A year of Scoble change

In my 53 years I’ve seen a couple of house fires. One, at a neighbor’s house, woke me up in the middle of the night with banging on doors. Terror from waking up to a weird light in the bedroom, unnatural heat coming through the window, and the horrific sounds of lives being disrupted.

Years later I still remember the pile of trash in front of the destroyed house that kept growing over the first weeks after the fire. The burnt and soggy sofa. The sheetrock ripped out so firefighters could get to fire inside the walls. The carpet, stained with ash-heavy water. The clothes, some burned, others just discarded as too dirty and smoky to save. Later that disappeared and was replaced by trucks rebuilding.

My life, and that of my family, has felt a different kind of fire burn through it in a series of events that started about a year ago. Like with a physical fire, I’ve had the choice to look at the wreckage and loss, and have a cry, or look toward rebuilding. I find that looking backward toward my failures serves to keep humble, but looking forward is what gets me off the couch.

My gratitude list runs long.

My kids, for instance, were being punished for my success and travel and not in a way I ever could have seen a year ago and even if you pointed that out I just wouldn’t have been in the humble space to hear you. We lived in Half Moon Bay and just couldn’t see how to move, or why. Until the fire came through our lives (and not just #metoo, but several deaths of people close to us). A young friend just shared with us that he has colon cancer, which helped me write this post since it showed me more clearly, again, the fire that burned through our lives the last year, which burned away everything that really wasn’t important.

Now that we have moved to Campbell, I see just how much better the schools are here and how much happier my kids are that they have both of their parents pulling their weight at home and sober (in other words, me, since Maryam has always had to pull extra hard while I was off having fun with my career).

This month brings me to a year of sobriety and not just the kind of sobriety that means being away from alcohol (which is closer to four years in my life) or weed or other drugs (I had my last weed just about a year ago today) but an emotional sobriety that I had no chance of attaining before the past year. The ability to be honest with myself, and others, about the depression and mental illness I face, and the burnout that just wasn’t clear until many months had gone by away from the fun of travel, parties, dinners, and conferences.

A year ago, I could never have imagined I would have given a eulogy at my former partner’s funeral. I could never have imagined that I would be in the mental or career state to take a month away from everything and take my three kids on a 9,000-mile road trip around America if we had talked last October. I could never have imagined that my relationship with Maryam would be so much better. Funny, too, a year ago I could never have imagined volunteering at school, doing the dishes or laundry, or going to PTA meetings, amongst other things.

Today I have a choice, too. Do I look backward at the successes and failures of my first 53 years? My past is on Google and the Web, is my current thinking, and looking at it is just is going to focus my time left on this earth away from my new mission to serve others and will just lead to more mental illness or craziness. Best kept anyway to my rehab sponsor or my therapist.

So, now, Maryam and I are having new conversations as we head into our 17th year of marriage.

First, we got our financial lives in order and are watching things carefully, and now have good hands watching our small savings and it’s clear we don’t have close to enough to retire. Heck, putting food on our kids’ table will be difficult if both of us aren’t building income streams, even though she has an amazing career and is doing great work at VMWare in the conference team there (funny how roles switched, in a few weeks she’ll be the one traveling).

Needs are high. We have an 11 year old special needs child. Our nine year old will most likely need college in nine years. Not to mention all the unplanned expenses that go with parenting and, well, it’s just damn expensive living in Silicon Valley, even after downsizing our lifestyle as much as we can.

So that’s tugging in the back of my mind.

But I find freeing to dream about a world where I never make another dollar and one without personal needs, which has its own form of torment.

What is my mission? What gifts do I have to share? What skills can I use? How can I pay my life forward? How can I be helpful to others? In a decade what do I want to be doing? And, even better, how do I see my industry changing and where does offer opportunity?

For that I find I needed to go back to the basics. Go and do my homework. If you’ve been watching my lists on Twitter you see just what I’ve been doing: https://twitter.com/scobleizer/lists Over the past year I’ve built a series of new lists so I can see the industry in a new way. So I can listen and serve. But that’s just so I can see and brainstorm.

For the past few months I’ve been building a thesis for where the tech industry will see growth. In discussing my thesis with others it’s clear that a decade from now our organizations will have increased assistance via AI, increased augmentation via AR, increased virtualization, through a variety of technologies hitting the datacenter and cloud, and increased decentralization, via a variety of technologies including blockchain and 5G. Any dummy can see the same, but I see these changes as exponential, which means that soon they will hit all industries and cause lots of job changes. Already lots of people are predicting the same. One reason I wanted to drive around America is to get a sense of the kinds of jobs people do. We visited factories at Boeing. Ford. Louisville Slugger, and talked with many people.

It is clear that the next decade is going to see a huge amount of change to what it means to be human. Yesterday’s keynote at Magic Leap’s conference and last week’s Oculus Connect/Facebook event gives you just a taste of what’s coming. We just bought a June Oven, that shows you even more about how human life is changing, more on that when I get some meals under my belt to share here.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Now it’s time to really do my homework, which will lead into a new business and new ideas over the next few months, about what I am seeing as the post-digital-transformation enterprise: one that’s seeing great increases in decentralization, assistance, augmentation, and virtualization.

In other words, the next year will be hopefully less about change than the last one, and more about learning and putting in place a new mission.

This is a much more fun phase of life. More like designing a new house after the old one burned down. Looking forward to having new conversations on Twitter at https://twitter.com/scobleizer or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble


Mark Zuckerberg just turned up the dopamine. Here’s how

Yesterday Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, announced that Facebook would be showing us more of our friends and family and less news and corporate stuff on our news feed.

For the past few months I’ve been studying social media with fresh eyes since learning more about my addiction to it, and other things.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned: engagement from real people matters a LOT more than engagement from companies. Over on Twitter two accounts are amongst those following me: Salesforce and Marc Benioff.

When Marc retweets me, or likes me, I get an immediate dopamine hit. We all know the feeling when someone big and important retweets us, or likes our post.

What I have recently learned is that if Salesforce’s account retweets me, I still get a dopamine hit but it’s easily 1/10th as much. Why? Well, it just doesn’t seem as big a deal.

What’s funny is it’s actually a lot harder to get a retweet from Salesforce than from Marc Benioff. Oh, and when you get a retweet/like from a corporate account it almost always is focused on that specific corporation, so doesn’t bring anyone nearly as interesting as a feed as when you follow just people.

But here’s the rub. I get the exact same dopamine hit when I get a retweet or a like from my wife, or my best friend. Now, there are other advantages of getting a retweet from someone “famous” beyond just the dopamine hit, but we’ll examine those later. The main thing is that the ability to addict you is much higher if a real person interacts with you than if a brand does.

Zuckerberg knows this. Now my friend Brandon Wirtz says that yesterday’s move also is because Facebook doesn’t have much advertising inventory, so needed to goose the numbers and force more brands to spend money to get the views they seek.

One does not negate the other.

Over on Twitter I’ve spent hundreds of hours in the past three months cleaning up my inbound feeds. One thing I did on my main feed is I unfollowed all accounts done by a committee. So no more following companies, like Salesforce. Only following people.

My feed today is easily 100x more addictive to read than it was just three months ago. It’s not intuitive, but Zuckerberg studies these things in depth.

Two days ago I had dinner with Francine Hardaway, investor out of Phoenix, AZ, and she wondered if Facebook could get to the place where it would make decisions based on what would help people instead of what would addict them. I don’t know that the two can be separated.

After all, I can tell you that seeing baby photos from friends, or wedding announcements, or funeral arrangements, makes our human lives better than seeing ads or news items. But they are more addictive too.

I’ve been studying spirituality recently, in my attempts to become a better human being. I’ve been getting around, talking to people who have happier lives than I do, and I notice that they do a few simple things:

1. Help other people. One, I met, goes to San Quentin and teaches classes there. She says that makes her so happy that the rest of the week can go to hell and she still is glowing.

2. Meditation. Everyone who does it says that this improves their ability to deal with life and centers them.

3. Praying. In rehab we learn about the importance of being less self-centered and by praying to a higher power this brings major benefits against anger and disappointment.

4. Exercise. Brings brain benefits from increased blood circulation, and other benefits. Makes you feel good about yourself too.

5. Organization. People who have organized homes, along with intentional lives (IE, make lists of things to do and goals for yourself) are happier and feel better about themselves.

None of those things comes from social media, with the exception of maybe helping other people. So I’m not sure how Facebook can become better for you until we get VR, where we’ll get exercise and maybe some of the other benefits. So, for 2018 I think Zuckerberg is right to focus on monetization and addiction, even if he calls it something else like an “improved human connection.”

One of my pieces of advice for Twitter would be to provide a “people only” feed. If it did that Twitter would see an increase in usage and addiction.

Regarding the difference between my wife liking a post and Marc Benioff: there is a storytelling difference and an influence difference. If I tell friends at dinner “Benioff liked my post today” and compare it to “Maryam liked my post today” my friends will say “so, she’s your wife” versus “oh, what caught Benioff’s eye?” But neither matters as much to addiction levels to these platforms as the difference between humans and corporate accounts.

Maryam’s mom dies

Maryam woke me up this morning crying. “I want my mommy,” she wimpered. Last night her mom died after suffering a stroke on Monday.

There is nothing worse than not being able to do something about someone else’s pain. Mahin Ayatollahzadeh, Maryam’s mom, was always on my side and she was quite a special woman and I’m not saying that just because she was always on my side, even when I brought pain to the family.

Instead, listen to one of her doctors, who worked with her for six years after she couldn’t walk anymore due to an earlier brain tumor: “she was my nicest patient.”

I saw that up and close myself. Despite being dealt a harsh penalty by life (not being able to walk) she never had a harsh word. I never saw her angry. If she had disappointments it was that she couldn’t spend more time with her family.

Earlier in our marriage we had her live with us. Some of my friends joked around about that, saying they never would put up with their mother-in-law living with them. I never saw it as a bother because she was always so nice, not to mention she made the best meals I’ve ever had in my life (and I’ve eaten at some of the most famous restaurants with the most famous chefs, like Guy Savoy in Paris, and I’d trade all those for one of hers).

Her outlook on life came from harsh circumstances. As a woman she came from a society, Iran, where women were treated far harsher than here. She was married at 16 to someone her parents picked for her. Her country went through a devastating war, her home was bombed, she sent Maryam, my wife, away to a far-away land, America, when Maryam was 14.

But for me, I won’t remember her for all of her suffering, but for the smile she always had whenever I saw her, and for the endearing love of her children (and their love for her, her four kids made sure that she got a visit in the convalescent home every single day for six years which made an impression on me about what family actually should mean and that example always caused shame in my heart because I wasn’t behaving the same way toward my family, nor myself).

I’ve been praying this year and said a special one this morning. I’ll miss her.

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