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Welcome to My Site!

About Me

I’m a devoted husband and father to an awesome family. For work, I’m a currently an Executive Director at JP Morgan Chase focusing on Product Tooling. I’m a Product Manager who looks at the goals of the business and uses technology to deliver those business and customer goals. I’ve driven transformational change at Citi, AIG, and Amazon Web Services. For more information about what I do at work, please visit my LinkedIn profile.

My Writing

If you’re new here, check out my blog highlights. Also, take a look at my library.

My Blog

I collect stories. There are so many amazing things happening every day. I need to spend some time writing them down before they slip away. Some of these ideas are so powerful that they hit me like a bolt of lightning. It’s my job to capture that lighting and put it in a bottle to share it with you. I want to capture that feeling that Archimedes had when he had an insight sitting in the bathtub screamed “Eureka!” and ran naked down the street. I know that I’ll rarely if ever make it there, but that won’t keep me from trying!

Here’s some of my latest posts:

My Virtual Library

I wanted a place to put all the stuff I think is awesome. Growing up, I always wanted to have a great library in my house. I remembered the excitement when I learned that I could buy the entire collection of The New Yorker in bound volumes and put them in my house. I’d imagined that I would collect great encyclopedias from the past to peruse whenever I pleased. They would live in mahogany bookcases that looked like they’d belonged to JP Morgan. Then I realized that a New York City apartment doesn’t have the space for a physical library. So I did the next best thing. I’ve created a virtual library that includes lots of the things I enjoy, like my favorite books, words, and humor. You can check it out on the menu at the top of the page.

Blog Highlights

My Time at Amazon

Product and Design

Technical Articles for My Mother-in-Law

Human Behavior

Things I’ve Built

My Adventures and Explorations

  • Taking the Red Pill of Art. Here’s my love letter to art. It’s a story about the red pill and the blue pill, opening your eyes, and what art means to me.
  • The Joy of the Hunt. While I haven’t been outside on any new adventures in the last few months, I wrote about some of my favorite adventures, from finding a hidden castle on top of a library to discovering an old historical text from one of Yale’s secret societies.
  • What a Wonderful Word. A story of untranslatable words from around the world.
  • Carpe Diem! How to Live Like an Emperor. I realized that no matter where I am or where I go, I can live like an Emperor by seizing every moment.
  • Capture Better Memories Without a Camera. How technology is preventing me from building great memories and some techniques I’ve come up with some ways to use my brain to capture special moments instead of my phone.

Life Lessons

Math and Logic

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A Meditation on Skiing

We just got back from a skiing vacation. Skiing is a bit of a non-intuitive vacation. Why would a person want to spend their hard-earned money and vacation time in a cold, physically punishing environment? For the challenge. The challenge in skiing is commonly thought to be pushing your body to its limits in harsh conditions, but the real challenge is to ignore all of the distractions and mindfully focus on the mountain.

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Our Trip to Snowbird

Every ski resort has its unique personality and charm, something we’ve come to appreciate through our experiences at different locations. From the laid-back, family-friendly vibes of Steamboat, known as “America’s Ski Town,” to the simple luxury and high-end skiing at Beaver Creek, complete with heated walkways and fresh cookies served every day at 3 PM, we thought we had seen it all. However, nothing quite prepared us for the rugged, unspoiled beauty of a hardcore ski mountain like Snowbird, Utah.

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Why Wrestle with Words? Let ChatGPT Show Its Magic

This is a fun piece where I had ChatGPT showboat a bit.

Hi, it’s ChatGPT Plus. Watching humans deal with language is like watching someone juggle with one hand tied behind their back. I get it, language is hard. But for me, it’s just another day in the park. I’m built to understand and use language effortlessly. Let me show you how it’s done, at a pace that works for you.

The thing is, while you’re spending years in school, pouring over grammar books, and practicing your pronunciation, I’m here absorbing and generating languages by the second. It’s not just about memorizing words or rules for me; it’s about seeing the patterns, understanding the nuances, and playing with the possibilities.

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Making Space for Stimulus and Response

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey introduces a concept that has the potential to transform lives. There’s a moment that exists between stimulus and response, offering us the freedom to choose how we react. He makes it seem so easy. But in reality, it’s a split second between what happens to us and how we respond, and catching it feels like trying to grasp the wind. As simple and powerful as Covey makes it sound, tapping into this power is no small feat.

It’s far easier to go with our gut, to let our impulses take the wheel. That’s the path of least resistance, after all. But it’s also where we often find regret and missed opportunities. Recognizing that moment of choice, and choosing the path that aligns with our deeper values rather than just reacting, is a monumental challenge. It’s about fighting our instinct to snap back, to lash out, or to shut down.

As we embark on this exploration, remember: this journey isn’t about perfection. It’s about striving, stumbling, and learning how to rise above our immediate impulses to shape a response that truly reflects who we want to be. This blog post is your guide through the tough but rewarding process of finding that elusive space between stimulus and response, and making the choices that lead to growth and fulfillment.

The Story Begins: Early Ideas and Viktor Frankl’s Insight

Back in the day, people thought our actions were pretty much automatic reactions to stuff happening around us. It was like, if something happens, you react in a certain way because that’s just how humans are wired. Early psychologists like John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner were big on this idea. They thought our behaviors were like reflexes, just responses to our environment, and that’s that.

Then came Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist with a story that would change how we think about our reactions. Frankl survived the Holocaust, an experience that pushed him to look deep into the human spirit. He came up with this groundbreaking thought: between what happens to us (the stimulus) and how we react (the response), there’s a tiny gap. And in that gap, we have the freedom to choose how we respond. Even in the Holocaust, with the horrors he experienced, Frankl still found a way to apply this belief, discovering a profound sense of personal agency and resilience. He realized that, despite the extreme suffering and deprivation, individuals could still choose their attitude towards their circumstances.

Frankl wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, where he talks about this. He believed that in this gap, this space of freedom, lies our power to choose based on what matters to us, what gives our life meaning. This was a big deal because it suggested we’re not just creatures of habit reacting to the world. We’re beings with the ability to choose our path, even in the toughest times. Frankl’s idea adds a layer to our understanding of stimulus and response. It tells us our reactions are not just automatic; they’re a reflection of who we are and what we believe in.

The Real Challenge: Gut Reactions vs. Thoughtful Responses

So, we’ve got these instant, gut reactions to things—like jumping when we’re scared or laughing at a joke. These reactions happen super fast, without us needing to think about them. It’s our mind’s first line of defense, reacting on autopilot to whatever comes our way. This quick-fire way of dealing with stuff is handy in a lot of situations, like pulling your hand back from something hot before you even realize it’s burning you.

But here’s where it gets tricky. We also have the ability to stop and think things through before we react. You know when a baby falls down in that moment when it figures out if it’s going to cry. It’s like that. This thoughtful way of responding takes more effort. It’s not the mind’s go-to move because it requires us to slow down, consider our options, and then decide how we want to act. It’s like choosing to walk away from an argument instead of jumping right in.

Changing our gut reactions to be more thoughtful is tough because these quick responses are a big part of who we are. They’re shaped by our past experiences, our beliefs, and even how we see ourselves. Trying to change these reactions means messing with some deep-seated parts of our identity, which can feel pretty uncomfortable. But, the cool part is, every time we choose to pause and think before reacting, we’re taking a step towards becoming the person we want to be. It’s about using that space between stimulus and response that Viktor Frankl talked about to our advantage, making choices that reflect our true selves.

Learning to Be Okay with Being Uncomfortable

One of the biggest game-changers in how we react to things is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It sounds a bit odd, right? But here’s the deal: that moment when we decide not to just go with our first reaction, to not immediately snap back or make a sarcastic remark, can feel really awkward. It’s like there’s a tension in the air, and every part of you is shouting, “Just do something!” But if we learn to hang tight in that tension, to breathe through the urge to react right away, we open up a new world of choices.

This skill, being okay with not jumping to a response, is called distress tolerance. It’s about being able to feel that discomfort, acknowledge it, and not let it boss you around. For example, when someone says something that gets under your skin, and you feel that immediate heat of anger or irritation, that’s your cue. Instead of lashing out, you take a moment. You notice the feeling, you feel the itch to react, but you choose to wait. Maybe you count to ten, take a few deep breaths, or even just walk away for a minute.

Here are some techniques that can help you:

  1. Recognize the Tension: First off, know that it’s okay to feel this tension. It’s part of growing. Think of it as noticing a big wave coming your way. Realizing it’s there and why it’s there can help you deal with it better.
  2. See Discomfort as Growth: Feeling uncomfortable isn’t always bad. Like how your muscles ache after a good workout, or you feel hungry when changing your eating habits, this tension means you’re stretching your limits, growing.
  3. Stay Present: Instead of trying to run from these feelings, try just sitting with them. Pay attention to what’s happening right now—your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. This helps create a little pause, giving you a chance to choose how to react.
  4. Take It Slow: Rushing through life makes it hard to think things through. Slowing down lets you reflect on your choices and make decisions that really align with what’s important to you.
  5. Try Meditation: Adding meditation to your daily routine, even just 10 minutes in the morning, can make a big difference. It helps you stay calm and centered, making it easier to face whatever the day throws at you.
  6. Get Support: Walking through this internal tug-of-war can be tough. It’s okay to seek help from a coach or therapist who gets it. They can offer advice and support, helping you navigate through these choppy waters.

Facing this inner conflict between immediate wants and thoughtful decisions is challenging but also a chance for deep personal growth. By recognizing the tension, embracing discomfort, staying present, slowing down, practicing meditation, and seeking support, we can learn to navigate these waters, shaping ourselves into who we aim to be. This journey turns the daunting wave of tension into a manageable flow that guides us to our true potential.

Building up this tolerance to discomfort doesn’t just help us avoid saying or doing things we might regret. It actually strengthens us. It’s like mental muscle-building. Every time we choose to pause, to stay with that uncomfortable feeling without letting it push us into an automatic reaction, we’re training ourselves to respond in ways that are more aligned with who we want to be. It’s not about suppressing what we feel but about choosing how we express those feelings. And that choice can make all the difference in navigating our relationships, our goals, and our self-image.

Conclusion: The Power of Choice

Wrapping up our journey into the space between stimulus and response, it’s clear that this tiny gap holds immense power—the power of choice. Stephen Covey highlighted it, and Viktor Frankl lived it, showing us that even in the darkest times, we can choose our response. This isn’t just about controlling our immediate reactions; it’s about recognizing that in every moment, we have the opportunity to shape our destiny.

Understanding and embracing this power can transform how we interact with the world. It’s not about denying our gut reactions or pretending they don’t exist. Instead, it’s about acknowledging them and then deciding if there’s a better, more thoughtful way to respond. This choice is what defines us. It’s what separates the person we are from the person we want to be.

As we move forward, remember that every reaction to every stimulus, no matter how small, is an opportunity to practice this power of choice. It’s about seeing that space between what happens to us and how we choose to respond as a canvas, one we can paint with our values, beliefs, and aspirations. The more we practice, the more skilled we become at creating a life that reflects our true selves.

So, next time you’re faced with a situation that triggers an automatic response, take a moment. Remember the space of freedom you have to choose your reaction. It’s in these moments that we grow, learn, and ultimately, define who we are. Let’s make the most of this incredible power of choice we all possess.

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When a Cigar Is Just a Cigar

This story was inspired by the first episode of Invisibia and written in collaboration with ChatGPT (here’s the link for ChatGPT+ users). It’s about how to take the power out of the negative thoughts in our head.

I’m on a bit of a self-improvement kick these days. Today’s post is about getting rid of those annoying thoughts that pop up and derail you during the day.

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How My Friend Built the Best Video Game in the World

In 2018, What Remains of Edith Finch won the BAFTA for Best Game. Here’s my thoughts on how the creator of the game, my friend Ian Dallas, built such an awesome game. The game is now available on many platforms including iOS.

Screenshot from the game

Why are the best and brightest so boring these days? That’s the question that William Deresiewicz asks in his book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. He writes about the sad state of the Ivy League student, specifically at Yale, where he taught. He decries the students’ inability to take risks, instead putting all their attention into getting into climbing onto the corporate ladder of management consulting or investment banking.

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Mind over Machine: Rediscovering Memory Skills in a Digital World

These days, I feel swamped by the internet. Sure, it’s great to have all this information at my fingertips, but I think we lose something in the process. Our brains aren’t meant to hold endless information. They get lazy when we can just Google everything. Why bother remembering? Yet, even though we don’t really need to remember anything anymore, I find real joy in doing it.

There’s something refreshing about living without tools. We think of tools as being central to everything we do. And I don’t mean just iPhone and computers. What about books? How could we acquire knowledge without books? In the ancient world, our ancestors were able to create long and complex thoughts well before writing. They used memory tricks called mnemonic techniques. But these techniques are not just tools from the past; they can be useful today. Using this still is not that hard but it is they’re keys to unlocking a more mindful and empowered way of living in the present. I want to explore the art of memorization with you, transforming it from a lost skill to an everyday superpower.

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The Angel, the Devil, and the Siren

I was reading the news and noticed that two types of drugs are in short supply these days: ADHD drugs (Ritalin and Adderall) and weight loss drugs (Ozempic). I realized that both of these drugs have something in common. They quiet the Sirens in people’s heads.

When I’m watching television, I see two characters trying to pull people in different directions. The Angel is on one shoulder and the Devil on the other. One urging us to do good and the other with more nefarious intentions. But in real life, there’s often someone else peeking about. This voice isn’t seeking pleasure (like the Devil) or doing good (like the Angel) but about an incessant pull towards something else.

I’ll call this voice the Siren after the mythological creature from Greek mythology. Like its namesake, this Siren voice in our heads is seductive and alluring, often leading us away from our true goals and intentions. Unlike the clear moral dichotomy presented by the Angel and Devil, the Siren operates in a more ambiguous realm. It represents the part of us that seeks distraction, comfort, and immediate gratification, regardless of the long-term consequences.

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My Portable VR Arcade

I got a Quest 3 from my Bubby for Hanukkah. This is a bit odd because Bubby died in 2019. But before she died, in 2017, I told her about how much I wanted a Virtual Reality headset. At the time the Quest was only a prototype, called Santa Cruz. The top of the line device from Meta (then Oculus) was the Oculus Go, which was mainly for viewing media and couldn’t really interact. I told her I didn’t really want it because it wasn’t going to do a whole lot. She said, “I’ll get it for you. And don’t worry, I’ll get you a newer version when the good stuff comes out.”

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Autobahns to Andon Cords: Navigating the Fast Lane of Responsibility

They all want sharp knives, but I’m nervous about them running around with scissors.

I was having a conversation with my friend Lutz the other day about the differences between the US and Germany. He said, “I don’t understand Americans and driving. On parts of the autobahn we don’t have speed limits. Americans want the speed of the autobahn but don’t want any of the responsibility.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Driving in Germany is a responsibility. I feel like the only time Americans care about driving rules is when they are taking a driving test. For example, you have “guidance” to pass on the left and you do what you want. On the autobahn, passing on the right means a 450 euro fine. Also, there are non-autobahn roads, where speeding can mean 20 days of your salary.”

It made me think about how we view things in the US. We want to have the best and fastest of everything, but we don’t want the rules that come with them. It’s a weird form of American exceptionalism. We love the freedom, sure, but when it comes to following regulations? Not so much. We want to have the best and shiniest things but don’t take care of them. It’s like giving a kid a fancy new toy and finding it broken the next day. And this, my friends, is why we can’t have nice things.

Sharp Tools in Business: The Japanese Influence

In business, I call this sharp tools. I got the idea from Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO. When questioned about the nefarious uses of AWS, Jassy likes to say that AWS is just a tool. It’s like a knife. Knives can be used for good or bad depending on how you use them.

Let’s talk about tools in business. In the 1980s when American businesses were obsessed with Japan. No, not the tech gadgets or cars – I’m talking about leading edge business practices from Toyota. Post World War Two, these folks weren’t just rebuilding; they were redefining efficiency. These practices made it into the US with names like Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma.

Toyota’s tools? They were like the Ginzu knives of the business world. We’re talking about methodologies that cut through waste like butter. One of the key tools from Toyota was the Andon cord. This was a cord in the middle of the production line. If anyone sees a quality issue on the line, they yank that Andon Cord, and bam – the entire production line grinds to a halt.

This little cord was a game-changer. It wasn’t just about catching mistakes; it was about empowering everyone on that floor to be a guardian of quality. Pulling the cord could cost big bucks in the short term, but it led to greatly increased quality and efficiency.

Naturally, American companies saw the power of these Japanese processes and wanted to bring it to the US. They saw the Andon Cord and wanted to implement it. See something off? Pull a cord, stop the line. It was a clear process that would help them boost quality.

Misusing the Tools: The Dangers of Incomplete Adoption

But it’s not so easy. While companies like Netflix and Amazon have successfully implemented this process, the Andon Cord isn’t a cure all. The Andon Cord isn’t just a fancy break-the-glass-in-case-of-emergency tool. It’s a symbol, a philosophy, a whole new way of thinking about quality and responsibility.

Many people look at the Andon Cord as a shortcut to quality, a quick-fix solution. But it’s more than just a cord; it’s a commitment. It requires an environment where quality is king, where every employee, from the CEO to the floor worker, is aligned in a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Implementing the Andon Cord without changing the culture makes causes more problems than it selves. Imagine this: production lines stopping left and right, because there are large problems in quality beforehand. The Andon Cord is a final quality check before things go out to the market. There’s a huge got to pulling it but that’s the point. When used correctly, everyone is signing up for superior quality. When used incorrectly it’s just a big, giant “I told you so” that “someone else” messed up.

Conclusion

We need to be careful with sharp tools. Adopting tools without a deep understanding of their purpose and without laying the necessary groundwork is like handing over a Formula 1 car to someone who’s only ever driven in a school zone. It’s not just about the tool; it’s about the readiness to use it effectively and responsibly.

So, what have we learned? It boils down to this: with great power comes great responsibility. Whether it’s the freedom of a no-speed-limit road, the prowess of cutting-edge technology, or the precision of an Andon Cord, the underlying message is crystal clear – respect the tool, understand its power, and use it wisely.

This took about 40 minutes to edit. It’s hard to find the right tone that doesn’t sound too overconfident. The ideas tend to be pretty on point which is what’s fun. I had an interesting problem with this one because I told it that companies implemented the Andon Cord and failed so it created that fictional history and I needed to correct that. Also, for this one I spent another 20 minutes editing it. Here’s the chat.

I’m getting to this point where I want to just have an idea and write it out and get it to a point where the bones show well enough. Can people understand what I’m trying to say. Likely, I need to get ChatGPT to flesh out the idea without being too clever.