PPPPushing Back (Four P's #182)
Madness, Mattness, Metaverses, Meetings, & the Faces Behind the Masks
I write this edition of the Four P's on the flight back from SxSW, mentally and physically drained, but emotionally recharged, with a full heart and a belly full of BBQ. It was a weekend that saw FAR more full of marketers "getting back to normal" (a.k.a.: very few masks) than I may have been ready for, but the calendar jenga + excessive anxiety about being late to everything felt eerily like old times.
It was great being in Austin, which has grown a great deal in the few years since I was last here. The city has also been overrun by scooters, food trucks, and homeless people. Of course I made the same mistake that I make every SxSW: Not leaving enough time to get places. With no taxis, closed roads, and 60+min waits for Ubers, I should have remembered to leave 30 minutes blocks in between panels, presentations, and parties. Maybe next year?
SOMETHING PERSONAL: The Madness is Back
It's March. It's Madness. And Mattness!
And if you're reading this before noon ET on March 17th, then you're not too late. My 28th annual* NCAA Tournament Pool is back ( * there was no tournament in 2020, though we were set up and ready) and this year is already proving to be the biggest one yet. Last year's return to March Mattness saw an $8,000 total pot. The COVID caul loomed large last year, quite the anomaly of a year, but we're all ready to go. The first Thursday of the tournament is my favorite day of the year, and I will have highlighters and Sharpies ready to go!
Management of an NCAA Tournament Pool is a labor of love. I take no profits and really just support the administration of secure, fun pool. Collecting funds should be easier thanks to digital payment options, but it's still laborious. I didn't expect it to grow to hundreds of participants when I first launched this as a high school student collecting $10 from my friends in the cafeteria and tracking ALL games and points manually.
What’s most exciting this year will be the return of fans in the stands at these games. (Though I'm hoping many of them remain masked for a little while longer.) One of the most underrated factors in NCAA Tournament game outcomes is the impact that crowds can have in giving life to underdogs. The impact of fans at REAL neutral site games again this year is worth considering when filling out your brackets…. what I believe to be the greatest equalizer in sports.
It's often hard to tell just how strong some teams are based on regular season home court advantage. This is why we often see many upsets in Conference Tournaments. Statistically, the average of home court advantage nationally is around 3.5 points, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Think about it this way: Do you think Duke has the same home floor advantage as South Dakota State? Would it surprise you if I told you South Dakota State improves more at home than the Blue Devils? (It might not after their home loss to UNC in Coach K's final game at Cameron Indoor Arena.) Tournament teams Arkansas, Houston and Texas have among the highest home/road scoring advantages, while Gonzaga, Arizona, Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Murray State all went undefeated at home this season. Most, if not all, of them will lose in the next 2-3 weeks. So pick wisely and good luck!
Yes, it's all NFTs, all the time. At SxSW, you literally could not get through a panel, a presentation, a conversation without it coming up. But I've gleaned some valuable takeaways and noticed some common theme over the past few weeks, meeting marketers in person, sharing our vision and platform with them, and attending 3 major conferences/events. The biggest one: terminology confusion. So let me do my best to clarify some things:
NFT: The non-fungible token can be any media or file type, usually associated with something collectible, but uniquely coded on the blockchain to that it can’t be replaced with something else.
Fungible token: A type of currency (FIAT or crypto) that can be exchanged for another. For example, a bitcoin is fungible — trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing. A $5-bill is fungible, too. Isn't that fun?
Metaverse: Now we're getting into more community-like ecosystems where people can interact virtually. I'd call a Google Meet a metaverse experience, honestly. But the most common meaning now is a virtual reality or augmented reality space, whether it's a room, a house, a world or a virtual battlefield,
Cryptocurrency: These are alternative currencies whose value goes up or down based on a number of factors, but is not tied to a country or existing standardized currency (like the USD or Euro). Some have fixed supplies, others can be minted without limit.
Blockchain: The underlying technology driving everything mentioned so far, there are many different types of blockchains already, and they have different features and applications. The one thing they share in common is that they are open, meaning not centralized in any one server or database. They are, therefore, “permission-less.”
web3: If blockchain is the underlying technology, then web3 is the overarching term that encompasses all other things I just said. Use it broadly, but not as a tactic, and you'll be just fine.
A few other Mint-related posts from the past week or two should help, as well:
Professional sports labor disputes are often characterized as millionaires arguing with billionaires, leaving the common fan and stadium worker left out in the cold. The last month of MLB and MLBPA negotiations over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement are now in the rearview mirror, but the lingering impact will likely last another month, maybe even two. Maybe the entire season.
Working backwards, the the 2022 regular season will begin on April 7 and exhibition games will begin in the next day or two. That means the prep and training will be cut short by 3-4 weeks, not really a proper prep/warm-up cycle for pitchers and players to get into playing shape. (I'm sure many were active individually or together unofficially, but it's not the same). That lack of full prep (shorter preseason to acclimate) could result in slower starts for some players, longer slumps, or more injuries. The season will still be 162 games condensed into a shorter window than normal. Which also means more games in a shorter period of time.
So why is this something political? These processes are broken, and the political nature of posturing, spin, and negotiation is made more complicated by egos, money, and varying degrees of appetite for innovation. Without getting too deep, the labor movement goes back 100 years and was initially rooted in socialist principles. Which is no longer the case. With the Great Resignation (or Migration), both organized and un-organized labor are having a moment. Between July and October of 2021, nearly 40 workplaces across the nation have gone on strike since Aug. 1, according to Bloomberg Law’s database of work stoppages, almost double the number during the same period last year. When it come to labor disputes, I probably take with the employee side somewhere between 90 and 97% of the time.
For workers, the ball is in your court. Employees have a unique opportunity to reclaim what they gave up before, and should feel emboldened by a series of related events: soaring company profits, a renewed respect for essential workers and rekindled political will in Washington. Plus there’s the hard truth of today’s labor market: Companies in many industries are finding employees downright impossible to replace. The one thing that cannot be replaced is our national pastime, so at least we have something positive to look forward to in just a few short weeks.
SOMETHING PRACTICAL: Learning to Read Faces
Social and situational awareness has always been much more fascinating to me as an art than a science. But as masks come off and in-person interactions, meetings, and events return, we must also recognize and realize that our perceptive skills may be a bit rusty. Zoom meetings dulled our senses, literally. Now being back face-to-face with colleagues and strangers, friends and neighbors, associates and clients means picking up on non-verbal cues, and adapting rapidly. In short, having self-awareness of our atrophied situational awareness is critical.
I was perusing the bookshop at JFK before my flight to Austin last week and picked up an actual, physical, non-digital paperback called "Read the Face: Face Reading for Success in Your Career, Relationships, and Health," by Eric Standop with Elisa Petrini. It seemed timely, relevant, and short enough to complete on my longest flight in over two years.
We read faces from the moment we’re born, a skill that’s essential to our survival. Unbeknownst to me, face reading has existed for millennia across continents, cultures, and religions. Even the ancient Greeks were obsessed with physiognomonics. Leonardo da Vinci rejected it as being “without scientific foundation,” but seventeenth-century English physician Sir Thomas Browne revived the practice in his works Magia Naturalis and De Humana Physiognomia. Even Charles Darwin theorized that humans and animals share universal facial expressions – like raised eyebrows to demarcate surprise. He also concluded that all humans share the same core expressions, including anger, fear, and disgust.
No matter whose art or science we pull from, the same basic principles apply:
Nothing should be considered “good” or “bad.”
Everyone just has helpful or not-so-helpful traits influenced by their experiences.
Each side of the face represents two worlds: The right side connected to the left brain – reflects consciousness, logic, and material objects. The left side, conversely, reflects the subconscious, dreams, and creativity.
Faces come in all shapes and sizes. And they've actually changed over time. Although there are ten basic face shapes, four are particularly common.
Another idea I really focused in on: Our eyes, mouth and hands provide the most information. We use them to communicate.
It is usually the eyes that first attract us to another person. Anatomically, the eyes have a direct connection to the brain via the optic nerves, so it’s no wonder that face readers can glean so much from the eyes alone. They are directly connected to our brains.
The brain is also directly connected to the mouth, and prominent in “the three C’s: creativity, communication, and kissing.” Face readers inspect the mouth’s size, proportions, lip shape, and corners. A large mouth indicates that someone is an extrovert; conversely, a small mouth suggests an introvert. Full lips are often a sign of someone who is open about feelings and experiences – and who expects the same in return. People with thin lips are more private, revealing very little about themselves. And downturned mouth corners denote a gloomy or pessimistic nature, while upturned corners suggest a more cheerful, carefree attitude.
When you're talking with people, how often are you looking at their hands? Maybe subconsciously, or as part of a total communicative presentation. But with 27 bones and 33 muscles, our hands are very expressive and sensitive.
Even though we're now in close, physical proximity to each other's faces again, practice may never actually make perfect. Diagnostic face-reading techniques take years of study and execution to master. These techniques can tell us a lot about physical health, mental health, even love (Not that I was focused on that once I left my home).
Freshly schooled in the ways of reading the face when walking into that first networking event on Friday night in Texas, I proceeded to ignore almost everything I had just read, instead reverting back to my comfort zone. But I was more keenly aware of my own facial expressions, reactions and visible emotional cues. Of course our faces are being read, too! So I became more self aware than situationally aware: When did I smile big? Smile small? Scrunch my nose… touch my face, widen my eyes, blink rapidly...? All of these elements, and more, affect the way others see you – consciously or otherwise. So some things to be aware of as we re-emerge. I can’t wait to see more of you soon. Until then…