Friday, July 26, 2013


One of the real advantages of living in a place like San Francisco is the enjoyment of watching the 1% spend their money. It appears to get distributed in a spray shot that hits everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. 

One of the places this new-found wealth seems to be directed more often than not is toward saving the planet. Good! One of the places it doesn’t seem to get directed toward is design. Ouch!

And, a favorite place to spend money, at least in California, is on cars!

Not long ago all hybrid cars looked like enlarged packaging cases for feminine hygiene products or characters in a Dreamworks movie. Why was it that almost all hybrids looked like they were an offshoot on the family tree of the Prius computer design program? Why was it that no one, or seemingly no one, was able to design a good looking hybrid / electric car? Did someone decide that design was in part responsible for global warming?

But, then, along came Tesla, and suddenly design and the environment were, or are, back in the same bed. Only, the problem is that the bed is made with the equivalent of imported 360 count Egyptian cotton sheets. Titans of the New World can afford that count. The 47% group will have to hope that design is headed their way at some point downstream. But, at least Tesla seems to have reinserted the idea of passion back into the world of automobile design. It’s been a long time coming. As Godfrey Sullivan, CEO of Splunk, was quoted as saying in a recent SF Business Times, “It’s as if Steve Jobs built a car.”

If Jobs had been born earlier, he might have been friends with the Arfons. You might have seen the recent obituary for Walt Arfons. He and his brother, Art, defined passion and automobile design. After dropping out of school after the 10th grade, and serving in the military in WWII, Walt and his brother spent the next 20+ years strapping cars onto jet engines in an attempt to set the land speed record. 


The jet-propellled WingfootExpress set the record, on 2 October 1964 at 413.2 mph.

Three days later, Walt’s brother Art, who by this point had become estranged from his sibling, set a new record with his turbojet driven car. 434 mph. That record lasted just over a week, at which point an auslander from California set a new record. At that point, Walt dropped out of the race, and the two remaining teams exchanged records several times.

What the two brothers didn’t exchange, because they were both full of it, was passion. Summed up by Walt: “There’s nothing like sitting in a car and feeling the afterburners.”

In a recent interview in the New York Times, Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of YouSendIt, was asked what traits he looks for when he hires someone:

“The thing I look for more than anything else is passion. If someone brings passion to their work, it compensates for myriad potential weaknesses, and that passion manifests itself in hard work and commitment. It manifests itself in authentic communication. For really passionate people, it’s hard for them to keep their opinions to themselves because they feel so strongly about something.”

What’s your passion?

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