More China Tariffs? Why Some Business Owners Say Bring Them On

The escalating trade war between the U.S. and China has many detractors–the loudest among them being the business owners and CEOs who fear the tit-for-tat tariffs will imperil their companies’ competitiveness. Nearly 360 executives are expected to testify by the time the six days of hearings on Capitol Hill wrap up August 27. While the vast majority are planning to argue against a proposed additional 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, you’d be wrong to think all businesses are against them.

Some business owners–particularly those whose products are made in the U.S.A.–welcome the effort as they hope it will lead to a renaissance in U.S. manufacturing, bolster job creation, and elevate the American brand worldwide. Inc. spoke to several such owners who, although they won’t be making their case at the hearings, see the tariffs as a win for their industries.  

“Nobody makes anything start to finish anymore, I find that it’s a little scary,” says Laurel Murphy, co-owner of, a Jackson, Wyoming-based online yarn and knitting supplies store founded in 1996. “There used to be a wool industry in this country, and there is not anymore.” 

Murphy is one of many entrepreneurs who lament the loss of U.S. manufacturing strength, which has indeed plunged. By way of example: manufacturing jobs numbered 11.5 million in 2009, down from 17 million a decade earlier, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The loss follows the uptick in the U.S.-China trade deficit, which ballooned to $375 billion in 2017 from $83 billion in 2001.

To be sure, many of these jobs were not so much lost but rather moved from manufacturing to other industries such as construction and commerce, explains Brad DeLong, an economics professor from the University of California, in this thoroughly illustrative piece from May 2017. 

Even so, recent reports suggest that the Trump administration’s strategy may achieve its goal. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg reckon the ongoing trade battle will effectively reduce China’s economic growth–albeit only by an expected 0.2 percentage point this year and 0.3 percentage point in 2019. The most populous nation’s economy, before the tariffs, was on track to grow 6.6 percent this year and 6.3 percent in 2019. The trade war also will slow the U.S. economy, which last quarter’s data had put on track to grow 4.1 percent this year. Economists peg next year’s growth at less than half that rate. 

Greg Owens, the co-founder and CEO of Sherrill Manufacturing is fine with the short-term ding to the American economy if it means China will cease unfair trade practices like devaluing its currency to keep prices artificially low or subsidizing certain industries. “What [the administration is] trying to do is force China to change its behavior, [and] they’re using tariffs to get them to the negotiation table,” says Owens whose Sherrill, New Yorkbased company makes Liberty Tabletop, the last American-made flatware brand. (It’s worth noting that the U.S. also awards subsidies to American companies in various industries.)

Similarly, Larry Homsher, co-owner of Llads Ventures, a Quarryville, Pennsylvania-based business that buys and sells tire casings for trucks, thinks the trade dispute will be a win for the U.S. Today, he says, people choose to buy new “cheap Chinese tires” rather than retreaded, or repaired, ones like the kind his clients sell. That, he adds, reduces opportunities for his buyers. One of his customers, a Virginia-based company that repairs used tires, has seen a 50 percent drop in sales in the last year, Homsher says, from 9,000 retreaded tires per month to about 5,000.

The trade tactics follow Trump’s other so-called business-improvement measures, such as the massive tax cuts passed earlier this year and a bid to reduce regulations curbing coal production in the U.S. Homsher says that Llads Ventures, which he runs with his two brothers, is experiencing its best epoch since their father started the business in 1948. While it is true that some customers are suffering, Homsher says he managed to expand its customer pool in part thanks to President Trump re-igniting the coal industry in West Virginia. The company recently added four new hires, growing the team to 21 employees, as a result of strong sales.

As for the critique that tariffs will cause American consumers to shell out more for everything furniture to smartphones,’s Murphy, for one, is unmoved. “If the tariffs will encourage more people in this country to participate in the economy and [produce] things, then I think it’s a good thing in the overall long-term view.”

Leaning Back is the New Leaning In — One Expert says All Women Need to do This in the Workplace

In today’s world, working women are inundated with empowerment messages. “Lean in” says Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. “Woman up!” says author Aimee Cohen. “Know your own value,” “Break your own rules,” “Be a #girlboss” … the list goes on. But what if instead of leaning in and playing the game men created, women learned how to win by leaning back? According to relationship expert Sami Wunder, leaning back is the key to success – both in business and in life.

So what does “leaning back” mean? It means acknowledging the hyper-competitive, achievement-at-all-costs model of traditional male leadership is fundamentally at odds with traditional feminine values of empathy, collaboration, and work/life balance. We need to acknowledge that the “feminine” values work best for women and men in the long run. So how can we embrace them to make revolutionary change in the workplace – and the world?

“We need to ask ourselves if we have stretched the ‘lean in’ masculine style of leadership too far,” Sami explains, “and if the costs of that model are too big for our generation of female leaders to be ignored anymore. In my opinion, there is a need to bring back feminine values of trust, receiving, non-competition, and balance into the workplace, and explore feminine styles of leadership that are not so rigid and do not value achievement over health and family life.”

Here are three ways to start “leaning back” in the workplace.

1. Focus on leadership, not gender.

If we define leadership by the following traits, we can see men don’t have an inherent advantage over women, any more than women have an inherent advantage over men.

Leadership is:

  • Thinking strategically and creatively
  • Acting with clarity and decisiveness
  • Envisioning alternative futures
  • Offering inspiring direction
  • Harnessing people’s motivational flows
  • Cultivating collaboration and teamwork
  • Fostering a culture of innovation
  • Executing with strong business acumen and judgment
  • Managing complexity and being comfortable with ambiguity

In November of 2017, Gallup conducted a research poll that asked American workers whether they’d prefer a man or women for their boss. For the first time since 1953, the majority of respondents didn’t report a preference. That means it’s possible employees are starting to understand that leadership has less to do with gender and more to do with the above listed skills.

2. Embrace your feminine qualities.

Men may not be better inherent leaders than women, but culture has us conditioned to think that way. Don’t let culture stop you from embracing feminine qualities that could put you in a position of leadership.

A Harvard Business Review study that looked at employee evaluations for male and female leaders found that women were rated higher in 12 of the 16 qualities identified for outstanding leadership. The qualities women had were integrity, a collaborative mindset, a problem-solving approach and more. The study shows these traditional feminine values don’t make women weak leaders – they make them strong.

“While being ambitious and using our masculine energy to get ahead will continue to be the cornerstone message for generations of women leaders to come,” Sami said, “incorporating feminine values of self-care, slowing down, prioritizing our health and private lives, and understanding that an overworked, burnt-out woman is of no help to anyone will ensure the longevity of success our female leadership creates and experiences.”

3. Don’t be afraid to create your own path to success.

A mark of many great leaders is they didn’t get to where they are the traditional way. If you’re leaning back, expect to get where you’re going by traveling through uncharted territory.

“We are taught to use our mind and not our heart when it comes to making career decisions,” Sami said to Forbes. “If you tried to rationalize a top economics student giving up her lucrative career as a consultant for international organizations, becoming a love coach and starting from scratch with nothing in her savings, [it] would appear crazy to you.”

Wunder’s success story is based on defying and rewriting the rules of the male-centric leadership game. By putting intuition over intellect, collaboration over competition, personal health and happiness over achievement, Sami is helping women pioneer new paths and redefine leadership on their own terms.

Data Sheet—Explaining Congo’s Cobalt ‘Curse’

Feeling droopy. In the latest twist on drones and AI, IBM filed a patent for an autonomous flying vehicle that could deliver hot beverages to “those who appear to be in a ‘pre-determined cognitive state’ requiring coffee.” Sign me up.

TKO. After last month rejecting the Winklevoss brothers concept for a bitcoin exchange-traded fund, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday offered similar reasons in nixing proposed digital currency funds from investment firms ProShares, GraniteShares, and Direxion. The requests failed to show how such funds could “prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices,” the agency wrote.

Cleaning up the block. Under fire for failing to adequately police third-party apps on its service in the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook permanently banned the personality quiz app myPersonality. Facebook said myPersonality’s creators refused to cooperate with an audit of how they protected and shared app gathered by the app.

Shutterbug shift. Back in April, we mentioned that the two titans of photography, Canon and Nikon, were in danger of being disrupted by a new camera technology known as mirrorless. On Thursday, Nikon finally tried to match competitors with a couple of high-end mirrorless cameras of its own. The new $3,400 Z7 and $2,000 Z6 are said to be smaller and quieter than Nikon’s comparable traditional DSLR models. In a first impressions review, photog site DPReview found the Z7 to be “a pretty well-rounded do-everything camera.”

Under pressure. Stealthy self-driving car startup Zoox fired its CEO Tim Kentley-Klay. The co-founder tweeted that his board moved against him “without warning, cause or right of reply.” Zoox raised $500 million last month in a deal valuing the company at $3.2 billion.

Judging by the cover. As initially announced earlier this year, Walmart jumped into the declining ebook market on Wednesday, launching an online store in partnership with e-reader maker Kobo. Publishers set ebook prices and a quick check showed Walmart’s prices were identical to Amazon’s prices in its Kindle ebook store. James Patterson’s recent best seller Texas Rangers is $15 in both stores, while Jodi Picoult’s 2016 novel Small Great Things is $4, for example.

Chinese clicks. Speaking of retailing giants, Alibaba reported its revenue jumped 61% to $12.2 billion last quarter though adjusted earnings per share rose only 1% to $1.22. Both figures were slightly better than Wall Street expected. The company said it reached 576 million annual active customers in China, 4% more than a year earlier. Alibaba shares, up a measly 3% so far this year, gained another 4% in premarket trading on Thursday.

GM's Use of 3-D Printing Predicts Cheaper, Better Cars

The first thing that hits you, the signal that this drab Michigan office building is a bit cooler than the average, is the smell. The acrid, metallic, plasticky, burning smell, the sort of odor that prompts the question: Is something that is really not supposed to be on fire on fire in here?

No, no, says Dave Bolognino, who heads up General Motors’ design fabrication division. That’s just the byproduct of 3-D printing. In a changing auto industry, this is what innovation (“rapid iteration” in business speak) smells like. And that smell might be wafting to other parts of the company.

About 30,000 prototype parts get printed each year here at the Warren Tech Center, the sprawling, suburban home to many of the carmaker’s research and development efforts, which hosts over 20,000 GM employees. These parts are fabricated out of at least nine sorts of materials—combinations of plastics and metal and powders—and are used, mostly, for rapid prototyping, for those who want to quickly visualize or understand what a new sort of auto part or configuration would look like. That’s nothing new: GM has been 3D printing prototypes for three decades, starting under the eye of Bolognino’s father John, now retired in his late 70s.

Today, specially trained workers run the printing machines six days a week, three shifts a day, a constant churn of popping parts out of molds and watching conglomerates emerge from powders and liquid resins. There’s no real limit to what employees can dream up and print out, says Bolognino, standing in front of a series of shelves filled with grayish mini-bumpers, wheels, and unidentifiable plastic squares cooling just off the printing machines. Though there is a limit on what they will print. A design team once asked for plastic Coke bottle, to use in a model cup holder. “Here’s a dollar fifty,” Bolognino told them. “Go buy one.”

3-D printing, aka additive manufacturing, ain’t new at all, but you’ll see it now in more consumer products than ever before. Folks making shoes, dental implants, hearing aids, and even jet engine use printed parts. The Obama administration helped launch the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute back in 2012, a $70 million consortium of businesses and universities dedicated to coming up with new ways to use additive manufacturing to boost American business. The process allows these industries to craft oddly-shaped parts more quickly and with more flexibility than they did in the past.

And outside GM’s malodorous workshop, 3-D printing is poised to become an even more vital part of the automotive manufacturing process. Carmakers like the Detroit giant are thinking about ways they can fold the process into actual production vehicles, the kind real people drive around every day.

“The auto industry has been leading in the use of additive manufacturing for 30 years in the prototyping space,” says Mark Cotteleer, who heads up the consulting firm Deloitte’s Center for Integrated Research and has studied additive manufacturing for last five years. “We’re seeing them start to move into part production in limited ways, primarily at lower volumes.”

In May, GM unveiled its a bid to shoehorn more printing into carmaking. The result is—wait for it—a stainless steel seat bracket. A very, very weird looking seat bracket. Not that any car owners will ever see it.

Generally, building this sort of bracket, which provides a steely, firm base for a car’s seats and seat belt buckles, requires about eight separate parts, purchased from several different automotive suppliers. This new, bizarre one is one continuous component, with each curving tendril serving a specific stabilizing purpose. As a result, it’s 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the standard, GM says. For automakers who like to entice consumers with promises of faster vehicles with higher gas mileage, this kind of incremental lightweighting is a path to market domination.

A worker completes a 3-D printed prototype at General Motors’ Warren Tech Center, the automakers’ Detroit-area research and development campus.

General Motors

GM created the seat bracket as a demo project in partnership with Autodesk, the San Francisco design and engineering software firm, which has an engineer constantly embedded with the carmaker’s design team in Michigan. Autodesk’s tech helps the GM designers input parameters—materials, need-to-have elements like holes for screws, cost, object stiffness, mass—to come up with inventive new ways to put parts together. The result is something Salvador Dalí might have dreamed up. Print it off in steel, et voila: a new approach to keeping everybody buckled in.

Now, these sorts of seat brackets won’t make it into production cars just yet. The cost of additive manufacturing has come way down in the past few decades, but it’s not yet cheap enough for mass manufacturing. Printing is still too slow for a company that makes more than 8,000 vehicles a day. And integrating the process into the production line is no easy thing. “It’s not about just buying a 3-D printer, says Cotteleer. “For industrial-scale printing, there needs to be a whole digital backbone to send files to where they need to be. And what’s that model going to be?”

Stil, GM sees great promise in things like wacky seat brackets. “There are 30,000 parts and pieces on each of our vehicles,” says Kevin Quinn, the automaker’s director of additive design and manufacturing. “A realistic change is maybe 100 or 1,000 pieces have a chance to be printed. Five years from now, could that number raise to 5,000? Ten years from now, to 10,000?” The result might be a prettier, more material-efficient, lighter, faster car.

In the meantime, GM says it will also use additive manufacturing to create unique tools used during automotive production, or to customize slick decorative elements for one-off buyers. (Monogrammed grilles, anyone?)

Of course, don’t expect entire cars to be printed anytime soon. “This is not a panacea,” says Cotteleer, explaining that a completely 3-D printed car would make no financial sense. But it’s nothing for carmakers to turn their nose up at, either.

More Great WIRED Stories

At Y Combinator, Startups Manage Molecules Rather Than Code

This week, a couple of hundred venture capitalists descended on the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, California, for Y Combinator’s twice-annual Demo Day. The event showcases graduates of the famous incubator’s training program to investors who hope to sniff out the next Dropbox, Airbnb, or Stripe, all of which emerged from Y Combinator. But increasingly, the entrepreneurs marching onto the stage are as likely to be experts at manipulating molecules as writing lines of code.

For the first time, one-quarter of the 142 companies that presented in Y Combinator’s summer batch belong in the incubator’s “bio” category, which includes food and agricultural technology as well as all things healthcare. Since 2011, when it made its first bio investments, Y Combinator has steadily increased the number of such companies in its portfolio. The reasons reflect both the popularity of biotech among today’s entrepreneurs and the incubator’s growing name recognition in health and biology circles, says partner Dalton Caldwell.

In part, new bio companies are capitalizing on past achievements. “We now have enough companies in the ecosystem to build on top of each other,” Caldwell says. A bioreactor startup that Y Combinator incubated last winter helped two current attendees with their manufacturing. The success of another past graduate, Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks, has raised the incubator’s profile on the East Coast, attracting new applicants.

One company that highlights Y Combinator’s growing profile in the Boston-centric biotech sector is 64-x, which launched out of the lab of George Church, the famed Harvard genomicist. It engineers organisms with an entirely new genetic code, for example using amino acids not found in nature. These organisms’ uniqueness makes them immune to “every virus on Earth,” explains cofounder Alexis Rovner. The company’s strains promise to help pharmaceutical firms produce drugs more efficiently, among other applications.

Other companies focus on building devices to help monitor health at home. A startup called Togg, for example, is building radar sensors for use in nursing homes. In pilot tests, it has installed these slim devices, similar in appearance to a smoke detector, on the ceiling of seniors’ rooms to monitor their breathing rate, activity levels, and other factors correlated with health. According to George Khasin, a cofounder, the company uses $150 sensors that five years ago cost more than $11,000, a drop driven by the broad usage of radar in new cars.

Then there’s Higia, a company that offers a $299 bra with thermal sensors that screens its wearers for signs of breast cancer. Its founder, Julian Cantu, is still in his late teens, but he reports that the company sold 5,000 units in pre-orders in three weeks in Mexico. Cantu chose to launch Higia’s bra in Mexico as a regulatory “hack,” he says, to collect customers and data while the company navigates the more arduous US Food and Drug Administration approval process. In 2017, the FDA released a note warning consumers that it does not consider this type of screening, called thermography, an adequate replacement for a mammogram.

A third device company, Qurasense, is undergoing the clinical trials needed to gain FDA approval, a hurdle not faced by more traditional software companies. Qurasense makes menstrual pads with a built-in blood collection strip that it plans to sell for $25 a month. Pull out the strip, drop it in the mail, and the company says it will share the test results—for HIV status, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and more—in its app. In the wake of Theranos’s high-profile collapse, this startup may face greater scrutiny from investors and regulators alike.

Acknowledging the unique challenges of startups like Qurasense and Higia, Y Combinator recently brought on Diego Rey, a successful biotech entrepreneur, as a visiting partner. It also urges companies in the incubator to tap a past graduate, a startup called Enzyme, that provides “FDA compliance as-a-service.” The incubator’s staff is advising its companies to address their regulatory strategy in the roughly two-minute pitches they make on stage, Caldwell says.

Companies in the food sector can also face longer paths to market than pure software companies. Cambridge Glycoscience, for example, is pitching an affordable sugar substitute for use in cooking. “The drinks industry can make Coke Zero, but the food industry can’t yet make Cake Zero,” cofounder Tom Simmons announced onstage. “But we did!” They presented data from taste tests in which participants could not differentiate between their muffins and ones baked with traditional sugar. At the event, their pastry samples were just ok, but it was hard to tell if that was the fault of the sugar substitute, or because the founders’ baking skills did not yet match their scientific chops.

More Great WIRED Stories

Are You Planning a Trip to Mars? Why It's Important to Dream Big

If you just want to get what you’ve always gotten, keep doing what you’ve always done. If you want to change the old rules and get better, you’ve got to start aiming higher and thinking bigger. There’s always a best seat in the house, the best row at the show, and something desperately worth shooting for which we all know that you may not always get. But shame on you if you don’t at least go for it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No.” And today, I think there’s no better example of reaching for the stars for companies and entrepreneurs of every size than SpaceX and its semi-combustible founder Elon Musk.

Notwithstanding Elon’s current angst at his automobile firm, Tesla -; which is about nuts-and-bolts production, not vision -; the SpaceX engine that he built (almost as an afterthought) continues to fire on all cylinders. SpaceX is making the impossible seem commonplace, and raising the bar for big dreams being backed up by awesome deliverables. Dockless bikes, slick little scooters, and new offerings of gluten-free whatever all seem depressingly trivial compared with Elon’s grand ambitions.

Things in the space biz may take a little longer than expected, but some of the beneficial by-products may even turn out to be better than initially expected. The scale and the scope of what SpaceX has already achieved since it was founded in 2002 is unlike anything that has come before or after. Keep in mind that NASA was formed in 1958, more than 60 years ago, and these days it’s getting help from SpaceX in Hawthorne and taking Dream Chaser directions from the Sierra Nevada orbital vehicle builders in Louisville, Colorado. Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) has been in the “space” business since 2000 and he’s got bupkes to show for it. Richard Branson is another big talker with Virgin Galactic, which he founded in 2004, but it seems that he’s perpetually “just six months away” from being in space. Don’t hold your breath.

And, as you might expect, seeing in this case just makes believing that much easier. You can’t visit the SpaceX factory without coming away with the overwhelming impression that there’s a palpable sense of possibility and the belief that virtually anything is achievable with enough time, effort, and perseverance. This isn’t some cheap Silicon Valley talk or “pie in the sky” (no pun intended) prediction. It’s an outgrowth and extension of an attitude that is as compelling as it is contagious. And that attitude is backed in facts and in demonstrable results. These people are hard-core professionals -; engineers and scientists -; who spend their days head down making things happen. Elon does the dreaming, scheming and sweating, but these are the hundreds of people who get the job done every day.

They might technically be manufacturing machines and missiles, but what they really make here are “believers.” People who believe that the world is leaning in their direction and that success (albeit over time) is far more probable (not just possible) than any other outcome. I wish you could bottle this attitude because it’s such a special combination of pride and practicality as well as concrete grounding and vast visioning that I think we should add it to the drinking water at every school and startup in the country.

So, what’s the main message from SpaceX for the rest of us? We need to look further and wider if we’re going to up the ante, make major changes, and leapfrog the competition.  Using the best available data and basing our plans, programs and designs on real metrics and milestones (rather than make-believe) is an essential methodology. But, if it’s the only view you have of the future, you’ll find that your focus is far narrower than it should be and that your energies end up being directed mainly to short, sure wins instead of big jumps and new horizons.

This conservative approach leads to designs and choices that tend to be marginal improvements and incremental gains rather than game-changing moves. Successive approximation and consistent iteration are great tools (“getting a little better every day”), but the key word is “little” and what we need more and more of are bigger leaps and longer look-aheads.

Simply trying to keep getting closer and closer to a known goal is not enough, because that approach and that perspective can often keep us from looking further down the road and really thinking about going for the gold.  

Norway wealth fund allowed to stay on as investor if Tesla goes private

OSLO (Reuters) – Rules governing Norway’s $1 trillion wealth fund would allow it to stay on as an investor in Tesla (TSLA.O) if the electric carmaker goes private, its deputy CEO said on Tuesday.

File illustration picture of Norwegian banknotes of different denominations, taken in Trondheim October 31, 2008. REUTERS/SCANPIX Gorm Kallestad

Tesla CEO Elon Musk stunned financial markets this month when he revealed on Twitter he was considering a $420 per share take-private deal for the money-losing carmaker.

Norway is Tesla’s third-biggest market and the country’s wealth fund, the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, had a 0.48 percent stake in Tesla worth about $253 million as of the start of 2018, according to the latest data from the fund.

Tesla shares have been hit by investor concerns about Musk’s plan, and doubts about whether the company has secured the funding to go private, and the SEC has opened an inquiry related to Musk’s tweets, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Trond Grande, deputy CEO of the Norwegian fund, declined to say whether Tesla had approached the fund about going private.

However, he said that although the fund’s main practice is to sell its stake when a company leaves an exchange, or soon after, rules regulating the fund set by the Norwegian Finance Ministry and parliament do allow it to stay on in a listed company that goes private.

“The priority is to try to preserve the value for the fund. That is the priority,” Grande told Reuters on the sidelines of an earnings presentation. “If that means that the fund will be invested in a company that has been delisted for a period of time, that could happen.”

“But as a main rule, we will exit the investments as and when, or soon after, it has been taken off an exchange,” he said.


This year the fund has been critical of Tesla’s approach on several issues.

In March it voted against Musk’s potential $2.6 billion payout. Then in June it backed an initiative to wrest the role of chairman away from CEO Musk, and another that would have allowed investors to nominate their own directors.

Grande declined to speak specifically about the situation at Tesla. Generally speaking, he said the fund sees the importance of separating the roles of CEO and chairman and to allow independent directors on boards.

“We acknowledge some companies do not operate … in that sense, but we will not change our stance with regards to that,” he said.

The fund owns 1.4 percent of all globally listed shares. It invests in stocks, bonds and real estate worldwide.

In the second quarter, the fund made a return of 1.8 percent, it said on Tuesday, helped by a rise in global equity markets, although it still underperformed the index it is benchmarked against.

“North American and European stocks had a positive development in the quarter despite the prospect of increased trade barriers,” Grande told a news conference.

The fund returned 0.2 percentage points less than a benchmark index set by the Norwegian Finance Ministry.

Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Ole Petter Skonnord and Susan Fenton

Elon Musk Just Tearfully Admitted He's Hit a Wall On Work-Life Balance (Here's How To Avoid His Fate)

But everywhere has a price.

In a shockingly vulnerable interview he gave the New York Times, Musk alternated between laughing and crying as he talked about the toll his job(s) were having on his life.

He choked up as he shared the fact that he almost missed his brother’s wedding this summer. He stopped talking for a moment after saying, “There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days–days when I didn’t go outside. This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”

He could barely get the words out that he spent the entirety of his 47th birthday (June 28th) working, “All night–no friends, nothing” and revealed he’s been taking Ambien to help him sleep.

Musk’s herculean pace matches his real-life Tony Stark personae. He’s worked 120 hour weeks and hasn’t taken more than a weeks vacation since 2001 when he had malaria. Musk added, “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.”

He cited his workload as the cause for recent public miscues like lashing out at analysts and Thai cave divers. He called the past year his most painful and excruciating, with the worst yet to come (as short-sellers try to profit by bashing Tesla with their own agenda). 

Unexpected vulnerability leading to what I bet you’re thinking is an expected message. Stop working so hard! Life’s too short! Make better choices!

And of course, that is a part of the core message–one so obvious that I struggled with whether or not I should write this column. But I wanted to bring this to the party–a reminder that no one, no matter how important, no matter the gravity of what they’re working on within the context of their own world or the world in general, can escape the toll of an out-of-whack work-life balance.

And I wanted to offer help. Not overly general, platitude-like advice, but a S.P.E.C.I.F.I.C. plan for achieving better work-life harmony.


Complexity has a way of creeping steadily into our work lives in small, incremental doses that build up over time. We often don’t notice the cumulative effect of each little activity we engage in/take on until we look up and suddenly things at work seem way too complex, overwrought, and unproductive. Stop to ask yourself “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze” or craft a “To-Don’t” list.

The point is to be intentional about simplifying.

Productivity self-audit

This requires a self-critical lens and watchful eye to pinpoint unproductive behaviors that drain time and energy. These behaviors/bad habits simply must go.

Energy renewing activities

Engage in activities that will restore energy (like getting the sleep, exercise and nutrition your body needs, taking the time off from work that you’re entitled, and avoiding getting sucked into things at work that drain your energy). 

Much of achieving work-life harmony is about finding ways to restore and renew your energy, so you have plenty when work starts and ends. 


Making choices is the most fundamental element of achieving work-life harmony.  We all instinctively know this, yet we don’t do enough of it. 

Choices must be made based upon reflection and realization of what kind of life you want to lead. Choices informed by keeping what’s truly most important in front of you. It’s not just about saying no, it’s about knowing what to say no to, as part of a bigger integrated plan.  Then it’s about weaving all those choices into one tapestry–one harmonious life–with work integrated accordingly. 

In-touch with your situation

Self-awareness and vulnerability to admit that your balance is out of whack is essential to changing the pattern you’ve fallen into.


Find ways to build it into your work with options like compressed work weeks, flex hours, less than full-time options, work from home options, or location free jobs. 

Involve Others

Work-life harmony is a massive task that takes help from others. The family should be enrolled. Co-workers can help by not scheduling meetings before 8AM or after 5PM. They can help by respecting that a meeting from 9-10AM ends at 10AM, not 10:15AM, which can throw a whole day off and affect work departure time. 

The point is to bravely “go public” with the goal of work-life harmony and enlist all the help possible. 


Work-life harmony has to truly become a priority as there is perhaps no other goal that will inherently have more barriers. 

So be specific and become better harmonized before you reach a Musk-like melting point in your own way. 

Still Looking for a Good Summer Read? Barack Obama Just Revealed 5 Books He's Been Reading

Yesterday on Facebook, former president Barack Obama revealed the 5 books he’s been reading this summer. If you’re still looking for a good summer read, then you might want to pick up a copy of one (or more) of these books.

“Educated is a remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind.”

“Set after WWII, Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is a meditation on the lingering effects of war on family.”

“With the recent passing of V.S. Naipaul, I reread A House for Mr Biswas, the Nobel Prize winner’s first great novel about growing up in Trinidad and the challenge of post-colonial identity.”

“An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.”

“Factfulness by Hans Rosling, an outstanding international public health expert, is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.”

Published on: Aug 20, 2018

Top 6 Career Myths That Make People Miserable

I end up hearing a lot of people complain about their jobs (in general) and specifically about how their career expectations haven’t been met. In almost every case, the complainer has a false belief that is creating the discrepancy between expectation and reality. Here are the most common:

Myth 1: If I skip my vacation, I’ll get a promotion.

Skipping vacation sounds like a great way to impress the boss, but statistically it hasthe opposite effect. According to a recent study of vacation usage, “only 23 percent of those who forfeited their days were promoted in the last year, compared to 27 percent of “non-forfeiters.” 

Rather than skip your vacation, schedule it ahead, and then resist the urge to “check in.” Your ability to separate yourself from work tells your boss that you’re independent and not in the slightest doubt of your value to the firm. 

Myth 2: If I work really hard, I’ll get a raise.

Most people interpret “carrot and stick” as using reward and punishment to motivate. In the original story, though, the carrot was tied to one end of the stick and the other end of the stick was tied to the donkey’s harness. The donkey never gets the carrot. Get it?

The way to get a raise is create more value for the firm, and then documenting that you created that value. But even before that, get a commitment from your boss that if you exceed your goals you’ll get an appropriate raise.  

Myth 3: If I help others, they’ll help me in return.

While humans theoretically value reciprocity, at work you’ll find that often “no good deed goes unrewarded.” If you’re too helpful, you can become a dumping ground where everyone throws tasks they’d rather not do themselves.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be helpful, but that it’s wise to temper your helpfulness with a little bit of cynicism. Try negotiating beforehand what the other person will do for you, before you do a favor.

Myth 4: If I’m more accessible, people will value me more.

Just because you’ve got a phone in your pocket and a computer on your desk doesn’t mean you should allow anybody and everybody to monopolize your time based on their convenience.

One of the great truths of marketing is that people place a higher value on resources that are scarce than identical resources that are plentiful. Making yourself available all the time is great way to say “my time isn’t worth much.”

Myth 5: If I turn down a project, my boss won’t like me.

Look, the top priority in your relationship with your boss isn’t to be liked but to be respected. If you accept donkey-work or extra projects when you’re already running at 100%, the boss may be pleased but will secretly think “what a chump!”

As with all work situations, your argumentative watchword should be “what’s best for the team?” It’s almost never good for the team or the company to utilize a high-priced resource (you) to do a low level task.  

Myth 6: If I provide more information, customers will buy.

Contrary to all the biz-blab about the “information economy,” information isn’t valuable. (Everyone has too much already.) What’s valuable is the right information at the right time. And the right time to provide information is when the customer asks for it.

As an aside, this particular myth is responsible for the 90% of marketing campaigns (especially email marketing) that fall flat. Look, the customers are only interested in themselves. So if you’re not talking about them you’re boring them.