Sunday Morning Coffee

Sunday Morning Coffee: Stop Following the Rules

November 11, 2012

One thing that continues to baffle me is how well Americans follow the rules (in public).

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Certainly, order does trump chaos, so rules are important, but the extent to which rules are followed varies throughout the world.  In developing countries, rules often tend to be treated as more like guidelines, and if corruption is going on, the rules are just completely ignored.

So, why do we follow rules in the first place? Rules do a few things: first, they help to establish accepted norms of interaction.   Secondly, rules ensure the communal good (safety, fairness, and so on).  For instance, when two cars pull up at a stop sign intersection, the rules of right-of-way make it easy to decide who should go first.  It also gives both drivers the peace of mind that if they follow the right-of-way rule, then they can proceed through the intersection safely.

So far, rules seem great –they help us communicate and they create a net benefit.  So why are so many rules ignored?

The trouble with rules stems from an economic concept called the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”.  Essentially, if everyone follows the rules, then the person that breaks them stands to benefit (e.g. the person who cheats on a test), whereas if everyone breaks the rule, then everyone ends up worse off (e.g. the teacher realizes everyone cheated and punishes everyone).

In America, we have done an excellent job at creating a rule-fearing society.  For the most part, people just follow the rules without question.  In fact, often rules are self-enforcing because Americans call eachother out when they break the rules.  This is part of our culture, but it is also part of being a developed country (people are more likely to trust the rule-enforcers).

Why you should break the rules

Rules are excellent when it comes to driving, sports and the law.  The problem is that too often, we keep following the rules in areas we shouldn’t.

Rules are meant to be broken:

-          When you are designing something that has never been designed before

-          When you are creating a business strategy that isn’t the same old norm

-          When you are building the next big thing.

Rules should not define your creativity.  When it comes to free thinking and new solutions…break the rules!

~ Bryan

Sunday Morning Coffee: The ‘American’ Dream

September 9, 2012

With the American presidential election coming up, each party has spent a tremendous effort convincing the public that their candidate for president will do a better job at helping the ordinary citizen reach the ‘American’ dream.

I put ‘American’ in quotes because the dream is one that is shared by people across the world; we each have a vision of life success that we aspire to.

Yet, so often we let society and our peers determine the terms of that dream, and the path to it.  As a kid, the path to the dream is laid before you quite clearly: get good grades, go to a good college, and get a good job: boom, add in a mortgage and kids and you’ve got the dream. Read more »

Sunday Morning Coffee: If You Want the Moon…

August 26, 2012

When my father was a kid, he used to believe that if he wanted something, it was already his.  Candy at the grocery store, toys at the mall, his brother’s dessert…you get the idea.

Eventually this led to the establishment of an allowance system in the Farris household & the beginning of my Dad’s natural thriftiness.  Yet, what was a 7-year old’s ‘I want it…therefore it is mine’ attitude resurfaced in a mature way later in life as drive and ambition.

Sure, you can’t go around taking things (okay, we’ll give you some credit if you’re under the age of 10) but you should see the world as a set of opportunities ready for you to seize.   If you want to achieve something, then pursue it…do it!

The difference between a 7-year old’s attitude and adult life is that you will never reach a goal by definition of wanting to reach the goal.  Everything takes work, and effort and diligence, but at the same time, everything is possible.

If you want the moon, make it happen.

~ Bryan


Sunday Morning Coffee: Chocolate Covered Wasabi Beans

August 12, 2012

There aren’t many edible items that sound more gross to me than chocolate covered wasabi beans.  Yet, they are exactly the kind of treat that can attract a crowd.  What can you learn from this?

First – being different is important.  Wasabi goes with sushi, and Id never put chocolate on my tempura roll, but somehow the combination is unique enough to grab your attention.

Different is memorable and exciting–mundane is drab and uninspiring. Read more »

Sunday Morning Coffee: Jazz Bands in Berkeley

July 29, 2012

A friend of mine pointed out that Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley had recently been over run with blue grass/jazz style bands on the street corners.  I was skeptical when he said it: I walk/drive/run down Shattuck avenue on a very regular basis and I had yet to see a spontaneous blue grass phenomenon.

But then it happened–I saw a band playing right by the BART station.   Read more »

Sunday Morning Coffee: Slow Days

July 22, 2012

If you’re like me, then you know to-do lists quite well.

Nearly every day the first thing I do is make a list, review a list or sort out how I’m going to sequence my list.   Even on days when I’ve freed myself from the list, I find myself still trying to cram more into the day.

Time is the world’s most precious non-renewable resource, so I try to make the most of it (time after time).

Yet, some days it is better to take a step back from the driver seat and let time just happen to you.  Take your foot off the pedal and stop trying to be more productive, stop trying to plan every second, and take a day to relax, or just enjoy. Read more »

Sunday Morning Coffee: Two Many Problems

July 15, 2012

Some businesses have two problems they are trying to solve, rather than one.  Solving one problem can be hard enough; solving two is crazy hard…particularly for entrepreneurs trying to get their idea off the ground.

Whether you are starting a new company, leading a new initiative or just planning an event, it is critical to consider the problem(s) you are solving for each of your stakeholders.

Bystander Problems
Consider your idea: list out who benefits from your concept and why. It won’t surprise me if you realize you are addressing a lot of issues for a lot of people.  Businesses also fulfill a lot of needs that bystanders have.  For instance—a new coffee shop may revitalize a corner or provide people with jobs.  Certainly these are valuable bystander effects of the coffee shop’s core reason for existence: selling coffee.

Read more »

Sunday Morning Coffee: Let Them Tell That Story Twice

July 8, 2012

Have you ever been hanging out with a friend who eagerly launched into a story that you’ve heard before? Your gut reaction is to stop them, “Yeah yeah, you told me the other day…”.  And you’re in the right – it can be frustrating to hear a story twice, but maybe just sometimes you should let your friend charge forward.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to stop someone; for instance, maybe they are simply telling you a quick anecdote in order to jog your memory.  If that’s the case, then you should definitely interrupt them when you get it.  In other instances, your friend may just be telling you a story again for the sake of it, and it’s not that important to them so you can put a stop to it.

The key is that you make a thoughtful evaluation before interrupting someone. Take note of how eager your friend is to share their story.  Even if they told you the story once before, it may be a story that they love to re-tell.  We all know that in part, telling a story lets you relive the moment.


Take the split second to guess whether the retell will be more annoying to you than it will be special to your friend.  If you think it will be a good moment for them, then be a good friend and suffer through a good story for the second time.

How many times have you read a book twice? Watched the same movie more than once?  What about a TV show? Or a musical? Stories are told and retold, just go with it, especially if it matters to someone else.

~ Bryan

Sunday Morning Coffee: Anticipation

July 1, 2012

In May I wrote about Pressure Gaugers: people who act as support beams before anyone realizes that support is needed.  Today, I’d like reframe the same concept in a different light.  The core principle at play is anticipation –  the concept that one should be continuously aware of what might happen next.

While anticipating someone’s deeper needs is important, it can also go a long way to help people with basic conveniences.

Think about it – in a round-about-way there is real economic ‘value’ that you are providing just by being a good friend.   The difference between nice hotels, restaurants and gyms and their respective lower quality counter parts is that nice costs A LOT more mostly because it includes much better service (and a staff that anticipates client’s needs).

Just by going the extra way for your friends, you’re building a relationship that is based on kindnesses and gifts…gifts that are easy to give and that mean a lot to receive.   I’m talking about really easy stuff here — like passing the remote when you stop watching TV, or thinking to bring a glass of water when you’re coming back from the kitchen because you noticed your friend just sat down to eat but doesn’t have a drink.

The most impressive & meaningful part is if you can truly anticipate and think of your friend’s needs before they do.

Anticipate and address your brother’s needs and wants before they realize what they need or want.


The little things matter more than you think.  Try doing it for one friend for one week.

~ Bryan


Sunday Morning Coffee: Teach

June 24, 2012

Teachers do not get the respect that they deserve.  In fact, the act of teaching isn’t given the attention it should.

In 17 years of formal schooling, not once did someone teach me how to teach others.  Yet, teaching others is what society is all about.

Early physicians taught others about the fundamental laws of our universe, and that in turn inspired others to learn more and teach their insights to others as well.  Knowledge and skills progress because as a society we take time to teach each other.   However, a society is large enough that not everyone needs to pay attention to teaching in order for the society to progress. Read more »

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