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Brief Note from Amazon’s Annual Shareholder Letter

Taken from Amazon’s Annual Letter to Shareholders

The second program is called Pay to Quit. It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers have been iterating on it.

Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000.

The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want.

In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.


Great innovation happening at Amazon and Zappos all around.




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Why You Shouldn’t Read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk


Two months ago, I received my copy of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook the third book by Gary Vaynerchuk. This book is not something that small business owners and entrepreneurs should read, it is something they should live by. Since I promised Gary that I would review the book, here it is. If you enjoy my notes, I would seriously recommend buying the book.

If you have no idea who Gary is, he is one of the best business minds in the game right now. He grew his family liquor store, WineLibrary, from $3 million to $45 million per year by being an early technology adopter and most importantly, caring about his customers.

The best story Gary has ever told about customer service (something I want to do once Flannel Farms grows bigger) is about how his company treated a new customer that made a huge wine purchase on his website. Through some google searching, they found the new customer’s twitter account. The guy lived in Chicago. and was absolutely in love with Jay Cutler, quarterback for the Bears. How WineLibrary thanked their new customer changed my view on how companies should treat their customers.

WineLibrary went on Ebay and bought an autographed Jay Cutler jersey to send to their new customer. Could you imagine having an online store send you something out of the blue that you would absolutely love? I can guarantee that guy will be a customer of WineLibrary for life.

Above is a great video of Gary being interviewed by Keith Ferrazzi (author of Never Eat Alone, which is one of my favorites) It’s a fantastic read about building relationships that will help you succeed in whatever way you choose.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

JJJRH is largely a how-to guide to using the most popular social networks to tell your story. It would be silly for me to tell you all of the details, but the most important thing is to be native on each platform.

What does this mean?

  • Use beautiful pictures on Instagram with lots of hashtags
  • Post engaging, share-able posts on Facebook
  • Listen, and interact with others on Twitter
  • Use animated GIFs on Tumblr
  • Use ‘collectors item’ pictures on Pinterest

All of our feeds on these platforms in incredibly noisy, so you need to be memorable to grab someones attention in a split second. This is why being native is so important. For example. this post won’t do well on twitter, because it  links out of the app. Very few people care enough about what I have to say to leave the twitter app to read a 600 word blog post.

But if I take the picture on the top of this post and put a quote from this post, many more people will consume the information.  (If I do that, let me know if this theory is correct.)

Get this book as guide to use things right now, but as Gary says:

Meaning that the advice in the book will be out of date in 12 to 24 months. But that’s the fun of business. Its a nonstop competition. This book will give you an edge right now.

The most important lesson from the book is that high quality content is the barrier to entry in today’s world. So what that I’m writing this blog post, why would anyone care what I think about a book? 

Because if you’re reading this, I guarantee we have some kind of context to our relationship. Its the single reason I’m writing this post, because Gary took the time to response to my tweet 2 months ago. How do you develop that context? with Jabs. Another way to say the book title is: give, give, give, ask. Land the right hook once you’ve provided so much for free that your customers feel guilty for how much you’ve help.

And context is the key to business in this noisy social world.


If you enjoyed reading this, hit me up on twitter @AlexLipinsky or leave a comment below


January 21, 2014 · 3:11 am

2014 Goals and Challenges

I’ve never made New Years resolutions before, but this year felt different. I’m out of school now and I’ve been searching to get into a good routine. So a large part of what I want to accomplish in the next 365 days is develop habits for the rest of my life.

Main Goal for 2014

Develop a consistent morning ritual. Right now that is wake up at 5:30, body weight workout with a few kettlebell exercises, make coffee, and spend 30 minutes on personal development.

This is a modified version of Cory Gregory’s Up Early to Train, with my real workout coming later in the day. I find that I have my best workouts in the mid afternoon.

Athletic Goals

  • Bench 450
  • Deadlift 600
  • Squat 565
  • Run a sub 6:00 mile
  • Run 10 miles without stopping

To make the year a lot more interesting, and to work on my weak self discipline, I’m participating in 12 monthly challenges for 2014.h/t to for this idea. I really like the idea of doing something new each month of the year.

  • January: Whole 30, a strict diet with no sugar, alcohol, grain, dairy, or legumes
  • February: Write a handwritten letter to a friend or relative each day
  • March: Meditate for 15 minutes each day
  • April: Eat Vegan
  • May: Draw or Paint Everyday
  • June:Write 1000 words per day
  • July:Study astronomy everyday
  • August: Read 1 hour per day
  • September:
  • October:
  • November:
  • December:

I need some more time to think of the last 4 months, and I may rearrange some of the other months. I’m really excited for this great year.

Thank you so much for caring about me enough to read my blog. If I can help you in any way, email me alex @

Have a great 2014!


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Drones to your Doorstep: The Future of Retail

I’m sure you saw Amazon Prime Air in the news this past week. A long term project Amazon is developing that will deliver 5 pound packages via small autonomous drones. The applications for this will be unbelievable, taking the distant idea same day delivery and making it same hour delivery. I will be shocked if we will go to stores for any kind of regular purchases in the future. RFID chips, smart storage products, and brands monitoring all of our wants, In the near future, we will be bombarded with products. We will be given so much, we will be sick of getting free stuff.

My idea for smart storage includes sensors to monitor cabinets and refrigerators. Up to date inventory is always known, and regularly used items are constantly kept in stock. When you think of eating cooking grass fed sirloin after your weightlifting session, the items are automatically delivered and stocked into the storage. Imagine if you have a personal drone that you would send a message to and it would go to the distribution center and pick up your steak, and have it in the refrigerator when you get back from the gym. Since you tweeted about hitting a new squat max at the gym, while the drone is at the distribution center, a pair of Nike weightlifting shoes are added to your order. Free of cost. Nike would hope for a tweet from you or telling your other weightlifting friends about the act of kindness. Building context in your personal relationship with Nike.

With commitments to razor thin margins, it will be tough for stores selling commodity products (anything with a barcode) besides Wal-Mart and Amazon to survive.

Why the future retail will be awesome: Experiential Retail

Less than 50% of people go to Apple stores to buy products. Why do they go? Not for to compare products with other companies, but for the curated experience. The only brick and mortar retail stores that will succeed will provide something unique and enjoyable that can’t be replicated by a delivery service. Look at what Barnes and Noble has done over the past two decades. Feeling the heat from Amazon, they have switched their model to include in store cafes, drawing in a much more regular crowd. This diversifies their revenue model and also increases foot traffic into stores, which has potential for more sales.

Farmer’s Markets in vibrant, diverse communities are fantastic examples of experiential retail. Consumers can interact with the people who produced the products they are buying an hear first hand why they should buy them. Artisans like small farmers are something I believe will always exist, because it is a form of art that cannot be scaled up. Eastern Market in Detroit is the best market I’ve ever been to. There is a huge variety of farmers, specialty food producers, a wide variety of musical performers, but what separates Eastern Market from Whole Foods, is an energy in the air that is something not found in grocery stores.

Another personal change I hope for: coffee shops that don’t have high speed wi-fi and lack of power will be out of business.& Power, a coworking space in SF is looking for different ways to extract value from patrons in a cafe setting. Hopefully a model that encourages productive, helpful, social community members to stay in cafes will be discovered. Example: right now I’m having a hard time merger two websites with DNS codes. Something I don’t understand at all, but tons of people could easily fix it. When they help me at the cafe, I will give $5-$10 to the cafe to help cover that person’s costs for the day.

What do you think? How will retail stores adapt to the changing landscape?

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The 10,000 Year Question

“A rare 1-cent coin from 1793 recently sold for $1.38 million. That sounds amazing until you realize it’s an annual return of less than 9%, or about the same as stocks have produced historically.” –Morgan Housel, Columnist at The Motley Fool (2012)

This shows the incredible power of compounding interest and a lot of time. After I read this, I started asking my friends a simple question: If you had $1,000,000 USD in 2013, but you had to trust it to your ancestors not to be used until 12013 (10,000 years in the future) How would you invest the money now?

My first answer was gold, as of writing this $1M
would buy a little less than 56 pounds of gold. My reasoning was that gold has been used as a store of value for several thousand years, so I would bet it will be valuable for thousands of years into the future. My friends, who are smarter than me, gave answers that I really like: land and water. Their answers looked at the idea that freshwater may be scarce in the future.

Its an interesting question to ponder, normally we think of long term investments as 3-5 years. A 10,000 year investment is something that makes Warren Buffet look like a day trader. So if you had to guess what the future was going to be like, and put up some money, what would you invest in?

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Water Fall


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Edible Youngstown: Connecting YOU with your Food System

Edible Youngstown is a platform dedicated to helping consumers buy the freshest food within their foodshed. Our focus is on high quality foods, sustainable growing methods, and supporting the local economy. We will bring you stories about local farmers, chefs, food related events, and people like you making a difference.

In addition to the blog, we will be publishing a magazine in Spring 2014. Just in time to start planting!

Check it out at

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Forks over Knives, Reviewed in an Urban Agriculture Perspective

The premise of Forks over Knives is that a whole foods, plant based diet is the healthiest human diet. The documentary shows compelling examples of people who have reversed cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity by switching their diet. The movie is a must see for everyone, especially doctors and those who are not currently eating a whole foods diet. The movie is relevant to the urban agriculture movement because an increase in whole foods can help people live healthier lives. As a nation this will also help sequester our ballooning health care costs. In places with poor access to fresh food, urban agriculture has to be the solution. If the market cannot support grocery stores with fresh food, people must grow their own and sell it if there is an opportunity.

The example given of Norway’s heart disease decline when the Nazi’s confiscated their beef and dairy cows was very convincing, so I did a little research into the claim. Above is a chart of the dietary change in Norway during WW2. Meat and milk consumption did fall dramatically, but what they did not mention was fish consumption increased 200% and sugar consumption fell 50%. The movie overlooked sugar intake and the role of processed food and treated all animal products as equal1.

forks over Knives image

A large part of urban agriculture is egg laying chickens, which could replace garbage disposals and food going to landfills. Eggs contain vital nutrients such as cholesterol and vitamins, they also are a dense form of energy from a chicken fed table scraps. Forks over Knives does not distinguish between any animal product, so a caged chicken that never stands up throughout its life is treated the same as a pasture raised, bug and vegetable eating chicken. Also, grass fed and grain fed beef is not mentioned in this entire movie. Another product not distinguished between is grass fed and grain fed beef. Grain fed beeves fed antibiotics their whole lives lack omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. The omega 6 fatty acids in this grain fed beef, as well as other oils that are a product of industrial agriculture can cause inflammation leading to weight gain, hypertension, and hormonal imbalances2.

In the movie there is a really cool animation discussing the role casein protein plays in liver tumor growth in lab mice. A sample was fed 20% casein and they saw cancer growth, when the casein was reduced to 5% the tumor size was reversed. What they failed to mention was that mice that were fed no casein died within the year, while the mice with the liver tumors continued to live with the tumors. Connie Diekman, the President of the American Dietetic Association sounds like the epitome of the industrial food system. She recommended skim milk (as well as other food choices), the movie discusses skim milk in another point in the movie because the fat has been removed to increase the protein ratio. The missed point is the increase in lactose as a ratio, meaning skim milk creates more of an insulin spike. Homogenized milk pushes fat molecules through a screen, causing more fat cells that can attach to more insulin like growth hormones. This increase in insulin is more likely to cause diabetes. Non-homogenized milk has less insulin, so there will be less of an insulin spike. Cream and Butter produce a very small insulin spike.

The rise in price in oil and then the eventual rise in price in natural gas will eventually force humans to be more conscious of our energy usage. The agricultural system that will result will have urban food production at its heart. The Midwest will be returned to pasture from tilled fields and forests similar to how Native Americans manages that land. When transportation because more expensive, it will only be efficient to move highly calorie dense foods long distances. I imagine vegetables (that are full of water) to be grown in every house or on small scale farms in the city’s periphery.  The middle of the country will be primarily for intensively grazed cattle.

I think Forks over Knives is a very well made movie, getting people to eat whole foods instead of processed foods will increase health. I think that the meat from fish and herbivores with other whole foods is optimal for human health and performance. Aquaponics systems to raise fish (depending on what they are fed) can be an important part of a whole foods diet. Locally grown vegetables, fish raised in aquaponics systems, and grass fed meats will be the future of the semi-localized food system of the future. Grain production is too energy intensive, environmentally destructive, and the inflammation factor caused from grains will make them a nonexistent part of the food system in the future.

Do you disagree? Tell me why

Watch the documentary

Read the China Study, on which the book was based.



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