Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mini- Empty Nesters

It's one of those days that you know is a milestone which, I suspect, in hindsight may be even more momentous.

Today, for the first time ever, we shipped off all 3 members of Team Finland (ages 14, 12, and 10) to sleepaway camp for a month.

The consequence is that the NFO and I have the house to ourselves.

The practical benefits are many...fewer dishwasher cycles, loads of laundry, less hassle in the evenings and mornings. Certainly, the workload will decrease.  I, for one, am ok with that.

At the same time, it's a pretty strong reminder of how fleeting, in aggregate, the parenting experience is.  With Paco's Bar Mitzvah on the horizon later this summer, I can't help but have a series of "Sunrise, Sunset" moments flashing back to their birth and early childhood.  In an instant, we are here and they are all off for a month. Soon, I realize, they will be off for a longer period of time.

As my mom has said from the beginning, "the days are long, but the years are short" and I guess this is one of those mornings where it really dawns on you just how true that is.

It's really, really tough (though I feel like I am getting better at it) to savor the moments as they happen during the normal hustle and bustle of life.

It's particularly challenging for me because of my inclination towards Type A, achievement oriented behaviors. Sometimes, I am quite guilty of losing the forest for the trees.

Then, you see all three of your children board a camp bus (where you know they are going to have an amazing time) and you are jolted back into the most present of presents. 

Last week, I was in Israel and was talking with one of my cab drivers about children and family.  He was saying, "remember, the most important thing, at all times, is to make sure that your children know you love them."

Though my kids are well aware of my overarching paternal doctrine of "I am not here to make you happy," I think they are also aware of how I feel about them even if, at times, I don't express it so well or, worse, my other emotions such as anger or frustration get the better of me.

Last week was also Father's Day. I was only home for a few hours before leaving for Israel but before I did, I got 3 beautiful cards from Tikkanen, Jokinen, and Lakkanen.  What I particularly loved about them is that their words told me that, the things I was trying to teach them (consciously and unconsciously) are getting through.

I suppose that is really all you can ask for as a Dad.  I often say that, like technology, part of my job is to "make myself obsolete," to give them the tools so that they can survive and thrive- on their own- in the world because, aside from taxes (of course), we all know the other certainty of life.

It is my job to prepare them to live in the world without me and that means that, even though it is sad, not giving them experiences of being on their own and learning to deal with situations where the NFO and I aren't there, would be dereliction of duty.

I don't know if there is ever a point that you reach as a father where you think, "ok, it seems like my mission as it relates to my children is done."  But I do know that you have to continue to loosen the grip.

Today was a grip loosening day

Friday, June 08, 2018

What the Capitals Stanley Cup Victory Really Means to DC

For the last 10 years or so, when I would talk with people around the world the sports teams in Washington, DC, I would say the following:

"The sports teams in DC are just as competent and uplifting as the politicians in DC.  You can draw your own conclusions."

For years, the teams were either bad (Washington football team) or continually raising hopes and then crushing them in heartbreaking fashion in the playoffs.

Last night, however, the Washington Capitals changed that and won the Stanley Cup.

It was more than a victory that gave the franchise its first championship in 44 years.

To me, it represented something much more and I think it was something that was felt by many others in the area.

Especially since Trump was elected, when people would ask me, "where do you live?"  I would say:  "Oh, I live at Ground Zero for the Twilight the Washington, DC area."

The animosity, the marches, the protests, the all emanates from here and the discord and anger is felt and viewed globally.  In that respect, DC is unlike every other city in the world.  What happens here is on newspapers in Budapest and Seoul. I know this because I've seen newspapers in those places.

The same is not true in reverse.

So, it was really uplifting to see an entire sea of red jerseys that represented not "red states" or "Republicans" but represented an entire city, regardless of political orientation, socio-economic class, race, or religion rally around the team.

The pictures from the heart of Chinatown (where the arena is) reminded me of the pictures they show of viewing parties in European capitals during the World Cup.

Everyone was unified about and excited for the team.

For a city where unity is pretty much the last thing we feel or witness on a daily basis and is the epicenter of so much stress, anger, hostility, and division, it was special (for me, at least) to feel like we could all rally around something in common.

Yes, it's only a hockey game, team, and championship and soon enough, the emotion of the victory will fade, but (and this is perhaps why we love sports), for a brief moment, most of us could just feel great and connected to each other as part of a larger experience.

For the long-time Capitals fans, particularly those who showed dedication to the team through thick and thin, it was an even more special night. They earned it.

But for the rest of the city, even those who joined in later and later in the playoffs, I think the victory helped us all remember that, even when there is so many things that divide us, the feeling of being unified around something larger than ourselves is something that is worth fighting for and believing in.

Let's hope the politicians a few Metro stops away from the heart of the celebration took notice. And maybe, even, notice that it was the team's Russian Captain who made it all possible ;-)

Congratulations to the Caps, the fans, and the city.  #ALLCAPS

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

On ObamaCare, business creation, and investment

If you are a small business owner or a solo entrepreneur, I am curious how you feel about ObamaCare? (If you are not in that category, you are welcome to offer your comments, but please make it clear to others that you are not in a "buck stops here" position) Does it affect your business decisions (or not)? I am concerned that it is stifling new business creation and business growth. This is topical b/c our COBRA is expiring (yes, have had it for 18 months now). Now I need to buy a group plan (even though I don't want any employees), hire someone as an employee, pay payroll and social security taxes and a payroll service provider. So, I am incurring a bunch of unnecessary costs because I have to get a group plan instead of an individual plan because of the vast differences in costs of the two plans. And that's for the high deductible Bronze. We need to set aside more than $30,000 per year to afford premiums and budget for deductibles. What pains me more than all of that (and it really hurts) is this. I imagine that there are people working at companies with employer-sponsored plans who dream of starting their own businesses and achieving financial freedom, having a shot at the American Dream and creating jobs. But, because many people are not in a position to have $30k of free cash flow forecasted for the year right off the bat, they can't "go for it." That means businesses are not getting started and jobs aren't getting created. That saddens me. And that's on top of the deadweight loss associated with this. I blame ObamaCare for having caused the increase in premiums at astronomical rates over the past few years...something my cousin Lee, for example, who has spent his entire life in the health insurance industry predicted would happen. I don't want uninsured people to not have healthcare, but I believe the way to get the money to pay for that is by making it easier for people to start businesses that create jobs and growth.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Waking up at 4am

I can't say that I enjoy the process of getting up at 4am, but I have to say that I do like the results.

I read an article in the WSJ a year or so ago about people who get up early. It seemed crazy, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

I'm kind of a believer now.

It's not easy and I'm far from perfect at it, but I'll get up, meditate for 10 minutes or so and then, the key is, DO NOT LOOK AT PHONE. 

I sit down with my laptop and that is when I do my Never Stop Marketing blog writing.  I close all email tabs and messaging apps and just write for about an hour.

It helps me think about what I am seeing in the industry.

Then, around 5:30 or so, I'll check email, various social media sites, messaging apps, maybe ESPN to see what happened the night before, etc.

Around 6, I go to workout for 30 minutes. Then, take a shower and by 6:45, it's time to wake up the kids.

The downside, of course, is you get pretty tired around 9pm, but I found that the time after 9:30 at night (for me) was not particularly productive.

There are trade-offs and I know it's kind of intense, but I have to say, every day I do it, (and there are days when I really struggle), I am glad I did.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hearing Holocaust Survivors Speak...Before You Can't

Last night, as part of a local Holocaust Remembrance event, my family and I had the privilege of hearing the horrific, painful story of Mrs. Miriam Ingber.

Her story, like that of every other survivor, was heart-wrenching and painful.

After all this time, the pain she feels is still with her. It was obvious.  The story, like all other stories, still defies comprehension. No matter how many testimonials you hear, videos/movies you watch, museums you attend, or concentration/extermination camps you visit, it never makes sense.

I think the sadness I felt last night was even greater because of the eerie sensation that everyone in the room felt and the anticipated arrival of a moment that all of us knew would come one day, but is clearly getting closer.

That is, of course, the day when there are no more living survivors. 

It's been 73 years since WWII ended. That would make even the youngest survivors in their mid-late 70s.

I remember, while living in Germany as a 22 year old, that one of the questions I would ask my contemporaries and of myself is "what will happen when there are no more living survivors?"

And I worried that my kids would never have the chance to hear a survivor's story personally.  At least, on that front, the NFO and I have ensured that they have, but it's clear that time is running out.

And because the Holocaust is so difficult to comprehend, it becomes easy for people to dismiss or diminish or question.  Obviously that has happened and, more worrisome, will continue to happen as the survivor population ages out.

There is no easy answer and it's clear that many of the lessons of the Holocaust have, sadly, not been learned. Anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry/hatred still exist and, in some cases, seem to have been strengthened.

There are many things to do to honor and preserve the memory of the 6 million Jews and millions of others who were murdered by the Nazis. The fight is clearly not over, as if their sacrifice weren't enough.

However, I think that one of the things we all can do is to make sure that as many people as possible get to hear a survivor personally tell his/her story before they can't.

It's a regret that I think anyone who cares about justice and humanity should avoid having.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

2 Days in Seoul, South Korea

The last time I was in Seoul was 1997. I knew the city would be different when I got here (I was speaking at a conference), but even I was impressed by how much has changed.

Granted, when I was here last time I was a student and it was the middle of December and freezing. Still, a few things jumped out.

The infrastructure is first-rate. The airport (Olympics related) is immaculate and efficient. I was out of the plane and in the taxi in about 20 minutes, including immigration.

The subway works really well. I love the glass doors (I've seen this in other places) that keep people away from tracks and tell you where the train is going to open.

But I also love how they number each stop according to the line. So, for example, subway line #2 has 201, 202, 203, etc.  So, instead of having to remember a station name, you just say, "go to 214" or "403". Makes moving around easy.

Oh...and my favorite part? There are multiple wi-fi routers on every single car in the subway and the Internet connectivity is blazing fast. 

Speaking of subways, one thing that stood out were the emergency smoke masks that were available. A reminder that North Korea is about 25 miles away.

My sense is that Koreans, kind of like Israelis, have just gotten use to living under the pressure of being in a constant state of war.  Also, like Israelis, military service is mandatory for men (about 18-20 months, if I am not mistaken).

So, while it's a pressure point, it doesn't seem to be (nor should it be) a constant source of pressure.

I will say that it was a strange sensation for me to watch CNN in the hotel with so much news about the Korean peninsula...and to be on the peninsula while it was all happening.

In some respects, Seoul reminds me of Tokyo...but actually cleaner. The one thing that got to me, however, was that there was a strong, pervasive smell of fish in many parts of the city. Maybe I'm just over sensitive to it.

The roads were really impressive and the high-rises were gleaming.

All of that wealth, however, hasn't seem to be evenly distributed as there is clearly a pretty big divide between rich and poor.

I walked through the Namdeamun market and you still see a fair number of people who have much more of a day to day struggle. Also, not a huge number, but more homelessness than I would have expected. 

My basis of comparison for Korea is probably Japan (right or wrong) since I lived there for 2 years and have been back a few times.

I have only two regrets from the trip. The first is that I wasn't able to achieve K-pop superstardom (though I did hit Gangnam-with style, I hope).

The second is that I did not make it to PyongYang to talk with Kim Jong Un and try to defuse things before Trump gets here.

All in all, however, I think the South Koreans have a lot of which to be proud. 60 years ago, it was a rural, poor country and now they are an economic powerhouse with a highly educated society.

They've taken much of modern, Western civilization, but done it in their own unique way and it's exciting to see.

Friday, March 09, 2018

A $500 Cab Ride to New York

The other night, I was supposed to go to New York on an 8:57 pm train, but when I got to the train station, it was a 2 hour delay.

I was supposed to keynote a large industry event at 8am the next morning with 150+ and, with this delay, I would not be getting into my hotel and to sleep until 3am. Not an option.

Plus, the Amtrak station at BWI (where I leave from) was going to close at 9:45pm so I had no place to even sit without going to the airport.

After discounting the idea of driving myself to NYC (too tired and too many things to do) and exploring the possibility of flying from BWI to Newark or La Guardia (no flights), I ended up negotiating with Nidal.

As a side note, Nidal is Palestinian and we had a great side conversation about the Middle East. At the end, he agreed with my point that it's the fault of the Arabs that the Israelis are so strong and the primary problems with Palestinian leadership are because of their corrupt leadership.

Ok, back to the story....bottom line, by 9:05 pm, I was in the back of cab heading up to NYC on I-95. We stopped once for bathroom/gas and I was at my hotel by 12:30am.

Fare plus tip $500. Graciously, my host picked up the tab. Yay!

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Adapting to Life with Parkinson's

My first cousin describes her incredible attitude and living with Parkinson's in this video.  Watch it at 1.5 speed and it will take you 6 minutes.

You will be inspired.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Watching the Women's Hockey Gold Medal Game in a room of Canadians

I am in Alberta now and I had the opportunity to watch the thrilling US-Canada women's gold medal game in the 2018 Olympics in a room that was 95% Canadian.

I took a video because it was fascinating to watch and listen to their reactions as good and bad things happened over the course of the shootout.

Here you go.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A New Understanding of Bi-Polar Disorder

I will admit that, for many years, I had zero understanding of what bi-polar disorder is.

If I am being completely honest here, I will say that, when I was younger, I basically viewed it as a personality flaw/weakness.

Over the years, I have become more sensitized to it, but I didn't really understand it until my coffee companion from this morning, Charles Blackwell, explained it to me as succinctly as anyone ever has.

It's the difference between feeling down and worthless and KNOWING you are worthless.

The difference between feeling invincible and KNOWING you are invincible.

Read his fantastic post here.

It will, hopefully, shed some light on it for you. I know it did for me and I am grateful to Charles for his openness.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Answering my Door ....from Switzerland

Last week I was in Crypto Valley as part of the Crypto Explorers trip that I co-lead.

After the event one night, around 10pm Zurich time, I get a notification from the Ring doorbell app on my Mac laptop. I open it up and see a door-to-door salesman standing in front of my Maryland.

I proceed to have an entire conversation with him, tell him we're not interested, and see him walk away.

It was fantastic.

I generally like the Ring. I have an issue with the app on my Android, but I think that's my phone, not them.  

I don't have it wired, it's battery charged and, if you don't have motion sensor on, it can last for a few weeks. Just make sure not to lose the special screwdriver. I did and I had to replace it. I got it for free from Ring's customer service (which is EXCELLENT, btw).

This story, however, is why I bought it, so I'm happy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to Get Paid to Read Emails

I have already earned $110.36 just answering unsolicited emails that would otherwise be spam.

This is the future of email marketing. You get paid to read emails.

Join here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 65: Ambien

I'm in Switzerland now for our next Crypto Explorers event.  Trans-Atlantic fights can be brutal if you don't get any sleep.

However, a few years ago, I discovered Ambien...knocks me out and I can basically function.

Today, grateful for this aid in making international travel just a bit easier.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 64: scented candles

I have them in my home office and burn them almost every day. Creates a great environment for thinking and working.

Today, I am grateful for scented candles.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 63: vegan cheese

Of all the things I gave up when I went vegan, I think cheese was the most difficult. That's why I am grateful for vegan cheese. It tastes just like the real thing.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Gratitude Journal - Day 62: remote controls

Who remembers the days of having to actually get up and turn the channel physically on a television?

Wow...think about how the world has changed for you because of the existence of the remote control.

I can relax even more now because of it.

So grateful for the remote control

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 61: My kids

Sadly, the NFO has been down with the flu the last few days. Needless to say, I've been traveling and have some more upcoming.

What has been really great to witness is how the kids, aka "Team Finland" have rallied and stepped up to do more and support the cause of keeping things going.

I am grateful to them for having the presence of mind to up their game when our "Supreme Commander" (aka 'Mom/Ima' aka 'NFO') needs their help.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 60: Not taking the easy way

My driver this morning was a guy named Michael from Barbados.  He is a true "American Dream" success story. Came here with nothing and now he and his wife make $150k+ a year and are content with their lives.

I asked him about his success.

He said, "I think life is about taking on the hard challenges, learning from them, and getting back up again."

I am grateful for people like Michael who provide me inspiration to do the difficult things.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 59- My Parents

We had a family conference call last night. Just the 7 of us. Some matters to discuss and it was great how we were able to do the call with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and purpose.

It was a testament to how my parents raised us, with an ability to not shy away from the tough conversations. 

So, today, I am grateful for that.

There's a lot of work that goes into being a parent, as I've discovered, and this isn't the time/place to do a full analysis, but I did appreciate the environment and culture of openness and honesty and trust that we have with each other (most of the time ;-)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 58: CodeAcademy

One of my goals this year is to improve my understanding of computer programming. I know some of the basics, but given what I think about the direction of technology, I'm personally more interested in it than ever before.

If you ask Team Finland, they will tell you that the one thing I ask them to do every day, it is practice coding.

But, in the 'practice what you preach vein," I have decided to do the same.

Today, I am grateful for CodeAcademy. It's a fantastic, free (with paid upgrade option) way to teach yourself programming skills.

No matter what field you are in, it's going to be valuable.

I spend about 10-15 minutes per day on it and it's already made an impact.

Grateful that this resource exists and that the world of programming is available to so many, if they choose to pursue it.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 57: Global Entry

I don't know who came up with it, but I am very grateful for the Global Entry process when you return to the US from abroad.  There's a fee and you have to get fingerprinted/retina scanned (so when the Russians hack that database, you are really up a creek).

Until then, however, it allows you to fly through immigration in under 1 minute.

After a long, international flight, that's a welcome relief to not stand in any lines.

Yay for government.

Maybe tomorrow I'll do Pre-check and Clear?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gratitude Journal- Day 56- Blogging and Ev Williams

I've been blogging for 18 years now and I still feel so fortunate that I can publish my thoughts to share with others on a daily basis with basically zero friction.

Plus, I've got a repository now of over 3,000 blog posts that serve as my open diary (for the most part).

I also like the fact that it's "pull" not "push" like email is. So, it's there and if you read it, great. If you don't, that's ok as well.

For me, though, it's been a valuable enhancer for life and I'm grateful to Ev Williams for inventing Blogger so log ago.