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Earlier today I was cruising through Facebook when I noticed a post from a friend of mine linking to this page, 25 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to San Francisco. Although I have not spent any time in San Francisco, I too am a transplant living in an odd city that is in so many ways still a great mystery to myself. After reading this list, I started coming up with my own list of things that make perfect sense to me now, but just a year ago, these same things would made me think twice. Here we go.
1) New York Drivers Taxi Drivers Are Amazing. People give New Yorkers crap about their driving “style”, but I’ll be honest, there is some reason to their madness. Pedestrians, bikes, potholes, chickens (see number ), etc. These qualify less as “foreign objects” on the road and more as givens while driving in NYC. You would think this place would be one massive wreck after another. As of today, I can not actually remember seeing a wreck while living here. Either I’m blind or those who do drive in Manhattan are pretty good at it. Still very rude though.
2) Expensive Food & Cheap Food. Many people see New York as this exceptionally expensive place. And these people would be right. It cost more to live here than anywhere in the United States except maybe the San Francisco Bay Area. But what people don’t realize is that high cost of living doesn’t automatically mean the majority of people are making more. Add in a huge immigrant population and that’s the recipe for good and cheap food. What’s even better about New York; you are extremely likely to find the cheap place next to the expensive place. In fact, it might be in a food cart parked in front of the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan. $5 or $50. Your choice.
3) There Are Lots Chickens In Brooklyn. Williamsburg is the Hipster capital of Brooklyn. Don’t get me started on Hipsters. We aren’t going there. What I will talk briefly about is the massive Orthodox Jewish population in certain areas of Brooklyn. The black hat brigade is a powerful force (especially in Williamsburg) and once a year, Williamsburg turns into a huge chicken market for a ritual known as Kapparot. Sometime later, it would be a good guess that a lot of fried chicken is available. Needless to say, the chickens don’t have much fun during this celebration.
4) Crazy Verus New York Crazy. A lot of places claim to be the center of crazy. Los Vegas for instance. I personally thought I knew crazy when I befriended two of my close friends, Mike and Will. They have actually made money by being crazy so I thought that was a pretty strong sign they were a bit looney. Wrong. There is Crazy and then there is NYC Crazy. I’ve had people try to sell be booze out of a gas can on the way to JFK airport, I’ve seen people open the subway door to smoke who knows out of a moving subway, etc. Once again, there is Crazy and then there is NYC Crazy.
5) The “I Hate This Place… When Can I Go Back?” Syndrome. New York can and often does suck. That’s a fact. I will not pretent to hide it. The weather is terrible in winter, it gets super hot in summer (and A/C is not up to par), the people are more often than not rude (see #9), etc. But remove someone who has lived here for sometime and guess what? They can’t wait to get back. I’ve left this city many of time wanting nothing but to never come back. 1 week later… And I’ve asked around. This is common.
6) Upper East Side Children. Evil exist and it lives between 60th and 100th street. I should know. I live in the general neighborhood. Well kinda. I live on Roosevelt Island. It’s quickly turning into the place UESers go when they want some peace and quiet, but aren’t quite ready to move to Connecticut. But back to the UES Children. The average income of a Upper Eastside resident is well over 100k/year. To live in the Upper East Side with a family, you better be bringing in more like 300K+ per year if you are the breadwinner of your family. Add in the easy access to chic stores, 60+ hour workweeks an Au Pairs, and concierge everything… those kids want their soy latte milk shack NOW! I don’t know if that exist, but you get the point.
7) Shoes On Dogs. I may be jaded by my living location, but seriously… shoes on dogs. I’m just going to post a link to a picture. And the best part, that dog still loves to drink out of the toilet.
8) Dog Poop And Courtesy. New Yorkers are not known for their politeness or courtesy. Except in the case of dog poop. You will see signs in the nice sections of the city politely asking walkers to, “please curb your dog.” Please do so and pretty please, if you own a dog in NYC, invest in a dog poop bag thing for your leash. It’s kinda embarrassing to watch people McGiver this duty. There is one exception to the poop rule though. The horses in central park. I ride my bike there and those horses go everywhere.
9) Most New Yorkers Are Actually Really Helpful. Approach with respect and don’t act like a complete tourist. Also, if someone looks busy or in a rush, it is because they are busy or in a rush. But here is a hint. Wait for a busy intersection and ask while people are waiting to cross.
10) Times Square Is The Most Hated Place In NYC. People come to New York and think Times Square is the center of the city. It’s not. It’s the center of the tourest version of the city. Any New Yorker with any sense avoids this place like the plague. It seemed more fun back in the day. Look that one up.
11) The Subway Is Surprisingly Safe And Well Maintained. Outside of petty crime (and even that is surprisingly rare), the subway is great. It has a lot of rats and trash compared to other cities I’ve lived in (Vienna!), but everyone uses the subway. It’s really not weird seeing a Wall Street banker heading to work and sitting next to them could be the newly immigrated fry cook from Mexico. It’s humanity in a tube. Plus, it’s a great way to experience NYC Crazy!
12) For A City That Never Sleeps, Brunch Is Big. Like Really Big. Remember number 2? Not the dog poop thing. I’m talking about the food thing. It’s expensive and brunch offers a easy way for someone to get a meal with friends and not brake the bank. In fact, it’s not that hard to find a really good brunch spot that not only offers you great food, but unlimited mimosas or bloody marys. In a place know for $20 cocktails (see 15) and $40 burgers, that’s pretty awesome.
13) Many Museums Are A Suggested Donation. New York has a long history of philanthropy. The idea of someone coming from nothing, making a mint, and using that money to give others opportunities; that’s very traditional New York. Even to this day, a lot of the old money still endows a lot of stuff including the museums. If you honestly aren’t in a position to drop $30 to the Museum of Natural History or the MET, you can name your own price if you go to the ticket person, not the kiosk. That being said, there is no excuse not to enjoy the museums!
14) You Watch Friends With A Different View. That apartment. Their jobs. No friggin way. Maybe if they were trust fund babies, but in New York, that apartment would go for 5-6k a month easy. Not only was the location great, the size! Also, where are they working? I don’t know anyone with that kind of time.
15) $5 Beer. Where?!? That’s kinda a steal. Chances are it’s PBR though. I do love PBR so that’s cool. Also, there are a few places where you can get good deals, but they are few and dying. I know of one dive bar in Midtown. Consequently, it’s next to a bar that charges 3x the amount for the same beer. So the cheap food/expensive food rule… it works for drinks to. But one word of advise; avoid the van in front of the bar selling beer. That seems like a bad idea.
16) There Is A Reason People Buy $400 Dress Shoes. It’s not because they look good. Well it is, but it’s also because they are actually walkable. That’s are rare combo for fashionable dress shoes. But like all things, there are ways to keep cost down. A good pair of fashionable dress shoes that are comfortable can be found for a whole lot less. They will not be Ferragomos or Manolo Blahniks, but who really cares?
17) Street Venders Should Be Avoided Like The Plague. Briefly glance at one they are on you like a heat seeking missile. Bad if it’s you, hilarious if it’s not you. Either way, that’s some shady stuff going on. The fact that they are dealing goods for 20% retail off a sheet promising “the real thing”… that’s warning sign. This is New York. Why would they sell for 20% what they could sell for 80%?
18) You Get Seinfeld. It might seem funny now. Give yourself a year in NYC.
19) You Never Know Who You Will See On The Train. (see 11). Celebrities, millionaire investors, the person serving you your burger, etc. All there on the same train. Everyone rides it, everyone walks (see 16). Please don’t approach them. That’s kinda a NYC rule. Don’t make us LA.
20) September 11th Is An Amazing Day. You would think it’s a sad day. It’s the opposite. I’ve been here for many Sept. 11ths and it’s honestly one of my favorite days as New York is different on this day. It’s calmer, quieter, and generally much friendlier. Plus the lights are spectacular. If you live here very long, you will know people who were there and people who lost someone important. That being said, the city has come back and is better than ever.
21) New Yorkers Are Harsh And Cut-Throat, But Don’t Mess With NYC. September 11th and Superstorm Sandy did a number to this place. At the same time, this city can mobilize relief efforts like no place else. After Sandy, it was amazing to watch how much effort everyday people put to helping their neighbors.
22) Canal Street Smells. I call it Caa-nal Street for a reason. People who don’t know my joke start calling it that themselves without realizing the joke. I do not correct them for my own entertainment. I think it has to do with people accepting it’s How-ston Street, not Houston Street. But man is the food good. And Cheap!
23) The Best Views Are Free. (RI and the Staten Island Fairy). Another reason I love my sanctuary known as Roosevelt Island. I’m sure Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building are great, but I’m not feeling like I’ve missed much by not doing them.
24) You Know Where The Real China Town Is In Brooklyn. It’s always sunny in Brooklyn’s China Town. Take that as a hint. Grand Street and Canal Street are good, but there is better.
25) You Know How To Ride The Subway. Eyes forward, don’t speak, earphones on. Don’t make noise, don’t stare, keep to your self. Bring a book if you like, but not a newspaper. And yes, these rules apply to celebrities too. This isn’t LA. Don’t mob people. Also in summer, don’t enter empty cars. There is some sort of surprise waiting for some smuck. There is a reason it’s empty. Don’t be the idiot who thinks they won the subway lottery.
It’s been far too long since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Making the move to NYC has been fun and work has been a huge time commitment, but I’m loving it. I get to do what I love, live in the city of my dreams, and in the end that makes the crazy hours and high stress lifestyle more than worth it. But more on that in the next few weeks.
One of my favorite activities to do in the city is walk. I put in my headphones, put on some music, and just walk. Lately I’ve been taking Friday afternoon and walking from my office on 51st and Broadway down to the tip of Manhattan and the Financial District. It’s a rather long walk, but it’s more than worth it. For someone who spent a large portion of his college summers traveling, it’s a reminder that living in NYC is like living in hundred different places while never moving more than 10 miles. Three blocks and you can move from a Asian metropolis to a Russian enclave. It’s seriously that diverse.
Last week before our quick snow, I was walking down the Hudson River Park on the west side of Manhattan. Near the end of my walk, I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to capture this spectacular winter sunset over New Jersey. I keep forgetting my trusty Nikon D300, but luckily the iPhone 4 has a pretty amazing camera built into it… Like the adage says, it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer and the moment.
So yes, it is official. I accepted a job offer and now live/work in the Big Apple. So as a way to celebrate, I decided to take advantage of the amazing weather and walk from Central Park to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge. I was even asked to take a couple’s picture as they started on the bridge. Turns out 5 minutes later at the top, they got engaged. I don’t have access to my iMac and Photoshop yet, so these are extremely raw. Still, they came out excellent. Enjoy. Click on the photo below for the set.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="599" caption="Empire State Building"][/caption]
It’s been almost 7 years since I planned and built my Eagle Scout Project while a member of Troop 45 in Chapel Hill. I thought I would go visit it earlier today (and finally take a few good pictures) and see how it is doing. Just for a little background info, the project is located in Camp Chestnut Ridge and was completed in 2004. If you are interested in the write up, it’s here and in PDF. The base plans (we modified them somewhat for the project) can be found here.
And a few from when we were building it.
I am in a love affair with Adobe Creative Suite. It’s true and I’m not even going to try and deny it. The software is just so useful! But it’s also so powerful and comprehensive that learning how to use it to its full potential is nearly impossible. That being said, I’m starting to get decent at it. At least I can make mock ups for graphic designers to work off of.
But I can honestly say I’ve got Flash Catalyst pretty much down! In fact, I just built my first real site for a few friends of mine attempting to start their own Non-Profit Organization, Educators For Change. The site is early in development and we need to pump it full of content, but I’m feeling good about it’s look.
Of course the project has a long ways to go with my next goal being a custom blog template for the project. I’m 90% done with the Adobe Illustrator mock up. Now just to learn PHP… Anyone want to help out?
Summer seems to be disappearing very quickly here in North Carolina. A quick photo from one of the year’s last warm days.
In the Indiana Jones films, there is one scene that to me, sums up the greatest lesson any entrepreneur and business developer can master; building a successful product is very different from running a successful business. They may sound like the same thing, but in reality, they are very different.
The scene itself is the one where Indiana escapes with his father from a Zeppelin Air Ship via the escape plane. Like any good entrepreneur, Indiana, an intrepid and resourceful problem solver, sees the opportunity in front of him and dives headfirst into taking advantage of the opportunity. After all, having a first mover advantage is a major asset when trying to turn an idea/opportunity into a realization. It’s especially true when the opportunity is the chance to escape capture and not die. As expected, Indiana takes the plane, but when confronted by his surprised (and impressed) father about his piloting skills, Indiana quickly admits that he can, “Fly yes… Land no.”
Although starting a company and flying/landing a plane are very different skills, Indy’s famous words resonate all too well for many successful entrepreneurs: they can develop an idea, but they have great trouble managing the company after takeoff. It’s a situation all too familiar with a lot of great innovators.
Netflix, a product that I personally love has recently made itself a very public example of why entrepreneurs often make terrible business leaders. Yes the founders are a very smart group of innovators who obviously know how to start a business, but the fact is they are still entrepreneurs who live by the mantra, “fail often, fail soon.”
As a result of living by such a mantra, entrepreneurs tend to make radical changes in their products. In fact, it’s an understood part of a company’s lifecycle. Fledgling companies almost always go through huge changes as their core idea moves from “some crazy idea” to a validated and marketable product. In other words, the best entrepreneurs have the ability to not grow overly attached to any one idea, but rather, they can see opportunity in failure and change. What may seem like a phenomenal idea on paper often fails, but as a consequence of failing, that idea sparks a secondary idea that ends up changes the world. It’s called the Teflon Syndrom. That’s a hard concept for most people to comprehend, but that’s how many revolutionary innovations come to life.
Unfortunately, that “fail often, fail quickly” mantra is also a dangerous characteristic in regards to running an established business. What may have worked for an unknown company trying to make it doesn’t always translate well for established players. It’s like completely changing a TV show years after it’s become a classic. Think of I love Lucy turning into a drama. For all we know, it could have been a great TV drama (great actors, a good story line, etc), but the fact is, consumers would never accept it. People hate dramatic change. They especially dislike it when they feel the change comes out of greed.
And that’s where Netflix is today. They are run like a start-up, but they are anything but a start-up. Why do I say this? If you look at the numbers and think about what they are doing in a very business-model-entrepreneurial mindset, Netflix is doing something a lot of small companies end up doing. They are still finding out who they are. And for that reason, I don’t believe that Netflix has nailed its own coffin.
By splitting their streaming and mail delivery options (and potentially doubling the subscription price per user) they have only lost 1 million of their 25 million subscribers. That’s not a killer loss. As a strictly business issue, they could very well end up increasing their overall profitability. Their move is what entrepreneurs like to call a pain-threshold test; they are re-evaluating and validating their products and subscription prices.
It’s all basic economics. When your product is inexpensive, a lot of people will pay for it. The more expensive it is, the fewer people will pay for it. It’s really a simple supply and demand problem. At some point in between the extremes, a maximum profit point exist. Where that point is located exactly, that’s always ends up being an educated guess based on market research, testing, etc. Like I mentioned earlier, they are doing what all start-ups do; they are figuring out how much people will pay for their products. Unfortunately for them, their approach sucks and they will pay for it.
But that leaves another big question: why would they do something like this now? They have had years to play around with price testing. My guess is something major has changed within their revenue model; expenses. With the quick transition that television and film has seen from DVDs to streaming, everyone wants a bigger piece of the pie. And in that sense, Netflix is learning another lesson entrepreneurs often have to face, “Pioneers get slaughtered, Settlers prosper.” It’s especially true in the tech world where no one knows what’s going to be big, how much people will pay, etc.
Back when Netflix was getting started, media producers and distributors viewed streaming media as an afterthought, a secondary way to gain a little profit with little extra cost on their end. That being said, they didn’t make a huge deal out of making money off streaming media. Now that it’s clearly become a major means of media distribution, there is a lot of pressure to milk it for all its worth.
But that change is exactly why I’m not ready to call Netflix done. The fact is Netflix is better than the rest of its competitors. Furthermore, the changes in cost structure are not isolated to Netflix, they are industry wide. Unless media producers decide to pursue their own streaming solutions (can you imagine a world where you would have to use a different streaming service to watch shows for different networks?), every platform is going to face the issues Netflix is experiencing. In other words, don’t count Netflix as dead. Count them as overvalued because in my mind they still have the advantage over competitors. And that’s big.