June 27, 2010


Fortune - $600B challenge (June 16, 2010)
A philanthropic family on balance is going to feel better about themselves and their progeny than a family that has been hanging on to every single penny. --- Warren Buffett

What we give depends on what we have and how much we care.

We often become more philanthropic as we age. What if figured out our plans for giving now? This doesn't mean you must give now (though you could).

If you don't have the amount you want to give, you then have an opportunity to save. You can also look at nonfinancial gifts.

Financial Gifts

Let's start with these. What's a reasonable amount to give? The answers will vary.

Bill, Melinda and Warren want other US billionaires to donate at least 50% of their net worth while alive or upon death. That amounts to $600 billion dollars. A billionaire can easily donate 50% today and still live in comfort since they'd have at least $500 million left. Setting this relatively low bar helps encourage participation. Later, the amounts donated could increase.
My hope for this is that it takes on this momentum not only with the billionaires but that it expands out.  I do think there's a crowd mentality. It becomes the right thing to do. And so, more will because others are doing it. --- Melinda Gates

The pledges will show on the Giving Pledge website but there's no binding legal commitment to follow through. Here's a video summary. You'll find links to more details at the bottom of this post.

Warren is donating 99% of his net worth. Bill and Melinda are donating 95%. We're not billionaires but can also be philanthropic.

A Simple Formula

No one ever said to me, 'We gave more than we should have.'
--- Bill Gates
How do you figure out how much to give? This formula has three steps
  1. Figure out how much you and your spouse need for the rest of your lives.
  2. Figure out how much you want to leave to your heirs. ("A very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing." --- Warren Buffett)
  3. Donate the rest.
Anyone can use this formula. The challenge is figuring out the amounts in the first two steps. What if you live another billion seconds? If your donation takes place through your estate after both you and your spouse have died, you won't have much worry over running out of money. That's the biggest fear that Napoleon Hill identified in 1937.

Nonfinancial Gifts

You don't have to give money. You can donate something more personal and precious your time and attention. You have as much as any billionaire.


Podcast 72 (3:38)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS Leveraging lets you donate more. We'll look at how next time.

June 20, 2010


Although I was born in India, we moved to Canada when I was two. I first visited during the summer of 1972 and then in December 2009. This gives me the perspective of a tourist.

There's lots to see but you need connections to get things done. Your senses are overwhelmed with the sights, smells and sounds. You know you're far from home.

Growing up, India was perceived as poor and backwards. Coming from there was not an asset. How things change. Now India is exotic. The food is a delicacy. The culture is intriguing. Bollywood has fans worldwide.


We experienced plenty during our 27 day trip
  • difficulty breathing in heavily polluted New Delhi: felt like inhaling smoke from a forest fire or poorly vented fireplace
  • the kidnapping of a 4 year old family member on the way back from school: ended the same day after payment of a hefty ransom
  • a religious mob in Agra (home of the Taj Mahal): the scariest part of the trip since we could see how easily the crowd could be incited to violence
  • a metal staple in spinach (palak paneer) at a five star resort: no wonder kids hate spinach
  • terrorists controlling the nearby villages: we stayed clear
  • villagers setup illegal tollbooths on some smaller highways: we paid
  • ordered coffee in an officer's canteen … waited … waited … and got tea: we didn't notice immediately
You've got to be vigilant in the smallest matters. Once our hosts discovered a newly-delivered tank of cooking fuel was underweight. The replacement had the correct weight, but contained some water. Little misadventures like this drain your mental energy. Who can you trust? What can you trust?


We booked all our flights to, from and inside India from home on the Internet directly with the airlines. I setup mobile alerts by email and printed etickets to take with us.

Upon arrival, we took two days to recover from the jet lag. On the flight, I tried to set my biological clock to India time by eating and sleeping as if I were there. This helped.

We stayed with relatives nearly the whole time. This gave us security but limited our flexibility since we didn't control our schedule. We saw much less than we normally would see on vacation because so much time went to waiting for others. If you take a package tour, you'll have even less control of your schedule and even less opportunity to see the real country.


In Canada and the US, we do almost everything ourselves from cooking to cleaning to cutting the grass to minor home repairs to pumping gasoline. In India, you get a much higher level of service. The places we stayed had servants for cooking, cleaning, serving and washing the car. If your cell phone or TV remote is more than an arm's length away, call a servant.

This seems like heaven but isn't. The servants rarely took initiative. They did what they were told … slowly. What's the point of rushing and getting new assignments? It's getting tough to hire good servants since the booming economy has created more desirable opportunities.

Since the servants weren't empowered, they required constant supervision. This created extra work and aggravation for the employers. Here, we focus on saving time. We use machines for washing dishes, washing clothes and drying clothes. We have car washes. We get ready-cut vegetables (perhaps frozen). We buy grated cheese. We get consistent results.

With servants, it's easy for the employers to become lazy. That creates health issues.

Modern Amenities

The places we went had hot water and western style toilets. We traveled in vehicles with air conditioning, which helped filter the polluted air in big cities.

You'll need patience. Life moves at a slower pace. Getting my Blackberry activated took a couple of weeks, required co-signing plus a photo of a host, and a home visit to verify the address. This scrutiny is an anti-terrorism initiative that's easily overcome by buying a black market phone.

There's such a contrast between the rich and the poor. Because of the vast population, human life has little value. If you have so little, why not take with force? Daytime kidnappings take place but paying the ransom does not guarantee a safe return. The kidnappers rarely get caught, which may suggest police involvement.


Without connections and generous tipping, you'll waste lots of time.

We visited the Taj Mahal on my wife's birthday. The lines were hours long but we skipped them because our host had connections. We even got a wonderful VIP tour. Rather than drudgery, the day became a wonderful memory. I'm not sure how we'll top it this year.


There's concern about terrorism but the security measures aren't consistently applied. An outdoor shopping plaza had airport-style metal detectors. To avoid the line, shoppers walked through an unmonitored gate for vehicles. There were police nearby but they were talking to each other.

At a nice restaurant, the guard directed us to bypass the metal detector. Why bother having it?
In a smaller city with known terrorists nearby, the police checked vehicles before letting them cross a bridge to the rebel stronghold. Since the checks weren't done 24/7, bad elements could easily wait until the police were off-duty.

Three Precautions

Mind your food. We were very careful about what we ate. We drank water that was boiled or came from freshly-opened bottles. We ate at better quality places and skipped uncooked food. We used hand sanitizer often. We weren't sick for even a day. When I went in 1972, I was sick most of the vacation and that was a reason I wasn't eager to return.

Avoid the heat. We travelled in December when the weather is cooler and to take advantage of school holidays. In New Delhi, night temperatures dropped to 10C but this felt much colder because the place we stayed was made of stone, unheated and not well insulated. However, in Bhubaneswar, Orissa the daytime temperatures exceeded 35C. That was hotter than the deserts in Rajasthan (my birthplace) further north.

Disguise yourself. Years ago, rental cars in Florida had stickers for the rental agency. After thieves targeted tourists, this practice stopped. India has special white vehicles marked for tourists (generally Toyota minivans). Why make yourself a visible target? We travelled in unmarked vehicles. Even then, roadside beggars targeted us.

If you're a seasoned traveller, India is easy to visit. There's plenty to see. You can take precautions to protect yourself but you don't feel entirely safe --- which is very much like travelling anywhere.


Podcast Episode 71 (8:07)

direct download | Internet Archive page

June 12, 2010


Linchpins are everywhere. Raise the flag.
Are you indispensable?

That's tough to answer unless you think the world orbits around you. Maybe you've taken steps to become a bottleneck. Do things go wrong when you're on vacation? If so, you're more disposable than you think (unless you're unionized).

Suppose you died. Finding a replacement may take time but your company won't shut down (unless you're a freelancer).

The truth is that life goes on. We often matter most to our families. They'll survive too. How well varies …

Make A Difference

The truth is that we make a difference in the lives around us.

You may want to make a bigger impact. Taking a path you rarely travel helps. So do comrades. There's vicarious joy in seeing them make the world better too.

How To Identify The Indispensable

If you're not sure if you're indispensable or on the path there, this video from Jacqueline Novogratz helps you decide. She the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund.

Jacqueline Novogratz on how to recognize a linchpin from Seth Godin on Vimeo.

Where To Find Like Minds

How do you find people who share your view of the world? That's easy online but less than satisfying. Meeting in person --- at least occasionally --- builds bonds. If you've already connected online, you're not meeting strangers.

That's why I'm more interested in attending the local TEDxTO than an official TED conference thousands of miles/kilometres away.

Linchpins Are Everywhere

Attend a free volunteer-run event on Linchpin Day, June 14, 2010. Currently 5,680 people from 90 countries have registered for 791 events across the planet. Most gatherings have less than 30 registrants. That's a recipe for intimate and interactive discussions.

You're bound to meet people making a difference in the world. If this appeals to you, why not participate?


Podcast 70 (2:49)

direct download | Internet Archive page
PS I'll be at two gatherings: general at 10 AM (organized by Phil Johnson) and philanthropic at 5PM (organized by Paul Nazareth). If you're there too, let's chat.

June 6, 2010


Apple Google Microsoft 150x272 Which brand resonates most with you: Apple, Google or Microsoft? Is that the brand you want to be like?

We are also brands and our own attributes vary from good to not so good. Let's look at what we can learn from these three very different companies.


Microsoft is associated with the Windows desktop computer operating system. Their focus on the Internet only started on December 7, 1995, months after the $200 million launch of Windows 95.

Microsoft has difficulty changing. New initiatives often flop. Despite massive spending, they aren't a leader in web searches or smartphones. The Internet Explorer web browser keeps losing market share to Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

Windows is known for crashes and viruses. In fairness, Windows has improved. Vista was more secure and pointed out design flaws in third-party applications. Windows 7 is a pleasure to use. The redesigned Office 2007 and 2010 work well but are reviled by those resistant to change.

Microsoft has great successes and huge resources but has trouble adapting to tomorrow. Take a look at this tablet with dual screens, multitouch and a pen. There's nothing like it.

Microsoft killed this amazing new product. Maybe something better is on the way? Maybe not.


Apple products work well because the company maintains so much control. Their rules limit individual freedom. Apple has been innovative with products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The company cares about design, not just functionality. Apple fans around the world will line up to buy products. Maybe that's why Apple's market capitalization now exceeds Microsoft's for the first time.

Apple spends $1.1 billion annually on research and development. That seems like lots, but Microsoft spends $8.6 billion, almost eight times more.

Apple has been called "capricious, heavy-handed and opaque in how it approves applications" for the iPhone. It banned Google Voice and even Pulitzer prize-winning satirist Mark Fiore. Not everyone can win battles against Apple and the arbitrary rules they set. Steve Jobs makes statements which are less than accurate. He fibbed 10+ times during one interview this week.

Apple feels like one person: Steve Jobs, who has health issues. What happens to the company without him? Maybe nothing. Maybe plenty.

Apple is like watching TV: the choices are made for you. The company has crushed competition with innovation even in established markets like music players, smart phones and tablets.


Google is quite different from Apple and Microsoft. Google shows uncommon generosity by making so much available for free. Here are some examples
  • web browser (Chrome)
  • email (Gmail)
  • GPS navigation with Street View (already used for 1 billion miles of guided navigation)
  • voice search
  • Blogger, the platform where this blog is hosted
  • Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, online surveys
  • video (Google video, YouTube)
They don't squeeze every dollar from us but they could. They can afford this because they earn so much from ad revenue. Their approach puts pressure on competitors.

Google focuses on the online world and openness. They care about speedy, unfettered , cheap anywhere/anytime web access on any device. That's because they make more money the longer we are online.

This approach seems to work. Google Android phones now outsell the iPhone in the US and perhaps worldwide. Over 100,000 phones are getting activated daily.

Look at the open source approach to Google TV, which launches this fall. Sony is making TVs, Logitech is making peripherals and Intel is making the computer chips. Even Adobe Flash gets supported. This combination may work. In contrast, Apple TV is called the iFlop and Microsoft TV doesn't exist.

Google innovates and remains relevant. You get vast choice and freedom.

Which Will Win?

If you had to describe each brand in a word, would you agree with these?
Microsoft bureaucratic desktop mindset loves old games (especially Monopoly)
Apple autocratic one-stop shop (e.g., iTunes) makes new games and sets the rules
Google democratic your choice you design the games and you set the rules

What About You?

Your brand speaks too. The perceptions that others have may not be the one you intend.
Going forward, what perceptions do you want to create? Which of Apple, Google or Microsoft would you rather emulate?


Podcast Episode 69 (6:20)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS If you don't like any of these brands, pick your own.