Monday, December 30, 2013

Holiday Giving


               Holiday Giving

So it’s the holidays and everyone looks forward to the season of giving.  And while I was probably somewhere between naughty and nice this past year, I still got what I wanted.

Everyone told us that the best part of being a parent is having grandchildren, and when that day finally happened for us we gladly gave up heaven at the beach and moved back to the heat of Las Vegas.  First Olive, and then 18 months later came Ella, and now we’re blissfully surrounded by all that grandchildren have to offer.

Don’t get me wrong: we love being back here with family and friends.  My mother is still going strong at 92, my daughter and her husband are great parents that we love to watch and admire, my big brother and his wife are around for all the good big-brother stuff, and the good friends we made back when are still our good friends now.  But it’s those two granddaughters who make it all worthwhile. 

I’m still awkward when holding a new born, and nobody calls on me to change diapers or give baths…. but when it comes to reading books, being silly, and taking long walks, my name is near the top of the list.  And thanks to the miracle of smartphones with cameras, I have pictures to prove it.
If anyone had asked what I wanted for the holidays, I’d have asked for someone to call me Pop Pop.  And thankfully my wish came true.

My message this week is all about the joys of giving:

“For it is in giving that we receive.” Saint Francis of Assisi

So what did you get for Christmas?  That’s the big question this week and the answers run the gamut from ‘nothing’ to ‘everything’.  If you’re like me, you probably got some cool things you wanted or needed, and others that were unexpected but appreciated, and then some that made you scratch your head and wondered.  And those you gave gifts to probably felt the same even though you most likely put a lot of thought into each.  People have good intentions and try to find things that please, but that’s not always the case.  So I guess it’s best to remember that it’s the thought that counts and that it is in the giving that we receive.  That’s why this or any gift-giving season is a time to give what we can and to be appreciative and thankful for all that we receive.

Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good life!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Commencement





Commencement


I learned something this semester: there are similarities between school and everything that comes after, but they need to be explained.

In school, students want a syllabus in order to know exactly what to plan for; in life that clarity rarely happens and so they need to learn the art of flexibility. In school, students want to know with certainty what’s going to be on the final exam; in life things are not so well defined and so being broadly prepared is a critical skill to learn.  In school, it’s all about the grade; in life it’s really about whether you can apply what you’ve learned.  And in school there’s a commencement at the end; but, like in the real world, the end is just the beginning.

I explained these and other concepts to my students in the course of our Strategic Management Class: while strategy is often thought of in terms of business, maybe it’s also needed when planning one’s life; and while SWOT analyses are good when determining a business’ direction, it’s also good to know their own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; and while the clarity of a mission statement is important to making sure every stakeholder in a business is clearly informed, their individual missions need to be carefully crafted and articulated too. I got the impression that in this, their last semester, these concepts took on a deeper and more urgent meaning within the context of their imminent entry into the real world and the relatively unforgiving nature of life’s multiple-choice options.

The semester came to an end much more quickly than I expected, and I suspect the students were equally as surprised that the end of their academic lives was upon them.  Two busy weeks filled with formal reviews, final exams, final grades, final GPAs and teary hugs as they put on their caps and gowns and prepared for Commencement – the end of college and the beginning of the rest of their lives.

I could see the uncertainty in their eyes as they walked across that stage and into the real world.  Nothing really prepares any of us for that kind of change but maybe now the lessons they learned in class will begin to make more sense.  Maybe that’s why I’m getting requests from so many of them to connect on LinkedIn.  I’m really looking forward to hearing about their experiences in the real world.

My message this week is the one I gave to my students on the last day of class:

“Take pride in who you are as a unique individual by trying to be more today than you were yesterday, more tomorrow than you were today.” Edwin Mamerto

What will you try to be today?  If you’re not trying to be better than you were yesterday then you might end up being worse.  The competition is always looking to see what the new baseline in service and pricing might be, and then developing strategies to outdo you and others. And the best way to avoid getting caught unaware is to keep your eyes and ears open and to continually strive to learn and be more. If it’s leadership: watch other leaders and emulate what you see; if it’s service: visit the competition and see whether they’ve come up with new practices that you should consider; if it’s pricing: always look for process improvements to reduce costs; and if it’s personal style and effort: take pride in who your are and try to be more today than you were yesterday.  That’s how you and your team can be more tomorrow than you were today!

Stay well!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Who Knows Where the Time Goes



Who Knows Where the Time Goes

We saw Judy Collins in concert last month and couldn’t help but reminisce.  And wonder where the time’s gone.

This year’s almost gone and all the times we’ve had in the past 11 months are getting ready to be stored in 2013’s archive.  There’ve been good times and bad, good family young and old, good friends we have or have lost, and good music from then and now. And there was Sweet Judy Blue Eyes telling tales from back in the day and singing songs from along the way.  We closed our eyes, swayed with the music and enjoyed the scenes of our lives as they floated along with the tunes.

Some of the songs she wrote, and some that others wrote.  Her play list took us down memory lane:

Someday Soon
    I would follow him right down the toughest road I know
    Someday soon, going with him, someday soon.

Both Sides Now 
    I've looked at life from both sides now,
    From win and lose, and still somehow
    it's life's illusions I recall.
    I really don't know life at all..

Suzanne
    And you want to travel with her
    And you want to travel blind
    And you know that she will trust you
    For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.

My Father
    On his dreams like boats
    We knew we would sail in time.

The Last Thing on My Mind 
    Are you going away with no word of farewell?
    Will there be not a trace left behind?
    Well, I could have loved you better,
    Didn't mean to be unkind.
    You know that was the last thing on my mind.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes
    For who knows how my love grows?
    And who knows where the time goes?

These are the songs I grew up with.  And in hearing them again all the memories from all those long ago times flashed before me.  Those were good and bad times; they were the times of my life.

Every moment in time can be one of the good times, and add up to become the times we remember.  Maybe that’s what ‘being in the moment’ is all about and why memories are like treasures.  Our times make us what we are and in thinking about them I find myself being thankful for having had those times.  I guess that’s part of what Thanksgiving is all about.

My message this week is about living life to the fullest and being all we ever wanted to be:

“It is never too late to be what you might have been." George Eliot
What do you want to be? Most people have dreams, hopes and aspirations, and they try to accomplish them while also tending to their everyday responsibilities.  And it can happen that those responsibilities take up so much of our time that we might lose sight of what’s needed to stay on track with our dreams.  That’s why it’s important to have goals and a plan to achieve them, to communicate with others so that they don’t inadvertently do, say or assign things that might create a conflict, and to regularly remind us why our goals are important.  Doing these kinds of things can also rekindle the passions we have for the things that are important because, even when they tend to drag on longer than anticipated, it’s never too late to achieve our goals or become what we might have been.  So find and let your passions guide you to be what you want today!

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Stay Well!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hope


Hope


For those born before November 22, 1963, there was hope.  The world was changing, but everyone felt that our best days were ahead, and in that there was hope.  But then came that fateful day, and hope didn’t seem so eternal.

For those alive on this date 50 years ago, where we were and what we were doing became forever etched in our memories when word of the assassination of JFK flashed across the news.  That memory became mingled with other images of those times: a young President and his wife beginning their day in Dallas; an open limo passing a building; a club owner in a hat shooting the alleged assassin; a young son saluting his fallen father; and an eternal flame.  The nation optimistically supported their leaders and new styles of music, clothes, cars and culture pointed us hopefully towards the future.  And then hope seemed to come to a halt.

Walter Cronkite cried on TV, regular people cried on the street, and we sat in front of our TVs and cried while we watched this incredible event unfold.  Those next 4 days were filled with shock and sadness: if you weren’t there, it’s hard to imagine how stunned and shocked the nation was, or how a single tragic act could so totally change our outlook on life and…. hope.

It’s been 50 years, and yet after all this time the memory of that day still looms large in our minds.  And even though there have been other shocking events since then: the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam war, the Iranian hostages, the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, and so many more (both big and small), the one that happened on this day 50 years ago today seems to represent “the day, the music died” (thank you Don McLean and Bye Bye Miss American Pie).

But all the recent documentaries on the life and legacy of JFK remind us that hope really is resilient.  The images from that event so long ago faded quickly as life went on, and over time those were replaced by the ebb and flow of the regular things that happen, and because we’re all optimists at heart, hope was re-born, re-kindled, and re-established – life does go on after terrible events, and while the memories never go away, the challenge and belief in new horizons help us to go on. Because no matter how long or short a life, it’s only one of many in our vast universe, and if any of those lives is well lived, then, like a comet, it leaves a bright streak across the sky to help light the way for the rest of us.  And in that light there is: hope.

My message this week is based on one of the many quotes from JFK:

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” John F. Kennedy

We still mourn the death of JFK all those years ago and still marvel at the affect his words continue to have on us after all these years:  asking not what the country can do for us but rather what we can do for the country, responding to the cold war by challenging America to put a man on the moon; and asking us to overcome our prejudices and promote civil rights.  Those were different and difficult times, and as shocking and riveting as those events were, they quickly became part of the larger and continuing patchwork that represented all the times of our lives.  

Looking back now it’s amazing how things like the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show just 3 short months later helped us to go on and focus on both the here and now and the future. In hindsight is the understanding that all of the things we experience allow us to keep going and to have hope. The people we meet, the friends and colleagues we have, and the families we love: they all form the nucleus of the lives we lead. And the lesson is this is that no matter what, we must always find time to thank the people who make a difference in our lives.


Stay well!

Friday, November 15, 2013

50


50

I was born in 1950, and for years dreamed of being 50 at the turn of the 21st century.  I imagined there would be immense personal and world changes when the clock stuck 12 on that millennium; but as we all now know, the hype was more than the reality.  But what’s happened since then has been pretty amazing and fulfilling.

In the intervening years, I opened more hotels, spent time in Las Vegas, China, Laguna Beach, New York City, and the Adirondack Mountains, met lots of interesting people and clients, played a ton of music, became an avid blogger, read voraciously, and enjoyed the arrival of a granddaughter. 

And now, 13 years after that millennial milestone, it’s the 50th anniversary of my bar mitzvah; in fact, I celebrated that momentous event 50 years ago this weekend.  50 years ago tonight I began the transition from being a boy to becoming a man.  That ritual, which most young Jewish men and women go through on their 13th birthday, is similar in many ways to other rituals that mark the passage to adulthood.  And while it was cool to think that adulthood starts at 13, I’ve since realized that it only begins then. 

For me that beginning began by reading from the Holy Scriptures in Hebrew, then making a speech, opening lots of presents and having a fun party.  But now I realize that the best part of that event was the awakening of my sense of religion, and then learning things that have stayed with me all these years.  On that weekend so long ago, I read the only portion of the Torah named for a woman (Sarah, the wife of Abraham), and how she shaped the history of the Jews. I recently found the speech about this that I gave back then, and it spurred lots of memories and got me thinking about the richness of life after all these years.

And now, on this 50th anniversary of that long ago event, I’m literally standing by for the arrival of my second granddaughter.  As I write this, my daughter is down the Hospital hall giving birth…. to a girl, and this is reminding me about the women in my life and the woman in that Torah reading.  Sometime tonight my 92 year-old Mother will have a new great granddaughter, and my wife of 37 years will have a new granddaughter, and my 34-year old daughter will have a second daughter, and her 18 month-old Daughter will have a sister.  Life really does go on, and truly is a blessing!

My message this week is about enjoying the wonders of life:

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” Ruth Reichl

Every day is full of experiences, challenges, and opportunities.  Those experiences are nothing if you aren’t aware of them, and wide open to their breadth and depth, and possibilities.  They often present challenges because without a crystal ball we can’t predict what’s going to happen, and must be ready to react appropriately and effectively.  And rather than thinking of these as distractions, we should see them as opportunities to do great things.  There’s rarely a day that isn’t filled with one or all of these elements, and there’s excitement and renewal in each and every one of them.  If you find a day that’s missing one or more of these, it’s probably something lacking in you rather than the day itself.  If that happens, stop and examine what in you may be obscuring them.  Then pull up a chair, take a taste, and join fully in your endlessly delicious life!


Stay well!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mid Terms






Mid Terms


I know…. it’s been a while since my last blog and people are starting to ask if everything’s okay.  The short answer is “yes”; it’s just that every time I start to write, all the things that are happening in my life distract me.  So let me stop and tell you what’s been going on:

I’ve joined the faculty at the UNLV Hotel School as a Visiting Professor.  I am really enjoying this new gig, but getting assigned to a class two weeks before it began was tough and it disrupted my normal routine.  I had to stop everything I had been doing and figure out a syllabus, start lesson plans, research the topic, develop power points, create tests, devise exercises, post assignments, learn new computer applications, find my way around campus, and try to understand a public education world that is markedly different than the corporate world I came from.

But even so, I love it.  Being around students, telling my stories, explaining to them the difference between being a student (which is pretty much all they’ve ever known) and a real-world worker (which they will soon be), discovering all the wonders of campus life and getting engaged in a whole new set of things is exhilarating.  I am teaching Strategic Management: it’s a course that every senior in the UNLV Hotel School has to take to graduate, so I’ve got their attention. 

That’s the good news; the bad news is that a last semester college senior is pulled in lots of directions and seems to have a limited attention span for classes and learning. They’ve got so much to do and so much on their minds, and here I am talking about a subject that doesn’t seem to have much connection to them.  But as I weave tales in class each week and get them working in teams, the light starts to shine in their eyes. 

Strategic thinking and strategic planning seem like obscure concepts until I tell them to drop the term “strategic” and think of this subject as relating to things they do everyday.  Like: thinking and planning what to do this weekend or what to do after this semester ends.  Or: soon they’ll have a boss coming to them and exclaiming: “we have a problem that needs to get fixed”, and they’ll be the ones faced with determining what needs to be done about that.  Those are realities they understand.

And now it’s the mid-point in this semester – I’ve never really thought of time in terms of semesters, but my ‘when in Rome’ mindset here has me devising mid-term exams and beginning to think about how to conduct the remainder of this course.  I know what I want to tell them but have to remember that they’re getting ready to conclude the part of their lives that immediately precedes growing up and joining the real world.  So maybe I’ll just get them to think about how a sustainable competitive advantage can apply to them as much as it does to companies out there in the real world.  That’s something I hope will get their attention.

My message this week is simple: plan for the future and the future will take care of you.

“A canvas isn’t empty. It’s full of whatever you imagine it to be full of.”  Jarod Kintz

How active is your imagination? Just like dreams, an active imagination helps promote creativity and innovation.  Your mind’s eye has to be able to see things as you want them to be, and then you need patience and dedication to bring that vision to life.  This applies to the things you make and do, the services you provide, the way you treat others, the attitude you portray when working with colleagues, and the way you plan your life.  You start with a blank canvas, but it’s not empty – it’s full of the possibilities of whatever you imagine it to be full of, and then your efforts bring those things to life, and your energy infuses them with passion and personality.  So let your imagination fill your canvas today with all of the colorful ideas you need to be successful.

Stay well!