Month: December 2009

2010 Resolutions

OK I didn’t even come close to hitting some of my 2009 resolutions but it was still a great year. I think I am going to keep things shorter this year.

Some of my 2009 resolutions continue to be my 2010 resolutions:

  • By the end of the year be able to do 100 consecutive push-ups.
  • Run a mile in under six minutes, thirty seconds.
  • Create three new websites.
  • Make the bed every day.
  • Do the dishes every day.

New for 2010:

  • Write three books (in draft form).

Article from the New Yorker on John Mackey

John Mackey, the co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market

The New Yorker has a long article on Mackey which was a very good read.  Since it is so long I’ve summarized what I found interesting from it below.  I’m terrible at summarizing and in college never got into highlighting my textbooks.  When reading I either found it all really interesting or all really dull so it was either all yellow or remained all white.  So the fact that I have summarized lots of text below should tell you a lot about what I thought of the article.

  • Oversees fifty-four thousand “team members”
  • A year ago, Mackey came across a book called “The Engine 2 Diet,” by an Austin, Texas, firefighter and former professional triathlete named Rip Esselstyn. Basically, you eat plants: you are a rabbit with a skillet. Mackey had been a vegetarian for more than thirty years, and a vegan for five, but the Engine 2 book, among others, helped get him to give up vegetable oils, sugar, and pretty much anything processed. He lost fifteen pounds.
  • Mackey sought succor in spiritual practice. He engaged a friend, a follower of the Czech transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof, to guide him through a therapeutic session of holotropic breathing. “I had this very powerful session, very powerful. It lasted about two hours,” Mackey said in an inspirational CD set he released last year called “Passion and Purpose: The Power of Conscious Capitalism.” “I was having a dialogue with what I would define as my deeper self, or my higher self.” He had a pair of epiphanies, one having to do with severed relationships that needed healing. The other was that “if I wanted to continue to do Whole Foods, there couldn’t be any part of my life that was secretive or hidden or that I’d be embarrassed [about] if people found out about it. I had to let go of all of that,” he said. “I’m this public figure now.” He couldn’t “embarrass the company,” he told me. “I have to grow up”—he is fifty-six. “I can’t have affairs with women. One of the things that happened was you have more money and you have more opportunities for such things. And those are sort of off-limits.
  • “I have my own views, and they’re not necessarily the same as Whole Foods’,” Mackey told me. “People want me to suppress who I am. I guess that’s why so many politicians and C.E.O.s get to be sort of boring, because they end up suppressing any individuality to conform to some phony, inauthentic way of being. I’d rather be myself.”
  • “He’s a ready-aim-fire guy, and he’s not real disciplined in how he speaks his mind,” Gary Hirshberg, the C.E.O. of Stonyfield, the organic milk and yogurt producer, told me. “He has a really hard time reconciling his public and private selves.” Mackey’s resilience has surprised even those who, like Hirshberg, hold him in high esteem. “John has that Clintonesque ability to hang in there,” Hirshberg said. “He is Whole Foods management’s greatest asset but also, at times, its greatest challenge.”
  • The health-care op-ed’s headline, “THE WHOLE FOODS ALTERNATIVE TO OBAMACARE,” was the Journals, Mackey says, but the sentiments were his. Mackey’s prescriptions ranged from the obvious (people need to eat better) to the market-minded (promote interstate competition among insurers) to the dreamy (the corporations will take care of us). The gist was that, together, they’d obviate the need for a federal plan, and that the course being pursued by the White House and the Democrats would have disastrous consequences. He led with an epigram attributed to Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
  • “I was so viciously attacked for two reasons,” Mackey told me. “One is that people had an idea in their minds about the way Whole Foods was. So when I articulated a capitalistic interpretation of what needed to be done in health care, that was disappointing to some people.” He begrudges the extent to which people have projected onto Whole Foods an unrealistic and idealistic vision of the company. “The C.E.O. of Safeway, Steven Burd, wrote an op-ed piece in June advocating, basically, market solutions to the health-care problem, and nobody gave a ****,” he said.
  • In high school, Mackey was an indifferent student, a late bloomer, puberty-wise, and a fanatic about basketball, science fiction, and girls. Before his senior year, he was cut from the varsity basketball team, and he persuaded his parents to move so that he could switch schools and play. “That changed my life, because for the first time I realized that if you didn’t like the hand you were dealt you didn’t just have to feel sorry for yourself. You could do something about it.”
  • He told me, “If I could, I would wave a magic wand so that Americans ate better, because the diseases that are killing us—heart disease, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s—these diseases have a high correlation with diet. And that is something that most people do not understand.”
  • Mackey is, by all accounts, fiercely competitive. Years ago, the traditional executive-retreat volleyball games had to be scrapped, owing to Mackey’s intensity and his ill-disguised scorn for less capable teammates. (Mackey says that he simply got too old for volleyball.)
  • “But you have a reputation for liking to argue,” I said to Mackey.  “But I don’t like to argue to be right. I like to argue because that’s how I get to the truth. I think dialectically.”
  • I asked him whether he’d given thought to what might come after him. “I don’t have any plans to leave anytime soon, no matter how much the unions would like me to,” he said. Talk turned to food, as it often does. “You only love animal fat because you’re used to it,” he said. “You’re addicted.” He urged me to consider reprogramming my palate. He also suggested that I try Grofian breathing.

The Wisdom of Crowds

I haven’t had a chance to read Wisdom of Crowds yet by James Surowiecki but an article in was very interesting.  It shows that collectively a crowd/group’s mind is better than your own when trying to solve a problem or answer a question.  Check this out…

“In 2007, Michael Mauboussin presented a big jar of jelly beans to his 73 Columbia Business School students. How many beans did they think it contained?  Guesses ranged from 250 to 4,100; the actual number was 1,116. The average error was 700 — a massive 62 percent — demonstrating that the students were awful estimators.  Now here comes the weird part.  Even with all these wildly incorrect guesses, the average guess was 1,151 — just 3 percent off the mark. Not only that, only 2 of the 73 students guessed better than this group average.  So, although individually everyone was woefully inaccurate, collectively the group was incredibly accurate.  Was this a fluke? Hardly. The experiment was made famous in 1987 by Jack Treynor. In his case, it was 850 jelly beans and 56 students. The group estimate was 2.5 percent off; only one student guessed better. The study has been repeated many times since with similar results.”

Renewing American Leadership

GE’s Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt

In a recent article in Jeff Immelt talks about renewing American leadership.  What he has to say makes a lot of sense.  American business leaders need to wake up from their slumber.


  • Link to full speech
  • “We need a new strategy for this economy. We should clear away any arrogance, false assumptions, or a sense that things will be ‘ok’ just because we are America. Rather, we should dedicate ourselves again to be the most competitive country in the world… We need to invest more in innovation.
  • Nothing of consequence is accomplished without leadership.
  • Jeff told the audience that GE has been working hard to understand what attributes of leadership can make an impact given the challenges of the 21st century.
    • First, “we have to be better listeners,” he said. “21st century leaders listen. They use external inputs as a catalyst. They put their ego in check. They ask more questions than they answer. They welcome dissent and debate, and are constantly seeking more intelligence.”
    • Second, “leaders must become systems thinkers who are comfortable with ambiguity,” he said. “Success requires problem solving, and connecting the dots. This requires intellectual breadth and tactical depth. We must understand technology, globalization, politics, economics, Human Resources. We must understand how government, community, the environment, business, academics all connect. And we must apply this to solving problems.”
    • Third, “leaders must build competency and move with speed,” Jeff said. “GE is a big organization, like the Army. The problem with size is that it can be too slow. At GE, we must push decision-making down in the organization and we must delegate more.”
    • Last, leaders, he said, “must motivate with vision” — providing the “emotional connection that inspires action and commitment.” And they must re-earn the trust that was lost during the economic meltdown.
  • “The residue of the past was a more individualistic ‘win-lose’ game,” he said. “The 21st century is about building bigger and diverse teams; teams that have a culture of respect. This new spirit of American leadership — much of which is derived from this great institution — will be the foundation of renewal and change.”


From the video:
“The color helps us to accept diversity and understand that we are all different. We live in America and Randy just sets that tone. Randy just sort of gave us that opportunity to be your own self.” 

“North Side resident Randy Gilson spent 25 years revitalizing a section of the North Side with bold colors and designs, art and more. Randyland is now a landmark, an act of love for the community and a statement on what one person can do.”