights and probably only attending a handful of lectures at a time.

The part that got my attention was the last few stats. This is the section that tells you who are the ones with money and/or influence. They attend the festival to sit in on a few talks and see what products are being demonstrated but to find those diamonds in the rough. They walk around looking for companies trying to launch grassroots style and find out a little more about what they do. They attend the official events but they also attend the events that are not official in hopes of finding that one unique idea.

People I Met
In the class before SXSW I taught, “How to Grow Your Business with SXSW.” One of the things I mentioned about the festival was that you were going to see a lot of posters and people passing out flyers everywhere and even chalk signs on crosswalks. Low and behold that is exactly what I saw as I was exploring; I had one guy introduce himself to me while we were waiting in line, he gave me his flyer to ask if I could check out his youtube page. Another time I got handed postcards that were an invite to a special screening about the American Inventor (you can watch it here now available on YouTube that screened at SXSW) and how it is harder now to bring an idea to life because of current patent laws.

I attended a lecture on how to build, run, and manage a kids’ maker space for STEM education. The thing that surprised me the most was that the event was open to anyone but there were very few people there. Maybe less than twenty at most but I did make the most of my time introducing myself and talking about how other people can improve their locations. I met one interesting man who told me he was having trouble getting people to teach at his locations but he had plenty of space. I informed him that he had the opposite problem of mine, I have the teachers but no space to teach in. So you see a great connection was made from being at these events.

I met a musician who provided free rides at SXSW that was working to become a DJ and said that he tried to take advantage of many of the opportunities there to meet some big names. He is hoping he can turn his work into something he can do at next year’s festival. I was glad to find the main options of getting free rides because getting around SXSW on foot can be difficult but good exercise.

Then while taking a break at Starbucks I saw two company employees from the Yo app so I introduced myself to find out what Yo was hoping to accomplish at SXSW. I was told they were promoting their brand by offering free breakfast every morning if you just sent a special Yo message but unfortunately their campaign did not work since the service was terrible judging by these tweets. I know that other people did get their meals but it doesn’t look like they got the reception they were after according to this tweet. Hopefully the founder was joking. In all the tweets being sent during SXSW I saw very few talking about Yo though.

Another time my friends and I were all enjoying some free lunch when one of them sat down at this table and started talking to people there. Well it turns out one of the people at the table just so happened to be a speaker for the Interactive panels. My friend kept asking this person questions about their job and what they plan to talk about and the more my friend asked the more amazed he was to find out who he was talking to. He didn’t think he would run into a speaker for SXSW that also happened to work on a show that he enjoyed watching. It turns out the guy was a writer. I told my friend that he needed to make sure they exchanged information and kept in touch, which they both did.

The one app that took SXSW by storm was MeerKat. This awesome app is set to change the whole streaming world by taking a new model of communicating to large audience members in real time and improving on it. I will talk about this more in the trends section.

This is just a small portion of all that happened to me while I was there. I’ve been told I need to put together a business that teaches people how to do SXSW. I’m considering it.

SXSW Trends from this Year’s Festival
In this article that was just posted, as of the writing of this article, you can see that people are still writing about all the stuff that happened during Southby. The conference covered a number of items that will soon start to impact out lives, one that just launched today actually, driverless cars and personal robots. The issue of robots and A.I.s entering our lives is quite profound as Dr. Cynthia Breazeal talked about in her SXSW talk on, “The Personal Side of Robots.” If you are not familiar with who she is this is the lady who created an Indiegogo campaign to bring Jibo, the world’s first family robot, into people’s homes. Her campaign caught media attention for going way pass her goal and raising over $2 million dollars from a goal of only $100k.

While walking around one of the things you caught a lot of people doing was holding cardboard boxes in front of their faces. If you are familiar with this idea then you know it was Google’s campaign to teach people about how to create their own virtual reality headset, much like the one for Oculus Rift, out of cardboard and their smartphones. You simply fold the cardboard pieces and you have something that looks like this below

All you do is drop your phone into the slot and it changes your dept of vision to make it look like virtual reality. This is a layout of how it folds.

Pretty cool little toy which is why I picked up two of them in case one broke from wear and tear. So why were people playing with them? Well Google Fiber decided to make a big push during Southby by setting up shop in their downtown location where people could come in and pick up a free headset and some stickers saying where they wanted Google Fiber next in Austin. I got a few of those plus a nice t-shirt.

I didn’t get to attend the Robot Petting Zoo, yea I know just the name sounds awesome, but I did get to meet some of the makers of one of the top robotic sport’s team. It turns out the little guy was busy playing soccer but I took his picture anyways.

Robots

Alright so after all the fun here is what alot of people were after while they were down there taking in all this information. I will mention some of the trends but then list a few of the topics that were covered at Interactive.

1. People want to learn from other people about how to improve what they’re doing back home
This might sound like common sense but it is how people behave and operate in new places. People go to conferences in hopes of finding that one person who has the solution to their problem back home. I would talk with so many people about the struggles of their business only to tell them where to look online about how to fix or improve what they were doing.

One business owner said that they were using a portion of their retail store to encourage kids to learn how to build stuff. They told me this came from the idea of seeing so many bored kids in front of their store so they figured why not make a separate space for the kids to teach them stuff while the parents shop. The parents and kids loved it but they ran into a problem of growth so that is when I told them about this TED talk about how one tutoring center turned into a world wide phenomenon. It had a few ideas that any business struggling with growth can learn from.

2. Businesses are becoming more of a secondary degree for work than a standard option
Chances are today you probably know someone who is an Uber driver or works as a freelancer cutting hair through hairstylist apps or even people who do odd jobs here and there. This new consumer-to-consumer economy is taking off faster than most companies know what to do. People can earn a very comfortable living with just service apps alone now and the best part of about them is that there is no set schedule to follow, you simple log in when you are ready to start work and log off when your tired. This creates an easier way for people to connect with others instead of going through an temp agency or having to apply for jobs online all the time. (Maybe the end for Monster.com? Who knows)

The interesting thing about this new way of living is that many major companies are getting in on the action too by creating new brands under their company name in order to keep consumer’s focused on the service instead of the company that owns or runs it. The challenge is that major companies have the money to sink into these apps in order to get a large share of this new collaborative sharing economy that is going on between consumers. All these apps make money by taking a share of the money that is transacted between the two parties. Basically the app is a more efficient method of connecting two people with similar interests and needs.

3. Meerkat Dominated Apps
If this is the first time learning about Meerkat then let me tell you why it was the new hot commodity that everyone was talking about. If you are a gamer than you know all about Twitch and how it has changed the whole landscape of video games by turning it into a spectator sport now. Video game players can turn on their twitch account and start streaming their game playing to all their followers and anyone watching. Well, Meerkat does the same thing except it is on your phone now. So you could build a following of people to find out what you are doing right at that moment and stream it.

Think Facetime but instead of 1-to-1 call it is 1-to-all your followers in real time. That is why so many people love the app because now instead of sitting at your computer and using a web cam to stream what you are doing you can now use your phone and stream wherever. What does this do to the internet and service usage? It puts a huge demand on internet service and requires high amounts of bandwidth. Curious to read what people are saying about this breakout hit? Click the articles below.

Meerkat Restores Faith in SXSW’s Startup Magic

Meerkat stole the show at SXSW. Sorry, Twitter

Why Meerkat, the breakout app of SXSW, is more than a flash in the pan

4. SXSW encourages the Entrepreneur Scene
If you walked around chances are you probably ran into a few guys and girls shoving flyers into your hands trying to get you to attend their launch party or swag party, which is where companies give out swag in hopes that you check out their products and learn more about who they are and what they do. I got a pretty sweet expensive swag bag from one of these little parties. During my time at one of these parties I talked with a lot of the CEO’s who were right there to talk about their products. One guy was happy to talk his product and how he started his company so getting to meet the people in charge is not hard to do if you know how to put yourself out there. You never know where they might be in a few months or next year but at least you got to meet and learn about how they got their idea and turned it into reality.

SXSW created the startup village which has grown to help startup companies gain more appeal and attention. But why is the startup village so important to entrepreneurs and why would you want to get your company in there next year? Easy, it connects existing companies that are failing to innovate with up-and-coming companies. There might be a consultant who is flown into check out what new businesses are coming up and what products they have to offer, so “John” might be asked to find a new business that his company might be able to do business with. This is how startup companies find new clients so it keeps them growing. What you don’t hear about are those meetings during dinner time with the startup CEO and co-founders and the consultant to talk about the details and work out a contract together. That is how the movers and shakers work.

5. Advertising is all about Getting into People’s Habits
Ex Machina is a movie that premiered at SXSW and it touches on the issue of robots and intelligence, but more importantly emotional intelligence. In order to get more people aware of the movie the studio created a brilliant ad campaign to get people interested in watching the movie by playing with their emotions. They launched a tinder account that looked like a normal 25 year old female just looking for love in Austin. If you were one of the unlucky ones to fall for it then you were not alone. Many guys apparently fell for it because just when you thought the conversation with her was getting interesting she linked you over to her instagram page where , at the time, it listed a film trailer for the movie and the poster for the film, the studio has since added more content now. All in all, it got a lot of people talking about SXSW and the innovation of marketing and advertising that went into that campaign.

6. Interacting with People Face to Face tops them all
All the apps and wearables and technology out there is pretty damn impressive now but nothing beats and probably will never beat face-to-face interaction. The best part about SXSW are the connections you make for a brief moment during the day and if you know how to make the connection you ask to meet for dinner and talk more in person. You want that face-to-face connection before that person heads back home because without it there is not much to learn about the person except what they write in their email.

The after parties are where the real deals happen and the magic takes place. The movers and the shakers all know this so they attend as many after parties they can get themselves into. They work the rooms for the free drinks and then see if they can connect with anyone. The whole idea is to find someone that has the “it” charm in what they say and do. They are looking for someone who looks like they know what they are doing, and once they find them then they see what all they have to offer that might be of benefit to one another.

Maybe you are shy and not sure what to do, but the best thing you can do is just to get out there and talk. This is why during SXSW there are so many parties with free drinks to help loosen people up to talk. Yes the free drinks also draw in the crowds but for the shy people who need a little pushing it helps them to not be afraid to go up and talk to someone. This worked for a number of people and the connections they picked up in the end were well worth it.

7. Robots are becoming more a part of our lives
It is hard to imagine that our lives are becoming more like what we watch in movies. Minority Report is one of those movies that when it came out people were astounded at seeing people swiping in the air to move things like it was magic and now we have those kinds of TVs and motion detectors, like Kinect and Leap Motion. If you show a kid that movie today it will not impress them except the cool cars and flying suits but everything else they can pretty much do today. But where do you think they got the inspiration from? That’s right, movies.

Now that driverless cars are going to become the norm in the next few years and robots have already been slowly entering our homes it will start to be our responsibility to learn how to treat them properly and what they should be allowed to do and not do. The latter part will be difficult seeing how we now have robots that are designed to learn on their own so how will we be able to regulate how much they learn or what they learn or even what they are allowed to do with that information once they’ve learned it?

In the robot petting zoo there are drones that can act as search and rescue but also ones that can build things so it will be very interesting to see how robotic drone technology will evolve in the coming year. This is why the FCC is having a hard time figuring out the rules because the potential of what drones are capable of is enormous and they don’t want to limit that but they also have to protect and respect people’s privacy, but seeing how nothing on the internet or our phones is private anymore I don’t see why they are worried about drones as the problem.

A few of the topics at Interactive were

– What Tech Startups Should be Doing Next – Jessica Lawrence
– The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food – David Chang, Matt Buchanan
– Secrets of Growth Hacking: From Zero to $50M – Neil Patel, Sean Ellie, Tammy Camp
– You Are Everywhere – Kristina Halvorson
– World Leaders on Twitter: What they can teach us – Alexander Ekkelenkamp, Aurelie Valtat, Matthias Lüfkens


SXSW is an amazing festival to attend and if you live in Austin there really is no reason NOT to be here experiencing it all. It is just one week out of the year to plan for this that thousands of people make the time to be at. One of the best part is also the gaming portion.

The Gaming Expo was a fantastic experience that all gamers should experience at one point. For all the kids and families who did attend I commend those parents for doing a great job of taking their kids there and for the parents who just dropped them off to experience the whole thing on their own, I say, you are a great parent for doing that. Keep it up!

Gaming Expo

I learned quite a bit at the gaming expo and since I had all the time to enjoy myself here is what I did there. I attended a Zombie quiz show and got some free swag for it. I finally learned how to play the famous board game The Settlers of Catan and another game by the same makers called, Patchwork, which was a lot of fun. So how did I learn how to play? The game makers had tables set up with different versions of Catan setup on each one and if you wanted to learn how to play all you had to do was sit in on a tutorial, taught by one of their instructors there, and play along. So now when someone asks if I have Sheep in exchange for two coals, I know what they mean. After playing for awhile they gave me a nice swag bag that came with a character expansion pack for free including a Catan metal pin to wear which I got for having learned how to play.

I also made it a point to get a picture with the sweet Delorean from BTTF

After that I played a lot of video games that are still being tested out and got to see some cool video game characters walking around which I got my picture with. Afterwards I made my way over to the Maker Square space set up at the Long Center where I got to make some cool things, including a badge that I had to solider together in order for it to work, which looks like that in the picture.

All in all the whole experience was a lot of fun but also a lot of learning about where the gaming industry is headed. So now to the part you have been waiting for, what do I get out of all this? I’ll tell you.

How did you do SXSW for less than $20 bucks?
Easy, here is how I did it. I monitored twitter ahead of time (about a week or two) to find out what all the special hashtags were for finding the free events, free food, and free parties. I left those tabs open on my phone the whole time I was there and checked them ALL the time. I managed to get free food starting from the official day it started (Friday) until midday Tuesday. I got some free morning snacks during Pi Day (3/14/15). In the picture below they had little Pi’s in both apple and raspberry, because you know, Raspberry Pi? Get it? haha. I also found where my birthday was in Pi, and if you want to learn where yours is at then go to mypiday.com.

Pi

Not bad for managing my time there considering I also got to see Jimmy Kimmel live at the Long Center as well. You need Twitter in order to get around SXSW otherwise you miss all the free stuff popping up all around you. All you really need to survive is free food and then you can just walk up to events happening all around you. The cost for me was the bus rides into downtown and extra things I wanted to buy. Parking downtown is a nightmare during that time and not worth paying for.how to get around SXSW

How people did SXSW before Twitter just amazes me but it also says that you had to have a badge in order to get the book that told you were all the official stuff was. I have no idea how people found the unofficial stuff without Twitter.


Experience SXSW at Home
In case you missed SXSW, guess what! You can still watch all the panels that took place from the comfort of your own home. SXSW has put up majority of the lectures on youtube so I will put the link below so you can find the talks you want to watch. Then after that link I included the visual representation of those talks created by ImageThink. A lot of those images are very helpful in getting the main points from the talks.

Interactive Talks SXSW YouTube

Visual Form of Interactive Talks

Just find the video title and match it with the slide title to see the talk visually.


My time at SXSW was absolutely fun and I always tell people that they need to get out and enjoy it because there is no reason to pass up one of the best festivals in the world if it is right in your own backyard. People spend thousands of dollars to be there so why not take advantage of it for practically nothing?

Thanks for all the fun SXSW, I had a blast and can’t wait to do it all over again next year, hopefully this time as a speaker at Interactive. Austin you look beautiful and I had so much fun walking around everywhere.

Skyline of Austin

If you would like to learn what other cool festivals you should attend this year I posted the link below to some of the best ones including one for women.

Festivals Female Entrepreneurs Can’t Miss

9 Conferences in 2015 that are worth your time and money

Considered one of the Most Innovate Festivals to attend, Invite-Only (Awesomeness Fest)

How do you fix the Homeless problem? Maybe Try This?

The issue of homeless is one that many people don’t really consider until they are the ones near that position in life. Many people might find it hard to believe that they could ever become homeless because they have a steady job and able to pay their bills on time. But as the movie Sicko by Michael Moore showed, you can spend your whole life doing what you are supposed to be doing and when hard times strike, like getting cancer, and your insurance won’t cover all the surgeries and medication then you start to see how easy one can become homeless without the aid of their family members to support them.

Many states around the country are passing laws that don’t help the homeless. It is like trying to pass a law that say, “Rats are not allowed to live in this area,” only to learn that the rats didn’t listen to your law because, well, they can’t read. Homeless don’t care what the law says about what they can and cannot do because they do not have a home, they don’t pay taxes, and many of them don’t even have ID cards on them anymore, so why should they care? You can cite them and lock up as many times as you want and what is that going to fix? Many homeless people want to be taken to jail because it will mean a meal, a bed to sleep on and off the streets for another night.

It will surprise a lot of people to learn how many people who are homeless want to work but because they do not have a physical address to receive mail, they do not have any new clothes to wear, and they smell it makes a very difficult time for them to make any progress in their life. So the state of Utah has decided to change all that by offering homeless people free housing. The reason behind that is it will impact the city less financially if more homeless people are off the streets than if they were on the streets getting arrested or loitering in areas where they shouldn’t be. The daily show did a great report on this whole new trend happening to find out if it actually works. The other side to this says that allowing them to have free housing when others are struggling to pay their bills is not fair. Well newsflash, life is not fair and it never has been so that whole reason, or excuse, doesn’t work.

It is interesting to find out just how successful this program is because when you think about it, everyday thousands of people are released from prison and jail, many of them served years behind bars now back into the world. The hard thing for them is to learn how to take care of themselves again. Their biggest problems now are finding housing, getting a job, and managing their life. The problem with this is that because the prison system has taught them to be do dependent on them for everything they don’t know how to earn a living so many of them commit a crime just to be thrown back in. There are many successful programs out there that try to help former inmates transition back into society but it is hard to keep them in those programs because the struggles are too much for them to handle. This housing program also keeps track of each person’s progress to make sure they are doing everything they can to get their own apartment to live in so another person can use the free housing.

In any case, click the link below to watch this interesting piece on solving the homeless problem.

Hasan Minhaj talks with Lloyd Pendleton, director of homeless task force in Salt Lake City

To learn more about this you can read some of the articles below.

News Articles

Housing First

100,000 Homes Campaign

Home Free?

Utah’s Housing First Program Successful

Tiny Houses: A big idea to end homelessness

Tiny Houses aim to help homeless

Small House Movement

Improve Yourself with Books to Read in 2015

If you did a search right now on the top ten books to read for 2015, you would probably find tons of lists already out there. The challenge with this is that there are so many genre of books now that the lists are endless. Twenty years ago things were not as complicated because most “Must Read” book lists came from large chain book stores and newspapers. Now we have so many different sources on what to read, including this blog right here, that it is hard to narrow down just what all is good to read.

Goodreads is a good place to start if you don’t already have an account. If you love reading you need to open yourself an account and use it. I use that website just about everyday when I update everything I am reading. They have tons of lists to follow, groups to join, book reading challenges, and more. I enjoy reading the reviews to get a better idea of what it is about I’m to read so I know I will get something out of it.

In the meantime the books selected all come from authors who have already written some amazing books. A few of the books I look forward to reading this year are Clay Water Brick, The XYZ Factor, and Work Rules.

Try to always take at least an hour a day to read, 30 minutes when you wake up, and 30 minutes before you go to bed or 4 15 minute breaks throughout your day. If you are a real go-getter in life than you can have 8 15 minute breaks throughout your day. However you decide to read, make sure to take some time also to include the classics, self-help books, and adventure books, either in physical form or audiobooks. Always check your public library first to see if they have a copy available.

In the list I have included those from the list but also some classic business books everyone should read.

Top Business Books to Read for 2015
1. Clay Water Brick – Jessica Jackley
People wonder how anyone can make a successful business happen without having money to support everything. This book here shows you how some of the most innovative individuals created something great with the least amount of resources. This is a good one to start with to get out of the mindset that you need X – Y- Z before you can get started. If you think that is true, read the Kids who are exceptional article.

2. How to Fly a Horse – Kevin Ashton
You would think training a horse to fly would be easy but then again you probably have no idea where to start. The author takes the reader on a journey through history to show how some of the best creations came from challenge situations. Creating something from the ground up is never easy so with the world we live in today where costs for starting a business has dropped to near zero, why is it still hard? This book was on the list of Amazon’s best books of 2014

3. Getting To Yes with Yourself – William Ury
This is the same guy who brought you Getting to Yes, which is ranked as the number one best seller in Business Negotiating category on Amazon. The author explains that all the challenges that happen in life all take place in your head. When you think a deal is going wrong because you emphasized the wrong word, chances are you are probably wrong, or maybe you shook his hand longer than you should have, making you seem desperate. These are all mental games you play with yourself so when you begin to realize not to take life so seriously you can then see how easy it is to make yourself agree with what you are saying. A great movie to watch to help you understand why you should not take life so seriously is called “Being There.” Considered one of the best philosophy movies ever made about Life.

4. Bold – Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler
This book explains the power of exponential entrepreneurship. When you bring people of life mind together to work on a task you double, triple, or even quadruple the power that goes into solving a problem. This is the idea behind XPRIZE, a program that uses crowdsourcing to it’s ultimate power by asking people all over the world to solve their problems posted on their website, Singularity University, in return for a large cash prize. This book explores all they have learned about this impressive program about how ideas are solved through the help of exponential power.

5. Yes, And – Kelly Leonard, Tom Yorton
The power of Improv acting has helped changed so many people’s personal and business skills for the better because it changes how a person thinks in any given situation. Improv is a form of acting that encourages no sensor thinking and to accept everything thrown at you and learn to think in the moment. Many companies hire theater companies to come in and provide Improv training with their sales staff because of how important it is to learn. If you want to learn more about this skill and join a program, read my previous article on the art of storytelling.

6. The XYZ Factor – Nancy Lublin, Alyssa Ruberman
This is a book about learning to empower people to see the benefit of their actions when they put them to good use for others. This can be very challenging for companies when they work with younger generations that are only interested in instant gratification and isolated circumstances, most of which they have grown up in. The DoSomething.org program is meant to get kids out of this habit of waiting, which many grew up in homes where they had to wait to be told what to do and when, and start getting out there and making a difference on your own. For any kid who grew up in a restrictive household, the transition to learn how to think for themselves is very difficult, which is not fair to companies that have to deal with that, and so teaching younger individuals how change is possible through their actions is a good skill to learn.

7. Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader – Herminia Ibarra
This book takes on a different approach for leaders. There are many management books that say to find your style of management and leadership in order to guide your department or people. This book here says to listen to what the people are looking for and take guidance from how they need to be managed. When you don’t over think a problem and dwell on it you can then work from the insight your team gives you.

8. Better Than Before – Gretchen Rubin
Changing habits can be hard but when you learn how to find the little tricks to turn small little actions into bit time change that is when results start to show. The author here talks about improving your life with changing your habits and routines. Humans are creatures of habit so it is important to understand how to make new habits work. Chip Heath also wrote a great book on the subject as well called Switch – How to change things when change is hard.

9. Work Rules! – Laszlo Bock
Imagine being the HR manager for one of the best companies to work for in the world? How much pressure would you have to know that you have to hire people that are extremely intelligent but also creative at the same time? That is a lot of pressure, in that, you have to design and create interviews to weed out the fakes and still find the ones that are hard to see the first time. Then after that you have to learn how to create an environment that encourages people to grow and increase productivity, all of which can be challenge, but brought together in this richly packed book of data examples.

10. Surprise – Tania Luna, Leeann Renninger
This element of surprise is important for many reasons but none more so than in the business world. Surprises happen all the time so being able to anticipate that surprise can keep you on your toes but also understand that change is constant. When you learn to accept things as they come, training from Improv acting, you won’t feel threaten by what is happening every time something new comes up.

11. No One Understands You and What to Do About It – Heidi Grant Halvorson
Why do people know who we are? Isn’t that what makes people want to work with other people, because they think different and act different? People who really studied psychology in college, and when I say really studied, I mean they went way beyond the required readings and read more than your typical grad student, you would know that how a person walks, the words they use to speak, the actions they take says everything about a person already. Not everyone studied psychology in college or graduate school so books like this are important to read because it helps people connect with others when they understand them. Engineers have the worst record when it comes to social and people skills so a book like this might help them to learn that when talking about a project of their their’s it is important to include personal identifying properties of themselves with how they created it instead of just the dimensions and costs and benefits of the projects. If you want to read another book on the subject and learn more about a person by the words they speak, “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,” is a great book to read.

12. The Eureka Factor – John Kounios, Mark Beeman
Do you remember the time you came up with that amazing idea that someone has already come out with? Why did you beat them to it? And why can’t you have more moments like that? This book explains how those moments come about and how to have more of them. They spark imagination, ideas, and bring about change so if they are so important why are they so few of them? Learn more about how the brain works with this book about how great insights are achieved.

13. The Road Character – David Brooks
Ever wondered why Robert Moses lead the life he did, or why the Men Who Built America, had such deep rich self-fulfilling lives? The challenge with creating a rich fulfilling life is not just the doing part but the upbringing part; people of character are built upon a solid foundation of morals, beliefs, and values, which guide them in everything they do. When you have no guidance in which to follow, then why would it surprise you to learn that your life has no purpose? The men who built america found their purpose because they had the keen sense to see what others couldn’t and put it into action. This book takes a look at ten lives and examines them for all these traits to learn how to create a life worth living.

14. Triggers – Marshall Goldsmith
Behavior Consultant Mr Goldsmith looks at how to change behavior for the good and how to make them into certain habits. He takes a look at how behavior works and why we behave differently when we are in groups and when we are by ourselves. This book helps explore all that in order to find the right behaviors that will lead to a successful life.

15. The Misfit Economy – Alexa Clay, Kyra Maya Phillips
Did you know that Pirates in the Indian ocean make millions stealing huge oil tankers and cargo ships in the area? Or that hackers cause millions, if not billions in loses every year to companies, but encourage the growth for many more industries? The growing behavior of misfits is creating whole new industries to come about because the reality is when someone acts bad, you need another to fix it. This book examines the history of people that did things unconventionally and how it turned out for them and what you can learn from doing that. The reality is, business has no rules, so once you learn that rule, all bets are off for anything you do.

16. Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter – Cass Sunstein
This important book contains the very reason you don’t want to surround yourself with people of like-mind. But if you have too, this book will teach you what you need to be aware of to keep from falling into the trap of staying with status-quo. Cass showed that when people of like-mind get together their values strengthen because each member reinforces what they already know or believe in. This is very dangerous because this is how progress is slowed down because if everyone thinks the same way and they all agree with one another then there is nothing to change or improve.

Cass also shows that similar minded groups make less dramatic changes than groups that are composed of different mindsets. He talks about this in the new elected Congress that is very one-sided and how dangerous this will be for policy making and America. You can watch his interview on The Daily Show to learn more about what happens when people who are conservative get together with similar minded individuals, and vice versa. This is a very important concept to learn so you don’t fall into the same mental trap. This is why the phrase, “Keep Your Friends Close, but your Enemies Closer,” is important to learn because your enemies will keep you on your toes and learning all the time. This book is ranked number 1 in Business & Organizational Learning.


Here are some Additional Books to read

Zero to One – Peter Thiel (Number 1 in Economic Policy and Development)
The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
The lean Startup – Eric Ries
Business Adventures – John Brooks (Number 1 in Commerce)
Influence – Robert Cialdini (Number 1 in Marketing and Consumer Behavior)
22 Immutable Laws of Branding – Al Ries

To find more business books to read, check out my previous article and Book Page
This book changed this billionaire’s understanding about Business
Business Books

News Article

15 New Books to Read in 2015

Merry Christmas! Enjoy The Goodies

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those enjoying this wonderful day. Remember to share your joy with others and take in all that is around you. I found a couple of things to watch and read up on. Maybe your family finally got you what you’ve been needing this whole year or maybe you are making a change in your life that is needing more effort than usual, either way some of what I provide down below will help you in some way, I hope.

Many people love putting up Christmas Lights on their tree but not many go this far as Jon Wawra did when he set up his lights to dance to music. Every year he outdoes himself.

Maybe you missed the viral video of the Holderness family sitting about their PJs last year in their viral hit.

What Gifts are People Searching for
Google knows all the answers to what people are searching for during the holidays, a simple peek at google trends will tell you all about that but if you want to dive into different parts of the states then it might get a little harder to break it all down. Here is a chart that show you what all people have been looking for online in their areas.

Google Searches for the holidaysYou can click on the image to take you to the article to learn more about these results. This is a game a lot of people having been searching for as a gift.

Board Games for Business People
The holidays are a great time to celebrate time with friends, family, close loved ones, and others. The time is also great for playing board games. For anyone interested in getting into business, learning the skills necessary for running a business can be hard to pick up on if running a real one sounds too scary to try. These board games will help teach you how to negotiate, barter, make trades, grow a thick skin, and more. There is another board game that I have played that is great for learning as well, called Acquire which requires a number of skills in order to play. Here is a list of board games recommended by HBR in their article.

1. Morphology – A board game that requires large amounts of creativity in order to win by using objects to get your teammate to guess what it is you are trying to say.

2. Forbidden Island – This is a game that requires all players to work together to play against the board game and win. This was 2010 favorite game for Mensa players. The sister game is Forbidden Desert.

3. Extraodinaries – A game that requires you to come up with some unique ideas and designs within the confines of a studio for special circumstances. If creativity is something you struggle with then a game like this will help you over your problem.

4. Power Grid – This board games pits you against other players who are trying to create the best energy source for their customers. You have to decide if you want to invest in new energy sources or keeping building up the one you have. A great strategy game overall. There are many expansion packs for this game but if you want more of a challenge then Power Grid Deluxe is available.

Out of all these games I still prefer Axis and Allies: 1942 2nd Ed. because this game is all about pure strategy at a time in history when every move mattered. Thanks to Alan Turing and cracking the enigma code, with the help of women, during the war the war ended sooner than later. If you haven’t seen the movie The Imitation Game please make it a point to go watch it this holiday season, it comes out Christmas Day in theaters and it is an amazing movie to watch.

This board game will teach you geography, (war game) strategy, negotiating skills, and lots more. This game is probably a better teacher of WWII than most high school history classes. If board games are something you don’t have time for but you know you need to learn these skills than joining an improv class this coming year is a good way to start. It will teach you how to think on your feet, how to come up with situations and act according to the rules, and to always be prepared. I will be providing some information on this in class in Jan but also in the coming articles.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and all that I have provided for the year. If you are looking forward to more content then these are some of what I will be covering in the next year. As you know OPEC has flooded the market with oil causing prices, and many markets around the world, to crash. Prices for gas are expected to drop further in the coming year. The employment job market improved for some states and not so great for others, here you can visually see the difference measured by the size of the state relative to its employed labor force.

Merry Christmas to all and be safe and if you can offer a helping hand to someone in need, please do.

I thought I would end it by showing some Dogs opening presents presented by AFV and Christmas with Cats. Enjoy!

A Holiday Feast, Falling Oil Prices, Why Beauty is Subjective, and Farewell Colbert

In case you missed it last night Colbert had his last episode, many star-studded guests came on to bid him a farewell goodbye. It was very touching, for nine solid years he had one of the most influential shows on cable. He got (young) people to see the importance of voting, getting involved in your government at all levels, and being an active concerned citizen.


A Holiday Feast

Hopefully this does not remind you of what your family holiday feast looks like, a condescending figure sitting at the head of the table. All the animals you see in the video were rescue animals.


Are you having trouble understanding why Gas Prices are falling? Many people view the falling gas prices as a great opportuntity to save money while at the same time giving them more money to spend on the holiday season. The Colbert Report did a great piece explaining why oil prices are falling and what that means for other countries and industries around the world.

Learn what is happening to Oil Prices around the world
Why Saudis Decided Not to Prop up Oil Prices

U.S. Oil Producers Cut Rigs as Prices Drop


Thanks for the Laughs and Making Me Smarter Colbert, You will be Missed

The Last Episode of the Colbert Report


Learn how this woman got the media’s attention by sending in her photo to beauty editors all around the world asking them to make her look beautiful

Esther Honig
Esther is photoshopped in 25 different countries

Marie Ospina did the same thing recently and got the media’s attention as well. The idea was to find out how different countries view beauty and if they would do anything different with a photo she sent in. You will notice that some countries have a specific style of look they like and you will also see that some countries didn’t do anything to her pic except a few touches here and there.

What causes women to think like this? That answer is very easy to see when you watch the Dove Evolution video, which became a huge marketing success to show how the industry deals with beauty.

A Hobby for Rich People: Collecting Passports

Rich people have a unique way of looking at the world. They see it as one big playground to experience when money is not a problem. Why limit yourself to just one city to eat in when you can have breakfast in Capetown and dinner in New York? This kind of behavior is happening more and more everyday as more people are getting rich. Now that we have apps that you can use to get a private jet any time you need one it is easier for people to get around the world. They no longer have to wait, they can come and go as they please, and this is exactly what they are doing.

The issue of getting around though, especially those with deep pockets, means that they have to meet country requirements when visiting so many places. For many rich people the idea of citizenship has its perks (i.e., investments, real estate, new businesses, etc) but obtaining one comes with restrictions, cost. The high rollers are not dissuaded by the high ticket price these countries are putting on getting a passport, which many locals find damaging to their economy, because they are able to pay the million or more price tag that comes with getting one. In many cases it might take a couple of years for all the paperwork to go through and the background checks to be done thoroughly and so on, but that has not stopped many rich individuals to ask if there is a faster way. This very action has now led more countries to offer a “fast-track” for obtaining a passport, so instead of, say, 4 years, you can pay more and get it in 2 years. Not bad for an extra million or so but what’s that to someone who makes that back in a day or two, right?

Books like Plutocrats and Superclass show that the rich get richer because they have access to more resources. Those resources are found mostly in social connections. For example, Why go through the normal route of obtaining a passport, the same way everyone else does, when you can ask your friend, who works in a special department, to expedite your request for you, leaving everyone else out in the cold? These actions happen all the time and because they can afford to pay for these special requests they can move faster in life.

There are a lot of political issues surrounding rich people going around collecting passports which mainly have to do with the economic impact they have on their host country. If you think of it like this you can see the bigger picture; imagine that you live in this nice coastal town that is far away from the city and life there is very quiet and serene. Prices for home have been stable for a long time with very little development taking place in the last few years. Most of the people get around by bike or walking with a few cars here and there. Then all of a sudden a rich mogul moves in and builds a huge château on a seaside cliff over looking the bay. This sudden development changes the economic conditions of the community there, suddenly more people have jobs, the price of land goes up, and conditions improve just for a short period of time. But remember, where rich people are, more are soon to follow, and invest.

There is a lot to be said about rich people and their lifestyles. For one they help push development for the world, but they also make it harder for those without money to keep up. To learn more about this new trend that is happening you can read the article below and see why the world is changing faster than most would like it to. Afterwards try and read those two books mentioned, then you will learn why inequality will never be fixed.


News Article

Some of the Rich Collect Art, others collect passports

American Economy Number 2 in the World

Now that China produces more goods than the USA it just goes to show that they have now over taken our goods and services with $17.6 trillion (US $17.4 trillion) and will be poised to out pace us even further. When you look at what this means for globalization, it means their influence will be far and wide reaching. The global economy that has the bigger share of the pie also controls the influence in the world in terms of economic policy.

Read more about this below, and for those that thought learning chinese was a joke, they were not kidding. With more than a billion people living in China it is no wonder that they have finally overtaken our economy, given that we are still a small fraction of that number (316 million for US).

Books

China and Globalization

The Chinese Economy

Understanding China

On China

News Articles

It’s Official: America number 2