Monday, May 30, 2005

Back on Top

What is about sports teams that makes us experience events vicariously?

When I was a kid, I lived and died with the fortunes of the Washington Redskins. At some point, that changed, and when I got to college, I became a die-hard fan of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team. As the only Division 1 sport at the school and with a very proud legacy (more national titles than any other school), we had reason to be optimistic.

Yet, the championship eluded us every year since 1987. An unbearable 18 years passed before we ascended to the top spot this past Monday.

What’s worse is that each spring was filled with hope and the team performed quite well in the regular season. Frequently, we were #1 and in my senior season, er, year, we were undefeated (I went to every game that year-home AND away). Yet, we’d always run into a “hot” goalie or some other obstacle that would cause us to lose. Each spring would start with the best beliefs and end with a “next year.”

This year, however, was “next year.”

This year, we were coached by a returning son, who had played on the last championship team and whose sole mission was to restore Hopkins to its rightful place at the top of college lacrosse.

On Saturday, we faced a familiar nemesis, UVA, which had quashed our most recent hopes in the Finals 2 years ago. After a miraculous come from behind victory, we encountered a newcomer to the upper echelons of the college lacrosse world, Duke, which had motive for revenge following a close defeat one month prior as well as possessing the nation’s best offense.

Yet somehow, this year, we had the “hot” goalie and in a game that was in doubt until the very end, we came out on top.

During the entire game, my heart was pounding. I was jumping for joy when we scored. I wore my jersey. The kid in me lived on. I reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to in a while simply because my, no ‘our’ team had become the champions.

We didn’t score a goal, play defense, or attend practice, yet somehow, I feel this victory is as much mine as the guys who played.

Why is that? What is it about the allegiance to a sports team that creates this emotional bond?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Decisiveness vs. Impulsiveness

In his book, "Only the Paranoid Survive," Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel suggests that one of the most common mistakes in business (and arguably in life) is waiting too long to make a decision. Usually, people know what they have to do, but for emotional reasons, can't bring themselves to do it.

I try to take this to heart, but sometimes I feel like in my rush to make a decision, I don't always think through all of the options.

The other day, I had a guy out to my house to clean my chimney. He told me that the chimney was fine, but the liner was cracked and it would cost a chunk of money to repair it.

I said "yes," without even really thinking it over or getting another estimate just because I wanted it done.

Upon further reflection, I realized I had made a mistake. This was not something that had to be done right now, I just wanted it over with and didn't really think it through.

Now, I've got to undo it.

Man, it seems like I keep saying that the challenge is balance between 2 extremes!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Becoming the Corporate Yuppie

I've become the guy I resented.

I will explain. Having grown up as a die-hard Redskins fan, one of the things I used to love was going to the games at RFK stadium (a dingy, old, dirty place) with my brothers. IT was like going camping. We wore jeans, boots, and sweatshirts to the game.

In the early 90's the team moved to a new stadium and we went to the first game there, dressed as we always did.

When we got there, we saw that the environment had changed. I can still see a guy in his dockers and loafers with his cell phone and I was thinking, "man, this place has gone all corporate!" The real fans were left in SE DC.

Well now, a few years down the road, I find myself taking business associates to game and dressing that way. I was at Camden Yards a few weeks ago and next week, I am going back to RFK-the corporate yuppie has returned.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

I've spent a LOT of time thinking, studying, and reading about the Holocaust. Lived in Germany. Visited concentration camps. Talked with survivors. It's a subject that can't be comprehended intellectually, in my opinion.

This afternoon, as my daughter was taking her nap, I took a moment to watch a documentary that a former babysitter of mine had produced based on the diaries of children survivors and non-survivors of the Holocaust.

One scene is etched into my mind. It was parents putting their young children on a train to save them from the coming Nazi menace, knowing that in all likelihood, they would never see their kids again.

I thought about my daughter upstairs and a new wave of emotion, one I had never experienced before when thinking about the Holocaust, overcame me. As a father, I now had an even deeper appreciation for the pain that people must have felt as they did everything they could to keep their children safe.

When she woke up, I told her how much I loved her, and gave her a big kiss and hug. And I just read this entry to her while she is having her dinner.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Whoa! I never realized how fast grass grows.

The lawn guy quoted me $500 for the entire summer and I thought about it, but at this stage, I've got to go with the philosophy that I point my money towards things that reduce costs and improve value. I can cut my own lawn (and ok, for a few days, the grass is really long), but resources are limited and need to be allocated wisely.

If there's one thing I've learned as a homeowner, it's that there's no end to the amount of money you can spend on upkeep of your home.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Calanit Says "No"

Somehow, my daughter has figured out how to say "NO." And she says it to everything, no matter what.

"Time to go to sleep."

"Want to eat now?"

Finally, I had a good time saying things like:
"how about you stay up all night and forget about your bath?"

"Ok," I said, "we can work with that."

I guess kids require some creativity. :-)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Balancing Present vs. Future Consumption

I minored in Economics in college and that subject definitely helps shape my perspective on the world. I remember from one of my classes, Macro, I think, that the trade-off between present and future consumption lies at the core of the discipline.

For many years, I was motivated by future consumption. I saved...relentlessly, thinking about the big expenses I would face down the road. Perhaps it was taught by my parents to me...deferred gratification or something like that, but I was very disciplined about it. I'm glad, because in many ways, it has made some of the things I've acquired less stressful.

On the other hand is present consumption. Now, I don't think I consume wantonly or just for the sake of consumption (at least I don't think I do), but as I've matured (or maybe just gotten older), I see that life is fragile and while we do need to live/save for the future, there is something to be said for rewarding ourselves in the present, because, as you know, you never know when it will end.

I don't mean to be morbid, of course, it's just a fact. The real challenge that I see is, as with everything, what's the balance? What is "instant gratification" or irrational consumption versus a legitimate enjoyment of the fruits of your labor. You can always say "I'll need the money later" and you will, but sometimes later never comes. Obviously, there's the flip side.

I just want to be responsible to myself today and myself tomorrow. Tough one.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

You can view things as transactions or a chance to build a lasting relationship. It's your choice.

Went to my 10 year college reunion on Saturday night and I'm really glad I did.

It's great to have these periodic check-ins with people who affected (to varying degrees) the person I have become.

It's also interesting to see how different lives are playing out. Some people...well, they are doing exactly what I thought they would be doing. Others, a bit less so, and others, well, their lives are nowhere where I'd thought they be. This is great, because it forces me to think about judging people too early.

I was very glad to see many of these folks. It occured to me that the people who do take the time to come to reunions are those who view college as a relationship, not as a transaction, and frankly, we're all better off that way. Good for us, that we valued our time there and we made friends, developed into the people we are becoming, and continue to learn from each other.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Knowledge Economy

Listening recently to a series of lectures on economics by a professor at U of Minnesota. It's gotten me thinking about how to stay competitive in the "Knowledge Economy."

It's clear from the data that those w/more education tend to receive higher wages. The question though is: what type of education? When is the right time? How do you know that you're going after the right credentials? Which credentials are the best?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Staying Hungry

I read an article recently by Tom Friedman in the NYT called, "The World is Flat." It's about the increasing competition from places like India and the hunger that people there have for the American lifestyle.

Meanwhile, in America, it's easy to get soft. I mean, you have your Tivo, er, Media Center PC (a Microsoft product), you have entire industries catering to leisure activities, and you think you are entitled to things like vacation, cheap gas, and Internet service. With the affluence that many of us have (we may not be super rich and of course we have monetary concerns, but we're not starving and many of our basic and advanced needs aremet), is it easy to get soft?

The question then: how do you keep hungry? Money is, to some extent a motivator, but who's going to give more of himself, the immigrant off the boat (or the remote technician in Bangalore) who is trying to save enough money to buy a house or send his kid to college, or the Ivy league educated lawyer who's got a house, 2 cars, takes vacations to Europe, and does yardwork on the weekends for fun?

For a while, that works. But Friedman points out that the challenges we face are greater now, there is more competition and you can't stand still. The paradigm for "making it" and having a career have changed. I've been told that when people reach a certain age or status, they start to "coast." Friedman's point is, you can never coast.

Is knowing that enough? How do you convince others?

I read about high school kids who drink and use drugs and have wild parties and wonder if that's symptomatic of having too much affluence. Are the other kids who have to prove themselves, learn English or whatever, going out and partying or are they home studying?

I saw a friend last night who's a bright guy, roughly my age, who said, "I don't read anymore. When I come home from a hard day's work, I want to be entertained, so I watch 24."

Some TV is good, but are we entitled to entertainment? I'm wondering if there's another guy who wants my friend's job is out there studying up on the field, thinking up the next big idea, and while 24 is on, is going to put my friend's livelihood on the line.

Maybe I've read too much of Andy Grove's "Only the Paranoid Survive."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

One barrier to adoption of Vonage is the possible lack of “always on” phone.

We lost our Comcast for about 12 hours…and though we’re used to it, it’s still annoying. I think the ‘average user” is just not going to put up with that uncertainty, particularly when you’ve come to expect 100% uptime from your dial tone service.

Just a thought.