My Recent Conversation with an Uber Driver

The last several weeks have been heavy travel months for me, and I’ve had the opportunity to use Uber a handful of times before they were kicked out of the province of Alberta. I am not a fan of parking at the airport, and so I frequently will catch a ride to avoid taking my car. Below are a few of those experiences.

Uber driver #1

My first time ever using Uber was about 15 minutes before I had to head to the airport. 6 minutes after downloading the app and setting up my account, there was a friendly driver in a brand new, immaculate black Honda Pilot in front of my house. 

I struck up a conversation with the driver (Bruce) as I was curious about the type of people using the app as drivers. It turned out that Bruce is a father of 3, and an entrepreneur who owns a big truck for his livelihood. In the winter time he clears snow for the city, and in the summer he hauls gravel. With this current winter being unuasually mild, Bruce’s truck has sat dormant for most of the winter while he continues making payments which include storage. In order to make ends meet, Bruce has enjoyed the convenience of driving part time through the use of Uber.

Uber driver #2

For my second trip to the US this year, I was greeted in less than 5 minutes by a clean and welcoming mini-van. My driver this time (Dan) was a single dad with a young boy around the age of 8. I noticed hockey sticks in the back of Dan’s van and learned that when he is not selling medical equipment to hospitals he is coaching his precocious 8 year old son. With the tough economic conditions, Dan’s regular gig has taken a hit, and Uber has been a convenient method to make extra cash to help out with his son’s financially demanding hockey activities.  

These were just two of my at least 6 experiences using Uber, and with each trip I noticed something interesting. It occurred to me that the typical driver profiles were pretty average Albertans wanting to get ahead in the face of the many challenges we’ve faced as a province over the last year: namely…

  • More than 100,000 oil related jobs have been lost
  • The price of our oil, our key economic driver has fallen by more than 70%
  • Our economy has hit a floor not seen since the early 80s

Attempting to turn Uber into a taxi company

The types of drivers that I met using Uber were not full time taxi drivers, and I think that is the beauty of the platform. And this is a point that I think our government is failing to realize. Uber is not a replacement for taxis, it is a disruptor of taxis. I understand that this comes across as alarming for many people. But we have to take a step back and understand why it is that Uber is so disruptive. 

In my previous post I wrote about disruptive businesses leveraging technology to become extremely customer-centric. Uber has accomplished this feat, and its success is merely a reflection of the masses voting with their wallets. 

 By imposing regulations such as mandatory background checks as well as license and insurance upgrades, it no longer exists as a ride sharing app. We are creating another taxi business. As an entrepreneur, I see a service and business model that is near perfection when it comes to connecting supply and demand. Drivers who want to give rides being matched seamlessly and automatically with drivers who want a ride. A driver validation and rating service in my mind is more than adequate to give me confidence in the person picking me up.

What does this mean for Alberta?

In the face of our numerous economic challenges at present, I remain incredibly optimistic about the spirit and capabilities of creative entrepreneurs who will innovate their way out of this situation. What I am apprehensive about is that our government has demonstrated a level of bureaucracy signaling to businesses and investors that Alberta is not a progressive province. As a result, what we are seeing and will continue to see is a mass exodus of talent and capabilities from our province by people with good ideas. As an example, I have met more Canadians than I can mention who have moved to California and seen incredible success. When polled, every one of them cited that they didn’t think their ideas stood a chance of succeeding in Alberta.

We have incredible and very capable people in our province and in our country, and I do see a bright future – eventually. I agree that our oil rich privilege has created some apathy that we will need to push through in order to return to prosperity. But this will take a change in mindset, especially on the part of our elected representatives. I see Uber as a first strike, and we’re now sitting 0 and 1. It’s not too late. 

In the meantime, I hope to see more than a dozen Uber drivers in Edmonton when the platform returns this summer. 

5 Tips for Managing Decision Fatigue

It has been said that the quality of decisions that we make deteriorates throughout the day. In fact, a 2011 study in the National Academy of Sciences found that judges who were responsible for granting prisoners parole became increasingly less lenient as the mornings approached lunch. On an empty stomach their decision making capabilities were actually compromised. 

Thankfully most of the decisions that I have to make throughout the day are slightly less significant. Nonetheless below are a few strategies that I have experienced real success with that could help put you back in the driver’s seat.

5 tips for managing decision fatigue

1. Choose your clothing the night before. 

Our brains when faced with choices throughout the day move closer towards a state of cognitive overload. Removing that first decision of the day is a surprisingly powerful trick to help conserve brain energy in the early hours of the day. I’ve taken it one step further by loading my closet with a dozen of the same black shirt to help remove one last decision. A word of warning though, this advanced move may lead to people questioning your bland wardrobe.


2. Meditate first thing in the morning



Prolific author Robert Greene compares our brains with icebergs, in that the majority of cognitive reasoning is buried within our subconscious. But this potential can often get drowned out by our monkey minds. The daily intentional practice of quieting that chatter in our minds can have huge benefits towards setting us up for success and happiness. Even 1 minute each morning is a powerful small step towards achieving the numerous benefits of meditation. A good entry point that I’d recommend is an app called Head Space


3. Write in a journal for 5 minutes each morning

The Five Minute Journal has been one of my best purchases so far this year. Each morning (most mornings if I’m honest) before looking at my phone or scanning e-mails, I jump straight into my journal to jot down 3 things I’m grateful for, and 3 things that would make today great. Sound simple and trivial? It’s actually more difficult than you would think. But it forces me to exercise that same muscle as the meditation to give me laser focus on 3 things to achieve each day.


4. Exercise each day even if just for a few minutes

This is an obvious one, and I won’t get into the myriad of benefits of daily exercise. But I’ll put it in as a reminder to stop making excuses. The body and mind are so linked that it would be impossible to aspire for a balanced life without tending to both. And if you have troubles finding the time, start out with an app like Seven Minute Workout.


5. Break your world into 90 day chunks

Chris Anderson illustrates the exponential curve of choice in his book The Long Tail. There are so many avenues of choice in our world these days that they are literally trending towards infinite. One only needs to visit the supermarket to count the amazing abundance of choices. Who knew there would be demand for Lobster Roll flavored chips? Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach recently wrote a book called the 25 Year Framework, in which he has succinctly mapped out where he wants to be 25 years from now in all aspects of his life. He then breaks it down into 90 day chunks. Each quarter effectively equals 1% of 25 years. A great way of dealing with the overwhelm is to write down 5 multipliers or goals that you can work on each 90 days that will move you closer to that 25 year target. And if you have one bad quarter, no sweat. It’s only 1% of the picture.


Whatever your situation, there are a tonne of intentional hacks that can help you regain control of your days. What tricks have you found to be successful?

Our evolving relationship with Artificial Intelligence

I was recently attending a technology conference and took home a nifty high-tech prize; Amazon’s Echo home speaker.

Now this isn’t your ordinary everyday speaker. Far from it. This speaker thoughtfully developed by Amazon employs what I consider AI (artificial intelligence) on steroids. Much like Siri, Alexa (that’s the speaker’s name) conveniently listens in on all of your conversations, just waiting for the chance to be helpful.

To engage Alexa into performing a seemingly endless list of Watson like tasks, simply speak her name followed by your request.

Alexa, what is the weather like today in Seattle?

Alexa, who won last night’s Oiler’s game?

Alexa, add Gluten Free Cheerio’s to our shopping list

Alexa, play Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

And she keeps getting smarter. Using something called Machine Learning, Alexa learns how I talk over time.

So, this has me thinking. If Alexa is on at all times listening to our every kitchen conversation – how should I feel about the obvious trade off of privacy being compromised? Amazon has ingeniously crafted a benevolent Trojan horse designed to soak up every facet of my personal life with exceptionally acute, long-range microphone technology.

Not that I have anything to hide (except for my secret stash of salt and vinegar chips), but how quickly I’ve adapted and accepted what not too long ago would’ve vehemently opposed as an invasion of privacy in its most extreme form. With the current controversy in the news between Apple and the US Government, there are clearly many layers in the  evolution of our privacy.

Futurist and prolific inventor, Ray Kurzweil recently made a revelatory prediction that within the next 10-12 years, the majority of us would be allowing AI to continually read our e-mail, listen in on our conversations and be “on” 24/7 to satisfy our every whim. When I first heard this claim, I quickly identified myself as one in the opposing camp. Yet here I sit in my kitchen with Alexa listening to me type while offering up the soothing ambience of Miles Davis in the background.

When it comes to opening up your home to technologies like Alexa, is it something to be feared or embraced?

 

Are airlines next to be disrupted?

Airlines are running the risk of being disrupted.

The now standard cautionary tale of Netflix disrupting Blockbuster is becoming a pattern across several industries; think Airbnb disrupting hotels, Uber disrupting the taxi industry and Apple disrupting the mobile communications industry.

There seem to be two patterns at work here:

  1. Increasingly customer-centric business models
  2. The convergence of exponential technologies enabling increasingly customer-centric business models 

1. Increasingly customer-centric business models

I was recently on a business trip on the opposite corner of North America, over 15 hours of travel each way. My experience was terrible. On my way back to the airport to catch my return flight, my journey quickly turned into what could have easily been a Seinfeld episode.

The check-in agent informed me that the flight I had booked was full and that they didn’t set aside a seat for me. This meant that I had to step to the side with my luggage until they had checked in everyone else. My only hope of being on the flight was if someone did not show up.

Not that it was any of their concern, but I had important meetings scheduled for the next morning, and a pregnant wife with our 15 month old toddler waiting for me to get home that night. Needless to say, I was not delighted.

2. The convergence of exponential technologies enabling increasingly customer-centric business models

Fast forward several hours later, and I finally made my flight. Upon retrieving my luggage, I opened my Uber app, and dispatched a driver. Within seconds, a friendly voice was ringing my phone confirming which exit I was near. No sooner did I exit the airport that a clean, brand new Lexus SUV was awaiting my arrival outside to take my bags and drive me home. And did I mention this experience came at half the fare of my usual cab ride? Needless to say, I was delighted. 

Only the most customer-centric will survive

If we look around us in today’s market place, there is a pattern at play. As Peter Diamandis, founder of Singularity University and the X Prize writes about in Bold, the impact of exponential technologies is increasingly democratizing the world around us. 

Some businesses are surviving until now in spite of themselves. Richard Foster, a lecturer from Yale School of Management estimates that the average lifespan of companies listed on the S&P 500 has gone from 67 years in the 1920s to less than 15 years today. He states that by the year 2020, 3/4 of those S&P 500 listings will be companies that we have not yet heard of.

In the face of all this rapid change and disruption, I believe that Netflix, Uber, and Airbnb are killing it simply because they are incredibly useful, and incredibly customer-centric. Technology just happens to be the enabler. 

 

Top 5 Major Updates in New Tesla Software

One of the coolest technologies that Tesla has built into their cars is their ability to support over the air software updates. Typically they release these small over the air improvements every month or so. They take about an hour to download once your car is parked and plugged in.

Here are the most recent updates as of this morning (January 12, 2016).

 

1. Perpendicular Parking

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2. Enhanced Autopilot Visualization

IMG_1191

3. Autosteer: New Safety Restriction

IMG_1192

4. Garage Door Auto-Open/Close

IMG_1193

5. Vehicle Lock Improvements

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Welcome

My name is Tim Yewchuk.

I’m an amateur runner and triathlete, entrepreneur, 3D Printer, COO at Thermo King Western, student of life and continuous improvement – especially around productivity and technology.

My Kolbe Profile is 7 Fact Finder | 4 Follow Through | 5 Quick Start | 5 Implementer.

What you will find here

This site is a living archive of lessons learned and ideas around:

  • Productivity hacks
  • Technology
  • Books that I’m reading
  • Business; lots on Lean and Scrum
  • Parenthood
  • And other things that I find inspiring and worth sharing