For less than a flight change fee, get surprisingly easy expedited security and customs clearance when traveling by air

If you travel by air a several times a year, especially abroad from the U.S., you might want to consider signing up for one of the government’s expedited screening programs. After reading an article on Quartz, I took the plunge and was surprised by how easy it is. Now I regret not starting this process started earlier back when I was traveling more frequently for the BBG, but even now for personal trips and travel it will be a time and frustration saver for a fairly low fee.

For the price of less than some flight change fees, you can get Global Entry coverage for 5 years (for just $100) and if you are not in a rush to get things processed quickly, the Nexus program is an even better deal for $50 for 5 years with the same benefits. Here’s the description from Quartz:

Global Entry: It’s the most expensive program, at $100 for five years, but comes with the best benefits: You can skip the lines at passport control and customs when entering the United States and also enjoy TSA PreCheck, Nexus, and Sentri (explained below). The process of applying for Global Entry, which is administered by US Customs and Border Protection, also tends to be faster than the other programs.

Nexus: Choose this option if you want to save money and aren’t in a rush. It costs just $50 for five years and comes with all the same benefits as Global Entry and PreCheck. But the application process tends to take several months and can only be completed in a few cities near the US-Canada border. Nexus is designed to expedite crossing onto either side, with special lanes for cars and special kiosks at passport control in US and Canadian airports. (Note that Global Entry only gets you “Nexus” for crossing into the US; the full Nexus program also includes faster security screening in Canadian airports.)

While I tend to do the grandpa thing and show up hours before international flights and at least an hour before domestic flights, the Global Entry and Nexus passes can help you transfer customs and security faster, especially if you run late or miss a connection.

Some of the best management advice I’ve seen this year from an Imgur product director

One of the best posts of management advice I’ve seen this year so far is, “21 management things I learned at Imgur,” from Sam Gerstenzang, a former product director at Imgur now at the tech investment firm a16z, which reminded me  of and reinforced a lot of hard lessons I’ve learned over the years.

There’s so much in this succinct piece that’s valuable but a handful of the first three are really hitting home right now (I’m dealing with an unmotivated person on a side project):

1. It’s terribly difficult to manage unmotivated people. Make your job easier and don’t.

2. Different people need different kinds of management. Be adaptable to figure out what drives each person’s best performance.

6. Fire quickly. If you don’t fire bad performers fast, you’re at risk of losing your good performers. Don’t underestimate the effect bad performers have on good performers. Your team will likely move faster even with fewer bodies. Finally, firing for bad performance is easier than having to fire good people because you’ve run out of money, so fire the bad people before you have to fire the good people too.

Check out the full list and save it to back to periodically. Repetition is sometimes necessary to learn these hard management lessons.





The Iron and The Soul

Henry Rollins The Iron and the Soul

Henry Rollins was one of my life’s biggest inspirations and passive mentors, especially in my late teens and early 20s after I lost my father. From his music, to spoken word, to books and other writing, Rollins made a humongous impact on my character and life (more on this later).

While doing some summer cleaning of my Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later) archive, I found a reminder of one of Rollins’ most popular pieces of mainstream writing from Details magazine back in the 90s about growing up, self esteem, discipline, physical fitness and life, entitled, “The Iron and The Soul.” This piece doesn’t appear to exist on Details anymore (the media is the worst when it comes to digital archives… more on this later too.) but it has become a legend among many — photo copied, cloned, reposted all over blogs, message boards and gyms around the world because of it’s impact, especially on developing minds and bodies. Here’s a passage:

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr. Pepperman.

Read the whole thing including the backstory on Mr. Pepperman.


Use a child bike seat on your velocipede for gear, safety and theft prevention

I had a crazy idea this week when I saw a guy truckin’ down Pennsylvania Ave. through traffic on his road bike with a rare accessory: Get a baby bike seat to make your ride more handy.

Here are four major reasons this might be brilliant and useful:

1- Carry gear easily and securely.
If you’re bike commuting or traveling with groceries or some treats for a party, you need somewhere do secure your cargo of various sizes. There’s a lot of racks and saddles and options for storing bike gear, but a kid seat has built in seat belts, can hold up to 30-50 pounds of various sizes and shapes! Plus, you can use it for it’s intended use and carry a kid, if you need to.

#2- Theft protection.
Let’s say you’re a scumbag bike thief and you roll up to a rack of bikes looking for your next victim — are you more likely to steal the dozen without the baby carrier or the one with? Of course you’re not going to steal the baby carrier bike. Also, what parent is going to have a super expensive, fancy or high-value bike? He/she has to save their money for diapers. The dad/ mom-bike thing totally melts away any sexiness of a bike.

#3 – Safety.
If someone sees you* with a kid’s bike seat and they’re not total jerks** I would wager that they might be a little more mindful driving around you and passing you. From behind, they usually can’t see if you have a baby in there, so it has a magical way to get a safety bubble of protection.

* = If someone sees you is the sticking point there since folks in DC often don’t see bicyclists, especially cabbies who often don’t care or tourists who are lost and/or oblivious looking at monuments and not the road.

** = I can’t help you there. Jerks be jerkin’. Maybe put a funny sticker on the back or something to lighten their mood.

Also, I think having the actual seat up high on the back of the bike helps you get more visibility and be a larger thing to see for others (more than one of those kid bike trailers, which is another option). You can load it up with reflectors too — who cares you’re a dad/mom with a baby! You’re not sexy anymore!

#4 – Use it for its intended use and carry a kid to have fun, make memories and inspire a new generation of cyclists.
Get some exercise and adventure and instill a love of biking and respect for bikers with our next generation. My parents weren’t zealots about biking but I do remember riding in my dad’s bike seat as a kid with the cool wind blowing through my hair and sights of our neighborhood and nature whizzing by. That eventually instilled a love of family bike rides and an adult life-long love of biking.

Quote of the week: “When you say ‘no’ to something, you are saying ‘yes’ to something else.”

This past week I was struck by a quote from Tim Stringer on the Coaching for Leaders podcast:

“When you say ‘no’ to something, you are saying ‘yes’ to something else.”

I’ve heard and believed similar things, but not heard this so succinctly and perfectly. Especially in our society — and doubly so in DC — where it’s a badge of pride to CHOOSE to be ‘constantly busy.’ Most people don’t acknowledge much of what we do is a *choice* to be busy when it comes to work-life balance.

I, and a lot of people, think if we’re not running at 120% capacity, it’s very easy to say yes to things just to fill up your calendar but it’s good to have the bandwidth and space to say ‘yes’ to impromptu or urgent things, rather than having to book and plan out your ‘extra/side project’ schedule months in advance (which I actually just did for the next quarter… I’m glad I’m planning it, but after writing this realize I might need to just book 10% time for new/experimental things).

I’m right now wrestling with some side projects that I might need to wind down or walk away from because the initial commitment I offered has grown exponentially and unfortunately when other leaders in the organization have seen the extra work I’ve put in, they’ve lumped more on me, backed away and/or stepped down. I hoped that seeing someone putting in extra effort would inspire the culture and make the others reinvigorated to pull their fair share and work harder, but for some it’s had the opposite effect. There is one champion who I think is really excellent and working with me to improve the process and culture, and hopefully we can weather this storm and get some allies who will put in the time and effort needed. I’d hate to walk away from her getting re-inspired and her positive energy. Anyway that’s all to say, I’m thinking a lot about commitments, time, impact and how to choose wisely what to say yes and no to a lot lately so this quote struck me pretty hard at the right time.

If you don’t listen to the Coaching for Leaders podcast, you should check it out. It’s been one of my long-time favorites for podcasts on positive, realistic management approaches for all sorts of organizations.


Decluttering your home using the Kondo method

This week I came across an excellent article about a popular decluttering and organizing strategist, Marie Kondo, in Business Insider:

She also has clients in Japan that seek her out to help them tidy their homes. She encourages them to clean everything in one fell swoop and only keep the objects and clothes that they truly love.

“There is an order to follow: 1. clothes, 2. books, 3. documents, 4. miscellaneous items, 5. mementos,” Kondo told Business Insider about her method. “Working in this order, you can improve your judgement and determine which items spark joy.”

She told BI that you can tell when something sparks joy when you “feel your body go upward.” If something doesn’t make you happy when you touch it, Kondo said you should “thank it for its service” and get rid of it.

A lot of her strategies I’ve been employing for years, including the sock balling method but there’s a few pieces of her advice I’m going to pick up and use now — like the shirt stacking strategies.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned, which I think is critical is to only buy/rent enough apartment/house to serve what you need. I find a lot of people are like goldfish and will fill/grow their possessions to whatever space is available. So if you buy a big house, they’ll buy tons of stuff to fill it. The Tiny House movement has been an interesting cultural shift pushing in the opposite direction, and while I’m not that extreme, I do admire and dig learning from their efficiency and living strategies.

Much of her strategies echo a maxim from Ghandi I’ve tried to live by since my teenage years, “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Periodically do the discount double-check and see what discounts you can get from your corporation and industry

Discount Double Check

If you work for a corporation or a certain industry (especially government or military), you’d be surprised how many barely-publicized discounts you might be able to get — especially on things like monthly mobile phone plans! Every organization I’ve worked for since the 2000’s has had some sort of discount plan on cell coverage. All you have to do is Google/call and you could save usually 10-15%; it takes minutes and can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

I must admit, I didn’t think about this as a federal employee, but was reminded to check this week by some co-workers and found that there are tons of discounts and special offers available for Govies, including discounts on monthly phone bills from AT&T and Verizon, as well as a bunch of travel and moving companies, Apple computers, and much more.  Here’s a handful of handy sites tracking discounts:

It doesn’t hurt to do a quick discount double check before making a purchase to see if you could save a little. Also, as previously mentioned on Kaizen Will, you might be able to earn airline miles buying things online through most major carrier’s referral stores.


How to become an expert in emerging technology: Own it. Do it. Talk about it.

I have no idea what I'm doing dog

Here’s some career advice I have to keep re-learning:

“Own it. Do it. Talk about it.”

I wrote this down on a scrap of paper while traveling last month and listening to podcasts but I can’t seem to find which one it came from and googling doesn’t provide any clarity (so forgive me whoever this is from but I found it particularly profound and something I regret not embracing in the middle of my career).

This is especially important in the emerging skill and digital technology areas. *Everyone* is learning as they go. The experts and ‘big names’ get elevated because they own it. They do it (and dive deep experimenting in it). *AND* they talk about it (what they learned, what worked, what didn’t, how to improve, etc.).

I did this really well early on and gained some notoriety as a early tech journalism blogger at Journerdism. As I continued through my career though and especially after I went really deep into mobile technology during my Fellowship at RJI, I started to retreat and feel burned by people who would take my work and ideas, and claim them as their own with no attribution or credit. I went out of my way to cite and praise those that came before me and give them credit and when people took my work and built upon it but didn’t share the credit it really bothered me and took a while to get over it. But eventually I learned that’s not how we move forward as a society and culture.

In a world of proprietary vs. open source, open source will always do more societal/cultural good, exponentially faster and stronger than closed systems. But you gotta check your ego, be open and willing to share and learn with others, even if it means sometimes someone will step on your face to climb above you while using your work. Sometimes they aren’t trying to hurt you when they step on you, they’re just trying to move things forward. The irony here is I can’t find who said the quote so I’m not properly attributing it, but I hope they’ll forgive me and take my appreciation and any impact sharing this forward makes as credit for making the world better.

Road trip rebel: Get your electronic toll E-ZPass transponder from a different state to save money



The U.S. Toll Road system uses a uniform electronic standard for it’s digital transponders called “E-ZPass” but each state seems to have different monetization, discounts and billing models, so if you travel on a lot of toll roads (or never at all) you could have end up paying much more for getting and registering your E-ZPass in your home state. Check out Wikipedia for an awesome chart detailing all the fees, charges, minimums and discounts on the various state E-ZPass transponders to see your options.

The most notable difference to pay attention to: *Many* states charge monthly operator fees, regardless of if you use the pass. So if you’re like me and don’t make a ton local trips on the toll roads (unless my GPS fails me and I get lost) you could burn through your balance without doing anything.

Even though I don’t use it locally, I bit the bullet and got one for when I head home to visit family for a few reasons:

  1. There are several preferable/faster toll roads (and traffic on toll roads tends to be moving faster, less big trucks and less police, imho.)
  2. Paying cash at the toll booths almost always cost significantly more than using the E-ZPass (even before the state-based discounts)
  3. Using the electronic system also saves you time and gas because you don’t have to slow down, wait in line and pay — and at some toll booths especially in metro areas this can mean significant delays

For my needs, Illinois and Massachusetts seem to have the cleanest options, but ‘your mileage may vary’ ::rimshot:: depending on discounts you could get locally with your state’s option, so chose carefully.

Amazon Prime — One of My Best Purchases of 2011 (and beyond)

Amazon Prime

One of my best purchases of 2011 was joining Amazon Prime. At first when they announced it the membership sounded too good to be true, paying just over $70 for a year of free, 2-day shipping on most of what Amazon carried? That would pay for itself in 3-4 purchases! And boy did it. It really changed my behavior and made me become an “Amazon-first” customer, frequently checking prices there before making local purchases. (Yes, I know it’s horrible. But the convenience is too addicting!)

It’s changed the world of shopping for me and now roughly 37% of my purchases are through Amazon (which I use the Smile Always plugin to help fund the EFF’s important work), 38% through Costco, and 25% through local stores.

Over the years, Amazon has continued to add more and more extras to Prime members and kept me year-over-year. Besides the two-day shipping and free returns, the most notable, newer benefits include:

Pro tip: The past few weeks Amazon has been HEAVILY touting “Amazon Prime Day” on July 15, 2015 (this week!) with ‘better deals than Black Friday,’ there’s still time to register if you want to give it a try.

Bonus Prime Pro-Tip: If you have a Prime account, you can share the 2-day shipping benefits with up to 4 friends/members of your household! I’m sure this feature will go away at some point once they get everyone hooked on Prime, but while it’s basically free to share, might as well do it.