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Vaccinations are progressing slowly. Here’s why. Image Rights

US Federal and State governments have mostly screwed up the initial roll out of vaccinations against COVID-19. Millions of vials are sitting in storage waiting to be delivered, while thousands continue to die each day. It is a tragedy that has been playing out in slow motion, and makes it exceedingly obvious that no one in a position of responsibility here has ever studied game theory or computer science. The mistakes are so glaring, and the issue so important, I think we should dig into how such a system ought to be designed.

There is a mathematical systems design and analysis approach called Queuing Theory, pioneered by Agnar Krarup in the early 20th century. The calculus does get exceedingly complex, exceedingly quickly (and I encourage you to read up on it if interested), but we can summarize it this…


Deploying Solutions for Last-Mile Voter Issues.

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I build systems of behavior change.

Democrats’ ground game and voting intervention effort has been particularly weak these past few election cycles. Understandably, COVID-19 changed many rules in 2020, but there is an overarching, structural problem with all the campaigns I’ve worked on or observed in 2018 and 2020:

They fail to truly solve (or even acknowledge) “last-mile” voting problems.

We spend a lot of time talking about major reasons why people don’t vote, such as candidate enthusiasm or political engagement or voter suppression. …


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Me, just before my Coming to America

I came to the US 25 years ago for my MBA. At the time, I always felt that Canada (and particularly the sleepy hamlet of Toronto that I had grown up in) was too provincial and confining. I wanted to do startup stuff, and get involved in the tech industry, and that meant…America.

But my actual Coming to America was more accidental, and, at least initially, involved much less Sexual Chocolate than the film. I had planned to study a joint business and law degree at a University near my home, and looked forward to climbing the legal ladder, as my family had hoped. My parents, refugees from communist Hungary and Romania wanted us to excel academically and professionally. …


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Looks rainy and windy in Belleau on Nov 10, 2018…n’est ce pas? (cc US Gov)

The President has gotten himself into hot water for a report that claims he disparaged dead soldiers after refusing to attend a WWI commemoration ceremony at an American Military Cemetery on Nov 10, 2018. He — of course — denied having said that, and his proxies have been shouting “deep state conspiracy” into the great, yawning void ever since.

Any rational person knows he’s lying. The original Atlantic article was validated and fact checked by the AP and other news outlets. This alone should be sufficient. Then there was the lie he told about “calling Melania at home to say he was sad he couldn’t attend” — when she was in France with him the whole time. …


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Preppy Surprise! It’s not me! image cc

Growing up in Canada, the child of refugees and Holocaust survivors, I never felt like I was part of the majority. This wasn’t entirely because of things others did or said to me, but rather a general feeling of not fully belonging. The white kids (as we’d call them) were rich — and preppy. They had families of British, Irish, German or Scottish origin, with long roots in Canada. …


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Rich vs Poor Entrepreneurship. Image cc licensed

I didn’t grow up with much extra money.

My parents, both working-class refugees to Canada, struggled to make ends meet and to give us the best possible opportunities. Canada itself is an excellent place to be an immigrant, and we never wanted for much, really.

My mom was always a striver. Though she had decent-paying jobs with great stability (and some success) she always yearned to start her own thing. And she did, three times over, with a home business selling kitchenwares, and then market stalls and eventually stores selling all kinds of home goods.

This rubbed off on me — hardcore. I have spent the majority of my career (the last 21 years to be precise) starting companies. I get an extraordinary thrill from ideating and then materializing that idea into an actual company. This first phase is — far and away — my favorite, and a source of great excitement. It’s why I spend so much time mentoring startups even now, and producing programs like the SYOB (Start Your Own Business) project with Entrepreneur magazine and Gro. Being able to feed others’ optimism is powerful stuff. …


Sadly, the lessons are being ignored

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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

I remember, as a teenager, first hearing about AIDS. It’s a foggy memory of a news broadcaster talking about Rock Hudson dying. And I remember not knowing who that was, but my mom was distraught, tears rolling down her face.

“Why are you crying, Mom?”

“Rock Hudson was such an idol of mine. I can’t believe he’s gay and has AIDS.”

It left an indelible welt on me that continued to grow and redden with every passing year, sexual awakening, and HIV scare. My dad (like myself, a gay man) kept his orientation secret from my mom during the early 1980s. By the end of the decade, they were divorced, and he was dating his now 30-plus-year partner. …


The case for more empathy and less well-meaning ‘help’

A close-up of a young football player rubbing his face with his hand in exhaustion.
A close-up of a young football player rubbing his face with his hand in exhaustion.
Photo: Sisoje/E+/Getty Images

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety at multiple points throughout my life. Increasingly, I’ve become aware that this may be due to CPTSD (Complex PTSD) from my childhood, but honestly I can’t make it through a single chapter of any book on the subject without bursting into tears. Progress on this one is, as you might imagine, achingly slow.

Even approaching the subject leaves me breathless and avoidant. I often find myself in a deep spiral of shame, fear, and second-guessing — revisiting every mistake I’ve ever made, every time I’ve hurt someone, every “self-actualized” choice I’ve insisted upon. …


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Warby Parker: Stylish but Destructive (image cc)

Brand and consumer relationships take a long time to build, but are very easily destroyed. This is the story of one such relationship and I hope it serves as a case study to all entrepreneurs on the importance of nurturing customer relationships even after you’re successful.

I’ve been a loyal Warby Parker customer since launch. I remember hearing about this startup that was disrupting the eyeglass industry at a Tech mixer in New York in 2010. As a long-term “Four Eyes Club” member, I was super excited for anything that would change the game.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was 10, which is an incredibly awkward age to suddenly need eyewear. My body was going through changes that would make me very uncomfortable about my appearance: I was the tallest kid in class, one of the heaviest, loud and boisterous, and now in need of eyeglasses. Suffice it to say that I was a bully magnet, saved only by my sense of humor and my friendships with the cutest girls in class. …


Major cognitive biases often blind entrepreneurs to the truth.

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A dairy-based metaphor is one I can really get behind

Feedback. It does a startup good.

In my experience working closely with startups, most entrepreneurs know the importance of feedback. But I’ve also observed over the years that feedback is exceedingly difficult for most of them to incorporate into their vision.

Recently I wrote about my process for acquiring, listening to, processing and acting upon feedback in your early stage startup. Now I want to address the entrepreneurs out there and challenge your cognitive biases against feedback. Nothing is more likely to separate you from the also-rans.

MENTAL MODELS

Feedback is difficult for most people to process. Though negative feedback is often harder to accept than positive, it is nonetheless challenging at some level for most people. …

About

Gabe Zichermann

Author and Public Speaker on Gamification, The 4th Industrial Revolution, the Future of Work and Failure. More about me: https://gabezichermann.com

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