Idea Broker: Issue #2

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I’m an idea broker. I connect people with valuable ideas that I generate, find, and share.

If you subscribe to my Idea Broker newsletter, I’ll be happy to share them with you.

Here’s a look at this week’s ideas…


“Real work doesn’t look like work.”

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and have become increasingly interested in as my career has evolved. Long story short: most people and companies still operate the way the world worked 50 years ago and those practices are actually doing more to prevent good work from getting done than enabling it to happen.

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“Things don’t happen for a reason. But they do often happen because nobody has yet found a better way.”

Jeff Huber is an ex-Googler who is currently CEO of Grail, an organization dedicated to early cancer detection. The speech he gave at the University of Illinois this year is absolutely amazing – in both heartbreaking and inspiring ways – and well worth a read.

His challenge to recent graduates and all of us is simple and based on the belief that has guided his life and career: Find a better way.

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“Overthinking doesn’t usually equate to insight or deliver solutions.”

Alice is a columnist for Psychology Today magazine who literally wrote the book on anxiety. In addition to a list of her 50 strategies to beat anxiety, you can also learn from her how to feel calmer at work, how to be more authentic on social media, and how to use your strengths to improve your weaknesses.

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A lot of people have a lot of excitement about the future of virtual reality right now. But most of those people seem to be affiliated with brands (see: Samsung) or social platforms (see: Facebook). I don’t hear a whole lot of “regular” people talking about our impending VR future.

I’ve also noticed that most of the people diving into the deep end of VR content creation seem to be brands – not artists/filmmakers. It remains to be seen, but it’s tough to imagine this is a good thing for the development of the medium since brands interests rarely align with artists and the public rarely enjoys the things brands cram down their throats.

I’m not saying VR is going away any time soon, but I’m not 100% convinced of its future success the way so many of my peers seem to be. Then again, when you see people have a reaction like this to their first VR experience it’s possible I could be VERY wrong.

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“Having people tell you they value what you create is the most valuable metric.”

When I sent this newsletter last week it prompted some responses from subscribers, one of which then prompted me to write this post about the assumptions creators make about their audience and vice versa.

Most of those assumptions are wrong.

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You know all those ads in your Facebook feed? Well, Facebook tries to show you ads it thinks will be relevant to you. But it turns out you can help them do that.

This link goes to an article that explains how you can easily see exactly what Facebook thinks you’re interested in AND change those interests. While you can’t remove ads completely, changing your interest settings will drastically change the types of ads you see and make sure that you actually see stuff that’s relevant to you.

Even if you don’t change the settings, it’s interesting to see what Facebook thinks you’re into regardless.

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“The more you build things, the more confident you get.”

Jeremy’s one of the most successful photographers in the world and theoretically there was no way he should have gotten to that point in his life.

But he did and my profile of him explains some of how he did it, including his thoughts on how to take a good photo, how to become influential on social media, and how to keep stumbling forward when you make mistakes.

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“I had no idea whether this was good or bad. It sounded like it could be great. It also sounded like it could be a disaster.”

This oral history of the making of “Walk This Way” is good, but what’s absolutely fascinating is the video piece that accompanies it and includes previously unseen footage of the day they recorded the song.

What becomes instantly clear is that both groups hated each other, thought the collaboration was an idiotic idea, and that Rick Rubin is an even bigger genius than you think.

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“This thing doesn’t need reinventing…its mission is hard copy delivery, and all it needs to do is be sure it gets there.”

You probably think of the U.S. Postal Service as the least innovative place on the planet and it may be. But in reading this excerpt from a new book about the history of the postal service I discovered that a LOT of innovative people have actually worked there.

And it turns out those innovative people – who early on suggested the Postal Service take the lead on developing things like email – were run out of the organization and then went on to help build super-successful technology companies.

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“I’m sure many people will say, ‘Well, he’s Warren Buffet so he can do that.’ Yes, he’s Warren Buffet, but no one granted him the power to do that or say that. He decided that.”

Buffet only schedules meetings 24 hours in advance. He refuses to schedule people further out because it allows him to remain in control of his time and ensures that each day he’s filling his calendar with things that are most important in that moment.

Not sure I’d have the balls to implement that policy myself, but I’d probably be a lot happier if I did.

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How to Get What You Want in Life

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Just follow these three simple steps:

Step 1: Figure out what you want.

Think about what makes you happy, who you admire, what you need, who you are, and who you’d like to be.

Think about how you want to spend your time. What you want to explore. Who you want to impact.

Think about the path to get there. What you need to learn, who you need to meet, where you need to go, and what you need to do.

Step 2: Consider the reasons you can’t have it.

Think about the resources you don’t have, the advantages you weren’t given, and the reasons you’re not the kind of person who gets what you want.

Think about the times you’ve failed, that you’ll likely fail again, and the problems that new failure will cause.

Think about how scared you are to try, how embarrassing it is to admit what you want, and the criticism you’ll face.

Step 3: Say “Fuck it” and go do it anyway.

That’s how you get what you want out of life. Good luck.

My Strangest Concert Memories Have Nothing To Do With The Music

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I’ve gone to a lot of concerts over the years and seen some amazing shows.

But I’ve found the most memorable moments often have nothing to do with the musical magic happening on stage.

The good times are great, but the strange times make the best stories. Here are a few that have stuck with me…

Drinking Pepsi All Night Long

The first concert I ever saw was Lionel Richie (with opening act Tina Turner!) in 1984. As a 9-year-old aspiring break dancer myself at the time (in the suburban Jew category), I was excited to see what sweet backspins Lionel’s dancers would bust out on stage.

As an added bonus, I got the chance to go backstage before the show and meet Lionel because my uncle worked for Pepsi at the time and they sponsored the tour. I don’t remember much about meeting Lionel other than the photo I took with him which hung on the wall in my parents’ house for decades, but I do remember what was the highlight of the night for me – getting a free Pepsi.

That’s right, I got to meet Lionel Richie backstage at the height of his All Night Long-ness and the coolest thing about it to me was that there were unlimited free sodas backstage.

Peace, Love, and Hot Dogs

I went to Woodstock ’94 – that’s the muddy one, not the rapey one – thanks to free tickets I got from a friend. They weren’t exactly free – he was able to hook me up as long as I agreed to work at a festival food stand that was being run by Patch Adams (the real guy who inspired the awful Robin Williams movie) for a couple hours a day.

It was weird, but seemed like a sweet deal at the time and a free trip to an epic concert. It was, but thanks to torrential rain and terrible event organizers it also turned into an epic shit-show (pun sort-of intended).

That weekend is as close as I’ve ever been to a Lord of the Flies situation in my life (if Lord of the Flies had a Green Day soundtrack).

But as things on the grounds got more and more chaotic, I discovered my position as a hot dog vendor was suddenly one of an incredible power. I had access to food which, it turns out, is really important to people who have partied for days on end and can’t afford food because they spent all their hot dog money on the drugs that fueled their partying.

This situation made me feel like a Game of Thrones king who wields all the power (in this case, control of hot dog supply) while simultaneously realizing he could be killed at any moment by usurpers.

It was an odd experience to have play out in between sets by Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Please Don’t Kill Me Softly

I love hip hop and always tried to see whatever rap acts happened to come to campus when I was in college. I saw A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Run DMC among others – all of whom were incredible.

But the most memorable show had nothing to do with the actual concert. It had to do with a couple of my college friends who were from a slightly less diverse area of the country and who were slightly less familiar with rap music than I was. They wanted to go see a rap concert with me (sort of), but there was just one problem – they were terrified.

It turns out these upper middle class, white college students in the mid-1990s thought they were going to get killed (or shot, or robbed, or god knows what they were afraid of) if they went to a…wait for it…Fugees concert.

I thought that was crazy then and it still amazes me now. After all, the only thing you should be worried about when you go to see Lauryn Hill perform is if she’s going to show up and how many times she’ll thank Jesus if she does.

What Would You Say…To An Orgasm

In college, I went to a bunch of Dave Matthews Band concerts (as one does when one is a college student in the 1990s).

At one such concert, a group of friends and I wound up on the lawn of an outdoor theater and one of the girls in our group wound up in my arms as we sat on the grass field while the sun set and the band jammed.

We were a little intoxicated, but fully clothed and not romantically (or non-romantically) involved. I thought it was a nice moment, but apparently she thought it was a REALLY nice moment because she somehow had an orgasm as we watched DMB rattle on with one of their 8-minute violin solos.

Looking back on it, I can’t confirm whether or not she actually had a non-contact, non-nudity orgasm or not. But it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a girl would fake, because girls never do that…right?

Born To Run Gently

Decades after my first backstage concert appearance, I made another one – this time at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

But what stood out to me this time wasn’t the free beverages but rather what I saw when I had the chance to stand on the stage hours before the show began.

First, I noticed that the stage was padded and bouncy like a wrestling ring. Contrary to what it looks like when you see him perform, it turns out Springsteen is actually old. His stage is built to cushion his bad knees so he doesn’t hurt himself when he jumps around.

Second, I noticed there are TV monitors in the floor of the stage that show lyrics to all the songs for when in case he forgets them.

But ultimately, who cares because Springsteen is still amazing.

That’s Not The Chronic

I used to go to a big outdoor festival in San Diego each year and one year Snoop Dogg headlined the show. Halfway through Snoop’s set, one of my friends disappeared.

These things happen when you go to concerts, so nobody in our crew thought much of it. But as  the show ended and my friend still hadn’t surfaced, it started to seem weird.

Finally, he resurfaced and explained he had gone to use a Port-a-Potty (risky move) and met a group of random Latino guys who offered him up a joint (riskier move). Apparently, they had hung out and smoked it during Snoop’s set.

Seemed like an odd choice since this friend wasn’t a huge drug user, but whatever – Snoop does things to a man.

With the show now over, we all made our way to the train to go home and piled on to it with hundreds of other tired/wasted festival-goers. A couple minutes into the train ride, my friend got angry. Like, real angry. Like, PCP angry.

To this day I’ve never seen him like he was on that fateful train ride and while nobody’s quite sure what happened, we can only assume whatever weed he smoked with the random Latino guys by the Port-a-Potty at a concert festival while Snoop Dogg played might have been laced with a little something extra.

Live and learn I guess.

X Gonna Give It To You ‘Til You Make Him Stop

This last story comes from one of the more recent concerts I’ve attended. It was an old school hip hop show that featured a bunch of acts who were, let’s say, bigger several years ago than they are today.

The show’s closing act was DMX which, given his history, seemed like an optimistic bit of scheduling.

DMX has had some rough patches in his life so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but he came out and was amazing…for about two minutes.

Then, things got weird, bizarre, strange, and sad. He spun out of control ranting about god knows what to the point where they had to shut off the music and the mics because DMX wouldn’t wrap things up.

People were leaving and he was still on stage, with his mic turned off, just yelling crazy stuff at the crowd. They even tried to close the curtains on him and he just came back out from behind the curtain and kept going.

It wasn’t the best part of the concert, but it sure was the most memorable. And when it comes to concerts, isn’t that kind of the point?