Monthly Archives: August 2009

how come no one wants to serve in the senate?

year has seen more people voluntarily quitting the senate before their term
runs out than any other year in recent memory. 
For years people have said that being a Senator is the best job in
America.  But it is obviously not the
case as a whole bunch of people are leaving before their term ends.


Obama and Joe Biden left the Senate this year. 
But they, at least, had a really good excuse.  They became President and Vice President –
definitely a promotion.  Hilary Clinton,
too, left the Senate to become Secretary of State … also a promotion.  But a bunch of people left the Senate for
lateral moves.


Ken Salazar
left to run the Department of the Interior. 
No slight to the Interior, but it doesn’t seem as impressive as the being
the senior Senator from Colorado – especially one that has only had the job for
four years.  And Judd Gregg from New
Hampshire tried to leave the Senate to become Secretary of Commerce before
having a dispute about the census.


And now
there’s Mel Martinez from Florida.  He’s
just leaving after four years for no stated reason.    

Signaling your intentions through talking about time

People are really bad judges of little time.  And they often don't signal their intentions appropriately.  My friend Alexandra Wolfe pointed this out to me recently when she noted that people always say that they are running "5 minutes late" or that they will "be there in 5 minutes."

But what does "5 minutes" actually mean?

My investigation into this mystery has led me to the following answer:  "5 minutes" means anything and nothing.

When you tell someone you will be there in "five minutes," it conveys no information.   It could mean you'll actually show up in 1 minute or mean you will be there in 25 minutes.   The person who gets the message won't know if they should eagerly await you or do a sales call.  

And, by the way, it is the same thing for "20 minutes."  no information is conveyed.  "20 minutes" could actually mean "never."

So instead of saying you'll be five minutes late … tell people that you will be there at 5:06p.   That gives a definite time to the receiver and will ease her anxiety.  Plus, you'll be able to better signal your intentions so that they can follow you.

Also — never say you'll do something "in a sec."   that's likely untrue.   It is possible you'll do it in 16 seconds … but likely you'll do it some time longer in the future.  

do successful politician have more daughters?

is there a correlation with successful male politicians and having more daughters?

the last three U.S. presidents have a total of five daughters and no sons (Clinton has one daughter and George W. Bush and Obama both have two daughters).  

maybe politicians with daughters are better at empathizing with the people.  

of course, not all U.S. Presidents have mostly daughters … but a great many do.

Of the first five U.S. presidents, only one (John Adams) had any sons.  And one of those sons (John Quincy Adams) became the sixth president.  

one possible explanation for this is that the American people have always been wary of royalty and hereditary rule.   so they were more apt to elect politicians in the the early days who did not have sons.   Some of these presidents adopted sons or had step-sons … but the fact that they were not blood related probably soothed the consciousness of early Americans.

Reed Hastings on corp culture

Reed Hastings, NetFlix’s CEO, is one of my most-admired managers.   He’s extremely sharp and knows how to build a great company.   His 128 slide presentation on culture is pretty phenomenal.  I would encourage all CEOs of large and small companies to review it:

Successful people return calls

I've found that most really successful people return calls much faster than moderately successful people.   So the question is:  are they successful because they return calls OR do they return calls because they are successful.

I'm not sure. 

But I think it is wise not to chance it.  Best bet to return calls and email quickly.  

A lot of inbound emails are for people who are trying to sell you stuff or for things you don’t want.   With those emails, my rule is that if the email is written well, takes my interests into account, and is polite and short (without big attachments), I'll email them back and at least say that I'm not interested.   That way their time can be respected and they don’t have to follow-up with me.

All people should follow this rule.

But more importantly, emails from colleagues, friends, or business acquaintances should be replied to ASAP.  If you are on a call with someone and you agree to get something to them by Wed, then you should definitely get something to them on Wed.  And if you slip, you should let them know.   And if you don’t let them know, you should at least respond to their emails asking you about why you haven't responded.   It is only courtesy.

I personally take notes on everyone I interact with on the following items:
– do they get back to me in a timely manner?
– are they on time to meetings?

For people that respect my time, I give them a star.   If that person is ever in need of anything in the future, I go out of my way to help them.   If the person does not respect my time, they get a minus sign.   I’ll be less likely to respond to help requests from those people in the future.

Being nice to those around you, especially those that are a few rungs down on the ladder, is an essential to being a good citizen.   And of the people you are dealing with, you never know who might be someone that can yield influence over you in the future … so respect their time now.

Some thoughts on flying United

Like many people in sales, I fly a
lot to visit current customers and potential customers.   I generally fly United since it has a lot of
options on the routes I normally fly (and they are one of the few domestic
airlines that has many direct international flights from SFO).  So a few observations on United:


– United has gotten a lot
better.   They have a improved a lot over
the last few years.   I've noticed a huge
improvement in customer service, friendliness, and care.  


– I always buy economy class and
actually like the Economy class on United (especially with the 2 inches of
extra legroom in economy plus).   But I
usually get upgraded (like 80% of the time) these days.   Probably the reason for getting upgraded is
that no one is buying first class tickets and so the few people that buy
business class tickets are getting upgraded to first.  And the routes I generally fly (like SFO to
JFK) have planes with tons of business class seats (unlike the SFO-BOS routes
which only have 8 business class seats and no first class seats).


– the plugs in business class can
power something small (like an ipod) but quickly shut down when one plugs a
laptop into them.   They should change


– there is no internet on
united.   And I like it that way.  


– in business class, they offer
movie players since the seats are not outfitted with media centers.   This is a good idea.  Of course, I have never actually gotten a
media player as I find planes awesome for actually getting work done (no interruptions).


– the speakers on United are really
loud.   They might want to lower the
volume a bit.   When the captain talks,
he takes half my ear drum with him.


– the food (in business class) is
actually good.   And they often serve
heated nuts as a snack (they are delicious).


– because I never buy business class
tickets, I never get upgraded to first.  
But a business class ticket was bought for me on route from Tokyo to SFO and I got
upgraded to first class (my 1st time on united).   Wow, first class was awesome.  The bed was incredibly comfortable.   Of course, I don't really remember most of
it because I was sound asleep.


– one thing united could do better:
when you check-in online or at the kiosks, they try to upsell you to buy
miles.  And it is not a good deal … one
would have to be pretty stupid to buy the miles.  And after the 40th time of not taking the
offer, you'd think they would wise up and realize I was getting annoyed with
the offer and just not show it anymore (or at least show a more appropriate
offer).  I've tried to find the option to
stop getting these offers but could not figure out how to do it online (any
suggestions would be welcome).


– they send flight reminders a week
before the flight.  That might be good
for people who fly every few months, but when you fly almost every week it can
be really confusing what flight they are reminding you of.   They should have an easy way of turning those
reminders off without turning off the check-in reminder (I'm sure there is a
way to do it, but it is not user friendly).


– they should personalize the trip
more.  Like "Mr. Hoffman, hope you
have a good flight to New York
today.   And I saw that you went to Japan last
week.  I love Tokyo.  
How was your flight?"  


– in the United P.S. business class
cabin, there is only one bathroom.   And
there is 26 business class passengers and at least 2 flight crew using that
bathroom.   So it is pretty much always
full (especially during busy times).   I
don’t know what the solution to this is but the crew might want to recognize
this and selective escort people to use the first class bathroom when it is


– every once in a while, I like to
take a quick weekend vacation.   It would
be helpful to get from United a list of all direct flights from SFO so I can
easily sort out where I'd like to go.  
Maybe they publish this, but I have not been able to find it.  


Overall — I'm a big fan of
United.   I'm sure there are many other
ways they can improve but I think they are trying and I applaud them for



child care in San Francisco needs help

Many working parents in San Francisco have to move for one simple reason: they cannot find child care.   In the most liberal city in America, getting your kid into a child care program takes nepotism, bribery, some luck, and a whole lot of headache.

One friend of mine has been on the waitlist at five different locations for over a year.   And they put their current odds of getting into a program at less than 10%.   It is a shame.  

not knowing anything about caring for children (i'm still struggling with caring for my plants), it seems like there is a big business opporetunity to provide affordable, yet quality, childcare for working parents.