James Ron

Research Consultant

James Ron is a research consultant based in the US, although he tries to travel as much as he can and to work remotely from wherever he is.

James Ron began his career as a journalist working for the Associated Press in Jerusalem. He planned on becoming a foreign correspondent for a major international newspaper but was sidetracked by discovering the joy of political sociology, which he first began studying at Tel Aviv University. After earning a Ph.D. in the discipline at UC Berkeley, James began teaching at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

James’s wife at the time was Canadian and wanted to return to her country to start a family. After two years at Johns Hopkins, he accepted a Canada Research Chair at McGill University in Montreal. Five years later, he moved to Ottawa when his wife landed a job with the Canadian government. He taught for five years at the Norman Paterson School for International Affairs at Carleton University, a unique training ground for graduate students seeking a foreign policy career.

After spending a year in Mexico City at a local university, James and his family moved to Minneapolis, where he took up an endowed chair in international relations. Nine years later, he retired from academia and struck out on his own as a research consultant.

James Ron is particularly proud of his work over the years with international nonprofits. He has consulted for years for Human Rights Watch, including war crimes investigations in multiple countries. He worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross and CARE, two leading humanitarian organizations. When his two-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune disease, James began working with Life for a Child, an Australian charity that supplies insulin, blood glucose testing equipment, and other vital supplies to children with diabetes in low-income countries. His work for the group has taken him to Central Asia, including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan; India; Morocco; and, most recently, to Mexico, where he worked with local groups to try and find children with Type 1 diabetes so that Life for a Child could supply them with free blood glucose testing tools.

James Ron is now working with a private research consultancy, conducting research and communications for individual clients. He loves crafting unique research solutions for clients in complex parts of the world. He recently prepared a bid for a client working with a soft drink distributor in Angola. They wanted a series of face-to-face, statistically representative surveys, and putting that project proposal together was fun.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

I start my day at about 6:30 am, working on existing consulting projects. I’m most productive until about 11 am when I start to struggle to stay focused. I take a break, do some gardening or housework, and then return to work until about 2 pm. Later in the day, I read or apply for new consulting contracts.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I start by talking through the ideas with friends and colleagues. About 90% of my ideas are filtered out just through conversations. I take the remaining 10% and read about them online, starting with articles in mainstream venues such as the New York Times. About 2% of the total survive that project, and then I talk about them some more with friends and colleagues.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m really excited about economic growth outside of North America, China, and Europe. Places such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia or a specific state in India. I like to think about new energies, ideas, and trends being formed outside of the global mainstream.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

I’ve recently started using Grammarly. It’s an amazing tool. I used to think I was a good writer. I am, but Grammarly has taught me that I can be a lot, lot better. I love it.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell my younger self to be less worried about what other people think and to make sure that I’m really doing what I want to do.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

I think Israel and Palestine should be a single state, with equal rights for everyone, without distinction. This would create one political entity from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, where everyone could move around freely and live where and how, they pleased.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

Cook one new dish every week, especially for guests. Most people cook something they know how to do really well when guests come over. I like to make something I’ve never done before; it creates a sense of uncertainty and expectation. Sometimes it works out, but sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, however, it isn’t boring.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

When I feel overwhelmed, I watch a few episodes of an old comedy series like Seinfeld or Cheers. That always put me in a good mood, calms me down, and recharges my batteries.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

One thing I’ve always done is be willing to try something new, even if I don’t have any idea how to do it. I started doing statistical work twenty years ago, even though I’d never been formally trained. It worked out. Later, I moved to Mexico City with my family for a year, even though I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. I now love Mexico and hope to spend much more time there as I grow older.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

When I was younger, my wife wanted to live in New York City. I tried hard to get a job there, but I never landed an offer since so many others were trying to do the same thing. I learned to love other cities and other jobs, like teaching at McGill University in Montreal.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve never done this, but I think that starting a line of excellent small gyms in airports would be successful. I’ve seen one or two over the years, but they are nowhere near as common as they should be. Whoever figures out how to make the numbers work should make a lot of money.

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I use Grammarly. I love it. It edits everything I do automatically and provides excellent suggestions. It also catches almost all my mistakes.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

A night with my partner at a hotel overlooking the city of Guanajuato in Mexico. It had the best view I’ve ever seen and was the most peaceful, inspiring place I’ve stayed at in a long time. And it was only $100 USD!

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?

I love listening to Freakonomics. It gives me whole new way of looking at the world.

What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

I loved watching an Israeli comedy series, Checkout. It’s about life in a supermarket in a suburb of Tel Aviv. It’s hilarious if you know Hebrew. The subtitles, unfortunately, don’t capture the humor, which is all in the slang, the accents, and in the facial expressions. I think you had to have grown up there to appreciate it.