History is not kind to Bill Clinton

Im a progressive. When I look back at Bill Clinton’s presidency, all I see is bad policy and embarrassment. He was not a liberal and no friend to progressives. Here is a run down of his “accomplishments”:

  1. Defense of Marriage Act: Clearly on the wrong side of history. He legislated against gay marriage instead of standing up for their rights. Within 15 years, this law is overturned.
  2. Repealed the Glass-Steagall Act: This one action sowed the seeds for the 2007 financial collapse. It is one of the worst decisions in presidential history and still stands as the law of the land putting our entire economy at continued risk.
  3. Telecommunications Act of 1996 – The internet was brand new and Clinton signs this law which starts the mega mergers of telecommunications companies leading to the crisis of net neutrality. He didn’t forsee that these mergers would cause the eventual threat to the internet. This law did not help the internet, but rather sowed the seeds of its eventual takeover by corporate interests.
  4. Monica Lewinsky scandal: One of the most embarrassing episodes of the presidency. America has a flaw: We love drama. Bill Clinton sexually harassed a woman in the workplace and then lied about it under oath. Right now, we are going through a reckoning about sexual harassment. We can not judge the past with today’s morality. However, it was embarrassing then and remains so to this day. The shaming of Lewinsky only adds to the unfortunate actions.
  5. Healthcare Reform/Failure: Healthcare is a serious issue. Clinton had a chance to implement the ACA almost 20 years earlier. It failed in part because he put his wife Hillary in charge of it. Hillary is a capable administrator, but he should have known that it LOOKS bad to appoint your wife to a post like that. Additionally, Hillary was (and IS) a lightning rod for the right. She doomed the initiative from the first day, regardless of how good a plan it was. You could have appointed a women, but not your wife and not Hillary Clinton. You needed someone who could bring consensus and inspire action. That is not her. So healthcare languished for decades and cost Americans dearly.
  6. Israel/Palestine Fail: Lots of presidents have tried, but Clinton failed too.
  7. Renewable Energy/Climate Change: No Action
  8. NAFTA: Debatable.

The point here is that Clinton was no progressive. He screwed up alot. I give him zero credit for the internet boom. That would have happened no matter who was in office.

Sorry Bill. You sucked.

My Dog has Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis happens when the pancreas becomes inflamed. That’s an organ near the stomach that helps digest food and control blood sugar. (Source)

Leroy was not eating and passing blood all over the floor. It’s freaking me out.

The treatment is not really a treatment. You give him fluids and hope it goes away. Modern medicine is amazing and can do crazy things, but doctors will also admit that they really don’t understand 99% about how our bodies really work.

One colleague was talking about anesthesia that his child had received. The doctor said they know that certain drugs will knock you out for some period of time, but they really don’t understand WHY they knock you out or why some people react more or less to certain drugs.

Our bodies are incredibly complicated. This doesn’t mean we won’t understand them one day, but for today, it’s mostly a mystery. I remember my wrist odyssey being so frustrating because no one really knew what was wrong.

Doctors often look for the usual suspects and then give up or start experimenting until they stumble upon the right answer.

Health Care is the most amazing thing and the most frustrating thing in modern society. No wonder people get so riled up about it.

Social Anxiety

According to the Social Anxiety Institute:

Social anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.

I am absolutely familiar with this feeling. Although I can be charming, outgoing, and gregarious in group situations, I constantly have this feeling of being negatively judged. Although it surprises some people, I am an introvert. Spending time with people makes me uncomfortable and tired. To recharge my batteries, I need to be alone. I can “bend” my introversion when I need to be on stage or give a presentation, but it is always hard work.

Next week is Dreamforce and there are events being thrown all about town. One example is the MoMa party being thrown by the best event person I have ever known, Sandra. (Those who know her, know this is true) I could go to the party, but all I can think about is how tiring it would be. I know I would meet up with colleagues and friends and probably have a good time. I also know the artwork at the MoMa is terrific. However, on the other hand is my social anxiety whispering negative thoughts into my inner ear.

Sometimes, the good guy wins this internal battle and sometimes the bad guy wins. You might be asking, “Glen, who gives a shit? Why aren’t you blogging about Design Tools and UI Patterns?”

Good question.

I guess the reason is that I want to give an example to the people who have social anxiety issues that you can still prosper and still advocate for yourself. I want to bond with my tribe, wherever they are. I often call them Misfit Toys.

If you want to be a great designer, you have to understand yourself and others. If you are a misfit toy, there is always room on my island and I would be happy to help.

Great Team or Great Players

I often hear people say they want to work at a company because they are led by a great team. What they usually mean is that the team is comprised of people who were successful before, or at least they were at successful companies. The same goes for venture capital investments. They often will invest in a great leadership team, but what they really mean is that the pedigrees of the leadership has been associated with previous success.

In contrast, a true “great team” is a group of people who work well together. They are aligned in spirit with diverse points of views and multiply each others efforts. There is chemistry, trust, and camaraderie. A great team working in unison will usually beat a group of great players.

Last year, I read The Boys in the Boat. (Good book) The subject was about crewman during World War II; (people rowing in a boat – see picture).

The key element that inspired me is the description of how winning speed is attained. Speed did NOT come from the number of strokes per minute. You could beat a team with almost half the strokes per minute if your strokes were in true unison. In other words, it was the asynchronization of strokes, the little inconsistencies between rowers that created drag. When everyone was in true alignment, the boat would “lift out of the water” and the rowers felt like they were rowing in pure air.

That’s what working on a well functioning team feels like. It’s bliss. Not everyone has experienced the joy of being a part of a team that works like that. I have had a few years out of the last 30 that felt that way and I think I only achieved maybe 75% of true team enlightenment. (Maybe less)

The last two years have taught me a great deal about alignment, communication and how team conflicts can be detrimental to the overall success of the company and certainly to my own happiness.

My advice to VC and other people evaluating companies is to ignore the pedigrees of the team and instead look for the following signs of a great team:

  • Do the department heads think they are on the team they manage or are they on the e-team? You shouldn’t be both, otherwise you are neither. In other words, Is the e-team a bonded team or a collection of department heads?
  • Is there easy and active collaboration between department individual contributors or is each objective owned by one department and not collaborative?
  • Are the arguments about merits of the ideas or about word-smithing and consensus? Are there healthy discussions or is everyone trying to get along or hiding animosity?
  • Is there clear awareness of the big objectives or does everyone have their own marching orders that are separate from other people?
  • Do people get excited working and even talking with each other?

Alot of these things are hard to determine by just one or two interviews. I suggest taking multiple people to lunch and trying to get their view outside of the office. I imagine most companies are not working like the Boys in the Boat, but you don’t need to have an Olympic level team to succeed. You just need to be better than your competition.

I won’t beat this to death, but at this point in my life, I am trying to focus on teamwork and surround myself with people who “get me” and whom I want to interact with at work.

One last metaphor. Great rock bands aren’t made of the best players of every instrument. They are not the sum of their parts. They make great music because of the chemistry between the players. No chemistry, no great music. Same goes for any team.

I’ll end with a quote (that may never have actually been said) from one of the great teams in history.

Pete Best is a great drummer, but Ringo…Ringo is a great Beatle. – John Lennon

Moving on from Engagio & MarTech

After 9 years of Marketo and 2 years of Engagio, I am moving on to a non-martech product. Engagio has a great future ahead of it and as a shareholder, I fully expect them to go public and be worth billions of dollars.

I think I have built a good product foundation at Engagio that hopefully will serve them well for years to come. I have made great friends there that hopefully will stay in touch with me.

As for Marketing, I have appreciated all of you and how wonderful it is to design products for you. There are so many moments of pride and awe in my relationship with marketing departments around the world and specifically the Bay Area. Some marketing shout-outs: (in order I met them)

  • To Kelly Abner, my first marketing guinea pig. He made Marketo a workable product more than any other human being. His feedback was golden.
  • To Jon Miller who taught me how thought leadership can build a billion dollar brand.
  • To Jen Erale and Jodi Florence, the two first marketers I ever taught Marketo to.
  • To Emily Salus who created the hardest problems to solve, but made the product better.
  • To Maria Pergolino who taught me what inbound marketing was and how to run an event. She is a force of nature.
  • To Jason Miller who invented content marketing before my eyes. Incredibly creativity oozes from him.
  • To Heather Watkins and Liz Courter who were the best customer marketers I have known.
  • To Sandra Freeman who is the best field/event marketing person in the world – She took care of me at every Summit and I thank her for every memory.
  • To Jeff Cowan who will always be the “voice of god” at any event in my mind.
  • To Davis Lee – creative services counts as marketing damnit! (Nathan Brauer, you count too)
  • To Josh Hill who wrote a 800 page book on Marketo and inspired Docs.marketo.com
  • To Joelle Kaufman the best CMO (and general executive) I have ever met.
  • To Jason Seeba who continues to be the model for creativity and excellence in marketing.
  • To Kristen Malkovich who was the inspiration for Engagio Playmaker and Scout.
  • To Jessica Cross who said “Thank you for my career” and made my heart melt. This means more to me than you know and I will carry it with me forever.
  • To Grant Grigorian who trusted me to take his baby and rename it Dash.
  • To everyone I forgot to mention. I know there are tons of you.

It’s a sad moment, but I am excited to build a new thing. I’ll give more detail on that later.

I don’t know what the future will hold and how our paths may cross in the future. All I can hope is that each of us is inspired by the people we work with and continue to move the world forward.

Love, Glen

Counter-Intuitive Thinking

The thing about counter-intuitive thinking is that its often the correct logical thinking and almost everyone believes the opposite. Logic and common intuition are not friends.

For example, you can often ONLY get things done with the opposite person you expect. Some examples:

Only a Jew can make fun of the Holocaust
Just ask Mel Brooks. It’s OK to make fun because it’s our hardship to bear, but others can’t make fun of it. That’s anti-semitic. (I was raised Jewish btw and make fun of almost everything)

Only a Black person can use the N-word
We watch the show Insecure with Issa Rae and she says it constantly. However, it’s empowering to own words that previously hurt you. Just ask Tyrion Lannister about being called the Imp.

Only a General elected to President can cut defense spending
If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, she would have had to be “tough” on foreign policy or people would have thought she was a “weak woman”. She would never have pushed to cut military spending. However, if we elected a 4-star General, then that person would not be considered weak on defense and could actually cut programs that are incredibly expensive and wasteful. (Like nuclear submarines)

Only a right-wing wacko (Trump) can get single payer/universal health care
It would be a serious coup for Trump. If he pushed for Bernie Sanders health care system, all of the democrats would leap at the chance and he just needs a couple of republicans. He is dominant right now in republican politics. Eric Cantor is a prime lesson (look it up) in how the alt-right can turn on its own. If they pressured the right, Trump would successfully repeal and replace ObamaCare with something better, save tens of trillion of dollars over the coming decades and forever be remembered as a politician who changed healthcare in the US. As a progressive, I would even agree to building a stupid fucking 100 billion dollar wall on the southern border if it meant medicare-for-all.  It’s a matter of priorities. Trump would get everything he wanted/promised AND the actual right policy (not the wall) would be implemented.  A democrat can not get this passed. A normal republican can’t get this passed. Only a right-wing wacko can.

I wish the world wasn’t this way. I wish we would live in a meritocracy where we all lived by logic and fairness. I wish ideas stood on their merit. Unfortunately, that isn’t the life we have.

Many of the answers to our problems are counter-intuitive. Thinking out of the logic box is important and understanding the true dynamics of our psychologies will help us move forward as a civilization and solve important problems.

Teaching Excel in High School

My kids are in middle and high school. They are learning math at different levels. The thing that annoys me is how little they use Excel to do their work. Why do we teach kids how to calculate by hand? Think of the alternative:

  1. Start teaching excel early like kindergarden
  2. Accelerate through simple subjects like addition and subtraction
  3. Start to give harder problems to solve that require multiple cells with advanced math like geometry
  4. Make tests where you need to solve problems in Excel and “show your work” by breaking the problem down into discrete cells
  5. Super advanced levels – use macros to teach programming

Excel, for better or worse, drives a huge amount of work in this world. Startups model their entire business in excel. People project manage in Excel. Excel is one of the killer productivity apps of the last 50 years. Why is it possible to graduate high school and not be fluent in it?

I think teaching excel would increase mathematics retention and advancement. It would spur more programming careers. It would spur more innovation in business modeling.

I am not saying that it would solve the Korean nuclear threat…but maybe it would!

Who is in charge of this sort of thing? How can our entire mathematics curriculum system in public schools be changed?  is that even possible?

Can anything change? My kids learn math the same way I did 30 years ago.

Even if we know the answers, are we just doomed to repeat the past?