Washington Post

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As children imagining our life as adults, we assume we’ll have a better understanding of life’s big questions. Our evolution from childhood to adulthood — dependence to autonomy — is defined by our belief that we will learn to better navigate the world around us.

We expected we would be in control of our destinies, yet each day, we are reminded that this expectation was (and is) wildly unrealistic.

Which brings me to today’s big questions and how they defy easy understanding.

Much has been written in this election cycle about ignorance and displeasure. There are many reasons offered for why people are angry, why they shout: “Our country is becoming unhinged.”

Let’s all take a deep breath.

It seems to me that our national mood is actually being framed by our childhood expectations. We want the world to make sense to us — we expect it to.

Nothing is more disappointing than not receiving what we believe we were entitled. For children, that disappointment spawns temper tantrums. When kids react with an emotional outburst, we send them to the corner for “time outs.” What should we do for ourselves?

Unquestionably, life in our country has become more complicated. Technology and change are a double-edged sword. They are drivers for wealth creation and opportunity, reaching into all aspects of our society, yet at the same time, they bring about tremendous complex challenges.

A big issue in the current election is globalization. Some say it is better for our citizens than the alternative of economic isolation. Statistics show worldwide wealth has increased over the last 50 years. But, has it been…

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Since the launch of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has based his qualifications on his experience as a businessperson — that his financial acumen would make him a good president. I see this as an incredible opportunity for voters to finally get a clear picture of a candidate’s true colors — if they are willing to look for the truth.

My father was an entrepreneur. He often reminded me “we all leave footprints” in business; how we act and what we do is captured in personal memories of those with whom we worked.

Building a business is a multiple-step endeavor: Find a market, hire people, build a product, sell that product and hopefully have a lifelong relationship with a customer. Each step of the way, actual human beings are on the other side of the transaction, with their own needs. How you get a customer to agree with you, and find a common ground, is a core skill of successful business people.

My father’s point was a simple one. Unlike politics, where a candidate can often spin the past, or reinvent him or herself through great public relations, those varied steps in growing an enterprise are harder to whitewash — there are just too many of them.

To truly understand the character of a business person, let’s take advantage of the proof out there for all to see. Not simply in the achievement of the success, but in how they climbed to that point.

Business people come in all shapes and sizes, with a multitude of personal ways to negotiate and gather resources. Some look at the world as a zero sum game where every transaction has a winner and a loser while others believe that both sides in a negotiation can benefit equally. Some operate as if a negotiation is never over, and deals can be reopened after they have closed. Another tactic is to lie during negotiations. Then again, I have seen smart people knowingly lose out on opportunities because they told the truth.

For years, I have worked with psychologists who specialize in leadership development and have coached hard-working people on how to grow successful businesses. One recurring lesson I have seen imparted is that under stress, people return to their core behavior, their own very personal winning strategy if you will — personality traits they rely on to get what they want.

We learn our personal winning strategies when we are very young. Whether it’s to be a bully, to collaborate, to be analytical or to cajole, we began applying those skills in our nursery school sandbox.

So because business is often a highly stressful place where we end up showing our true nature and are most authentic when engaged in commerce, we are fortunate as the voting public to have a candidate this time around whose record we can examine in ways beyond the rudimentary count of how many buildings or widgets carry the company name. We can ask tough questions to those who transacted with Trump, and perhaps saw his true, instinctive nature. His candidacy provides us with a transparency…

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This summer marks the 47th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. Last week in Boston, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced significant improvements and expansion of the Pentagon’s capability to work with agile innovators. These two events are related in very important ways.

The Apollo program’s moon landings remain among the most significant accomplishments of “big science,” the term used to describe a program of developing and achieving innovations using large centralized teams. Generally, big science addresses challenges that are believed to not be suitable for solution by small autonomous groups.

During World War II, big science became a tactic for creating advanced technologies, the most emblematic being the Manhattan Project — the research and development effort behind the first nuclear weapons. After the war, big science continued to be the primary model for discovering new innovations. A vast network of university and federal labs was created to continue to advance technology, and the model was adopted by private companies such as AT&T in its Bell Labs.

Much of the development and application of big science was promoted and funded by the Department of Defense. As Secretary Carter stated last week, the Defense Department had a long history of working to develop important new technologies such as the jet engine, satellite communications, Internet, and GPS. He noted that this “cooperation among industry, the academy and government helped make our military what it is today: the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

Over the last 20 years, the big science model has been challenged by the emergence of innovation from small and agile teams. It has been facilitated by the commoditization of software — lowering the costs of creating software  to effectively zero — as well as the…

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Some might say that it is the Pet Rock of this generation: Pokémon Go. With yet another excuse to bury themselves in their smart phones, young adults have been absent-mindedly stepping into the road, or other inappropriate places, with greater frequency than usual — as they become literal followers of the game’s characters.

I believe that Pokémon Go is indicative of a broader trend.

Recently, Elon Musk remarked that he believed that we are living in a computer simulation. “There’s a one in billions chance that this is base reality,” he said. He sees the evolution of computing power and the overwhelming attraction to virtual reality. As a Silicon Valley thought leader, he calculates it as an obvious outcome of technology’s indefatigable march forward: we live in a simulation operated by our distant descendants. Pretty heavy stuff. We are living in the film “The Matrix,” where billions of humans are neurally connected, and are unaware that the world is actually virtual reality.

While I am not sure whether Elon Musk is right about whether we are living in a simulation, I do believe that as a result of the success of Pokémon Go a reality that is shaped only by what we see around us will be encroached upon more often by experiences that were previously only digital in nature.

As virtual reality hardware and software are coming on line, there has been a discussion in the technology community as to whether there yet exists a “killer app” for virtual reality. Technologists use the term killer app to describe a software product that drives consumer adoption of new technology hardware. For example, spreadsheets were the killer app that drove the adoption of PCs into the business world, and iTunes was the killer app that drove adoption of the IPod.

Is Pokémon Go the killer app for virtual reality?

Based upon its explosive growth over the last month, many think that Pokémon Go may be a candiddate. The financial markets appear to think so – the stock price of Nintendo has doubled since Pokémon Go was released.

What has caused Pokémon Go to grow its user base so explosively? I spoke recently with Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School about the Pokémon Go phenomenon.

Listen to my interview with Jonah Berger.

He believes its popularity relies upon its visibility in the physical world – people can see their friends playing and congregating. Even in our hyper connected online world, what those…

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Buried under a difficult week of news about race and violence in this country was a big economic story. The U.S. stock market traded at historical highs, and yet as recently as two weeks ago, many market observers were warning of a recession. Here’s why this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Look around the world and the reality is that there simply isn’t a better place for investors right now. Thanks to former British prime minister David Cameron, the European Community will now suffer through a two-year Hamlet-like grappling by the English of how to handle Brexit. The United Kingdom’s economy is in neutral. Meanwhile, the Euro continues to operate as a fiscal hammer lock on the economies of Greece, Italy, Portugal and the other EU countries not named Germany.

China’s economy is propped up by a …

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I am often asked which of my life experiences prepared me most to be an entrepreneur. The answer: being in a rock band.

Certainly, I have had many experiences that have shaped me. My parents and grandparents were all business owners and when your entire family is supported by small businesses, you tend to grow up expecting to make money the same way.

My father’s sudden death in my early 20s set me on the path of understanding the fragility of life, and ensured I didn’t pass up opportunities to enjoy new experiences and growth.

Stories like this help us understand why someone becomes an entrepreneur but not necessarily what it’s like to be one.

Which brings me to rock and roll.

Musicians come together as a group of previously disconnected people to…

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The mythology of origins is a hallmark of every nation. Whether it was two brothers raised by a wolf or the founding fathers, a nation’s sense of itself is based on a shared story of its birth.

Consider the Fourth of July, a moment when we celebrate and retell our story. Buried within our expectations of fireworks, hotdogs and picnics, we are encouraged to take a moment to look back at our nation’s establishment.

We speak about freedom, democracy and liberty. Core values derived from our nation’s creation, the words have a talismanic nature; we feel them deeply. The words resonate and define us as a group.

Yet, across the United States of America, as we recite and recall these founding concepts, we don’t all see them the same way. We share the story of the founding fathers — yet over the generations, our national identity has apparently frayed.

Our current political discourse about freedom and rights is illustrative. Whether discussing business, religion, guns, or heath care, our national conversation eventually leads to fundamental disagreement.

Often, the differing views stem from…

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The United Kingdom’s elections are often a leading indicator for our own, as is evidenced with the emergence of conservatism, centrist liberalism and fiscal austerity. Last week’s emphatic decision to leave the European Community could be the next one.

In some ways, it was predictable. Think about the psychological underpinnings of the European Union: In the 1950s, a consensus formed in Germany and France that to prevent further wars, Germany had to be closely tied to its neighbors. At the same time, Germans feared inflation was the incipient cause of its decline.

These two factors have driven behavior in Europe since then. France and Germany enjoyed closer economic integration, and that alleviated Germans’ fear of inflation. That bonding trend spread across the continent, explaining the desire for open borders between EU member nations. The union produced regulations promoting uniformity of labor markets and the austerity movement designed to help Europe recover from the 2008 recession. However, the EU, while offering solutions for its members has also created fundamental problems.

Immigration and government indebtedness have created fault lines in the EU’s strength. It couldn’t…

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Imagine how much happier you would be at tax time if your IRS filing came to you pre-populated with your income and deductions, so all you had to do was sign and wait for your refund. Or, if you could apply for disability payments and arrange for direct deposit over the Internet. How about being able to start a new company online in minutes? Wouldn’t you like to be able to discover when your personal data was accessed by a government employee?

Estonians can do things like this. But not us Americans.

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I shared my views on business growth during a talk with entrepreneurs in Hawaii last week. Far away from Washington, D.C., I learned from my audience several very important things about our region’s place in entrepreneurship and innovation.

The first thing that struck me was how our capital region has a powerful influence on many of the innovators I met. Forever Oceans , a company offering high-tech ways to curb overfishing and foster sustainability, was seeded by significant federal funding. It uses technology spun out of Lockheed Martin, one of the largest government contractors in our region.

Etaphase is a material sciences start-up developing new materials that could dramatically change data transmission and the energy consumption of existing communications equipment. Again, the company was seeded by federal dollars and because the technology has national security benefits, the company has a growing nexus to our region.

The W.M. Keck Observatory atop Hawaii’s dormant Mauna Kea volcano is leading the charge on planet discovery and other major discoveries of the nature of our universe. As recently as last week it was in the news illuminating the nature of galactic expansion. NASA is a partner.

There I was, 4,772 miles from home, yet I kept seeing evidence of just how pervasive Washington’s influence is on technology innovation.

Beyond technology, Hawaiians use another technique entrepreneurs in the greater Washington region have harnessed…

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