Virus Lockdown: The Hidden Benefits of Exercising from Home

With the virus lockdown fully underway, and all the gyms in NYC now closed, I had to devise a way to keep the body moving. So I ordered a Marcy ME-709 Recumbent Bike off of Amazon. Despite my lack of handy skills, I was able to assemble this excellent machine in about two hours.

Once I hopped aboard, I realized the hidden benefits of working out on such a machine at home.

Virus lockdown bike
Equipment for the virus lockdown.

 

How to Kill Coronavirus (and Smell like a Fine Wine)

A dental emergency brought me out on the streets of New York, where I figured out how to kill Coronavirus while also smelling like a fine wine. With the right attitude and some Clorox wipes, it is not difficult to kill Coronavirus.

The Guardian newspaper happened to intercept me, and here is what they wrote in their story the next day:

Further south, near City Hall, a man ambled down the sidewalk, toting a cylindrical container of sanitizing wipes. One white disinfectant sheet was sticking out.

“As much as I like my dentist, I don’t trust the seat was being fully cleaned,” said the man, Mark Oldman, who had a dental appointment. “You have to bring your own.”
“The hottest accessory on the streets of New York is no longer an iPhone,” he joked.

Did the city seem different to him, with all the closings?

“It feels like Thanksgiving,” he said of the US holiday, during which many New York City residents leave town. “Not completely dead, it just has this kind of ghost-town, tumbleweed quality.”

Kill Coronavirus and Smell like Wine
The virus is no match for a New York attitude and some Clorox wipes.

Art Basel Banana: My Wild Ride

Art Basel Banana - Mark Oldman photo
The Art Basel banana photo that circled the world.

 

The Art Basel banana became a worldwide phenomenon, but when I came across it in the very first hour of Art Basel Miami last December, it merely seemed like one of the many absurd displays you would find at America’s leading art festival.
 
I did what any slave to social media would do: I posted to Instagram a photo of myself with the bound-up banana. With open palm, I Vanna Whited my arm in its direction.

Before leaving the banana’s booth, I asked the gallerist if he thought that anyone would actually purchase the work, officially titled “Comedian” by Italian artist and serial provocateur Maurizio Cattelan. The gallerist informed me that that the first edition of it had already sold for the startling sum of $120,000.

 

Despite this surprise, I thought little more about the banana until early that evening, when an art world friend excitedly sent me a text asking if I had just purchased an extremely costly banana.
“No, why do you ask?,” I texted back.

 

 

“Because Artnet just ran a story on the banana and you’re standing with it,” she explained. Apparently this venerable art publication had come across my Instagram photo and featured it in one of the first stories about the extortionately priced fruit.

 

At a party later that night I happened to meet Emmanuel Perrotin, the owner of the Parisian gallery displaying the banana. When a mutual friend informed him that I was the fellow from the Artnet story, he hugged me with the zeal of a rescued castaway. He was relieved to have made a sale already, because, like Warhol suggested, only then did the banana truly become a work of art.

 

 
Art Basel Banana - first edition
The first edition of the Art Basel banana in the            first hour of the 2019 Art Basel Miami.

 
In the ensuing days, things went fully bananas. My photographic moment appeared around the world, from a newspaper in Munich to a blog in the Middle East. It found its way to New York magazine, on the Today Show, and on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. A young French woman at a Miami Beach grocery store stopped me to ask, “But, eh, you are dee banana guy, no?”
 
Back at the fair, few cared that a hoodie-clad Leonardo DiCaprio was browsing a brightly hued Picasso. Instead, all eyes were peeled on the banana. Queues formed as attendees wanted their own social media moment, and these grew longer after a performance artist ate the banana.
Eventually the display was closed down due to so-called “dangerous crowd movements” and later a fairgoer sprayed graffiti on the then empty wall — both edging the artwork closer into the realm of full-out cultural zeitgeist. When celebrities and multinational corporations started posting their own parodies of the banana, you knew the story had achieved full escape velocity.
What accounts for the banana’s extreme virality? Some of it was simply the banality of a banana and duct tape, juxtaposed with its eye-popping price tag. This alone was enough to generate surprise in every corner of the world.
Let’s not overlook the banana’s sexual suggestiveness, either. This potassium-rich crescent is one of the better endowed of the tropical fruits.
Art basel banana inspiration - Warhol bananas
Warhol bananas poloroid, Paul Kasmin Gallery, 2020.
Finally, obeying artist David Hockney’s definition of art as something “that has to move you,” the banana undeniably pushed buttons. The comments on my social media feeds boiled over with everything from bewilderment to delight to horror to exasperation. Some wrote off the banana as the final nail in the coffin of contemporary art, while others crowned it the Warholian soup can of our time.
Perhaps this is where the true art resides: not in the Art Basel banana itself, or even in the idea of it, but in our impassioned reactions to it. Our collective emotions constitute a kind of performance art that transcends the actual artwork. Few other things in our polarized, attention-deficient world could get so many different people engaged in an intellectual debate on the meaning of art.
At the same time, in these frothy but volatile economic times, the banana might come to be the quintessential symbol of reckless excess. When the next recession finally rumbles in, some people will point to the banana as the surest sign that Rome was burning.
Until that happens, however, we can marvel at the societal forces unleashed by a mere piece of fruit and swath of tape. Up above, Warhol must be smirking in his fright wig, for it was he who once observed: “Art is what you can get away with.”
Warhol polaroid self-portrait, Paul Kasmin Gallery, 2020

10 More Things Neil Peart and Rush Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

Neil Peart: those of us who admired the legendary Rush drummer, his lyrics, and his overall modus vivendi are still mourning his untimely passing. There was such a positive and passionate reaction to my recent Inc. story about Rush’s lessons for entrepreneurs, and such rich material in his lyrics, that the piece deserved a sequel. The following are ten more lessons that recently departed “professor” had for entrepreneurship, and life:

1. Refuse to be the pawn

It’s time I was king, now not just one more pawn….
Fly by night, goodbye my dear
My ship isn’t coming and I just can’t pretend

(“Fly By Night,” Fly By Night, 1975)

In the title track of Rush’s second album, Fly By Night, which was the first record for Neil Peart and his lyrical pen, we have one of the central motivations for entrepreneurship: autonomy. Aware of the perils of passivity, Peart is prepared to “fly by night” to eventually achieve kingly control over his own destiny.

2. Think big

In a world where I feel so smallI can’t stop thinking big

(“Caravan,” Clockwork Angels, 2012)

The ability to think big is one of the hallmarks of a great entrepreneur. Guest lecturing at my Stanford “Ingenious Entrepreneurship” course, Learnvest founder Alexa von Tobel advised my students to imagine the regret they would feel as an 80-year-old if they didn’t take sizable risks now.

Restaurant mogul Danny Meyer also addressed how to overcome narrow thinking by urging my students to ask themselves, “Whoever wrote the rule….?” when considering an exciting but risky new idea. Had he not applied that liberating mindset to Shake Shack, Gramercy Tavern, and so many other of his winning food concepts, the world would be a far less flavorful place.

Thinking big as an entrepreneur, of course, also involves pursuing a business model that is “scalable” – i.e., has the potential for high growth into new markets and geographies.

3. Leverage the fearlessness of youth

When we are young…
Learning that we’re only immortal
For a limited time

(“Dreamline,” Roll the Bones, 1991)

While recent research suggests that middle-aged founders may succeed more often than younger ones, there is still much to br said for taking your first entrepreneurial shot while in the blush of youth. With fewer family, health, and economic constraints, whippersnapper founders can leverage their time-limited sense of “immortality” to overcome the challenges of building a business.

What the young lack in experience, they make up for with naive derring-do, as Neil Peart encapsulated in 1991’s “The Big Wheel”: “Well, I was only a kid, didn’t know enough to be afraid/ Playing the game, but not the way the big boys played/ Nothing to lose, maybe I had something to trade.”

4. Be ferocious

It is the engine that drives itself
But it chooses the uphill climb

(“Cut to the Chase,” Counterparts, 1993)

Successful entrepreneurship requires a herculean work ethic. Founders must be self-starting workaholics, willing to toil around the clock and drive themselves to the point of obsession. Early in Microsoft’s history, Bill Gates’ “uphill climb” involved coding at his desk until he would pass out from exhaustion. Elon Musk is infamous for his 120-hour work weeks. Jeff Bezos is so hardcore that he uses “Gradatim Ferociter” (Latin for “step by step, ferociously”) as the motto for his spaceflight company Blue Origin. Peart himself was legendary for his endless practicing; he would even practice before rehearsals with the band, essentially practicing to practice.

Such burning intensity can exact a cost, as echoed by Neil Peart’s lyrics from the 1976 song, “Something for Nothing”: “You don’t get something for nothing/You can’t have freedom for free.” That sacrifice, for some founders, are friendships, relationships, and sometimes sanity.

5. Seek guidance

I stand atop a spiral stair
An oracle confronts me there
He leads me on light years away
Through astral nights, galactic days

(“2112. Oracle: The Dream,” 2112, 1976)

Like the oracle in Rush’s opus 2112, advisors are critically important to the entrepreneurial journey. Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla was not exaggerating when he offered that, “The single most important thing an entrepreneur needs to learn is whom to take advice from and on what topic”. At minimum, founders should have a trusted, energetic board of advisors that offer a diversity of viewpoints and proficiencies.

Even better is a personal mentor on whom you can call in times of uncertainty and hardship. Oprah Winfrey often consulted the late poet and sage Maya Angelou. Bill Gates has repeatedly sought the counsel of Warren Buffet.

At my course Danny Meyer spoke of how the longtime owner of Sparks steakhouse, the late Pat Cetta, was critical to his learning how to manage people and develop his much-emulated philosophy of “enlightened hospitality”.

6. Be a sponge for learning

He picks up scraps of information/ He’s adept at adaptation

(“Digital Man,” Signals, 1982)

An effective entrepreneur is a veritable digital man or woman, absorbing “scraps of information” at every opportunity, forever reading, learning, and questioning. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put it crisply when he said, “Don’t be a know-it-all; be a learn-it-all.”

The most important information is that which comes from users. An entrepreneur must continually ask them what works and what needs improvement, and adapt the business accordingly. As Sweetgreen cofounder Nicholas Jammet told my students a few weeks ago, he and his cofounders are constantly seeking feedback from their customers: “Our focus is maniacal; we are constantly testing hypotheses and iterating the Sweetgreen concept.”

7. Investors seek the real thing

It’s hard to recognize the real thing
It comes along once in a while

(“Grand Designs,” Power Windows, 1985)

Most would agree that the essential pillars of a “grand design” business are the business idea, the size of its market, and the quality of its founders. For seasoned investors, the last factor is often most important, as the business’ chances for success dramatically increase if the founders are “the real thing”. VC types want to see that the entrepreneurs have requisite grit – the fortitude to stick to their vision and execute relentlessly in a world of scarce resources.  But they also are looking for a measure of adaptability: those with willingness and ingenuity to pivot the business when the market demands it. Deft entrepreneurs can make the most of an average idea, but weak founders can destroy the grandest of designs.

8. Build your endurance

You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you’ve got to last

(“Marathon,” Hold Your Fire, 1987)

How does an entrepreneur make the most of the distance? You have to develop your endurance like an athlete by eating sensibly, hitting the gym, and getting sufficient sleep. It is often difficult for founders to remember to put on their oxygen masks first and practice self-care amid the relentless demands of a startup. Fortunately, there are now a multitude of apps and websites  to help founders to take regular breaks, practice meditation, engage in walking meetings, and block out the innumerable digital distractions.

9. Differentiate

Everybody got to elevate
From the norm

(“Vital Signs,” Moving Pictures, 1981)

The most promising businesses have an economic “moat” – that is, a sustainable competitive advantage over other firms in their category. When he spoke to my students a few weeks ago, Bluestone Lane founder and Melbourne native Nicholas Stone said that when he entered the crowded coffee chain business he took pains to elevate his concept from the norm established by Starbucks. This meant delivering an experience based on the principles of the Australian coffee culture in which he was raised: higher quality coffee, friendlier customer service, and more intriguing, nourishing food such as the company’s famous, Instagram-friendly “avo smash”.

10. Persevere

Why does it happen?
Because it happens.
Roll the bones.

(“Roll the Bones,” Roll the Bones, 1991)

There is not a startup in history that has not experienced setbacks and dead ends, a great many also endure full-scale failures and near-death experiences. An entrepreneur needs to learn from misfortunate without dwelling on it — fail forward, as they say. The sooner one realizes that failure is an inevitable part of the startup process, the easier it is to persevere and “roll the bones,” which is an old-fashioned term for rolling the dice.

Elaborating on the song’s title in an interview, Neil Peart explained that, “The bottom line…is to take the chance, roll the bones, if it’s a random universe and that’s terrifying and it makes you neurotic and everything, never mind. You really have to take the chance or else nothing’s going to happen.”

The Return of Wine & Prime with Amazon Video!

The only thing better than watching the most binge-worthy series is knowing which wine to pair with them. Thus we have the return of Wine & Prime, which was so successful last year that I have partnered again with the Amazon and the LA Times to bring you this unique wine tasting event.

Join me on April 25 as I pair the most binge-worthy Amazon Prime Video Series with the ideal wines.  The Wine & Prime event is at 7pm at the palatial, historical Hollywood Athletic Club. I clue you into what you need to know about each wine and why it is such a good match with each Amazon Video series. Find out the which wine is the perfect pairing with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Homecoming, Good Omens, Hanna, Jack Ryan, The Romanoffs, and more.

After my Wine & Prime lesson, you will  have the opportunity to taste the wines I recommend while wandering through an astonishing assortment of interactive activations, each of which will take you deeper into an Amazon Original Series and provide insight into why it is so binge-worthy.

The Wine & Prime event is free and uniquely fun, but RSVP now as space is limited and first come first serve, for a one of a kind wine tasting & experience. To RSVP please visit this page.