Algorithms and Pork

We’ve accepted the notion that algorithms, specifically Google and Facebook’s, control our lives, nudging us toward what we read, believe, and covet. According to Oxford, an algorithm is “a process or set of rules to be followed.”

I like that… Sort of like religion meets math, minus the candles, singing, and killing. Some other algorithms / math / rules to (mostly) follow:

Today I was in Barcelona presenting to the leadership team of a luxury conglomerate. After my song and dance about disruption, Facebook, and Snap at a town hall, I sat down with the COO and CFO, and shit got real.

“There are two things you need to do:

1. Develop a level of Digital IQ through a platform that you can plug small, more nimble firms into (i.e., acquisitions).

2. Openly assess your firm’s ratio of good to bad distribution, and establish a seven-year plan to fix.”

Good distribution is either growing (Amazon) or flat but great for the brand (flagship store in SoHo). The reflex reaction is that department stores are good, and Amazon is bad. However, if Amazon is exploding gross margin dollars, you can invest elsewhere to support brand. If department stores are in structural decline, you’re effectively in a suicide pact. If a grey-market site is willing to partner with you, clean up the crap, and help you find elusive growth, then you may be saved from the dark side of the force, bad distribution. The key issue facing Nike, Rolex, and Samsung — and most manufacturers’ brands blessed with aspirational appeal and irrational margins — is that brand building has moved from broadcast to point of purchase, and their points of purchase suck.

The boldest business move of the last 20 years, creating more shareholder value in the US and Europe than any other firm on those continents, was Apple and LVMH’s decision to open stores — lots of them — and flip the ratio of good to bad distribution.

What’s your ratio?

Genetics + Lifestyle + Love + X-Factor

The fastest-growing demographic is centenarians. How can you live to be a 100? Easy. Have good genetics, live a healthy lifestyle, and love others. Loving is the bomb when it comes to living. We like to think #1 is genetics, so we can abdicate responsibility for abusing our bodies, as “the die has been cast.” No, it hasn’t.

This week, Dr. Henry S. Lodge died of prostate cancer at 58. Ironically and tragically, Dr. Lodge was also an author and expert on how to live well and longer. The bulk of his research distilled, in his words: “Humans are hunters and gatherers who thrive when in motion and surrounded by others.”

There’s an x-factor, things outside our control that can deliver tragedy for no reason. My first summer share in the Hamptons was with two women who died, within a year of each other, in their early forties from cancer — one a mother to infant twins. As we get older, we encounter more x-factor, like people dying when they shouldn’t. As a result, we begin adjusting other algorithms.

Tomorrow / Today

Stanford Professor Walter Mischel studied delayed gratification, offering children a small reward, a marshmallow, or two if they didn’t eat the first marshmallow after being left alone with it. The study tracked the kids, and those with discipline were more successful later in life. Our education system and culture focus on getting kids to be little gratification delayers. Few parents scream at their kids, “I need you to be more in the moment!” But as we get older, and encounter more x-factor, we start wondering, “Why am I so fucking stressed today, trying to build a better tomorrow, when I’m equally stressed the next day? When does tomorrow, the reward, become today?”

Back to Barcelona. I’m (desperately) trying to be more in the moment and have found that it’s a real effort. Unless I’m with my kids, who demand that it be all about today… and that’s usually whatever they need or want at that moment. A good thing. My flight to London was delayed, and I started making calls, reading email, doing work. And I thought… fuck it. I went to duty free and bought a bunch of cured ham (when in Rome). Went to a bar, ordered a Pilsner, put on my noise-cancelling headphones, and blared Calvin Harris as I ate pork. I. Love. Pork. I could shower in the other white meat.

Super in the moment, I headed to the gate, walked through some imposing glass doors, but no gates on the other side, just a baggage carousel. WTF, I just — somehow — left the terminal and the secure area. There’s a reason you feel recalcitrant walking past the point-of-no-return TSA guy, as they, and I can attest to this, will not let you back in. In an instant, I had missed my plane. Which Put. Me. In. The. Moment.

We’re all seeking that balance… that sweet spot. Delaying gratification, so we can build a better tomorrow for us, our family, and others. You can’t miss too many planes, as people on the other end are counting on you. However, there is value, real value, to waving your middle finger at the x-factor, getting lost in pork, and missing a few.

Life is so rich,
Scott

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