Monday, December 31, 2012

The Countdown




 The Countdown

I often visit a web site that has a monthly countdown clock and that gadget constantly reminds me of the passage of time. While we normally believe there will always be more time, that clock only reminds me of the time that’s passed.

As a kid I sensed that time passed often meant lost opportunities, and as I’ve grown older this awareness tends to haunt me.  Did I do enough, was I kind enough, am I sensitive enough, did I say something I’d like to take back, or could I have done something differently: you get the idea.  And while I generally think of myself as a glass half full, it’s the silent half empty portion that comes to mind when I see time passing by.

So at this time of year, when resolutions are bandied about, I can’t help thinking about things left unsaid or undone, and I can’t avoid wishing I would or could or should have done more, said more, been more.  I write these blogs each week as an aspirational reminder to myself of all that could be, and between each writing the countdown clock keeps ticking.  So if there’s a resolution in me, it’s that I will try harder to care more, do more, and be more in 2013. Take a moment today to make a personal resolution to do what it takes to be all you can be next year.

Happy New Year!!

My message this week is about living life fully and passionately:

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” Ferdinand Foch

When’s the last time you were so excited about something that it felt like you were on fire?  Sometimes we get so busy that it feels like our hair is on fire.  And other times we’re so frazzled that it feels like our pants are on fire.  And then there are the times that we get moving so fast that it feels like the bottoms of our feet are on fire.  And for sure, when we’re in love it feels like our hearts are on fire.  Because when you are doing something that you really love, that you’re really passionate about, that you are full of enthusiasm about, that’s when it feels like life itself is on fire.  So when you’re doing something for a customer, when you’re working on a project that is important to your boss or company, and when you know that what you’re doing will make a difference - that’s when you should become a powerful force, when your whole being should be on fire with passion and excitement.  Become that kind of powerful weapon today!

Stay Well!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hallelujah




Hallelujah

We saw Leonard Cohen at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week. He is 78 and having a musical rebirth, complete with a world tour.  And it was a real treat.

To say the concert was extraordinary is an understatement.  First, understand that we still have his vinyl albums from the 60s, and since then we thought he just faded away.  So it was a nice surprise to see that he was performing in our Brooklyn neighborhood; we bought tickets “for old time’s sake”.  

He sang songs from throughout his career for two and a half hours.  His band of professional musicians and singers from around the world filled this big arena with lively music – we almost couldn't sit still.  His voice, which back then wasn't much to comment on, was now rich and deep and powerful.  He’s better now than he was then, which is a hope we all have.

And then he sang Hallelujah, which was as beautiful and haunting as ever:
            I did my best, it wasn't much
           I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
           I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
          And even though it all went wrong
          I'll stand before the Lord of Song
         With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

As 2012 comes to an end, this song seems to sum things up as we head into a new year.  All we can do is our best, and if that doesn't add up to the hopes and resolutions we made last year, we have to keep trying.  And if we find ourselves standing before the Lord of Song, we hope that having Hallelujah on our tongues is enough.
 
As we each stand before next year’s hopes and resolutions, be thankful for all you have, and commit to trying to be better tomorrow. My message this week is about giving your all, every day:

“You're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day.”  Marian Wright Edelman

What will you try to do today?  You’ll probably try hard at whatever you’re doing, and maybe you'll even hope that the effort will lead you to win or be the best. But it’s like the coach always tells a sports team: “work hard at doing each individual thing you do as well as you can, and then, if you’re lucky, you may win the game; and if you win enough games you may win the championship”.  You shouldn't set your sights on anything more than the immediate task at hand…..and then focus totally on doing it to the best of your ability.  And when you’re done with that task, move to and focus on the next.  And at the end of the day you’ll be able to look back at all you've done and feel a sense of accomplishment.  So remember: you’re not obligated to win…but you are obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day!

Happy Holidays & Stay well!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Holidays




                                            
                                              The Holidays

People throughout the world are celebrating holidays this month, including Chanukah this past week and Christmas next week.  The spending frenzy that supports the practice of gift giving for these two holidays is often excessive and might obscure the stories upon which these holidays are based.  But don’t worry – I’m not advocating Scrooge-like behavior here.

The thoughtfulness associated with gift giving is a good thing, and letting those you love know that you care about them is both important and fun.  Seeing the joy on recipients’ faces when they get presents warms everyone’s hearts and hopefully makes them curious about the specialness of the occasion.  That’s why it’s important at that moment to tell the story behind why we celebrate.

These stories are mostly from the long-ago past and they beg to be told, and it’s a disservice to young and old alike to give the gift without telling the tale.  This is how societies endure, how histories persist, and how new generations learn from the old.  Storytelling is as old as mankind and serves as the basis for all that we know and cherish.  And even with the advent of the Internet and the ability to search for the meaning of anything, without the human voice behind the facts there is no humanity in the learning.

So give all the gifts you want, but remember the best gift of all is the understanding of what things are, and how they got to be what they are.  While it certainly is the thought that counts, it’s truly the meaning that endures.  Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!

My message this week is about being responsible for what goes on around us:

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”  Winston Churchill

What price would you be willing to pay for success or greatness, or even just making things right?  You’d probably be willing to put in lots of hard work, and you’d most likely care a lot, and you might even give up your free time.  You also might consider putting in some money. But after all of that, it’s the commitment and responsibility that you put into the work that you do or the things that you give that will ratchet them up to the level of being special or even achieving greatness.  Lots of people give everything they have to give and still don’t make it to that higher level – that’s because they did not put in all of their heart and soul and inspiration and passion – basically they didn’t accept full ownership and responsibility for their actions.  So if you want greatness, the price is full responsibility.  Nothing more; nothing less.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874 – 1965), was a British politician, best known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War.  His funeral was the largest state funeral in world history, with representatives from 112 nations.

Stay well!      
                                                                                        
PS: many of you asked about last week’s blog and whether I was leaving NYC – the answer is “no, we are keeping our Brooklyn apartment while I continue to work and consult there”.  The only difference is that now our home base will be in Las Vegas instead of Laguna Beach.  Thanks for asking.  

       


Monday, December 10, 2012

A Change of View




                         A Change of View

For the past 6 years we’ve lived in Laguna Beach, an idyllic arts’ community in Southern California.  It was like a dream come true: living in the canyon, smelling the sea in the air, walking the beaches and enjoying the best climate anywhere. Eclectic friends, the sound of the surf, and sunsets over the ocean all made living there very special.

But dreams, and views, change.  The desire to be closer to family slowly eroded the dream and so we sold our house in the treetops of Bluebird Canyon this past week and are moving back to Las Vegas.  The perfect weather, the sounds and sights and smells of the ocean, the friends we made there are now joining the memories of other past homes and communities.  We thought we were going to stay there forever; but forever is a very long time. 

Six years wasn’t forever, but it was more than enough time to again accumulate stuff that seemed superfluous when packing to move.  Boxes that were filled one or more moves previously – do we really need that stuff?  Drawers filled with this and that trinket that we just had to save – for what?  Ok – the 300 record albums – can’t get rid of those……but not much stuff has memories like those old friends. And into the truck it all went for storage until we find our next home.

And as we head across the desert back to Las Vegas we can’t help but reflect on the fact that it’s not the stuff we collect but rather the families we have that are our most important and cherished possessions.  We’ve lived in many places, but the place that we’re now drawn to the most is where our family is; and it’s the place we want to be.  It doesn’t come with an ocean or beach, but a day with family beats those every day.  Watching a sunset over the ocean is cool, but watching our granddaughter grow is immeasurably cooler. Change for this is good; changing our view about what’s really important: priceless.

My message this week is about getting the most out of life:

“It’s not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you.” Zig Ziglar

Attitude has a lot to do with loyalty: as in the attitudes of those your work with, and your attitude about where you work and with whom. If you don’t like the people you work with, and how they treat you, then it’s hard to be loyal to them and your company.  I’m not saying you have to love everyone, but there has to be mutual trust and respect, and good and open communications, and everyone should treat others the way they want to be treated. Those are the kinds of things that foster good attitudes, and help build and maintain loyalty. It won’t always be perfect, but if everyone is committed to these then your attitude and theirs will help build these relationships.  And when things happen that might negatively affect those relationships, it’s not what happened as much as how you and your colleagues handle what happens.  Be mindful of others’ needs and feelings, and they will most likely give you the same courtesy.   And that will help build loyalty, today and every day.

Stay well!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What's In a Name


                     
                                               
                       What’s In A Name

Last week was all about thanksgiving, and hopefully much of that remains this week and beyond.  Like many of you I spent the holiday with family and found that more nourishing than the food on the table.  But there was more.

My granddaughter is now at an age where she can receive a formal Hebrew name.  Because there’s no Hebrew equivalent for Olive, her parents had a choice, and with the Rabbi decided on a derivative of Shalom, the Hebrew word for Peace.

Normally, parents take their child to a synagogue to be named on a day when the Torah is read, but my daughter and her husband decided to invite the Rabbi to come perform the ceremony at their house before Thanksgiving dinner: with all the family around and with thankfulness already in the air.

The ritual, up close and personal as it was, was shared by all. Everyone there got to participate in the ceremony in front of the others, and this sense of sharing made it so much more meaningful. We often don’t really have a sense of where a name comes from, or what it means, or how it might actually signify something about the person who will have it forever.  

Because the relatives there were part of the ceremony, each will now have a stronger bond to Olive, or Shlomayte (her Hebrew name). The blessings were more meaningful, the giving of the name was special, and the feeling of thanksgiving for all that we have and share more intense.

Sometimes we assign nicknames to others because we have no connection to the name they’ve been given. But when you know where the name really comes from there’s no need to add anything further.  That’s when a name is more than just a name.  And for that I am very thankful.

My message this week is about doing good things for others:

“Power is the ability to do good things for others.” Brooke Astor

Roberta Brooke Astor (1902 – 2007) was an American philanthropist, socialite and writer who was the chairwoman of the Vincent Astor Foundation. She is the author of two novels and two volumes of personal memoirs.

Do you have this kind of power? You probably can, and often do, perform good things for others…but is it a regular thing? People with special skills share those with others to help when needed, those with special knowledge apply that when appropriate, a gift of humor can often ease tensions, and of course money is always helpful. But there are other intangible things that do good things for others: a willing attitude, a strong back, a kind nature, and a keen eye – these can all be helpful in a moment of need.  And in the service business, the greatest powers include a sense of responsibility, an awareness of a need before it’s spoken, and a genuine interest to be helpful even when interrupted.  All of these powers have the potential to do good things for others, and each speaks volumes about you, your commitment, and your integrity.  Use these kinds of powers with others today and see what good they can do!

Stay well!  

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Name is Asher Lev


My Name is Asher Lev

I enjoy reading novels and when I find an author I like I try to read all of their works.  Chaim Potok is one of my favorite authors and he wrote several books, one of which was My Name is Asher Lev. I read this and his other works many years ago, and these left a lasting impression on me.  Books have a way of doing that.

One of the neat things about living in NYC is the diversity of cultural things to do, and the live theater here is great. So when we saw that an adaptation of this book was playing at an off-Broadway theater, we got tickets and went to see it. 

It’s set in post-war Brooklyn and tells the story of a boy prodigy who must be a painter at any cost – against the will of his family, community and tradition.  It is a moving portrait of a young artist with a universal theme about following one’s passion. 

Following one’s passions was a fairly common theme for many in my generation, and the breadth of new and exciting opportunities presented to us seemed endless.  Art, music, science, technology, social mores, drugs – all of these cascaded around us with such intensity and attractiveness – it was a wonder than the culture of our parents survived. That’s what this play was about.

And now that we have kids and grandchildren, most of whom are facing similar challenges, it doesn’t seem all that intense or passionate.  Is that what now being of an age that once seemed so distant does to us?  Are our passions subdued, or have our experiences moderated those passions? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that the play was excellent, the acting was inspired, and the story was as moving as ever. 

Maybe a good story is what it’s really all about.  Maybe a provocative theme is forever inspiring.  And maybe lessons learned once carry on throughout our lives.  A good book, like great acting, has the ability to teach us lessons that serve us well. And lessons, at any age, are a wonderful thing!

One of my messages this week was about the joy of becoming who you are:

“The secret of happiness lies in the ancient saying: "Become what you are"  Alan Watts

What’s the secret of happiness?  Some will say it’s the love of their life, others that it’s their car; some will say it’s good health, others claim it to be good fortune; still others will say it’s fulfilling their career ambitions, others will say it’s their retirement; and then there are those who will say they’re happy no matter what.  In truth, to be truly happy one has to be in the full realization of who and what they are, to be doing the things that make them feel fulfilled, to feel that what they’re doing makes a difference, and to know that they’ve left nothing undone.  All of these have the potential to add to your happiness, and together these can form the basis for doing great things.  Because only by becoming what you are can you fully achieve the breadth and scope of your capabilities.  Do that and you’ll find happiness and greatness today!

Stay well!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Who Won?




Who Won?
It was quite an election this past week: lots of winners and losers, lots of after-the-fact analyses about why some won and some lost, and lots of polling about what the majority of the people who voted really want. Everybody seems to have an opinion, but nobody seems to be listening.
We elect people to lead us – how come they don’t?  We try to make sense out of all the noise – but the noisemakers are not making sense.  There are lots of assertions – but not a lot of truth. The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the partisan bickering has to stop, and nobody believes that it will.

The guy who lost gave a concession speech that made us want to give him another chance – but it was too little, too late.  The guy who won sounded reasonably conciliatory and magnanimous – but will ideology or commonsense prevail?

Politics, like life, is all about the give and take required to keep moving forward. We elect people to figure out solutions to the problems we face but unfortunately, after they get elected, our representatives tend to then make speeches rather than decisions.  And that’s no way to solve problems and move the country forward.

So, who won? If the people we elected, and those who lost, stop bickering and start working together, then we’ll all have won. But if they revert back to the same old partisan and ideological grandstanding, then everyone will have lost.  It should not be about party ideology as much as it should be about honesty, leadership, and working together to address and solve our real problems.  If they realize that – we win; if they don’t – we lose.

Now is the time for serious leadership, not ideological partisanship.  If our elected officials and the parties they’re affiliated with don’t get that then there will be no winners.  Let your elected officials know how you feel if you really want to be a winner in these elections!

One of my messages this week was about working together and winning as a team, and it seems appropriate in light of this week’s events:

“To find a fault is easy; to do better may be difficult.”  Plutarch
What kind of team player are you?  Do you get fully involved with others and support them, or do you stay by yourself and/or complain a lot?  We all know people who are one or the other, and probably have an opinion about which is better.  But seeing this in others isn’t the same as assessing the same in ourselves.  It pays to be an unselfish and committed team player when trying to get stuff done. That means you have to be focused on the task, supportive of what others are doing, being on the look-out for what needs to be done, and always volunteering to help others.  When called upon to do something, you should always give it your best effort, and when others fall short, don’t complain or criticize – look at that as an opportunity to contribute.  So don’t be so quick to find fault, because doing better yourself may be difficult.  Just do your best and give your best all the time – that’s all anyone can ask or expect.

Stay well!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Night the Lights Went Out



The Night the Lights Went Out

We just don’t think it will happen to us.  Because we don’t want to believe it can happen to us.  Probably because we’re optimists.

And then the Storm of the Century hit.  And it was worse than we ever could have imagined.  All the things we take for granted were mostly gone, in the blink of an eye.  There were warnings.  But who listens to warnings: it’s like the little boy who cried “wolf”!

This might just change everything.  Like: not taking things for granted, and really being prepared, and listening more.  Devastation can do that to you, and whether or not it directly affected you, the pictures and stories on the news have a way of affecting us too.

It might be less about changing things as it is about forcing us to go back to basics: no internet – walk over and check on someone directly; no transportation – car pool; no lights – candles and flashlights; no power – read a book in the daylight or by the firelight.  Think about Abe Lincoln – he not only read by firelight, he also seems to have gotten his law degree that way too. Because he couldn't, and now we can’t, get away from the dark, we must rely on our basic instincts and capabilities to deal with it. 

These days, cell phones and the Internet are our primary means of connecting, and they mostly weren't working this week.  And without them we were really in the dark and had to improvise to connect with others.  We had to walk over and knock on someone's door (if we could), or wait until conditions improved. But connect we did because we need personal contact: to let us know we’re not alone and reassure us that others are there and care.

So the moral of this story is that while some things change, others stay the same.  We use the tools we have to stay close to family and friends and colleagues and community.  And as long as we know they are all safe then we can start to return to normal and rebuild.  Make sure your basics are in place today and be prepared if your lights go out.

My message this week is about study and preparation:  

“No one can ever reach to excellence in any one art or profession without having passed through the slow and painful process of study and preparation.”  Horace

How will you prepare to do what you have to do today? Will it come by you naturally, or will you have to work hard to prepare for it? There are lots of people who are naturals at what they do – singers naturally come by their trade because they have good pitch, and public speakers mostly do well because they don’t fear being in front of audiences, and of course service employees like helping others. But those are just the things that help you get started – after that it’s a slow and painful process of study and preparation if you are to excel at what you do.  And (like your mother said): "if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well"; so commit to the study and preparation that’s needed if you want to be good at what you do and to be rewarded for it.  That’s how to succeed at the art of your profession!

Stay well!                                                                                     

Friday, October 26, 2012

Heroes

Heros

Remember when athletes were heroes?  I clearly remember when I was a kid cheering for the New York Giants and feeling terrible when the other team knocked out Y.A. Tittle on a frozen gridiron; and listening to those epic battles between Bill Russell (he was and still is my favorite) and Wilt Chamberlain on the radio; and staying up late to hear the boxing match when Cassius Clay knocked out Floyd Patterson. I remember Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson – baseball players who were large in life and cherished on baseball cards? And what about those American hockey players who won the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics – we shared the thrill of victory outrunning the agony of defeat. Those were the kinds of heroes that we looked up to: they won and lost… honestly, and proudly.

So this week’s news about Lance Armstrong being stripped of all his Tour de France victories was terribly disappointing.  It’s sad when athletes who have so much going for them turn out to be more interested in winning at all costs than competing fairly.  What happened to “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game”? Remember Bruce Jenner and Marylou Retton: they were proud to win, and proud to have their pictures on a box of Wheaties.  They inspired us to do and be more.

I guess we have to look beyond the bizarre behavior of the greedy and take note of those who work hard, care a lot, compete fairly and accept what happens with grace.  You’ll find them everywhere: at work and play, in the groups of people you hang with, and in the neighborhoods where you live. They are, or should be, our role models, and while they may be athletes, more often they’re regular, soft-spoken and humble people we know and are around most of the time: friends, parents, siblings, neighbors, and good Samaritans in the news.  Look around today and note all the good people who influence you by their beliefs and behaviors.  And then strive to be like them… because they’re the real heroes.

My message this week is about being proud of who and what you are:

"The key to a happy life is to have accomplishments to be proud of and purpose to look forward to.” 

Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay is the pen name of American playwright and crime novelist Jeffry P. Freundlich (born July 14, 1952), best known for his novels about sociopathic vigilante Dexter Morgan.

Are you happy? Not the kind of happy where you’re laughing or walking around with a silly grin on your face, but rather the kind that makes you feel good about yourself.   And the key to feeling good about yourself is knowing who you are and what you’re capable of, and having the knowledge, skills and abilities that are born of experience and confidence, and using those competencies to do good things for those who are counting on you, and believing you’re okay and feeling good about that.  Put these into place in your life and you’ll have accomplishments to be proud of and purpose to look forward to.  And then you’ll be happy, and those around you will be happy, and success will more easily be yours!

Stay well!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wooly Bear Caterpillars


Wooly Bear Caterpillars

Last fall a farmer I know pointed out that there were way more apples on the trees than normal and he said that was a clear sign that it was going to be a long, hard winter.  Wrong – it was probably one of the mildest winters in history.

Last week a neighbor pointed out the brownish stripes on several wooly bear caterpillars:  a sure sign, he said, that it’s going to be a mild winter.  According to legend, the wider that middle brown section is, the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter.  But who knows if that’s really true.

Throughout history there have been good years and bad, good winters and hard winters, more rain and less rain; people just accepted those things and took them in stride.  These days there’s a feeling that we need to make more sense out of things, but it’s not that simple because unfortunately there are no simple explanations for the complexities of life. There are still things like weather and human behaviors that have far too many variables to be explained simply.  But that doesn’t stop us from always looking to understand “why”.

I saw dozens of wooly bear caterpillars last week and to me it looked like their brownish strips were growing longer.  But we won’t know what that means until next spring when we look back and see what kind of winter it really was.  And that’s the way it is with most things.  Until then, I’ll just bundle up on the cold and rainy days, and turn my face to the sky on those days when the sun shines warmly.  And take each day as it comes!

My message this week is about innovation and how people make things better:

"Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Marie Steinem (born March 25, 1934) is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women's liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s.

What do you dream about at work?  You should also be dreaming about the kinds of things that can help make what you’re doing to be easier and better. Everyone thinks that supervisors and process improvement specialists are the only ones who can do this, but the people doing the work, talking to the customers, touching the products, and delivering the services are the ones who have the experience and knowledge, and the best perspective, to know what’s really happening and whether improvements are needed.  They’re the ones who should be encouraged to imagine and recommend the exciting improvements that are possible, and to help determine what can be achieved.  That’s the best way to use your imagination and dreams today.  So, dream on!

Stay well!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Coming Home




Coming Home

Last week when traveling home I noticed a military man in uniform on our plane.  As we landed, the attendant asked us to remain seated to allow this soldier to exit first; he was escorting a fallen comrade home and needed to meet the casket as it was unloaded from the plane.

After everyone got off the plane, all of the passengers gathered at the windows in the terminal to watch this sad procession: men and women, young and old, black and white, soldier and civilian stood there silently and witnessed this very moving event.  On the tarmac next to the hearse were the family, an honor guard, and all of the ground maintenance staff – at attention, with their emotions clearly displayed.

The terminal was silent.  The crowd stood at attention.  And as the flag-draped casket was lowered into the arms of the honor guard, the soldiers saluted, the family consoled one another, and everyone in the terminal wept.

No matter what we think of war, fallen soldiers touch us all.  Every generation suffers war, and none has found a way to prevent it.  Every one of us is touched in some way by those who fight, and we can’t thank them enough for their brave efforts.

So we salute and cry, and reflect, when faced with a scene like this.

We need to do more.  If you see a soldier today, thank him or her; they serve and fight for all of us. Let’s hope and pray they all come home safely and soon.

Amen.

My message this week is about integrity:

"Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way." 

-Aristotle

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) had a profound influence on the philosophical and theological thinking in the Islamic and Jewish traditions in the Middle Ages, and he continues to influence Christian theology.

How do you normally act? Do you act differently in different circumstances, like at home or work, or when hanging out with friends, or when you’re playing or praying?  While some people may act differently in these different situations, most are who and what they are, and act the same.  Actions like: telling the truth, being open and transparent, making eye contact, not taking yourself too seriously, having a sense of humor, smiling and laughing easily, being kind, paying attention to details, treating others with respect, trusting others, and doing the things that make others trust you - these are rooted in common sense and are based on the simple notion that people do what they want others to do to them.  These actions show that you care about others.  And that’s what integrity is really all about: it’s a particular quality that’s acquired by constantly acting in a particular way.  Act like you really care today and every day, and see how others perceive and respond to you.

Stay well!

Friday, October 5, 2012

62 Special

62 Special
 
Twenty years ago I spotted a 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood for sale – it was a 62 Special.  It was the pride of Detroit when it came out, but its best years had faded by the time I found it.

I restored it and drove it and had fun reliving the times of my youth when my Mom had one like it.  I remember my Dad thinking at the time that I was crazy to take on a restoration job for something that he considered not altogether priceless.  But I did and really loved that 62 Special.  And as I celebrate my 62nd birthday this week I have a different perspective on what’s so special about that number.

In my 62 years I’ve done some things that have been special.  Work is special: I believe I was born to be an HR guy, and the things I’ve been able to accomplish have been special.  Helping people is special: helping people find satisfaction in their work and get ahead in their careers is pretty special.  Music is special: singing harmonies with other sounds and feels special.

In my 62 years I’ve had some really special relationships. Family is special: Having lived and grown with those I love, I know how great it is to be around people who are so special.  Friends are special: I’ve learned that it’s not the quantity but the quality, and I know it takes hard work to keep those relationships special.  My wife is special: her caring, understanding, creative and loving companionship is always and ever so special. My daughter is special: while it always amazes me that we lived through it all, I know that those experiences make our relationship special.  And last but certainly not least, my granddaughter is special: she reminds me of the fact that life and legacies are indeed special.

We all get so caught up in the things that are happening that we often lose sight of what’s important, and special.  We keep searching for the next new thing and often overlook the things we have that are currently so special.  And when we forget how special the people we love, and who love us, are, then we lose that special something that makes love so precious and memorable and worth living.

So as I look back over these 62 years, I am reminded of all that I have: not the material stuff, but the special people that are special to me.  And as I spend this birthday with my granddaughter I realize how it all fits together: the yesterdays and todays always add to the richness of all the tomorrows.  And that’s my 62 Special!

My message this week is about being involved enough to get the most out of life:

“Life may bring you to your knees; pray. Then GET UP and participate in the answer. BECOME the remedy! BE the solution!”
 
-Steve Maraboli

Steve Maraboli, Ph.D., has risen to international prominence as a recognized leader in business development, personal enhancement, peak performance and an authority on the human potential and organizational behavior.

If someone were to ask your supervisor or colleagues or family or friends whether you were part of the problem or the solution, what would they say?  Think about it: when there’s a project, or a problem, or just your regular work – do you handle it maturely, and approach it with a positive outlook, and work well with others, and complete your work on time and to everyone’s satisfaction, and do you maintain your composure in the face of challenges?  These are the kinds of things that people look for when you participate with them to get things done.  Because working hard, caring about the outcomes, and being sensitive to and appreciative of the work of others improves how people work together?  Life and work can bring us to our knees, but the people we want around us when that happens are those who become part of the remedy and the solution.  Strive to be one of those people today!

PS: That’s 5-month old Olive wishing me a happy birthday.

Stay well!
 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cream Cheese


Cream Cheese

There are little towns throughout the northeast that sponsor events to coincide with the annual changing of the leaves.  One of these is the annual Cream Cheese Festival in Lowville, New York.

Just for the record: Lowville is pronounced:  lau-ville, not low-ville; and because it’s in the middle of a large area known for its dairy farming, Kraft Foods has a plant there which produces cream cheese – thus the annual Cream Cheese Festival.

People come from near and far for the event’s food, music, crafts, rides, and what is purported to be the “world’s largest cheesecake”.  So on a recent weekend we took a ride through the countryside to see the leaves and that record-setting cheesecake.

The food vendors had every kind of fried food that you can imagine, including fried cream cheese.  The bandstand had local country singers who wanted to look and sound like someone vaguely familiar.  And at the Cream Cheese Bingo game kids threw gobs of cream cheese at numbers on a large painted board to see which was next; we had to stop and watch that bit of creativity.  But the disappointment of the day was the fact that the “world’s largest cheesecake” was eaten long before we got there; so now we’ll never know how big it had to be to be the world’s biggest!

But we checked out everything else, and as we left we realized that the theme of these events is not nearly as important as the fact that communities come together and have them. It’s called community spirit and pride, and it gives people a reason to do things together.  There were lots of people there, and hardly any texting.  There were lots of things going on, and none of them seemed to involve a computer.  And the games that people played were the types that people played together, not alone on a little screen: it was quaint and not contrived.  There were lots of smiles, the old-fashioned kind that weren’t brought on by canned laughter; it wasn’t so much small-town as it was real people.  Afterward we smiled in appreciation of this real slice of Americana: it was as refreshing as an ice-cold glass of milk!

My message this week is about professionalism:

“I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”  
-Dr. Seuss

From the top of the heap the sights that you see are often arrayed in a very broad sweep; and from that high perch you might miss the small things that are so very important to those you are trying to reach.

So project yourself as a professional pro, and show that you know all the right things to say and the right things to do so the people you’re reaching know and understand the who that is you.

And by realizing the needs of the people below, you’re acknowledging their importance to the success of the show.

So make sure that you see all the things that you need, and also make sure that those folks down below feel good about themselves and the things that they do for the show.

Because at the end of the day you want all the who’s who are who, to feel and act professionally, just like you do!

Stay well!
 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Food Freaks

Food Freaks

There are all kinds of places to eat in Brooklyn…some fancy, others cozy, and all have their own style.  Unique among them is a gourmet food cart that makes all kinds of grilled cheese dishes – it’s called Food Freaks.

The guy unhooks his trailer next to park entrances and next thing you know there’s a line of people waiting to eat.  Sort of like the Mister Softee trucks we all grew up with (and which are still around here).  On the one hand, it shows that good food is appreciated anywhere it’s offered; on the other, this trailer is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that you read so much about.  It isn’t high tech - just a new twist on a proven concept: people like unique food and settings.

But mostly, it recognizes the cravings we all have for the things we grew up with, and felt comfortable with, and often long for.  In this case, it’s the ever popular grilled cheese sandwich; but in a broader sense its comfort food.  And comfort food - like family, traditions and memories - is always appreciated.

This guy cooks and chats while serving the customers. No maitre’d, no fancy menus, no fine linen or atmosphere – just a simple meal to eat as you please.  Everywhere we look there are so many examples of noveau this and fancy that, and sometimes we forget that simple is better, that straight-forward is appreciated, that anything good stands on its own.  Next time you’re fixing dinner or doing something for others, make sure that the thing itself is good all by itself.  Because if it is, then you’ll have the basis for all the success you’ll ever need.

My message this week is about giving people what they want:

“Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than what they expect to get.”
-Nelson Boswell

Nelson Boswell is an author of three books: Inner Peace, Inner Power, TA for Busy People: How To Use Transactional Analysis at Home and at Work and Successful Living Day by Day.

What’s your rule?  I remember hearing Norman Schwarzkopf talk about his Rule #13: “When given command, take charge.” And when you do take charge, make sure that everything you do is more than others expect.  That doesn’t mean doing the unexpected – it means giving people what they asked for, and then adding a little something extra that will increase their appreciation.  It can be how you greet them or say goodbye, or giving a little extra on a task or report or project, or showing your appreciation for the opportunity.  In this fast-paced world, we all expect to just get the minimum; but in a very competitive world, that minimum effort won’t cut it.  And if you want to do or create great things, it takes that much more effort – you may have to learn more, you may have to practice more, and you certainly will want to interact better and more….because getting to great takes a great effort.  Make that your rule today!

Stay well!
 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Holidays



The Holidays

After Labor Day, people start focusing on “the holidays”.  And there are lots of holidays between now and the end of the year.

Patriot Day, the Jewish High Holidays, Citizenship Day, Native American Day, Grandparents Day, Columbus Day, Boss’ Day, Halloween,  Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years are just a few.  According to www.timeanddate.com there are 57 holidays or observances between now and the end of the year – and that’s just in North America!  While it seems like somebody is celebrating something every day, if it’s one you believe in, it’s a big deal; if not then you probably don’t pay much attention to it.  But it’s good to remember that those you don’t know about or celebrate are big to someone, somewhere; and each observant soul expects the rest of us to either know about or respect their holidays.

As the Jewish people get ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the next two weeks, it’s a time of remembrance, reflection and atonement.  And while it’s good to do that on these occasions, shouldn’t we be doing those things regularly: like always being mindful of right and wrong, and thinking of those who’ve passed, and striving to be good and righteous?  Of course we should – but that doesn’t mean we will.

So every morning you should make it your practice to look down the road and take a few moments to reflect on what happened yesterday, and what any of that means and how you might have been better, and then what you want to accomplish today.  You shouldn’t wait for a holiday to reflect on how you should be – take time today, and every day, to focus on the important things in life, and whether you are measuring up to the person you want to be.

My message this week is about having faith and a passion for life:

“It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809 – 1894) was an American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author.  His son Oliver Jr. was a famous Supreme Court Justice.

Is your life worth living today?  It’s surprising how many people have to stop and think about the answer to that question. There are those who don’t like what they see in themselves because they think life and work are meaningless.  That’s because they either get bogged down in mundane and repetitive tasks that don’t seem motivating or challenging, or have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, or they feel under-challenged and under-appreciated.   While these are true, there are certainly many more who love their work, circumstances and life – and for them the day can’t start early enough.  What’s the difference between the two – the first see the glass of life as half empty, the second see it as half full.  Because there are glimmers of greatness in everything, the challenge is to find them, build upon them, and let them help you to become more of what you want to be.   Find those today and bring all your faith and passion to bear on them.  That’s how to make life worth living!

Happy Holidays, and Stay Well!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Walk in the Park


A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park is another one of those idioms that means more than it actually says. According to answer.com: the phrase 'A Walk in the Park' means something is going to be really easy; according to my dogs: a walk in the park is their favorite thing; and according to the folks in New York City: a walk to and in the park is a fun family pastime.  Take your pick.

This time of year is for families and outdoor fun, and nothing serves them better than the big park (or any park) in my (or any) neighborhood. The weather here was great this past holiday weekend: warm, not too muggy, sunny, and just right for a real walk in the park. My two Jack Russell terriers and I headed to the park several times, and each time we found different but similar scenes: people having a good time in the park.  Early morning: dog lovers let their dogs off leash for a romp in the park; Mid-morning: a farmer’s market sets up in the park; Lunch: the kid’s playground was full of kids at the park; Mid-afternoon: soccer, Frisbee, tennis and a new tightrope thing between trees that seems to have been inspired by Nik Wallenda’s recent walk over Niagara Falls all in the park; Late afternoon: more picnics than you can count in the park; and Evening: lovers and friends taking….. a walk in the park. All of it fun, and all as easy as… well… a walk in the park!

I grew up in a great neighborhood in a medium sized American town – lots of kids, lots of parks and open spaces to play in, and lots of fun: it was idyllic. We never would have imagined that people and kids in a really big city like New York could do and feel the same.  But they do, and so on my walks in the big park near my apartment I’ve discovered that happiness and fun are easy to come by anywhere.  Because it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with.  And in this fast paced, heads down, keep your eye on the ball world, that’s a lesson that needs to be learned and remembered, over and over, so we don’t ever forget it.

So as summer turns to fall, take time to find happiness and fun with those you’re with and care about. Make that a walk in the park!

My message this week is about doing things passionately:

“Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a carrier.”

-Susan Rabin

Susan Rabin is an author, seminar leader, therapist, communications consultant, coach, lecturer, writer and media personality. Susan is the Director of the School of Flirting® and President of Dynamic Communications, Inc., a company dedicated to building better business relationships.

Passion often manifests itself as enthusiasm – have you ever seen someone who says they are passionate about something but doesn’t seem enthusiastic about it.  That shouldn’t happen. Because when you really are passionate about something, you can’t stop thinking about it, or talking about it, or telling others about it, or looking for ways to improve it, or showing it to others. That’s why entrepreneurs spend days and nights working on what they’re passionate about. That’s why successful athletes and actors and politicians look for the cameras to tell their stories.  That’s because people who are successful at anything act enthusiastically.  And that enthusiasm is contagious – it spreads to the people who work with them, or play with them, or collaborate with them, or invent things with them, or do anything with them. It’s fun and exciting to be around people like that – right?  So remember that when you feel strongly about something – be enthusiastic; and make that enthusiasm contagious today!

Stay well!
  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Labor Day

Labor Day
 
Labor Day is the federal holiday that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. That’s all workers, as in every employee who gets up and works. Like you.  So, how are you going to celebrate?

In the beginning, people got the day off as a way of thanking workers for working – back then there weren’t a lot of other days off. Most people today have a 3-day weekend – they celebrate work by not working; most celebrate by doing stuff with family and friends – but not the people they work with. And come next Tuesday, everyone will return to work and the celebration will be over; but not the work.

As you get ready for this holiday weekend, look around at the people you work with and thank them for all they do, and the relationships and memories you share.  Then take a moment to remember those who are not working, and the sacrifices they’ve made these past few years; take time this weekend to reach out to some of them and let them know you’re thinking about them too.

And then give thanks for the job you have and the work you do.  Do it every day. That’s a better way to honor labor and celebrate Labor Day.

My message this week is about the people we work with:

“Only by binding together as a single force will we remain strong and unconquerable.”
 
Chris Bradford

Chris Bradford is an author, professional musician and black belt martial artist, best known for his children's fictional series, Young Samurai.

Life is full of opportunities to work - either alone, or with others.  How you approach these opportunities says a lot about who you are and how you see things.  Many would rather ‘go it alone’, feeling that self-reliance is the key to success.  There are certainly more than enough examples of people working alone – on their computers, in their own zone – and banging out the work that they know they can do and trust.  But the concept of “two heads are better than one” is based on our ability to leverage the skills and knowledge and abilities of many to then create a result that none on their own could achieve.  And this is not just true in heavy lifting, but also in complex thinking, tight production schedules, doing more with less, and being able to push all the participants farther than they each might individually expect.  Whether in sports, work, war, or family, binding together as a single force can, and usually does, make us strong and unconquerable. Practice this effectively today and you’ll be strong and unconquerable too!

Have a great Labor Day!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sick and Tired



Sick and Tired
 
How often have you heard someone say they’re “sick and tired” of something?  When’s the last time you said that yourself?  Thing is, if you’re not really sick then you shouldn’t say that.  Sick is a splitting headache, sick is pneumonia, sick is arthritis, sick is cancer; save the term for when it’s appropriate.

Tired sometimes comes from being fed up, and nothing gets me fed up more than politicians who say they have lofty goals but whose actions portray low ethics – they say or promise one thing but then have another agenda that they stick to, no matter what.  They all claim to be bi-partisan until they have to stand up and be counted: isn’t that like lying?  And then when they finally do come out and say something, it’s absolutely incredible (read: unbelievable).  Shouldn’t the people we elect work together to find the best solutions to our problems?  Whatever happened to two heads being better than one; whatever happened to the art of compromise; and how come when these seemingly regular people get into public office they turn into partisan and selfish ideologues (or whatever more salacious term you’d choose here)?

When I started my career years ago, a mentor advised me “you can disagree, but don’t be disagreeable”; that taught me the value of thinking about what I really believed in, studying up on those things so I knew all the facts, listening closely to others in case I missed something important, working with others to find the best solutions, and compromising or holding fast when one or the other was the right thing to do.  So how is it that the people we elect to represent us either never learned or, worse, forgot these simple ideas; and once elected, turn into something we neither expected nor wanted?

It seems that the partisan politics we’re witnessing is decidedly disrespectful to the history and values of our country and culture.  So maybe I am sick and tired of the partisan bull that’s thrown around in lieu of honest, open, transparent and effective discourse?  We’ve got serious problems and partisan politics is not going to produce the solutions we need.

As we get ready for the upcoming political conventions and the following presidential election campaign, we should be looking for politicians who are more interested in doing what’s right than rigidly following partisan party lines.  Maybe we need to elect people who are committed to not being disagreeable. Maybe we should demand that this be the new standard.  And maybe we should not support anyone who won’t make and keep that simple promise.

I wonder how many others are sick and tired of this.  Maybe someone should start a Facebook page for people who support this simple concept, and find out!

My message this week is about acting and being professional in all aspects of our lives:


“Experts often possess more data than judgment.”
-Colin Powell

Colin Luther Powell (born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1987-1993) and the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005).

Professionals are called upon to make decisions all the time.  And those decisions need to be both quick and correct.  If they’re not, how long do you think others will trust and rely upon them?   Of course being a professional doesn’t mean you operate only in the business world – people are expected to act professionally, reliably, reasonably, fairly, ethically, truthfully, kindly, openly and honestly in every aspect of life.  That means in your personal life with family and friends, in your community life with other volunteers and committed people, and in your professional life with co-workers and colleagues.  And in order to be at the top of your game, you need to rely on all of your senses and all of the information you can gather.  Consider this: if you just look at data, you might miss the human element that accompanies everything in life.  That’s because people who possess more data than judgment aren’t as good as they need to be to anyone!

Stay Well!