Reess Kennedy

Ideas, sharings, projections

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Trump: Magician for the unwitting

Magic only fools you when you don’t know how it’s done–the technical aspects of the trick.

A magician watches another magician and he might be impressed by the delivery but he’s not fooled by the method. He knows how it’s done.

Trump is a magician, like David Blaine. Instead of using sleight of hand to con his observers, Trump uses “sleight of words.”

People fall for it because they haven’t studied his method–the technical aspects of his use of language.

The good news: We can learn all the “magic tricks” Trump uses to fool people by studying the attached cheat sheet which defines all of the logical fallacies.

These logical fallacies aren’t new, they’ve been around since the beginning of time. They’re just hard to memorize so very few of us do.

Without a solid understanding of these, however, we might be prone to grant credence to dubious and false statements.

But with an understanding of these tricks we see the method.

So use the download below to arm yourself against trickery.

(Or trick others who haven’t studied it just like Trump. Your choice. Free country. Love to all.)


These were modified and simplified for this post from

7 Trader Joes-inspired business success strategies I use

People in NYC love Trader Joes.

I’ve found that TJs operates by some simple principles that can be applied to any business which I outline below.

1. Don’t try to do everything for everyone
Trader Joes stays nimble by only offering a few items but making sure people really like those items. They’re okay knowing that you’ll have to go elsewhere for some things because they know you’ll still buy from them the things they do better than others. Trying to create a store that would be a “one stop shop” would hurt their ability to do all the other things they do well. “Put more force behind one arrow” is a powerful mantra for any business and the way a David can take down a “Goliath” — the focused slingshot rock right at the blind spot inevitably created by the Goliath’s size.

2. Set reasonable prices, make money on volume
TJs keeps things simple and wants to offer value. People recognize this and customer loyalty is created. People also recognize that the lack of frills is a part TJ’s charm and what allows them to offer affordable quality.

3. Experiment and discard what doesn’t sell
TJs is constantly introducing new stuff and removing old stuff that isn’t selling. Inventory or product or feature pruning and focus is important with any business.

4. Invest your profits into your staff
Staff members at TJs are generally happy and friendly. Maybe this is because they make more money and are given better benefits than those working elsewhere. The customer experience is far more enjoyable as a result. It sounds corny but it does seem like somewhat of a family when you shop there. Consider how much more confident you’d be in retaining customers at your own business if they also felt like they were a part of a family as a customer of your business.

5. Give free samples
Free samples just make people happy and show you’re confident with your products. At TJs this means literally giving out food samples but in other service of product businesses it may sometimes mean providing your services or products at a discounted, below market price at the beginning to make it easy for new customers to see how good you are and win trust.

6. Offer sustainability
Having an advertised mission beyond profit shows customers you have a higher purpose and are working to also make a larger difference.

7. Keep location overhead low
People care about the value of the products and not the office space. Good employees will care more about whether they are making a good living working on something they care about than the grandeur of their office.



Newspaper front pages

Get links to the actual front page of important U.S. newspapers every morning.

Add your email below and you’ll be emailed, from me, a simple link to a .pdf copy of the front page for the newspapers below.

No cost, no tricks–just for friends and anyone who’d value this.

New York Times

Sent out daily at 5 a.m. EST.

Wall Street Journal

Sent out daily at 8 a.m. EST.

Support these publications with an actual subscription too! This is just a convenient thing for people on the go who like to check out the print format on iPads or computers.

Example emails



The paradox of technology time-saving devices

Technological tools are often marketed to be time-saving but we seem to all be time-starved.

I think we’re in a weird adjustment phase, still, nine years post-iPhone launch where we’re still figuring out how to make our “smart” devices actually work for us and towards giving us more time to focus on the meaningful and less on the meaningless.

The challenge is this: With all this great and rapid innovation we are, indeed, creating efficiencies but we’re also creating new options. Options end up giving us new ways to spend our time and seem to drain it and not always in a way that actually contributes to growth in personal physical, mental or spiritual health and happiness.

Software engineers or anyone involved in building technology products or providing tech services knows this. The late, great Alex King wrote a great post about how “We’ve Made Web Development Complicated.” And this is true.

Increasingly complexity is inherently bad. Complex problems sometimes require complex solutions. We aim for simple and elegant but won’t always achieve it. Not every solution is a single-button iPhone. So we have all these options and now technology builders have all these choices to make. Often people waste a lot of time making these decisions and planning for problems they don’t have yet, and may never have, and this does the opposite of what the new tech solutions promises: It stifles innovation, creative productivity and generally allows our sometimes unfocused human minds to wander, feeling less confident in the decisions we’re making and spending our time less effectively.

It reminds me of the issues around getting a massive diner menu: you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you’re in the mood for and then feel less content with your choices after making them. Studies show people generally feel more satisfied with their selections when they’re choosing from fewer options.

So we need to constrain ourselves. We need to understand that across the board, there is power in constraint.

We need to understand that the reason tweets abound on twitter is because of the tight, 140 character limit placed on creative outbursts.


The impact of doing less (recommended by many “doers”)

I was messing with Facebook live last night (it’s mesmerizing) and caught up with a broadcast by this woman who I’d never heard of and mostly has a female fan base, apparently.

During the bit I caught she talked about how she worked to do less when she had some big, important thing coming up.

She said instead of being busy, and worrying about the millions of things she needed to do and how much more she could cram into one day, she thought more about how she could rest and meditate more.

(She went on to speak about how this gave God more time to do his work but this is a post about the counter intuitive idea of doing more by doing less so I am leaving the God part out.)

Her talk reminded me of the espoused philosophies of so many other prominent thinkers and achievers.

Hedge fund king Ray Dalio said that he meditates for 20 minutes every morning … “unless I have a really busy day, then I meditate for 40 minutes.”

LIfe hack guru Tim Ferriss has based much of his career and educational content on how to do more with less.

Over 100 years ago one of the first and most influential contemporary “self-help gurus” was author Wallace Wattles who advocated for more time spent in meditative thought and an understanding of the difference between effectiveness and efficiency of action on the road to wealth creation, an idea Ferriss would also “use” in his bestselling book The Four Work Week.

The list goes on. And the point is: this idea isn’t new.

It’s quite easy to get swept away in the busy trap and to feel guilt if you didn’t do a sufficient number of things today and then think, “tomorrow I’ll wake up even earlier and fit even more in!”

But it’s harder to feel this pressure if your goals change and your success is measured entirely on impact.

The highly impactful chess player can win in only a few, highly pre-meditated moves. It’s not chance. To be this effective the player needs to spend more time in study and meditation on technique.

So this should be the aim, always: “what is the straightest line to my goal?What are the smallest number of moves to get me there?”

Rest for as long as it takes for you to answer that question.

Then follow that path.

How to hide the sidebar on YouTube

You’ll never miss what you’re not aware of! That’s why I set out to find a hack to hide all the recommended content on YouTube.

It’s actually really, really simple. It takes all of two minutes and it’ll like save you hours, days, even weeks of wasted time!

No coding necessary. Just check out the video, download Stylebot (I am not affiliated with them in any way) and reclaim a part of your brief existence on planet earth.

Success at your own vision (a.k.a. not bending to another’s)

When Conan O’Brien took over hosting the Late Show on NBC, people thought he’d fail.

In an interview with Charlie Rose around that time he said something to the effect of, “I’ve realized that I have to do my show. If I failed and I failed while doing someone else’s vision for what my show should be, then I’d feel I really messed up.”

And there is so much general wisdom and value in this.

So many times, with creative projects, I have witness creators bend their initial vision for a project — whether it’s a film, book, web app or other product — to suit the opinions of other clients or stake holders with the end result being muddied and weaker as a result.

I don’t think creators should stop listening but they should stop bending to every piece of advice to try and make everyone happy. One has to have strong vision of a project and be able to discern whether feedback is in accord or discord with it.

So much creative tragedy occurs when people start with a clear vision and then start to change just to suit the less-inspired concerns of outsiders.

We’d have so many more original voices in film and literature and comedy and business if more people were less fearful of just “keeping their stakeholders happy” at all costs. Because the real expense of of doing this is absolute failure — executing one someone else’s vision and still failing. 

Conan knew this, weathered the storm and came out on top as a totally original performer — just as David Letterman was before him.

All the greats know this and are able to stay steadfast and disregard the noise that wants to persuade them to compromise and proceed with caution.

Meditate on the critical importance of being steadfast and clear in vision.

My “mule strategy” for work and life simplification

I strive for minimalism but do seem to be predisposed to, or have developed a habit of, being an archivist.

“Archivist” is the more distinguished word I use for “saver.”  In my case,  it’s warranted too. I’m highly organized in my saving of family and personal artifacts, usually spending a lot time labeling and chronologically sorting old family picture albums and slides. My feeling is that if you’re going to keep this stuff, it should be in order and easy to access.

That said, I’m always pushing myself towards great levels of simplification in everything too. Part of this mission is having less stuff. Throwing away is hard, but it becomes easier with practice.

In short: I think simplification is a muscle. And you should exercise that muscle each day.

I started out by using what I self call the “mule strategy” — It involves taking small boxes of stuff you know you aren’t using to the Goodwill. I think I call it this because I picture myself taking these trips with just enough stuff to put on a the back of a mule. It’s not clear these trips are efficient when your goal may be to cut down on your possessions by 40% and you feel ridiculous handing a small box to someone at the Goodwill but often larger, more drastic amounts of personal simplification are improbable or too jarring if you haven’t been working out at the “Simplification Gymnasium” at all for the pasty 20 years.

Other online gurus write about similar strategies, like moving everything that is cluttering up a room into your house to the garage — or another room — so you can feel the reward of how nice that space is without any clutter in it before you throw the stuff out.

The thing I have been thinking about recently is how simplification and the use of the “mule strategy” is about more than just your possession count, it’s about the way you operate in business as well.

If you’re a creative person your brain is likely something like a cluttered home. You’re constantly making new connections and taking new notes and thinking about new businesses and new products and new articles. You keep on bringing in new items to your home everyday and it gets overwhelming.

As a result: You need a system of simplification and prioritization in place in order to be an effect executer on your best ideas.

This is why it’s important to constantly review and purge useless debris from your notes and review your system of capturing your most valuable ideas and priorities.

I want my the ideas in my mind and tasks I’m working on to meet the same criteria set for possessions in my home: Just stuff that makes me happy and will continue to make me happy for a long time.

So keep pruning.

Basecamp founder Jason Fried has even recommended to note take down as many notes when it comes to the development of products because the best ideas will just continue to float the to the top and the other ideas you have will naturally die and writing them down may distract you needlessly.

If you’re having a tough time and it feels overwhelming on the home front or in your mind, get a shoebox today, fill it with some worthless crap in your house or apartment and take that sucker to the Goodwill. It will feel good to workout that muscle for the first time.

Next week, after you realize how good it feels to be slightly lighter, take a slightly larger box.

Do the same thing with your business notes and organization system: Slowly but regularly deleting.

One final pro tip: Consider getting a Fujitsu Scansnap, or something similar. I was able to throw away a couple boxes of old tax returns and other files after digitizing them.



Thoughts on branded content after watching Tom Hanks in Cast Away for the 8th time

Branded content is everywhere now.

I was watching a normal video on the New York Times website the other day, it finished and another video came on. I assumed this video was the next New York Times-produced video in the same category and I was viewing a playlist. And it was exactly that: a New York Times report on some Wall Street Banker who quit his job to become a triathlete. Oh yeah, side note, he also drives a beautiful new Lexus that they spent a lot of time talking about and the entire production of this video was actually paid for, and served as an ad for, Lexus.

Nothing too egregious here. Most major news organizations now have branded content divisions. And I think news needs to explore new ways to make money.

But in the year 2000, one of my favorite movies of all time came out: Cast Away, directed by the the remarkable Robert Zemeckis.

Watching it again for maybe the 8th time recently, I was struck by how the whole movie is a love story. It’s a love story between a man and woman, a man and an inanimate object (Wilson, the volleyball) and, I’d argue, a man and an employer.

Yes, this man’s priorities change during the film–likely away from the prioritization of employer / work over family. But FedEx is always there and cast as this global private enterprise of incredible efficiency and professionalism. Granted one of their planes goes down and packages are lost but the protagonist writes at the end that a FedEx package “saved my life,” as he delivers it to a sculptor in Texas.

“The World on Time,” FedEx’s motto at the time is seen a number of times during the movie as well. And when Hanks is finally “recalled to life,” it seems FedEx is there for him in a significant way.

There’s even a joke at one point between Hank’s character and one of his co-worker chums about how if they didn’t hold themselves to this high standard of package delivery expedience they’d be just like the U.S. Post Office.

Given the current 2016 climate where brands are paying a lot of money I was willing to bet FedEx sponsored this whole thing so it was interesting to discover that according to this reporting from the Chicago Tribune back in 2001, FedEx didn’t pay a cent for any of this.

Takeaways: I don’t think branded content is going anywhere. As a result, the contemporary content consumer has to be more discerning and aware than ever before. That said, I also think publications need to hold themselves to some disclaimer standard. Nobody likes to feel they’ve been duped. I felt close to this on the New York Times website while watching the Lexus-sponsored content.

Perhaps disclaimers can be standardized in some way just like cigarette box warning labels–similar fonts and visibility standards so consumers know what to look for to clearly understand the origin and intention of a piece of content.

The holy grail for a brand is really what happened with FedEx in Cast Away back in 2000 but this is so uncommon. Still, maybe there are lessons here for brands: like that it’s okay to tell a story involving a brand that isn’t 100% positive and promotional. The authenticity this creates leaves a lasting, positive impression.

Side commentary on Cast Away: The Tom Hanks/Helen Hunt love story and chemistry in this movie is one of the best I’ve ever seen and I get very emotional watching it–even though I’ve seen it multiple times. Hunt is so authentic in her short presence in the movie and the whole thought of unintended distance and the very harsh imperfections of reality resonate. Probably no other movie in history has created a connection so strong in such a limited amount of screen time.

Then again, I also get emotional when Wilson floats off to sea, so …

It’s just a heroic story well told.



Foundational knowledge > current events

Learning how to learn isn’t taught enough. I think it’s a major problem.

I’m a proud autodidact.

Actually, I think that word is odd because fundamentally we’re all self-taught because at some level learning is a self-made decision. We all have to choose to open ourselves up to new concepts even when we’re in school. Anyway, that’s another topic.

My motivation for this post is merely to publish my firmly help belief that foundational knowledge is far more important than current events.

In high school, it’s easy to get swept up in memorization. It’s easy to understand learning as textbooks made up of chapters. So much is thrown at you and little is done to teach you what to really focus on.

Maybe there should be a class you take called “Learning 101.”

In it, you’d learn more about the relationship between all the subjects in the world and how these fields of study were born.

You’d also learn to ALWAYS look for the foundational truths that bind a subject together — in addition to the ways this subject is a parent, cousin or child of other subjects.

Learning is about cracking this code of foundational knowledge behind a subject. And understanding subject-matter relationships.

I wish more time was spent on this when I was a teenager, a time to say, “Okay, let’s just ignore the textbook for a second and look at the history of mathematics and why numbers are the world’s universal language and bind together everything and give you a framework to understand the world.”

To be fair, I had some great teachers and some probably did say something like this at some point but, if this is the case, I am talking about and advocating for much more time spent on it.

Or: “Before we start any specific history let’s spend a good amount of time really understanding evolution and time scales of the universe so you always know that the all the info we’re about to throw at you and all the people and wars all actually took place in the past 10,000 years and that’s actually an insignificant amount of time, cosmically!”

This foundational understanding makes learning easier and more exciting, always.

It’s like writing software: If you understanding some core concepts you can apply them to everything and learn new languages and techniques quickly. Without this foundational understanding, however, you’re in trouble.

As a parent one day, hopefully, I’ll be sure to focus more on helping my children understand it’s okay to ignore the news and current events if it gives them more time to understand the foundational truths.

We can’t make decisions about the importance of the news and current events without these things.

Powerful understanding comes not from rote memorization but from the ability to always look for the core foundational element to anything — and then better understand its relationship to other things.

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