Create Your Own Luck

A little gem from the book, The Natural Language of Selling:

Create Your Own Luck

You can’t buy it and you can’t sell it…

And what’s more, the harder you try to hold on to it, the more likely it is to vanish faster than a gambler’s lucky streak.

Because, whether good luck or misfortune, it is not a thing; most often, it’s the label we put on something that has already happened. So, assuming that we all would prefer good luck to the opposite, what is this thing called luck? The following might give us some real insight a real-life story about creating your own luck, be seeing opportunity in problems, and by expanding into the demand.

As the story goes, if you were in the market for a pocket watch in 1880, where would you get one? If you wanted the best watch, you went to the train station. This is because the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators, which was the primary method of communication with the railroad stations in those days.

Of course, they had to know precisely when trains left the previous station and when they were due at their next station, so the telegraph operators had to have the best watches.

A man named Richard, a telegraph operator himself, was one who could see opportunity where others only saw a problem. He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train station one day when a load of watches arrived from the East. It was a huge crate of pocket watches but no one ever came to claim them. So Richard sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted to do with the watches. The manufacturer didn’t want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them.

And sell them he did, by sending a wire to every agent in the system asking them if they wanted a cheap, but good, pocket watch. He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome profit.

Then things started getting interesting. He ordered more watches from the watch company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in the station offering high quality watches for a cheap prices to all the travellers. It didn’t take long for the word to spread and, before long people other than travellers came to the train station to buy watches.

Richard became so busy that he had to hire a man named Alvah, a professional watchmaker, to help him with the orders. The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry goods. Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago — and it’s still there.

The name of the company started by Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck was Sears, Roebuck and Co. From its mail order beginnings, the company grew to become the largest retailer in the United States by the mid-20th century, and its catalogs became world-famous.

Where others saw only problems, he saw opportunity and [went] into action to expand into the demand.

Sears hasn’t been doing so well lately. Just last month, Sears announced they would be closing 39 Sears stores and 64 Kmart stores. These stores would be closing by April 2018, leaving Sears Holdings with 555 stores. According to MSN money, at this rate, Sears along with sister company Kmart, has an extremely high chance of disappearing and going defunct in 2018. It looks like 2017 may be Sear’s final holiday season as an independent brand.

Barton Fink

After many years seeing it top lists of the Cohen Bros. best movies I finally saw Barton Fink streaming on Netflix and decided to watch it for the first time.

When it was done, I thought to myself — as many viewers of the movie apparently have, what was that all about? Luckily in 2018 I can do what viewers in 1991 (when the movie came out) could not do: Google it.

And to my delight, this Medium Article popped up, Writers Come and Go”: 10 Reasons Why Barton Fink Is the Best Movie Ever Made About Writing.

Every semester, I show my Creative Writing 1 students the 1991 Coen Brothers film Barton Fink. Those students who are foolish enough to enroll in Creative Writing 2 (and unlucky enough to have me again for a teacher) watch it a second time in that course. Students always ask: “Why are we watching this?” This is a good question?—?I encourage my students to seek answers, and questioning authority has been my modus operandi since I was a child. I’m happy to discuss all of this.

The movie is excellent and made all the better after reading the above analysis.

I wish I were a decent writer. This web page is about the closest thing I have for an outlet and I’m lucky if I can just whip something up once a month to kid myself into thinking this blog isn’t completely dead. Maybe this movie will be the inspiration I need to get back into blogging. Or maybe this entry will sit on the front page for the next year, symbolizing my own Barton Fink like writing block.

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Fast Facts

It’s been a horrific year for storms coming out of the Atlantic / Caribbean. Below is the summary of tropical storms so far this year as reported on CNN’s 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Fast Facts.

Tropical Storm Arlene
April 20, 2017 – Tropical Storm Arlene forms in the central Atlantic Ocean. According to the National Hurricane Center, April tropical storms are rare, and this is only the second one (the first was 2003’s Tropical Storm Ana) since the use of satellite.
April 21, 2017 – Arlene moves southwest and south until it dissipates.
Tropical Storm Bret
June 19, 2017 – Tropical Storm Bret forms about 125 miles southeast of Trinidad.
June 20, 2017 – Weakens into a tropical wave.
Tropical Storm Cindy
June 20, 2017 – Tropical Storm Cindy forms in the Gulf of Mexico, about 265 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana.
June 22, 2017 – Makes landfall just south of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Later weakens to a tropical depression.
Tropical Storm Don
July 17, 2017 – Tropical Storm Don forms about 485 miles east-southeast of Barbados. Weakens to an open wave the next day.
Tropical Storm Emily
July 31, 2017 – Tropical Storm Emily forms near the west coast of Florida and makes landfall on Anna Maria Island. Weakens to a tropical depression after making landfall.
Hurricane Franklin
August 6, 2017 – Tropical Storm Franklin forms over the northwestern Caribbean.
August 7, 2017 – Makes landfall on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
August 9, 2017 – Franklin becomes a Category 1 hurricane about 105 miles northeast of Veracruz, Mexico.
August 10, 2017 – Makes landfall in Veracruz, Mexico. Later, Franklin weakens to a tropical storm and then dissipates.
Hurricane Gert
August 13, 2017 – Tropical Storm Gert forms in the Atlantic Ocean.
August 14, 2017 – Gert becomes a hurricane, the second of the season.
August 17, 2017 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone.
Hurricane Harvey
August 17, 2017 – Tropical Storm Harvey forms about 250 miles east of Barbados.
August 24, 2017 – Harvey strengthens into a hurricane.
August 25, 2017 – Harvey makes landfall between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas, as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 mph. Harvey is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004.
August 26-29, 2017 – Harvey is downgraded to a tropical storm, but stalls over land causing extreme flooding in Texas.
August 30, 2017 – After retreating from the Houston area back to the Gulf of Mexico, Harvey slowly moves northeast and makes a second landfall near Cameron, Louisiana.
— The death toll from Harvey is at least 57 deaths. Harvey dumped an estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas and Louisiana during a six-day period, according to WeatherBell, and also set a record for the most rainfall ever from a tropical cyclone in the continental US, at 51 inches of rain. Estimates put eventual total losses at as much as $75 billion.
Hurricane Irma
August 30, 2017 – Tropical Storm Irma forms 420 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands.
August 31, 2017 – Irma becomes a hurricane and intensifies into a Category 3 hurricane.
September 4, 2017 – Irma strengthens to a Category 4 hurricane about 490 miles east of the Leeward Islands.
September 5, 2017 – Intensifies into a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 hurricane as it roars toward the northeastern Caribbean islands.
September 6, 2017 – Hits Antigua, Barbuda St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, causing major damage and devastation to many of the islands.
September 7-8, 2017 – Causes major damage to the Dominican Republic as it passes along the northern coast of Hispaniola. Blasts through Turks and Caicos overnight.
September 8-9, 2017 – Makes landfall in Cuba overnight as a Category 5 storm, with winds of 125 mph. The Bahamas are hit by hurricane-force winds. At least 24 people have died in the Caribbean.
September 10, 2017 – The Florida Keys take a direct hit from Irma as a Category 4 storm. Initial estimates are that 25% of houses on the island chain are destroyed, and 65% have major damage. Irma moves on to hit Marco Island as a Category 3 storm, then travels up the Gulf of Mexico to pummel Naples, Florida.
September 11, 2017 – Irma is downgraded to a tropical storm in north Florida, and to a tropical depression soon after its wind gusts hit Atlanta, causing power outages and downed trees.
Hurricane Jose
September 5, 2017 – Tropical Storm Jose forms about 1500 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.
September 6, 2017 – Jose strengthens into a hurricane.
September 8, 2017 – Becomes a Category 4 hurricane, east and southeast of the northern Leeward Islands.
September 14, 2017 – Weakens to a tropical storm.
September 15, 2017 – Becomes a hurricane again as it makes its way up the Atlantic, east of the US coast.
Hurricane Katia
September 6, 2017 – Tropical Storm Katia forms in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and strengthens into a hurricane the same day.
September 8, 2017 – Makes landfall in eastern Mexico, in the state of Veracruz, as a Category 1 hurricane.
September 9, 2017 – Weakens to a tropical storm as it moves inland in Mexico.
Tropical Storm Lee
September 16, 2017 – Tropical Storm Lee forms in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, west and southwest of Cabo Verde islands.
September 17, 2017 – Weakens to a tropical depression.
Hurricane Maria
September 16, 2017 Tropical Storm Maria forms about 620 miles east-southeast of lesser Antilles.
September 17-18, 2017Maria rapidly intensifies from a tropical storm into a Category 5 hurricane.
September 18, 2017 The storm hits the Caribbean island of Dominica as a Category 5 hurricane and devastates the area.
September 20, 2017Makes landfall near Yabucoa in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane. It is the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years. The energy grid is heavily damaged, with an island-wide power outage. Restoring electricity may take months, the governor of Puerto Rico says. The storm also hits the US Virgin Islands, where at least one person dies, likely from drowning.
September 22, 2017The National Weather Service orders the evacuation of about 70,000 people living near the Guajataca River in northwest Puerto Rico because a dam is in danger of failing. The storm continues to churn northward, making landfall in the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos as a Category 3 hurricane.
September 25, 2017Only a few medical centers on the island have working generators and at least three hospitals lack running water. Shortages of medical supplies are reported.
September 26, 2017Maria weakens to a tropical storm as it heads northeast out to sea.
— The death toll from Maria is at least 45 people in Puerto Rico and at least 15 in Dominica.
Hurricane Nate
October 5, 2017 – Tropical Storm Nate forms near the coast of Nicaragua. At least 28 people are killed after Nate passes over Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. Hundreds are rescued from floodwaters and mudslides. Many lose power and running water.
October 6, 2017 – Nate strengthens into a hurricane about 95 miles west-northwest from the western tip of Cuba.
October 7, 2017 – Hurricane Nate makes US landfall as a Category 1 storm near the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeast Louisiana.
October 8, 2017 – Nate makes its second and final US landfall early in the morning as a Category 1 hurricane near Biloxi, Mississippi, and is later downgraded to a tropical depression.
Tropical Storm Ophelia
October 9, 2017 – Tropical Storm Ophelia forms in the Atlantic Ocean.
October 11, 2017 – Strengthens to a hurricane.

The Bad Review Revue

The Mummy: “You only have to watch the trailer to know that Producer-Director Alex Kurtzman’s reboot of Brendan Fraser’s once-charming mummy movies is full of embalming fluid.” — David Sims, The Atlantic

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: “The subtitle of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie is ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales.’ The moral of the movie, alas, is that the same cannot be said of dead franchises.” — Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

Baywatch: “Thank heaven for Dwayne Johnson, whose foot-wide smile will not be switched off, and who saves the life of the movie. Whether it deserves to be saved is another matter.” — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

Snatched: “Snatched is a trip very much like the one it portrays: one that, in the end, does a pretty poor job of putting the ‘fun’ in ‘unrefundable’.” — Megan Garber, The Atlantic

What is Technology Doing to Us?

I highly recommend The Waking Up podcast, and particularly episode #71, in which the host, Sam Harris, holds a conversation with Tristan Harris an ethicist for design. If you’ve ever gone to Facebook to look up something quickly and then wondered how you found yourself caught in a vortex of wasted time, this conversation will surely enlighten you. Recommended listening for everyone that uses technology and especially those that build it.

From Tristan’s bio page:

Called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,” by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan Harris was previously a Design Ethicist at Google and left the company to lead Time Well Spent, a non-profit movement to align technology with our humanity. Time Well Spent aims to transform the race for attention by revealing how technology hijacks our minds, and to demonstrate how better incentives and design practices will create a world that helps us spend our time well.

Tristan is an avid researcher of what persuades our minds, drawing on insights from sleight of hand magic, linguistics, persuasive technology, cult psychology and behavioral economics. Currently he is developing a framework for ethical persuasion, especially as it relates to the moral responsibility of technology companies.

His work has been featured on 60 Minutes, PBS NewsHour, The Atlantic Magazine, ReCode, TED, 1843 Economist Magazine, Wired, NYTimes, Der Spiegel, NY Review of Books, Rue89 and more.

Previously, Tristan was CEO of Apture, which Google acquired in 2011. Apture enabled millions of users to get instant, on-the-fly explanations across a vast publisher network.

Listen to the conversation as Sam and Tristan talk about the arms race for human attention, the ethics of persuasion, the consequences of having an ad-based economy, the dynamics of regret, and other topics.

(or use Overcast to listen at a faster speed — that’s what I do)

Here’s a taste of what Tristan’s all about:

Stairway to Heaven Copyright Trial Appeal

The battle over “Stairway to Heaven” will rage on for at least one more chapter as the copyright infringement case heads to a federal appeals court. Rolling Stone Magazine has the details.

At the crux of the “Stairway” lawsuit is the accusation that the IV classic copies a riff found on Spirit’s instrumental “Taurus,” which predates the 1971 single. In his appeal, Malifoy wrote that the jury did not find the two songs “substantially similar” because they were not permitted to hear the version of “Taurus” that Jimmy Page allegedly ripped off.