A collection of retrospective humor vignettes designed to enhance immune systems everywhere -- (particularly the one inside my spousal unit).
"There's nothing happening now that I haven't already experienced, thoughtfully considered, then made fun of." -- CGiven
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Warren Buffett's 2013 "Grow Your Own Business" Challenge (I became a STOCKHOLDER!!)
It seems I may be a “little white liar.” Thankfully, I use my
white lies for good and not for evil.
My earlier post about last weekend’s Omaha trip with student,
Max Wallack, contained an act of misdirection.Yes, Max was a finalist in Warrren Buffett’s annual Grow Your Own Business Challenge.He was one of five individual grand
prize contestants, along with three teams, invited to present business-concepts
to a panel of judges.The first
place award for individual and team innovations was $5,000, and a chance to
meet and talk to Warren Buffett as well as the movers and shakers of the
My act of misdirection occurred when I referred to a Max
Wallack initiative different than the one he technically presented in
Omaha.I mentioned Max’s non-profit that
produces products for those suffering
from Alzheimer’s.This initiative
is slated to receive profits from Max’s ‘Grow
Your Own Business’ invention, so it is related.But I didn’t want to divulge his real concept, prior to its
presentation to judges.
Now that the event is over, I can share with you that his
entrepreneurial endeavor is a Bed Bug Exposing Device.That works!
Warren Buffet and his GYOB 2013 National Finalists
Bed bugs are more of a problem than some think, taxing
multiple U.S. industries, most notably real estate and hospitality.This invention is greatly needed with
Just like Max.
Max has been inventing things his whole life.As a young child he watched his great
grandmother fall victim to the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease, which spurred
him to invent a variety of adaptive equipment for her use:a great-granny booster step so she
could more comfortably board the family van, and a walker-to-bench that offered
her a rest while standing in any sort of line.
Since then, Max has gone on to help others in need, including
the homeless with his temporary shelter called, The Home Dome, made solely of
recyclable materials. Max's non-profit Alzheimer's organization soon followed, and
now, the Bed Bug Exposing Device.
I was lucky to meet Max eight years ago when he was barely 9.
He had been double promoted to grade six when he enrolled in a start-up charter
school where I taught, an educational site I am proud to say that I, Max’s class
and a handful of dedicated teachers and administrators jointly founded.Today it is a highly successful STEM
school (Science, Technology, Electricity and Magic) . . . [sometimes the E and
M stand for “engineering and math” but I teach English and like alternative endings]
Max turned 17 about a week ago, yet this summer he begins
his junior year in college, which includes several medical school courses.A neuro-science major, he will likely become
a geriatric physician specializing in Alzheimer’s research.
Many say Max is gifted.
Max says he likes to work hard.
I say his philanthropic bent is a gift, at which he works very
In any event, Max's non-profit Alzheimer's initiative is positioned to receive profits from his Grow
Your Own Business submission,
the Bed Bug Exposing Device, so at least my “white lie” was relevant.
It turns out my choice to omit data about his real entry was
wise.Panelists in attendance at
the May 19-20 event – sponsored by the Fairholme Foundation and its By Kids For
Kids (BKFK) program – urged Max to patent his concept. Quickly.These are renowned investors and at
every turn, each encouraged a swift patent.
So without divulging unpatented specifics, Max’s invention is a
sensitive but simple system that detects the presence of a bed bug mating pheromone.
Applications are profound for folks looking to rent
apartments, buy homes, check into hotels and motels.Better may be its use by exterminators to determine
the success of treatments.Or for
hotel chains to assure themselves and their guests of the pest’s absence.
Of 4,000 student entries, five
individual business concepts and three team projects were chosen as finalists,
one of which was a Bed Bug Detecting system invented by my student, Max
Wallack. There: The truth is out there.
His project won much attention, but not the final contest,
about which none in our group was disappointed.The whirlwind weekend was filled with workshops, a trip to the Omaha
zoo, chances to meet other like-minded students, parents and teachers, opportunities to shares these concepts with Warren Buffett and
countless notables in the investment and entrepreneurial worlds.And we were all flown out, fed, made
to feel like kings and queens in breathtaking suites at the Embassy Hotel.Each of us had already won so much.
Moments after Max presented his Bed Bug Device to Warren Buffett
The event’s individual winner was 10-year old Matthew
Meyer of Cincinnati who won with a brilliant invention, the Write-Right.It’s a wrist band with finger supports
that keep a child’s hand in the correct position to support proper handwriting.
Matthew is easily one of the most energized, magnetic 10-year
olds in the history of Energy and Magnetism (more STEM alternative-endings). Upon learning he was the event’s grand
prize winner, Matthew took to the limelight like a bed bug to a Dickens’
My first encounter with Matthew was at dinner our first
evening in Omaha. He and his Mom, Elizabeth, were seated at our table. It took
a few moments for him to warm up to our little ‘crowd’ but once he did, he was volcanic.Someone asked what he wanted to be when
he grew up, and at first he noted prudently he wanted to get old enough to
acquire his driver’s license and a job. Then he segued seamlessly to his other
interest: to ultimately grow armpit hair.
One of the parents at our table, the Dad of a contestant who
had invented a sensor that could detect a child in trouble in a family swimming
pool, asked Matthew why he was so intrigued by this endeavor.
“Well, so I can pluck them all out … of course.”
Well … of course.
I confess, if Matthew had invented a wristband with finger
supports to hold tweezers in an ergonomically-relevant way, to effectively
pluck one’s underarms, and I were a judge, I’d have voted for it. Humor-points plus bonus-points for body
hair discussion at dinner with perfect strangers (elite, national
contest-winning strangers) …well. That’s a winning combo for me.
In other armpit-related news, never until last weekend was I
SO focused on effective antiperspirant. Our Omaha weekend included briefings on
how to best present oneself to the media, and in our Welcome Kits was a packet
including Do’s and Don’ts regarding television, radio, phone and print-media
are novices out there who violate rules like, “Don’t lie.”
It had never occurred to me that, if interviewed, I MIGHT
lie.But this thought took root,
tormenting me constantly, evoking a mammoth flopsweat-response.
I have never been interviewed per se.I have been the interviewer.The journalist trying to catch a
politician in a lie.But I have
never been in position, personally, to lie.
According to our Kits, “Don’t make up an answer” was so
important, it appeared on my media sheet as bullet point number 5 and again as
bullet point number 15.
As media personnel swarmed the two-day event with fuzzy
microphones on booms and shoulder-hoisted cameras fitted with high-beam
spotlights, my armpits threatened to runneth over.
When did Max get five inches taller than me?
Fortunately, I did not end up telling lies on camera, radio,
or in print media. Because, technically, I was not interviewed. But I’ll tell
you, my new phobia about lying to the press put my Secret Clinical to the test
which, alongside Matthew Meyer, won the day!
Hearty congratulations to Matthew and his teaching mentor and
Mom, Elizabeth.Such a treat being
there for the weekend and meeting them, and so many other gifted student
entrepreneurs, families and educators.
Meanwhile, I must share that, next to not having to lie to
the media, and getting to talk to Matthew Meyer about body hair, my favorite
part of the event was Warren Buffett’s speech.It began not with praise of the Fairholme Foundation or By
Kids For Kids sponsors, nor of judges, or investor-panelists who’d completed a
robust Q&A.(Oh, Buffett, would indeed acknowledge all of this and each
of them. Just not in the
He didn’t even launch his speech with praise of the contestants.
He started off lauding teachers.
Finalists, parents and teachers, 2013 GYOB Challenge
It was an impromptu intro that drew upon school-day memories
more than 70 years old.He reminded
us that, back then, women only had three career options should they find
themselves in need of work: secretary, nurse or teacher. And they were paid
next-to-nothing. Despite these obstacles, Warren credits who and what he is
today to the successes of multiple teachers who instilled in him a desire to be
the best he could be, to do the right thing.
He went on in that vein, then had contestants and their
sponsoring teachers stand to be acknowledged.
And then, he gave to each contestant – and their teachers –
10 shares of Class B Berkshire Hathaway stock.
He was quoted in an interview later that day saying his
decision to give stock to teachers “just came into my head,” adding that the
amount of effort teachers invest in students amazed him in that moment, and so,
he chose to make us all shareholders.Wow.
I set out to support someone who, at the tender age of 17,
has already devoted his life – past and future – to the disenfranchised, the homeless,
the afflicted. Max has always
inspired me.And yet, it was my
profession – a pretty humble one in many regards – that inspired Warren
There I was, thinking the highlight of my weekend was
learning about the biochemistry of a bed bug’s love life and the concept of
plucked underarms.Things I,
frankly, could not wait to get home to share with my family.
Should they respond with, ‘Where do you think such ideas come
from?” it pleases me no end that Warren Buffett might say, “Well, from some
inspiring teacher, of course.”