Thursday, September 30, 2010

Seeking Lapel Pins

I don’t have many hobbies, but one I do have is that I collect lapel pins.

It began when I was 7 and went to England with my family. Clamoring for souvenirs, my dad purchased a few for me since they were lightweight and cheap.

Since then, I’ve continued to use lapel pins as memory markers and sometimes buy them on trips or receive them as gifts of friendship.

So, if you have some lying in drawers and you don’t want them anymore. Let me know.

I’m up to 670. All categorized, as you might expect.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Marriage in an age of Distraction…

With 7 different devices, 3 kids, and my own business, my mind is constantly racing.

Sometimes that’s a good thing.

Sometimes it’s not.

The NFO handed me the book Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption not because she was saying “we have a problem” (thankfully!) but in her ever-wise way, she’s saying “you should look at this lest we run into a problem.”

Call it the old “ounce of prevention, pound of cure.”

And I’m glad she did.

I saw a LOT of myself in the habits which the authors described and I saw how it could be potentially very destructive to the relationship which I cherish most…the one I have with my smartphone, uh, I mean my wife ;-)

Seriously, the era in which we find ourselves living now, the constant bombardment of information and its 24/7 availability is a good thing, but it can have some serious, deleterious effects.

What I really loved about this book is how they provide a framework for living within this environment. They don’t say “shut it all down,” they say, “it’s here, not here is how we are going to deal with it.”

My favorite concept in the book was the idea of “Conation” which means “how you naturally and instinctively try to do something before anyone has told you waht to do or how to do it.”

Understanding this about your spouse is a key first step to empathy and intimacy.

If you are married or know married people, it’s worth a read.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque Debate and Islamophobia…

a work by nusret colpan depicting the islamic ...
Image via Wikipedia
A friend has been asking me to blog about this for a while and I’ve resisted.  Probably because I didn’t want to get somebody’s knee-jerk reaction of being called an “Islamophobe” or “bigot”.
His question (or at least how I interpreted it) was “how can anyone oppose the mosque and still believe in freedom of religion?”
I can’t speak for everyone, but I think, Simon, it involves suspending belief in your worldview for a moment and being open to the possibility that your analysis is incorrect.
This is difficult for all of us. Any of us.
If you can do that, however, you look at the opposing worldview to yours which is that Islam may be a religion, but that it may also be a religion wrapped inside a totalitarian ideology.
While there is no doubt that there are moderate Muslim factions that don’t seek to replace the Constitution with Sharia, there is equally no doubt that there are factions which would gladly do that.
To say otherwise, is to be ignorant.
For example, to claim that “Islam is the religion of peace” when in August, 2010, 196 Jihad attacks in 23 countries killed 811 people in the name of Islam (source) denies an uncomfortable, but fundamental truth about a significant faction of Muslims.
Are all Muslims evil? Of course not!
Some, like Dr. Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy are standing up to this strain within their own religion.
And while some Americans are in a tizzy about the fact that “Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Sweeps Nation Amid “Mosque” Controversy,” the unfortunate reality is that of the 1,606 religiously motivated hate crimes in 2008 (according to the FBI), 65.7% were against Jews, with only 7.7% against Muslims.
No one is going around saying we have a problem with anti-Semitism?
So, then, what is it?
What it is, I think, or at least what I am interpreting (and let’s just leave out the true racists and bigots from this debate, shall we?), so, what I am interpreting is that there are a group of people who view Islam as a totalitarian, expansionist ideology using the cloak of religion to gain protection from the government (and sympathy from open-minded people like you) to advance its agenda.
And, in this case, the hypothesized agenda is to erect a mosque as a symbol of conquest/dominance at the location where the battle took place, which would be a continuation of much of Muslim military history.
And, as I am sure you have read, the original name (Cordoba House) reflected the highpoint of Muslim domination when its influence extended into the middle of Spain.
So, while it may be easy to brand those who oppose the location of the mosque as Islamophobes in an effort to silence them or deride them for their intolerance, IF the opposing view is indeed correct and the objective is the imposition of Sharia all over the world (which may be difficult for you to believe, but is certainly the stated goal of some Muslims), then the negative reaction to the mosque is actually more in line with your tolerant, liberal, open-minded values than you may originally surmise.
Now, let the name-calling and fighting begin….

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Sad Conclusion…

Iran tests a nuclear weapon

Image via Wikipedia

I recently finished an article in Commentary magazine by Danny Gordis about the existential threat to Israel which Iran poses. (Sadly, the article doesn’t seem to be available online yet).

After reading it, I’ve come to an upsetting conclusion.

First, the assumptions:

  1. Iran is actively seeking to build a nuclear weapon
  2. Iran’s leadership is comfortable with the idea of using a nuclear weapon against Israel, even if it means a retaliatory strike

Now, the conclusions

  1. the “international community” will not be able to create sufficient pressure on Iran to abandon its goals through sanctions or other diplomatic means. Some will want to avoid conflict, some will want to profit from dealing with Iran anyway.
  2. the US, at the present time, does not have the courage/willpower to engage Iran militarily to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure
  3. Israel has the most to lose of any country in the world if Iran gains the bomb
  4. Israel is going to have to strike Iran militarily and suffer the self-righteous condemnation of others for its actions (and there’s no guarantee that the strike will be successful.)

Scary, I know.

Nothing like some light reading for Monday morning.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Even if you’re not 88 or Canadian…

You will love this story about the mayor of Mississauga.

Thanks to Nancy for the link.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Every Moment of Strategic Importance…

The line that has stuck with me for the past few months from Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle is the one where the authors say that a key driver of Israel’s ability to innovate is that “every moment is one filled with the utmost of strategic importance.”

Now, an existential threat to your life and the growth of a business hardly compare in real terms, but in nominal terms, I’ve started to look at every interaction that way.

Perhaps that’s why I get so tense sometimes.

I look at the upcoming month of October and think about the number of deliverables which are coming due and how each of them represent, in some way, the culmination of many months of work.

And, the results of those interactions will, at least in some part, be the verdict of whether (at the moment), the Never Stop Marketing voyage is on the right track.

That makes every moment leading up to the 1st two weeks of October one of "strategic importance.”

And while that is nerve-wracking, it also forces a prioritization which may not otherwise occur. It puts you in the moment.

And that’s really life-affirming.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Travel and Kids…What’s the balance?

This isn’t about travelling with kids.
It’s about traveling without them.
I’m very fortunate at the moment to have a lot of business opportunities and in my role as co-provider, I feel an obligation to take advantage of them.
On the other hand, when you go to places like Delhi, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, and Seattle, it means you are gone for a few days.
And, with time zones, it’s not always easy to connect for bedtime, etc.
It’s exciting, of course, to have the chance to travel, but I don’t want to be an absentee father. I want to be involved.
At the same time, this is the business life I have chosen (for now) and I kind of have to go where the business is (don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but you know what I mean.)
It’s that eternal search for balance. Tough as always.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Value of Books…

Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase
As I shared last week, I am really in love with the Amazon Kindle platform.
But, at the same time, I’ve read about studies that say that the number of books in a house are a key determinant of a child’s future academic success.
So, the question then is: what’s the balance?
Clearly (at least to me), it’s not all or one.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jew’s Ear Juice…and the Secret of Jewish Success

I’ve long heard that the Chinese equate “Jew” with “business acumen.”

Heck, I actually thought that Jews could run seminars in China teaching the key components. Thing is, we don’t know. Or do we?

Well, in China, there’s a drink called “Jew’s Ear Juice” which is kind of like Gatorade for business, I guess.

On a more practical level is a recent gift I received from my buddy, Jeremy Lustman, called Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Lessons from the Torah and Other Ancient Textsalt

Now, you’ll probably get faster results drinking the beverage from China, but for sustained performance, you may want to consider some of the ideas offered by Brackman (a Rabbi) and Jaffe (a business writer).

They demonstrate how many of the traits that are rewarded in business are actually the morals of stories in the Old Testament.

How we learn to deal with failure (from Moses’ mistake of hitting the rock in the desert instead of talking to it) is just one of them.

They further expound that much of the knowledge extended from the Torah and the teaching of the Rabbis build off of that, such as one of my favorits, “The whole world is a narrow bridge. The important thing is to have no fear.” (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov).

If I were Brackman and Jaffe’s marketing advisor, I’d tell them to get the book translated into Mandarin.

I enjoyed it as it gave me yet another angle on the books of the tradition and proves that, even on the Sabbath, it’s ok to never stop marketing :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Crib Milestone…

We’ve lived in our house for almost 6 years.

Every single night we’ve lived here, there’s been a crib in the corner of the room which is still called “The Nursery.”

Until last night.

Nadia is used to sleeping on a mattress now and so, the time has come to bookend the Crib chapter.

For a few minutes, I just stood there, looking at the room sans crib. Taking in the moment, recognizing its significance and appreciating this buena vista of the journey.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yom Kippur

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

Image via Wikipedia

Strange as it may seem, Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday.

I love the intensity of it. The forced introspection.

And, despite the fact that I haven’t eaten, I usually find myself uplifted by the end of the day.

This year, though, I had a hard time.

For most of the day, I couldn’t get my mind off of a nagging business problem.

It troubled me greatly. I felt pretty shallow that I couldn’t focus on my spiritual improvement as I felt like I should.

That made me angry with myself.

Around 6pm, I knew that time was literally running out and I thought back to the numerous sporting events where I had seen one team pull out a “fantastic finish” to win the game in improbable fashion.

I realized that this was precisely what I had to do.

So, instead of berating myself, I started to ask: “well, what is the spiritual opportunity for growth within this business situation?”

And, you know what? I found it.

Well, more than one, in particular, but I think I came away with a greater appreciation for rumination and reflection (instead of reflexively fast reaction) and empathy for the other person on the side of this issue.

Still…not the typical “high” I was hoping for, but an interesting (and satisfactory) conclusion.


Friday, September 17, 2010

The Power of a Women’s Education…

Simmons College Convocation, September 1, 2010

Image by candyschwartz via Flickr

My mom is a graduate of an all-woman college and swears by it.

On my flight to Boston the other day, I met a fascinating woman, Lauren Brisky who is the current Chair of the Board of Trustees of Simmons College.

To say she is a passionate believer in the value of the education she received there is a major understatement. She really sold me on the benefits of all-women colleges (maybe Tonka and Nadia will go there?) and I found myself a believer.

Hey, being the father of daughters has changed my worldview.

What’s more, we had a fascinating conversation about the future of higher education in the US (she’s the former CFO of Vanderbilt), American competitiveness, and some of the disturbing trends we are seeing.

The video interview I made her do (heh, heh) is a good one. I hope you’ll take 4 minutes to check it out.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Harvard Yard…Without a Car

The Never Stop Marketing express took me to Boston this week.

A beautiful city, particularly this time of year, and as is my travel requirement, I was determined to do ONE thing that was unique to the city.

So, I took the “T” to Harvard Square and walked through Harvard Yard.

They have lawn chairs out and I sat there (hoping the brainpower would rub off via osmosis) doing some work in the afternoon sun for a few hours.

Here’s my picture of the Yard with John Harvard himself on the left side (well, his statue).

When I was in high school, I applied to Harvard…and was waitlisted. Glad to know that I finally got in ;-)


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How convincing is this video?

I’m trying to convincingly convey the idea of “Never Stop Marketing” in a video. This is the first whack at it.
I’d love your feedback. It’s (currently) 5 mins long.  Brutal honesty is appreciated.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tennessee on my Mind…

Over Labor Day weekend, the NFO and I took our first trip together sans kids since having them.

A short jaunt to Nashville, aka Music City USA, for the bat mitzvah of the daughter of one of the NFO’s best friends.

Now, my philosophy on travel (adopted from my dad) is that you must do something unique to the locale you are visiting.

On business trips, I set a goal of at least 1 attraction.

On personal trips (though after generating at least 1 lead in Nashville, I suppose there’s no such thing), I aim for 2 or 3.

Well, on this one, I made it to the Hermitage, home of America’s 7th president, Andrew Jackson.

After watching the film narrated by Martin Sheen and certainly updated to cover Jackson’s less than glorious treatment of women, native Americans, and blacks, we learned that “Jacksonian Democracy” and the birth of the Democratic party was actually the language utilized by all of these groups to ultimately advance their own causes….so I guess he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.

I was reminded of some of the aspects of Jackson from my 10th grade US History class with Mrs. Powers and the fact that, shall we say, not everyone thought that Jackson’s “urbane savage” and “autocratic democratic” styles were the best.

Still, I enjoyed the hour or so of American history.

One puzzling moment was at the entrance. The fee was $17 and, if you go to the Hermitage, you are there because you wanted to be. It’s not like it’s in a strip mall.

Well, the family in front of me got into a heated debated about whether the money was worth it or not. Now, certainly, I have NO idea of their financial standing, but I do know that they were on vacation and HAD gone out there.

And, well, especially with your kids (theirs were teenagers), I kind of feel like…if you are already there, better to suck it up and just pay. I, too, hesitated at the price tag, but figured I probably wouldn’t be back for a long time (I had been there once before about 20 years ago), so at less than $1/year, it’s paid off for me well.

I’m not trying to judge them at all, but I did take note of it.

The other two stops were the campus of Vanderbilt University, founded by Commodore Perry with a grant of $1 million (in today’s dollars that’s $18.5 million today or more, depending on how you compare-see here),

and Centennial Park, built to celebrate, you guessed it the 100th anniversary of the state of Tennessee.

The main attraction is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon from Greece, in part, I believe because Nashville is known as “the Athens of the South” for its commitment to education/knowledge.

I also discovered that it is the “silicon valley of healthcare business,” but that’s a topic for another day.

Special kudos to the NFO for her willingness to go.

Monday, September 13, 2010

CD Serendipity..

The NFO and I were in Nashville over Labor Day weekend.

We rented a car. Nothing special there.

Then, we found that the previous renter had left a homemade CD of his/their music in the car.

It was pretty good (or so I thought at least—the NFO did not concur) and I thought that it was a nice, little random moment that sometimes happens.

I left it in the car for the next person…pay it forward, I suppose.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Being the footnote..

Now that I’m a notary public, I have the distinction of being a footnote in the lives of others.

I helped a teenager get his first car (title transfer from a grandparent.)

Helped an infant get a passport.

Helped a young woman process the estate of her recently deceased mother.

In a chat with a dear friend the other day, he questioned whether his line of work really, truly had meaning.

I asked him to peel away the layers of the day-to-day and determine what it was that he was REALLY doing.

In that, by solving people’s problems, there is a noble calling.

I suspect, if we all look deep enough, we can find that purpose within our own work.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What my wife looks like…one perspective

We were at lunch the other day with some friends and a couple we had just met.

The husband of the new couple turned to me (everyone else was listening) and said:

“I hope you’ll excuse me if I say something offensive. It’s just that your wife looks EXACTLY like my least favorite person in the world.”

Thursday, September 09, 2010

May you be inscribed…

A kudu horn, used by Yemenite Jews as a shofar...

Image via Wikipedia

in the Book of Life.

Shana Tova and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Benefits of digital notetaking…

A few weeks ago, I shared how the Livescribe smart pen was starting to impact my life.

Well, as I’ve continued to use it, I’ve found another benefit, which I share in this video. I’ve found it to be pretty helpful when composing proposals and summaries for clients.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

How I fell in love with Amazon Kindle…

Here’s a video explaining why I (finally) got my eyes opened to the power of Amazon’s Kindle platform (not device, as you will see).

I think iBooks on the iPad is good, but what I can do now is truly amazing and it’s finally enough to push me digital on my book purchases.

I had held out primarily because of the fact that I like to read the books, mark them up, and then give them away as gifts (while admitting that I read them, of course), but the benefits of what I can do now are so superior.

There is a small twinge of pain as I think the idea of the book carries so much power with it, but I’m a Schumpeterian….

Monday, September 06, 2010

When kids talk like adults…

Last week’s carpool was the first time I had driven this school year.

Somehow, along the way, I asked our neighbor’s kids (15 and 13) about procrastination among their classmates.

It led to a serious, philosophical discussion about the nature, benefits, and causes of procrastination.

I knew these guys were smart, but we hadn’t really had a chat like this.

It reminded me that when I was in 10th grade, I too, had opinions which I could express.

I had somehow forgotten that, but enjoyed being reminded of it.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Solo Fatherhood Declaration of Victory

carpool lane , A1, Netherlands

Image via Wikipedia

As I shared, the NFO was away for a bit last week.

My task (which I did choose to accept) was to be “on point” from about 6pm on Wed. night (after the Nanny left) until about 9am the next morning (after dropping off Nadia at school).

The evening was pretty straightforward. I’m experienced in that department.

The morning (and those who know me know I am not a morning person) was about getting EVERYONE up and ready, driving carpool for Tikkanen and Jokkanen, coming home and coaxing Lakkanen to get ready in time and then take her to school.

It began at 6.35 (did I mention I’m not a morning person?)

It ended, successfully, at 9:12am, when I entered the house after returning from dropping Gianni off at school.

Those 2 hours and 37 minutes were non-stop intensity and, as I walked through the door, I literally raised my hands in the air and danced a jig (Irish, of course).

Friday, September 03, 2010

From the mouths of babes…

The NFO was away for a day and a half this week (Wed-Thurs), so I was “on point.”

Thursday morning, it was my responsibility to drive carpool and because the NFO was away, I had to take Nadia with us to drop off Tikkanen and Paco.

Thing is, for reasons I won’t go into right now, the TWO car seats that we have for her were not in our house or available.

I wouldn’t say I panicked, but I started to get concerned. I started thinking how I could make this happen and hatched a somewhat crazy backup plan.

While I was scurrying about, Tonka said to me, “I want to tell you something.”

“Not now, princess, I have to figure this out.”

After a few more minutes of phone calls and machinations, she said, “hey, why don’t we just take the booster seat that nobody likes and attach the part from the basement?”

I stood there shocked.

She remembered what I had forgotten.

We actually HAD a car seat that would work for Nadia, but it had been disassembled to a booster for so long that it didn’t occur to me (or the NFO, whom I had consulted.)

Sure enough, that was the best answer. We did it. Problem solved.

I kicked myself…and reminded myself (after the kick), that “you know, my kids are pretty damn smart.”

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Kindergarten Memories…

On Monday, Paco went off to Kindergarten.

Kid #2 going to school.

And it made me emotional (just as much as when Tonka went off to school last year), but also because I realize that my kids are fully into the “age of memory.”

I have some clear visions of Kindergarten in my head and still have many, believe it or not, friends who were in my class.

Ironically enough, the day before, I went to a baseball game with just such a friend, Mark Spira.

We’ve been friends for 32 years and the night before, because I had been looking through my scrapbook for the picture of Bill Clinton with me (see yesterday’s post), I found a picture of the two of us from then.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wonder if they get many takers?

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My Kids and Presidents…

My kids are ENAMORED with the Presidents of the US now.

They both can name them all in order.

Ask them a question, say “who was the 27th President?” and they will tell you.

It’s ridiculous.

They go around saying, “I really want to go see the house of John Quincy Adams.”

In the car ride to the beach, they were quizzing my sister on Presidential trivia.

When she failed to answer correctly, they just plainly stated, “Aunt Kira, you aren’t very good at this.”

I had the chance to be a hero to my son the other day, as we went down the list of Presidents (again!) and he asked me if I had any connection to any of them (a visit to a memorial, a presidential library, an inauguration, etc…they all count. Even Mt. Rushmore counts).

But, when I said, “well, I have a picture of me standing next to Bill Clinton,” he said, “Let’s go look at it RIGHT NOW!!”

And so, digging through my scrapbooks (pre-digital), I found the picture from when I met Clinton while he was Governor of Arkansas, right before he went on to give a long-winded 35 minute speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1992 in Atlanta.

My son was impressed.

with Bill Clinton at 1992 Democratic National Convention