Tag Archives: california

Plan To Make Silicon Valley Its Own State Gets Green Light To Collect Votes

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Back when we first found out about investor Tim Draper’s plan to break California into six different states (including one for Silicon Valley), we weren’t sure how far the unorthodox plan would go.

But, just this week, Draper got the green light from the state to go ahead and collect signatures to put his plan on the California ballot.

To be sure, he’ll still need to gather about 800,000 signatures to put it before the voters; and, even if it were successful at the ballot box, it could face opposition from federal authorities.

Without a groundswell of support, Draper will have to pay an army of signature gatherers to stand outside grocery-store parking lots and bus stations to wrangle residents for their approval. Such campaigns can pay $3 a signature or more to signature gatherers (a.k.a. the folks that sit outside grocery stores with a clipboard), but Draper told me that he’s willing to put money into a campaign to see this project through.

Earlier this year, the state of California put out an official analysis of what would happen to California if Silicon Valley became its own state. Given the Valley’s high concentration of wealth, a lot of funding for schools and social services would be stripped away from the less financially successful parts of the state if it somehow succeeded.

But Draper says that California has become too unwieldy in its current form and needs to be decentralized. Specifically, the proposed six new states are Silicon Valley, West California, Jefferson, South California, Central California and North California.

It’s still a long shot, but Draper seems to have made it through the first hoop.


California regulator seeks to shut down ‘learn to code’ bootcamps

California regulator seeks to shut down ‘learn to code’ bootcamps
Hackbright Academy

Hackbright Academy and others face hefty fines if they don’t comply with regulators

A handful of California coding bootcamps are fighting for survival after receiving a stern warning from regulators.

Unless they comply, these organizations face imminent closure and a hefty $50,000 fine. A BPPE spokesperson said these organizations have two weeks to start coming into compliance.

In mid-January, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) sent cease and desist letters to Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor, App AcademyZipfian Academy, and others. General Assembly confirmed that it began working on this issue several months ago in order to achieve compliance with BPPE.

MORE: California bootcamp will work with regulator: ‘Whatever the cost — it’s worth it to satisfy the state’ (interview)

BPPE, a unit in the California Department of Consumer Affairs, is arguing that the bootcamps fall under its jurisdiction and are subject to regulation. BPPE is charged with licensing and regulating postsecondary education in California, including academic as well as vocational training programs. It was created in 2010 by the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009, a bill aimed at providing greater oversight of the more than 1,500 postsecondary schools operating in the state.

These bootcamps have not yet been approved by the BPPE and are therefore being classified as unlicensed postsecondary educational institutions that must seek compliance or be forcibly shut down.

“Our primary goal is not to collect a fine. It is to drive them to comply with the law,” said Russ Heimerich, a spokesperson for BPPE. Heimerich is confident that these companies would lose in court if they attempt to fight BPPE.

Heimerich stressed that these bootcamps merely need to show that they are making steps toward compliance: “As long as they are making a good effort to come into compliance with the law, they fall down low on our triage of problem children. We will work with them to get them licensed and focus on more urgent matters,” Heimerich said.

Jake Schwartz, chief executive of General Assembly, recommended that companies work closely with BPPE. “We see government as a stakeholder — along with our students,” he said in a phone interview.

The coding bootcamps met Wednesday afternoon to plot a course of action.

Anthony Phillips, cofounder of Hack Reactor, said the founders of these bootcamps are not averse to oversight and regulation in principle. ”I would like to be part of a group that creates those standards,” he said in an interview at the Hack Reactor offices in downtown San Francisco. “However, what that looks like and what makes sense for our schools is not necessarily going to fit in the current regulations.”

Phillips’ cofounder at Hack Reactor, Shawn Drost, added: “We’re taking this seriously, but our legal and policy advisors are confident in a positive and rather conventional outcome.”

In the learn-to-code movement, online schools and in-person courses are springing up to meet a huge need for more developers across a wide range of industries. For a price, these schools offer training in digital skills, such as software development, data science, and user experience design.

The programs typically last 10 to 12 weeks. Potential recruits are often told that they have a shot at a job or internship at a competitive tech company like Facebook or Google. Tuition costs vary widely. At Hackbright Academy, it’s $15,000 for a 10 week program. Full scholarships are available, and students who land a job at a company in the Hackbright network can request a partial refund. At Hack Reactor, where tuition costs over $17,000, 99 percent of students are offered a job at companies like Adobe and Google. According to Phillips, the average salary for a computer scientist at these firms is over six figures.

Many of these boot camps have a strong social purpose: They specialize in bringing diversity to the tech sector and in helping underemployed or unemployed Californians find jobs. Hackbright, for instance, specializes in teaching women to code so they can compete for lucrative computer engineering jobs.

These bootcamps claim to be doing something innovative for which BPPE’s regulation is not applicable. But BPPE’s point of view is different: It is treating them in a similar manner to any other trade school and online education program.

The bootcamps fear that they will go bankrupt as regulatory processes can take up to 18 months.

This isn’t the first time that tech startups have clashed with regulators. The battle with BPPE is reminiscent of the FDA’s crackdown on 23andMe, which seems to have stemmed from the genetic-testing company’s unwillingness to submit its DNA tests for FDA approval. Similarly, Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar have been fighting with transit authorities around the country, with cities arguing that these companies should be regulated as taxi companies.

Startups argue that regulators are holding back innovation; regulators believe that consumer safety and fraud prevention is at stake.

Here’s a formal statement to the press from App Academy, Dev Bootcamp, Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor, and Zipfian Academy:

The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), a California regulatory agency under the Department of Consumer Affairs, has contacted us regarding our status under their regulations.  We welcome appropriate oversight in our fledgling industry, and are in close discussions with the BPPE to define our classification and take appropriate next steps.

The assembled companies are App Academy, Dev Bootcamp, Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor, and Zipfian Academy.  Since 2011, our workforce development programs have been operating in California, offering hands-on training for coding novices.  Thousands of individuals have participated, often finding high-paying employment in the field, and the programs themselves employ hundreds of individuals.  We are a valuable, thriving, and well-intentioned sector of California’s economy and workforce development, and our programs offer high-demand skills training to unemployed and underemployed Californians.

VentureBeat is creating an index of the most exciting cloud-based services for developers. Take a look at our initial suggestions and complete the survey to help us build a definitive index. We’ll publish the official index later this month, and for those who fill out surveys, we’ll send you an expanded report free of charge. Speak with the analyst who put this survey together to get more in-depth information, inquire within.

Why You Need a Body of Work

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An excerpt from the first chapter of Pam Slim’s new book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

– George Bernard Shaw

The white paint was peeling, and chunks of plaster were missing from the exterior walls. Most of the white windows were broken. Rusted swings hung from an iron frame, and the tattered playground sat on twisted pieces of asphalt. Graffiti and trash littered the outside of the building.

For two decades, members of the small California coastal town of Port Costa, population 200, had walked and driven past the old fading schoolhouse without giving it a second thought. The town was a mix of antique shops, aging homes, and old shipyard buildings, so a bit of decay did not seem out of the ordinary.

But my dad saw something else.

Under the cracked paint and broken windows, he saw vibrant, rich community center.

“The first time I saw the Port Costa School, I knew it was made to be an institution of learning. It was supposed to be filled with people learning Spanish, or painting, or tap dancing,” my dad said.

The building had not been used as a school since 1966. And so despite having no plan, no experience with historical building restoration, no construction skills, and no way to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to fix the school, my dad and Diane, my bonus mom (my term for stepmom), decided they would purchase the building.

The fact that my dad would take on such an audacious challenge was not a surprise to me. All my life, I had watched him embrace the craft of his photography, obsessing over the perfect shot. When I was in preschool, I attended city council meetings in San Anselmo, California, where for three years, he patiently worked to establish the state’s first curbside recycling program, in 1971.

After decades of observing my dad’s work, I realized that he was not just building a career (although he was a very successful professional photographer), he was not just being a volunteer (although he spent hundreds of hours of unpaid time on community projects), but he was creating a deep and rich body of work that not only had great meaning and significance to him but also created considerable change and value in his community. It didn’t really matter if a project was overwhelming, or even impossible; if it fit within his vision of what he wanted to create for himself and for the world, he embraced it. It was an inspiring lesson for me.

As I watched the global economy fall to pieces in 2007 and sink into a deep recession for a solid six years after that, creating fear and stress and uncertainty in workers of all stripes, it dawned on me:

My dad just might hold the secret to thriving in the new world of work.

How do you make sense of your career in a work environment that no longer has any predictable career paths?

How do you create stability in a world that has no job security, uncertain markets, threats of terrorism, and a fiercely competitive global workforce?

How do you balance making a living with making time for family, health, and recreation?

How do you develop relationships with mentors when everyone is so busy?

How do you keep your skills relevant in a world that moves so quickly that companies are launched, or destroyed, in a day?

How do you plan for your financial future when you have no idea if your income stream will slow to a trickle, or even dry up completely if you get laid off or go through a difficult stage of business?

Standard career advice would say to get more education, work harder, and make yourself indispensible to your organization or customer base.

This advice made a lot of sense in the twentieth century. In the twenty-first century, this advice is incomplete.

I have spent the last twenty years coaching thousands of employees, executives, and entrepreneurs in a huge variety of industries. I have watched organizations start, grow, shrink, and implode. I have sat across the table from longtime employees and watched them get laid off. I have helped start hundreds of new companies.

From these experiences I know the following to be true:

No one is looking out for your career anymore. You must find meaning, locate opportunities, sell yourself, and plan for failure, calamity, and unexpected disasters. You must develop a set of skills that make you able to earn an income in as many ways as possible.

The new world of work requires a new lens and skill set to ensure career success. You must create your own body of work as you toil in different organizational systems and structures.

When you view your career through the lens of an over-arching body of work, you:

  • know the deeper roots that connect your entire work and life experience.
  • count all significant experiences and skills in your life as “ingredients” that can be put together into interesting new “work recipes.”
  • are not afraid of pursuing work inside and outside of companies.
  • base career decisions on your ability to foster skill development and meaningful creative output, as well as financial stability.
  • choose to work for organizations that share your values and interests.
  • contribute significant, useful and beautiful things to the world.
  • are aware of the risks and pitfalls in the creative process and have the tools and resources to deal with them.
  • have mental clarity, intellectual rigor, and self-awareness.
  • have an active, motivated, and engaged group of peers and mentors.
  • live by a very personal definition of success.
  • can tell a clear, compelling story about your work path at each stage of your career.

In my dad’s case, he was a professional photographer and journalist. He worked most of his career for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), detouring for eight years to work for an oil company before returning to PG&E and staying until retirement.

He survived multiple layoffs through the decades—the most noteworthy when ten of the eleven staff members in his department were laid off, leaving him shell-shocked and alone in his office.

In such a volatile environment, he did some specific things:

  • He always focused on the mastery of his craft, inside and outside of work.
  • He never got lazy, or took his work for granted. Although I never heard of a situation where a client was unhappy with his photographs, he still worried every time he sent in a job.
  • When he got divorced, he took a manual labor job at an oil company. He hated it with a passion. But he kept plugging away so he could provide for himself and his kids, did freelance photography on the side, and waited for the opportunity to back to PG&E. It took eight years.
  • He showed deep respect for everyone he came in contact with, especially the frontline employees who were repairing power lines in the middle of a storm. He never forgot what it was like to do manual labor and related to them with humility and compassion.
  • He truly appreciated his role inside a large organization that provided financial stability as well as many opportunities to grow professionally.
  • He was passionate about community service. He was one of a handful of volunteers who recycled all the glass and aluminum in Port Costa every two weeks for thirteen years.
  • He showed his kids and grandkids how enriching work can be when one truly delights in its craft. We were all inspired to pursue meaningful and significant careers.

My dad turned sixty-five in November 1999, making him eligible for retirement benefits. In December 1999, he was laid off with a severance package. To this day, at the age of seventy-eight, he still does freelance projects for PG&E.

Was my dad lucky? Very. But I think the fact that he always viewed his career as more than a straight and narrow path, and always as a more cumulative and connected body of work, saved him from layoffs, opened up new opportunities, and allowed him to feel great success and satisfaction in his life.

What exactly is a body of work?

As Daniel Pink wrote in Drive, “The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

Your body of work is everything you create, contribute, affect, and impact. For individuals, it is the personal legacy you leave at the end of your life, including all the tangible and intangible things you have created. Individuals who structure their careers around autonomy, mastery and purpose will have a powerful body of work.

For organizations, it is the products, property, inventions, ideas, and value they share throughout the course of their existence. Organizations that structure their internal strategies around autonomy, mastery and purpose will be more competitive and resilient.

Smiling and waving at your neighbor every morning as you get the paper can contribute to your bigger desire to see more civility and joy in the world.

My passion for and commitment to individual determination and transformation has led me from community development projects on the outskirts of Bogotá, Columbia, to science and art education to teaching martial arts to corporate consulting to parenting to blogging to entrepreneur coaching and writing books. And it will take me in new directions in the future, without having to feel constrained by any one audience or business or job title.

A body of work is big and deep and complex. It allows you to experiment and play and change and test.

It supports creative freedom.

It includes obvious things, like books, software code, photographs, videos, process improvements, paintings and stories.

And not-so-obvious things, like community development, love, movements, memories and relationships.

Bodies of work often have big overarching themes, such as:

Solving complex problems—Like David Batstone’s commitment to end human trafficking with his nonprofit advocacy organization, Not For Sale.

Building bridges—like Kai Dupe and his work to bridge the digital divide in technology for people of color.

Changing the world through powerful communication—like Nancy Duarte, who has changed the way business leaders create and deliver presentations.

Making the world more accessible to more people—like Glenda Watson Hyatt, the Canadian writer and motivational speaker with cerebral palsy who writes with her left thumb.

Strengthening the bond between parents and children—like Marilyn Scott-Waters, a children’s book author who has created a world of free paper toys at thetoymaker.com.

Each of these examples shows a deep commitment to a cause or problem that is bigger than any one job title or profession or business. And they can include a whole range of output, including writing, physical products, legal legislation, systems, speeches, books, conversations and advocacy.

Focusing on building a body of work will give you more freedom and clarity to choose different work options throughout the course of your life, and you’ll be able to connect your diverse accomplishments, sell your story, and continually re-invent and relaunch your brand.

You won’t have to say things like “I am throwing away ten years of studying and practicing law if I start a yoga studio.”

(Don’t worry—your relatives will say it.)

Or “I am undermining my potential if I take a job as a barista” after you get laid off from your corporate job as a highly paid creative.

If your body of work is about creating beauty and art, why not make lovely images in latte foam while you retool for a new job?

It’s also possible to contribute to your body of work if you work in a cubicle inside a larger company.

While the organization may have amnesia about your contribution to its body of work, you know what you created and what you are capable of.

If you completed a huge, significant project, did a spectacular job, and it ended up getting shelved right before being launched, you still did all that work. It may not become part of the organization’s legacy, but it is part of yours.

You can order Body of Work, Pam Slim’s latest book,
Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Solar Power of the People, by the People and for the People

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Tired of playing the stock market? Wish you were in a position to invest in things that really matter, instead of just another bloated corporation? That alternative may finally be here.

Mosaic first made waves a few years ago with a platform to help communities crowdfund their own renewable energy projects. The idea, which we reported on here, was a solid one. The only problem was a limited number of projects and the fact that contributors didn’t see any return on their investment, besides a sense of community and personal satisfaction. It was kind of like when you donate to a Kickstarter campaign and just get a thank you note in return.

Just last week, the company made headlines again. This time, Mosaic announced that they were taking their crowdfunding investment scheme public. Anyone living in New York or California, or “accredited investors” living in other states, is invited to contribute what money they can, just like a typical crowdfunding campaign. The difference is, every cent contributed will be used to construct large scale solar projects across the nation, and the revenues are used to pay investors a handsome rate of interest.

“We see a massive transition coming from fossil fuels to clean energy, and we think people should be able to profit from that transition,” said Billy Parish, Mosaic’s President. “Mosaic is creating the architecture for mass participation in the clean energy economy.”

It’s hard to disagree with him. Why should venture capitalists and energy companies be the only ones to benefit from the efficiencies of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy? Also, why should we wait for them to decide it’s time to invest? Solar Mosaic’s public investment program puts the power to move forward on commercial scale solar into the hands of ordinary people like you and me.

The new online platform for investors opened on January 7th. Within 24 hours the first four projects were completely sold out, i.e. funded. Can you imagine getting funding from a bank or private investor that quickly? Over 400 investors took advantage of the opportunity, putting in between $25 and $30,000. In total, investors put in over $313,000 with an average investment of nearly $700. Unfortunately, I’m not a resident of the two qualifying states. If I were, it’d be no problem to scrape together $25 to help build a solar farm. And if I kept reinvesting it, that $25 could grow into much more with out a lot of effort on my part.

Mosaic’s first investment offerings for New York and California residents are in solar projects on affordable housing apartments for low-income residents in California and offer a 4.5 percent annual return, net of servicing fees, with terms of approximately nine years. With 10 year Treasuries at near historic lows, Mosaic’s expected yields are competitive with the best investment products on the market. And there’s no scary investment firm or high priced broker involved. It’s just you, your laptop and a few easy clicks.


Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/solar-power-of-the-people-by-the-people-and-for-the-people.html#ixzz2pUMLjV4G


Light, Love, and Los Angeles. Start here and chase the shadows.

Ten years ago, I had been living in Orange County for just over six months. Costa Mesa, to be precise, even though I was going to school at UC Irvine. I would live there another five years. I never loved it, and at times I hated it. The first time I ever visited UC Irvine, before I accepted the university’s offer and enrolled as a PhD student, I burst into tears as the plane landed. I don’t think I ever got over that immediate, visceral reaction to the feeling of being exiled to an unfamiliar land, cast off into an exurban blightscape. I’d never lived in the suburbs, let alone the strange continuous megalopolis of centerless suburban cities that stretches from Seal Beach to Coto de Caza, Buena Park to Mission Viejo, Brea to San Clemente.

Although, to be fair, it’s not like it was truly exile: Have you seen Laguna Beach?

Many, and maybe most, of you have never really been to Orange County—even those of you who have spent any time living in Los Angeles—and it’s unlikely you’ll ever go, because why would you? Everything you need to know about Orange County you learned on TV, and plenty of that isn’t exactly off the mark. There are unappealing housewives and there are banana stands, and there are appallingly rich people who behave in appallingly awful ways. There are also not-at-all-rich people whose behavior is legendarily terrifying and bad, all manner of everything else that makes people say with a visible cringe “Oh, yes. OC. I can’t believe you survived five and a half years there!”

But I did. I found plenty to hate about Orange County. Sometimes I still like to read Gustavo Arrellano’s 50 Reasons Why Orange County Is The Worst Effing Place In America (and I encourage you to read it too). Yet despite myself, like Gustavo and the OC Weekly crew I found things to love too. Maybe not as many, and certainly not anything that could have gotten me to stay there.

What do I miss most about Orange County? There’s the warmth and the light (and I miss those most of all), but alongside those: The food and the proximity to LA. OC has the best sushi I’ve ever eaten in my life, and so many izakaya. Amazing Vietnamese food. Southern California’s tacos are better than Northern California’s, end of argument. Even more than that: During my time in OC, I cooked and baked more than I ever have in my life, and I discovered photography when I lived in a condo that was full of light. I spent a lot of time outside, and whenever I could I escaped to LA, where I learned to explore that giant city bit by bit.

Being in LA this past weekend for the first time since 2011 reminded me how much I love Southern California, and how wonderful LA is. It also reminded me how the air can be warm in a particular way, about the quality of the light that creates a perfect glow while also defining the shadows, about wanting to explore little by little. So here we go: words, images, tastes, sounds. A year of Wednesdays.


Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Accountability begets success.

Today is the beginning of what will no doubt be a huge year for me, 2014.


In ten days I will turn 18 years old and become an adult, at least according to the laws of my country. “Adulthood” means a lot of things and nothing at the same time. I don’t plan on serving in the military. My brain won’t stop developing until my mid-twenties. I won’t let this label define my characteristics or inhibit me from goofing around and having fun. I will never be fully sure of my identity, because it’s always changing. I still won’t legally be able to drink alcohol. To me, adulthood only means I’ll be able to vote and participate in our country’s democracy; pretty much everything else I do is age-agnostic, as it should be. Using age as an excuse for anything is similar to using laziness as excuse for not fulfilling one’s responsibilities. If there is a will, there is a way. Conveniently, my name is Will.


Speaking of responsibilities, a lot is changing for me soon.

In a couple weeks, the first semester of my last year of high school ends. In my school system, this is the symbolic end of effort and grade point average monitoring. Well, at least until college. At the end of the semester, colleges will receive my scores and have everything they need to make their decisions. The future scores, barring catastrophe, will have little impact on my chance of admittance. This, I hope, will be a transitional period for me. Instantly, I’ll be able to justify changing my focus towards things that I am truly interested in and passion about. I will be able to work on myself. I will be able to read more for leisure and on topics that are out of the scope of my studies. I will be able to write more. I will be able to work on my company more, and spend more time coding. I will hopefully be able to convince investors and mostly myself that I have the time to commit to seeing my ideas through. Suddenly, school will not be the priority for me. My time will become a vacuum, and I will want to fill it quickly with fun.

The true challenge comes in deciding to budget time to work on things that may not be as immediately satisfying.

Hopefully, the last semester will go by quickly and alleviate a lot of the anxiety I’ve built up throughout high school. It will finally be time for me to let loose… a little bit. I am hoping to replace a lot of my scholastic responsibilities with things like exercise and work, but I will give myself a short vacation if I deserve one.

In June, I will graduate high school, hopefully satisfied.

With high school passing, so is my supposed childhood. I’ll be moving out of the house for the first time in my life. I’ll probably live outside of the beautiful state of California for the first time too. No matter where I go, the weather will almost definitely be worse. No matter where I go, the tech industry will be less present. No matter where I go, the culture will be different. But I will go.

A view from a place in the Bay Area, where I grew up

With the passing of childhood comes an age of independence. I am the youngest of a four-sibling blended-family, and while I haven’t been neglected by my parents, I’ve certainly been more taken care of than raised. Just as I had early-onset senioritis, my parents had early-onset empty nest syndrome. They eat out and socialize with their friends more than I do. I’m not particularly close to my immediate family, and I’ve learned to be somewhat independent. That said, my family is omnipresent and very into pseudo-bonding. I visit relatives often, even if my parents seem to not get along with many of them. We have holiday dinners. I have family all around the country, and as a clan, we’re well connected and hospitable. Anywhere I go in the country, I will more than likely know someone and have a couch to sleep on if needed.

No matter what I do, I can count on my parents to support me, and I know that I’m very fortunate to be able to say that.

I’m looking forward to having my own family in the future and building off of the way I was raised. While the time is still potentially decades out, it’s becoming more and more relevant as I mature. I’ve recently begun to come to terms with the fact that I will never again be a middle schooler at an awkward school dance. Never again will I be a student at a high school home football game. I will never be a junior in high school again or sit in the class of some of my favorite teachers. Some of the people instrumental in making the person I am, I will forget in time. Some of them, I already have, albeit unintentionally. Some will even pass away. Never again will I be able to redo my first experiences. I believe in some ways, life is measured in the amount of “firsts” one has. Reflection is good, and when I start a family of my own, I know I will look forward to experiencing everything I have but from the perspective of a parent. That said, for now it is the past.

I believe that it’s important to always be looking forward—looking for the next new experience.


Tonight, I will be sending out my last of 15 college applications. This is the end of what has been a long process, one that began well before I put any thought into it. Going to a 4-year college is a deeply engrained expectation in my family. All three of my siblings are enrolled in college. Both of my parents went to college and grad school on top of that. Their parents went to college. When I first encountered the exciting tech industry early on in my high school career, I actually battled with the idea of going to college. “Just look at Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, they dropped out,” I would justify to anyone who would listen. I was lying to myself. Truth is, Zuckerberg was a great student in high school, and GPA does in fact matter when dictating your future path. At least until you get into college and start a company with traction. At that time in my life, I wanted any excuse to get out of the boring and discouraging environment that high school had been. And I did what my irrational teenage brain said was an appropriate course of action: I decided my ticket out was proving that high school was a flawed system so I could let my GPA drop. That’s not to say that school system doesn’t have issues, I do believe the school system is flawed, but that turned out to not be my issue. My issue was that instead of being proactive, I was subscribing to the power of negative thinking and psyching myself out. I sought excuses and shortcuts where there were none. I would like to have an impact on altering the school system someday because I serious do think that the paradigm needs to be changed and current efforts have been futile at best. But that time was not then, and it is not today. I fully intend on directing my own life, and making use of as many opportunities and resources as I possibly can. I will not take a back seat to my education, ever.

“I never let my schooling interfere with my education” — Mark Twain

This time in my life is for learning as much as possible, listening more than I speak, and keeping an open mind. I believe college will be instrumental in accomplishing my goals and is completely necessary for now. I want to be surrounded by inspired like-minded individuals. I want to let my thoughts and curiosity ferment and develop. I want to have fun and mix with people that have completely tangential interests to my own. I don’t care as much about the degree as I do ensuring that I get my money’s worth. I hope to only take classes that interest me and put a significant amount of effort into mining my professor’s respective geniuses. School can be wonderful if you make the best of it, as many of my friends have told me. By April I will have made a decision of which college I will be enrolling in. By September, I’ll be having my first day of college.


For the past 5 years, I’ve been ideating, hacking, contracting, designing, and networking, all with the intention of learning how to build things of my own. I want to make something great—something that makes life even a little bit easier for people. I’ve come up with many ideas for companies, some that sucked and were truly bad ideas, and others that I still believe in and that I’ve shelved for the right time. Coming up with ideas isn’t the hard part, it’s finding the time for me. While that may sound like an excuse, it’s more the result of me not prioritizing my entrepreneurial endeavors. Building my skill-set and practicing as much as I can has been my number one task. I’ve created many smaller projects following a philosophy of quantity over quality, similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s law of 10,000 hours. I’ve hacked in hackathons and met many truly inspiring people who have caused me to think of things differently (who knows, some of them may be future co-founders or hires). I’ve even worked at two startups (Uber and Change.org) because I wanted to cultivate my skills and ask questions. I decided that the only practical way to learn how to run a company was by working in one first. My working hours have been filled with school and my allotted free time has oft-been spent moving me towards my goals.

My most recent endeavor is me finally executing upon an idea that has been nagging me for over 4 years. I constantly come back to it, shake my head because I don’t know how to solve it, and move on. I went through these motions late this last summer, and something clicked. Now, I think I’ve got it, and I’m excited to share it soon. I’m working on it with two friends: a fantastic dutch designer, Thom, and a UMich senior and brilliant iOS engineer, Chris. This year will hopefully be big because I have high ambitions for this project. When school slows down, I’m going to start raising some seed funding and more heavily investing my own money to put a fire under the development. I plan on seeing this through to launch at the very least, which is a big step towards my entrepreneurial goals. In the past, my dedication was lackluster due to my numerous pressing commitments, and the time wasn’t right. This year is when I begin on a new path of risk, ambition, and a little bit of craziness.

Many other things will happen this year, and I can’t wait to see what life has in store. I may go to Vidcon for the first time. I may take a summer road trip or travel abroad. I may even go skydiving. The possibilities are endless and there are many things I cannot control. For now, I plan to work on what I can control: myself and the way I react to opportunity. I have a lot to learn and lot to work on from my identity to my productivity and focus to my obsessive tendencies. Today is when I start. It is the first day of the rest of my life—the one I need to make count because it’s the only one I get.


In order to force some level of accountability onto myself, I’m publishing some of my short-term achievable goals. Due to finals, I’m adding a short delay — they all go into effect on January 25th. Consider them my delayed New Years resolutions.

  • I will read at least 30 pages a day of material relevant to my interests. My twist on Warren Buffet’s philosophy of knowledge. (10,000+/yr)
  • I will use a do and don’t do list in my everyday life, as recommend by Jack Dorsey at the YC Startup School that I recently went to.
  • I will use todo lists to prioritize my tasks.
  • I will test out and employ an effective technique to increase my productivity and focus (like Pomodoro or GTD).
  • I will write a post on Medium at least once a month.
  • I will seek opportunity once a week by emailing or otherwise reaching out to someone I can learn from.
  • I will sit down for coffee, tea, or a meal with someone new once a month.
  • I will eat at least one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables everyday.
  • I will exercise with a trainer as much as I can, and for at least 6 hours a week.
  • I will have a usable product finished in 5 months (by June).
  • I will get an average of 7 hours of sleep per night, per week.
  • I will watch no more than 1 movie a month, and no more than 1 season of a TV show every 2 months.
  • I will do at least one altruistic thing every day something purely to benefit them and with little-to-no self interest.
  • I will smile more.

I hope that you all have an amazing 2014 with your own transitions and life events. I personally am looking forward to all of the opportunity that a new year brings for rebirth. I’m reseting my goals, moving on, and looking forward. What are you doing?

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How He Met My Mother – The unlikely sequences that lead to a new life.

[This story is reprinted from the December 6, 2012 edition of The Magazine. The Magazine is currently running a Kickstarter campaign featuring a “best-of” book (in hardcover and ebook formats) featuring lots of great stories, including this one. Please consider pledging to this sure-to-be-awesome book project.]

I’m driving my parents’ car down a two-lane desert highway, my father in the passenger seat. Chauffeuring him feels a little odd, but despite his fierce independence he seems to acknowledge that it’s a kindness.

From my parents’ house in the Arizona outback to the suburban Phoenix hospital is an hour’s drive. My father is 81. A year ago, nearly to the day, he had a pretty severe heart attack. He doesn’t have much energy to begin with, and what little he had this morning he depleted at my mother’s bedside.

My dad has always been a storyteller. My mother would retreat from a room as he regaled the guests with a favorite anecdote—entirely new to the appreciative crowd, but one she had heard dozens of times before. These days, his short-term memory in disrepair, he repeats those oft-told stories even more than he already did.

The car stereo is off for the entire drive. A child of the pre-rock era, my father has no interest in the music on my iPhone. And I’m not interested in listening to his preferred political talk-radio programs just a few days before a presidential election.

So instead, he tells me stories. And to my amazement, after knowing him for 42 years, he tells me one I haven’t heard before.

It’s 1963, just months before Kennedy will be assassinated, and the man who will one day be my father has finished a long shift at the Victor Equipment Company on Folsom Street in the grungy, industrial South of Market area that four decades later will host shiny conferences put on Macworld, Apple, Oracle, and many other companies not yet founded.

The neighborhood will change a lot, but the weather won’t. It’s July in San Francisco, which generally means cold fog, but not today: it’s sunny and warm. Driving south toward his house on the Peninsula, my father impulsively detours to Half Moon Bay. He’s never been there, but he knows it’s got a beach, and today he can have that rarest of things for a San Francisco summer: a walk on the beach with no jacket.

He parks his blue MGB and walks out on the beach. There’s a blonde in her early 20s sitting on a blanket, her nose in a book. The woman who will one day be my mother has come to the beach as a reprieve after several days of entertaining her parents and teenaged brother, out from Pennsylvania to visit her and her sister.

She doesn’t want to talk to this strange man—she wants to be left alone. He’s persistent and apparently somehow successful, because they talk for an hour or two. But the ultimate prize eludes him: She doesn’t give him her full name or her phone number and drives off in her Corvair. He thought they had hit it off, but in the end, it’s an opportunity missed.

I had known bits of the story before. I knew my parents had met on the beach at Half Moon Bay. And I clearly recall the moment when I was 18 that they mentioned the meeting had happened a full five years before they were married. My half brother, the youngest of the three children from my father’s first marriage, was born in 1964. But if they had been married in 1968 and met five years before that…

In that moment, my understanding of my relationship with my older half-siblings changed completely. Before, with barely any inkling of the complexities of adult relationships, I just knew they had a different mother, and that it was awkward when they came to visit my dad and his new family.

What I hadn’t understood was that my mother was the Other Woman, and that my father met her nearly a year before my half-brother was born.

My father is free to drive to Half Moon Bay and chat up a skeptical blonde reader because his wife and two daughters are spending a few weeks of their summer vacation with her parents in Southern California.

From the perspective of the far future, when the Other Woman would be his wife of 44 years, it’s easier to forgive his actions. I have no doubt he was unhappy in his marriage. Was there some special spark with that blonde 24 year old on the beach, right from the start? Or is that too much to project onto a 32-year-old father of two trying to pick up someone up while his young family is safely out of reach?

Regardless, my father doesn’t shrug off the conversation with the blonde girl. He’d learned that she works for county health, and that she drives a rear-engine Corvair. In those innocent days, car registrations had to be in public view, so once he finds her car by checking out public-health parking lots, he gets her name by simply looking at the steering column. He calls the health department, finds out where she works, and leaves her a message, using a fake last name so she can’t look him up and discover that he’s married.

Now the ball is back in her court. She can ignore him again, but he’s shown his interest. She must have been interested, too, or maybe just intrigued by his persistence. In any event, the girl with the Corvair relents, and returns the call of the man with the MGB.

My mother is the healthy one. She’s eight years younger and has a statistically longer life expectancy. Women on her side of the family are extremely long-lived. My father was diagnosed with serious carotid blockages in the late 1980s and has been talking about his imminent demise for the intervening two decades. He’s had four major surgeries and two monthlong hospital stays.

So, in a sense, I have been preparing for my father’s death since 1988. My wife and I talk about what we can do to support my mother after he’s gone. We always figured she’d outlive him, maybe by decades.

I think about this as we pull into my parents’ driveway and unload the shopping bags from the car, and prepare to make us some dinner. An hour away, my mother is in intensive care, recovering from her emergency triple bypass.

Four years after meeting my mother, my father is planning his exit strategy. He and his wife are enmeshed in the professional community of Walnut Creek, a suburb at the eastern edge of the Bay Area. But he plans to open a second orthodontic practice nearly a hundred miles away in the rural Sierra Nevada foothills, a move to leave his old life behind for a new one.

His wife knows there’s another woman. One night, my mother had picked up the phone at her apartment, and a woman’s voice had said, “May I speak to Dr. Snell, please.” My father took the phone. It was his wife. The cat was out of the bag.

It’s 1968, and it all still hangs in the balance. Even if his marriage his over, does he know he really wants to flee to the countryside and marry his girlfriend? She wants children. He’s already fathered four and raised three. Does he want to be a parent again at nearly forty?

This is all going through his mind as he’s setting up his new office, a small space built directly over a small creek in downtown Sonora. He’s installing the furniture and equipment himself. My mother goes off to do some shopping downtown as he installs Formica countertops using contact cement. When she returns, opening the front door creates just enough air movement to waft the contact cement’s fumes over the office’s gas pilot light.

There’s an explosion that bows the office’s windows outward and creates a fireball that engulfs my father. He crawls across the burning countertops and out the door, then drops 20 feet off a deck and into the creek below. There’s enough water in the creek to put out the flames, but not enough to insulate him from smashing into the rocks and cracking his ribs. He climbs out of the creek and helps put out the fire in the office.

Hours later, my mother knocks on the front door of my father’s house. “Your husband is in the hospital,” she says.

Forty-two years after my birth, my father tells me that this is the moment that led directly to him divorcing his wife, selling his practice, giving her the house and custody of the kids and a monthly support check, and marrying my mother. In that moment he’s on fire and dropping 20 feet into a rocky creek. And he knows what he wants: He wants to marry my mother, and have children—well, maybe one will be enough—and leave his old, successful, unhappy life behind. Three months later the divorce is final and my parents are married.

He’s telling me this part of the story at the kitchen table in their little retirement house, while 40 miles away the woman he married, the one he’s always expected would outlive him, is heavily sedated after having her ribs cracked open and three veins grafted to her heart to save her life.

Two days before, I was in San Francisco and she was going in for an angiogram to find out what was causing her some chest pains. Now the two of us, husband and son, are eating breakfast by ourselves in the middle of her kitchen.

What he’s telling me is the story of his true love, a story in hindsight of nearly 50 years together, no matter how messy it might have been when they were living it. What I’m hearing is the complicated chain of events that explain my existence.

From “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

In the landmark comic-book series “Watchmen,” the nigh-omnipotent character Dr. Manhattan can see the entirety of space and time. To him, humans—even his long-time girlfriend, Laurie—are no more relevant than ants in an anthill.

But in this dark work of fiction, set against the backdrop of Cold War-era nuclear annihilation, there comes a surprising glimmer of light. Laurie discovers that her biological father is the man who had once attempted to rape her mother. She believes this proves her life is a meaningless joke, but Dr. Manhattan views it as an affirmation that every human life is itself a miracle:

Thermodynamic miracles…events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter…

Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold…that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.

But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget…I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another’s vantage point, as if new, it may still take our breath away…For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly.

It’s 1963, and a man impulsively decides to go to a beach he’s never been to.

It’s 1967, and he’s on fire, falling into a shallow creek.

It’s 1970, and a baby is coming into the world.

It’s 1989, and a new chain of circumstances is created when I’m introduced to the woman who will become my wife.

It’s 2012, and I’m serving Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen of my parents’ house in Arizona. My children are there, both with their own stories of a series of choices my wife and I made that led to their existence. My father sits at the head of the table, turkey and mashed potatoes in front of him. And next to him, home from the hospital for three weeks and recovering from her heart surgery, is his wife, my mother.

There we sit, eating dinner. Thermodynamic miracles all.

The Author with his parents, wife, and children, December 2012.

[Addendum: My father passed away a few months after I wrote this. The time I spent with him in the car seems all the more special now.]

Jason Snell is editorial director at IDG Consumer & SMB, publishers of Macworld, PCWorld, and TechHive. Prior to that, he was editor-in-chief of Macworld for seven years. His projects outside of work include The Incomparable, an award-winning podcast about geek culture. He lives in Mill Valley, California, with his wife and two children.

Further Reading

Life Story

 — [This is an adaptation of something I read at the Arizona National Memorial Cemetery on February 28, 2013.]

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Editorial director for @Macworld/@TechHive/@PCWorld. @theincomparable podcaster. Writer, primate, parent. IDG Consumer & SMB SVP/Editorial Director

Published December 11, 2013