Will You Be My BFF?

For those of you riding the social media train, let’s connect!
Personal Links
Twitter http://twitter.com/prestonism
Blog http://prestonlee.com
LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/prestonvictorlee
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/prestonism
Professional Links
OpenRain Blog http://blog.openrain.com
OpenRain Twitter http://twitter.com/openrain

For those of you riding the social media train, let’s connect!



Whiskey Three – Deconstructing Fate Preview

My alt. rock band–currently going by Vic Lee And The Whiskey Three–is rehearsing to put together an EP-length studio demo. We practiced in my living room today and decided to let GarageBand run during a few song run-throughs. This is a raw-off-the-fretboard, completely unedited practice take of one of them… hope you enjoy the sneak preview!

Deconstructing Fate

Radio Spot: Are you Social? The Social Media/Job Search Connection

career_launchThis morning I had the pleasure of doing a guest spot on Career Launch with Jane & Al: a VoiceAmerica Variety show airing live every Monday from 8-9am. Today’s discussion was on the role of social networking tools in the employment process.

Lots of capable people are finding themselves particularly hard pressed to find jobs right now, being in the midst of a recession and all, so if you’re interested in learning how social networking tools (LinkedIn specifically) can be incredibly beneficial for your career, check it out!

[Stream on the web.] [iTunes podcast.] [Direct MP3 download.]

Full disclosure: Jane & Al–the hosts of the show–are clients and friends. OpenRain developed the Compass Consulting Team website.

Guest Spot On "Career Launch"

On Monday, July 13th at 8am I’ll be doing a guest spot on the “Career Launch with Jane and Al” internet radio show. I’ll be present to discuss the role of social networking and social media tools in the career advancement process: specifically LinkedIn and Twitter. Compass Consulting Team (run by Jane and Al) is an OpenRain client, and they are insanely positive and fun people with which to converse. I’m highly looking forward to it!

[episode permalink]

Show some love and try to catch the show live!

How To Prepare For Ignite

ignite_phoenixI recently had the pleasure of speaking at Ignite Phoenix 4, and thought I’d share my perspective to those presenting in the future.

See, all my life I’ve been in performing musical groups–rock bands, solos with larger concert bands, marching bands etc.–so despite being introverted to a fault, I’m not easily intimidated by anything in the “performing arts” category, and am usually up for giving things the old college try. Within the past couple years I’ve become accustomed to speaking regularly at various city events, local tech groups, conferences etc., so I initially shrugged off the preparation as something I could bust out in an hour or two over a Heineken… or two.

I was wrong.

Now, I’m not dumping this information on you because you need to know my life history, but to strongly emphasize that even if you took Public Speaking in college, have performed literally hundreds of times in public, and have plenty of real-world speaking experience…

Preparing for Ignite is different.

It’s a wonderfully unique and fun experience, but I put more effort into my five minutes of Sun Tzu: The Art of…Business? than I usually do for 30-45 minutes of less creative informational content. Let’s look at why…

(1) Delivery timing is your biggest risk of failure.

Ignite fully automates the progression of slides; you cannot control advancement to give yourself even +/- 1 second. Also, for Phoenix at least, there’s neither a warning for how much time remains on the current slide, nor a preview of the next slide. If you’re accustomed to board-room style speaking with a forgiving remote, secondary screen full of notes/widgets, and 5-10 minutes of “padding” at the end, the Ignite format is a cold glass of water to the nether regions.

With a remote, keeping your verbal momentum lined up with slide advancement is relatively easy. You know exactly when your verbal punchline is going to come, and just hit the remote a split second before you say it. But in Ignite, the only way to get your voice and slides anywhere even remotely in the same synchronization ballpark is to practice the bloody hell out of it way ahead of time.

And when you’re done practicing, take a break and practice some more. Practice going slower and having to catch up. Practice going too fast and having to ad lib a few extra sentences here and there to fill “dead air”. Practice without any “next slide” or timing aids. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This is not to say that you should script the entire thing. Scripting sounds unnatural and dull. You should, however, know the subject matter inside and out, and know the outline and “story arc” of the presentation so that when you stumble on words or get out of sync, you’ll be able to recover.

For the audiences standpoint, your level of preparation will be abundantly clear. It’s obvious who didn’t have a verbal outline prepared; who didn’t practice for pacing; who did prepare but can’t handle being over/under time; how generally hard it is to time yourself versus a computer.

And much of this practicing should occur before your slides are due.

(2) Your slides need to be completed waaaay in advance.

Ignite isn’t the only event that requires final decks to be submitted in advance, but I know that many of you are in the habit of staying up ’til 4am day-of putting the (hopefully) finishing touches on slides. You can’t do that. The Ignite superheros need your slides early to prepare their technical voodoo, and asking them to update a few slides at the last minute would be very, very lame of you. Getting your slides prepared and finalized early is critical since you can’t practice delivery without them, and once they’re submitted you should assume that you can’t change them.

Get peer feedback before you submit your slides. My thanks goes out to Erica, Ben and Marc at OpenRain for providing the “you’re trying to say way too freakin’ much” feedback … it made the end result much better than it would have otherwise been. Peer review is always difficult to do, but discovering why you’re epically fail-sucking is the only gateway to improvement.

(3) You don’t get to rehearse in the venue.

The Ignite (Phoenix) folks want to keep your delivery fresh, natural, and full of adrenaline to showcase your passion. This is a good thing. Just be aware that you probably can’t walk out on stage beforehand for a quick run-through by yourself.

(4) Your bar is high.

In general public speaking, the audiences wants you to succeed. And when you’re speaking to an audience that is present for your message–such as Ignite–they’ve already built expectations of how awesome your message and delivery will be. If the message(s) couldn’t sell, there wouldn’t be an audience. You are expected to be awesome.

I’ve yet to meet anyone that says “Ignite sucks”, but have heard plenty of “Oh, it was awesome, but remember that one guy/gal? He/She was horrible.” Don’t be that guy/gal whose idea of originality is to do zero preparation and just “wing it” or divert from the slides in a otherwise distracting, unprofessional mess. People come to see great ideas from passionate, knowledgeable people, and it’s going to take some work to get that across in Ignite’s concise format.

Ignite preparation checklist. (Sorted by due date.)

  1. Well thought out proposal submitted.
  2. Talk accepted.
  3. Slide draft and verbal outline complete.
  4. Peer rehearsal and feedback.
  5. Adjust.
  6. Final sanity check.
  7. Submit final slides.
  8. Practice.
  9. Sit in parking lot for 15 minutes before event practicing by yourself. (Strange looks from passers by expected!)
  10. Be excellent.

You have the idea and the passion. Now go show us! (Just keep it brief.)

Three Beers, Three Originals Live Originals

Here’s three original songs from a small set I played a few weeks ago with some friends. If you’ve ever wondered if there is a connection between alcohol consumption and complete loss of control over your vocal chords, behold: undeniable scientific proof. Soooooo, let’s just ignore the crappy parts, mmkay? ūüôĀ

Lies (Preston Lee, 2009)

In Times Of Trouble (Preston Lee, ~2008)

With Whatever Time Remains (Preston Lee, 2009)

My FonWallet Story: Making It All Public

Update: April 26th, 2009. I’ve had a few brief conversations with Todd over telephone and IM, and have offered to cease pursuing both¬†judgments¬†and remove this post from this website provided a prompt, reasonable payment schedule for the personal judgement against Todd. He has committed to proposing me a payment settlement plan by the end of April, 2009. I am currently awaiting this documentation.

There are several areas of this post in which he has taken issue. Since many people have already read this post I am¬†hesitant¬†to silently change copy, so for¬†readability purposes I have highlighted that original copy in bold, followed it with additional personal commentary in square brackets, and Todd’s verbatim remarks in curly braces.

Update: November 1st, 2010. I recently had a phone conversation with Todd, who stated a payment schedule should be possible in the near future. I’ve yet to receive any follow up of meaningful action.

Update: December 1st, 2010. Very minor typographical corrections.


I’ve avoided writing on this for a year and a half now, but have been pushed to do so by several inquiring minds over the past year and a half not affiliated with the company. Some documentation on this can be found in public record, and some not. I will note the points on which I’m speculating. None of this information is covered by any NDA I am under.

The company under discussion is generally known as “FonWallet”, though the official legal entity has changed¬†numerous¬†times and is fairly tangled in the personal affairs of one of its owners, Todd Coulter.¬†{Todd, April 16th, 2009: “This is totally false, inaccurate and easily proven”} [Preston: April 26th, 2009: When I first became involved in the project, most important assets at the time seemed to have direct ties to Todd, personally, rather than the company: such as bank accounts, server assets, and vendor accounts. ¬†At the time, at least, there were a handful of different entities that all centered around Todd… A few I recall were FonWallet Payment Solutions, Inc., FonWallet Payment Solutions, Ltd., MBXIP, SipCellNet… possibly other I do not remember. I do NOT have detailed knowledge of the activities of those additional entities, nor do I make ANY claims as to how–if at all–they currently relate back to FonWallet. Also note that I¬†still have the original stock certificate log books for FPS, Inc. and FPS, Ltd.] I have neither¬†vindictive¬†nor harmful wishes against anyone affiliated with the company: only to be compensated for my work.

I¬†personally performed a significant amount of work for FonWallet, at the time known as FonWallet Payment Solutions, Inc. and now known as FonWallet Transactions, Inc., largely in the first half of 2007.¬†It is a startup operated largely in Phoenix. {Todd, April 16th, 2009: “This is again totally false, inaccurate and easily proven”} [Preston: April 26th, 2009: I personally know more than a few people of current and former involvement with the project that are local to the Phoenix area. Whether or not Phoenix now represents a majority of the projects efforts, I do not know: simply that there is a significant amount of work being done in Phoenix. With regards to the entity primarily associated with the project, all current documentation I can find–including the FonWallet.com website itself–leads me to believe that “FonWallet Transactions” is now the preferred nomenclature. This could be wrong, but from the perspective of a reasonable outside observer, this definitely seems to be the case.]

Employees/Contractors of the company were initially paid as promised, however, dollars dried up around summer and most of the concurrent staff stopped received compensation. The only reason some of us stayed on as long as we did was due to a personal guarantee made by Todd Coulter to personally cover the staff debts if the company were not able. Soon thereafter I moved on. Others stayed. As far as I know, none of the compensation owed across that period has ever been paid, even though the company has been in operation under a new name. I am aware of at least 2 others people owned money by Todd Coulter, personally.

Mr. Coulter eventually became completely unresponsive to inquiries on the matter, which prompted me to file suit. (AFAIK¬†I’m the only that did so.) Mr. Coulter did not respond to the suit. A motion for judgment was made on 12/12/2007, and ruled upon in my favor shortly thereafter.

Two suits were actually filed, with myself (Preston Lee) as the¬†plaintiff¬†for both. The first names FonWallet Payment Solutions, Inc. as the defendant with a ruling of $71,324.32. The second names Todd Russell Coulter personally as the defendant, with a ruling of $24,044.32. The sum total is $95,368.64. I suspect that the company name change was made, at least in part, to avoid having to pay these debts.¬†¬†{Todd, April 16th, 2009: “This is totally false, inaccurate and easily proven”} [Preston: April 26th, 2009: This is purely speculation on my part, and to be honest, I hope is completely wrong. I do not have insight as to the specific reasons for the creation of a new entity (FT, Inc.), except for the knowledge that the old one (FPS, Inc.) was out of money, had a ruling against it for $71K., and the stock books were were in the possession of the guy (me) who filled suit. Again, I hope I’m wrong about this, but I haven’t been provided with any reasons to believe otherwise.] To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Coulter was properly served on both accounts but neither notified the other owners of the company nor made attempt to respond to the suit.

Regardless, the latter ruling still stands, and I have tried numerous times over the past several years to settle the matter and collect compensation for the months of work and expenses that I am personally owed. I wish all those affiliated with the company the best of luck, however, this matter is certainly not “closed”. There are some interesting and challenging concepts involved and I wish the staff the best of luck. I write this note as a friendly, public attempt to settle this matter once and for all.

Relevant public legal documents are available from Maricopa County, Arizona. If anyone–specifically Todd Coulter–would like to the discuss the issue with me directly, you can reach me direct via email or my cell.

10 Joys Of Small Business Ownership

Don’t fret about those woes! For on a daily basis…

  1. You are building something greater than the sum of its parts.
  2. You set the mission, vision and values.
  3. You define the right people, right roles, and right rules.
  4. You will push constantly to explore and learn to think outside your comfort zone.
  5. You will often fall, but consistently stand up stronger… usually.
  6. You will grow leaps and bounds professionally and personally.
  7. You will come to understand the wisdom of those you admire, and fear.
  8. You are pursuing your dreams and will pity those that lack the courage to pursue theirs.
  9. You have no limit to your possible successes.
  10. You are the driver of your destiny.

I’d also like to emphasise that none of these items are directly focusued on the immense financial wealth of which we all hope. Over time wealth may or may not come, but the common factor amongst all great entrepreneurs is the primary importance of personal satisfaction regardless of monetary riches. At times–and during all stages of business–progress can require a certain amount of financial masochism and sacrifice, yes, but always should you be proud of what you’ve done, where you’re headed, and excited for the treasures of the next day.

Everyone Should Grow Up Poor

There are only two relatives I’ve ever known to whom I’ve felt a strong biological connection. One of them died last month. This is a tribute to her…

I spent the majority of my early childhood growing up with my mother in a single-room add-on attached to the side of my grandmothers house in a Northern suburb of Chicago.

My mother never went to college and worked very hard to keep us financially safe doing jobs such as data entry. She is a very hard worker that gains personal satisfaction from a job well done and was always gainfully employed, so we were never¬†poor in the hungry, homeless or other romantic sense, but firmly lower class, yes. My mom still loves to tell the story of how I didn’t understand you could purchase food without a coupon clipped from the Sunday paper. She didn’t have a lot of free personal time due to being a single parent, but made it work. I don’t think I would handle that lifestyle well, and have a tremendous respect for single parents trying to make ends meet while “being there” for the kid(s).¬†I was even fortunate enough to get a hand-me-down obsoleted Macintosh computer from my mother’s coworker on which I typed school papers from elementary school until high school.

The land and house I grew up in had been established by my grandparents some years after World War II. My grandma grew up on a farm and filled the house walls with rural-feeling nick-nacks and small-town artifacts. The surrounding neighborhood became caught in urban sprawl and began to transform into luxurious mansions settled comfortably on 1-acre lots.

My father is a South Korean immigrant who came to America for a better life, and eventually found his place in California. The balls it takes to pack a suitcase and move to a foreign country with a pocket full of dreams continues to astound me. I recall listening to him confidently lay out his plans to run his own¬†successful¬†businesses as so many other Asian immigrants did in Los Angeles. Looking back on the first 18 years of my life,¬†I now realize…

Having less in an environment of opportunity can be empowering.

When you have less, you feel like you must improve yourself to be noticed amongst peers. No one can fix a situation with a magic wand should you fail, so you must dedicate yourself to tasks because success will not otherwise come. And if you succeed, you’re not stuck with a convoluted sense of entitlement to a world full of subordinate peons. You know exactly how hard it is to make it in life because you’ve seen the¬†sacrifices¬†and tears from your family and friends. You chose your fate, and made it come true.

I enjoy the niceties in life just as much as the next guy (who doesn’t?), but I feel good that I don’t feel entitled to them. I know that if I get a nice dinner or fun new toy, I earned it, and I’m going to be more proud and protective of it than if you just handed it to me. It’s not just another disposable object; it’s mine because I consciously caused a chain of meaningful events resulting in a reward. Push the button, get a treat.

So here’s the deal. If you win the next Powerball jackpot, you get to keep a few million to secure your home, family and reasonable lifestyle, and have some fun while you’re at it. Go for it. Take a vacation on the International Space Station or something. I’d do the same. But you don’t get to blow $5 million in Vegas or $50 million on a toy.

You hire a financial management team and get to work¬†doing something meaningful with your fortune (and your life) by sheltering homeless children, curing cancer, something.¬†Make the world a better place. And if you’re investing wisely, you’ll feed off the inherent greed of the system and use the profits to further your own philanthropy. Keep the compassion, dreams and simple contentment of being poor, and use the power of being rich to change the world.

The fated rich have not such empathy for the masses.

Do not strive to be rich. Do not strive to possess. Do not strive to control. Do not seek admiration of the world. Do not seek approval of authority. Do not strive to be popular. Do not be a pessimist. Do not dwell on the past.

Strive to be wise. Strive to be kind. Strive to be selfless. Strive to be loving. Strive to be more. Strive to do more. Strive to use less. Strive to be an example. Strive to leave the world a better place than you found it.

Strive to redefine humanity.