Month: July 2012

Success Tip 1 Do One More Thing

Dear Dylan,

Success Tip 1  Do one more thing


Steve Jobs created something of a catch phrase with “one more thing”, but long before he was saying this at product introductions, it was a deeply embedded part of my philosophy of success. Like any successful philosophy, the strength of this mantra is its simplicity. I have used this throughout my life to drive my success. I did not achieve what I did in life by a sustained herculean drive, like most people suppose. I simply worked hard at something I loved, then, when I thought myself done for the day, I just did one more thing. I believe the difference between mediocrity and success is just doing a little bit more than everyone else, every day.

By now you know my hard luck story about leaving home at 17, working my way through college and then forging my way through the technology industry from the ground up. I will spare you all of those details. But here are a couple of examples of what I mean when I say “do one more thing” and how it paid off for me.


When I landed my first software sales job in 1990 we had monthly competitions for orders. We were calling architects and selling them real-time 3D design software. Most of the architects we called didn’t even have computers yet. This made the sale more complicated, but you know by now that I am someone who is not easily deterred by a simple speed bump like that. I would actually find out where they were and called a local computer store to pick out the right machine for them. Once they had the $3,000 Macintosh I could then sell them the $495 piece of software, and maybe some design services.

The competition among the sales people was pretty fierce, and complicated by the fact that the sales manager had hired his brother and his best friend as my competition, but I sustained a long streak of salesman of the month victories by doing just a little bit more and being creative. I would go so far as to leave the office at 5, go get a coffee or something to give the rest of the sales people time to leave, then I would circle back to the office and start calling the west coast. The manager was always a bit surprised when I put up orders on the board first thing the next day. I learned to kind of space them out so as not to tip my hand.


One Friday afternoon I had gone for a coffee and waited for the parking lot to empty, then came back in to make calls. As soon as I sat at my desk the phone actually rang, a rare occurrence, and it was a lady named Suzanne Peck who said she was from Warner Brothers. She said she had heard about our software from James Cameron and wanted to know if we could rapidly create a scene for a movie they were doing called “Joyride” The rub was that they needed the shot by Monday. I saw a great opportunity to nail another monthly victory. I quickly negotiated a deal to create the scene for her and packaged together the software and my services. When I hung up with her the fax chirped and spit out some crude architectural drawings of a store called “Nutty Nicks”. I had very little experience with our software, much less with reading blueprints, but turned on one of our systems and started designing. One of the engineers, David Easter,  was still there and gave me some tips as I worked. I worked on in to the night and was able to Fedex a big tape drive to Warner Brothers on Saturday to arrive Monday morning. The short version of the rest of the story is that this scene I created became a 12 second scene in the Peter Weir film which came to be known as “Fearless” starring Jeff “The Dude” Bridges, Isabella Rosellini, John Turturro and Rosie Perez. Rosie was nominated for an Oscar. I didn’t get a credit but had the thrill of seeing my work on the big screen for the first time. Oh, and I also made salesman of the month again.


I have dozens of stories like this where I just did a little bit more than everyone else, but this post is already long. I will bore you with them in person once you have leveled up. Remind me to tell you how I went from bus boy to bartender in the space of one Summer at the Santa Barbara Sheraton during college.


Love, Dad



Robots and Bears and Sensors, oh my!

Dear Dylan,

I was an Eagle Scout; am, an Eagle Scout. In my day, in the little town where I graduated from High School, the Boy Scouts provided a very deep outlet for my wide variety of interests, creative energy and longing for adventure and the outdoors, at least until I discovered girls. I am not sure what form the Scouts will be in when you come of age, but hope it will continue its long tradition so you can have the same experiences that I did.

One of the best things I did in Scouts was to go to Philmont Ranch in New Mexico. Everyone who goes there gets a primer on how to avoid and evade bears and Mountain Lions and the various other flora and fauna that have a reasonable shot at maiming or killing a young scout. After backpacking several days and avoiding one nocturnal mountain lion visit, I woke up one morning near Beau Bien Ranch to find a grizzly bear in our camp about 10 yards from my tent. We just waited him out as he finally made his way to our bear bags, slung impossibly and intelligently out of bear reach between tall trees, and then ambled off for easier targets elsewhere. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to use my bear evading strategies.


I want to pass these on to you, but while putting it together I realized that they bear (pun intended) an easy resemblance to Daniel Wilson’s tips for “Evading attacking robots”. In the post modern age where you will mature you may very well find yourself needing both sets of advice. So I will provide both.


Daniel Wilson was a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University outside of Pittsburgh. I became aware of him and others there pursuing various arcane paths to the future because the aerospace company where I work provides them with research funding. Which means that curious bipeds like me get to occasionally wade through there, wave a badge, and soak up all of that future knowledge goodness.

 Tips for evading attacking robots, or bears…or…robotic bears. 

Here is what Daniel Wilson had to say about the future robot apocalypse and how to evade them when they attack.  I have a book from him called “How to survive a robot uprising”. He also wrote a novel called “Robopocalypse” that is worth the read. Again, where possible, I will note where his advice applies equally well to bear evasion, saving time for both of us.

1. Run downhill over rough terrain

Bears have a hard time maintaining stability at full speed while running down hill. On flat ground, despite their large bulk, they can outrun you. So find a hill and run down (not up) it. Also, robots (of today) have to process and may have difficulty navigating any broken terrain. Be sure to check their means of propulsion first. The robots on tracks and wheels are easily foiled. But we are making them better all the time. Today we have biped and quadroped bots and even bots that can fly short distances. So, know your enemy before you run, if possible.

2. Find cover or clutter

The key to evading robots is knowing how their sensors work. Watch the Schwarzenegger movie “Predator” for tips about IR sensor-based bots. If they are vision based bots the clutter may help you confuse them enough to make your getaway.

This tip probably doesn’t work very well for a marauding bear, unless the cover is of just the right density to permit you, but not the bulk of the bear, to pass.


3. Merge with the pack

This is the same principle as schooling fish. If someone else is present, try to merge your form with them momentarily, then separate quickly and run.

Again, this is about confusing the tracking sensors. This applies equally well to bears and bots. It reminds me of an old Richard Pryor joke (20th century awesome comedian) where the punch line goes something like “Well, which way are you going to run?”


“Because I don’t want to run into you. I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you”


4. Find a body of water

According to Wilson, “Most robots will sink in water or mud and fall through ice.” Note that this will not deter the bots that can fly. Also, bears are quite fond of water and may be able to swim faster than you.  So, spend extra time in swim lessons to give you that extra stroke or two that may make the difference.


5. Serpentine

Never run in a predictable line. It is doubtful that advanced robot targeting systems will be fooled by this. And bears chase stuff all the time, but I still recommend making serpentine a part of your mental repertoire for evading a whole host of possible scenarios. Eight hundred 1980s movies where the hero or heroine evades robots, animals, killer pimps, High School bullies and terrorists can’t be wrong.


6. Run toward the light

Err. this only works on robots with primitive sensors. And I don’t think it will work on bears either, unless the light is attached to a helicopter with a guy leaning out of the door manning an M 60.


7. Find a car

Jumping into a car and getting all appendages safely inside always seems like good advice. Wilson says do this and then reach up and grab the keys from the visor and “burn rubber”, because this may be your only hope for evading a robot who may be able to easily outrun a human. Where bears are concerned I think getting the extremities inside and closing the door should suffice. Make sure the windows are up, though. Then you can make funny faces at the bear and irritate it while you wait for rescue. Still, always check the visor for keys that all too frequently seem to be there.


I have more detailed advice that I will provide you later, once you are capable of abstract thought.


Love, Dad