Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moscow-Now, I get the whole “Russian Winter” Thing…

St. Basil's in Moscow

As soon as I walked out of the airport into the February cold (it was 3 degrees Fahrenheit), I said, “Ok, now I understand why Napoleon and Hitler didn’t make it.”

Man, it was BRUTAL!!

After 8 minutes of being outside of the Metro (which is GORGEOUS because during the 30s and 40s, all of the wealth was appropriated from the aristocracy to create the “people’s subway), on our way to Red Square, I said, “ok, I’ve had enough, I’m declaring victory.”

I had on thermal underwear and 4 layers of clothing. I couldn’t feel my face. I only had about 2 hours to do my sightseeing, so along with my dad and sister (who joined me on this trip), I went to Red Square, saw the Kremlin, Lenin’s Tomb, St. Basil’s Church, the GUND department store (which, I am told, was sort of the bastion of communism, but now is a display of capitalist largesse—the irony wasn’t lost on me), and rode the Metro.

Oh, we also saw the building of the Bolshoi ballet from across the street.

Lenin's Tomb in MoscowAnyway, Moscow is kind of like the Wild West. Rules sort of apply.

It’s clear that there is a “westerner” tax on pretty much everything. A 10 minute cab ride is $30 (and that’s after you negotiate), for example.

There’s also apparently a set of “oligarchs” who are able to buy some sort of blue light to affix to the top of their automobiles. Once they do that, it’s like an EZ-Pass for Traffic. People are supposed to move out of their way and recently, someone didn’t and was killed by a speeding car.

And it extends down the chain. I didn’t see any, but heard about the “pazahloosta” sticks which some low-level policemen employ. Basically, in the middle of traffic, they pull your car over and won’t release you until you’ve paid them off with a bribe.

That being said, a lot of stuff does seem to work pretty well. The metro, of course. Traffic, while heavy, isn’t nearly as chaotic as some places, and, well, let’s just say that they have mastered the art of snow removal.

I suppose necessity is the mother of invention in this respect and, apparently, there are conveyor belts to extricate the snow from the city to the surrounding areas.

Moscow Subway (3)Speaking of snow and temperature, one movement that hasn’t arrived here (and doesn’t seem likely to) is the “no fur" coats one. There are a TON of fur coats. In the US, these people would be ostracized.  In Moscow, it’s commonplace. I guess it’s survival and practicality.

Speaking of survival, the Darwinian question which arose in my head was: “how the hell did the Russians survive their own winter in the days before heating, thinsulate, and gore-tex? I mean, I was cold most of the time and I was barely outside at all.

Maybe this partially explains the expertise with sauna maintenance.

I love saunas. The hotter, the better. I had my bachelor party at the Russian Bath House on 10th St. in Manhattan and I know the difference between a great sauna and a not so great sauna.

During the month of February, I was in saunas in Sao Paolo, Bogota, Munich, and Moscow and let’s just say, in this respect, the Europeans dominate. They really know what they are doing. (I know, I need to go to Finland, but that’s another day.)

Speaking of the sauna, I met a Russian guy who now lives in Seattle and works for Boeing and he helped put into words some of my observations.

Moscow is a city that is struggling for its identity.

On the one hand, you have the oligarchs, the people who make a TON of money in oil, natural gas, and diamonds (in the East), but spend it here. It’s the financial and commercial capital. Some of the clubs have tables that go for $10k a night. It’s crazy. The desire for the accoutrements of wealth, the name brand designers is evident. There are is also some really beautiful architecture and the wide boulevards were appealing to me.

On the flip side, there’s plenty of the Soviet-style utilitarian architecture. There’s a LOT of corruption and there’s concern about a potential political upheaval (and that fears drives the tolerance for the Putin heavy-handed regime which, for example, won’t allow Blackberry Messenger to work in the country because the information can’t be read by surveillance technologies—or so I’m told).

From the marketing perspective, customer service (aside from the high-end places) isn’t really a core competency. There’s a gruffness to the approach and it’s always so comfortable.

I was told MANY times that “Russians don’t smile.” The combination of the hardships of life here, the cold, and uncertainty make people not only drink vodka, but also there’s some sort of “Russian soul” that says “you don’t show emotion.”

Interestingly enough, I remember when I filled out the visa (which was, BY FAR, the most difficult I’ve encountered), that there was a stern warning that your visa picture could NOT be of you smiling. You had to be straight-faced. Mine was borderline, but I made it.

Speaking of the visa,  you had to tell them what day you were arriving and departing from the country. If you got the visa and your travel plans changed, you have to reapply. Crazy.

All that being said, I found that, in many cases, especially among younger Russians (who often speak English well and much better than older Russians), that this “no smiling” wasn’t the case. In my presentation at Microsoft (the reason for my trip), I saw many people laughing and smiling (or maybe I’m just really entertaining.)

I could go on (and might in a future post, who knows?) and there’s obviously a lot here, but I guess the one thing that kept popping into my head, given that I came of age during the Cold War was “holy goodness, I’m in Moscow!”

That and “I wonder if I get "extra hard core” bonus points for coming here in February?”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Keys to Consulting…

When I started this business almost 3 years ago, I thought that “subject matter expertise” was about 80% of the reason why people hire you.

Now, I think it is about 20%.

The real stuff is in client relationships, marketing, business operations, planning (a lot of planning), management, and just raw execution.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remembering FDR…

FDR Memorial

On our most recent DC-focused excursion, Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts and I visited the (relatively new, by my standards at least) Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial.

Now, the kids (Tikkanen, Jokinen, and Lakkanen) have developed a fondness for presidents. If you go up to them and ask “who was the <insert number here> president?” they will tell you (unless shyness takes over.)

They have also accumulated a wide base of facts about the presidents (who the first to live in the White House was, who was so overweight he required a new bathtub, and more).

So, together with my sister, Dina and her husband and son, we took a Sunday morning visit to this new type of memorial.

Instead of “one place” like the Lincoln or Jefferson, this one is a “walk-in” and “walk-through” experience, taking you through FDR’s four terms. Each segment has a theme, inspired quotes, and a physical/visual element to complement the theme.

For example, the WWII section has rocks strewn about, representing the destruction of war and the 4th term has the new world order emerging.

As with most of these excursions, the objective wasn’t to have them memorize a set of facts about FDR, it was to help them appreciate the wonderful city in which we live, develop a sense of curiosity, appreciate the importance of history, and of course, have some family bonding.

This was my first visit to the FDR memorial and I enjoyed it a lot. Even more because of the company, the experience, and the memory.

Next time, we’re going to try and make the Lincoln Memorial.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3 hours in Munich….

Marienplatz in MunichEven though I lived in Germany for a year in ‘95-‘96, the idea of a significance Jewish presence there still leaves me in wonderment.

And the idea that a major synagogue and community center would be located 200 meters from the historic epicenter of Munich, the Marienplatz really boggles my mind.

Yet, that is the situation and the new synagogue, designed by world-famous architect, Daniel Liebskind, as well as the community center next to it, was one of my highlights of the 3 hours of touring I had in Munich over the course of two days.

Munich has a special place in my history because that is where my years of travel began.

20 years ago, I decided to major in History and with that came the requirement to study a foreign language. 

Jeremy and Tula--17 years laterInspired by the desire to create some controversy, I chose German and my life hasn’t been the same since.

After 3 years of study in Baltimore, I decided that the best and only way to really learn the language was to go to Germany.  I did a 6 week summer program at the University of Regensburg.

Prior to my trip, a mutual friend introduced me to Tula Daunderer who becamenew Synagogue and Community Center in Munich (1) my German “host mother.” She picked me up as a fresh 21 year old at the airport, helped me acclimate and we’ve been friends ever since.

So, reuniting with her (I had seen her once about 8-9 years ago in DC), was a huge highlight as well.

new Synagogue and Community Center in Munich (2)A visit to Marienplatz and the famous Glockenspiel (moving characters on the clock) pretty much topped it all off (unless you count the riding on the subway system….as efficient as ever.)

Actually, that’s not quite true.

new Synagogue and Community Center in Munich (3)The NFO and I have some friends, Ariella and Yaron, who are in Munich for a 3 year stint (they are Israelis). As luck would have it, they lived 4 minutes away from the hotel where I was staying, so I managed a quick 25 minute visit with them, which propelled them into an elite and unique group: people I have seen on 3 different continents (joining them are Yitz, Albert, & Simone Moses and Laura Sheppard Brant).

Kira and Dad waiting for the S-BahnAs a bonus, my dad and sister were tagging along on the trip, so I had there company for a bit as well (though I gladly let them sit in Economy Class while I enjoyed the perks of Business class Winking smile

Munich offers a cosmopolitan experience, but stoked in a Romantic Bavarian past. It’s a very walkable city and easy to get around, but as with all things travel (for me, at least), it is about the people and the experiences. In this respect, the Munich visit was a big win.

Even better, I discovered that my German skills haven’t waned that much.

Best of all, it gave me the chance to reflect on where I was 17 years ago on my first visit and where I am today. 

Call it the Munich Timewarp.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Return to Muenchen…

The Rathaus and Marienplatz from Peterskirche ...

Image via Wikipedia

In hindsight, we are able to identify special times or places after which we are no longer the same.

On a societal level, things like 9/11 certainly fit the mold, but our lives are filled with hundreds of these turning points.

For me, arriving in Munich in the summer of 1994, between my junior and senior years of college, was one of those moments.

I arrived solo and after a 6 week course as the University of Regensburg, I took off on a solo 4 week backpack/hostel excursion through a large chunk of Europe.

After that, my life and worldview were never the same.

So, an opportunity to fly back to Munich to teach a class on behalf of Microsoft on Digital Marketing was welcome.

It’s a chance to reflect on the twists and turns of life ever since.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tim Horton’s and a “Canadian Moment”

A photo of a Tim Horton's cup of coffee. Inten...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s one thing to suspend my travel philosophy of “do something unique to that place, even if only for an hour” when visiting Caracas, Venezuela (security concerns).

It’s quite another on a visit to suburban Toronto (Mississauga).

With only 24 hours in Canada and a full day of activity in the Microsoft offices, the commitment was put to the test.

However, the “luck of the Canuck” would arrive that day to make a memorable moment.

After a lunchtime presentation and some afternoon meetings, I was scheduled to do a 7pm-11pm webcast for a virtual course.

This was to be Day 2 out of 3 and, in casual conversation during Day 1 (while I was at home), it was discovered that one of the students in the class actually was based out of the Mississauga (Ontario) office, where I would be the next night.

Clearly someone who “never stops marketing,” Karen (the aforementioned student) agreed to keep me company in the office and then made the suggestion:

“You know, Tim Horton’s is open 24 hours. We could go there after the class for a ‘double-double.’” (Apparently, that’s the signature drink.)

Now, the last thing I needed after being up for 22 hours straight (another story for another day) was coffee, but with time expiring in the 3rd period (normally, I’d say 4th quarter, but trying to be ‘hockey-centric’ here), it seemed like the best option.

I was reminded of a classic scene of Tim Horton’s from How I Met Your Mother (can’t seem to find the actual clip) and while I wasn’t kicked out of the country, we did have a good time.

Video below and here. Nothing earth shattering in this video. Just what you would expect from some giddy, late-night visitors to Tim’s Winking smile

Most importantly, I felt like I re-upped my status as “honorary Canadian” which I had earned in Malaysia (see here).

Good stuff, eh?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

From Ethiopia to the Knesset…

Sent in by mom. This video is quite inspirational.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Invention of Money

When I was in Brazil, Neal told me about a great episode of “This American Life” where they talk about the invention and fiction of money.

The first example was how Brazil stopped their horrific inflation rate using a “trick.”

I bought it and really enjoyed it.

The Invention of Money

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ATM in the break room…

Because of security concerns in Caracas, it is apparently quite common for businesses to have ATM machines in their office break rooms.

Here’s the one in the Microsoft office in Caracas, Venezuela next to the coffee machine.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Caracas Redux


Image via Wikipedia

One of the benefits of doing work with a company like Microsoft is that you automatically have a built-in community of people to connect with.

I had the good fortune of meeting up with some of the Microsoft folks  for drinks on the first night I was in Caracas.

My conversation with them validated why I love to travel.

What proceeded to happen over the course of two hours (and maybe a bit too much whiskey) was that they just obliterated some of my pre-conceived notions of Venezuela.

First off, it’s ok to discuss politics.

Second, at least 50% of the people are fed up with Chavez and they predict he will lose in the next election (2012) and, if he does, he will step down.

Third, these guys are hilarious. Despite all of their country’s woes (and they know it’s bad-2 devaluations of the currency within the past year, government control, etc.), they are optimistic about the future and belief in the Venezuelan people as a group that love life, can come together, and there will be a brighter day.

That day, however, isn’t around the corner…it’s many years down the road.

As one of them said, “this is where I live. It’s where my family lives. I’m part of this place. I don’t think I’ll see the brighter day, but my daughter will.”

It reminded me that, despite my fear of the security, violence, anti-American sentiment, that these are regular, good people just doing their best.

America is just a convenient bogeyman for Chavez. It’s about finding an enemy so that he doesn’t have to take the blame for all of the problems I described the other day.

In reality, they say, most Venezuelans LOVE America. They buy American things, go to Disney World on vacation, and like what America stands for.

South America has been a true eye-opener for me. A strong reminder that you “fear what you don’t know” and the important thing is to conquer those fears and investigate for yourself, making your own opinions.

That’s not to say that I’m going to go out and walk the streets of Caracas alone at midnight with a pile of cash tied to my chest, but it is to say that I am not going to say “Chavez=Venezuela,” end of story.

I’m going to remember that there are people behind the story. People with opinions, feelings, hopes and aspirations and that I need to hear their stories as well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Unexpected Wedding Repertoire in Sao Paolo

I just got a huge kick out of the Jewish repertoire of this Brazilian wedding band.

I never got an answer if they were Jewish, but I'm willing to bet that some/most of them aren't. I particularly like the “Mashiach” song.

Here’s video 1 and video 2.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Arriving in Caracas…

Presidente de la República Bolivariana de Vene...

Image by ¡Que comunismo! via Flickr

In my travels through South America, the refrain that I heard in Sao Paolo and in Bogota was “the city is like any other city. There are some areas you go to that are safe. Some are dangerous. Just be smart. Maybe it makes sense to not go around alone at night and you’ll be fine.”

Caracas was different.

Pretty much I everyone I spoke to about Caracas said…”It’s dangerous. You probably shouldn’t leave your hotel unless you are with someone you know.

Don’t take a cab. Arrange for rides.”

So, I did.

My usual travel philosophy is “Make sure I go out and do something unique to that city so that I don’t just stay in the hotel.”

In Caracas, I suspended that rule. My activity consisted of “hiring a private driver and car (via an approved service through Microsoft) and going from the airport to the hotel…all the while, looking out the window.)

So that’s what I did.

Now, when you arrive in Venezuela, you see the beautiful beaches, the beautiful mountains, the equatorial climate and it looks nice.

The airport is clean and modern.

But, then you see it.

Everywhere…and I mean EVERYWHERE, you start seeing signs for “Independencia y Revolucion” and “Socialists Grande” or something to that effect.

The propaganda machine is in full effect.

But, just because you say something doesn’t make it true.

Once you clear immigration, get your bags, and go through customs, there’s a small area with some railings behind which stand family members and car service pick up people holding signs with names.

I wasn’t going to leave that area until I found my guy (which I did quickly, fortunately).

Now, here’s the strange part…no fewer than 4 different security guards in that restricted area came up to me and said “Cambio?" wishing to exchange dollars on the black market.

Now, even if I was going to get the rate of the century, I certainly wasn’t going to do it in the open of the airport with a security guard.

And, for all I know, I would exchange it on the black market and then the guy would promptly turn me over to the police.

No, thanks, I’ll pay the official rate…kind of like a bribe, I suppose.

And, once my driver (Miguel—really nice family guy) took my bags and escorted me out to the parking lot, another 4 people asked “Cambio?”

I wasn’t getting the distinct “lipstick on a pig” feeling in this place.

The car, a generic Chevrolet with tinted windows (I guess to protect the anonymity of the gringo inside), was fine. The driver was great and friendly. We made light conversation.

Of course, my usual topic is the political situation and economics, but I shied away from that this time around.

As you drive into and through this city of 7 million, you can’t help but notice the contrasts (not between rich and poor like in other S. American countries-though I’m sure that exists), but between the propaganda proclaiming how great everything is and the raw fact that the city is just really dirty.

You’ll see the occasional sign of wealth, a DirectTV satellite dish, a Mercedes, a fancy apartment building with not only high walls, but electrified wiring on top of it, but for the most part, everything is just plain falling apart.

The buildings look like they haven’t been renovated since, I don’t know, 1975…the slums (and there are many of them) are just a mess. Even the central business district which has a few “semi-modern” buildings is just dirty. The windows haven’t been washed and are covered in grime. Like the whole place needs a shower.

It’s not that there is trash everywhere…some parts yes, but nothing obscene. It’s just that entropy has set in.

The cars are rusting, held together by string and wire, and Bolivar’s image is all over the place.

A few times, I heard a siren and thought “usually, I know the siren isn’t coming for me. Now, I’m worried that a corrupt cop might just pull me over.”

I was excited to meet the Microsoft folks. They had intimated to me that not everyone buys into the philosophy here.

But, as I rode through the streets, I thought “WHAT am I doing here? It’s at odds with everything I believe.”

I get to the hotel. Nice, friendly, clean, western. Everyone had told me that the hotel was my safe reservoir.

The bellboy, a very nice guy named Guillermo, helped me with my bags. I had no Venezuelan Bolivars with me. I said, “I’ll change some money later and find you.”

To which he said, “Oh, you need to change money? I can help you with that.”

More on Caracas coming soon…

The Jew of Bogota…

Not everyone will appreciate how ridiculous this story is (at least from my perspective).

I get to the Business Class lounge in Bogota, going to Caracas, and I look over to see a guy wearing tefillin (phylacteries) and saying/finishing the morning prayers.

When he’s done, I start talking to him.

Turns out there are 2,000 Jews in Bogota, where he’s from and, of course, there’s both an Ashkenazic and Sephardic synagogue. The latter was 9 blocks from my hotel (he invited me over for Sabbath dinner “next time you’re in Bogota”-have to work on that one.)

They were off to Panama to see their new grandson and his wife works for, hang on, the Jewish National Fund (Colombia division).

Definitely not something I was expecting to see.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

One thing I learned in Bogota…

My Spanish comprehension is actually a lot better than I realized.

And, my vocabulary, while not stellar, would be in the “Advanced Basic” Category.

I basically carried on a conversation for 1 hour with my non-English speaking guide.

I was pretty happy about that.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bogota…Not What I Expected

A typical street of Candelaria, Bogotá (Colombia)

Image via Wikipedia

If I had a list of things I’d probably never do, “Tour of Historic Bogota” would probably be one of them.

Well, as if you needed further proof that life takes unexpected turns, that item is now off the list.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about Bogota.

I’d heard the horror stories of kidnappings, pickpockets, robbery, etc.

I also had the standard, I think, American perception of the country as Pablo Escobar-land of lawlessness.

My driver, Domingo, quickly began to dispel those notions.

He also dispelled the notion that my Spanish is poor as I was able to essentially carry on a conversation with him en Espanol for over an hour, but I digress.

Sure, there are unsafe parts of the city and you do need to be careful, but in the last 10 years, the country has, according to him, undergone a renaissance.image

Security is way up. Corruption is way down. Inflation is under control and people feel confident.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Bogota is a beautiful city, but I was certainly impressed by how clean and well-maintained some parts of it were.

Parque Simon Bolivar, for example, is massive and immaculate. The downtown historic area, known as “La Candelaria” isn’t spotless, but for an area of town that is close to 500 years old…it’s looking pretty good.

The central square, Plaza de Bolivar needs a bit of love (Bolivar’s big here—in fact there’s a house he stayed in and apparently jumped through its window, but I didn’t get that whole story. Also, his mistress was here, I think)

The city is 2625 meters high and lies on a plain (kind of like Denver) below some towering mountains. Given the altitude, I was looking forward to working out!

I took a cable car up to the Church of Monserrate to take it all in. That was certainly worth it…as you can see.

I didn’t have my camera, so I found an American to take a pic w/his iPhone and email it to me.

Domingo kept pointing out the Universities all around town (a lot of them) and I subsequently read that it’s called the “Athens of Latin America.”

There’s poverty, dirt, and grime. No question.

But, there’s also a big investment in infrastructure.

I was standing in the middle of Plaza de Bolivar on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, watching the Colombians do their thing and while I had a hand on my pocket, I also realized that it was one of those moments when I realized I had simply feared the unknown.

It was actually uplifting to hear the positive attitude of Domingo (echoed by the hotel staff as well) of the direction that this country, notorious for its narco-terrorist past is taking. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Stories We Tell Ourselves…

In marketing, we know that the best way to convince or persuade someone to act is to help them create their own narrative as to why they want/must buy something.

We do this in almost all parts of our lives.

Case in recent (insane) travel schedule.

It’s tough on the NFO and tough on KKR. No doubt.

Now, I love travel. I love marketing. And I love getting paid to do both, BUT…part of the story that I tell myself is that I am ultimately going to be a BETTER father by taking these trips to distant lands, taking me away form my kids.


Well, it’s no secret that globalization is a powerful force.

It’s no doubt that it’s only starting and we have ways to go.

So, I reason, the more I can understand some of the different factors that affect globalization, some of the countries involved, and the issues they face…many or all of which will (I don’t think it can be argued) have an impact on the future lives of my children, the better I can prepare them for that world.

True? False?

It doesn’t really matter.

It’s the story I’ve convinced myself is true, so I can live with it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Sao Paolo Controls Water…and Traffic

In the central part of Sao Paolo, there are pretty big dips in the road at each intersection. Think of them as inverted speed bumps.

The primary reason, I’m told, is to control the flow of water during the rainy season (which is intense).

Otherwise, the streets flood (and sometimes even in spite of that).

But, they also have another affect.

It prevents people from speeding through downtown.

One change. Two impacts. Kind of neat.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brazil and Coffee

Bags of coffee in São Paulo
Image via Wikipedia
I should have mentioned this in the first post, but perhaps I was too wired from caffeine to think straight.
It’s no secret that Brazil and coffee go hand in hand.
Sao Paolo, at 800 meters elevation, is the center of the coffee region for the country.
And people here drink coffee…ALL THE TIME.
It’s very strong and has a ton of character.
I loved it.
But, I probably averaged 6 espressos for each of the first 2 days I was here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Know someone looking for a job?

If you know people who are looking for a job/just want to know about the market, tell them about the Never Stop Marketing job board.

When ppl in my network ask "do you know anyone who...?" I post the jobs there.

Already a few good ones this week.  Sign up here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sao Paolo Traffic Rules

NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Motorists dri...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

People in Sao Paolo love to talk and complain about the traffic.

In a city of 20 million, you can imagine that it gets pretty crazy.

They have an interesting system for managing traffic flow. At least I had never heard of it before.

Depending on the day of the week, certain cars are prohibited from driving on the roads between 7am-10am and 5pm-8pm.

And, it is according to the final digit of your license plate number.

Day of Week Final Digit of License Plate Who are Prohibited during Rush Hour
Monday 0, 1
Tuesday 2, 3
Wednesday 4, 5
Thursday 6, 7
Friday 8,9

As you might imagine, this creates additional challenges, opportunities, and novel solutions.

People have to either leave work early..or stay late.

If you have two cars (some buy two), you have to think strategically about which person needs to go where on which day and at what time.

Just interesting.

Motorcycles (of which there are many…and 2 deaths EVERY DAY-I’m told) are always permitted.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Public Unions and Undercover Boss…

Undercover Boss (U.S. TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

I’m sure this will create some controversy, but hey….look at the tagline for this blog.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is fascinating to me. In some respects, I think the future of America hangs in the balance.

It’s no secret where I stand on unions and even though that can sometimes lead to anti-Semitic diatribes by NEA board members, I’m ok with it.

When I look at this debate, I tend to (no surprise) look at with my marketing hat.

Where I think the unions and public sector employees are hurt is in the perception of their attitudes about work and responsibility.

The public discourse seems to be most often about “benefits” and “entitlements.” You’ll frequently hear stories about people who leave their jobs at the pre-appointed time whether the work is done or not.

Living in the DC area, you hear this a lot.

You hear people talk about vacation days they’ve accrued, etc.

It’s like (and again, this is just perception), the concern by public employees is about these benefits and the need to protect them.

I think very few people these days say “we need unions so that bosses don’t abuse people on the job.” There are enough safeguards around that the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire (or its public sector equivalent) is a widespread problem.

Now, I’m not saying that the perceptions are right. I’m just arguing that this is what the perception is.

Changing that perception is part of the battle.

Watching Undercover Boss the other day (perhaps the best reality show on TV), I saw an episode where the mayor of Cincinnati, Mark Mallory, went on the front lines with sanitation workers, parking attendants, etc.

What that show did for me (and judging from the comments, millions of others) was help to change that perception.

That’s a good thing.

If the public unions can do more of that and less of the stories about benefit and salary abuse, they will help their cause.

I still think that public sector unions are a bad thing and a huge drain on the resources of the economy (see this story from California), but just because I think it doesn’t mean that’s what will happen (though it should).

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Internal Struggles...

Ever have one of those internal struggles between what you REALLY wanted to do and what you think/know you probably should do?

I had one recently and it was keeping me up at night and drawing my attention away from what I should be focusing on.

It was really troubling.

Then, somehow, while lying in bed in Sao Paolo, I summoned up the courage to do what I thought (hoped) should be done..

We'll never know, I suppose, but hopefully it was indeed the right decision.

Enough said and, no, I'm not giving specifics on this one.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sao Paolo—Gateway to the West

When the Portuguese colonizers decided to explore the interior, it wasimage from Sao Paolo that the expeditions began.

That history is reflected today in many ways, the coat of arms of the city has a hand extending to the West. A prominent statue has explorers in a boat facing that direction, and its centrality as the commercial heart of Brazil is undoubted.

Apparently, 25% of all of Brazil’s wealth is generated in the city and surrounding state of Sao Paolo (both have the same name.)

Named for St. Paul the Apostle because the first colonist arrived on Jan. 25th, which apparently is the day that Paul became a Christian, the city boasts nearly 20 million people in its greater metropolis area.

Everyone says that traffic is incredible, but honestly, after 1 day only admittedly, I haven’t seen it.

Sao Paolo 2011...City Tour (1)What I have seen is the proverbial melting pot of Brazil with whites, blacks, mulatto (at they are known), natives, Japanese and more all living together.

The flag of the city has red, white, and black to represent the various ethnic groups.

What this city does seem to have is energy and a commercial focus and that’s something that Sao Paolistas (?) seem to have a great deal of pride about. There’s a sense of superiority here vis a vis the other parts of the country and that also seems to be a part of the legacy of the country.

In 1822, when Brazil became an Empire, one of the discussion points was how much autonomy Sao Paolo (along with Minas Gerais-another powerhouse state) would have so that they stayed part of Brazil.

I’ve been reading a book called The New Brazil which describes the evolution of the country from hyperinflation madness (40% per month) in the 80s to burgeoning economic superpower.

90% of the cars in Brazil are “flex” and run on sugar-cane ethanol, making the country energy independent, for all intents and purposes.

Thanks to my friend, Hallely Azulay, I was able to procure the services of a first-rate guy (let me know if you need him), who gave me context, showed me how great coffee can taste (it’s good!), and provided some insight into the mind of the Brasilieno.

Challenges abound. There’s obviously a significant divide between the rich and poor and it sounds like access to education (as well as corruption) really haunt the country like a weight around its neck.

This post doesn’t do all that I saw any justice, that’s for sure, and there’s more to come, but I wanted to get my thoughts down for now (it’s late) before the next day of activity hit.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Networking for Introverts

Devora Zack claims that one of the most important airplane flights of her life occurred while she was an MBA student at Cornell and flew to NYC for a job interview.

The whole time, she was sitting next to the Dean of Cornell University and hadn’t recognized him, thus squandering a potentially valuable networking opportunity.

Her lesson?

You never know to whom you are sitting next to on a plane trip.

And that’s why I received a copy of Devora’s new book: Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected

You see, about 7 years ago, I was the one sitting next to Devora on a plane trip from Albany to DC. We struck up a conversation and though I have only seen her once since then, we’ve stayed in touch.

So, perhaps I was the 2nd most important flight of her life? Winking smile

This book isn’t for me at all, but that’s not to say I didn’t find it extremely interesting or valuable.

First off, when I share posts or ideas or teach courses on a Global MicroBrand, I often make the mistake of assuming that people can do things the way I do.


Second, I know there is a demand for this book. As Chris Hagner asked me (and to which I blogged), “do you need to be an extrovert to successfully use social media?”

I answered no, then, and after reading Devora’s book, still answer no.

What makes this book so valuable for people who consider themselves introverts is how Devora (who claims she’s an introvert-though I’m skeptical, but I’ll take her word for it)

  1. gives such useful, relevant, and helpful prescriptive guidance for the introvert to that you can redefine what networking is
  2. helps us all recognize that life is a constant networking opportunity, but not necessarily a networking event, and…
  3. BEST OF ALL, understand how through “networking,” an Introvert can actually leverage his strengths.

For me, the “platinum” rule (which replaces the Golden Rule) was a key insight:

“Don’t treat people how you want to be treated. Treat them how THEY want to be treated.”

Written in a very conversational, frank, and humorous style, I think this book is perfect for people who are paralyzed with fear at the idea of having to go to any type of networking event and for Introverts to see that networking is not a four-letter word.

If you know an Introvert who struggles with networking, this would be a good gift for them as well.



Sunday, March 06, 2011

Least Favorite Hour of the Day…

is from 8am to 9am.

It’s during that time when the NFO and I are faced with the daunting challenge of convincing Lakkanen/Roberts/Nadia to

  1. get up
  2. eat breakfast
  3. get dressed

As a parent, sometimes you know that there are moments in your child’s life that you have to savor…they will be gone before long.

This isn’t one of them.

It’s possible, but very difficult for me to believe that, at some point in the future, I’ll look back at the time I had with her when she was 3 and say, “wow, I really wish I had made more of that 8 to 9 am slot every day while we were fighting and begging with her.”

Yep, not seeing that happen.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Blind Side (movie)

Cover of "The Blind Side"

Cover of The Blind Side

Better late than never, the NFO and I watched the movie The Blind Side.

You may recalled that I LOVED the book and read 300 pages in 2 nights.

Well, I thought the movie did the book justice. We were captivated by the true story of the homeless black teen who gets taken in by a white Christian family in Memphis.

Ultimately, he goes on to get a Division I football scholarship and play  in the NFL.

Definitely worth our time.

Not surprising that Sandra Bullock when Best Actress for this. She deserved it.

Nothing novel here, of course. Just sharing.


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Power of Vulnerability…

Fascinating talk about the role of vulnerability and its centrality to self-fulfillment.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

February Travel Stats...

For those keeping score, the Feb. travel month statistics are:
3 continents, 7 countries, 8 cities, 13 flights, and only one travel delay!  Interesting tidbit...on the 4 Wednesday in Feb, never in the same country and a total of 6 countries.

Fun, but VERY glad to be home....for a while, that is.

Here's the travel map for the last few months. Crazy.

First Game with my son…


I haven’t been doing the “father thing” for all that long.

7 years now, but I suspect that there are some stereotypically meaningful father-son bonding moments.

One of them is the first time you attend a professional sporting event together.

I took Paco to see the Wizards play the Kings at the Verizon center and it made me feel so young.

I saw how EVERYTHING was a novelty to him. All of the “show” aspects of the game which I’ve seen hundreds of times by now were fresh to him and I just soaked it up.

The music, the t-shirt tosses, the bathrooms, the concession stands, taking the Metro there…you name it.

I had purchased pretty cheap tickets (relatively speaking), figuring that he wouldn’t care.

Since I knew we would be high up, I brought some binoculars for him.001

We weren’t in our seats for more than 10 minutes when a representative from the Wizards comes over and asks “are you here with your son for the first time?” (I guess he had seen me check-in on Foursquare.)

When I said “yes,” he pulled out two tickets for the $200 courtside seats with access to the free buffet/snacks/drinks.

Jokinen went to town on orange juice, ice cream, and popcorn and I just relished this small moment in our lives together.

Everything was an adventure, particularly when he said “I have to go to the bathroom NOW!!” and he didn’t necessarily understand that arena restrooms sometimes have lines…it was dramatic.

I was prepared to leave at halftime, but he insisted on staying, despite the fact that he was obviously quite tired.

The game, for two lousy teams, was actually pretty good and pretty dramatic. High-scoring as well. Nick Young had 43 points in an impressive shooting performance.

With 40 seconds left, the Wizards were up by 6 or 7 points. I asked if he wanted to leave “No.”

Then, the Kings managed to stage a comeback so that, with 3 seconds left, the game was actually tied, the Wizards had called timeout to get a last second shot for the win.

That’s when he turns to me and says, “I want to go now.”

“Now?!” I asked. “The most exciting moment of the whole game? No way, we have to stay.”

The game went into overtime and we left with about 2 minutes to go in that. It looked like the Wiz were going to win (they did), but we had had enough.

The poor guy fell asleep on the subway and I had to carry him up the escalator (he got his 2nd-8th?-wind because he loves using the farecard machine).

I asked the guys behind us to take a picture of the two of us with the court behind us.

His smile made it all worthwhile.