A Hallucination: Kerouac on the power of investing

I asked ChatGPT (JackGPT) to conjure up an imaginary letter to kids about investing.

Dear Cats and Kittens,

Ah, the road! The open highway, the endless possibilities, and the lure of freedom. That’s what we dig, isn’t it? Living life on our own terms, pursuing the kicks and the thrills that make our souls sing. And what’s more, doing it all while being young and free. But hey, dig this: how about we take a little detour from the usual road trip and venture into the wild world of investing? Yeah, you heard me right. Let’s talk about makin’ some green, baby!

Now, I ain’t no suit-wearing Wall Street cat, nor am I some genius mathematician crunching numbers in a corner office. I’m just a wanderer, a free spirit, sharing a few thoughts on how you can make your money work for you. See, we all want to retire early, don’t we? To say goodbye to the daily grind and embark on endless adventures. Well, my friends, let me drop some pearls of wisdom your way.

First things first, forget the naysayers. They’ll tell you that money is the root of all evil, that chasing riches will consume your soul. But hey, let me tell you a little secret: money is a tool. It’s a means to an end. And if used wisely, it can set you free. So don’t be afraid to dream big and aim high.

Now, investing ain’t no magic potion. It takes a little bit of know-how, some guts, and a whole lot of patience. But trust me, it’s worth it. So here’s my first piece of advice: educate yourself. Read books, listen to podcasts, attend workshops, and learn from the pioneers who came before us. Knowledge is power, my friends, and it’s the first step towards financial independence.

Once you’ve got a good grasp of the basics, it’s time to take action. And boy, do we love action! But remember, investing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about long-term gains, not quick wins. So resist the urge to jump on every hot stock tip you hear. Instead, focus on building a diversified portfolio. Spread your investments across different asset classes like stocks, bonds, and real estate. This way, if one area takes a hit, you won’t be left high and dry.

Speaking of stocks, let’s dive a little deeper. Now, I’m not gonna pretend I’m some guru who can predict the next Apple or Google. But here’s what I know: invest in what you believe in. Look for companies that align with your values and have a track record of success. And hey, don’t be afraid to take a risk now and then. Some of the greatest fortunes were made by those who dared to go against the grain.

But investing ain’t just about stocks. It’s also about building passive income streams. And let me tell you, my friends, there’s nothing sweeter than money rolling in while you’re sippin’ margaritas on a tropical beach. So consider real estate. Buy a property, rent it out, and let the tenants pay your mortgage. It’s a tried and true method that can provide a steady income for years to come.

Now, I know what you’re thinkin’: “But Jack, I’m young and broke. How can I even think about investing?” Well, my young padawan, let me share a little secret with you. It’s called compounding. It’s the eighth wonder of the world, as Einstein said. Start early, even if it’s just a few bucks a month. Let time work its magic, and watch your investments grow exponentially. Remember, a dollar saved today is worth a lot more than a dollar saved tomorrow.

But hey, life ain’t all about money, is it? It’s about experiences, adventures, and the joy of living. So don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Take risks, follow your passions, and don’t be afraid to fail. Because in the end, it’s the moments we cherish, the memories we create, and the people we love that truly enrich our lives.

So my friends, as you embark on this wild ride called investing, remember this: it’s not just about getting rich quick. It’s about creating a life that’s filled with freedom, joy, and a whole lot of kicks. It’s about retiring early, not to sit in some stuffy retirement home, but to keep living life to the fullest.

Now, go out there, my fellow wanderers, and make your dreams come true. The road is waiting, the possibilities are endless, and the adventure of a lifetime is just around the bend.

Go Go Go Go. Go find the open road,

image: From Dall-e. Prompt: A black and White image of Jack Kerouac. He’s holding a stack of money in his hands

An ode to long term investing

In the realm where fortunes ebb and flow,
Where dreams take flight and hopes alight,
A prudent path, one ought to know,
To navigate the stock market’s might.

For long-term ventures hold the key,
To unlock treasures beyond compare,
With patience as your steadfast decree,
Your wealth shall flourish, beyond compare.

Like seeds sown deep within the earth’s embrace,
Investments nurtured, day by day,
They sprout and grow at a measured pace,
Through market storms, they find their way.

With compound interest as your faithful guide,
Long-term investments, they’ll forever bide.

Through market booms and times of dire strain,
Long-term investors have the strength to bear,
They weather storms, unshaken by the pain,
And watch their portfolios rise and flare.

For time, dear friend, is on their side,
As dividends accumulate and reinvest,
With each passing year, their wealth will glide,
On steady wings, with no unrest.

In the stock market’s vast and shifting tide,
Long-term investments are the wisest quest.

The benefits are grand, if you but dare,
To seize the long-term strategy’s allure,
Through trials and triumphs, you shall fare,
With steadfast patience, you’ll endure.

So let the naysayers disperse in doubt,
While you, with prudence, stay unwavering,
For long-term investments, there’s no route,
That promises rewards more favoring.

Invest today, with faith and insight,
In stocks that stand the test of time’s delight.

What if Walt Was Passionate about Compounding Interest?

O Captain, hear my verse, I pray,
And lend your ear to words untold,
Of compounding interest’s wondrous sway,
Its power to transform and unfold.

From humble roots, this force takes flight,
Invisible, yet steadfast and true,
It labors in the stillness of the night,
As fortunes bloom, the years accrue.

O debt, you’re vanquished by its might,
As interest grows, like branches tall,
A tree of wealth, reaching for the light,
From seeds of prudence, it stands enthralled.

With each reinvestment, small and grand,
The earnings of earnings swiftly amass,
Compounding interest, a magic wand,
That turns mere dollars into fortunes vast.

The mathematician’s theorem, it proclaims,
A gentle riddle, yet profound,
For time is the ally that never wanes,
In compounding interest, glory found.

Behold, the secret lies in patience pure,
To let the magic work its spell,
As tiny droplets form an ocean’s lure,
Compounding interest, a tale to tell.

Like whispers carried on the wind’s caress,
The earnings grow, in rhythmic dance,
From penny saved to treasure chest,
Compounding interest, its charms enhance.

O Captain, see how wealth multiplies,
Through steady growth, it takes its flight,
Compounding interest, a sweet surprise,
A beacon shining through the darkest night.

No wonder, then, the wise embrace,
This force of nature, tried and true,
For with compounding interest’s grace,
A modest sum becomes a grand debut.

O ye who yearn for lasting gain,
In compounding interest, place your trust,
Through days of sun and nights of rain,
Your wealth shall flourish, never to rust.

So heed these words, my fellow soul,
And let compounding interest guide,
A path of riches, forever whole,
Where dreams take shape and futures bide.

In the spirit of Whitman’s verse, I sing,
Of compounding interest’s sacred lore,
Its power, like a bell, does ring,
A hymn of wealth forevermore.

Writing is Our Super Power

We humans will soon be drowning in text and images, if we’re not already. Your TikTok, podcasts,  email inboxes and favorite websites will be overrun with “content” that will be synthetic, manufactured out of thin air by code.  

I’m generally a technology optimist, but I’m feeling a little pessimistic as I watch the explosion of AI writing and writing tools. Just like most of us have lost basic arithmetic skills, the ability to do math in our heads, because we rely on calculators, we’re at risk of losing the ability to come up with unique ideas and thoughts.

What do we lose when we turn over the writing to machines? More importantly, what are the benefits of creating for the creator? What’s in it for she who takes the time contemplate how to put one word in front of the other in such a way that others will be able to understand, to be persuaded? 

We write because we can. But, we should be conscious of what the writing itself does for us. It helps us remember. Recalling and committing things to words helps lock them in, at least temporarily into the actual neuron network in our brains. 

Writing forces us to clarify what we even know and believe. Translating the buzz and jumble of ideas, images and words in our head into a relatively clear string of letters, phonemes, words, sentences and paragraphs literally forces order and logic onto our increasingly scattered brain (speaking for a friend). 

Writing gives us a chance to persuade. As we commit the ideas to words, we can choose what arguments we make, how we structure them, and how we support them.

Writing gives us a chance to get good at a craft. At our best, we might even be sort of poetic. There are a few among us that might even leave behind actual art via their words. 

AI, however we define that, will result in an amazing toolbox for humans, a mix of apps, devices, agents and oracles that will make our lives easier and better in unimaginable ways. Within the next 5 years, everyone will have a device on their wrist that can conjure up enthralling entertainment algorithmically, can autogenerate a movie for your pleasure, can make a recommendation so you don’t have to think about it. 

As the algorithms get better, as they become more pervasive our natural tendency will be to lean on them even more, to incorporate them into our lives because its just going to be easier to let the machines do it.

Writing is something any literate person can do, but increasingly fewer of us will. It’s a super power for us humans, it’s our way to organize the world, at least in our own heads and on our own pages. If we want to compete and thrive in a world that’s saturated with synthetic, sort-of-good “content”, we have to keep thinking for ourselves, creating out thin air our own ideas and beliefs, and writing is our way to do that. 

Is it Time for Warning Labels on our Apps?

I was talking with a good friend about TikTok last week, discussing the  incredible creativity being unleashed. It’s an expression machine, and the fast growth of the tools and templates means anyone can pursue their creative curiousity. But, of course, the result is oceans of distractions at our fingertips, billions of creators dying for us to watch for more than 1 second, a direct assault on our id and attention. 

Semi-serious thought: Should we take more seriously the concept of labeling apps that are designed to keep you addicted? TikTok is not the the first app that should come with a warning label, like those aussie cigarette packs: “This might damage you.”

I’ve used TikTok enough to know it’s dangerous to those of us that are easily distracted, who are hungry enough for the serotonin hit that we’ll lock into the app so the juices flow at a higher rate. Based on where the algorithm took my feed after seeding it with “Trout fishing videos” and “Japanese Joinery” I didn’t want to see where it would have ended up. Hint: TikTok knows that trout fisherman and woodworkers are probably men, and after fishing and woodwork, what do a lot of men like? I deleted it before the algorithm figured me out.

But, I did download Artifact, the news app from Kevin Systrom (of Instagram). Its clear they’re trying to build a dynamic news app. I bet the pitch went like this: What if TikTok and Apple News had a baby? I’m a voracious news consumer, probably too much. So, I can’t imagine this is going to end well and I’ll have to delete it at some point because I’m compulsively tap tap tapping.

I feel like my phone screen has become downtown tokyo at midnight, and I’m trying to get out of town.

Warning labels could only help, even as a minimal reminder of what we’re doing to ourselves everytime we look at the screen. Labeling won’t solve the problems presented by the software and algorithms we’re now dealing with. But, the reminder (if we can see it) might be seen and it might start spark some reconsideration

Meta’s ad spend glitch and the risks of marketing automation | Mobile Dev Memo by Eric Seufert

I’m actually surprised we don’t hear about more of these incidents. I’m assuming they happen all the time, but the effect is either so small most advertisers don’t see it or they are fixed so fast advertisers never recognize them. It’s getting easier and easier to put it all on autopilot, but the incentives actually work against advertisers.

the Meta irregularity from this weekend highlights a risk in wholly automated advertising creative production: that the incentive structure for ad platforms is simply too misaligned with the best interests of advertisers to empower those platforms to manage the digital advertising process end-to-end.

Source: Meta’s ad spend glitch and the risks of marketing automation | Mobile Dev Memo by Eric Seufert

California and Reno: Goals and Objectives

I’m working with a relatively new and inexperienced marketing team as an interim leader. I love these roles because they enable me to be in “teacher” mode. While the team probably thinks about me as “Ok Xer”, there is a real hunger to build new skills. This team is smart, good and active listeners, works well with each other and has a strong desire to drive results. They just need a tiny bit of direction and some support. Culturally, we’ve worked to set the conditions where they can ask questions they’d be afraid to ask their old boss, the CEO.

In a planning meeting, we were talking about the marketing funnel and some choices they were wrestling with. After a lot of discussions, it turned out they didn’t have any real objectives, but they did have a goal. The whole company was aligned around the specific goal, which was good news. The bad news was, the team hadn’t translated the goal into objectives and strategies. And, the other bad news was they were using the phrases goal, objectives and strategies interchangeably.

We will be dedicating a little bit of time in an upcoming meeting to building their management system. We’re going start with the basics: Terminology. We want to make sure we’re all – literally – speaking the same language. We’re going to focus on the difference between goals and objectives.

  • How we’ll talk about goals: A goal is a broad statement of what you want to achieve. It’s the destination you want to reach, but it doesn’t provide specific directions for how to get there. For example, “Increase revenue by 20% this year” is a goal.
  • How we’ll talk about objectives: An objective is a specific, measurable, and time-bound target that helps you achieve your goals. Objectives are the steps you take to reach your goal. For example, “Launch a new marketing campaign in Q2 that generates 500 new leads” is an objective that can help you achieve your revenue growth goal.

We’ll use my favorite analogy: the Van Life trip to California. In this analogy, “Spending the Winter in Malibu” is our goal. Our short term objective might be “Get from Minneapolis to Denver by the end of the week”. A midterm objective might be: Get to Reno before the snowmelts at the end of May.”

Next up: Strategies vs operating plans

Leaders: Your Data Strategy is Your Business Strategy

Three recent engagements – A multi-channel retailer, a national media company, and a retail/store chain – have made it clear why so many marketing organizations are still struggling with their data. In these three engagements, reasonably good marketing programs are being questioned by senior stakeholders because the reporting is, well, let’s call it “fluid”.  In all three of those organizations, the marketing team is swimming in data, but can’t generate the necessary reports to drive better decision making and any “Insights” getting shared are more about tactical efficiency vs. whether the strategies are working.

I think this misalignment is pretty common. For a number of orgs we’ve seen, there are plenty of reports and data dumps. But, the reports aren’t helping the growth and marketing teams make the right, most important decisions.

There’s an ever present chicken/egg situation: The egg is “we need confidence in the measurement before we invest more” and the chicken is “We need your team to be clear and consistent about what you’re trying to measure and why so we can get you a better measurement plan in place”. 

For the typical org we’re working with, the “measurement” and data work is downstream (often way, way downstream) from the marketing  and strategy planning. That is, the marketing team will develop their strategies, debate some metrics, and assume there will be a measurement plan, later, of some sort. In effect, they’re betting on the analysts to figure it out.

The better orgs will develop their data strategies hand in hand with their business strategies. They’ll develop a clear, high-confidence data and measurement plan with the acknowledgement that the strategies need to be tested; there needs to be some way to confirm whether the strategy (not just the tactics) is actually working. Then, the operational plans will include both the actual tactics but also the implementation of new measurement methods. For instance, they’ll simultaneously update their data roadmap and user instrumentation while they’re updating their customer journey (or customer experience) strategies and operating plans.

The better orgs will  invest early to make sure they can acquire the data needed to measure whether their strategies, tactics and plans are working.  And some orgs will deprioritize strategies and tactics that aren’t measurable. The rationale is pretty straightforward: The more we can measure, the sooner we’ll know if the strategies – the choices we’re making – are the right ones.

I wish there was a clear, easy answer about why this conundrum is still happening in 2023, more than twenty five years after the start of the digital revolution. It’s obviously complex, but here are three ideas:

  • Leaders assume everything is measurable – Most marketing leaders struggle to understand that not all digital efforts are measurable. A surprisingly large swath of digital marketing efforts can’t be consistently tied to any real business impact. We might have leading indicators (e.g. “consumers reached” by your TikTok), but no real way to measure whether and which consumers did anything afterwards.
  • Move Fast and Break Things – A lot of leaders are still biased towards speed and movement, at almost any cost. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they aren’t Zuckerberg and they aren’t working in a well funded startup where topline growth matters more than anything. The “move without measure “approach is just rash in most corporate settings.
  • Measurement after the fact – A lot of marketing leaders assume (still!) that you can go back and measure any digital efforts after they have concluded. They don’t know, or haven’t been told, about the work required upfront to get clean measurement
  • Poor discipline on strategies and tactics – There may not be good rigor on aligning objectives, strategies, tactics/key results and business outcomes. In other words, the teams often measure the wrong things. Or, worse, don’t know what they *should* be measuring

If you are a leader of a growth/marketing team, the solution starts with you. As you’re working through your strategies and operating plans, take the time to engage your reporting/analytics/data teams early. Get them in the room with your team, as you’re developing or updating your plans. Take the time, with the team in the room, to interrogate the plans. Ask the hard questions:

  • How will we know our strategies are working? – What would be the outcomes that would tell us we made the right strategic choices?
  • What would need to be true to measure/validate those strategic choices? – Can we go beyond leading indicators (i.e. visits, clicks, reach, whatever) to get at the downstream outcomes (i.e. usage by segment, conversions by customers acquired by specific campaigns, gross margin, etc).

Then support the investment in operationalizing the data in parallel with the rest of the marketing work.

Leaders should acknowledge their role starts with strategy but encompasses the data, too. Great measurement is rarely easy. Discipline up front, means a better chance to get quality data. So, give your data and analytics team a chance to drive real, genuine insights, by doing the disciplined work upfront to clarify what absolutely, positively needs to be measured.

Jason Fried: The new normal

This really hit me between the eyes this morning.

And the good news is that culture is really a 50-day moving average. It’s not a steady state. It’s what you’ve done recently, what you’re doing now, and what happens next.

I’ve been reflecting on Fahren, the good and the bad, and I’ve been considering culture for a couple client engagements, too. Culture is both an enabler and a killer, tailwind and headwinds. But, it’s always got to be worked on. You can change it, but you can’t ignore it.

Source: The new normal

A Gentle Explainer for the Ever Obscure RSS

If Facebook is starting to seem like the DeathStar, and Google is too Borg-like, ifTikTok’s state-ownership worries you, then its time join a rebellion of sorts. One of the ways to fight the power of the big platforms is to use low-tech tech, preferably open source stuff. But, being a rebel sometimes takes work. There’s a commitment involved, and the payoff is, more often than not, a sort of moral victory.

One way to work against the tyranny of the algorithms is actually pretty simple. And, the payoff is clear and often delightful.

Get your news via RSS. Not sure what RSS is? Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

RSS is a “deep cut” tech tool, one that the OG digital nerds have been using for a while. The Atlantic offers a nice, easy explainer, along with a link to some tools.

But though RSS is remarkably useful, it can be daunting to the uninitiated, and it lacks the slick marketing and cultural footprint of the social-media giants.

Riverside.fm has a great, free write up, too. But, basically, RSS is tech to standardize “feeds” of news items from a site. The feeds are in an open format, making it easy to share/syndicate content from one site to another in a trusted, dependable, open way. Its foundational tech for podcasting (podcasts get to your podcast app via RSS Feeds in  most cases).

RSS never got past cult-favorite because there was never a killer app for it. Its background tech, not the app you download. More importantly, news sites could never really make money on RSS feeds (the ads that showed up in feeds were awful an untrackable). Moreover, the RSS feeds made it so that users never even had to get to your site. The tech was, in some ways, anti-revenue.  So, it never got the love it should have because it was not in the Publishers’ best interests.

But, it’s still out there. There’s delightful world of publishers to find and discover through their RSS Feeds. And, its a fun way to fight the power of the big platforms.