Make Managers, Directors & Shareholders Liable

For many years, cigarette companies fraudulently hid evidence that smoking causes a myriad of health issues. Cigarette company managers directly hid the evidence their research teams found, cigarette company boards of directors knew and hid the same information. Enormous human suffering and pain has been knowingly caused by these people. Why did they do it? The managers and directors received huge salaries and bonuses for many years and retired fat and happy.

Is this an isolated incident?

No. The exact same pattern has played out over and over again. Before the 2007 financial crisis, real estate agents, mortgage managers, and bank directors knowingly got people into homes they could not afford then took enormous multi-million dollar bonuses each year.  When the house of cards collapsed, these people kept their ill-gotten gains.

The same thing continues to happen all the time in many businesses ranging from Wells Fargo’s fake accounts, Exxon’s half century of hiding climate change information, Comcast & TWC’s payments to landlords and cities for exclusive monopolies, Volkswagen’s falsifying of environmental data from their diesel cars, and many other areas.

This is a systemic problem that needs a systemic solution.

The reason that these issues have been happening and will continue is that corporate managers, boards of directors, and shareholders can collect enormous financial wins while taking risks with other peoples lives that they will not be held accountable for.

How do we stop systemic abuses like those perpetrated by cigarette company managers, bankers scamming the system for big bonuses, and oil companies hiding climate change research?

Make managers, directors, and shareholders PERSONALLY liable for their actions when in their positions for twenty years. If they commit unethical or illegal acts today, then when they are discovered in ten years we can sue them and take their salary and bonuses back that they had illegitimately earned. Do not allow companies to buy insurance companies to cover this risk. If people are afraid personally, they will not make the business decisions that put someone else’s life below their own personal gains.

Some people have argued that shareholders should not be liable for decisions of boards of directors or managers they can’t directly control. My suggestion is that they can and should be liable so that they seize this control and enforce strict standards on their boards of director and managers.

Others have argued that managers and employees should not be responsible for decisions made higher up. The same argument was made at the Nuremberg trials that the concentration camp guards were just following orders or didn’t really know what was going on. Those people put their own financial / career well being over the very lives of others. If you are asked to do something unethical or if your company is doing something harmful to the world, then you should be obligated to quit and find a better place to work. You should not be able to keep financial gains that you obtained at the expense of other people.

To summarize, make these changes to our law and you will see a lot of the extremely harmful abuses by businesses disappear overnight:

  1. Make company managers, boards of directors, and shareholders directly and personally liable for unethical decisions and actions of their company.
  2. Do not allow companies to buy insurance policies that protect individual managers or directors or shareholders from the effects of unethical behavior.

Interesting Day Yesterday

I had a fun day yesterday (Saturday):

  • Watched several Laracast training videos on PHP
  • Worked on fixing my importer from Time Doctor to Time Tracker
  • Came up with ideas for improving my SEO team’s tracking
  • Watched Oblivion, a fun sci fi movie starring Tom Cruise
  • Finished beating Inside, a highly rated xbox one game.
  • Watched parts of the Washington Huskies football game where they blew out the Ducks 70-21. Huskies are 6-0 this year and ranked #5 in the country!

Preventing Burn Out When Working 7 Days a Week

How do you prevent burn out when you work 7 days a week? I generally work every day including weekends, and many days I’ll put in very long hours. This can cause physical effects like blurry eyes, sore / stiff back, lack of flexibility. It can also cause mental burn out where you struggle to get anything done productive.

Pushing through the grind / being persistent is the most important trait to achieve success as an entrepreneur. How can you avoid burnout while still driving hard?

I try to mix things up for myself a little bit:

  • My most productive hours are the morning when I first get up, so I try to get in a few hours of hard charging work right away.
  • Naps are incredibly important for refreshing your brain to keep going
  • Working out is a necessary way to relieve stress and get out from in front of your computer screen.
  • Social interaction is huge. I try to call a family member or friend every time I am driving to or from work in my car. Most friends won’t pick up, but I usually can talk to a family member.
  • Intimacy with your significant other is also an important way to relax and release and do something not work related.
  • Occasional short vacations and longer trips can go a long ways. I usually work every day on vacation / trips, but still do find time to recharge since I am in a new environment. I typically do a weekend trip each month and a week or two every six months. Next weekend I am headed to Bishop to rock climb with friends.
  • Drink tons of water. This not only keeps you hydrated, but makes you get up frequently to go to the bathroom. You get a chance to stretch and move around every 45 minutes or so and look away from your computer screen.

Universities (Especially Online) Are a Waste

I attended the University of Washington and really enjoyed my experience there. I probably enjoyed it too much: I graduated in four years with a 3.5 GPA, but most of my time was spent partying or not really doing anything at all. Perhaps you could consider that learning about life, but I think I have learned far more about life out in the working world.

For people who are self motivated, the internet provides an enormous treasure of learning resources. You can get the course schedules, textbooks, lectures, quizzes, and everything else for major universities like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and many other top tier schools online. For a tiny fraction of the cost of a university education, you can rapidly go through all of the course materials on your own and learn at your own pace and on your own schedule.

The main benefit of a university comes from those who are not self motivated. If you can’t study unless you have a regimented schedule forced on you from the outside, a university can help with that. However, spending $200,000 is idiotic. Go to a local community college and spend $10,000 for the whole thing.

The other reason people go to university is to get a piece of paper saying that they went there. I know a lot of employers look at this piece of paper, but I also know a lot of employers that couldn’t care less. All I care about is your work skills and previous experience.  Further, almost no employer cares about if you got a piece of paper from one of the for profit universities…  Full Sail University, University of Phoenix, Devry, Kaplan, ITT, etc. Don’t waste your money on any of these.

The Mighty Power of Google

I have worked “optimizing” search engines for my entire post college career. “Optimizing” is in quotes because I work to help companies that pay me show up higher in Google’s search rankings, perhaps occasionally against what Google would want ranking. I am probably more familiar with search algorithms used by Google than anyone outside of Google itself. I have discovered many little methods, as well as a few bigger secrets, of how to do my job of search engine optimization better than anyone else. Because I am successful at “optimizing” Google, I have built a company with sixty full time employees who also do what I do. I have many clients that receive far more leads and revenue than they otherwise would without my help.

I thought I was powerful and influential for awhile.

Then I realized that I am really just a barnacle on the surface of a worldwide leviathan. Google has tens of thousands times higher revenue than I do. I would not exist without Google, I am a small part of it’s ecosystem.

Everyone uses Google. Google controls the information we see on a day to day basis. Billions of searches and Google controls what gets clicked on and what doesn’t. Google controls which companies succeed, and which don’t. Each time I help a client reach higher rankings in Google’s search results, that client might see their overall revenues double or triple.

Google is a company with $75 billion in annual revenue for itself. But far more importantly, it controls many trillions of dollars of commerce going to other businesses. Google controls what information you see when you search for political questions. Google controls what answers come up when you look for the best programming language, best dating site, religious questions, and on and on.

Every day Google weaves itself tighter and tighter into our lives. As I drive to work each morning, every other driver is staring intently at their phones… mostly Android powered phones. Android controls 65% of the US market, 82% of the German market, 76% of the French market, 88% of the Spanish market.

Google is becoming harder and harder to influence. When I first started in search engine optimization, anyone who had read a few blog posts could figure out how to get their website to the top of Google. Now I see thousands of flailing worthless SEO firms not getting any real changes made for their clients. The old tricks mostly don’t work anymore. My team and I have had some success, but it takes far more work than it used to. And we are the #1 ranked “los angeles seo” services company… Most companies can’t move the needle at all.

I believe that Google is now more powerful than most governments worldwide. Google controls what information you receive, and because of that, in many ways how you think.

For me, I feel like I’ve become a cyborg. Much of what I think and remember is online. 90% of my communications happen through gmail. I can’t remember what I told I a client 6 months ago, but I can find that email in seconds. Much of what used to be stored in my brain is now stored online. Photos, emails, events, research, planning, and much else only resides online now. Google has literally become a part of my personality and who I am.

 

 

 

 

Hanlon’s Razor – Fundamental Attribution Error

Hanlon’s Razor states that you should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness.

Many times I have made this mistake and thought that someone in my life who had mistreated me had cunningly planned a way to hurt my interests. In reality, I think that most of the time those people had no ill will… they just didn’t care and therefore allowed something bad to happen.

Gamifying Workouts & Pokemon Go

I would really love if someone made a game where you could play an MMORPG while walking slowly on a treadmill. If you had combat against another character though, you would have to run on the treadmill and that would affect the damage you could do – whoever ran fastest would do the most damage. If you had a higher level character, you would do a higher level of damage as well. This way say a Level 10 character who could run 6 miles per hour would be equal to a Level 6 character who could run 9 miles per hour.

Pokemon Go is sort of like this -you wander around in the real world to collect Pokemon and level them up. It is highly addicting – Laurel and I played it for an hour or two last night walking around in the real world.  Augmented reality is pretty incredible stuff!

Doctors Should Be Paid On Outcomes, Not Procedures

I was just in the gym of the hotel we are staying at on Kauai for our honeymoon and overheard a couple of doctors talking. The entire conversation was about how they generate revenue and how to get more. Neither of them mentioned quality of care or patient outcomes once.

Our healthcare system incentivizes doctors to perform as many procedures as possible at a high of cost as possible without regard to patient outcomes.

The more MRIs and chemotherapy sessions and other treatments each doctor does, the more money they make. One of the doctors said his practice makes $110 million a year from all the services he charges for.

I think our whole medical system is backwards – doctors should be paid for achieving certain patient outcomes.

Imagine if you could go to a doctor and you knew he was paid based on getting you to the best possible outcome – wouldn’t you feel a lot better if he recommended a dangerous procedure? Right now when you are recommended a dangerous procedure you have to worry about whether the doctor just wants to make his next boat payment or pay for his vacation to Kauai.

Research shows that there is a massive amount of unnecessary treatments and procedures done in America each year. As a matter of fact, the 3rd leading cause of death in our country is medical error! Let’s stop paying trillions of dollars for treatments that don’t work and push through reforms for how healthcare is provided and how doctors are motivated.

Wouldn’t you rather overhear doctors conversing about the latest in medical science and how to get the best patient outcomes rather than how they are generating more revenue with a new machine?

 

Benjamin Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor”

Warren Buffet’s most highly recommended investment book is “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham. Warren Buffet’s essays and philosophy on investing sound like the best way to invest to me, so I use his value based approach. Warren Buffet advocates that you keep in mind that underlying each stock is an actual business with a true actual valuation. However, the stock market gyrates wildly in reaction to if people are fearful or greedy and a good investor can take advantage of t his to buy low and sell high. I hope to learn more about how to do this from Mr. Graham’s book!

Brexit

Populist anger is rising worldwide in response to frequent terrorist attacks. People see bombings and shootings by Muslim immigrants and are starting to vote for policies that will shut out migrants.

The rise of Trump and his popularity is driven by populist anger at the perceived problems caused by immigration and free trade.

Britain voted today to exit the European Union.  The British have had a variety of terrorist attacks and have seen partner countries suffer their own attacks. Their anger has grown enough that they are taking the drastic step of leaving the EU even though it will clearly severely damage their economy.

Today, the British Pound is trading at a massive loss other currencies. Many British firms will be exiting the country so they can stay in the EU trade zone. Their economy will enter a recession. The British Central Bank will need to raise interest rates, deepening the coming recession to possibly a depression. Stocks globally are down 2-3%.

We are entering dangerous territory in global politics as populist anger is now dictating policy in the biggest countries… this anger doesn’t listen to logic. Pretty much every economist in the world counseled Britain not to exit the EU as it would cause a market crash.

During the 1930’s Germany and other countries also had a massive wave of populist anger that pushed extremists such as Hitler into power. We are seeing the first signs of a very dangerous wave similar to that one rising in global politics.