1202

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong

July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to ever set foot on the moon. But it almost didn’t happen and it almost ended in tragedy. As the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) was preparing to land on the moon, the onboard navigational computer started flashing a “1202” alarm. The crew had been meticulously following their checklist. Each step, nominal. But now, something was wrong. Abort? As the crew radioed in the situation to mission control, they could feel the adrenaline surge and anxiety rise.

For months, the crew, the nation and the world were anticipating this historic moment. It was one of the most heavily covered and widely watched events in history. An estimated 600 million people were watching worldwide. The mission had captured the imagination of people. Now, all of it was in jeopardy. “1202” alarm! The alarms kept going off. Each time the LEM guidance computer flashed that alarm, it would reboot and restart. Not good! I can almost feel that tension myself. This was a critical stage that would demand precision to guarantee the safe landing of the module on the treacherous moon’s surface below. Sounds like bad news, right? Would this require the mission to abort?

With millions of people, sitting on the edge of their seats, Mission Control finally responded. The mission would proceed. Relief! It turns out that this was a “known error” that NASA had seen many times before during simulation testing. The computer had a capacity of 2KB erasable memory and 16KB of fixed memory. The computer would run several concurrent programs related to navigation, all competing for the limited memory. If a program couldn’t allocate memory, the “1202” alarm would be raised and the system would reboot. At restart, the most important programs would start up again where they left off. Thankfully, the mission would proceed. Neil Armstrong would soon step off of the LEM and millions of people would hear him say those “one small step” historic words.

But the mission wasn’t over. The mission was to get them safely home as well. Unfortunately, while the astronauts were suiting up for their moon walk, they accidentally bumped into the button of a circuit breaker. It broke off. This switch controlled the power running the ascent engine, the one responsible for getting them off of the moon. Unless it could be fixed, they would be stranded on the moon. NASA and US President Nixon were preparing for the worse, drafting speeches to be given when their oxygen supply ran out. Thankfully, it wouldn’t be needed. Mission control didn’t have a solution, but Buzz Aldrin did. His background in mechanical engineering paid off! He looked at the small opening where the circuit breaker had been and realized he could manage to depress the breaker with a small felt-tip marker. He did and it worked! Mission control reported the circuit was closed. In my mind’s eye, I can’t help but play out that scenario. I imagine Buzz pushing in that pen and saying with confidence, “To Infinity and Beyond!”

Problems always happen. It isn’t a matter of “if” but “when”. What do we do to prepare for them? What do we do when they happen? The story above reminds me of the importance of preparation. The “1202” alarm could have killed the mission, but it didn’t because NASA had invested in time to play through the simulation many times. Seeing this exact alarm gave them confidence in the LEM computer’s ability to recover from this condition. Testing is important, not just to prove that something is ready for launch, but to build knowledge. The testing didn’t remove the alert, but gave the mission team a foundation of experience to make difficult decisions in the heat of the moment.

Not every possible condition can be tested or will be discovered during simulation. As the circuit breaker example highlights, creative problem solving is still needed. The Apollo mission is full of stories like this, but it isn’t alone. We need engineers. We need smart creatives who are capable of plotting solutions across seemingly impossible odds.

Hopefully you won’t find yourself stranded on the moon anytime soon, but I bet you could be running simulations for learning or plotting solutions to problems. You are engineers. You are creatives. You are critical to the mission! Thanks for all you do in helping making the impossible, possible, every day.

To infinity and beyond!


References

Images

  • NASA – Aldrin on the LM footpad
    https://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/kippsphotos/5869.jpg
  • NASA – Aldrin beside solar wind experiment https://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/kippsphotos/5873.jpg

Chimney Sweeps and Chainsaws

Chimney sweeps and chainsaws. That might be a good prompt for a suspense or thriller story, but that’s not my intention. This last week, as Fall began to arrive, our neighborhood came alive with buzzing, chopping and thudding sounds. Removing dead branches or pruning for safety is important. It improves the health of the tree and maintains the neighborhood aesthetics. At least that is what our HOA says.

Buzz! Roaring chainsaws began screeching their terrifying soprano shrill. Ching! Metal sounds and falling branches could be heard throughout the day. Boom! A palm tree prawn fell to the ground. Pow! Branches drop into a bed of a truck. Swoosh!  Workers drag dead tree carcasses across the lawns. Okay, maybe it is sounding a bit more like a thriller.

As the cooler weather starts punctuating our weeks here in SoCal, we also began to see chimney sweeps showing up. They dance across the rooftops conducting their trade. Soot is removed and chimney caps are repaired. Preparations are underway for the coming winter months. And I can’t help but sing the song Chim Chim Cher-ee

Pruning and preparing. I see a personal application during this season. I suspect some of you, like me, have “dead branches” that need to be removed. Maybe that old meeting series that no longer adds value. It could be that routine or habit that we keep for comfort, but the leaves of value have long since died. Some of the well-worn rituals are rotting away and adding dead weight to our work. It’s time to prune. Clear away the dead prawns and free up your cognitive load. 

Practices, processes and patterns in our lives are helpful and add a warm glow to our days.  But over time, like creosote, they can build up and add the risk of burnout. It’s time to sweep away the soot. Examine the demands on your life.  Look with care at what consumes your energy, your movement, your heart and your mind.  What should you keep? What should you sweep?  Now is a good time to pause and survey the branches.  Clear the flue. Prepare for the winter months. Make room for the new.

And of course, I’m confident as you begin your pruning and sweeping, good luck will ensue!

Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-oo!
Good luck will rub off when
I shakes 'ands with you

  • Sherman, Richard M., and Sherman, Robert B. “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Mary Poppins, Walt Disney Records, 1964.
  • Images generated using OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 model.

The Unlimited Future

One step to the edge of impossible. And then, further.

“One step to the edge of impossible. And then, further.” – National Geographic

There has been a lot of excitement in the scientific community these last several weeks. First, there is the constant buzz about AI and the pending birth of a real-life artificial general intelligence like Marvel’s fictional J.A.R.V.I.S. (which is just a rather very intelligent system by the way). Then there is this incredible medical news about the experimental anti-cancer drug, Dostarlimab, which had an unprecedented 100% success rate in eliminating tumors. Imagine what that could do for our human family! And now, just this past week, we saw the excitement building over LK-99, a polycrystalline compound that was reported by a team from Korea University to be a room-temperature and ambient pressure superconductor.

The LK-99 news was particularly fascinating to me. And I’m not alone. The scientific community is buzzing about it and excitedly conducting experiments to replicate to confirm or disprove the discovery. One of the things they hope to observe is “flux pinning”. Have you ever heard of flux pinning? Well, I hadn’t, so I decided to check it out. It turns out that flux pinning is a characteristic of superconductors where magnetic flux lines are trapped in place within a material’s lattice structure (quantum vortices). This flux pinning locks the superconductive material within a magnetic field, causing it to levitate. Can you imagine whole worlds built of this material? It may look a lot like Pandora from Avatar! More importantly this leads to benefits like enhanced current-carrying capabilities, higher magnetic field tolerances, and reduced energy losses.

Implications are mind blowing! If a room temperature and ambient pressure superconductor can be fabricated, we could see things like massively reduced losses in power transmission, higher performing electromagnetic devices (e.g. MRIs, motors, generators), revolutionized transportation systems (e.g. maglev trains, lightweight and energy-efficient propulsion systems), faster low-power computing devices and of course, new insights into the fundamental nature of matter and the universe. Of course, LK-99 may not be the superconductor we are looking for, but the quest continues… and we are learning!

I love science! The systematic rigor, the tenacious pursuit of discovery, and the passionate pursuit of understanding our universe is who we are. We thirst for knowledge and hunger for new abilities. It motivates us. It propels us to adapt. It allows us to survive and thrive when conditions are threatening. It is our genius, and perhaps at times, our curse. We are restless and unsatisfied. But that insatiable curiosity compels us to discover, to explore, to test, to add to our knowledge, to create and become more than we were.

Look, I know I’m incurably optimistic to a fault. I know that there are disappointments and failures ahead of us as well. And to be fair, the path to the future can sometimes seem impossible. But oddly enough, it is at those moments that we discover something different and something new. We see, we learn, we step to the edge and we go further! The unlimited future awaits. Let’s go!

One step to the edge of impossible. And then, further.

A Declaration of Happiness

Picture of 4th of July Party generated by AI Stable Diffusion.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Declaration of Independence of the thirteen United States of America, July 4, 1776.

Bring out the flags, fireworks, hamburgers and watermelons! Tomorrow is Independence Day in the US. I love the phrase “pursuit of happiness. ” It has been bouncing around in my head all weekend. To be fair, I know that happiness can be fleeting. But it is worth pursuing. It requires practice, energy and determination. But the reward set before us is joy, satisfaction and a smile.

I often say that our goal as a team is to help our businesses create great compelling content, products and experiences, better, faster, safer and happier. Those qualifiers are important. That last one, “happier” is especially relevant. Working in entertainment, we ship happiness as a product, but it means more than that. It means creating a work environment that is as delightful and rewarding as the products we produce. I believe happy people produce happy products. In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun! If you don’t believe me, ask Mary Poppins.

It’s true! We can find happiness at work. Some of life’s greatest moments are at the other end of hard work and effort. There is a great happiness that can be found in a job well done and a mission accomplished. For those of us in technology, solving complex problems and engaging creative energy to design and produce software, systems and automation is both taxing and rewarding. The beautiful paradox is that those things that are the most difficult, challenging and fraught with anguish, are often the ones with the highest dose of happiness, delight and satisfying accomplishment.

How are we doing? Are we meeting our mission in making this a happy place to work? Last week I sent out an end of quarter “happiness survey” to my team (with a scale from 1, “not happy at all” to 5, “extremely happy”). The last several months have presented us with some difficult challenges. I very much wanted to hear from all of my team to see how we were doing. The results were encouraging and informative. They highlighted some of the good but also the challenges before us and areas we need to improve.

Candid feedback is pure gold! Leaders need clear signal. My team impressed me with their candor. I was delighted. I assembled my leadership team and we looked at every comment and will be taking action to follow up on every suggestion and concern raised. It is a priority for us, as it should be.

Now, for your part…. You matter. Your happiness matters. Life is what you choose to make it. What can you do to cultivate happiness for yourself? Today, I challenge you all to think about how you are pursuing happiness. What does it look like for you? What can you change to make it better? Find your path to happiness. Look for it in your work, pursue it with all your heart and enjoy it. I wish you happiness this week and always!

For all of you in the USA, Happy Independence Day!

4th of July Party Image with hamburger, watermelon, US flags and fireworks.

Top blog post image of “4th of July Party” generated by Stable Diffusion AI and second image by Dall-E AI.

JasonGPT-1 : Adventures in AI

Distorted sci-fi black and blue world.

“Imperfect things with a positive ingredient can become a positive difference.” – JasonGPT

I don’t know how you are wired, but for me, I become intoxicated with new technology. I have a compulsive need to learn all about it. I’m also a kinesthetic learner which means I need to be hands on. So into the code I go. My latest fixation is large language models (LLMs) and the underlying generative neural network (NN) transformers (GPTs) that power them. I confess, the last time I built a NN, we were trying to read George H.W. Bush’s lips. And no, that experiment didn’t work out too well for us… or for him! 

Do you want to know what I have discovered so far? Too bad. I thought I would take you along for the ride anyway. Seriously, if you are fed up with all the artificial intelligence news and additives, you can stop now and go about your week. I won’t mind. Otherwise, hang on, I’m going to take you on an Indiana Jones style adventure through GPT! Just don’t look into the eyes of the idol… that could be dangerous, very dangerous!

Where do we start? YouTube of course! I have a new nerd crush. His name is Andrej Karpathy. He is a Slovak-Canadian computer scientist who served as the director of artificial intelligence and Autopilot Vision at Tesla and currently works for OpenAI. He lectured at Standford University and has several good instructional lectures on YouTube. I first saw him at the Microsoft Build conference where he gave a keynote on ChatGPT but what blew me away was his talk, “Let’s build GPT: from scratch, in code, spelled out.” (YouTube link). It’s no joke. He builds a GPT model on the works of Shakespeare (1MB), from scratch. After spending nearly 2 hours with him, Google Colab and PyTorch, I was left with a headache and some cuts and bruises. But I also had an insatiable desire to learn more. I have a long way to go. 

The way I learn is to fork away from just repeating what an instructor says and start adding my own challenges. I had an idea. I have done a lot of writing (many of you are victims to that) and much of that is on my blog site. What if I built a GPT based solely on the corpus of all my writing? Does that sound narcissistic a bit to you too? Oh well, for the good of science, we go in! Cue the Indy music. I extracted the text (468k). It’s not much, but why not? 

By the way, if you are still with me, I’ll try to go faster. You won’t want to hear about how I wasted so much time trying to use AMD GPUs (their ROCm software sucks, traveler beware), switched to CPUs, Nvidia CUDA and eventually Apple Silicon MPS (Metal Performance Shaders built in to the M1). All the while, I was using my fork of the code I built with Andrej Karpathy (ok, not him directly, but while watching his video). I started off with the simple Bigram NN Language model. And it is “Bi-Gram” not “Big RAM” but I found that to be ironically comical in a dad joke sort of way. 

My JasonGPT bigram.py started learning. It ran for 50,000 iterations and took about 8 hours. It even produced an output of random musings. While there was quite a bit of nonsensical output, I was amazed at how well this small run did at learning words, basic sentence structure and even picked up on my style. Here are some samples from the output I found interesting, comical and sometimes, well, spot on:

  • It’s a lot of time… But I think we also need science.
  • What are your big ideas?
  • Set our management to the adjacent ground (GND) pin.
  • I have a task to Disneyland out that this day.
  • I love the fun and fanciful moments as kids get to dream into their favorite characters, embrace the identity of their heroes, wrap themselves up starfish back.
  • Bring on the “power” of his accidental detail.
  • Your character provided faith, all kindness and don’t care.
  • Grab a difference too.
  • After several days of emailing, texting and calling, I received a text message.
  • Curl has the ability to provide timing data for DNS lookup, it will easily show or avoided.
  • Imperfect things with a positive ingredient can become a positive difference, just get that time.
  • I also believe we should exploit the fusion power that shows up each day in our company’s data.
  • Have you found a vulnerability? Are you concerned about some missing measures or designs that should be modernized or addressed? If so, don’t wait, raise those issues. Speak up and act. You can make a difference.
  • “I know what you are thinking.” the irony
  • We are the ones who make a brighter day.
  • The journey ahead is ahead.
  • What are you penning today? What adventures are you crafting by your doing? Get up, get moving… keep writing.

Look, it’s no ChatGPT, but it blew my mind! I’m only using a 4 layer NN with 7 million parameters. In comparison, ChatGPT uses 96 layers and 175 billion parameters! Before the weekend ended, I set up nanoGPT to build a more elaborate model on my data set. It’s still running, but already I can see it has learned a lot more of my style but seems to lack some focus on topics. It’s easily distracted and interrupts its own train of thoughts with new ideas. Squirrel! Nothing like me.

So my JasonGPT won’t be writing my Monday updates anytime soon, but who knows, maybe it will help me come up with some new ideas. I just hope it stays benevolent and kind. I would hate for it to suddenly become self-aware and start…

Connection to imac.local closed.


Generative AI

Lightning across a digital eye of a typhoon

Typhoon warning! My nephew is a Lt. Commander in the US Navy currently stationed in Guam. He teaches and manages trauma and emergency care at the hospital. Last night, he was preparing his family for the typhoon that would be sweeping across the small Pacific island in just a few hours. They closed the storm shutters, stored their Jeep in the basement and ensure their backup power and pumps were working. My nephew drew the short straw at the hospital and will be managing the ER while the storm rolls through. I worried about the hospital being built for these type of events and he assured me that it was, but of course, he was quick to add that the generators were built by the lowest bidder.

There is another typhoon coming. Gazing out over the technology horizon we can see a storm forming. But this one seems to be more than heavy winds and rain. I’m talking about the recent astonishing developments in generative artificial intelligence (GAI). I’m increasingly convinced that we are sitting on the edge of another major tectonic shift that will radically reshape the landscape of our world. Anyone who has spent time exploring OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Dall-E, Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s Bing or Co-Pilot, Midjourney, or any of the hundreds of other generative AI tools out there, will immediately recognize the disruptive power that is beginning to emerge. It’s mind blowing. GAI’s capacity to review and create code, write narratives, empathetically listen and respond, generate poetry, transform art, teach and even persuade, seems to double every 48 hours. It even seems that our creation has modeled the creator so well that it even has the uncanny ability to hallucinate and confidently tell us lies. How very human.

I have never seen a technology grow this fast. I recall the internet in the late 1980’s and thinking it had the amazing potential as a communication platform. Little did I realize that it would also disrupt commerce, entertainment, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, education and logistics. It would create platforms for new businesses like the gig economy and provide whole new levels of automation and telemetry through IoT. But all of that took decades. Generative technology is announcing breakthrough improvements every week, sometimes every 48 hours. To be fair these large language models (LLMs) are all using decades old research in neural network (NN) technology. However, when you combine those NN with enhancements (e.g. newer transformers, diffusion algorithms), hardware (e.g. GPUs) and rich data sets (e.g. the internet) they unleash new capabilities we don’t even fully understand. The latest generations of the LLMs even appear to be doing some basic level reasoning, similar to how our own organic NNs help us solve problems.

Businesses are already starting to explore the use of this technology to increase productivity, improve quality and efficiency. Wendy’s recently announced that they are partnering with Google to use GAI to start taking food orders at their drive-throughs.1 Gannett, publisher of USA Today and other local papers, is using GAI to simplify routine tasks like cropping images and personalizing content.2 Pharmaceutical companies like Amgen are using GAI to design proteins for medicines.3 Autodesk is using GAI to design physical objects, optimizing design for reduced waste and material efficiency.4 Gartner identifies it as one of the most disruptive and rapidly evolving technologies they have ever seen.5 Goldman Sacks is predicting that GAI will drive a 7% increase in global GDP, translating to about $7 trillion!6

It’s time to prepare for the typhoon. I’m excited about the future! As a technologist, I know disruptions will come, challenging our thinking and changing how we work, live and play. I know it can also be terrifying. It can prompt fear, uncertainty and doubt. But now is the time to prepare! Don’t wait to be changed, be the change. Start exploring and learning. I have a feeling that this new technology will be a 10x amplifier for us. Let’s learn how we can use it, work with it and shape it to be the next technological propellent to fuel our journey to a greater tomorrow!

This blog text was 100% human generated but the image was created with OpenAI Dall-E2.


  1. Wendy’s testing AI chatbot that takes drive-thru orders. (2023, May 10). CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/wendys-testing-ai-chatbot-drive-thru-orders/
  2. Publishers Tout Generative AI Opportunities to Save and Make Money Amid Rough Media Market. (2023, March 26). Digiday. https://digiday.com/media/publishers-tout-generative-ai-opportunities-to-save-and-make-money-amid-rough-media-market/
  3. Mock, M. (2022, June 7). Generative biology: Designing biologic medicines with greater speed and success. Amgen. https://www.amgen.com/stories/2022/06/generative-biology–designing-biologics-with-greater-speed-and-success
  4. Autodesk. (2022, May 17). What is generative design? Autodesk Redshift. https://redshift.autodesk.com/articles/what-is-generative-design
  5. Gartner, Inc. (2022, December 8). 5 impactful technologies from the Gartner emerging technologies and trends impact radar for 2022. https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/5-impactful-technologies-from-the-gartner-emerging-technologies-and-trends-impact-radar-for-2022
  6. Goldman Sachs (2023, May 12). Generative AI could raise global GDP by 7%. https://www.goldmansachs.com/intelligence/pages/generative-ai-could-raise-global-gdp-by-7-percent.html

The Best Pottery

It was the first day of the pottery class. The instructor welcomed the students and began to orient them on the material. He announced that the final grade would be determined by one of two measures. For half the class, he said that their final grade would be determined by the “quality” of their pottery. Their goal was to work on a single high quality product. For the other half of the class, he said that their final grade would be determined by “quantity”. Their goal was the sheer amount of pottery produced. Fifty pounds of pots would be rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. The class began and the students began their work.

The last day of class finally came and a curious fact emerged. The works of highest quality were not produced by the group focused on quality. Instead, the highest quality works were all produced by the group graded for quantity! It seemed that the “quantity” group got busy producing piles of work and learning from their mistakes as they went along. In contrast, the “quality” group sat around theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little to show for their work than some theory of perfection and a lump of dead clay.[1]

The key to becoming a great artist, writer, musician, etc., is to keep creating! Keep drawing, keep writing, keep playing! Quality emerges from the quantity. It strikes me that the same thing applies to software and systems we run. When we focus purely on the quality, we actually miss the mark. The way to improve quality is to keep creating, testing and learning. In the software sense, we want to keep releasing our code as often and as fast as possible. By doing that, we build operational expertise, knowledge and automation. We develop fast feedback loops that nudge the digital clay into a better shape. We tune processes to provide faster feedback loops, remove toil through automation, and minimize human error and mistakes. We optimize for a high throughput of working products and reap the prize of high quality outcomes.

But does this hold true? In my career, I have seen this to be true time and time again. Areas where we remove friction and optimize for faster release cycles (even multiple times a day), with automated integration, testing and delivery, ultimately result in higher quality products. I see the same thing looking out to the industry. The highest performing teams optimize for highest flow. The prize of perfection comes by delivering and learning. In the book, “Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations,” Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim ran a multi-year research project looking at practices and capabilities of high-performing technology organizations. Their conclusion was that the highest performing organizations embraced the notion of continuous delivery, the ability to deliver changes frequently, reliably and with minimal manual effort.[2]

We ship! As technologist, software engineers and SREs, our teams help design, build and run the digital trains that deliver amazing products and experiences to our customers and fellow employees every single day. Our goal is to make these experiences shine! And, as the pottery class learned, it is quantity of our practice and continuous learning that makes them more perfect.

Keep shipping. Keep improving. Keep delivering!


References

  1. The pottery parable is a true story as captured by David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book, Art & Fear. There is a similar story about photography in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.
  2. Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim also identifies other key traits of high performing organizations, including having loosely coupled architecture, embracing a learning culture of experimentation, adopting lean principles to optimize flow, and creating a high-trust and empowering environment.

  • Forsgren, N., Humble, J., & Kim, G. (2018). Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations. IT Revolution Press.
  • Bayles, D., & Orland, T. (1993). Art & Fear. The Image Continuum.
  • Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Avery.

A Seat of Opportunity

“You can’t plan to meet the people who will change your life. It just happens. Maybe it’s random, maybe its fate. Either way, you can’t plan for it. But you want to recognize it when it happens, and have the courage and clarity of mind to grab onto it.” – Steve Jobs

It was standing room only. The meeting hall was packed. Stanford Business School frequently invited industry experts to speak to their MBA students. On this particular occasion, the room was completely full. Students were still coming in only to discover there were no seats left. They started sitting in the aisles. One of the professors, concerned about the safety of the students and the fire marshal code, started telling the students in the aisles that they would need to leave. He made his way down the rows evicting the reluctant students from the lecture hall. A young lady, not wanting to be evicted, spotted a few empty seats in the front of the room. They were clearly reserved for the speaker and any dignitaries that would accompany them, but it was worth a shot. She quickly made her way up to the front and sat in one of those open chairs. Moments later, a young man made his way up at sat in the seat next to her. He noticed her and smiled.

The lecture was about to begin. After some introductory chatter, the man next to the young lady stood up to give the talk. She was shocked. She smiled at him as he spoke. Midway through his lecture he lost his train of thought as he stared at her in the front row. She had clearly taken his attention. He managed to keep going and completed his talk. Many of the students came up to speak with him after the lecture. She was there too. He hoped to have the chance to speak with her, but suddenly she was gone. Where did she go? He was afraid he would never see her again. He wrapped up his conversations and left too. To his surprise and delight, he ran in to her again in the parking lot. “Would you have dinner with me?” he asked boldly. She agreed and gave him her phone number. 

The young man needed to leave quickly. A group of important customers wanted to meet him for dinner. He was walking to his car when it hit him. “If this was the last day of my life, would I rather have dinner with the customers or her?” The answer was clear. He raced back, just as she was about to drive off. Catching his breath, he asked with a smile, “How about dinner tonight?” She smiled back, “Sure.” Eighteen months later, that visiting lecturer, Steve Jobs, and the brave young MBA student, Laurene Powell, would be married.

I love that story! I love how Laurene had the courage to sit up front and I love how Steve had the courage and clarity to turn around. Those bold choices and seemingly random encounters with other people can change our lives forever. You never know when it will happen, but be ready to grasp it when it does. Steve used the powerful filter, “If this was the last day of my life, would I…?” It’s a great question. It distills decisions down to their enduring essence. It provides a timeless perspective and gives courage to follow your heart.

We are in a time of rapid change. New opportunities will appear. Challenges will arise. Unplanned moments will roll out before us as the story of our life unfolds. But we have choices to make. Choose wisely. Be available. Be brave. The future is full of wonderful possibilities! Don’t miss them. Have the courage and clarity of mind to grab onto them when they happen. It may even come along and sit in the seat next to you. 


Story from: Make Something Wonderful - Steve Jobs in his own words by the Steve Jobs Archive.

Be a Stranger

“When you are a stranger in a place, you notice things that you rapidly stop noticing when you become familiar.” – Steve Jobs

Spring! It’s a time of renewal and new growth. It’s also a time of sneezing and itchy eyes. I’m feeling it! But I did it to myself. During this past weekend, we spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the warm sun, budding flowers and visiting birds and squirrels. This morning, I’m paying for it. I’m rubbing my eyes trying to bring my calendar into focus while plowing through my inbox. Can you relate? I may complain about the pollen, but I’m grateful for the changing of the seasons.

Have you noticed how we take for granted the things around us? We become so familiar with our surroundings and the things as they are, that we suddenly no longer really see them. They fade into the caverns of our subconscious. We navigate those places and contexts without even knowing. Have you ever commuted to work or a local café and wondered, “How did I get here?” Auto pilot took you there. Our minds form low-energy pathways to handle the routine, the mundane and the familiar. It’s important to help us navigate the complex world we live in, but it also means we can fail to see the wonder that is ever before our eyes. Those tiny golden moments of time with people we love. Those subtle graces of kindness all around us. Those hidden miracles, care from others, well planned architectures and helpful technologies that are like pavement under our feet, supporting us, elevating us and enhancing our lives. Even the very air we breathe we take for granted.

When things change, we get a chance to see the unfamiliar again. We become strangers. As we are confronted with new seasons, the ambience becomes new. We delight again in the spectacle of the moment and get to open our eyes to what is before us. A new season is here. Breathe it in. Let the newness wash over you. It will become a worn blanket before you know it, so don’t miss it.

Change is coming. Change is here. It can be frightening and uncomfortable too. You might even sneeze! But change brings new life. It infuses our story with new challenges, new perspectives, new opportunities, new friends and new experiences. Be a stranger. Rub your eyes, take a good look. Enjoy the new!

Moore’s Optimism

“In order to survive and win in the ever-changing world, keep updating yourself.” – Gordon Moore 

Gordon was born during the Great Depression. His dad was the local sheriff. They lived in the small farming and ranching town of Pescadero, California. He was a quiet kid, but he was optimistic and hopeful. He loved the great outdoors and would often go fishing or play at the Pescadero Creekside Barn. He also love science. His parents bought him a chemistry set on Christmas one year which eventually inspired him to pursue a degree in Chemistry. He earned a Bachelor of Science at UC Berkeley and went on to receive his PhD at Caltech.

After college, Gordon joined fellow Caltech alumni and co-inventor of the transistor, William Shockley, at Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well there. Shockley was controlling and erratic as a manager. Gordon and most of the other top scientists left after a year and joined Sherman Fairchild to start a new company. At Fairchild Semiconductor, Gordon and his friend, Robert Noyce, help devise a commercially viable process to miniaturize and combine transistors to form whole circuits on a sliver of silicon. This led to the creation of the first monolithic integrated circuit, the IC.

Gordon and Robert eventually left Fairchild and decided to form their own company. They would focus on integrated circuit development so they named their company, Integrated Electronics. They started making memory chips and focused the company on high speed innovation. The company did extremely well at first but also faced some difficult times that required significant changes. All the while, Gordon focused on pushing things forward and taking risks. They had to constantly reinvent themselves to survive. The company was later renamed to something that you might be familiar with, Intel.

Gordon believed that the key to their success was staying on the cutting edge. That led to the creation of the Intel 4004, the first general purpose programmable processor on the market. Gordon had observed that the number of transistors embedded on the chip seemed to double every year. He projected that trend line out into the future and made a prediction that the number of transistors would double at regular intervals for the foreseeable future. This exponential explosion that Gordon predicted would power the impact, scale and possibilities of computing for the world for years to come. Of course, you know that famous prediction. It was later named after him, “Moore’s Law”.

In 1971, the first Intel 4004 processor held 2,300 transistors. As of this year, the Intel Sapphire Rapids Xeon processor contains over 44 billion. The explosion of capability powered by science continues to accelerate the technology that enhances and amplifies our daily lives. This past Friday, Gordon Moore passed away at his home in Hawaii, but the inspiration, prediction and boundless technical optimism that he started continues to live on.

I know there is a lot going on right now. We are facing uncertainty and considerable change. It can create fear and apprehension. Technology is constantly being disrupted as well as its role, and our roles, in applying it to our businesses. While not comfortable, we need to embrace the change. Lean in and learn. We need to constantly find new ways to reinvent ourselves and what we do. Embrace the exponential possibility of the future! We can do this!

Moore’s Law – By Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie – https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2020/11/Transistor-Count-over-time.png, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98219918