All Your Face Are Belong To Us: DeepLens Challenge Day 5

Keep Hope Alive

This is Day 5 (for me) of the DeepLens Challenge, which I talked about starting in my post here.  I have to submit my project by February 12th or 13th.  I’m making progress toward my project goal, which right now is simply to recognize a face in an image cache from a live video feed using the stock face detection model on the DeepLens device.  Face and image recognition is pretty common place today, I guess, but I’m stoked to get something similar working myself.  I’d also love to integrate Alexa into the mix somehow as well, but I need to start making bigger strides with less messing about with the fiddly things!

Coding Challenges And Solutions

Some of the challenges I’ve faced, and (mostly) overcome, so far include:

  • Cropping a detected face out of the DeepLens video feed in the Lambda Python script.  Turns out this is very simple, but it took me a while to figure out.
  • How to convert the cropped face image to a jpg and write it to disk.  Also very simple in retrospect, but I’m a moron.
  • I thought it would be easy to write the resulting face jpg to AWS S3 from the DeepLens edge device, but this one I just could not figure out due to permission issues.  I can write to S3 using the aws cli as the aws_cam user, but so far I’ve not been able to extend those same permissions to the ggc_user account, which seems is what runs the awscam software.  I even hard-coded credentials in the creation of my S3 client in the lambda code, but still had permission problems.  I had to back-off from hacking on the device out of fear of really screwing something up, however.  Best to stay off the DeepLens as much as possible in retrospect.
  • The only way I was able to get a face image off the DeepLens and into the cloud so far is by converting it to a base64 String, putting into a JSON object, and putting it on the IoT Topic.  I worry that all this data transfer is going to cost me an arm-and-a-leg by the end of this thing…
  • When creating a lambda function to read from the IoT Topic, I kept getting a random error when trying to save it, which made no sense as I was following an AWS Blog Post for how to do the same.  Then I found this: https://forums.aws.amazon.com/thread.jspa?messageID=825417&tstart=0.  And this is what makes hackathons using new technology so fun!  Writing software is really just lots of Google Searches.

And speaking of the Internet of Things (IoT), to-date I’ve thought this was just another marketing buzz word that wasn’t going to pan-out, so to speak.  I used to think the same about ‘cloud’ (and still think this about Bitcoin and its ilk).  But this DeepLens development challenge is giving me a greater appreciation for IoT and edge computing.  In fact, we’ve been talking about the proliferation of internet connected things and the resulting possibilities since Java Jini, and probably before that, but I suspect Python will be its great enabler instead of Java at this point.  But I digress…

Baby Steps, But Machine Learning Learning No Where In Sight

So as of today, I am able to leverage the stock face detection model to detect and crop a face out of a live video feed from DeepLens, send it up to the AWS Cloud Lambda IOT Topic Listener, and put it into an S3 Bucket.  Next step is to try to figure out how to use the AWS Rekognition service to recognize face images in an image cache.

The Flow Zone

I’ve found listening to music particularly distracting these last few days.  However, I find this Horn Solo in Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony really soothing and not distracting (but too short).  I played this solo in Solo and Ensemble in High School.  I’ve been told that french horn players are better kissers…

AWS DeepLens Hackathon: A Machine Learning Newbie’s Journey Into the Abyss Part 2

Feel the Sweet Pain

So far, I’ve learned some painful, hard-fought, lessons in the last two days. I was initially able to register my DeepLens device with AWS Cloud, no problem. The first hiccup I encountered was when I tried to push one of the pre-made models down to the device. They simply would not go, and there are no logs to look at, as that might be too helpful. So, thinking like a DeepLens device myself, I reasoned I probably screwed-up the IAM roles when I tried to register the device (later I learned my assumption was spot-on). To correct the model push problem I was having, I Deregistered the device hoping I could simply go through the Registration process again making sure my IAM Roles were properly configured. And wouldn’t you know the dang wifi on the device stopped working preventing me from logging in to the device to re-register it with the cloud.

The way the DeepLens currently works is that you can only configure it (and upload the certificates it needs to identify itself with your AWS Account) by using it’s on-board wifi and pointing your web browser (on another computer) to http://192.168.0.1. I still can’t get over how odd this is – not sure what Amazon was thinking with this 🙂 .  I think it’s odd because my first inclination is to treat the DeepLens like a first-class computer, meaning I have my keyboard, mouse and monitor connected to it. Why would I need to configure it from another computer over wifi? OMG so funny!!

Whither Went My DeepLens Wifi

So the wifi simply would not come on again, as life’s ironies often dictate. So my girlfriend and I went out to Best Buy in 20 degree weather (I bet your girlfriend wouldn’t do that) to buy a USB Hub and a USB-to-Ethernet connector, the idea being that if I could get the device online over ethernet, maybe I could configure this thing that way. Using a hard-wired ethernet connection, my DeepLens was back online, but now with an IP Address of 192.168.1.13. The instructions say to connect to your device console using http://192.168.0.1. Being the contrarian that I am, I tried to connect using http://192.168.1.13 – yeah, no dice.  In fact, I could not even find anything running on port 80 of the device at this point. What had I done?!?

Save me USB, you’re my only hope!

AWS guys, I’d totally put an ethernet port in the back of this device.

After poking around a bit, I found the awscam software in /opt/awscam. It looks to me like the DeepLens console is just a nodejs app that is served by some python scripts in the daemon-scripts directory. And wouldn’t you know, those scripts are hard-coded to bind the nodejs app to the wifi device and to run on port 192.168.0.1. I’m dying here. Ok, so I either have to figure out how to modify the daemon python scripts to use the eth0 device and bind to 192.168.1.13, or I have to get the on-board wifi working again.

Luckily, I saw a mention on the AWS forum about a possible Linux Kernel incompatibility with the DeepLens wifi hardware, so I decided to try the path of getting the wifi hardware working again by reverting to an older Linux Kernel, if one even existed – I didn’t know at this point. The following video got me over the hardest piece of solving how to boot an older Ubuntu Kernel:

https://youtu.be/2MK7Z19rMn8

The GRUB Loader does not display upon reboot in the DeepLense by default, so my first step was to get the GRUB Menu to show:

  1. edit /etc/default/grub
  2. comment out GRUB_HIDDEN_TIMEOUT
  3. set GRUB_TIMEOUT=-1
  4. sudo update-grub (or do it as root)
  5. reboot

Once the device reboots you will finally see the GRUB menu – fantastic!  Select advanced settings, then select the 4.10.17+ kernel.  Once rebooted, the on-board wifi should be working again and the little blinky middle light should be happy again.  Now you should be back on track to register your device per the AWS instructions.  And if you ever need the happy blinking middle wifi light again, the setup pin hole in the back of the camera should work as long as you are running the correct Linux Kernel.

I’m not positive the kernel is the problem, but I am positive these steps worked for me.  And how did I get kernel 4.13.0-26-generic installed in the first place?  I’m not even sure.  I did try to update my device, and maybe that was the start of the problem?  I’m not sure.

Anyway, I am now able to download the pre-built Face-Detection Project to my device, as seen here:

DeepLens face detection

At this rate, it’s doubtful I’ll get anything built by the hackathon deadline, but it’s kind of fun messing with the hardware.

This Armin Van Buuren Ibiza set is so tight.  Love it, especially around minute 40!

AWS DeepLens Hackathon: A Machine Learning Newbie’s Journey Into the Abyss

Don’t Stop Learning

I know next to nothing about Machine Learning.  Shoot, I don’t even have a C.S. Degree.  But damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, I’ve committed to completing a project for the AWS DeepLens Hackathon, currently slated to conclude on this February 14th, 2018.  Technology is advancing at a break-neck pace and this is one way to try to keep up.  Plus, I’ve heard that the first Trillionaires will be minted from the A.I. Industry, so show me the money! I thought it would be cool to blog some of my experience using the DeepLens technology during this hackathon (and I’m actually writing this blog on my DeepLens device).

Actually, on a side note, I’m a little worried about where technology is going these days, especially with such a strong emphasis on A.I. and autonomous machines and all, all driven by profit and power motives, not REAL problems.  If we’re not innovating, we’re dying, right?  But as Sun Tzu once said, keep your friends close but your (potential) enemies closer.

Confronting the Beast

I went to AWS re:Invent last November in Vegas and somehow managed to get into one of the last DeepLens Workshops of the Conference.  Competition for these workshops was, shall we say, fierce!  Attending meant I had to miss the re:Play party, but at that point I didn’t really care since the D.J. was not Van Buuren, Garrix or AfroJack.  By attending the DeepLens Workshop, I was able to take a free DeepLens computer home, and even received a voucher for $25 worth of AWS Credits to get started.

I was really psyched to get started on the hackathon upon returning home, but I already had a project in progress I had to complete first.  Fortunately, I finally completed my Android App (my second Android App ever) and got it released in the Google Play Store (CANDLES Tracker) on 1/11, so I finally have my evenings ‘free’ to devote to this hackathon.

Progress

So yesterday, 1/12, I cracked open my DeepLens box and unpacked the device.  I realized I needed a new keyboard, mouse and HDMI cable with a micro-HDMI male end.  So last night I ordered these things, off of Amazon…of course, and received them in a Prime Shipment by the time I got home from work this evening.

Tonight, 1/13, my DeepLens is all connected and registered with my AWS Account.  I imagine it’s not going to take me long to burn through the $25 AWS Credits when I start uploading data to train my models, which I will hopefully get a better feel for this weekend.

Once the camera boots-up, you can log into the OS using the password ‘aws_cam’, which is the same as the username.  You can connect to wifi and use Firefox to get on the internet and access your AWS Account from there.  Strangely though, the instructions say to connect to the DeepLens Wifi endpoint from another computer and configure it using a browser pointing to http://192.168.0.1.  I found this strange as I was already logged into the device, but could not get Firefox to connect to http://localhost to connect to the configuration portal from within the device.  But it’s all working now by simply not thinking and following the instructions.

Screenshot of DeepLense Ubuntu Desktop and Video Stream from Camera.

Next Steps

Start deploying some of the Amazon pre-built models to get a better feel for the deploy process and integration possibilities outside of the device.

I’ve recently gotten hooked on this Carl Cox Ibiza set, which is a nice groove for hacking to, I’ve found:

The Weekly Billionaire Case Study: Ted Turner

Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.

I just finished reading Ted Turner’s autobiography, ‘Call Me Ted’.  This truly was a page turner…get it?  Seriously, I very much enjoyed his book and feel like I learned a great deal about not only Ted’s life and how he thinks, but what it must be like to be a businessman operating at his level.

Ted has led a fascinating life – from winning America’s Cup, to winning the 1979 Fastnet Race, to owning the Atlanta Braves, to taking the Atlanta Braves to the World Series, to starting CNN and the Goodwill Games, to living the life of a Billionaire.  He got his professional start working in his Dad’s Billboard Advertising business, which he eventually took over and proceeded to grow.  He eventually moved into television and started Turner Broadcasting.  It was his business pivot into television that allowed him to create such innovations as colorized versions of many famous black-and-white films, like ‘Gone With the Wind’, the 24/7 news channel CNN, and my personal favorite, the Cartoon Network (I used to love ‘Johnny Bravo’ and ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’).

Reading about Ted Turner’s life is an excellent study on how to increase the scope of your thinking, problem solving skills, and level of persistence.

Here are some themes that impacted me from Ted’s Book:

  • Discipline.  Knowledge of Military History, Discipline and Bearing can help in outmaneuvering and executing business competitors.  Ted was a graduate of McCallie in Tennessee, which used to be a military prep school at the time he attended.  All of Ted’s sons attended The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina (my alma mater) because of the importance Ted put on military schooling.
  • Leadership.  Sailing provided Ted a laboratory to practice Leadership, Team Building, and competitive tactics.  The leadership lessons Ted learned from skippering an ocean-going vessel were applied to his business.  I’m sure the networks he built around sailing helped in business as well.
  • Problem Solving Acumen.  One example of the importance of big problem solving is highlighted during the disappearance of the RCA SATCOM III satellite after launch, which was to be the transponder for the new CNN news channel.  Problem solving skills, at scale, help make the impossible possible, which is a necessity for innovators seeking to disrupt the status quo.
  • The Power of Good Debt.  Reading the book, it seemed like Ted’s ventures were in debt most of the time, waiting for profitability.  To float a venture until profitability or until new investment money was secured, Ted would often sell previously acquired assets from the billboard business.  By selling assets in the billboard business to fund new ventures in the television and cable space, Ted parlayed his fortune into an even greater one.
  • Have Powerful Friends.  Friends like John Malone helped Ted deal with difficulties encountered after buying MGM from Kirk Kerkorian and during the Turner Broadcasting merger with Time Warner .
  • Love of the Environment.  “Why, land’s the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”  That is a quote from ‘Gone With the Wind’ that Ted references to underscore his feelings about how important the environment is to him, and should be to everyone.

 

The Financial Freedom Crap Shoot

In 2017, the world’s billionaire club grew by a healthy 13% to roughly 2,043 people.  In my home state of Virginia, according to Forbes, there are just 5 such billionaires.  Since there are roughly 8.3 million people living in Virginia, this gives me about a 5 in 8.3 million chance of being counted as a billionaire.  As remote as that possibility is, it’s still better than the 1 in 258,890,850 chance I have of buying a winning Mega Millions lottery ticket, and the pot for that currently stands at a paltry $145 million.

Yes, the odds of becoming a millionaire or a billionaire are annoyingly remote, even for the average ‘free’ American.  Nevertheless, my goal is to be financially free and in command of my own financial future at some point in my life before I die.  The benefits of financial freedom are obvious.  We all dream about it.  But the execution of the dream seems to vary greatly, while many have completely given up on it all together.

Here’s a rough plan to Financial Freedom I have begun to formulate for myself.  This particular plan, as opposed to the ‘win the lottery’ plan, seems easiest and most practical for me to execute, even though it is far from ideal:

According to my current calculations, my closest shot at financial freedom will be in 19 years when I turn 67.  That kind of sucks, but let me sketch it out anyway.  I have three kids to get through college over the next 8 years and I have a house mortgage to pay off.  I have accelerated my mortgage payoff through additional principal payments of $1000, which should allow me to pay it off in the next 10-13 years (if I can be consistent with the plan).  Helping my kids get through college will induce some financial headwinds over the next 8 years.  As a divorcee, my alimony payments will end in roughly six months, which will free up additional capital to help with college expenses.  Once Child Support, Alimony, College and Mortgage expenses have all been paid, I estimate my monthly expenses to be somewhat akin to the following:

  • Food: $540
  • Gas: $150
  • Water Utilities: $50
  • Electricity Utilities: $67
  • Gas Utilities: $42
  • Phone: $85
  • Gym: $15
  • Internet: $80
  • Health Insurance: $800
  • Car Insurance: $60
  • Life Insurance: $45
  • House Taxes: $410
  • Car Taxes: $25
  • Annual Car Maintenance: $167

Total estimated monthly expenses should be around $2,536, or $30,432 per year.  My current estimated monthly Social Security benefit at age 67 is $2,893, which should just cover these estimated living expenses.  Additionally, If I can manage to save $1500 per month for the next 228 months (taking me to age 67), the nut accrued could provide an additional $950 per month for the next, and probably last, 30 years of my life.  So from age 67 to 97, I should have about $3,843 per month to cover living expenses, at least until I succumb to assisted living (at which point I become my kids’ problem lol)!

I estimate my odds of achieving financial freedom by age 67 at around 75 percent.  My next steps are to figure out ways to compress my financial freedom time line by studying how billionaires have made their extravagant fortunes.

The Weekly Billionaire Case Study: Jeff Hoffman

“Ideas are welcomed, but execution is worshipped.”

My girlfriend and I attended Freedom Fast Lane Live in Austin, Texas in 2015 (I wrote about this experience here) and we were fortunate to hear Jeff Hoffman speak.  We learned that Mr. Hoffman went to Yale University and graduated with a degree in Computer Science.  He almost got kicked out of school on his first day because he could not pay his tuition bill.  To pay his tuition, he started a software company in his dorm to help pay his way through college.

He learned early on that entrepreneurship is a tool that could allow him to solve problems in not only his own life, but the lives of others as well.

“Entrepreneurship is the shovel you use to dig a path to a brighter future.”

Mr. Hoffman dreamed of doing bigger things.  It did not take him long to start launching his own companies.  As a result of his entrepreneurship, he became a multi-millionaire in his early twenties.  At the time we heard Mr. Hoffman speak in Austin, he had taken two companies public, two companies he had started had failed, and two companies were still going strong.  Perhaps the one company he started that he is most well known for is priceline.com.

“The whole point of being a business owner is to design the life you always dreamed you were going to have.”

Here is some great advice I’ve noted from some of his talks:

Solve Real Problems: Entrepreneurship is about solving real problems.  Mr. Hoffman created software that allowed people to book travel online as opposed to over the phone with a travel agent (this later became Expedia).  He was once annoyed that only one person who worked for the airlines could print boarding passes.  He created and patented kiosk technology that allowed anyone to print their own boarding passes.

FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Success.  Win a Gold Medal at ONE thing.  Then move on to your next best idea or thing.  And winning a Gold Medal is *REALLY* hard.

Harness The Power of Wonder/Curiosity: Stay curious about things around you.  Never stop asking ‘why?’.  Answers to your curiosities can lead to innovations, newer and better ideas, and solutions to problems.  Never be satisfied with the status quo.

Info-Sponging:  Spend time each day reading about things and look for things that interest you outside of your industry.  Write these things down.  Try to connect the dots between interests over time.

Filter Data Through the Eyes of Your Customers: If your executive team is not a representative cross-section of your customers, take their data analysis and decision making with a grain of salt.  Get real feedback from real customers.  Sam Walton used to put on a John Deer hat and go to a diner to buy Apple Pie for people who were representative Walmart customers, so he could learn more about their buying patterns.

Dream Big and Make it Happen:  Hone in on your dream.  Print out a picture of it.  Make it the reason behind the things you do.

“Dream Big, Work Hard, Create Value.”

I could not find an estimate for Mr. Hoffman’s net worth online.  My assumption, however, is that much of Mr. Hoffman’s billionaire status is tied to an equity stake in priceline.com, which currently has a market cap around $88.5 Billion.

The Weekly Billionaire Case Study: Sarah Blakely

I told my youngest daughter this morning that I am trying to write a quick article about a different Billionaire each week.  This week I was planning to write about either Warren Buffet or Sarah Blakely.  I asked my daughter to choose between these two for me, and since she is familiar with the ‘Spanx’ brand, she chose Sarah Blakely.

My daughter is 14 and she is familiar with the Spanx brand. I have not really heard of Spanx before this year, or if I have, never thought much of it. That is until one evening when my girlfriend and I were pondering applying for a patent on a goofy sock idea we had (that’s another story). While searching for information about patents I stumbled upon the story of the creation of Spanx and it’s founder, Sarah Blakely.

Here are some things that strike me about the meteoric rise of Ms. Blakely and the Spanx brand:

  • Ms. Blakely scored low on the LSAT. Boy can I relate!
  • She went to work for Danka selling fax machines door-to-door.  This sounds like a brutal job to me, but I’m sure this experience provided the spark and sales skills she needed to start her own successful enterprise.
  • To build a prototype of her idea, she went to hosiery manufacturers in North Carolina.  She promptly discovered that the female undergarments industry was dominated by men who never actually tried the garments out they were making (at least none that would admit to doing so).  She stumbled upon a complete lack of female influence in the production of undergarments for women!
  • Her Dad taught her it was OK to fail, and apparently even encouraged it.  Robert Kiyosaki (‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ author) is constantly harping on the Public Education System for not allowing kids to feel comfortable with failure.  Many people who are afraid of failure may never try to do something hard or new, and thus may never realize big success.
  • Ms. Blakely worked full-time at Danka while she was working on Spanx business and only quit in 2000 when Opra featured her product on the Opra Show.
  • In the ideation of the ‘Spanx’ Brand name, she wanted to create a name that had a hard K sound in it, like successful brand names Coca-Cola and Kodak.
  • Spanx first year revenue was $4 million.  Second year revenue was $10 million.  Then she signed a contract with QVC and sold 8,000 units in the first six minutes of operation!

Forbes estimates Ms. Blakely’s net worth at $1.08 Billion today.

The Weekly Billionaire Case Study: John Schnatter

“All you’ve got to do in life is find something you love and are good at.”

John Schnatter is the founder of Papa John’s Pizza.  I was skimming my latest edition of Bloomberg Businessweek (edition June 11, 2017), and started reading my favorite section in the magazine: ‘How Did I Get Here?’  I was immediately interested to learn that Schnatter grew up in Jeffersonville, a small town in southern Indiana.  My family, on my Dad’s side, is from New Albany, IN, which is right next door to Jeffersonville (or ‘Jeff’ as my Grandmother used to call it) – both towns are immediately across the the Ohio River from Louisville, KY.

According to Forbes, Schnatter is the grandson of German immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1867.  His grandfather and father were entrepreneurs.  His grandfather owned three successful businesses, while his father started 20 business that all faltered.  Schnatter started working to earn money by cutting grass at 8 years old, and started painting gutters at 12 (starting to work for an income early is generally a sign of financial success later in  life).

Jeffersonville, IN is a pretty small town.  Not much appears to be happening there, at least the last time I was there, 5-6 years ago.  In fact, one of Schnatter’s Life Lessons is: “If your business can be successful in Columbus, Louisville, or Evansville, you’ve probably got something you can franchise.”  Presumably, he chooses these cities because of their relative size and the amount of business taking place in, and around, them.

So, Schnatter graduated from Ball State University in 1983 or 1984 with a degree in Business.  Nothing remarkable there.  But before he graduated from college, he may have discovered a secret to his future successes.  While working as a dishwasher and pizza cook at Rocky’s Sub Pub from 1977-78, he discovered that he hated washing dishes!  He also discovered that if he made the pizzas right, the plates would come back empty, but if he didn’t, they’d come back half-eaten.  The lesson being, make really good pizza and you have to do less work!

After graduating from college, Schnatter helped out at his Dad’s bar, called ‘Mick’s Lounge II’, in Jeffersonville.  His Dad’s bar had accumulated about $64k in debt so Schnatter sold his Camaro to cover the near-terms costs of the bar.  According to Forbes, he settled the Bar’s debts in about 4 months.

He started making pizzas out of a broom closet in the bar and immediately went from making $300 a week, to $1500, then $3000 and then on to grossing over $100,000 a year in 14 months!  The first Papa John’s was built next to his Dad’s Bar.

With the help of Schnatter’s brother, Chuck, a lawyer, they were able to sell 100 franchised restaurants between 1986 and 1991.  Schnatter says he put his brother, Chuck, through college and law school, and in return he received free legal services.  This ultimately resulted in Papa John’s having their franchise agreements created by the top law firm in Kentucky.  This was probably another key ingredient in the franchise success of Papa John’s, I would guess.

“In 1991 I didn’t have $2,000 to go on vacation. In 1994 the company was worth $200 million.”

Papa John’s filed for IPO and went public in 1993 with 232 franchised stores.  The company is listed on the NASDAQ as ‘PZZA’.  In 2016, they did $1.7 billion in sales worldwide.  So, roughly 10 years after graduating from Ball State with a degree in Business Administration, Schnatter finds himself at the helm of a publicly traded pizza company that would soon be doing almost $2 billion in top-line business each year!

“What gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded gets repeated.”

According to a January 26, 2017 video posted on Business Insider:

  • Peyton Manning owns 30 Papa John’s franchises in Denver, CO.
  • Jerry Jones own 89 Papa John’s franchises in Dallas, Ft. Worth, Waco and Austin.
  • Jerome Bettis owns 4 Papa John’s franchises in the Pittsburgh area.
  • Jamal Mashburn owns 57 Papa John’s franchises across the U.S.

Forbes reports that Papa John’s currently has a market cap of $3.2 Billion, yet it has only captured about 1/10th of the Pizza Market currently dominated by Pizza Hut and Dominoes.

John Schnatter’s net worth is currently reported to be around $1 Billion.

The Weekly Billionaire Case Study: David Geffen

“We are each a figment of our own imagination.”

I’ve decided to choose one Billionaire I’m interested in each week and to write a bit about them in order that I might learn something about how they attained their financial wealth and success.  Of interest this week is the media magnate, David Geffen.

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Geffen was born in New York to Jewish Immigrant Parents.  His Mom apparently owned a clothing store in New York. His parent immigrated to the U.S. during the Great Depression. He was born into a tough environment with tough financial characteristics: Jewish Immigrant parents, New York City, Great Depression – oy vey. His mother called him ‘King David’; she told him, ‘you have golden hands, you can do anything you want’.  Parents can and do make a difference.  My Mom always told me I could do anything I put my mind to, so we at least have that in common…

A college drop-out (college apparently has nothing to do with financial success, kids), Mr. Geffen lied about having a college degree just to land a job in the mail room at a talent agency, William Morris Agency (WMA). Landing this mail room job was a significant hack. Because he worked in the mail room, he was able to intercept, and modify, a letter from UCLA to WMA stating that he had not attended college at UCLA.

While working in the mail room at WMA, Mr. Geffen became friends with another college drop-out, Elliot Rabinowitz, who partnered with him in later ventures. Note to self, never underestimate the talent of people working with you, even if they are in the mail room.

Geffen soon dropped out of WMA to form his own Talent Management Company where he managed Laura Nyro primarily at first, and then became a talent manager for musicians like Crosby, Stills and Nash. It was his discovery of Jackson Browne that instigated his creation of Asylum Records.

He later sold Asylum Records after purportedly tiring of supporting the personal and professional lives of the artists he represented. He then was asked to become instrumental in merging Asylum Records with Elektra.

He fell in love with Cher and lived with her for 18 months (and he was gay)!  At the same time, he had the top three selling record albums.  Talk about crushing it!

“Start with what you know.  You never know where it will take you.”

He then went on to form Geffen Records, signing big names such as Dianna Ross, Elton John and John Lennon.  He sold Geffen records.

He went on to form the film production company, Dream Works, making hit after hit with Director Steven Spielberg and Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg (movie hits like Beetlejuice, Little Shop of Horrors, Shrek, Risky Business and Saving Private Ryan).

Mr. Geffen now has a net worth around $7.6 Billion.

For a more in depth look into the life and career of David Geffen, I highly recommend the movie, ‘Inventing David Geffen’, which you can download on iTunes.