Dear Js,

This beer. It’s not working. Not tipsy enough. I’m fetching another. The first one was my Friday beer. The next one is my celebration beer.

Why? Because I kicked ass today. Mama did too, but I’ll do me first this time, then her, and then later we’re going to talk about why feelings save your life every day.

So I came back home excited today to share the news with mama. And as usual it was impossible to talk. I can’t finish any sentence without you interrupting with something like, “Why does Tank say High Four?” Because he’s a Triceratops. “Why does Tiny say High Three?” Because she’s a Pteranodon. “Why does Buddy say High Two?” Because he’s a T-Rex.

It’s impossible to talk. I was frustrated. So I said I’ll just tell you later.

Anyway… finally! The story unfolds:

Subject: new detailed IP revenue reports
Hi [VP],

Thanks for connecting me with A and B. Below are the “fruits” of your investment.

Using ____ Excels, I made a “web app” to split revenue by IP, and step of engagement:

(intentionally small image)

(intentionally small image so you can’t quite make out the details without clicking through)

This confirms what you shared at the all-hands: ___ is the key horizontal. But it also shows what its breakdown is, as well as what’s in the sales pipeline (e.g., ___, ____).

Links to full interactive reports:
· (01 Dec 2013 – 28 Feb 2014): [link]
· (08 Jun 2013 – 25 Nov 2013): [link]

So, instead of a poor soul suffering weeks/months to process the Excels manually, you can now throw any _____ data to this “app” and it’ll render a report in seconds.

Is this useful for you? This is just one example. The ____ data can be sliced to produce other reports.

Would automatic reports like this be valuable to you in the future? (Please let me know soon, so we can schedule it before [release] ramps up.)



Subject:RE: new detailed IP revenue reports
Hi Aaron,

This is good data. Can we meet for ½ hr on Friday, so I understand this better?

____ – Can you please set up 30 min. with Aaron.



I’ve been trying to sneak access to secret data through another group’s VP. I showed what I found to my group’s Director and he wondered how I got the data. “You didn’t hack their server, did you?” Then our corporate VP happened to drop by and stumbled on what we were doing, “They’re going to want to pull you to marketing. How did you get this? Did you hack their server?”

I don’t know how I feel that one: they think I’m capable of doing that. And two: that they see me as someone who would do that.

So off I went to meet the VP in the other group in Building 4. I found out why he had been ignoring me. He flew to India. He was glad I went around him (while carrying the authority of his name) to smuggle the data from the marketing folks. (Meanwhile, the marketing folks got back to me, saying sorry they’ve been busy. They don’t know that I had given up waiting on them and went back to the front door after I got what I wanted from them. I promised to humor them when they became free, because I sense that my work could cause someone in their group to lose her job — which is a real possibility as I’ll explain soon. I’m trying look like I did my best to be helpful, not hurtful.)

VP asked, “So, what do you have for me?” I said, “What would you like to see? You said you had some questions.” I broke the ice by explaining what he was seeing. Then came a question. And another. And another, like a machine gun. The data showed him things he hadn’t seen, so it brought up questions he never considered. Questions like, “What if you chopped off stages 1-4, because there’s no real money there?” I said, “Do you want to do this right now?” Time for some razzle-dazzle. I Alt-Tabbed to the terminal, added one line of code, Alt-Tabbed back, and hit F5 to refresh the report.

His mind exploded. “You know, what you just did usually takes a week for me to make a request to Amy and for them to manually process it.” I know, I met them. The new data triggered more questions. Again, I Alt-Tabbed, made one-line changes, refreshed, and new report in seconds. We did this 5 more times and by then we had sifted out a nugget of gold. He leaned forward, put a finger on his chin and stared silently. “Wow. This is interesting.” Then he smiled at me. “You know you’re not supposed to have this data, right? This is confidential information.”


He glanced at the clock. 30 minutes, on the dot. “Sh-* I gotta go.” He had even more requests and more questions. I said I’ll send you these latest reports, along with all the knobs we added to refine the report. He paused to think of all the other things he wanted, then stopped himself, “That’s okay, let’s do this for now. You know I’ll have more requests, right? I’m going invite you to my next staff meeting to present this.”

Back at my building, Mr CVP didn’t say anything much until the next day. He called me to his office and I wasn’t in trouble. He must’ve had a good shower that morning because he was bubbling over with ideas. I showed my hand and revealed my plan. I told him a story about my frustration two years ago. I told him how I hated all the airy-fairy, castle-in-the-sky whiteboard discussions, clueless of real $ value with customers. He couldn’t stop nodding. I didn’t have the tools (or the motivation) then, so I couldn’t make anything happen. But I do now. He suggested a few things and I revealed what was already in motion, 2 steps ahead of him. But I said here’s how you can help — get me clearance to the data. He said, “Oh… I thought you had permission,” with a cautious “that changes things” look on his face. I said I don’t have time to wait. He said, “Let me talk to some people.” And til then, I’m going to keep producing proof of what we can do with it — and tease everyone endlessly with the insights we uncover. I want everyone to get sick of hearing about Achilles and my name until someone with enough power asks, “Why aren’t we doing this everywhere?”

My director pulled me aside and said in a low voice, “Be careful.” The real trouble isn’t with Legal. The trouble is it will reveal some uncomfortable truths. I said, “Don’t you want to be in a place where the numbers add up?” He said, “Yes, but what if the numbers adding up means someone gets fired?” I know the top decision-makers want the data. But the current custodians of the data want to cling to it for themselves. Achilles is a cold blade of truth that slices blind. It will cause arguments and people fumbling to explain themselves. And that’s why many won’t want a machine and its handler, let alone someone like me, to wield that power.

I’m just loving the ride. I have no idea how this will unfold when it starts bumping into people’s feelings. It’s a soap opera. Every day, I come in and toss more fuel into the fire and sit back with my popcorn. Some days I make new fires.

Meanwhile, mama keeps getting emails like this, which warms her heart and makes her choke up every time:

Subject: thanks!
I wanted to thank you for your help last week and the few times I have come to see you at the boutique. I hope that my referral of you to other moms is an adequate thank you but I wanted to send you and email as well.

This is a nurse-midwife that mama has been helping. She was referred from the pediatrician’s office she partnered with. (Do you remember how she set it up a few letters back?) So that relationship has been healthy. And now a new advocate is created in this midwife, reaching all moms she will help in her network. (The strategy is “Other People’s Customers.” No matter what business you are in, there are already people serving your customers. In mama’s case these can be baby boutiques, cloth diaper services, pediatricians, doulas and midwives. It helps to figure out how you can be valuable to other people’s customers and businesses, especially the ones who are most likely to need your products or services next.)

Now let’s talk about feelings. And why “Let’s try to make a logical decision” is impossible. Among savvy sales pros, the rule of thumb has been, “People make decisions emotionally. We only use logic to validate our emotional decisions.” (One caveat: because we’ve been marketed to aggressively nowadays, our habit is to run away from anything that looks like hype or selling. So the current winning strategy is to look nothing like advertising, be valuable, and stack proof and benefit over hype.)

However, once you can get past the A-pile B-pile slaughter and have someone’s hooked, emotion beats logic. It’s tested to be true, but I haven’t found an sound explanation why. Until I discovered a study last week.

If you want a shortcut to understanding how people make decisions, just remember that your brain loves shortcuts. It is lazy, it hates to think, and it loves easy shortcuts. And as it turns out, “emotions” are another shortcut your brain needs to make logical decisions.

This is the Somatic Marker hypothesis. They devised an experiment called the Iowa Gambling Task. Test subjects are asked to make bets on card decks. But some decks are stacked to incur painful losses. Test subjects with working emotions (orbitofrontal cortex) learn to avoid the bad decks. But those with OFC dysfunctions keep trying the bad decks, even until they go broke. The test subjects with OFC problems are like people who can’t sense heat. So while normal people know that “fire pain”, “fire bad”, they will keep plunging their hands in the flames, lusting for the gambling reward.

They also found that people with OFC dysfunctions (can’t feel emotions) have trouble making up their minds. One test subject struggled for 30 minutes to decide if Tuesday or Thursday was a better date for the experiment. He went back and forth, weighing all pros and cons logically, but he just couldn’t commit to a decision. The experimenters got tired of waiting and decided “Thursday” for him, and he said “OK” with no objection.

So that’s why it’s called “Somatic Markers”. The theory is that without feelings, we’d all get deadlocked like him. As we deliberate, we “mark” visited paths or options with “feelings”. These feelings serve as shortcuts for us later. If we find ourselves looping back to the same crossroads, we don’t have to re-process the logic. We just have to ask our OFC, “Do you remember what I felt about this before?” Then, we sway our thinking toward paths that feel good, and avoid paths feel bad. Our emotions let us mark the crossroad signs with a colored ribbon.

So persuasion is all about helping someone make decisions. And the most effective way is to take advantage of “shortcuts” our brains use. Then here’s what you do if you want to sell someone something, or help someone see why what you’re selling is right (or not right) for them:

Help them use emotions as much as you can. Mark “happy” on all the paths you want them to take, and “sad” or “pain” on all the paths you don’t. Then let their logic do what it does to make it make sense. Our brain is amazing at making up stories we want to believe. You just have to use emotions to give it a reason to.

Meanwhile, in the product development labs…

Jardy hunkered down and banged out the test DVD for his testers. He emerged and asked me what I thought. Check out the “Before” below and see what you think is missing. Don’t cheat and scroll down for my answers until you watch a couple of minutes and take a shot.



And then he breaks it down. Can you spot the difference? The thing I noticed with the first cut is he just jumped right into it. It’s a problem every creator or artist suffers. You often spend too much time focused on one knot in your tapestry, that you forget that other people don’t see as closely you see, and they’re not starting from where you are. In his case, he had been working on the DVD for months, and he has been a dancer all his life. So it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a beginner. This is the Curse of Knowledge.

So to try to make the feedback as digestible as possible, I tried to point him to something he did, instead of something I thought or made. I pointed him to proof of what he did better: his YouTube videos. He fine-tuned a winning format there, so I pointed out what was good about that format that was missing in his DVD: Problem → Agitate → Solve.

Always start by setting up the problem. In the original cut, he jumped right into technique. It’s hard to get excited about the solution without first remembering the painful problem. What he came up with was perfect. Watch how he shines a spotlight on the problem and twists the dagger. E.g.,

“A lot of people have a problem not with learning the moves, but learning how to put the moves together… you have one move, and you want to go to another move, but you don’t really know how to “flow” it… so you end up stopping… and what you have is really a chain of movements that don’t really flow together. Ever had that problem? Well we’re here to fix that.”

Brilliant. Now he has their attention, and they can’t sleep until they find the answer.

But the answer doesn’t come… yet. The next clip is a tease/demonstration. Something for them to aspire to. E.g. “This is what you’ll be learning next.” NOW they’re ready to learn.

Some interesting stuff: Haenyo – 50-60 yr old Korean grandmas who dive for up to 2 mins by holding their breath to harvest clams, urchins, oysters, sea cucumbers, octopuses, etc. It’s a matriarch too. The women go fishing every day while the men stay at home. That story led me to freediver Guillaurme Nery and this video.

Redecorating & changes around the house.

Where did the TV go?

Where did the TV go?

We needed more space, so I now park my car on the street. One day I suggested to mama, “Maybe you could move the TV into the garage and make a dance/workout place.” The next day, the TV was gone, replaced by this poster. It’s now in the garage, in front of an exercise mat. On the mat is a weight bar. The extra space is nice. Your bikes can all go there now, including boxes of beer, scooter, strollers. J2 mama said you enjoyed watching and cheering her on the other day. She put a gate in the garage door and you were watching from the living room.

Intro to Astronomy

"I like the planets on the ceiling."

“I like the planets on the ceiling.”

You like looking up from your back on the ground. You said so yourself. You’ve invited me to lay down next to you twice. Since the planets went up, we’ve been having interesting conversations:

“Why number 1 is Monday?”

“Why are we on planet Earth?”

We were reading “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site” one night. It’s a book you’ve read enough to know all the words and pictures. But you stopped and asked, “Why does this moon have eyes?” Good thing I waited to answer. Because I would never have guessed what you were thinking: “Why does it not look like a rock?” Why? “Maybe it’s a pretend moon.” Yes… you might be right.

Later, you dug for your sticker book. “I found a sticker with a ring around it.” (Saturn)

The joys of poo. You won’t understand how happy poo can make you feel until you are a parent. And your child goes after not going for 2 weeks. We were considering a suppository. You pleaded, “Nooo I don’t want a suppository! I need some time. I want to sit on the potty. I will make it tonight. I will make it tomorrow!” I didn’t want to risk you developing poophobia, so I sucked it up and tried a different approach. I decided to coach you through it. It was going to take a long time, but this was best. First I got an empty paper towel roll to demonstrate how your intestines work. I shoved your pants out one end. Poop goes in. Poop must come out. If it doesn’t come out, it gets stuck and hard. I said touch it. You were afraid to but you eventually confirmed it was true with your finger. Then I said sometimes it takes time. It’s okay. You can try making sounds like NHHHHHH. Or EEEEEeeee. Or you can make your tummy like this. I lifted my shirt and sucked my tummy in and stretched it out. You tried it and the “urge” came and you frowned. “DADDY! DADDY! HUG!” I said yes, that’s it! That’s what it feels like. Don’t stop it, let it come out. Back to the paper towel visuals. I knew we were making progress because you had goosebumps and it started to smell. Mama came over after putting J to bed and tagged me out. She told me later that did more paper towel demos and you said, “Mama, please don’t put anymore kaka in.”

Then it happened. “WAAAAAAAA! AAAAAAAA!” You screamed for 5 minutes straight. I went to see. You were standing with your hair wet with sweat. It was the size of a miniature dachshund. You said, “It has three pieces. It looks like a puzzle.”

We’ve given in to let you watch your first cartoon show: Dinosaur Train. Your favorite episodes are “Train Trouble” and “Tiny’s Tiny Doll.” We did this because of the sty on your left eyelid. It’s a treat for sitting still with a warm pillow over your eye. It’s nice that even though it’s like crack, because you don’t watch TV, you understand the deal. You hop off when your pillow is done. And you only ask for it when it’s eye pillow time. I have to say TV really makes your life easy. Mama left early one morning. We were late and I hadn’t walked Kimi or done your eye pillow. So I sat you on the couch, put my phone in your lap and told you to hold the pillow to your eye; and took Kimi out. I knew you weren’t going anywhere. But as I was walking, I panicked when I wondered, “What if he touches the screen and it stops playing?” Mama loves the Dinosaur Train A-Z song.

Your evil streak is out. You pushed your sister’s head *bang* against the wall, and laugh. You tripped her. You stabbed her leg with a dinosaur tail. When we say no, you say, “I’m just still learning.”

Julie, you look so big but you’re still so tiny. I was proud of myself the other day. I put you back to sleep. All by myself. Mama went to help our neighbor with something. And you woke up. I wanted to try putting you back to sleep without calling mama. We walked around, just like I did with J. I sang a lullaby. I focused on relaxing my body, because I didn’t want you to sense tenseness in my voice or body. I wanted you to feel that I was so relaxed and calm that you’d start yawning. You cried and resisted at first, but when you did the triple sigh I knew it was working. I kept at it. You got tired, then frustrated that you were flopping around with no where to rest your head. So I laid you down, and you fussed and turned a little. I put my face against your back and sang. I hoped the vibrations would soothe you. It worked. I sighed too.

Toddler transformations

You know the foundation words now. I don’t know what the foundation words are, but what I mean is that when I explain something to you, you get what I’m trying to say, even if you don’t know the words. Like when you heard a plane. I pointed at the sky and said “Plane”. We did this a few times. Then one day, the sound flew above, and you looked up and said, “Pehn.” You also know Baby, Ball, Yes, No.

You like walking around:

You like music and dance:

You can go upstairs:

And your first stair downing! I love teaching you new things. At first you wanted to put your hands on me. But that doesn’t help you do it by yourself. So I coaxed your hands onto the steps. Then I showed how you stretch one leg down at a time:

Also, your fifth tooth has emerged! And you still eat everything.

This week in pictures…


Another book memorized

Too much energy


Funny climbers

Screwing the screw

Giraffe in a box




P.S. – Do you wonder how I write these letters? OK, maybe not. But the following tips might be useful if you ever have to produce writing on regular basis. First, always take notes. My dad (your grandpa) used to always have a notepad with him. I use a digital one on my phone. Be a collector of stories. Taking notes forces you to be present and always on the lookout for how you can see the extraordinary in something ordinary or mundane to you at the time.

When it’s time to write, throw all your notes down. Jot down anything you have missed. Do not edit (yet). Just let it flow out. Then, what I do is I let it stew in the back of my mind for a few days. I am looking for a theme or hook. Something interesting to give you a taste and make you care. Something to tie everything together. Then, I organize, sort and thread everything together under the theme or hook. I force myself to stop at most 2 or 3 passes of edits. I’m okay if these aren’t perfect. I don’t care to make each letter perfect as much as I care to improve from one year to the next.

P.P.S. –

I keep working out my arms so I can still do this as you two get heavier

I keep working out my arms so I can do this as you two get heavier

P.P.P.S. – On Wednesday night, you said to me before you drifted to sleep, “Daddy? Pretend that you stay at home with us tomorrow?” Thursday night is when you stay at home with your sister and mama. And I go to work. Killed me.