Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

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A Childhood Friend Passes

By on Jul 26, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

I said a final goodbye to a longtime friend recently. He was intensely private and not at all a fan of social media so I won’t name him here. I do feel the need to write about him, so I hope I am in-bounds handling this in the abstract. We actually lost him during Covid, but the logistics of his memorial had to wait for travel arrangements. He wasn’t a Covid victim, perhaps just the timing. He had other medical issues that lasted all his life. I have known this person since we were 11 years old, which I believe makes him the longest-standing friend I have maintained. I didn’t do a great job of maintaining that friendship, but luckily I did visit with him right before Covid. He gave me a reasonably rebellious book right in line with his lifelong wit and irritation with the unreasonable. I gave him a copy of my last book. We never got to discuss either. The medical condition that haunted him dates back to our earliest conversations. He never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him, but if you were in his circle, he wasn’t afraid to talk about it. It was a neuromuscular disease and although his entire life would be linked by operations and treatments, he refused to let his life be defined by it. It was existential. He understood existential. Several years ago I wrote a tribute to Jerry Lewis when he died. I had been involved as a supporter and volunteer of the Muscular Dystrophy Association since childhood and strangely always felt a connection to Jerry. I remember discussing this with my friend in childhood. He had a mixed reaction to MDA. He appreciated all the donations that Jerry inspired to invest in research, but he was troubled by all the photoshoots and poster children. This friend was sufficiently progressive but never woke. When I wrote my piece on Jerry he wrote to me after a very long stretch of absence, almost out of the blue, a brief email to me that began: “So I don’t get a mention in the Jerry Lewis post? I cried when he died. Loved him as a funny man.” He then went...

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The Telephone: A Basic Operating Manual

By on Jun 22, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

As we return to work and the workplace in the new order of normalcy, I am reminded of the many bad habits we may have acquired in the discomfort of isolation. Foremost among these vices is the spreading disease of poor telephone conduct. A phone is hardly a phone anymore. It’s an email device, a web browser, a camera, a texting platform, and an app launcher. Yet its initial (if not primary) function we still call a telephone. Perhaps it is time we relearn how to use it in that regard. Call me ancient, but let me suggest that manners still matter in human contact on both ends of the line. Unless we recognize the contact name or Caller ID on the screen, few of us will answer a phone anymore. No matter what number you file at the DoNotCall.gov registry, your phone rings continuously with garbage sales calls and bot inquiries. I think that is where bad manners begin, with poor intention. I once had a boss who never answered the phone, and this was in the days before cell phones. He used to say, “If it’s good news, they’ll call back. If it’s bad news, I don’t want to hear it.” I think that’s another form of bad manners. I also don’t think it’s true. Sometimes good news gets reallocated. Bad news swept under the rug can swiftly convert a minor misunderstanding into a corporate crisis. Sometimes we need to answer the phone whether we like it or not. Mobility doesn’t give any of us license to rotten phone behavior. I have written before about returning calls, but now I am getting into the basics. If you didn’t grow up with a landline or have forgotten the etiquette associated with polite calling, here is a laundry list of reminders you may want to paste on the back of your mobile case. Do not leave your voice mailbox full. You may be getting a call with a job offer. I may not call back. Record a greeting on your voicemail, however short, and your name. How else do I know I called the right number, particularly if you told it to me wrong. Speak clearly into the mouthpiece....

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5 Brief Quotes That Keep Me Thinking

By on May 25, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Are we turning the corner on a new day of reinvention and reinvigoration, or are we swapping one set of enormously complicated challenges for another? I’ve been think about that a lot as Covid-19 vaccinations are welcomed by increasingly more people and the doors to a rejuvenated nation continue to open at an encouraging pace. Still, it’s hard to ignore that much of the conflict that existed in the pre-Covid world remains in the post-Covid world. The economy is rebounding with optimism in investment, yet income inequality is as deeply embedded in our interactions as it has ever been. High profile convictions for the abuse of power have been handed down, yet racial injustice remains in the daily headlines. International travel is resuming, yet lives are being lost in battles across and within borders. We remain too often divided, and find little in the way of broad consensus that will adequately address sustainable remedies. Has the world learned anything from Covid-19, or are we picking up where we left off? On days that are difficult to explain, I find myself looking to tiny bits of wisdom that keep me inspired and focused in good times, bad times, and when I can’t tell the difference. Here are five fragments I keep top of mind that I hope you will find perennial and inexhaustible. “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He had every reason to be a pessimist given the treatment he endured, yet he was a fighter of the most noble order and seems to me a true optimist. He had a gift that he transformed into a cause. He led by example. He teaches me there is no other way to lead than by example. “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” — Walt Disney Walt Disney was another optimist, but in a different way. He focused on pushing the imagination to unimaginable bounds. He knew beyond all financial gain that our aspirations live in our dreams, and that our stories are mirrors of our souls. He teaches me there is creativity in all of us, and...

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Air, Water, Food

Air, Water, Food

By on Apr 26, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

There’s no time like the present to set goals. Here’s a framework I use for myself and those I manage or advise. I generally try to classify projects into three levels of priority before I consider adding resources to anything on deck: Air, Water, and Food. In the unlikely event everything classified under Air, Water, and Food is done and behind us, I might move onto the next realm of importance, but generally, if it’s not Air, Water, or Food, it is going to get a very low priority, I’m stealing broadly from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but suppose you were an astronaut in orbit and the red light in the capsule appeared. How do you set priorities? Largely by survival. Without air, you have seconds to live. Without water, you have days to live. Without food, you have weeks to live. Everything after that is discretionary. Whether you are setting high-level goals or project priorities, try ranking your options into these categories. What is Air? In a services business, it might be customers. In an e-commerce business, it might be secure uptime. In product development, it might be an innovative, competitive technology solution that is worth marketing because it will surprise and delight customers. “Air” initiatives are the items on your to-do list that if not attended to immediately may cause a business to be gone very soon. Sometimes they are obvious. Take the examples above. If you don’t protect your customers in a services business, you don’t have a business. If you don’t have a product worth selling, you don’t have a business. If you are selling online and you are not safely live to the world, you don’t exist. It’s relatively easy to see the obvious examples of Air, but sometimes they are counterintuitive. I often write about People, Products, Profits—in that order. Are people, or the talent that drives your company, Air? The answer is absolutely yes—we cannot accomplish much of anything without the right team, but none of us has the unlimited capacity to hire everyone we want. It is precisely because talent is Air that it takes discipline to know which people you need now and which may have to wait. Your budget...

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Why We Should Give More

By on Mar 16, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s that time of year for me, another trip around the sun complete. This one is not quite a milestone count, but as good a time as any to reflect on purpose. Age will do that to you. We don’t get to reflect indefinitely. That which goes into our permanent record is anything but limitless. Covid-19 will soon pass into history, but not its devastation. The time it has given us to think about our uses of time may be one of its few constructive legacies Do we look externally for validation or is it intrinsic? What is a job well done? Are we meant to behave as survivalists with a primary worry of self or something different? Giving is a curious notion. Perhaps it presents a choice that is inescapable. We do or we don’t. We make a choice even if we don’t make a choice. I do wonder at length why we give. It’s easy to be conned and give wrong. The charlatans and traps outnumber our investigative hours. The risk of being fooled is an occupational hazard. I’ve made peace with that. Here’s one good reason to take the risk and give: When we believe in others, we reinforce their courage to believe in themselves. When we share compassion with others, we demonstrate that compassion is possible and can be a virtuous circle. We are directed to welcome the stranger. Soon after that our bond becomes our gift. I find myself increasingly thinking about the notion of fairness. I do believe the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but I find the pace of alteration lethargic and unsatisfying. Are things better than they were 50 years ago? My father says yes and he has a 40% premium on years of observation to mine so I’ll go with his affirmation, but better is not the same as good. Relative unfairness is still unfairness. Black Lives Matter shows us conclusively that the application of law is unfair. Two and a half million dead globally of coronavirus shows us that the availability of healthcare is unfair. The wealth of stock market gains for the few against the lost jobs and bankrupt businesses of many is almost violently unfair....

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Getting Better

By on Feb 16, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

The Beatles sang it. Now I feel it. I’m not saying things are great. For many they are not. I’m not even saying good. I’m saying better. It’s qualitative. It’s relative. It’s palpable. It’s real. I don’t care if Trump wasn’t convicted. If 43 U.S. senators want to live with the shame of turning a blind eye to a lying, seditious, self-serving megalomaniac, that’s their lifelong curse. It’s not survival politics as much as it is inescapable shame. The badge of cowardice doesn’t wash off. No bleach will eradicate it. That cynical, boisterous voice is gone from the White House bully pulpit. That alone makes me feel better. His Twitter account has been silenced. That’s even better. That’s a real punishment, where we are protected from harm. Not quite a penitentiary, but a fitting alternative sentence, particularly in his mind. If he tours again on hyperbolic rhetoric or creates his own “alternate facts” media network, he’s sectioned off. We can ignore him. If his followers want to adore him they can have that space in obscurity. Our new president is sane. Joe Biden is thoughtful. He reads, listens, and takes advice from subject matter experts. He reconsiders his positions. He is immersed in dialogue, not monologue. He’s reversing the damage. Climate change. Environmental justice. Immigration and border normalization. Broader access to healthcare. Global wellness as a shared concern. Economic compassion. Sustainable job creation. Sensible credit and finance policies. Respect for our allies. Clear, coherent, calm lines with our adversaries. Cabinet secretaries are taking shape with gravitas, conviction, relevant experience, and an emphasis on character. They will likely serve without unnecessary drama and ridiculous turnover. Mostly the voice of government is quieter. The tone is softer. It is moving into the background so we can focus again on our lives, our businesses, our daily routines, short-term and long-term planning. Science is science again. Facts are facts again. Fake news is fake news again. Journalism is not the enemy of the people. Hard questions are the safeguard of our democracy. The notion of any potential sympathy for white supremacy or xenophobia has been erased from the office of the president. To the extent there was any ambiguity around tolerance for racist...

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