Rule #1989: The Chicago Way

Rule #1989: The Chicago Way

When Matthew went to college I heard from him about every two weeks, usually with the routine call of  everything is fine, and classes are going well and nothing to report. Basically keeping me in the dark and failing to mention anything of substance , the standard nosey parent report. No lies but nothing incriminating.

So when I got a call on a March morning in 2008 at  9am from Matthew’s older brother  Andrew asking me how Matthew was doing, and telling me I should think about checking on him I was confused. The next conversation with Matthew went like this…

Dad: ” What are you doing”

Matt: ” Eating Breakfast”

Dad: ” What are you having for Breakfast”

Matt: ” White Castle Hamburgers”

Dad: ” Where did you get White Castle Hamburgers in Shippensburg, PA”

Matt: ” The White Castle’s on Wacker Drive”

Dad: ” You mean in Chicago?”

Matt: ” Yea that one”

That’s how I learned my son was taking off from school mid-week and driving around campaigning for President Obama in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York. It wasn’t that he lied to me, in fact he was very forthcoming when asked. I had just failed to ask the right question, and he was not offering the details without heavy inquiry. I have since referred to this as the “Chicago Way”

I have and continue to have “Chicago Way” moments in my life with my children, business associates and other family. Just a couple weeks ago when I tried to reach Stephen on the phone and became concerned when he didn’t answer,  till he called and told me that he had not returned the calls because he was in Hawaii for a week. Oh, Chicago.

I’ve had other calls when I called concerned while he was living in a Hawaii and a hurricane was a approaching to find he was on his way to Burning Man. Oh, Chicago.

It isn’t the Chicago Moments that bother you in themselves, its the moment that you realize that you thought you were playing checkers and all of a sudden the game changes to football, without warning.  I would not have stopped Mathew’s and Stephens’s adventures ( frankly I don’t think I could have if I wanted to) but I would have loved to be part of the discussion.

With kids its part of the process. You almost have to experience the Chicago Way for them to become full adults, with independent thinking and actions. Its painful at times but I’ve learned to evaluate these Chicago Moments much like I do the City of Chicago.  There are moments when you find them in Wrigley Field eating a Chicago dog ( I call type A) and moments when they are calling from a police south precinct for bail money ( I call type B).

Type A is when they are experiencing independent thought and taking chances- basically living their lives as functioning adults. Type B is when they are doing something they know is wrong and hiding the truth because they are trying to get away with something. There is a huge difference between A and B, both are lies of omission by not all lies are created equal.

I found that understanding the Chicago Way has served me very well in business. Its impossible to run a company with 100 + people and 1200 consultants and know what everyone is doing all the time. And everyday someone will surprise you with changing the game and doing something entirely unexpected. As a manager you have to decide are these actions are Type A or Type B.  Surprises are not bad, but ones where there is intent to harm and deceive are the ones that you have to eliminate. So when surprised by new information I first have to ask myself  “was this to help us or themselves”.  You want people taking chances and thinking of new and innovative ways to do things, but you don’t want people trying to rig the 1919 world series.

A challenge in life is to create a world for your business and family to be both independent and honest. Its too easy to tell yourself a lie, and many people live with the George Costanza philosophy of:

“It’s not a lie, if you believe it”

In  my favorite book by Dr. M. Scott Peck ” People of the Lie” the sub-tile is “The Hope f0r Healing Evil”. His central theme is that the malignant narcissism is the root cause of evil. Doing what you know is wrong then hiding by omission is never justified, and is the root the nature of evil. Telling yourself that the ends justifies the means fails when the ends hurt other people and takes advantage of the lies for your own self interest.

We have to create environments in our lives where were are not being cleaver and deceitful but living with openness and honesty.  There is plenty of room for unannounced trips to Chicago and Hawaii, and every thought does not  need to be shared.  ( trust me we don’t want Matthew sharing his deep dark secrets with anyone)

We have to be sure our trips to Chicago are not to hide unpleasant truths but to have privacy and personal adventures. The Chicago Way can be a pathway to great adventure, it is doing it for the right reasons that makes all the difference in our lives.

I’ve been to Chicago quite bit myself, sometimes to enjoy a baseball game and sometimes to hide. I regret the hiding and enjoyed the Cubbies. Our lives can have both wonderful secrets and great shared truths,  the success in life is to make sure your trips lead you to where you want to go.  The secrets should become things to celebrate when it comes time to reveal them, not to be ashamed of the people they hurt by keeping them.

Go Cubs.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule # 161: Sin is good

Rule # 161: Sin is good

In the crazy world of elections and COVID I have been thinking a lot about what is dividing us into camps. I have gone back to my bible of human understanding, the works of Dr. M Scott Peck, especially the ” Road Less Traveled” and ” People of the Lie: The Hope of Healing Evil”.

Dr. Peck was a flawed man who had extramarital affairs and was estranged from his children. It may seem ironic that this behaviorist who wrote about sin was at times deeply immersed in it. But if you are going to learn about the consequences of sin the best person to listen to is a sinner.

The central theme of his theory was that people are imperfect creatures that are prone to mistakes, or sin. And that all mistakes have consequence, and that realizing these consequences is what make us grow and learn. It is in this way sin makes us human, and guides us on the path towards empathy with others, kindness and forgiveness. Without failure and recovery we can not learn to be better humans.

He believed that bad things happen when people develop “militant ignorance” of their sin, basically saying everything one does is OK because no one can sit judgement of you. It is the thing that allows us blow past the speed bumps and stop signs of moral judgements in religion and society and believe that everything you do is ok because you have chosen to do it. It develops into anger with others ( the militant part) when someone challenges your beliefs or points out your mistakes ( or sins).

I think the militant ignorance within the camps in our society has allowed all sides – republican, democrats, and independents to become pretty unrepentant sinners and basically assholes. People have forgotten the value of admitting mistakes and listening to other points of view, the world of social media has made us into bigger assholes. And worse than assholes, we are assholes that that are damn proud of it, arrogant about our asshole-ness.

What I worry about most is that this militant ignorance will slip into the world of malignant narcissism, where our “camps” begin to demonize one another and actually project evil on each other. When I see people storming the capital and others calling for the re-programing of people I worry that we have hit this level. Dr. Peck used some extreme examples in his writings, notably the My Lai massacre in his argument. But as extreme as that example is, it does point out that once you start thinking your position is absolutely right, and everyone else has no value its not a long slide into evil behavior.

I hated the New England Patriots. I mean hated them. I thought Bill Belichick was a cheat and bum, and Tom Brady his willing puppet. I mean I dislike then more than Brussel sprouts.

Now Tom Brady comes to Tampa and gets our team into the super bowl. All that malignant narcissism against the Patriots is destroyed, I now have to focus my evil thoughts back on the Cowboys.
Yes, in the world of sport my behavior was not dangerous, and I don’t think Tom stayed up nights with Gisele worried about my feelings ( although I hope he did back then). And the consequences of my inappropriate, irrational thought was only some good natured ribbing from Pat fans.

But when it comes to politics and belief systems I think we as a country and society are on a slippery slope towards the evil of malignant narcissism.
We have to embrace that “sin” as part of life, and that listening to each other and having empathy toward those with vastly different belief systems then our own.
We have the ability and to listen and change- hell I even ordered a Brady Bucs Jersey in 4x today. We can accept difference and change. We are all sinners.

But fuck the Cowboys.

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#Rule 2021 : Cure for 2020

#Rule 2021 : Cure for 2020

As horrible as 2020 has been we have started 2021 almost in a worse position. The divide between people has grown beyond politics to fostering hate and distrust of even friends and family. I’ve seen families divided by the anger and distrust, it feels like we are finding new ways to dislike each other.  The ability to have a beer or two and agree to disagree has been lost, now every issue is a defining one. How you feel about the soon to be former president, the new president, masks, vaccinations and lockdowns have begun to divide us into camps. Information flow has become more bias to one’s own views that other view points are not just shouted down before they are even heard.

Why? I don’ t think this as simple as one man, a disease or a political party. I think the root cause is the way we live our lives and how we communicate with one another.

When I was in high school during the prehistoric era, hanging around with Fred and Barney we had disagreements amongst our friends. It may have been arguments about ideas or opinions but they took time to develop and resolve. If you had an argument with your girlfriend the fastest you could continue it after taking her home was in a couple hours on the phone. Even then it was limited to time allowed on the phone, the length of the phone cord and the girls ability to have a private conversation no more than 6 feet from the avocado green phone in the kitchen.

These disagreements took time to develop, sometimes you waited for the next day, sometimes it took a couple weeks to talk to one another. In the interim you talked to friends and family and got advice and prospective on what happened, usually around 24hrs it would dawn on me that I was being an asshole. Sometimes it took longer, but that was the usual outcome.

When I went to college I communicated with my girlfriend via mail or once a week phone calls – because from State College to Lansdale was long distance and cost too much.  I was forced to write thoughts down and think about what I wanted to say before putting a 15c stamp on it and walking it to the post office. I tore up dozens of letters already stamped on that walk to the post office. The whole process encouraged self reflection and patience, the consequences of communication were too high- saying an insult in writing was permanent, and would require many calls and letters to undue.

I think that is the essence of the problem  is that communication is too easy and too fast. Every thought you have can be expressed not only to the person you are arguing with but dozens of friends within seconds of having it. We are taught every thought or feeling you have has value, and that you deserve to be listened to.  It sounds like a great idea, but just because you get 100 likes on your latest post doesn’t make you Aristotle, hell it doesn’t even make you Lindsay Lohan. Thoughts are not good because they get the most votes, they are good because the reflective, emphatic and real.

As I write this it is being done over 3 days, with me coming back to this rule a number of times- editing and changing my thoughts. I know my spelling and grammar doesn’t reflect this effort, but this blog allows me to develop ideas thoughtfully. I have in fact deleted rules and changed rules as my thinking developed, because believe it or not changing your mind or developing an opinion overtime is healthy. We should allow ourselves the opportunity to make mistakes and change as we learn.

I really can’t imagine the asshole I would have grown up to be ( ok bigger asshole) if I had the availability of facebook, twitter or instagram when I was 19. The stupidity I would have spewed with mind boggling certainty is frightening. The fact that every idea I had would have received dozen of supportive comments and likes would have just encouraged my to develop more extreme and egocentric thoughts. I would have stopped growing and just built bigger walls of followers to tell me I was right.

Today I think the world has become dominated by 19 yr old Bobs validating their thoughts through a contest of social media. As I watched the protests and riots outside our capital last week I saw thousands of people texting from the glow of their phones while in the crowd. There were hundreds of people podcasting and facetiming every thought and action from the crowd- no filtering, no reflection or balance. And as this is happening our media (both left and right) broadcasted every thought they had on what they were seeing. No longer reporting, but developing every broadcast into an opinion piece that was supported by about 35 seconds of reflective thought. Its no longer about getting it right, or being reflective, its about being popular and validated through likes, comments and ratings.

I think of us all as monkeys with guns, shooting opinions at each other without regard to either aim or consequence. It scares me that what seems to win is the court of public opinion is no longer as Dr. King eloquently said the “content of their character” but the number of followers you gather.

I have begun to reflect on a “cure” for this problem, a way to bring people back from civil war and insanity. It seems we have to slow down communication and go back to that 6 ft phone cord in the kitchen.

I am personally starting by stopping all posting during the work week, and giving myself “social media” free days. I am hoping to evolve this to no cell phone Sundays and other gaps in cycle of social media disease. We need to build in breaks into our communication.

I also am following a 2 hour rule before I respond to any post or thought on social media, during that 2 hours I intend to think about what I was going to say, and decide if the comment is necessary at all. If I think it must be posted I’m giving it another 2 hrs.

It may seem hypocritical to be expressing this plan via a blog, but this blog is not immediate communication, and is agonized over for days before posting. The most important thing I think about on 2catrule.com is how the rule I am posting helps my kids. I have over 5 dozen  started posts that have been left in the editing in box. Trust me not all, in fact most of my thoughts are not valuable to share- I think this site uses that aggressive editing before posting.

We need a way out of this madness. I have stopped using CNN and FOX as my news sources and have online subscriptions to the NYT, Tampa Bay Times and Washington Post. I find reading is more reflective, even if the reporting is at times very bias. We need to be able to think about what is happen and respond with thought rather than reflex.

I hope you reflect on this rule and find ways to but into practice a more thoughtful process. I know I need to get better at mine, and that this monkey is unloading his weapon.

 

 

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Rule#74: Motorcycle Paradox

Rule #74: Motorcycle Paradox

As an insurance geek and underwriter I have very few opportunities to teach my kids life skills from my career. I couldn’t show them how to make a compound joint or tune up a Chevy, most of my lessons were boring and not useful in daily life.

But along came Corina 19 and I am now able to teach them about the thing I work with daily RISK.  As an underwriter by trade I had to learn how to measure risk, decide which risks I would take or avoid and how to price the assumption of risk.

For an underwriter the challenge is not to avoid risks, but to take the right risks for the right price. If you own a car the best way to lower or eliminate liability risk is to simply keep it in the garage and never move it. If you never  take it on the road you can’t hurt yourself or others. But then what is the point of having a car at all. Hiding is the garage is not an option.

Every parent of a new 16 yr old driver knows they risk their child’s life by giving them access to a car.  Every time my kids would drive off I would worry about the risk they were taking.  It the acceptance of risk that makes living possible- it’s scary but it’s life.

Covid is scary and keeping my kids from work and school would be far safer.. but that garage would feel very small very quickly. Hiding in the garage is not an option.

Underwriting risk is a process of understanding. The better we understand risk  the better we can assess it. But this requires accurate and unbiased information- something that it true, and not just an advocation of something you believe. In insurance we saw  “disinformation” happen with sexual misconduct claims, environmental and construction defects- the first “information “caused panic and shut down all insurance availability. As actuate facts developed common sense started to come back to the market. Bad information leads to bad decisions. With Covid there is a whole lot  of bad information- WHO, CDC and others say things that contradict their previous statements. In insurance it’s follow the actuaries – but the actuaries often disagree. In COVID it’s follow the Scientists .. but what do you do when scientists at WHO say shut downs hurt people worse than COVID and scientists in NY say close down the schools. The truth is every actuary and scientist needs to be evaluated for bias and inaccuracy. It’s a trust but verify policy. Listen to everything but believe ONLY what you can validate. People have bias which will impact their decisions. Truth matters.

The “motorcycle paradox”, is similar to the mask issue with COVID.  Virtually nothing has more data than the effectiveness of seat belts in mitigating injuries , and that data has lead to mandated seat belt laws in all 50 states. Its for our own good.

Yet there are over 8 million motorcycles in the USA with obviously no seatbelts… and there are a majority of states (31) that have laws allowing adults to ride without helmets. How can we allow people to hurt themselves and others with motorcycles and at the same time require these same people to wear seat belts.
Why aren’t motorcycles illegal?

People know the risk and are will to assume it.

I’m trying to understand how driving without a helmet is less dangerous than walking in public without a mask. I always wore a helmet when I rode a motorcycle- and didn’t get angry at those that did not.

I wear a mask because I am 60 and have diabetes – but I don’t get angry at the people walking without them.  Yes there is an slightly elevated risk with some people not wearing them- but it’s a price of living is a free society. I accept motorcycles, sky drivers and gun owners.. freedom has risk.

My kids need to be good underwriters.. not fearful of taking risk or stupidly assuming unneeded danger. I truly wish I could wrap them in bubble wrap and keep them from all harm, but then they would not live life.

So drive safely…but get out and enjoy life. Its all goes to fast to not get on a motorcycle from time to time ( but wear a helmet)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule #572: House divided against itself cannot not stand

Graffiti from Saturday night protests on Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Rule #572:  House divided against itself cannot not stand

IN THIS TEMPLE AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHRINED FOREVER.

This sickens me. The stupidity, the hatred, the blame and insanity- it all sickens me.

The needless deaths of Eric Garner and now George Floyd sicken me. Yes, they were allegedly committing crimes but not capital offenses. The force by police has to have kept in check, this was murder and should be treated as a such. Police reform, discipline and training are all needed. We need to trust our police force again.

We are living in a country that is focused on blame and hate, we have lived through a crisis of the COVID-19 and came out of it not united but more divided.  Everyone is digging into their positions and piling barrels of gasoline around their foxholes. With the riots over the last few nights we have now begun tossing lite matches at each other. The fires will only get bigger and more deadly.

We are fighting over if we wear a mask or not, or if we fly a trump flag. The hate for our fellow citizens is overwhelming. We have stopped seeing ourselves as Americans but as part of a group that is either with us or against us. We are distrustful of everyone because they are distrustful of us. We have lost empathy. As looters are arrested others are bailing them out.

This isn’t about Antifa, white supremacists, Donald Trump , Joe Biden or anyone else you care to blame- this is about a house divided against itself.  We have begun to look at each other as something else, that because of our opinions we are different,we are less intelligent, less evolved, less human.

The people that are looting must feel that they are the underclass and as such can take what is not rightfully given. If you no longer look at the rich and often white as part of your world its no longer stealing, because in their world you have no rights.

Dr. Peck in his book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil  defines evil as “militant ignorance”.The people looting are not dumb, or less than human, they are people that have lost empathy for others. They are not stealing from the Foot Locker  to feed their families or protest a act of police brutality, they are stealing because they have made themselves escape their own conscience and rationalize evil behavior. They no longer have empathy for the rich, white, privileged and police- to them stealing from them is not wrong because they don’t care about them.

This “scapegoating” of other groups ( as Dr. Peck calls it) is necessary for evil to exist. I watched a video of a woman being beaten by looters in upper state NY, to do this they must have lost the ability to have a viewpoint of the victim, and become completely narcissistic. Watching the video, like the video of Mr. Floyd being chocked to death is to witness evil.

We must find justice for George Floyd, we must have empathy for the pain his family and friends must be enduring and we must change through listening.

We must find justice for those homes, businesses and in some cases lives have been taken by these looters. Both should be done swiftly, and decisively.

We stopped listening and have developed a covert intolerance to criticism and that is the pathway to evil. Something is seriously wrong with our society, and we need to take pathways back to caring about each other. We can disagree without hate.

 

 

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Rule # 117 : Trust but Verify

Rule # 117 : Trust but Verify

You kids know that I tend to tell my stories and make statements that appear to be based fact, but are colored by my opinion. My Dad use to do this at the dinner table and quote aspects of social studies, math and science as fact and do it in such a convincing way  you left the meal certain that he was telling the truth.

For the most part is was, but when the facts didn’t support his arguments he slightly changed the facts. For better or worse I inherited this unique skill set… creating my own reality for the benefit of a good story.

It was a lot more fun up till the introduction of the world wide web in 1990 and even more fun before Jerry Yang sprung YAHOO on us in 1994. Instead of requiring a trip to the library to fact check me, you can now test all the stories with a simple search.This all makes telling a good story increasing hard.

This was all bad enough until the information we had available started to include intentionally misleading or wrong facts, trusted sources of information were being eaten up by the “user created” data in places like Wikipedia. Now its possible to be fact checked with incorrect or intentionally wrong information made look real.

I love the satirical websites like “the Onion”with their “made to look real” stories, and find it hysterical when “real” news pick up one of their stories and re-report it as fact. Unfortunately this has started happening weekly not a couple times a year. That laziness of fact checking by reporters is not as funny, and often dangerous

Take for example National COVID-19 team saying that deaths from COVID-19 could be as high as 240,000 people- pretty scary.

But in 2017 ( latest complete data) there were 2,813,503 deaths the US.

Heart Disease  647,457

Cancer 599,108

Unintentional Injuries ( car crashes and the like) 169,936

Were the big 3- but what the numbers aren’t saying is that many of the people who died from respiratory illness (160,201) and things like diabetes (83,564) would have died anyway. If all the 240,000 people were people that would not normally have died this year it could be 8.5% increase in death rate. But the CDC is say the net effect may be something like 50-75,000 new deaths ( which would not have occurred anyway in the year)

The point of all this is that in this world of fluid information and “story tellers” that look like creditably sourced information we need to adopt a TRUST BUT VERIFY position on everything we read or listen to from others.

When I took a journalism course ( back when their was journalism)  we were taught that every story needed to have credible sources, and sources of information had to be verified. Check and re-check and never believe anything as fact without proof from multiple sources.

In this new age of COVID-19 and the next crisis which will come along we need to behave like the good journalist- checking sources, verifying and re-verifying.  I have learned through this crisis not only not to trust any source on its own but not to trust my own instincts. So its up to each of us to be our own guardian of the truth, searching for the truth and not just an answer that agrees with our opinion.

With that said I need you to give your old man a break, as I did your Grandfather. Sometimes “stories” are better with the facts changed a bit, and far more interesting. The fish grows bigger with each retelling, but far more exciting to catch. There is a difference from humoring your Dad’s stories than relying on news from the cable channel.

 

 

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Rule # COVID 19- Five Lessons From an Epidemic

Rule # COVID 19- Five Lessons From an Epidemic

I have been though the typical ups and down of life that we all experience. I have  failed a course, been fired multiple times, been divorced and lost at virtually every athletic endeavor possible. In short I’ve screwed up a lot.  But although I have failed a lot I have learned that with each failure I gain lessons in life. And if I pay attention to the failures I can avoid the same mistakes, and find entirely new ones to make.

With COVID-19 I know I made mistakes and have a few lessons I want to pass on to my children.

  1. Prepare for the unexpected– I would have thought with living on the water in a hurricane zone preparation for disaster would become second nature- it wasn’t. We have quickly caught up on stables and medical supplies, but we were not prepared for a 2 week + quarantine.  Going forward I don’t intend to horde or over buy- but I do intend to have at least 2 weeks worth of stables on hand all year round and not just during hurricane season.
  2. Limit my news watching – I’m a news junkie- watching from the most conservative to most liberal of shows to find different sides of the stories presented. But when crisis pushes this into a 24/7 multi-week event, the information becomes overload. Cable news makes us panic, and the internet makes us crazy. Things like hording toilet paper and eating fish tank cleaners of outcomes of a unlimited supply of rumors. I recommend no more than two hours of news updates even in the worse of crisis- more and the fear will become all that is left.
  3. When you don’t know what to do help someone- This has been a life’s mantra I have tried to teach my children, and one that I think is a cornerstone to life’s happiness.  During crisis we focus inward, and worry about our own well being and security. All that inward energy wraps us in a tight ball and crushes our souls- and the souls of people around us. It is the common kindnesses of helping someone who is housebound or alone, or just being more friendly to others in everyday exchanges that will eliminate fear and uncertainty in our lives. Kindness is more addictive than COVID-19, trying to be a positive force of kindness can make you feel connected, needed and safe. Even within a “shelter in place” world, technology allows us to reach out and connect with a kind word.
  4. Stress makes you an asshole, stop it- As the pressures of a sustained crisis grows from days to weeks to months it is easy to let stress make us assholes. We become short with people we love, and dismissive of others reaching out to us. Its human nature to respond to stress like this, but it is the worse part of being human. I remind myself that I am dealing with people I love and care about – and fostering arguments during periods of stress hurts them the most. I get that you are stressed, but its time to “suck it up buttercup” and put on a happy face for your loved ones.  At least once a day during this virus I have caught myself being an asshole – its a constant risk when under stress.
  5. Sweat the small stuff–  The cute expression of  ” Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it is all the stuff is small”  says a lot about the real importance of things we worry about in our lives. But, I ask you to ignore this and remember that its the small stuff during a crisis that matters. Its the board game that you dig out and play with your kids, its the “good” bottle of wine you open at dinner to toast your spouse, and the extra kiss good night or hug that gets us all through crisis. It isn’t the big stuff that matters, that sort of takes care of itself. What matters is the little things we remember about the each other when we are most up against it. It is within these seemly small interactions that we find we can not only survive a crisis but thrive in one.

Kids this will end, and a new crisis will be facing us soon – it always does. Remember two things always from your Dad – 1. You will get through this  2. You are loved. Remembering those two things is all you really need.

Love, Dad

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Rule #55- Nothing takes the Place of Persistence

Rule #55- Nothing takes the Place of Persistence

Nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb”- Ray Kroc Founder of McDonald’s

As I write this rule we are in the 10th day of a nationwide shutdown caused by the COVID-19 Virus outbreak. It has been a challenging time for families, businesses and individuals- virtually no one is missing some impact of worldwide pandemic. I’ve thought about what advice I could give my kids that would give comfort and hope, and I keep coming back to the word “Persistence”.

It is persistence that has lead to virtually every personal and business success in my life. I knew early on that although I was bright, I was not the brightest in the room and that I lacked great looks and athletic talents to naturally find wins in life. But early on I realized that I was able to weather the storms in life and maintain focus better than most, and that with practice I could thrive in the mist of chaos. It isn’t the will to win that is the key, its the will to survive. To keep pushing for a positive outcome, accepting the realities of the situation but not having those realities set the course of my life. It is the grit to expect adversity, and use these times not to hide, but to move forward.

The world is dangerous wonderful place, and as I have said repeatedly in this blog ” life is hard”. Taking chances like taking a new job in North Carolina and moving your family, Moving to Hawaii with no help and getting the first Masters of the siblings, or moving to Ohio, Harrisburg or St Petersburg ( first) all took grit and I am proud of the persistence you have all shown. Some of your adversities have been huge, some small but no matter was thrown at you, you took it in stride and kept moving forward. Moving forward is very important, its when we stop pushing ourselves that we become scared, depressed and fail. Putting one step in front of another is the way to get through a life that is unfair, unpredictable and painful at times.

This COVID-19 is one of those adversities, and the way to approach it is focusing on persistence and moving forward. I’m not telling you that you won’t get sick, because no one can promise you that- just that whatever the world throws at you you can handle it. You have a ” stay at home order”- clean the house and reorganize the pantry ( you know that Rachel has already started this), read, plan and think. This is an opportunity not to stop, but to prepare to charge back into the fight. Adapting and moving forward is how we develop Persistence in our lives. COVID-19 is not a stop sign, its a Green light to become better, and use your persistence to move forward.

I’m not a conspiracy guy and generally think the simplest answer to a situation is the right one. So I’m not overthinking this one with thousands of what ifs and whys, we have a nasty virus that is highly contagious and we have to do safe things. Staying at home ( when possible or required), avoiding crowds, re-doubling hygiene routines including hand washing seem like simple solutions to a complex problem. As your Father I ask you to be careful, be thoughtful and work within the limits of law- but through it all keep moving. This soon will pass and become a story in your life and not an annoyance. Focus on the being Persistent in you relationships, work and development – the best is yet to come and you are headed in the right direction. Fuck COVID-19, you will be through this soon and your future is bright. KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

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Rule #177: Fear of Toilet Paper

Rule #177: Fear of Toilet Paper

As a rule fear is good. Fear keeps us from doing stupid things that will kill us. Things like alligators and Jehovah Wintesses visits on a Saturday are normal rational things to avoid and fear helps remind us of dangers around us. Fear helps us keep alive.

I’ve told my kids that if they get a creepy feeling for an area or person they should trust their judgement and avoid the place or person. Often fear is guiding us to make good decisions and protect us from harm. Trusting my judgement has kept me alive, and I know that I avoided situations which would have likely hurt me had it not been for fear.

But fear is complicated. Sometimes it is something that should be overcome with courage. I have spoken to many people that have been in the military in situations where their lives were gravely at risk, and yet because of honor and commitment they faced the fear and moved ahead with courage. They consistently say they were afraid, because only a crazy person or idiot would not have been, but found courage to move forward. Fear becomes a heighten state of awareness, it is the caffeine that hits our blood stream when we need it. These heroes have been able to digest it and use it, it can be very powerful.

Sometimes fear is irrational. It can make us do things that are just stupid. When I lived in the Northeast it was snow storms, every time a low front was developing in the south the Mother of all storms was going to destroy us all. In the South its Hurricanes, every Low off of Cuba looks like the end of our home and lives. What causes this is that fear, like sex, sells. The more afraid you can get a viewer base the more they watch TV, the more they horde stuff and the more crazy generally people start to act.

The mantra of James Carville ” Never let a good crisis go to waste” has be come the business strategy for our 24 hr news world. And I mean everyone in it from Fox, CNN, MSNBC and even the weather channel. Hell, when we catch weathermen standing in a hole to make the flooding look worse who can we trust. No one. The world has gone crazy.

The problem of this irrational fear is that sometimes the 2 ft snow storm hits, the hurricane makes land and the virus kills people. We just don’t know if its our turn to win the unlucky lottery. In these cases odds mean nothing. Regardless of its only a 10% of getting sick, and only a 3% of dying from the sickness, we feel certain that the numbers are lining up against us and we are all going to die. Its the same curiosity of the human condition that makes us think we will win $10,000 on the next scratch off that makes us think our lives are endanger. Our minds don’t measure risk very well, and when the news stations are intentionally lying how can you make a better one?

As I look at the empty shelves in the toilet paper aisle today I realize the first step is to breath. Keep calm we are not dying today. We have time to think and decide on what to do. We don’t have to grab all the chicken off the plate, we can leave some for others and we will all live. This hording mentality takes preparation from smart planning to crazy end of the world shit.
No one is going to run out of toilet paper unless some idiots fill up their mini-vans with 800 rolls of Charmin.

Living on the water in Florida I have a back up generator, stock up on 4 or 5 cases of water and some can goods every April, knowing the storms will come. Right now with the current crisis of coronavirus-19 I have made sure we are have our cabinets stocked and are careful about hand washing and face touching. I’m not hiding in my house and stocking up on ammo, I’m being prudent and breathing. Even as a 60 yr old man with an number of underlying conditions I likely will be alive come May. I think our families 36 rolls put us a competitive edge to living through this crisis.

Making rational, thoughtful decisions and not reacting to every piece of breaking news is the only way to survive in this crazy world. 1/2 the world is telling you to panic, the other 1/2 is telling you there is nothing to worry about. No, I am not booking any cruises at the moment ( but I know I will in the future) and no I am not traveling to Northern Italy this year. But I am going about my day pretty unaffected by the panic, and will be doing business travel where necessary. We all have to assess risk ourselves, but do it based on as many facts as possible and as few anchormen.

Remember breath, think, question everything and yes 36 rolls are enough for 14 days of quarantine.

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Rule# 313: purge ofter

Rule# 313: Purge often

When we moved to Florida in 2017 we tried to throw out everything we didn’t use or need. I filled up 2 loads of a 40 yard dumpsters, and thought I was going pretty well- combining it with a massive garage sale.

I didn’t even scratch the surface.

Problem was made more complex by moving into a 7200 sf house that didn’t force me into into hard decisions. I was able to hold on to life’s treasures…that will eventually become the burden of my children to dumping of all this crap when we die.

Fortunately we were able to accumulate a significant amount of valuable art and coins that will make it more like a treasure hunt through The junk, but it will still be yards and yards of useless stuff.

My divorce ( that purged most of my stuff 20yrs ago) and my move to Florida has taken me out of the “horders season 29 “ running, but still we accumulate a lot in this life that is an useful as an old cheese grater.

The real clutter isn’t in the stuff but in the emotional baggage we carry with us. We don’t force change upon our lives because frankly it’s just “too damn hard”. Its too easy to be comfortable, it’s why we keep the old dish towel and broken Halloween decorations. It’s why we accept lives that stop challenging us and changing us.

Florida was scary for me. At 57 I moved away from family and friends into the Jumanji game of snakes, roaches, cane toads and hurricanes. Yea I know it’s a beautiful home on the water- but it’s still is freaking Florida.

But Freaking Florida energized me, forced me to meet new friends and work to keep the old ones. It made me a better and more interesting person- yes I have regrets..but as Frank said they are “ too few to mention”.

Even as I enter my 60’s ( boy there are a lot of people losing money on that bet) I seek to purge my stuff, my emotions and take risks that could not in my 30’s because I was either too poor, too afraid or too focused on my kids. I want my 60’s to have far more challenges and change than my 40’s. I now reluctantly accept that I will one day die, and that gives me the freedom to put it all on black and laugh when it comes up red.. knowing the
True secret that living is so much more important than winning.

Remember the lessons of Stephens “4 spins to glory” experience on the roulette. Even if his all or nothing 4 bets would not have worked out he would have had one hell of a story for the rest of his life. ( trust me the stories last longer than the money)

My good friend Tim is leaving a job that he had the best results in the company, and is leaving not because he was failing, but because the ceiling was a bit higher elsewhere. Yes, he could fail- but just venturing into the great unknown he has given a big middle finger to death and chooses to be different. I admire that, even in the unlikely event he fails He would have won.

I’m not saying to jump out of every plane or to ignore risks- because you will have your families and Retirement to one day enjoy and kids to get through college.

Just fill up the dumpster once in a while and jump without looking every now and then. Its suppose to be scary, scary leads to the best stories.

And you all know how I love my stories..,

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