When I was 5 years old I set my house on fire

This story is absolutely true.

I was a very curious, and some would say active child. I don’t remember the kind of trouble I would get into, but I do remember one particular time when my mischief got way out of hand. One spring night in 1976 at our home in Fort Campbell, I awoke to curiosity and poor judgment telling me it would be a great idea to play with fire. So I snuck some thick orange Hanukkah candles from another room, used the stove’s pilot light to light them, and started lighting one candle then another, fascinated by the flames.

I was evidently unaware of the concept of fire safety or potential problematic consequences. Sure enough, a spark soon lit the living room couch which started to burn … a little. As the flames began to spread, I though I should probably put this fire out fast. (I believe my main concern was not getting in trouble.)

I calmly walked a few steps to the kitchen, filled the only container I could reach, a small Dixie cup, with water, then walked back to toss the 2 oz of water onto the spreading fire. That didn’t seem to have any effect, so I went back to the kitchen to look for a bucket under the sink, but I didn’t find one. This was not good news – and with no other options – I made the logical decision to go back to bed.

The next thing I remember is my older brother Ben waking us up – scream that the house was on fire! He had woken up to the smell of smoke and alerted everyone to get out in time. Thankfully, all of us escaped our burning house – but the building was badly damaged and we couldn’t move back in until a lot of work was done on the house and new furniture etc. could be purchased.

Aside from the foolish decision to play with fire while everyone was sleeping… analytical me thinks this:

My errors were:

  1. Not assessing the situation properly – I was worried about getting in trouble when the real fear should have been that I was coming dangerously close to killing myself and my entire family.
  2. Once I was in the situation I wrongly assessed the solutions available to me.
    I didn’t even consider getting help from someone else, for example.

It occurs to me that there are situations where we all act a little bit like that 5-year old.
We find ourselves in a difficult situation which poses a risk, but we misread the risk. We are not able to see it because we are blinded … perhaps by our inexperience, hubris, our being too close, or just a blind spot. And even when we do see the danger – we often incorrectly assess the possible solutions or the best solution.

In these situations it is important to consider despite what you believe –
The way to solve both of these issues is by figuring out WHO can help you?

WHO can help you understand the gravity of the situation?
And WHO can help you work toward a solution.

That’s when you need a friend to help – or to direct you to someone who can.

Can AI compare Car Rental Companies in the US?

As AI models become easier to use, we will see more people relying on them for “research”. I have no idea how accurate this is, but I just used Claude AI to create a comparison of US Rental Car Companies along various parameters. I then marked them as negative, positive, and neutral. What do you think?

This is the result (with my color coding added) Click to see at full size.

Do Not Condemn Hamas!

This is probably the last thing you would expect someone like me to say. I’m an Israeli living in a small town 15 minutes south of Jerusalem. I am married with 8 kids, and three of our sons are currently serving in the Israeli army, two of them as reservists. But I actually mean it. I don’t want you to condemn Hamas.

On October 7th the Jewish people suffered the worst horror of my lifetime. We were transported back to the darkest times in our history. I was reminded of Savta Gitta, my wife’s maternal grandmother who told us of her being ruthlessly stuffed into a cattle car packed with Jews in Budapest and taken to the death camp of Birkenau where the majority of the people who survived the journey with her, were soon murdered.

For centuries Jews have suffered antisemitism and hate. In the modern age, one of the most powerful weapons of our enemies has been dishonesty and hypocrisy. We have often had no way to know who, as my friend and well-known peace advocate Daniel Lubetzky recently put it, are the builders versus who are the destroyers.

On many US college campuses large numbers of students have joined clubs who ostensibly support Palestinians in their struggle for a better future. But when the moment of truth came – we found out that even more important than the welfare of Palestinian citizens is the vicious killing of Jews. We saw many of these students march and sign petitions stating that Israel was completely at fault for Hamas’s heinous atrocities toward them. These students are smart enough to realize that “from the river to the sea…” has exactly one meaning – destroying the Jewish state.

But we already knew that much of the support around the world for Palestinians is really just antisemitism. Why else would the LGBTQ community automatically and fully support a terrorist regime who has no tolerance for gays and lesbians? Why do these Palestinian supporting students not protest Hamas who by all accounts spends more resources on arming itself and building terror infrastructure, than on building schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure for the Palestinians who elected them?

I haven’t been able to focus on anything but the war since it began. I worry about my family, particularly my 3 soldiers. I am concerned about my 55 employees and their families. Israel’s future. The future of mankind.

If only people could see things from a different perspective – they would get it.

That’s what I thought. A few months ago I bought several books on how national narratives change. What I learned is that great arguments and logic won’t help. These people are not short on facts. National narratives most often change through new visionary leadership or through game-changing events – often decisive wars.

But that didn’t stop me last week from joining a Facebook group called “We are Palestinians” and then spending hours sharing my perspective. “Torturing children as you murder them in their homes is not the same as when civilians die during a targeted Israeli attack on a terrorist leader….” I created a chart of the most densely populated territories in the world to show that Macau and Singapore rank higher than Gaza – and that dense population does not equal poverty. But I don’t think anyone was particularly convinced or that anyone updated their opinions.

I wanted everyone to condemn Hamas.

Because in my nation’s narrative the heinous crimes of Hamas are never justified. We would give our lives before torturing children. Period. Our enemies see this as weakness. Israel treats Gazan children in our hospitals, we employ their citizens, etc. We are doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are transparent about our goals and our disagreements.

It’s no secret that most Israelis desperately want to live in peace. So much so, that many of us wanted to believe that we were on that path. Sure, the Hamas charter states clearly, Hamas exists to violently destroy Israel, but c’mon… And we foolishly want to believe that the Palestinian Authority is different, even though every PA leader interviewed over the past 2 weeks has given Hamas their high praise.

I was wrong and I have changed my thinking. Yes, I believe that anyone who doesn’t actively condemn Hamas and instead grants them aid and comfort, is complicit in their terrorism.

The only real choice is to destroy Hamas, or effectively join their cause.

But right now is a rare moment of clarity.

People and nations are showing their true colors and rather than call them out, I think we need to pay attention and then thank them for their honesty. And take copious notes.

If you are a nation or leader who believes that there is context and that Hamas’s heinous actions are in some way understandable – please don’t take back your words. I mean it. We need to understand where you stand.

If you are a student leader who blames Israel for Hamas’s well-planned campaign of murdering Jews, I say, double down on your antisemitism, add that to your LinkedIn profile, and list that after your preferred pronouns in your emails. Bill Ackman is thinking smart.

The future of humanity rests on knowing where we all stand.

Let’s stop asking people to decry terrorism.

And let’s stop announcing that we have the right to defend ourselves.

Anyone who needs to hear this isn’t going to be convinced by our saying it.

If you believe terrorism is a threat to our world you should condemn Hamas vocally.

But if your hatred of Jews (or Christians, or gays, etc.) is greater, please don’t condemn Hamas.

Getting on the same wavelength!

Communication is one of the most important aspects of human interaction. It can bridge the gap between people who experience the world in different ways, but it can also be a great challenge.

Trying to communicate with someone who experiences the world in a different way can be difficult, especially when it comes to conveying abstract concepts like colors or subtleties of language and expression. It’s often said that trying to explain colors to someone who is colorblind is like trying to explain rainbows to a blind person. On the surface, it may seem impossible. Colors are an abstract concept, and it is difficult to convey how we experience them to someone who cannot.

Similarly, trying to explain the nuances of language and expression can be a challenge, especially when working with someone whose native tongue is not the same as our own.

At our office, we recently encountered this issue with our office cleaner, a cheerful guy who really wants to do a good job. He would do whatever he was asked, but he had a hard time noticing things that needed to be done that he hadn’t been told. For example, he would miss cobwebs in the corners or dust on the window sills.

Recently, I had an idea: instead of asking him to notice things that needed to be cleaned or minor repairs, each day he should hunt for five things that needed cleaning. By changing the task from noticing to hunting, it gave him a specific goal to focus on and helped him to actually find the things that needed attention. We also created a chart that listed the tasks he was supposed to do, and he was able to track his progress. This gave him a tangible reward system, and it seemed to motivate him more.

Now that we have gamified it, he is actually noticing what we wanted him to see in the first place. Although this was just a small example, it shows the importance of being able to communicate effectively with someone who experiences the world in a different way. Understanding the other person’s perspective can be difficult, but it is essential if we want to bridge the gap between us.

By being creative and finding ways to make the task more engaging, we can help those we are communicating with to better understand the concepts we are trying to convey.

Why do political votes seem to frequently be evenly split?

So a few years ago I started noticing that elections often seemed to be closer than I would have expected. Each major party could potentially win. And I wondered how it seems to happen in the the US and Israel and elsewhere. And I realized what I assume many people already knew – but no one ever said..

Simply stated, assuming liberals vs. conservatives for example, there are forces that push the left further left and conversely the right gets pushed further right – each to differentiate and attract people on their side of the aisle.

But in a two major party system – or a right vs. left scenario – you need to capture enough of the center to get to say 51% without pushing to far to the other side that you will anger your natural voters. So the battle ends up being how to be squarely in your own camp and also have policies and plans that will attract the middle – if both parties do it right they should overlap in the center – which leads to a close election.

I think this is obvious once you think about it – but in case it’s not…

Make your CV Stand out!

My company (Five Blocks) continues to grow and that means we are always looking for great people.

So far we have been incredibly fortunate to have attracted a really talented group who works very well together.

In the process I have seen a lot of CVs and some of the stand out more than others. Choosing a good design shouldn’t be rocket science – don’t reinvent the wheel. Look online and find an impressive looking template and adapt (copy!) – if you have to pay for the template – it’s probably worth it. A template will save you decisions and time.

Pro tip: if you put something unusual on your CV or in your cover letter it will probably catch the attention of the reader.

I recommend the following: do something to tell the reader how you are special.

What’s your superpower? If you feel you have one (and other people agree…) share that!

Examples could include:

  • Great at explaining complex ideas to clients.
  • Meticulous at note-taking
  • Excited by and rise to new challenges
  • Adept at leading programs

If you shine in a specific area definitely find a way of sharing that, otherwise we could miss it and miss out on hiring a great candidate!

If you want something – Give it to others!

This post says something that is either profound, obvious or possibly wrong 🙂 . It’s a thought I just had and it makes sense to me – so I thought I would share it!

In life we learn that the best way to achieve something is to go grab it! If you want another slice of pizza – go get it! You want a job – apply for it! A book looks interesting – go read it. All of this works well when you are interacting with the inanimate world, when you are following the rules of commerce, etc.

When you are interacting with people it often works the opposite way. When you want love – you give love. If you want compassion – be compassionate toward others. In business you are trying to create value – the way to do that is to create value for others!

This isn’t the only way to do business, but it is the way that focuses on your counterpoint rather than just yourself.

Our company has a service provider who wants us to pay more for the services he provides. Instead of focusing on the great value he is giving us – he spends his time explaining to us how he’s not making enough money. As much as I want him to make a good living – my primary concern is that I get value from him. When he spends all of his time explaining what he’s not getting – I wonder aloud why don’t you tell me how you are going all out for me and my team. If I feel you are of course I will want to make sure you are compensated well!

As Five Blocks has matured we have learned that the best way to get is to give. and not in a tit for tat way. We spend lots of time with potential clients and old partners – helping them with digital advice, pinch-hitting issues that arise in the online profiles of their company or their clients’ companies. We do audits and fixes for nothing. And it’s smart. It rarely turns into a paid engagement. But we have built something more important – a relationship based on kindness, trust and proving value. And that ultimately leads us to be a better company and grow our business!

So my advice is if you want to succeed – help others succeed. And think bigger than this month or even this year. Make sure you are playing this game of life with the long-term in mind!

Want to reduce client churn? Here’s how we do it!

My firm Five Blocks offers digital reputation management services and often our clients engage us as one would an exterminator or a locksmith – to help them solve a very specific measurable problem.

In order to retain our clients far beyond the original reason they hired us we employ the following tactics.

1) HOLISTIC APPROACH: We reframe the issue as a symptom rather than a cause. Meaning that while we can provide some relief for your immediate need, you need a more complete long term solution to address the underlying causes. This same strategy could make sense for other businesses where you can both address a short-term need but also help the client adopt a “lifestyle change” in their business around your area of expertise.

2) PROVIDE UNIQUE ADDICTIVE DELIVERABLES :  For example, unique insightful analysis that is easily understood and helps communicate successes within their own organization. One of our clients is a large bank and we have created a colorful weekly report of their online reputation that is then distributed widely within relevant parts of the organization. If the company moved to another vendor they would lose this popular report which highlights the work our contacts are accomplishing for their firm.

3) EDUCATE YOUR CLIENT: Our field, like many others, is constantly evolving and there are new opportunities and threats emerging all the time. We use a portion of our regular calls and reports for education: to share the latest opportunities, trends, and threats related to our work. When we have asked our clients for feedback they tell us that this part of our report is consistently insightful – and we feel this is an additional reason that clients stick with us for so long.

4) DEVELOP GREAT RELATIONSHIPS: We encourage our account team to develop friendly relationships and to support our clients even in areas that are beyond the scope of our agreements. When we do decide to move an account director off of an account we usually do so by introducing someone new and leaving the original account team in the loop and copied on emails for several months. In this way we ensure very smooth handoffs.

“The most expensive keyword on Google”

In 2003 I began a journey that would lead me from SEM (paid advertising), SEO (Organic Search), and eventually Digital Reputation Management. It started when I found out about the emergence of a really viable VOIP solution for home phones (Vonage). When I decided to try to sell that online I discovered Yahoo’s Overture and Google’s Adwords – platforms that enabled me to do effective advertising to get people to sign up and buy. I was able to sell VOIP as an affiliate through the Israeli Vonage reseller Ameriphone, as well as California-based Packet8.

Soon after I decided that if I could attract customers to VOIP offers, I should try other products and services. I had always loved the idea of long distance communication and cell phones were becoming ubiquitous, so I jumped into affiliate sales of cell phones with plans by T-mobile, Verizon, Cingular (AT&T), Nextel, and Sprint. I continued to use paid advertising, landing pages that converted really well, and a 24/6 (Vonage) phone line that prospects could call to place orders and ask questions.

At some point in mid-2004 I did a Google search to find out the most expensive keyword on the internet and found out it was Mesothelioma – a terrible life-threatening cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. At that time I believe that the cost of a click was $60+ each! This discovery introduced me to the value of generating leads for lucrative services – in this case law firms. Together with a friend I decided to create a tool that would generate misspellings of that keyword and others because at that point online advertising platforms did not automatically place ads if the keyword was misspelled. The tool was called keywordsfinder and we managed to sell 30-40 copies as about $50 each, if I recall correctly.

I used that tool to test my theory and found I could get tens of clicks/day at a fraction of the $60 price tag. So I set out to find lawyers who needed those clicks. I was fortunate enough to find one and the work that we were able to do with his firm over the following 5-6 years was instrumental in getting us from being an e-commerce operation, to one focused on consulting to other companies.

All this came to mind today when a colleague shared with me Kantar’s recent study of the most expensive keywords on Google.

Once more Kantar Media has returned to this subject, this time analyzing the most expensive keywords on Google over the last four years, from August 2014 through August 2018. During this time we found mesothelioma terms accounted for 67 of the 100 most expensive keywords on U.S. Google, including all of the Top 10:

It was interesting to me that after so many years, Mesothelioma is still the most expensive keyword you can buy on Google!

Why I love hotel rooms

Don’t get me wrong, I love being home! My bed is comfortable Everything is just how I like it.

But there is something about sleeping at a hotel (provided its clean and comfortable).

I think I know what it is.

I think its the fact that hotel rooms are totally uncluttered. The night table doesn’t have stacks of books I am reading, and a package of tissues, and charger cables, and pens…

For me, there is something very calming about being in a place with no extra unnecessary clutter. It’s like I don’t have to worry about anything because I only have the things that I need.

It lets me think more clearly.

OK it’s possible that not having any kids around or 15 hamsters squeaking just outside our bedroom, those things could also be possible pluses. But I have to say that both the experience of being in a place where no one will bother me and having no stuff to bother me is very refreshing, and even when I have to travel for business and be alone I think I really get a lot out of being somewhere that is not cluttered.