business, Current Events, Random, Technology

My Thoughts On A Potential CVS+ Aetna Deal

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Some context….We’ve seen high levels of consolidation in the healthcare industry over the last 4- 5 years….a lot having to do with ACA and inter-industry competition. Yesterday, Amazon won regulatory approval to wholesale pharmaceuticals in 12 states. While it does seem Amazon will enter the pharma sales business, the larger elephant in the room, which I think CVS Health acknowledges with this move, is pharmaceutical benefits management (PBM). PBM has been a major driver of profits and growth for CVS and a key differentiator from the Walmarts of the world. Adding aetna will re-inforce their PBM business by giving them a larger network to play with and helps with diversification to weather an Amazon entrance into the pharmaceutical space. Amazon will start by selling pharmaceutical products but will eventually use Amazon Prime as a PBM which will ultimately drive down the cost of prescriptions for Amazon prime members while they take a cut of course. Interesting time to be a consumer.

Current Events, History, Holiday Weekend, music

Looking For America On The Fourth Of July

This is was supposed to post on the 4th but I scheduled for the wrong time. 

One of my favorite songs ever. It encapsulates the journey of an individual and their loved one (Paul and Kathy) as they journey across the United States and also serves as an analogy for the search of the American dream and ideals.

Volkswagen released a great commercial that used the song in the background of a story about an Irish family taking a vacation throughout America to fulfill the last wishes of their grandfather. (side comment…. Volkswagen is always on their advertising A game when it comes to giving the audience all the feels in their commercials. Does anyone know which agency VW uses?)

 

They had three generations of Americans in the new VW Atlas traveling across the US. Talk about an existential cake of thoughts, views, and experiences. The VW video and Paul’s song remind me we never may get a chance to see the best America has to offer but we owe it to those who came before us (mostly immigrants, slaves, and natives)  to continue the search and work toward a more perfect union for all.

Happy 4th of July!

#MentalNote, Current Events, Education, History, Self-Revelation, Why?

Sapiens and the Oscars

I have very few newsletters that I hold in such high esteem as Farnam Street. If you enjoy thinking about things in new ways and awesome book recommendations, I suggest you sign up here. It’s so good, I’m giving a free shout out. The newsletter will change your life, but I digress.

One of the most recent book recommendations from the Farnam Street is called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.   I haven’t gotten a chance to read the book yet but I was totally enthralled with the descriptions in the newsletters. It’s definitely on my to read list.

One of the most important takeaways from the book is captured in this short quote below:

What was the Sapiens’ secret of success? How did we manage to settle so rapidly in so many distant and ecologically different habitats? How did we push all other human species into oblivion? Why couldn’t even the strong, brainy, cold-proof Neanderthals survive our onslaught? The debate continues to rage. The most likely answer is the very thing that makes the debate possible: Homo sapiens conquered the world thanks above all to its unique language.

Most people would agree that language was a huge game changer but not for the reason you’d think:

As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched, or smelled. Legends, myths, gods, and religions appeared for the first time with the Cognitive Revolution. Many animals and human species could previously say ‘Careful! A lion! Thanks to the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens acquired the ability to say. ‘The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.’ This ability to speak about fictions is the most unique feature of Sapiens language…You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. 

To Harari, the most important function of language is we can describe things we cannot see or understand. “It is our collective fiction that defines us” By doing this, human beings are better suited to work in large groups effectively and flexibly than other animals. Real world applications of this is state, religious, fraternal, or basic assumptions we take as truth.

The collective myth and our ability to believe or not, is what differentiates us from other animals. To be clear, not all of these myths are lies but some of them are. We believe them because the opposite is too difficult to handle. For example, sapiens are horrible at evaluating talent or a subjective “best”. We’ve seen it in finance, education, entertainment, and other industries. We rely on human evaluations and get burnt. We consistently overvalue and undervalue, which leads to faulty and less than ideal outcomes. If we look at this from Harari’s perspective, we’ve bought into the myth that we can make objective evaluations.

Earlier last week, the Academy released their nominees for the Oscars. There were complaints about the lack of diversity in the nominees. I agree, there should be more representation, especially from a 2015 that saw quality movies from minority leads. However, its a symptom of a larger myth; A group of industry leaders can make an objective evaluation on what are some of the best performances the year prior. I say this as a huge Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Nolan fan. (None of them have won Oscars)

I’ve started to take human informed decisions with a grain of salt. I can’t afford to buy into the idea that a group of us can make the best decision. Now, believing that is difficult to handle because it has implications larger than the Academy Awards. I’ll just let your mind wander…

Current Events, Politics

White House 2012 Guide pt 1: For Republicans

The play for the white house in 2012

Keep these stats in mind:

  • Congress ranks last among 16 other institutions  in the “2010 Confidence in Institutions” poll. 11 percent of respondents gave have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress.  Gallup Poll
  • The presidency ranks 7th with 36 percent.
  • Military is ranked first with 76 percent

Lets assume a couple of things. (Follow me here…some of these assumptions are basic but there’s a reason for laying it out like this.) Lets assume that November 2010 comes around and republicans win back seats in the house and the senate. The public is unsatisfied with the party in power in congress and its safe to assume that the democrats will lose seats. Republicans, like it or not, will have to acknowledge the tea party as a legitimate force to be reckoned with and if they have any intention at the white house in 2012, coöperation is necessary. Lets also assume that President Obama intends to run for a second term in 2012. Most incumbent presidents do. Also:

  • Liberals will vote for democratic candidate because they fundamentally disagree with Republicans
  • Conservatives will vote for republican candidate because they fundamentally disagree with democrats
  • 2012 presidential election will primarily be decided by moderates on both sides and independents. (DUH)

So the main question is how do you get the fringe moderates on both sides and independents to vote for a republican candidate for 2012? Here’s what we can assume from the Gallup poll:

  1. The voting public lacks confidence in Congress. A presidential candidate that comes from congress will not be able to align themselves with the anti-establishment voting electorate (Large group which include independents, moderates and angered democrats)
  2. They are not looking to vote for an incumbent president, especially if ECONOMY does not get better.
  3. A presidential candidate with substantial military ties would be enticing to moderates and independents.

Most voters will be looking for someone who is anti-Washington. Why not look for a high-ranking military officer to be a presidential candidate?  Someone with experience in the military and minor experience with D.C politics would have the upper hand in an election based on the confidence polls. Historically, conflicts elevated many officers into the office of the president (Harry S. Truman, Theodore Roosevelt…etc)  Who will be the product of the first Gulf, second Gulf and Afghanistan wars? This is an ample opportunity for a military candidate on the republican ticket. Instead of going with an establishment candidate and splitting the tea party votes, there’s a chance you could have both republican votes and tea party votes while capturing moderate votes too.

Of course, it’s just August 2010.  A lot of things could change before the next presidential cycle. If the economy recovers, which includes the unemployment rate decreasing, the party in charge reaps the benefits and republicans will lose 2012 presidency. The tea party could go mainstream and produce a presidential candidate with the ability to catch moderates and independents. I highly doubt that. Most likely, the republicans will find a rough nose governor to head the ticket.  I guess we can only wait and see.

Current Events, Politics, Self-Revelation

Learn by doing

I wonder why all my jokes always turn into serious conversations.

I was joking around with my brothers  the other day about a need for “president school” . In theory, it would be a school that prepared presidential candidates for the presidency. Every candidate would have to go through it to be able to accept their party’s nomination. Implications aside, it was a pretty funny conversation. Ideas of course topics stretched from diplomacy to family management. I could imagine it now….. presidential readiness certificate.  We laughed about the prospect for a while but inherent in the conversation was where the knowledge to become president comes from. How do you gauge someone as a qualified candidate?

The presidency is a very complex place to start this conversation from. We shifted our focus from being the president to things that you can only learn how to do by doing or being. My brother started off with the most simple question. He asked me how I learned how to be an effective brother. I learned how to be a good brother by watching other brother relationships. I watched how my father interacted with my uncles and aunts, how my cousin’s interacted with their siblings, and watched how my friends interacted with their brothers and sisters.  Secondly, I was in the place to be a brother for a long enough time that I learned what works and what doesn’t. The same goes for a father, mother, sister and brother. We learn from others but most of it is a work in progress. You can never really teach people how to be effective at something. You can only teach certain skills that will help people in these situations learn as fast as possible.

So if I’m picking a list of presidential list of guidelines that I have to draw from every candidate to decide whether they are capable or not:

(Note: These guidelines not exhaustive and don’t bear much weight independent of the list.)

  1. Previous experience in executive roles. Yes the presidency is unique in its challenges but the idea of being in command and responsible for an organization larger than yourself is a skill set that can only be taught by being in a role where it was required. Anything from being a general, governor, representative, senator, CEO, diplomat, or a mayor of a large city is valid. Generally, any where that required you to answer to a large group of people.
  2. Steep Learning Curve. A candidate must possess the ability to understand large amounts of information in a short amount of time  and apply it to current problems. Presidents will face challenges for which they know nothing about. While its understood that you can’t know everything about everything, you have to make decisions like you do. (most of the time will you have the help of experts and others but it comes down to the president)
  3. Empathy and understanding. As president, you are required to manage relationships on multiple levels. (state to state, people to government, etc.) I’d like to know that you can manage these relationships effectively which will probably increase the success of your presidency. Some may say that looking into a presidential candidates life is out-of-bounds but it is important to see how they managed relationships.
  4. Approach life as a life long student. My uncle always use to tell me , ” A wise man thinks himself as a fool while a fool thinks himself a wise man.” Continue to learn and approach the presidency as a student on a scholarship that requires a 4.0 and your grades are checked daily. This is an outlook on life that you can tell whether someone has or not just by listening to them talk.

Okay, obviously I left some things out. Also, it is often difficult to display some of these things during a presidential election because the electorate may look at some of these qualities as weak, but if these are characteristics that every president should have.