December 31, 2010
2010 in Review: Time to Reflect & Pay Respect to Another YearSeasons Greetings and a hooray for an incredible year, one which will be over within hours. It's time to reflect on everything we've learned and experienced over the past year as well as give gratitude to the amazing people we've encountered along our annual journey. It's now time to move into a new decade, but before we do, below are a few highlights from 2010 as seen through my eyes across a few continents. Enjoy! And, Happy New Year! to you and yours. See you on the other side.
December 25, 2010
Christmas is the Feast of Man Himself
Christmas is the feast, of not only man’s redemption, but of man himself. It is the feasting of humankind, because it releases – if only for a few days every year – emotions that a savage self-interest causes mankind, in the ordinary way, to repress.
At Christmas-tide, tyrants grow benevolent – even merciful, misers spend, not only freely, but willingly, the fierce flames of religious and political prejudice die for a short while to a cold cinder; selfish memories are stirred by the recollection – tardy, but intense – of the neglected and the outcast.
For a few days, once a year, the atrophied souls of adults are filled again with that spirit which inspires the wisdom of fools and children.
November 27, 2010
Dalai Lama Posts This on Facebook Today
And, it's worth a share:
November 15, 2010
Saying Goodbye to Your Most Primal Connection
In this chapter lived a little girl who was told half her heritage was French although it wasn't clear that "it" really counted because part of the family had come over from France and well.....part of the family was French Canadian not far from the New York state border.
It was a bit like the other side of her family which didn't really count either - a probable Jewish grandfather whose father likely changed their name when they hit America's shores, a long...long time ago. And, like a chameleon, he pretended to be Irish, Welsh, German, Polish or Russian depending on who he was selling to or telling jokes to at the time.
He looked like he could be all five and very well may have been; he also looked like he could be an Eastern European Jew who was more focused on making sure his family succeeded financially and socially in America than trying to adhere to a religion. The only thing that may have given it away to anyone who was paying close enough attention was the food in the fridge and in the cupboards and what sauces and beer he drank when no one was looking.
In the French Connection chapter of that old dusty book, the little girl's mother had disappeared in the sixties while pregnant with the little girl's brother, who was later born somewhere in a place only a local child protection unit would have a record of, if at all.
The little girl was told to erase the French Connection from her mind, including all fantasies of meeting her one day, based on some whimsical ideology that a mother/daughter relationship is so primal, that any mother if separated from her child, would eventually seek out her own.
The little girl was told that it was an old Chapter that had now passed, and what was passed was done and over and after all, why dig up old skeletons when she never really wanted a little girl anyway?
The little girl learned several years later that a couple of other little girls were also left with a haunting memory from that same French Connection and while they may never have been told to leave the past in the past, the alcohol breath of one of four husbands and mental anguish over the years was enough for the little girls to push such memories behind them without much help.
I wonder....does the memory of any little girl's mother - real or not - ever diminish forever even when she's been told that she isn't 'real?' Even when she's been told that it doesn't matter and that what is real, is in front of her, not in her mind's eye?
What of that bond that comes from a blood connection alone, even if a relationship was never consummated, even if there was no memory of a shared love?
One day, when the little girl was her early twenties, she finally met her French Connection, who she thought would look like Meryl Streep based on the only photo she had of her before that one intense meeting. With the photo in her memory and her heart beating wildly, the girl, together with her older sister, knocked on the door of their shared French Connection's house with no research, no warning, no notice, and no real thought as to what the consequences might be.
The ending was not one from a romantic American movie, the kind that always ends with a hug, nor was it an experience that resulted in strong bonds, emotional exchanges or a continued family relationship.
But what it was, was a stake in the ground that kept the French Connection alive, even if only alive not burning. The beautiful memory of what 'could have been' was shattered but the reality of what it was and what it is, remained. The French Connection was real, pretty or not.
Have you ever noticed that there's always at least one complex thing about one's heritage that changes an otherwise beautiful ending to an ugly one? You know, something in the DNA and history so deeply buried that nothing can get "it" to 'think' or 'behave' differently.
Sometimes that complexity means that an authentic conversation never happens between a man and his son before the man dies, or two estranged sisters.
Sometimes that complexity means that a man would choose to gamble his family savings away before he used the money to feed his children.
Sometimes that complexity means that a woman would choose to die rather than ask for help when she is faced with a terminal disease.
Sometimes that complexity results in a family becoming homeless when it wasn't necessary because of a tribal pride that could not easily be undone.
And, sometimes that complexity means that a woman may choose never to fix the unraveling chaos she created by leaving her children behind when she could have made a healthier choice.
We learn over time that we need to accept some of the things we've been dealt or experienced in our lives, in order to be at peace with the world.
We also learn over time that we can create our own destinies or change existing ones in a heartbeat, and it can be as instant as the moment we make a decision that it's time for change.
And, we also learn that we can paint our own canvases because we are the creators of our own lives. Our lives are not the stories we were told by our parents and grandparents about the way "things need to be or the way we should behave."
The should and need parts of any story, whether it's through a parent, husband, school teacher or priest, are only there to keep us connected and safe, a perceived connected and safe perhaps....but nevertheless, connected to the very 'tribe' that brought us into the world.
Once you deviate from that tribe, it no longer feels safe, nor does that tribe embrace you as one of them. It's very primal and such an integral part of human nature, that we're even seeing similar behavior in online communities today.
A long long time ago, the little girl was told to leave her French tribe behind and create a new one.
Then one day, she was told by an old boss to leave another tribe behind when it didn't subscribe to her professional goals.
And later, when she moved to Europe, she was told to leave her American tribe behind and after the girl divorced, she forced herself to leave yet another tribe behind. And then a corporate tribe. And then a country one. And then a regional one. And then a technology one. And then her family, at least the one she sort of kind of knew.
And, soon she learned, that you leave tribes behind all the time and that everything is temporary and nothing is permanent.
The girl learned to march on, forward on her life journey and look back for reflection only, not for a notch in a ladder that would add to her growth or sustain her in any meaningful way.
And, she became very good at marching.
Then one day, the girl, who had become a grown woman, received a phone call. Her French Connection had cancer with only a few days to live.
Did she ever really know her French Connection? Did she ever really know the woman who called herself her mother and once looked like Meryl Streep?
The woman who liked markets and gypsy jewelry as much as she did yet they never shopped together.
The woman who didn't like to burden people so did everything on her own, just like she did.
The woman who had this odd freckle on her wrist in the very same place she had one.
The woman who gave birth to her in another chapter, in another time and what now felt like another galaxy.
It would not be like losing the mother who raised her, this she knew. It wouldn't be like losing the man who raised her, who wasn't her real father.....this she knew too.
But, what was clear was this. She knew that the French Connection would finally die a permanent death, only to be remembered as a Chapter with its own name, the one in the forgotten book that had gathered dust and mildew.
In the chapter now over, one which was kept alive by a flickering dim light for nearly a lifetime, the story ends too, and with it, a generation as well as an era in time. It’s the kind of chapter that closes another family's photo album and history book just like it has since the beginning of time itself.
And for the girl...it was death to yet another tribe, the most primal one, but in a period of time where it was no longer necessary to tell her it was time to move on.
November 10, 2010
The Magic of Family Businesses & the Stories that Keep Them Alive
Occasionally you come across an old shop, creamery, pub, restaurant, chemist or cafe that......simply speaks to you and feels so damn authentic that you go back in time simply through its walls, floors and ceilings.
Having grown up in New England on Richard Russo's soil, I gravitate to places like that or they simply find me. It even shows in the banner of Down the Avenue, which is a modified version of the upstate New York main street small town where I grew up.
Jack Carvill & Sons along Dublin's Camden Street (renown for thrift stores) dates back to 1905. Online, someone referred to it the Rolls Royce of off-licenses.
Not everything in the place is still original, yet many of it remains in its antiquated authentic form, including the door behind the counter, the tills, the back hutch and the gorgeous albeit "dinged up" wooden counter.
Jack Carvill's apparently even got a mention in "Ulysses" although the real story is in its history, which I learned through the young man running it during my recent trip to Dublin. (Jim Bourke is the current owner btw).
In the early 1900s, it was called Delahunt and run by the Delahunt family through the mid-thirties when they sold it to the Cavey family, who ran the place for another thirty years until they sold it in the mid-sixties to Jack Carvill. It was Jack who renovated it (we think in 1968) and for nearly another thirty years, Carvill and his two sons ran it. Carvill died in 1993 but their sons still managed the store until their mother died in the late nineties (she apparently lived upstairs over the shop).
Take a look at this. He showed us the daily revenue book from the mid-thirties. Fascinating. While it may be hard to read, they took in 252 pounds (16 shillings and 4.5 pence) on Christmas Eve in 1936, which was higher than their typical take, which ranged from 80 to 185 pounds.
All I can say is thank God places like this still exist and thank God there are people on the planet who still care enough to restore history and remember the stories which keep the wonderful characters from distant times still alive.
October 25, 2010
Stephanie Coontz: What Is Love REALLY? What Makes a Marriage REALLY?
What is love really? What makes for a happy marriage? Marriage was invented for in-laws--connected in-laws--says Stephanie Coontz on the PopTech stage in Maine this past week.
Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families and the author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, says the answer lies in understanding that marrying for love is a radical idea.
Coontz notes that little interactions between couples are important indicators of a successful marriage. It reveals how much interest and respect a couple has for each other.
What also counts in a marriage, say Coontz, is how well a couple can manage household duties together. Here, it should come as no surprise that men and women have different understandings of marital satisfaction.
The best predictors for marital satisfaction among men? The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is how little criticism and how much sex he gets. According to Coontz, that has not changed since the 1960s. What has changed is how he gets it. A modern-day marriage, says Coontz, requires much more give and take—and much more help around the house. One of the predictors of a woman’s happiness in a marriage directly relates to how much a spouse contributes to household and childcare tasks.
Coontz concludes with a win-win situation scenario for each sex: The more that household and childcare duties are split between a couple, the less criticism and more sex that the man is likely to get, and the happier the woman is likely to be. Here's a link to her presentation. (it's the first time I haven't seen the embed video option on any site).
Republished from PopTech Site - Collen Kaman - Photo credit: Kris Krüg.
October 21, 2010
How Does Language Shape Thought?
Is there intrinsic value in human linguistic diversity?
Stanford psychologist Lera Boroditsky has found from field work in China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia that "people who speak different languages do indeed think differently, and even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world."
For example, Aborigines in north Australia are deeply oriented to the cardinal directions. "You have to stay oriented at all times," Boroditsky says, or "else you cannot speak properly.
The normal greeting in Kuuk Thaayorre is 'Where are you going?' and the answer should be something like 'Southsoutheast, in the middle distance.' If you don't know which way you're facing, you can't even get past 'Hello.'"
Boroditsky will talk about "How Language Shapes Thought" at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, San Francisco, 7 pm, Tuesday, October 26, 2010. Long Now Members can reserve a seat HERE or you can purchase tickets for $10 HERE.
October 14, 2010
What Is It About Las Vegas That Keeps Us.........
Every time I come to Las Vegas, it seems as if I need to allow a transition time, you know, to mentally go from earth, rock, water and soil living to glitter, lights, martinis, and girls with bunny outfits.
I always have this sad melancholy feeling when I walk through a casino, particularly late at night and for some god awful reason, despite the way it makes me feel, I do it each and every time, as if its tradition...usually when I first arrive or on my last night.
I do this to observe and I tend to go deeper each time I do it. Since I'm not a gambler, the only thing of interest to me is people watching as I make my way through the maze of red, orange and mustard carpets and hallways that all look the same.
Vegas is typically known for its excellent service, so much so that you sometimes feel as if shop owners, restaurant managers and casino owners practice smiling and reciting phrases that please and woo people into their parlor on an hourly basis....in front of a mirror of course.
People go out of their way to help you, regardless of what their job is. On more than one occasion, the carpet cleaner asked me if I was lost and needed help.
And lost I always was and always am, on every single trip......all the casinos look the same, smell the same, feel the same - even the restaurants become one big blur.
Wasn't that Noodle cafe the same one I ate in last time yet, hmmm, I didn't make it to the Luxor last time. What about the sushi bar? (the other one had the neon blaring lights from the baseball game too, didn't it?)
Side note in case you love sushi - it's incredibly expensive here, so leave it for the coast, either coast, unless you're on an expense account or don't mind forking over triple what you're accustomed to paying.
Oysters were $3.50 a pop at one mid-range seafood restaurant. Honestly, where on the planet are oysters $3.50 a pop except for maybe Tokyo?
It's my first time staying at the Luxor Hotel, a hotel I rarely think of booking since its so much further from the strip and frankly, every time I have thought of its Egyptian exterior, I've said to myself, really, Egypt?
Yet, I really loved Egypt when I went what now feels like a million moons ago, so why not? And btw, it's less crowded and less noisy than other properties, not to mention the fact that it is connected to Mandalay Bay, which has its own charm, a theatre, tons of restaurants and hosts various events, including this year's BlogWorldExpo.
And, I learned for the first time that the Excalibur, the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay all have the same owner.....Imagine this guy's books at the end of the year?
Armed with fun passes, a card that gets me VIP status so I can go to the front of lines, a freebie ticket for a vocalist in a nightclub that starts daily at 10:30 pm and a book with the latest entertainment, I walked from one end to the other, never quite sure when one hotel ended and the next one began.
With the wrong discount card for the wrong restaurant buffet in the wrong hotel, I was a third the way through my meal before I realized...........the manager was so nice about my having the 'wrong coupon,' that I felt as if I should show up at the wrong place often. After all, maybe I was some high spending poker player so who was he to take the chance at being rude? Although, frankly I look like a regular gambler about as much as I do a 10 year old Chinese drummer.
I decided to meander into shops, not because there was anything I wanted or needed to buy but because I was curious whether any of these shops vying for consumer attention (almost desperately so), would be interested in giving products away to 20 high powered bloggers and tweeters. Why not ask? They didn't seem to 'get the value' of this despite the fact that the shops were empty, the shop managers lonely and their prices more often than not, through the top.
Great pair of brown boots I thought. $880, she tells me. What about the cute little baby blue cotton top? $425. More people watching? I think not. At this juncture, I was only here for a day and already people's clothes and smiles were blurring into the slot machine lights as if they were one.
It's not as if I'm new to Vegas either. Given how many times I've been here, you would think I'd have routine down, a system in place and tons of friends living in the burbs who want to come out and play off the strip at conference time.
Unlike CES and the fact that I made it here after the Digital Dealer rush and before the BlogWorldExpo one, there was no one in front of me in the taxi line, probably the first time I've ever experienced a smooth sail from the Vegas airport.
My experience -- each and every time -- is anywhere from an hour to a three hour taxi wait, even if you scare the living daylights out of people by shouting "Anyone going to the MGM? Anyone going to the Luxor? And.....want to share a ride?" I always do this and I always get frightening or blank stares (one of the two), as if I had blue hair, was carrying a gun and wearing black leather studs.
So, I wait like cattle with the rest of them because someone is too freaked out to say, hell yeah, who else in this insanely long line is going to the Luxor? 4 people in this cab, 3 over here. What's wrong with a little more efficiency I'm thinking, so the cabbie can drop us off and then fly back and pick up another 3 or 4.
Back to the lonely people part. When you spent a couple of hours in a taxi line, you have a lot of time to people watch, more time than when you meander through a casino late at night. The faces. The eyes. The stand. The stares.
Why are they all here I always want to know? Do they want to know why the hell I'm here? I'm not wearing a conference badge -- yet; I'm not smoking a cigarette and I'm not on my phone.
Okay, sometimes I'm on my phone and sadly in an addictive kind of way that gamers know all too well, I checked into the McCarren International Airport, waiting waiting waiting for Foursquare to do its thing. Blackberry crash. Reboot phone. Hell, it's not as if I don't have time on my hands. Check in. C'mon Foursquare, stop crashing will you?
Then in my addictive digital silence, I look up again briefly to people watch again. After being reminded how frustrated I am about the inefficiency of airport cab lines, I look back down to 'the device' and tweet how ridiculous the system is and that the damn taxi line still doesn't seem to be moving. AHHHH, but not this time. For the first time, I sailed through and $24 later, I was at my hotel.
Because of the Blackberry, the zoning out, the people watching, the occasional note taking, could someone in the taxi line or the buffet line or the casino tell why I was here in this crazy, lonely, wild, always lit place where people come to forget about life for awhile? Could they tell I was forced here because of some industry show that guilts marketing people into 'showing up?'
Or, was I like them? Dragged to Vegas for some business meeting, a customer convention, a wild girls weekend, a gambler's revenge, a week of non-stop drinking, eating and shows with dancing girls and retired old singers who can't make it anywhere else?
Am I making a judgment? Perhaps, who knows....what I do know is that the place "feels lonely" whenever I come here despite the lights, the smiles, the parties and the entertainment that suggest otherwise.
And, the people who sit all night in front of those slot machines putting in dollar after dollar, look lonely too. There they sit, hoping that one slot machine will bring them 'more,' more of something to fill the void in their non-Vegas lives, the lives they wish were another reality. That's the thing though isn't it?Coming to Las Vegas allows you to live in another reality, not a permanent one, but one you can create to feel better and fill some kind of void, even if its just for a little while.
October 11, 2010
Top Networking Questions: Man Vs Woman's Point-of-View (WDYT?)
A tweet brought me over to an Entrepreneur article that listed networking 'expert' Bob Burg's top ten networking questions.
What I found interesting and amusing from his list was that while the questions are no doubt useful, will no doubt get a conversation going and kick the networking 'game' into gear, it was clear that a man wrote them. So I whipped up a list of my own ten, which you'll find below his from a female networking expert. Try them both out and take notes.
Here are his 10 questions:
1. How did you get started in the (______) business?
2. What do you enjoy most about your profession?
3. What separates you and your company from the competition?
4. What advice would you give someone just starting out in the (______) business?
5. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?
6. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?
7. What do you see as the coming trends in the (______) business?
8. Describe the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your business?
9. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?
10. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?
Here are my 10 questions: (note that often, I expand on the same question to get more 'sauce' or 'data' (male translation).
1. Why specifically did you get started in the (______) business? Was it an "event" or a person?
2. What are you most passionate about in your work?
3. If you could give me three lines that convey the magic you have over your competition, what would they be?
4. If someone were starting out in your industry today, what was the one moment you had when you knew you made the right decision for staying in this biz and what was the one moment that gave you doubts?
5. How do you personally measure failure? And when you were told that you failed, how did you handle it?
6. The landscape and industry has changed a lot over the years for you -- what is the one positive change for the next generation that will change your business dramatically and what is the most negative change that impacts either quality or ethics?
7. What's the game changer that's either already here or around the bend that will overhaul the way you do business?
8. Tell me about the most bizarre person you've met over the years, why you thought they were bizarre and how he/she had an impact on you?
9. What works for bring in new revenue for you and what doesn't? When you mention your brand's name, what are the 3 consistent things that people say over and over again? Are YOU in alignment with that brand? What about your CEO?
10. So, it's retirement day from this biz and you're off to do something entirely different. What are the two things that you helped change to make the world a better place because of you being in this industry?
October 10, 2010
Life Balance: Do Entrepreneurs Care? Not EnoughBelow, Espanola Island in Ecuador's Galapagos last month. Sigh. Blow Hole wild. The air calm. Wildlife spectacular. Common carpetweed everywhere in spectacular colors.
Am heading to Las Vegas this week and thinking about the nature and beauty of this place and thinking and knowing that this is what makes life rich, heading to Vegas despite it's 'fun' factor just seems so wrong!! Why don't we have any (or more in some cases) industry events in places like Montana, Colorado, Washington, Maine, Oregon, North Carolina? Just curious. Really...I'm just curious. Why does business continue to put balance in the background?
Below, not that incredible carpetweed I was talking about (coming in abundance a book soon, but texture-rich lava cactus on Bartolome Island.