Mini Vacation

“Laughter is an instant vacation.”

(Milton Berle)

 

Happy Saturday friends!

 

Suggested Resources:

Milton Berle: An Autobiography (Milton Berle & Haskel with Frankel)

Laff It Off! (George Wallace & Dan Ewen)

 

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Get In. Get to the Point. Get Out.

The title of this post is tacked on the wall above my desk.  It’s a reminder to not waste time and multiply words needlessly.  “No one owes you a reading” (Ralph McInerny, author of the Father Dowling mysteries and late philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame) is on the same page as well as famous Rule No. 17 from Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, “omit needless words.”

We tend to multiply words in print or conversation for a variety of reasons.  Anxiety is a big one; an inflated sense of our own brilliance is another; and some of us simply like to hear ourselves talk and see our words in print.  None of these are good excuses for monopolizing someone else’s time and processing capacity.  Get in, get to the point, and get out.

I spent a good chunk of my time today listening to the wise words of Wall Street legend and Columbia University Adjunct Professor, Joel Greenblatt.  Here, watch this.  Joel was recommended by a cousin who attended Columbia Business School and, I suspect, studied under Greenblatt.

I know very little about the market and investing.  This post is not about that. What struck me as I listened to Joel was his ability to get to the point quickly, to use effective and homey metaphors to make arcane concepts accessible, and to avoid wasting the time of his moderator and audience, Google in this instance.  He isn’t in love with his own voice.  He’d rather get returns for his investors and himself and use his time doing so.

If you drone on and on.  If you “have to express yourself completely” in a torrent of words, either in conversation or in print–author Thomas Wolfe was famous for this, you need to be prepared for the following realities.  One, the attention spans of human beings are shorter than ever in 2017, about seven to eight seconds.  Two, time is money.  When you don’t distill and sum up, you will find out sooner or later that the “cost of doing business” with you—i.e. talking with you—is too expensive.  To be blunt, if you prattle on, people may avoid you because their time, like yours, is limited and valuable.

This has been a besetting sin of mine.  Family have said, “Okay Chris—get to the point.”  Now I’m taking stock and inventory with the help of people like Joel Greenblatt.

So, know what you want to say, say it quickly—think Hemingway and his sparse prose—then send people on their way.

You may find they come back more often.

 

Suggested Resources:

The Little Book That Still Beats the Market (Joel Greenblatt)

Get to the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want (Andrew D. Gilman & Karen E. Berg)

Ernest Hemingway on Writing (Larry W. Phillips)

 

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Failure ≠ Final

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

(Thomas Edison)

 

Suggested Resources:

Edison: A Biography (Matthew Josephson)

Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success (John C. Maxwell)

Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure (Andreas Kluth)

 

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Riding Shotgun

I had a long chat with an old friend and colleague this morning.  We’d worked together years ago and spent a lot of time together, usually riding around in cars in lots of places in northern New York but also Michigan and Hollywood and New York City, to name other interesting locales.

I told him I missed our drives together.  When you ride shotgun or walk alongside someone, you get to know them.  And yourself.  I have many other friends, besides the one I mentioned—Kirk, with whom I chatted this morning—whom I’ve grown close to over five decades.  “Riding shotgun” takes many forms.  First, sitting in a moving vehicle.  But also walking, talking face-to-face, long chats on smartphones.  You get the idea.

Walking alongside someone is one of the most intimate things one can do, outside of sex and breaking bread together.  It is in these encounters that we deepen our friendships and make new discoveries, often about the other and always about ourselves.

Someone has said that “friendship is a sheltering tree.”  How true. Cultivating friendships, versus merely making someone’s acquaintance, is an art and a science.  The art part is knowing what and when to say something.  The science is actually making the effort to be with another.

Walking with someone, often literally, is an apt metaphor for cultivating and maintaining relationships.  It takes time, commitment beyond comfort, place and vulnerability.  Being a friend is not easy.  Sometimes being a friend means saying what will take you both outside of comfort.  But it is necessary.

Some questions for reflection:

  • Do you have people with whom you’ve walked that you’ve lost touch with? Call them.  Chat them.  Arrange a meal.  Relationships, even difficult ones, are gold.  Make the effort.
  • Are you willing and able to meet your friends on level ground—i.e. understanding the human condition, its complexities, and yet willing to continue to love them and pour into them even though the status of many of your relationships are best described as “it’s complicated” or “it’s past?” Some friendships are low maintenance—you just pick up where you left off.  Others require work and patience.  Do the work and cut them at least as much slack as you cut yourself.

So, here’s to my shotgun partners.  Kath, my wife of twenty-nine years, my children–Anna and Jordan, Emily and Joshua.  And so many others–Larry, Sher, Robert, Don, Keith, Tony B, Jim P, Gunnar, Jim B, Dan G, Bobby P, Lynn A, Tim, Mark K, Peabo, Ron, Tom M, Ken, Jay, Greg, Top, Christian, Gary, Jim L, Tom, Kirk, Mike G, Christopher, Mooney, Doug O, DB, Mom, Mom P, Char, Dad and Paul, and my siblings. (Apologies to any I may have forgotten.)

 

Suggested Resources:

The Walk (Michael Card)

The Chosen (Chaim Potok)

 

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Minimize Future Regrets–Today!

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is the third richest man in the world.  His net worth in 2016 was something like 85.1 billion US dollars.

Let’s go back in time.  The internet was about seven years old.  Jeff was a member of a quantitative hedge fund, the D.E. Shaw Group in New York.  He had a very good job.  He also had an idea.  His idea was to begin selling books on the internet.

He and his boss, D.E. Shaw, went for a two hour walk around Central Park.  Jeff was thinking seriously about leaving the Shaw Group and striking out on his own.  He presented the idea to his employer.  Mr. Shaw said, “I think it’s a great idea.  But not for someone who already has a good job.”  He asked Jeff to think about it for forty-eight hours before making his decision.

Jeff formulated his pending decision within a nerdy concept called a “Regret Minimization Framework.”  Summed up, it went like this:  Project yourself ahead into the future when you’re eighty years old.  Looking back, you ask the question “If I do X and I fail at X, will I regret having tried and failed?”  Answer: “No.”

Next question.  “If I don’t try X (and thus never know what could happen), will I have regrets?”  Answer: “Yes.”

Jeff moved to Seattle and started Amazon.

We know now just how successful his choice was.  But he could not have known what 2017 would look like way back in the early 2000’s.  Amazon is ubiquitous.  We all shop there.

Regret Minimization Framework.  A big term.  Summed up, what kinds of decisions can you or I make now that won’t leave us tossing and turning at night in the twilight years wondering what might have been?

For reflection:

  • What choices have you already made that have left you with definite regrets? What would you have done differently?
  • Do you have an idea, knowing ideas carry risk, that you would like to develop and see through? If you choose not to follow through on this idea, will you regret the missed opportunities and adventures which could have been yours as your life nears its end?
  • Are you aware, as JK Rowling said, that allowing fear to keep you from stepping out on your dream is ultimately to fail by default?

Suggested Resources:

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Brad Stone)

Think like Jeff Bezos: Making of an e-commerce business mammoth from yesterday for tomorrow : 23 life changing lessons from Jeff Bezos on Life,People,Business, Technology and Leadership (Jamie Morris)

 

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No Easy Run

“I run because long after my footprints fade away, maybe I will have inspired a few to reject the easy path, hit the trails, put one foot in front of the other, and come to the same conclusion I did: I run because it always takes me where I want to go.”

(Dean Karnazes)

 

Suggested Resources:

Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner (Dean Karnazes)

Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine (Tom Jordan)

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Christopher McDougall)

 

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