Every morning before school – and every gymnastics meet, performance, or social outing – I tell my daughters the same three things: “Have fun. Be yourself. And don’t hold back.” I’ve said it a million times. It’s so repetitive at this point that they usually complete the sentence before I do.

Have fun. Be Yourself. Don’t hold back. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sure, I’m leaving valuable credos on the table. “Don’t be an asshole” and “Help others” certainly have merit. And we’ve preached inclusion and tolerance in our house from Day One. I figure those shake out naturally if they just “be themselves.” Kids are typically only assholes when they try to be someone they’re not. Isn’t that true for most of us?

One of the biggest battles Tara and I have waged as parents is the war against entitlement. Wedidn’t grow up with means. But our kids have only known life with a swanky country club, heated toilet seats, and $6 organic milk. Living in an upper-crust suburban enclave surrounded by families who’ve been that way for generations – and aspirational social media in their face 24/7 – the traps of entitlement are everywhere.

Tara introduced a rule when our kids were toddlers – that Santa would only bring them one present every Christmas and it would be something that cost less than $20. Bigger, more expensive presents could come from mom, dad, and the grandparents. But not Santa.

Because why would Santa bring one kid a $600 iPhone while a kid across the tracks gets a coloring book? What lesson would that teach either one of those kids?

I’d never really thought about that before Tara came along and it’s just one of a million ways she’s made me less of an asshole too. I do catch myself occasionally turning my nose up at things. Then I stop. Not everyone has options.

I’m reminded of all this on a near-daily basis when I look at our data. Sometimes I’m the outlier. Sometimes I’m the cliché. We are blessed with the choices we have, but somebody always has more.

Most of us live in bubbles – some cultural, some economic – and that’s okay. We’ll never be homogenous and we shouldn’t want to be.

Just be yourself. Unless you really are an asshole. Then, be somebody else.

Here’s what were seeing this week:

Everybody – but you – was shocked that holiday retail results look worse than originally expected. Federal government data came out this week indicating a 1.2% decline in December U.S. retail sales, the largest drop since 2009, particularly surprising to the majority of analysts who expected a slight increase. But for those of you who pray at the altar of this email every Saturday morning, you knew better. We saw the first warning signs in October when consumers began reporting a jump in personal credit card debt after their tax refunds wore off. Then consumer confidence began sliding heading into Black Friday. And it just kept sliding, as I told you repeatedly after that. If you ever wonder why I beat you over the head with our Economic Sentiment Index every two weeks (and why we track it daily for our clients), it’s because it matters. A lot.

On a related topic, we are seeing an uptick in the percentage of U.S. consumers who plan to buy their next car used. After a steady rise in new car purchase intent since 2016 (while consumer confidence was climbing), a slight decline is evident in our latest numbers. It’s worth looking closer at the data here – likely Japanese car buyers are still the most likely to buy new, by a considerable margin, while German auto buyers are the most likely to lease. 74% of first-time car buyers are planning to buy used.


New or used, people aren’t clamoring for self-driving cars yet. You probably didn’t know this but Pittsburgh is the world capital of autonomous vehicle development, with Uber’s main R&D facility here, Ford’s $1B+ investment in Argo, and Amazon’s recent $500M+ investment in Aurora, all within a mile or two of our office. It seems like one out of every ten cars I see outside my window is driverless, with those spinny things on the roof (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen them). Still, the vast majority of Americans aren’t digging it, with 72% saying they’re not even remotely comfortable with the idea. And, the numbers haven’t been moving, particularly among women.


In other artificial intelligence news, home voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa keep chugging along even as privacy issues remain a hurdle. I’m a recent Alexa convert, I’ll admit it. With a wife and two daughters, it’s just nice to have a female in the house who doesn’t roll her eyes at me every time I talk. But really, folks, the thing is convenient and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Our data show a product category that just keeps growing and growing. The big thing that seems to be standing in the way of product ubiquity is privacy. The inverse correlation between category ownership and concerns over personal privacy is off the charts.

Millennials are anti-social at work, relatively speaking, and I have data to prove it. cool studywe ran this week found that over half of U.S. adults have at least one colleague who is a “close friend,” including 56% of women and 51% of men. 43% of people reported having had a romantic relationship with someone at work. Job type matters a lot, with people in service jobs being the most likely and craftsmen/laborers and professional types (like most of you) the least likely to have friends at work. Computer/tech folks are by far the most likely to have romantic ties in the office. And Millennials – surprise – are changing work culture yet again. They’re much less likely than past generations to have friends or lovers on the job.


Times they are a-changin.’

Hoping you’re well.