Archive for May, 2014

Today’s post is a review of a book I’ve recently been soaking up, called Disruption Revolution: Innovation, Entrepreneurship & the New Rules of Leadership.  It was written by David Passiak, who was once a scholar of religion.  His focus then was on how emerging communications technologies tended to coincide with periods of religious, political and cultural/social innovation, from the “Great Awakenings” of the 1700s and 1800s catalyzed by innovations in the printing press, through the Civil Rights and Sixties counterculture movements accelerated by the mass adoption of radio, television, film and music (see

Passiak left academia though to pursue a career in innovative technologies consulting, working for companies like Volkswagen and a number of start-ups.  He also founded a company called Social Meditate, an innovation and strategy consulting firm.

Disruption Revolution is a collection of interviews with a laundry list of successful leaders in the arena of tech innovation, from those who are more design-inclined to Harvard Business School professors and New Economy media moguls such as the editor of PandoDaily – a site reporting on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship.  These chapters provide perspective on the technology that’s driving changes in our business landscape, as well as on the mentalities and approaches that seem to bode best for innovators and entrepreneurs.

The book also contains an interview with Vincent Horn, an entrepreneur I recently spoke with myself about his site  Horn’s interest, and the galvanizing force of BuddhistGeeks, is the intersection (or perhaps more accurately, overlap) between technology and mindfulness.  His thesis is, basically, that not only can we have both, but we must.  And he, along with his partner Emily Horn, have succeeded in building a community of thought on this subject, not just a platform for their own beliefs (visit the site to see what I mean…).

Another piece in the book that spoke to me featured a conversation with Jeremiah Owyang, an expert on the emerging collaborative economy.  His interest is in the big crowd companies (i.e. Zipcar, Airbnb, etc.) as opposed to smaller-scale, more private enterprises you might find out about upon researching sharing law (also known as the sharing economy).  The emphasis here is on the burgeoning prevalence of companies that seek to provide services to customers within the confines of people’s various financial situations.  The idea is, people are wanting less and less to ‘own’ things in a traditional sense (i.e. vacuums or even houses), both because the cost of these things is so expensive, and because of social media, they simply don’t need to.  “Sharing” rides or tools or places to stay for temporary or even extended periods of time is becoming more and more the substance of commerce.  Disruption Revolution explains this and contextualizes what it means for the future of entrepreneurship in our society moving forward.

One last tidbit I’ll share (pun intended) is how much I enjoyed the chapters on leadership, in which the ‘monsters in your head’ and the concept of “choosing yourself” in the process of negotiations are discussed.  The themes here revolve around being in touch with what has brought you to the place of decision-making you are at, being clear about why you are there, and being open and honest with even your competition in order to achieve the best results.  Game-playing in the New Economy, the experts are even telling us, is stupid.  Authenticity is key.  Being present with your own intentions and through that being aware of others’ intentions is essential.  And through all of that, tapping into your intuition to guide you in discerning the right moves for you and your business is perhaps what matters most.

As a law student, and as an entrepreneur, I’ve found this volume super interesting.  It flies in the face of much that we learn in school growing up, and certainly in the face of what we hear in the mainstream media about what makes for a successful leader and business person.  It’s not about assuming you are right, it’s about being able to question, and from there, deriving vision and confidence.  Then comes the translation of vision to others, the attraction of capital, and the capacity to make real what you see.

shutterstock_110446727Ohhhhhkay, here we go – Shamefully, it’s taken me until today (months after the story broke) to find out about Ethan Couch and the new legal precedent of ‘affluenza.’

What am I talking about? It’s the story of a teen who, intoxicated from the use of alcohol and pharmaceuticals, killed four people in an auto accident and seriously injured two.  His defense in court was that he was raised to have such a sense of entitlement and lack of appreciation for the consequences of his actions that he should face no prison time.  The rationale for this was, his privileged upbringing has prevented him from being able to make good decisions, and thus, he should not be held culpable for his behavior as a matter of law.  Hmm…

From the “research” I’ve done (which you too can do by googling ‘Ethan Couch affluenza’), it seems the judge in this case felt the defendant had a good shot at rehabilitation if he received treatment and not jail time.  Ok, great.  That sounds like a wonderful way to analyze many cases (note a distinct lack of sarcasm here).  But is this one of those cases??

This kid’s parents are paying for his treatment out of pocket – that’s one thing we should note.  Another is that in lieu of them being able to finance his treatment, a facility, likely a prison, would otherwise be the logical place for him to go.  Logic, that is, by conventional standards.

So now let’s talk about conventional standards. If a 16 year old who was not affluent walked into court with these charges, jail time would be extremely likely to say the least.  Mainly because the court would probably wonder, what else are we going to do with him?  What else seems fair?  To which we can answer, well, if his family has money, we can make them pay (literally).  The rationale would be that treatment could actually help to prepare Ethan for life moving forward (outside of prison).

My question is, wouldn’t that approach always be better?  Wouldn’t it always make sense to try and treat people, or make treatment options available to people, especially youth, when they commit crimes?  And so what if a family doesn’t have money to finance treatment?  Does it become a less good idea to address the factors leading to a youth’s criminality as a way of promoting public safety?  I’d say no.  But what’s more, the research says incarcerating kids doesn’t promote public safety either.

So to review, it would be better to treat people in general when they commit crimes that are symptomatic of mental health or substance abuse issues, but unless they have the money to finance their own treatment, we generally elect to lock them up instead.  Now we also know though, thanks to the Couch case, that not only does money buy the type of sentencing we would all hope for in an ideal world (and lack of money deprives of us this), but copious wealth actually paves the way for a legal defense that negates the criminality of an offender’s behavior.

While the judge in this case went to the length of stating that this solution is what she would have decided even if the ‘affluenza’ defense had not been presented, we are already seeing this approach in action by virtue of the fact that one’s wealth secures treatment rather than punishment for a person’s crimes.  The bonus points in Couch come from learning that privilege — in and of itself — is not only a reason for people to receive a lesser or no sentence, it is a reason for people to not be held responsible at all.  Whether the judge wanted this to be the takeaway or not, this is what such a case tells us.  That your wealth or the wealth of your parents is essentially grounds for erasing the criminality of your actions.

The clincher about this is how distasteful many seem to feel it is for a poor person to claim that his/her lack of privilege precipitated his/her actions.  Or to be a bit more concrete, imagine a 16 year old who lacks parental oversight, positive role models, access to quality education and health care, etc.  This person commits the crime of selling drugs to make money for food to feed himself and his siblings.  He’s arrested.  Can’t afford “treatment” for his crimes (which could encompass counseling and a case worker to help make sure he and his siblings are safe at home, that they can get to school, that they’ve had breakfast each morning…) and so what happens?

Is it likely that the judge will ask about the extenuating factors of his life such that his actions can become more understandable and thus easier to address through non-punative measures?  In a word, no.  And what if this kid was privileged?  Super privileged in fact.  So much so that he’s selling high-grade coke to kids at his boarding school.  Under the Couch doctrine, he’d likely be given much different “options” than those presented to our first defendant, and moreover, his actions might not even be considered criminal at all — he was so used to having boutique drugs at his disposal, he was so unsupervised by his parents that his use never garnered attention, and his anti-social behavior when it comes to drug dealing is apparently just an expression of how affluent he is and thus how removed he is (now permitted to be) from the framework of criminal culpability.

This case stinks because it’s reflective of the ‘conventional standards’ we use for administering justice.  And yet, at some point, we have got to start asking, why isn’t every child offered the “option” of treatment?  And why would any child be told by our court system that his and his family’s wealth are legitimate reasons for him to recklessly endanger the lives of others, and in this case, to kill??



So this is Jonathan Flack’s photo of himself & a friend practicing yoga amidst finals. Jonathan will be a 2L at NYU School of Law in the fall & we are very grateful for his contribution to 🙂 #turninglawschoolonitshead

This post has been given to us by Jules Toraby, an about-to-be 2L who’s determined to keep it real..  Check out his vid tutorial on Acro Yoga & let us know if you have a lesson or reflection on something that keeps you feeling real…

Income Tax.  Final Exam.  Yesterday.  9 am.

Per usual, got up around 6.  Fed & walked the dog.  Meditated a bit on all the tax-related thoughts swarming my brain (exam-specific ‘monkey mind’ if you will).

Packed a snack bag of bananas & peanut butter.  Water bottle.  And embarked on my half-mile journey to school, again per usual, on foot (helps me feel alive, think, and conserve gas not to mention parking money).

Surprise: at no point did I feel I needed coffee.  And oh, did I mention I’d been up late the night before playing music with friends?  I felt well-rested though in all regards.  Still felt tired in a sense, as the whole exam land seems to induce a sense of fatigue that is neither rational nor healthy, and I didn’t go to bed super-early.  But, my soul felt fed.  And somehow, the specter of caffein presented something more analogous to a threat to my system than a harbinger of greatness.  It felt unnecessary.  It felt like I would be going over and beyond the place I needed to be in order to take this test to my fullest, authentic ability (more on ‘authentic ability’ in a future post…).


So how did I do?  Won’t have any idea for weeks.  But let me tell you where I started from and why no coffee = awesome.  At the outset of my first year, (am finishing my second year of law school now), I had just detoxed from an eight year Adderall habit.  Yes, eight years.  Of a steadily increasing tolerance that gave me a lot of energy, that’s for damn sure, and a means to focus that I’d previously never known.

In short, I loved my Adderall.  And I’m glad I took it because it gave me a baseline for evaluating how strong my ability to concentrate and produce can be.  I also now understand the underbelly to focus though, when it becomes manic, or when it becomes something you are unable to turn off.  This is in general, and when it happens as a byproduct of drugs.  Because the truth (to me) is, regardless of whether it’s a substance aiding your focus/sapping your ability to chill, when you reach a certain space of “focus” you may need the ability to pull away, or ratchet down.  Now it’s hard enough when “natural” stress has gotten you there, but when you’ve got a substance inducing it, or exacerbating it, this task can become even more of a project, even more of a demon you don’t want to face.  And then things like coffee, or on the other end, even harder drugs, become all the more necessary.

So my decision to leave Adderall before law school rather than after was a hard one.  I knew I’d be shooting myself in the foot in some sense, but a voice also told me I would become stronger for having engaged in this battle without it.  What I’ve found is that by not being on it, I’ve had to work really hard to find my On switch, but I’ve also not handicapped myself from finding an Off switch.  In that sense, leaving Adderall has enabled me to find balance.

I’m not saying getting good grades would not be easier with Adderall.  God knows.  I yearn for that shit sometimes.  But I’m learning how to take that yearning for more and convert it into affirmation that what I have already and who I am at this moment is enough.

We’ll see how grades turn out.  But more than that, I can tell you right now how I feel — great.  That’s because regardless of what my exams say, I KNOW my ability to tap in as well as tap out are strong.  And this seems like a pretty sweet indicator of growth, which is what I am in school to facilitate in the first place.  And learning the law is something I want on top of that, not in exchange.