Sunny Ray

Stay in the Moment

Meditation

I’ve been meditating on and off for more than 20 years now and it’s definitely had a profound effect on my life. Recently, I came across a book titled ‘Principles’ by Ray Dalio, I’m half way through the book and it’s absolutely fascinating.

Raymond Dalio is an American billionaire investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist. Dalio is the founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, one of the world's largest hedge funds. Bloomberg ranked him as the world's 58th wealthiest person in June 2019. 

So what does this have to do with meditation? Check out this video of him talking with Gary Vee about the importance of slipping into the void.

In the Moment

I live in Toronto and have called this city home for nearly 2 decades. With the Raptors in the finals, the city is literally buzzing with energy. People everywhere are extra friendly and social. It makes me wonder why people are not like this all the time.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Raptors team is their newest edition, a silent superstar who goes by the name of Kawhi Leonard. If you don’t follow basketball, many people are comparing him to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. What’s special about him, however, is his calm and collected manner.

I’ve been watching his interviews and there’s one common theme, and that’s “Stay in the Moment”. This interview that just came out, has at least 3 interviewers asking him how he maintains his high level of presence on and off the court. His response is simple yet informative. Check it out…

Kawhi’s ability to stay in the moment has had a noticeable impact on everyone else on the team. Listen to Kyle Lowry, as he talks about staying in the moment, being grateful and the importance of being goal oriented.

The Future of IT: Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence & Blockchain

I’ve recently become obsessed with learning about learning, machine learning, that is. Machine learning, or Artificial Intelligence, is literally everywhere. Now with the recent breakthrough in deep learning, the impact AI’s had on the world is omnipresent and growing exponentially. What really sparked my imagination is a new book titled: “AI SUPERPOWERS: China, Silicon Valley and The New World Order” by Kai-Fu Lee. His story is both touching and informative:

One of the main issues that comes up in his book is the threat that all of this data that A.I. needs sits within the walls of 7 or 8 companies and 2 governments. That’s a bit scary. What if blockchain could be used in an intelligent way to keep A.I. honest? What if we could build TensorFlow on top of blockchain technology? What if we could store individual data on the blockchain so that only individuals would have access to it? Decisions taken by AI systems can be difficult for humans to comprehend, but blockchain can shed new light on this by helping us track the thinking process, and understand decisions.

Although blockchain and AI have great potential in their own right, one can’t help but wonder what they may achieve if their combined force were put to good use. Both technologies are mutually inclusive, and could potentially pave the way for a much more transparent, and efficient world. The Google talk below is titled "Quantum Computing, AI and Blockchain: The Future of IT". It’s the most fascinating video talk I’ve seen in a very long time. Check it out:

Shoucheng Zhang (Chinese: 张首晟; February 15, 1963 – December 1, 2018) was a Chinese-American physicist who was the JG Jackson and CJ Wood professor of physics at Stanford University. He was a condensed matter theorist known for his work on topological insulators, the quantum Hall effect, the quantum spin Hall effect, spintronics, and high-temperature superconductivity.

Which finally led me to this article by him which was recently posted on Alibaba’s cloud site: The Association of Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain

"Quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain are the three most fundamental technologies in the field of information technology today. The emphasis on basic science will enable IT to develop across disciplines. Physics and Mathematics are intertwined, and they have clearly contributed significantly towards the current IT revolution," Shoucheng Zhang.

To read the full article, see here: https://www.alibabacloud.com/blog/shoucheng-zhang-the-association-of-quantum-computing-artificial-intelligence-and-blockchain_594249

I know this stuff sounds super nerdy, but if this is an area of interest to you, then please reach out. To me, this sounds like a very a compelling future. Could it be true? Could it be such that the Future of IT is just around the corner? Could it be such that Quantum Computing, A.I. and Blockchain come together to create a brighter future of everyone? I don’t know just yet, but instead of standing around and finding out, why not use these building blocks of science to build a brighter future. Watch this space. Until next time….

The Importance of Community

Seth Godin, in his recent blog post, nicely put it, “The challenge is to look at the rituals and events in your organization and figure out how to amplify the real reason they exist even if it means abandoning some of the honoured tasks you've embraced. Going around in a circle saying everyone's name doesn't build a tribe. But neither does sitting through a boring powerpoint. Working side by side doing something that matters under adverse conditions… that's what we need.”

The message to marketers is clear: focus on community.

If your answers to the questions “who is it for?” and “what is it for” are vague, you are not doing your marketing work well. Your strategy should speak to people who share your values and your way of doing things. This is the only way to build a “tribe”: a group of people who have a shared sense of meaning and connection.  If your brand can create that kind of meaning and connection, you will see your customers speak up on your behalf. And that, is the true revolution of 21st century marketing.

Inspire your community by increasing their confidence, helping them connect to others, and pushing them to challenge themselves. Here are a few guiding excerpts from the book Do Cool Sh*t  that will help keep your Tribe growing and thriving:

  • Express happiness when you see your people.

  • Let everyone share stories and participate.

  • Forget the small talk.

  • Give credit as often as you can.

  • Instill confidence--it’s free.

  • Challenge your people to push themselves.

  • Connect people!

Below, are some additional important ideas on building community which I gathered from a book I recently read titled: “The Art of Community”.

Community Leadership

How do we turn any community into a reliable support network and a valuable source of new ideas?  

Why do any open source community members around the world get together?  It comes down to one word: belonging.  The interactions and this sense of belonging are generated from a unique kind of economy: a social economy.  Belonging is the reward of a strong social economy.

Planning Community

Speed and success of a community is directly related to strategy, structure and planning.  Organized communities always thrive because structure provides a sense of worth, conviction and oversight.  The community leader’s role in building this strategy is in facilitating discussion and helping to bring conclusions from those discussions into a single strategic document.  The main role is to gather feedback, opinions and ideas publicly and develop a strategy that meets as many needs and expectations in the community as possible. Here are a few things I’d start working on right away:  

“Getting Started” To Do List

  • Identify how we can divide our community into teams. (users, developers, evangelists...)

  • Ensure that teams can communicate clearly and effectively. (forums, IIRC, email lists...)

  • Attract a diverse range of contributors to get involved and contribute to our goals.  

  • Define the scope of each team and help team to understand scope.

  • Understand the extent and range of collaboration between the teams.

  • Encourage diversity and opportunity in the community.

Social Media

Social media is a valuable tool, but it is only a tool.  What is interesting, however, is how these tools shine a spotlight on the social values, needs and opportunities that are implicit within the community.  A few things we may want to consider sharing on the community social media platforms may include: community news, progress updates, events, meetings, accomplishments, statements, etc.   

Building Buzz

Buzz is an important part of building community.  Traditional marketing strategies may not work with many communities.  Whereas marketing traditionally requires a budget, no budget is required here.  Buzz in the world of community is subtler and more organic. For example, building buzz amongst a community does not need to be centralized.  There can be a system put in place to encourage everyone in the community to learn the skills behind building buzz.

Contributors are at the forefront of what makes a great community.  Not only are they on the front line, furthering your community in the direction of your goals, but they are also your reps and spokespeople.  To encourage your community members to share their joy of being a part of your community, the key is that the communication focuses on the personal story.  Stories are a fantastic form of viral marketing. Once these stories are crystallized, it’s important to get the word out: blogging, social media, word of mouth, interviews, conference presentations, meetings, etc.  Building buzz and excitement in a way that is natural is an art.

Measuring Community

As leaders, we are here to not only lead and inspire members, but also to learn to see the patterns in the chaos that is community.  To really know we are achieving our goals, we need to be able to measure our community effectively.

When it comes to measurement, it’s not just about blindly sucking up information like a black hole.  Instead, it’s about gathering meaningful measurements. The goal is to identify what we don’t know about our community and to use measurements as a means to understand those things better.   By structuring our work effectively and executing it in a predictable manner, we can better communicate outward the success of that work and the value it brings.  By tracking outcomes, we’re also better able to build a culture of delivery.

Managing and Tracking Work

Numbers don’t really give us the full picture.  It’s less about identifying what numbers can represent our work best, but in how we bring value to the company and to the community.  We need to identify where the company wishes to grow value so that we can see how we can apply our efforts to derive value in our work that also meet the wider company needs.   

What do we need to manage?  There are three broad areas:  Projects (things that lead to specific outcomes), growth & decline (i.e. teams, process for contributing work, etc.) and general health (mechanics of how the community works, get a sense for the general health of the community, where are we seeing positive work, where are the issues that need to be addressed?).  In summary, it’ll be very important to track and measure our work.

Community Lead Role

Ideally, the community manager is someone who has close ties to the technical leaders, but also a close connection with the marketing department to help them articulate and express your community story.  To better understand the scope of the role, we need to first understand (a) what the scope of the community is and (b) what your expectations are for someone to work with that community to enable and extend it.  

Customer Success

How are innovative companies reducing churn and growing recurring revenue?

I recently read a book titled “Customer Success” and it’s amazing. I recommend it to every CEO or leader out there who is truly seeking to build a customer success-centric company.

The ‘subscription tsunami’, as outlined in this book, has disrupted the software world, and forced a focus on customers that did not exist previously. This book will help those looking to venture into this new world who are looking for some guidance on how to execute successfully in the subscription economy. Tien Tzuo, the 11th employee at SalesForce, famously once said, “In traditional businesses, the customer relationship ends with the purchase. But in a subscription business, the customer relationship begins with the purchase.” Delivering success today requires constantly checking in with the customer and adapting products and services based on their needs. Ultimately, this approach helps the company to preserve its book of business, opens up doors for additional opportunities, and creates lifelong advocates in our customers. When optimized, Customer Success is the best sales and marketing engine possible.

Customer Success is more than just the right thing to do, it is becoming a business imperative. For this reason, CS teams in many companies today are accountable for customer usage, adoption, and ultimately revenue. Our success is directly tied to that of our customers. The book goes on to explain the fundamental difference between a loyal customer because they have to be (behavioural/intellectual), and then there are customers who are loyal because they love a particular brand or product (attitudinal / emotional). As a vendor, the latter is highly preferable for many reasons: willingness to pay a higher price, less vulnerable to competition, more likely to advocate for “their” brand. There’s just a certain quality to Apple’s product, packaging, ads and presentation that set it apart. It feels almost like magic, but it clearly isn’t. Jobs figured out how to deliver attitudinal loyalty, perhaps better than anyone else.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to build a company that’s customer-success oriented, read ‘Customer Success’ by Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman and Lincoln Murphy.

Digital Minimalism

How does one choose a focused life in a noisy world?

Do you sometimes feel like you’re addicted to your phone? Do you sometimes feel like the possibility of missing out often outweigh and take time from the things you know that have value?

Our current relationship with the technologies of our hyper connected world is unsustainable and is leading us closer to leading lives of quiet desperation. We cannot passively allow the wild tangle of tools, entertainments and distractions provided by the internet age to dictate how we spend our time or how we feel. We must, then take steps to extract the goods from these technologies while sidestepping what’s bad. In this era of digital noise, a new type of philosophy is required; a philosophy that prioritizes long term meaning over short term satisfaction. A philosophy like digital minimalism.

The founding President of Facebook, Sean Parker, in the fall of 2017, spoke candidly at an event about the attention engineering deployed by his former company:

Sean Parker on Facebook

Sean Parker on Facebook

Even Bill Maher joked that the App Store was coming for our souls. When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we diminish our soul’s authority. How do we best use new technologies for our best aspirations and not against them? Digital minimalism is one such strategy.

“Digital minimalism is a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else. “ - Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Principles of Digital Minimalism:

Principle #1: Clutter is costly

Principle #2: Optimization is important.

Principle #3: Intentionality is satisfying.

The Digital Declutter Process:

  1. Put aside a thirty day period during which you will take a break from optional tech in your life.

  2. During this time, explore and rediscover activities and behaviours that you find satisfying and meaningful.

  3. At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies back into your life, starting from a blank state. For each technology you reintroduce, determine what value it serves in your life and how you will specifically use it so as to maximize this value.

These ideas are explored in an awesome book titled “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport. If you feel that you can be more creative and productive in your life, but feel that tech is maybe getting in your way, then I highly suggest reading this book.

How to Start a Startup?

If you’re trying to start a new startup, you’ve come to realize that there’s a tsunami of information out there. Unfortunately, most of it is quite bad advice. So during these times, where do I suggest you look for solid startup advice?

Y combinator (YC) is like the Harvard of startups. I had the good fortune of working for a YC incubated bitcoin company called Buttercoin. YC is based in Silicon Valley and has given rise to massive companies such as AirBnb and DropBox. Sam Altman and crew have decided to make all of their secrets public:

To check out the rest of this essential startup course, visit: https://startupclass.samaltman.com/

As background reading, you may wish to check out this all time classic blog written by Paul Graham:

“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It's to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself. The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way. Why is it so important to work on a problem you have? Among other things, it ensures the problem really exists. It sounds obvious to say you should only work on problems that exist. And yet by far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.”

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the world’s first open source, decentralized digital currency, payment network and ledger.

Bitcoin is an internet based, peer to peer, electronic cash protocol — similar to SMTP, VOIP or HTTP — that enables low cost, fast, programmable and censorship resistant value transfer between any individual — or thing. Important to note that bitcoin can do all of these great things without the need of a trusted third party. No government or company or person owns bitcoin. Bitcoin belongs to everyone and redefines ‘permission-less innovation’.

First, there was the printing press. Then, there was the internet. Now, we have bitcoin.

Google‘s definition of bitcoin

A type of digital currency in which a record of transactions is maintained and new units of currency are generated by the computational solution of mathematical problems, and which operates independently of a central bank. Here’s another amazing description of bitcoin and why bitcoin is revolutionary by the Director of Coincenter as he explains it to the Senate Banking Committee.

Still don’t get it?

What email is to the post office (SMTP), what skype is to the telephone (VOIP), bitcoin is to money over ip (MOIP?).

Enter email.

Go back 15 or 20 years, before email was widely used. Do you remember what it was like to send a letter to your grandmother on the other side of the world? You’d sit down, take out a pen and paper, write out a nice long letter, seal it up, walk over to the post office (9–4) and finally after waiting in line for 15 minutes, you’d get to send off your letter to your sweet grandma. Not to mention, it would cost a lot of money and time to do all of this, it would literally take your grandmother weeks to receive that letter. By the time she received it, the news was old and irrelevant. What a great system.

Sending money today

Think about how money travels around the world today. Let’s say your grandma from half way across the world needs you to send her $100 so that she can get groceries for the month. You will need to go to your bank ATM, take out $100. Wait until Western Union is open. Drive to Western Union. You’d end up paying nearly $20 in fees and if you’re lucky, she’d receive the money in a few days. Does that remind you of something?

Enter bitcoin.

With bitcoin, you literally just click a button and send as little or as much value to another person for just a few pennies. Whenever I introduce new people to bitcoin, I always share the following video. Check it out.

What is bitcoin?

Gold with a tele-porter

Bitcoin is like gold with a teleporter. Due to the inherent nature of bitcoin — fungible, divisible, predictable supply, impossible to forge, portable, global, etc. — many people equate bitcoin to be like an internet based digital gold. Since bitcoin is inherently interoperable, you can easily send bitcoin to anyone, much like how you send an email.

Mastering Bitcoin

If you’re looking to dive even deeper, check out Khan Academy. Here’s one of the best technical descriptions of bitcoin, given by Andreas A., author of Mastering Bitcoin. Below, is also another fairly new, but quite accurate description of bitcoin. Check it out:

What does Satoshi have to say?

If you really wanna know, ask Satoshi, the creator of bitcoin. Satoshi’s white-paper is the most accurate answer to the question, “what is bitcoin?”. Here’s what the white paper says:

“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. Digital signatures provide part of the solution, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted third party is still required to prevent double-spending. We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network. The network timestamps transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work, forming a record that cannot be changed without redoing the proof-of-work. The longest chain not only serves as proof of the sequence of events witnessed, but proof that it came from the largest pool of CPU power. As long as a majority of CPU power is controlled by nodes that are not cooperating to attack the network, they’ll generate the longest chain and outpace attackers. The network itself requires minimal structure. Messages are broadcast on a best effort basis, and nodes can leave and rejoin the network at will, accepting the longest proof-of-work chain as proof of what happened while they were gone.”

I suggest reading the complete bitcoin white paper here.

To finish up, here’s the first bitcoin intro video that I ever saw and love to share with others. Check it out:

Management

The One Minute Manager is a very short book by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. The brief volume tells a story, recounting three techniques of an effective manager: one-minute goals, one-minute praising and one-minute redirects. Each of these takes only a minute but is of lasting benefit. Here’s a diagram which summarizes the key principles taught in the book:

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 12.51.24 PM.png

As Peter Drucker put it, “the very best leaders are first and foremost effective managers.” Those who seek to lead but fail to manage will become either irrelevant or dangerous, not only to their organizations, but to society. To gather a deeper understanding of Management, I suggest reading his book titled “Management”.

The internet provides everyone with equal access to information and eliminates distance in the world economy. The rate of change is accelerating, and one can react to it, adapt to it, or become proactive and lead it - thus influencing future environmental trends. A highly inspired organization consists of people who are proactive in leading change by discerning the future that has already happened.

By taking advantage of emerging trends, executives should embrace the ongoing process of creative destruction that is characteristic of free and global markets. By doing so, these executives become change leaders. An organization that seeks to maintain status quo is already in decline.

Change leaders formulate entrepreneurial strategies and look for opportunities to apply these strategies. They also create an internal culture and set of management systems that encourage and reward innovation and entrepreneurship.

The most effective way to seize opportunities to manage the future that has already happened is to be proactive, take advantage of emerging trends, embrace change, and become a change leader. Management practices must change to fit these new realities of the global, knowledge-based information society.

Innovation

The word “innovation” is thrown around these days, with little appreciation for what it really is. What does it mean to you? Here’s a picture to get the conversation started:

Innovation is where passion, competency and customer needs connect.

Innovation is where passion, competency and customer needs connect.

Innovation is turning an idea into a solution that adds value from a customer’s perspective

What mistake do companies often make when they talk about it? They talk about it being a company value without actually putting the required level of support behind it to make it happen. Coming up with ideas is relatively easy, fast and cheap, but then those ideas need to be executed. This is where companies often fail, by not providing the required level of time and budget to take a rough idea, refine it, experiment on it and finally turn it into a real solution.

Additionally, companies usually think of it just from an internal viewpoint, such as whether they think the offering is being improved when it is updated. In reality, if the customer doesn’t perceive the changes as having value, then they won’t be compelled to purchase it. So it is all about the customer’s perceived value.

What simple thing can a company do to change their perspective about it?  Flip it on its head, and look at every new thing you are trying for various customers’ perspectives.

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