Friday, July 29, 2005

Matt Clement - How Fragile Is A Life And An Athletic Career

I have heard the sound before - the thud of a baseball traveling over 100 miles an hour impacting the man on the mound who had released the ball only microseconds earlier. I heard it again on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field as Red Sox pitcher, Matt Clement, miraculously escaped serious injury after being hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Devil Rays’ outfield, Carl Crawford.

I had made a quick trip to Tampa to visit my sister. We grew up on Boston's North Shore cheering for the Red Sox, so we try to catch games together whenever we have the chance. We were lucky enough to have been given premium seats by a friend who works for the Devil Rays. So, we were sitting about as close as possible to the field when the frightening accident occurred. From our vantage point just behind the Tampa Bay dugout, we heard the loud report of the ball as it caromed off of Clement’s skull and bounced deep into the outfield. The pitcher grabbed his head and then dropped to the ground as medical personnel poured onto the field from both dugouts and from the stands. The crowd waited in stunned silence as the drama played out before us. Our thoughts were no longer on the score or on the standings but on the health and career of a gifted athlete whose future hung in the balance as he lay motionless on the mound.

We know today that he escaped serious injury, but those were frightening moments in the bottom of the third inning. I had heard the sound before when Bryce Florie was hit in the face. Here is the way that incident was described in a 2002 story written on Opening Day be a Cincinnati Red’s writer, Tim Sullivan:

On Sept.8, 2000, pitching in relief for the Boston Red Sox, Florie threw a pitch to the Yankees' Ryan Thompson that came back at him like a cowhide cannon shot. Before Florie could raise his glove in self-defense, the ball shattered bones surrounding his right eye.

Florie returned to the big leagues last June and threw 8 2/3 ineffective innings for the Red Sox before being released. Hamilton drove to Louisville last fall to watch his friend pitch for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, and remembers Florie flinching whenever a ball was struck in his vicinity. Pitching can be perilous work and Bryce Florie now serves as a symbol of the fragile nature of a ballplayer's career. He is currently employed as a farm hand in the A's organization.

I am old enough to remember the tragic saga of Tony Conigliaro and the near-fatal and career-ending beaning he suffered while playing for the Red Sox in 1967. He was on track for a Hall of Fame career and then – poof – it was all gone.

I have a friend who often repeats the phrase: “Tomorrow is not promised to us.” This week’s latest reminder of the fragility of an athletic career and the evanescent nature of life should serve as a cautionary tale to prompt us to treasure each day and to wring from it all that we can. I thank God for the gift of each new day and pray for the strength and wisdom to invest it wisely.

I wish that someone close to Manny Ramirez would encourage him to read these words and heed them. But, that is a topic for another day . . .

God bless.


A Proud Father - My Son Tim's Latest Enterprise

Many of you know that I have four remarkable sons of whom I am enormously proud. Tim, the third in birth order, has been living in Eastern Europe this past year - teaching English in Poland, writing, performing as a keyboard player with a band that toured Turkey recently, and developing as an entrepreneur. Tim's knowledge of the music scene in Eastern and Central Europe has led him to launch a new business - an on-line service and website devoted to promoting Live Music in the Central-East or "Middle Europe". I am pleased to share with you Tim's announcement of the launching of this new Website:

To Future Partners and Friends of MEMusik,

It is my great pleasure to announce the launch of Middle Europe Musik ( MEMusik is a website devoted to promoting Live Music in the Central-East or "Middle Europe". The Beta version of MEMusik is devoted to five countries and nine cities in this region: Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice), Czech Republic (Prague, Brno, Pilzen), Slovakia(Bratislava), Hungary (Budapest) and Slovenia (Ljubljana). For those of you who are yet unfamiliar with this project, MEMusik has been an idea and business plan that I have been nurturing and developing for several years. And unlike most web-based start-ups, MEMusik has no immediate competitors and furthermore, there are very few sites on the Internet in general, which MEMusik could be easily compared to.

In the early stages of any business, small or large, the most fundamental question has to be: 'is there a potential market for my product?' It took me about two years of serious research on both sides of the Atlantic to finally reach the conclusion that not only is there a market for MEMusik but there is actually a high demand for such a service in this part of the world. Although much of my research has consisted of various market analyses, (compiling data such as percentage of English speakers in each target city, tracking and comparing the growth of different sectors of the tourist industry in each country and region)the most overwhelmingly convincing data is that which I have collected while actually living and working in Poland over the last eight months.

As a journalist and more recently the Director of Advertising for the largest English language magazine in Krakow (, I have had lengthy discussions with Music Club owners, Hostel and Hotel owners, and caches of tourists ranging from broke backpackers to crack stockbrokers, regarding the overarching philosophy, financial feasibility, and growth potential of MEMusik. This type of researchwas not only vital in helping me develop the site, bu thas proved extremely advantageous from a financial perspective because I have already started to parlay my rapport with Clubs, Hostels, and Restaurants in Krakow, into the first wave of advertising contracts.

The greatest challenge now that we have officially launched the website, is to generate as much traffic and advertising interest as quickly as possible. This is where I need your help. I encourage you to explore as much of the web site as possible. ( Please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions. If you do like the idea of the site, please tell as many people as you can about the site, through email, word of mouth, anything. Although the site is specific to Central Europe, there is a lot of information and links tomusic in this part of the world that we feel any fan of music or traveling will be interested in.

Finally, because MEMusik is a small business we are looking for some small investors to help us get off the ground as quickly and smoothly as possible. If you like the idea and philosophy of MEMusik, please consider taking a financial interest in the Business. We are not looking for any large sums of money and we are open to discuss a number of short and long term investment scenarios.

Please contact me at if you want further information about investing in MEMusik.

Thank you very much for your time and attention. I hope that at the very least you enjoy the website and perhaps learn a little about the Musik and Cities of Middle Europe. I would also like to thank those of you who have helped me develop and build the conceptof MEMusik over the last few years. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon.


Timothy Chase
Administrative Director of MEMusik
Ul. Mala 1/19
Krakow, Poland 31-103

* * * * *

Please forward this posting to anyone you know who loves music, has an interest in Central Europe, or who wants to encourage a young entrepreneur. As you are able, please visit the Website and spread the word.



Friday, July 22, 2005

Leadership Is a Contact Sport: The "Follow-up Factor" in Management Development

In keeping with today's theme in the postings I have chosen to share, it occurs to me that this article from "Strategy + Business" on the need for the personal touch in leadership is a logical extension of today's other two postings. One cannot truly establish meaningful human touch in the course of leading without finding a way to access both hemispheres of the brain - the analytical and the intuitive sides of our selves.

And it is impossible to reach out and touch those we are privileged to lead without slowing down the frenetic pace of the quotidian tasks that represent the "tyranny of the urgent."

Leadership Is a Contact Sport: The "Follow-up Factor" in Management Development

Quitting The Paint Factory - from Harper's Magazine

I have a close friend, Andrew Wheeler, who is a software engineer in the Bay area. Andrew has a keen mind and thinks broadly about many issues - from the technological to the philosophical. When Andrew forwarded me this article from Harper's Magazine and asked for my opinion, I knew I had to share it with the readers of this Blog.

Here was part of my response to Andrew:

I just slowed down the fast pace of my life long enough to take a breath and read the essay in its entirety. Although my politics are right of center these days, I cannot deny the truth of what he is saying about work, business, pace of life, balance of life, and the inanities of Dubya. I will certainly use this article in my Blog in the near future.

I don't know much about Mark Slouka (see his brief bio below), and I do not agree with all that he opines in this article, but I found plenty of food for thought in the words he uses in this article to paint a vivid picture of life grown frantic and frenetic.

This article strikes me as a nice companion piece to today's review of "A Whole New Mind" in that it reminds us - in a very different way - of the need for balance in the way in which we view the world and interact with it.


QUITTING THE PAINT FACTORY - On the virtues of idleness

By Mark Slouka - Harper's Magazine – November 2004 issue

Love yields to business. If you seek a way out of love, be busy; you'll be safe, then.

-Ovid, Remedia Amoris

I distrust the perpetually busy; always have. The frenetic ones spinning in tight little circles like poisoned rats. The slower ones, grinding away their fourscore and ten in righteousness and pain. They are the soul-eaters.

When I was young, my parents read me Aesop's fable of "The Ant and the Grasshopper," wherein, as everyone knows, the grasshopper spends the sum­mer making music in the sun while the ant toils with his fellow formicidae. Inevitably, winter comes, as winters will, and the grasshopper, who hasn’t planned ahead and who doesn't know what a 401K is, has run out of luck. When he shows up at the ants' door, carrying his fiddle, the ant asks him what he was doing all year: "I was singing, if you please," the grasshopper replies, or something to that effect. "You were singing?" says the ant. "Well, then, go and sing." And perhaps because I sensed, even then, that fate would someday find me holding a violin or a manuscript at the door of the ants, my antennae frozen and my hills overdue, I confounded both Aesop and my well-meaning parents, and bore away the wrong moral. That summer, many a wind­blown grasshopper was saved from the pond, and many an anthill inundat­ed under the golden rain of my pee.

I was right.

In the lifetime that has passed since Calvin Coolidge gave his speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in which he famously pro­claimed that "the chief business of the American people is business," the do­minion of the ants has grown enormously. Look about: The business of busi­ness is everywhere and inescapable; the song of the buyers and the sellers never stops; the term "workaholic" has been folded up and put away. We have no time for our friends or our families, no time to think or to make a meal. We're moving product, while the soul drowns like a cat in a well. ["I think that there is far too much work done in the world," Bertrand Russell observed in his famous 1932 essay "In Praise of Idleness," adding that he hoped to "start a cam­paign to induce good young men to do nothing." He failed. A year later, National So­cialism, with its cult of work (think of all those bronzed young men in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will throwing cordwood to each other in the sun), flared in Germany.]

A resuscitated orthodoxy, so pervasive as to be nearly invisible, rules the land. Like any religion worth its salt, it shapes our world in its image, de­monizing if necessary, absorbing when possible. Thus has the great sovereign territory of what Nabokov called "unreal estate," the continent of invisible possessions from time to talent to contentment, been either infantilized, ren­dered unclean, or translated into the grammar of dollars and cents. Thus has the great wilderness of the inner life been compressed into a median strip by the demands of the "real world," which of course is anything but. Thus have we succeeded in transforming even ourselves into bipedal products, paying richly for seminars that teach us how to market the self so it may be sold to the highest bidder. Or perhaps "down the river" is the phrase.

Ah, but here's the rub: Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, req­uisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due. Which is precisely what makes idle­ness dangerous. All manner of things can grow out of that fallow soil. Not for nothing did our mothers grow suspicious when we had "too much time on our hands." They knew we might be up to something. And not for nothing did we whisper to each other, when we were up to something, "Quick, look busy."

Mother knew instinctively what the keepers of the castles have always known: that trouble – the kind that might threaten the symmetry of a well-ordered garden – needs time to take root. Take away the time, therefore, and you choke off the problem before it begins. Obedience reigns, the plow stays in the furrow; things proceed as they must. Which raises an uncomfortable question: Could the Church of Work – which today has Americans aspir­ing to sleep deprivation the way they once aspired to a personal knowledge of God – be, at base, an anti-democratic force? Well, yes. James Russell Lowell, that nineteenth-century workhorse, summed it all up quite neatly: "There is no better ballast for keeping the mind steady on its keel, and sav­ing it from all risk of crankiness, than business."

Quite so. The mind, however, particularly the mind of a citizen in a de­mocratic society, is not a boat. Ballast is not what it needs, and steadiness, alas, can be a synonym for stupidity, as our current administration has so am­ply demonstrated. No, what the democratic mind requires, above all, is time; time to consider its options. Time to develop the democratic virtues of independence, orneriness, objectivity, and fairness. Time, perhaps (to sail along with Lowell's leaky metaphor for a moment), to ponder the course our unelected captains have so generously set for us, and to consider mutiny when the iceberg looms.

Which is precisely why we need to be kept busy. If we have no time to think, to mull, if we have no time to piece together the sudden associations and unexpected, mid-shower insights that are the stuff of independent opinion, then we are less citizens than cursors, easily manipulated, vulnerable to the currents of power.

But I have to be careful here. Having worked all of my adult life, I recognize that work of one sort or another is as essential to survival as protein, and that much of it, in today's highly bureaucratized, economically diversified societies, will of necessity be neither pleasant nor challenging nor particularly meaningful. I have compassion for those making the most of their commute and their cubicle; I just wish they could be a little less cheerful about it. In short, this isn't about us so much as it is about the Zeitgeist we live and labor in, which, like a cuckoo taking over a thrush's nest, has systematically shoved all the other eggs of our life, one by one, onto the pavement. It's about illuminating the losses.
We're enthralled. I want to disenchant us a bit; draw a mustache on the boss.


I'm a student of the narrowing margins. And their victim, to some extent, though my capacity for sloth, my belief in it, may yet save me, Like some stub­born heretic in fifth-century Rome, still offering gifts to the spirit of the fields even as the priests sniff about the tempa for sin, I daily sacrifice my bit of time. The pagan gods may yet return. Constantine and Theodosius may die. But the prospects are bad.

In Riverside Park in New York City, where I walk these days, the legions of "weekend nannies" are growing, setting up a play date for a ten-year-old requires a feat of near-Olympic coordination, and the few, vestigial, late-afternoon parents one sees, dragging their wailing progeny by the hand or frantically kicking a soccer ball in the fad­ing light, have a gleam in their eyes I find frightening. No out­stretched legs crossed at the ankles, no arms draped over the back of the bench. No lovers. No be-hatted old men, arguing. Between the slide and the sandbox, a very fit young man in his early thir­ties is talking on his cell phone while a two-year-old with a trail of snot running from his nose tugs on the seam of his corduroy pants. "There's no way I can pick it up. Because we're still at the park. Because we just got here, that's why."

It's been one hundred and forty years since Thoreau, who itched a full century before everyone else began to scratch, complained that the world was increasingly just "a place of business. What an infi­nite bustle!" he groused. "I am awaked almost every night by the panting of the locomotive. It interrupts my dreams. There is no Sab­bath. It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work." Little did he know. Today the roads of commerce, paved and smoothed, reach into every nook and cranny of the republic; there is no place apart, no place where we would be shut of the drone of that damnable traffic. Today we, quite literally, live to work. And it hardly matters what kind of work we do; the process justifies the ends. Indeed, at times it seems there is hardly an occupation, however useless or humiliating or down­right despicable, that cannot at least in part be redeemed by our obsessive dedication to it: "Yes, Ted sold shoulder-held Stingers to folks with no surname, but he worked so hard!"

Not long ago, at the kind of dinner party I rarely attend, I made the mis­take of admitting that I not only liked to sleep but liked to get at least eight hours a night whenever possible, and that nine would be better still. The reaction – a 'complex Pinot Noir of nervous laughter displaced by expres­sions of disbelief and condescension – suggested that my transgression had been, on some level, a political one. I was reminded of the time I'd confessed to Roger Angell that I did not much care for baseball.

My comment was immediately rebutted by testimonials to sleeplessness: two of the nine guests confessed to being insomniacs; a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters claimed indignantly that she couldn't re­member when she had ever gotten eight hours of sleep; two other guests de­clared themselves grateful for five or six. It mattered little that I'd arranged my life differently, and accepted the sacrifices that arrangement entailed. Eight hours! There was something willful about it. Arrogant, even. Suitably chastened, I held my tongue, and escaped alone to tell Thee.

Increasingly, it seems to me, our world is dividing into two kinds of things: those that aid work, or at least represent a path to it, and those that don't Things in the first category are good and noble; things in the second aren't. Thus, for example, education is good (as long as we don't have to listen to any of that "end in itself" nonsense) because it will pre­sumably lead to work. Thus playing the piano or swimming the 100-yard backstroke are good things for a fifteen-year-old to do not because they might give her some pleasure but because rumor has it that Princeton is interested in students who can play Chopin or swim quickly on their backs (and a degree from Princeton, as any fool knows, can be readily converted to work).

Point the beam anywhere, and there's the God of Work, busily trampling out the vintage. Blizzards are bemoaned because they keep us from getting to work. Hobbies are seen as either ridiculous or self-indulgent because they interfere with work. Longer school days are all the rage (even as our children grow demonstrably stupider), not because they make educational or psychological or any other kind of sense but because keeping kids in school longer makes it easier for us to work. Meanwhile, the time grows short, the margin narrows; the white spaces on our calendars have been inked in for months. We're angry about this, upset about that, but who has the time to do anything anymore? There are those reports to re­port on, memos to remember, emails to deflect or delete. They bury us like snow.

The alarm rings and we're off, running so hard that by the time we stop we're too tired to do much of anything except nod in front of the TV, which, like virtually all the other voices in our culture, endorses our exhaustion, fetishizes and romanticizes it and, by daily adding its little trowelful of lies and omissions, helps cement the conviction that not only is this how our three score and ten must be spent but that the transaction is both noble and necessary.


Time may be money (though I've always resisted that loath­some platitude, the alchemy by which the very gold of our lives is transformed into the base lead of commerce), but one thing seems certain: Money eats time. Forget the visions of sanctioned leisure: the view from the deck in St. Moritz, the wafer-thin TV. Consider the price.

Sometimes, I want to say, money costs too much. And at the beginning of the millennium, in this country, the cost of money is well on the way to bankrupting us. We're impoverishing ourselves, our families, our communities – and yet we can't stop our­selves. Worse, we don't want to.

Seen from the right vantage point, there's something wonderfully animistic about it. The god must be fed; he's hungry for our hours, craves our days and years. And we oblige. Every morning (unlike the good citizens of Tenochti­tlan, who at least had the good sense to sacrifice others on the slab) we rush up the steps of the ziggurat to lay ourselves down. It's not a pretty sight.

Then again, we've been well trained. And the training never stops. In a recent ad in The New York Times Magazine, paid for by an outfit named Wealth and Tax Advisory Services, Inc., an attractive young woman in a dark business suit is shown working at her desk. (She may be at home, though these days the distinction is moot.) On the desk is a cup, a cell phone, and an adding machine. Above her right shoulder, just over the blurred sofa and the blurred landscape on the wall, are the words, "Suc­cessful entrepreneurs work continuously." The text below explains: "The challenge to building wealth is that your finances grow in complexity as your time demands increase.”

The ad is worth disarticulating, it seems to me, if only because some ver­sion of it is beamed into our cerebral cortex a thousand times a day. What's interesting about it is not only what it says but what it so blithely assumes. What it says, crudely enough, is that in order to be successful, we must not only work but work continuously; what it assumes is that time is inversely pro­portional to wealth: our time demands will increase the harder we work and the more successful we become. It's an organic thing; a law, almost. Fish got­ta swim and birds gotta fly, you gotta work like a dog till you die.

Am I suggesting then that Wealth and Tax Advisory Services, Inc. spend $60,000 for a full-page ad in The New York Times Magazine to show us a young woman at her desk writing poetry? Or playing with her kids? Or sharing a glass of wine with a friend, attractively thumbing her nose at the acquisition of wealth? No. For one thing, the folks at Wealth and Tax, etc. are simply doing what's in their best interest. For another, it would hardly matter if they did show the woman writing poetry, or laugh­ing with her children, because these things, by virtue of their placement in the ad, would immediately take on the color of their host; they would simply be the rewards of working almost continuously.

What I am suggesting is that just as the marketplace has co-opted rebel­lion by subordinating politics to fashion, by making anger chic, so it has qui­etly underwritten the idea of leisure, in part by separating it from idleness. Open almost any magazine in America today and there they are: The ubiq­uitous tanned-and-toned twenty-somethings driving the $70,000 fruits of their labor; the moneyed-looking men and women in their healthy sixties (to give the young something to aspire to) tossing Frisbees to Irish setters or ty­ing on flies in midstream or watching sunsets from their Adirondack chairs.

Leisure is permissible, we understand, because it costs money; idleness is not, because it doesn't. Leisure is focused; whatever thinking it requires is absorbed by a certain task: sinking that putt, making that cast, watching that flat-screen TV. Idleness is unconstrained, anarchic. Leisure – particularly if it involves some kind of high-priced technology – is as American as a Fourth of July barbecue. Idleness, on the other hand, has a bad attitude. It doesn't shave; it's not a member of the team; it doesn't play well with others. It thinks too much, as my high school coach used to say. So it has to be ostracized.
[Or put to good use. The wilderness of association we enter when we read, for example, is one of the world's great domains of imaginative diversity: a seedbed of individualism.

What better reason to pave it then, to make it an accessory, like a personal organizer, a sure-fire way of raising your SAT score, or improving your communication skills for that next interview. You say you like to read? Then don't waste your time; put it to work. Order Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard's Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage, with its picture of the bard in a business suit on the cover.

With idleness safely on the reservation, the notion that leisure is neces­sarily a function of money is free to grow into a truism. "Money isn't the goal. Your goals, that's the goal," reads a recent ad for Citibank. At first glance, there's something appealingly subversive about it. Apply a little skepticism though, and the implicit message floats to the surface: And how else are you going to reach those goals than by investing wisely with us? Which suggests that, um, money is the goal, after all.


There's something un-American about singing the virtues of idleness. It is a form of blasphemy, a secular sin. More precisely, it is a kind of latter-­day antinomianism, as much a threat to the orthodoxy of our day as Anne Hutchinson's desire 350 years ago to circumvent the Puritan ministers and dial God direct. Hutchinson, we recall, got into trouble because she accused the Puritan elders of backsliding from the rigors of their theology and giving in to a Covenant of Works, whereby the individual could earn his all-expenses-paid trip to the pearly gates through the labor of his hands rather than solely through the grace of God. Think of it as a kind of frequent-flier plan for the soul.

The analogy to today is instructive. Like the New England clergy, the Religion of Business – literalized, painfully, in books like Jesus, C.E.O. – holds a monopoly on interpretation; it sets the terms, dictates value.

[In this new lexicon, for example, "work" is defined as the means to wealth; "success," as a synonym for it.]

Although to­day's version of the Covenant of Works has substituted a host of secular pleasures for the idea of heaven, it too seeks to corner the market on what we most desire, to suggest that the work of our hands will save us. And we be­lieve. We believe across all the boundaries of class and race and ethnicity that normally divide us; we believe in numbers that dwarf those of the more con­ventionally faithful. We repeat the daily catechism, we sing in the choir. And we tithe, and keep on tithing, until we are spent.

It is this willingness to hand over our lives that fascinates and appalls me. There's such a lovely perversity to it; it's so wonderfully counterintuitive, so very Christian: You must empty your pockets, turn them inside out, and spill out your wife and your son, the pets you hardly knew, and the days you sim­ply missed altogether watching the sunlight fade on the bricks across the way. You must hand over the rainy afternoons, the light on the grass, the moments of play and of simply being. You must give it up, all of it, and by your example teach your children to do the same, and then – because even this is not enough – you must train yourself to believe that this outsourcing of your life is both natural and good. But even so, your soul will not be saved.

The young, for a time, know better. They balk at the harness. They do not go easy. For a time they are able to see the utter sadness of subordinating all that matters to all that doesn't. Eventually, of course, sitting in their cubi­cle lined with New Yorker cartoons, selling whatever it is they've been asked to sell, most come to see the advantage of enthusiasm. They join the choir and are duly forgiven for their illusions. It's a rite of passage we are all familiar with. The generations before us clear the path; Augustine stands to the left, Freud to the right. We are born into death, and die into life, they mur­mur; civilization will have its discontents. The sign in front of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Work confirms it. And we believe.

- - - - - - - - - - -

All of which leaves only the task of explaining away those few miscreants who out of some inner weakness or perversity either refuse to convert or who go along and then, in their thirty-sixth year in the choir, say, abruptly abandon the faith. Those in the first category are relatively easy to contend with; they are simply losers. Those in the second are a bit more difficult; their apostasy requires something more. . .dramatic. They are considered mad.

In one of my favorite anecdotes from American literary history (which my children know by heart, and which in turn bodes poorly for their fu­tures as captains of industry), the writer Sherwood Anderson found himself, at the age of thirty-six, the chief owner and general manager of a paint factory in Elyria, Ohio. Having made something of a reputation for himself as a copywriter in a Chicago advertising agency, he'd moved up a rung. He was on his way, as they say, a businessman in the making, per­haps even a tycoon in embryo. There was only one problem: he couldn't seem to shake the notion that the work he was doing (writing circulars extolling the virtues of his line of paints) was patently absurd, undignified; that it amounted to a kind of prison sentence. Lacking the rationalizing gene, incapable of numbing himself sufficiently to make the days and the years pass without pain, he suffered and flailed. Eventually he snapped.

It was a scene he would revisit time and again in his memoirs and fic­tion. On November 27, 1912, in the middle of dictating a letter to his secretary ("The goods about which you have inquired are the best of their kind made in the..."), he simply stopped. According to the story, the two supposedly stared at each other for a long time, after which Anderson said: "I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet," and walked out. Outside the building he turned east toward Cleveland and kept going. Four days later he was recognized and taken to a hospital suffering from exhaustion.

Anderson claimed afterward that he had encouraged the impression that he might be cracking up in order to facilitate his exit, to make it compre­hensible. "The thought occurred to me that if men thought me a little in­sane they would forgive me if I lit out," he wrote, and though we will nev­er know for sure if he suffered a nervous breakdown that day or only pretended to one (his biographers have concluded that he did), the point of the anec­dote is elsewhere: Real or imagined, nothing short of madness would do for an excuse.

Anderson himself, of course, was smart enough to recognize the absurdity in all this, and to use it for his own ends; over the years that fol­lowed, he worked his escape from the paint factory into a kind of parable of liberation, an exemplar for the young men of his age. It became the cornerstone of his critique of the emerging business culture: To stay was to suffocate, slowly; to escape was to take a stab at "aliveness." What America needed, Anderson argued, was a new class of individuals who "at any physical cost to themselves and others" would "agree to quit working, to loaf, to refuse to be hurried or try to get on in the world."

"To refuse to be hurried or try to get on in the world." It sounds quite mad. What would we do if we followed that advice? And who would we be? No, better to pull down the blinds, finish that sentence. We're all in the paint factory now.


At times you can almost see it, this flypaper we're attached to, this mechanism we labor in, this delusion we inhabit. A thing of such magnitude can be hard to make out, of course, but you can rough out its shape and mark its progress, like Lon Chaney's Invisible Man, by its effects: by the things it renders quaint or obsolete, by the trail of discarded notions it leaves be­hind. What we're leaving behind today, at record pace, is what­ever belief we might once have had in the value of unstructured time: in the privilege of contemplating our lives before they are gone, in the importance of uninterrupted conversation, in the beauty of play. In the thing in itself—unmediated, leading nowhere. In the present moment.

Admittedly, the present – in its ontological, rather than consumerist, sense – has never been too popular on this side of the Atlantic; we've always been a finger-drumming, restless bunch, suspicious of jawboning, less likely to sit at the table than to grab a quick one at the bar. Whitman might have exhorted us to loaf and invite our souls, but that was not an invitation we cared to extend, not unless the soul played poker, ha, ha. No sir, a Frenchman might invite his soul. One expected such things. But an American? An American would be out the swinging doors and halfway to tomorrow before his silver dollar had stopped ringing on the counter.

I was put in mind of all this last June while sitting on a bench in London's Hampstead Heath. My bench, like many others, was almost entirely hidden; well off the path, delightfully overgrown, it sat at the top of a long-grassed meadow. It had a view. There was whimsy in its placement, and joy. It was thoroughly impractical. It had clearly been placed there to encourage one thing – solitary contemplation.

And sitting there, listening to the summer drone of the bees, I sud­denly imagined George W. Bush on my bench. I can't tell you why this happened, or what in particular brought the image to my mind. Possi­bly it was the sheer incongruity of it that appealed to me, the turtle-on-a-lamppost illogic of it; earlier that summer, intrigued by images of Kaf­ka's face on posters advertising the Prague Marathon, I'd entertained myself with pictures of Franz looking fit for the big race. In any case, my vision of Dubya sitting on a bench, reading a book on his lap – smiling or nodding in agreement, wetting a finger to turn a page – was so discordant, so absurd, that I realized I'd accidentally stumbled upon one of those visual oxymorons that, by its very dissonance, illuminates something essential.

What the picture of George W. Bush flushed into the open for me was the classically American and increasingly Republican cult of movement, of busy-ness; of doing, not thinking. One could imagine Kennedy reading on that bench in Hampstead Heath. Or Carter, maybe. Or even Clinton (though given the bucolic setting, one could also imagine him in other, more Dionysian scenarios). But Bush? Bush would be clearing brush. He'd be stomping it into submission with his pointy boots. He'd be making the world a better place.

Now, something about all that brush clearing had always bothered me. It wasn't the work itself, though I'd never fully understood where all that brush was being cleared from, or why, or how it was possible that there was
any brush still left between Dallas and Austin. No, it was the fre­netic, anti-thinking element of it I disliked. This wasn't simply outdoor work, which I had done my share of and knew well. This was brush clearing as a statement, a gesture of impatience. It captured the man, his disdain for the inner life, for the virtues of slowness and contemplation. This was movement as an answer to all those equivocating intellectuals and Gallic pontificators who would rather talk than do, think than act. Who could always be counted on to complicate what was simple with long-winded dis­cussions of complexity and consequences. Who were weak.

And then I had it, the thing I'd been trying to place, the thing that had always made me bristle – instinctively – whenever I saw our fidgety, unelected President in action. I recalled reading about an Italian art movement called Futurism, which had flourished in the first decades of the twentieth century. Its prac­titioners had advocated a cult of restlessness, of speed, of dy­namism; had rejected the past in all its forms; had glorified busi­ness and war and patriotism. They had also, at least in theory, supported the growth of fascism.

The link seemed tenuous at best, even facile. Was I serious­ly linking Bush – his shallowness, his bustle, his obvious suspi­cion of nuance – to the spirit of fascism? As much as I loathed the man, it made me uneasy. I'd always argued with people who applied the word carelessly. Having been called a fascist myself for suggesting that an ill-tempered rottweiler be put on a leash, I had no wish to align myself with those who had downgraded the word to a kind of generalized epithet, roughly synonymous with "ass-hole," to be applied to whoever disagreed with them. I had too much re­spect for the real thing. And yet there was no getting around it; what I'd been picking up like a bad smell whenever I observed the Bush team in ac­tion was the faint but unmistakable whiff of fascism; a democratically diluted fascism, true, and masked by the perfume of down-home cookin', but fascism nonetheless.

Still, it was not until I'd returned to the States and had forced myself to wade through the reams of Futurist manifestos – a form that obviously spoke to their hearts – that the details of the connection began to come clear. The linkage had nothing to do with the Futurists' art, which was notable only for its sustained mediocrity, nor with their writing, which at times achieved an almost sublime level of badness. It had to do, rather, with their ant-like energy, their busy-ness, their utter disdain of all the manifestations of the inner life, and with the way these traits seemed so organically linked in their thinking to aggression and war. "We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia," wrote Filip­po Marinetti, perhaps the Futurists' most breathless spokesman. "We will glorify war – the world's only hygiene – militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers….. We will destroy the muse­ums, libraries, academies of every kind….. We will sing of great crowds excited by work."

"Militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers," "a feverish insomnia," "great crowds excited by work" ... I knew that song. And yet still, almost perversely, I resisted the recognition. It was too easy, somehow. Wasn't much of the Futurist rant ("Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly") sim­ply a gesture of adolescent rebellion, a F*** Y** scrawled on Dad's garage door? I had just about decided to scrap the whole thing when I came across Marinetti's later and more extended version of the Futurist creed. And this time the connection was impossible to deny.

In the piece, published in June of 1913 (roughly six months after An­derson walked out of the paint factory), Marinetti explained that Futur­ism was about the "acceleration of life to today's swift pace." It was about the "dread of the old and the known... of quiet living." The new age, he wrote, would require the "negation of distances and nostalgic solitudes." It would "ridicule . . . the 'holy green silence' and the ineffable land­scape." It would be, instead, an age enamored of "the passion, art, and idealism of Business."

This shift from slowness to speed, from the solitary individual to the crowd excited by work, would in turn force other adjustments. The wor­ship of speed and business would require a new patriotism, "a heroic ideal­ization of the commercial, industrial, and artistic solidarity of a people"; it would require "a modification in the idea of war," in order to make it "the necessary and bloody test of a people's force."

As if this weren't enough, as if the parallel were not yet sufficiently clear, there was this: The new man, Marinetti wrote – and this deserves my italics – would communicate by "brutally destroying the syntax of his speech. He wastes no time in building sentences. Punctuation and the right ad­jectives will mean nothing to him. He will despise subtleties and nuances of lan­guage." All of his thinking, moreover, would be marked by a "dread of slowness, pettiness, analysis, and detailed explanations. Love of speed, abbrevi­ation, and the summary. 'Quick, give me the whole thing in two words!'"

Short of telling us that he would have a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and be given to clearing brush, nothing Marinetti wrote could have made the resemblance clearer. From his notorious mangling of the Eng­lish language to his well-documented impatience with detail and analy­sis to his chuckling disregard for human life (which enabled him to crack jokes about Aileen Wuornos’s execution as well as mug for the cameras minutes before announcing that the nation was going to war), Dubya was Marinetti's "New Man": impatient, almost pathologically un­reflective, unburdened by the past. A man untroubled by the imagina­tion, or by an awareness of human frailty. A leader wonderfully attuned (though one doubted he could ever articulate it) to "today's swift pace"; to the necessity of forging a new patriotism; to the idea of war as "the necessary and bloody test of a people's force"; to the all-conquering beauty of Business.

* * * * *

Mark Slouka is the author, most recently, of the novel God's Fool. He teaches in
Columbia University's School of the Arts. His last essay for Harper's Magazine,
"Arrow and Wound," appeared in the May 2003 issue.

A Whole New Mind - Moving From The Information Age To The Conceptual Age - by Daniel H. Pink

It has been a while since I added a posting to the Blog. I will be in Tampa much of next week visiting my sister, so before I head South, I want to share an exciting resource that I recent read. Daniel Pink, best-selling author of Free Agent Nation, has recently published a book that I think should be required reading for everyone who wants to understand the subtle shift taking place in the way we process information and knowledge.

My friend, Bob Allard, frequently mentioned in these pages as a source of great ideas and networking tips, simply said to me: “You must read this book immediately.” It only took me a few pages to understand why Bob had made such a strong recommendation. In its review of “A Whole New Mind,” Wired Magazine wrote: “Why right-brainers will rule the future.” As a left-handed and right-brain dominant individual, I heard this message of hope as music to my ears!

Pink’s basic premise in this book is spelled out well on the flyleaf of the cover: “Lawyers. Accountants. Radiologists. Software engineers. That’s what our parents told us to be when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future now belongs to a very different kind of mind. The era of “left-brain” dominance – and the Information Age that it engendered – is giving way to a whole new world in which artistic and holistic “right-brain” abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind.”

The book begins with a quick overview of the neurophysiology of the brain and the essentially different functioned performed by the left and right hemispheres of or brains. Then, drawing from research and case studies from around the globe, Pink shares his views on six essential aptitudes that will determine individual and professional success in the emerging Conceptual Age. The six tools and aptitudes – the Six Senses of the Conceptual Age – form the skeleton and structure of the book.

Design“Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something the world didn’t know it was missing.” Paola Antonelli, Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art. (p. 72)

Story“The story – from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” Ursula K. Le Gun (p. 103)

Symphony“Symphony, as I call this aptitude, is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.” (p. 126)

Empathy“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate and to connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Oprah Winfrey (p. 154)

Play“The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression. To play is to act out and be willful, exultant and committed as if one is assured of one’s prospects.” Brian Sutton-Smith, Professor of Education [emeritus], University of Pennsylvania (p. 179)

Meaning- “We are born for meaning, not pleasure, unless it is pleasure steeped in meaning.” Jacob Needleman (p. 209)

Not since I read “The Tipping Point” for the first time have I encountered a book that gave me more helpful and encouraging insight into how my brain functions. Many of my friends are wired as “left-brain” analysts; others are more like me – “right-brain” conceptualizers. This book makes it clear that to move forward in a positive, healthy and productive manner into the future, we have to “put our heads together.” We need one another.

Should you read this book?

It’s a “no brainer”!


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Stay Hungry - Stay Foolish: A Remarkable Commencement Address by Steve Jobs

I have a sense that many of the readers of this Blog may have already heard about or read about Steve Jobs' recent Commencement address at Stanford. Several people whose perceptions I respect have forwarded me copies of this remarkable speech. Roy Vella of eBay/PayPal in San Francisco and Ellen Bossert, CEO of Zoesis in Boston, both made me aware of the speech and suggested it was worth reading. I figure if both the Left Coast and New England are saying something is worth reading, I should alert any of the readers of this Blog that have not already read Job’s stories.

I love the fact that Steve Jobs explicitly pays tribute to the power of narrative. The ability to tell effective stories in a compelling way is a hallmark of every remarkable leader.

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005, at Stanford.

"I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots. I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss. I was lucky ­ I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me;­ I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world's first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything ­- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much."

* * * * *

Wow! Each story centers around a failure – dropping out of college, getting bounced out of Apple, being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In each case, a kind of death resulted in a kind of re-birth. It reminds me of an insight a wise friend shared with me many years ago: “The view from the top of the mountain is spectacular, but most of life’s most important lessons are learned in the depth of the valley.”

Enjoy the time in the valley, and make it count for something.


The Sound of Freedom - A Sense of Perspective

As someone who has many friends and colleagues who are graduates of Annapolis, I was recently invited to subscribe to the daily updates from a group called "United States Naval Academy-At-Large." The group is a forum for USNA graduates to quickly communicate with one another on issues relevant to the Naval Academy and its alumni. A recent posting caught my eye and reminded me that knowing the context of an event radically changes our perception of that event and our attitude towards it. The story below tells of a complaint by a citizen regarding a fly-by, and concludes with a response to the complaint.

A wake-up call from Luke's jets

Jun. 23, 2005 12:00 AM

"Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the morning air show? Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 a.m., a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune! Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns' early-bird special? Any response would be appreciated."

The reply is classic, and a testament to the professionalism and heroism of the folks in the armed services. The response:


Regarding "A wake-up call from Luke's jets" (Letters, Thursday):On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques. Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day. At 9 a.m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend. Based on the letter writer's recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I'm sure you didn't hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son's flag on behalf of the president of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured. A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects. The letter writer asks, "Whom do we thank for the morning air show?" The 56th Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Lt. Col. Scott Pleus
CO 63rd Fighter Squadron
Luke Air Force Base

* * * * *

The rest of the story . . .

This morning’s version of USNA-At-Large contained an update to this story.

The original writer fesses up, from Sunday's AZ Republic editorial pages,

An apology from the heart to the airmen of Luke

Regarding "Flyby honoring fallen comrade" Letters, June 28:
I read with increasing embarrassment and humility the response to my unfortunate letter in The Republic concerning an Air Force flyby ("A wake-up call from Luke's jets," Letters, June 23). I had no idea of the significance of the flyby, and would never have insulted such a fine and respectful display had I known. I have received many calls from the fine airmen who are serving or have served at Luke, and I have attempted to explain my side and apologized for any discomfort my letter has caused. This was simply an uninformed citizen complaining about noise. I have been made aware in both written and verbal communications of the four-ship flyby, and my heart goes out to each and every lost serviceman and woman in this war in which we are engaged.

I have been called un-American by an unknown caller and I feel that I must address that. I served in the U.S. Navy and am a Vietnam veteran. I love my country and respect the jobs that the service organizations are doing. Please accept my heartfelt apologies.

Tom MacRae, Peoria

Hats off to Mr. McRae for his humility and willingness to admit a mistake. The roar of the jets was the sound of freedom. The honest dialogue that ensued in the wake of Mr. McRae's letter to the editor was also the sound of freedom. Let freedom ring!


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Love Is Not a Sprint; It's A Marathon - The Story Of The Hoyts

Grab a hankie; this is that kind of story.

My friend, Tom Glass, often passes along amusing stories and uplifting anecdotes. Little did he know when he passed along Rick Reilly’s recent Sports Illustrated article on the Hoyt family, how much of a familiar chord it would strike with me. Ten years ago, my friend, Matt Carpenter of John Hancock Insurance, invited me to participate with him as part of a team of volunteers that provide the set-up and staffing for the special water stops for the elite and ranked world-class runners who come from around the globe to run in the Boston Marathon. The crew that I work with mans the water tables on the course at the 40K mark – the last water stop before the finish line. As we monitor the tables, we are within a few feet of the runners as they struggle up the course’s final hill as Beacon Street empties into Kenmore Square. For ten years, I have felt a frisson of pride, wonder, awe, respect and inspiration watching Dick and Rick Hoyt breeze past the 40K milestone – running deeper into the record books and deeper into the hearts of the thousands of fans who have come to see them as a symbol of a bond of love that has overcome more than its share of Heartbreak Hills - only to triumph transcendently at the end.

Rick Reilly tells the story beautifully:

Strongest Dad in the World

Sports Illustrated article by Rick Reilly

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles inmarathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars -- all in the same day. Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his backmountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right? And what has Rick done for his father? Not much -- except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life," Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution. "But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room.

When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way," Dick says he was told."There's nothing going on in his brain."

"Tell him a joke," Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!" And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that.

"Yeah, right." How was Dick, a self-described "porker" who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped," Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks.

"That day changed Rick's life. "Dad," he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!" And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

"No way," Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year. Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?"

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No way," he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling" he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together. This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992 -- only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it," Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century." And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape,"one doctor told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago.

"So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life. Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day. That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. "The thing I'd most like," Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once."

* * * * *

If that does not inspire you to figure out how to up the ante of your level of commitment to a special person, then get yourself checked for “95% blockage of the heart”! The Hoyts have inspired me. There is a family member of mine who could use some encouragement. Dick and Rick, I’ll be thinking of you when I book my flight to spend some time with someone who needs to see my smiling face!

Who can you bring a smile to?


A Day in The Life - Food For Thought: Mars Hill Audio Journal

Some days it is easy to see God’s fingerprints on things! Last Friday was one of those days. Let me tell you about it.

I finally got to meet Jack Richardson, and what a treat it was. Jack is a retired Digital Computer executive who also happens to be a bona fide Renaissance Man! He has traveled the world, appreciates fine food, literature, and the arts, loves insightful spiritual discussion and is conversant on any topic you may care to name. How often does one meet an MIT-trained engineer with those kinds of broad sensibilities? Several months ago, mutual friends told Jack and me that we should meet one another. We actually attend the same church, but it is a large congregation with multiple worship services, so we have not yet managed to bump into each another on a Sunday. The nature of our schedules is such that it took awhile for us to find a date to meet. Friday was the long awaited rendez-vous.

Jack invited me to join him at one of his favorite restaurants, Le Lyonnais in Acton – a charming bit of Provence in Boston’s northwest suburbs. Amidst some of the tastiest crepes fruit de mer I have ever tasted, Jack offered a full menu of interesting commentary and story telling about his life and career. In his retirement, he has taken on the responsibility of directing the Strategic Leadership Network for Vision New England, a non-profit dedicated to uniting Christians in New England for Evangelism, Discipleship and Celebration.

* * * *

Editorial note: I am fully aware that the religious and spiritual spectrum of the readership of this Blog covers the waterfront – from Hard Shell Baptists to Soft Shell Crabby Presbyterians, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Jews (Orthodox to Reformed and beyond!), Muslims (Sunni and Shiite), Buddhists, Atheists, None-of-the-Abovers and All-of-the-Abovers (otherwise known as Unitarians!). On occasion in this space, I will unapologetically share resources and insights that reflect my own tradition and beliefs – most easily summarized as “evangelical Christian.” If these offerings are not helpful or of interest to you, I suggest you simply skip reading them until something more in keeping with your worldview and sensibilities is posted. As always, I welcome comments and dialogue.

* * * *

The meal and the delightful conversation with Jack were even more filling and delicious than I had anticipated, and threatened to consume the rest of the afternoon. Having chewed on more than our share of French delicacies, we eschewed dessert and asked for l’addition. As we walked to the parking lot, Jack asked me if I had a cassette player in my car – not a CD player, but a cassette. How often have I cursed the antiquated sound system in my Mercury! “Yes, I do have a cassette player in my car.”

“Great, I would like to make you aware of a tremendous resource that I have come to treasure. I am pleased to lend you Volume 73 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. It is a refreshing return to civilized and rational discourse among well-informed individuals from a variety of fields. Please return the tape when you have finished, since I want to keep my collection complete of all of the volumes.”

Not knowing what to expect, I thanked Jack and we each headed for our cars, prepared to decamp. I popped the cassette into the Mercury’s tape player and realized that what had already been a satisfying meal was being topped off with a dessert of delightful discourse and discussion. In listening to the first few segments of Mars Hill Audio Journal, my first thought was: “NPR meets C.S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge.” My instincts were correct, for in visiting the Mars Hill website (, I learned that the moderator, Ken Myers, is a former NPR producer and editor, and that both Lewis and Muggeridge have been the subjects of previous Mars Hill discussions.
I share with you below the Mars Hill Statement of Purpose, and the “menu” of the Volume 73 topics of conversation. The tapes are produced and distributed on a subscription basis on a bi-monthly schedule.

MARS HILL AUDIO exists to assist Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of modern culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.

We believe that fulfilling the commands to love God and neighbor requires that we pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined. Therefore, living as disciples of Christ pertains not just to prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, but also our enjoyment of literature and music, our use of tools and machines, our eating and drinking, our views on government and economics, and so on.

Volume 73 Mar./Apr. 2005

Richard John Neuhaus et al., on the meaning and value of human life, the vocation of medicine, the logic of autonomous individualism, and the temptation of suicide and euthanasia

Patrick Carey, on the perceptive (and peregrinating) thought of Orestes Brownson

John W. O'Malley, on the prophetic, academic, humanistic, and artistic vectors of Western culture

Patricia Owen, on what makes good children's books and on how the Newbery Medal winners have changed over time

Susan Srigley, on the sacramental and incarnational fiction of Flannery O'Connor

Ralph C. Wood, on Flannery O'Connor as "hill-billy Thomist" and sympathizer with backwoods religion

* * * * *

I found the quality of the discussion so stimulating and refreshing that I plan to subscribe to the Mars Hill Journal. It may be a resource that you would also find helpful and encouraging. As a by-product, I now plan to begin to read Flannery O'Connor, an author whose work I have long intended to explore.

Happy listening!


Monday, July 11, 2005

Never Eat Alone - Networking Pearls

I have known of Keith Ferrazzi for several years. I first learned of him through an article in Fast Company Magazine, in which he was held up as the uber-networker. I liked most of what I read in his 10 principles of networking, while at the same time finding his approach to be a bit Machiavellian in some regards. So, I chose to apply those principles that fit my approach and my world view, and take a pass on the rest. Keith, in conjunction with Tahl Raz, has expanded on his 10 principles of networking and has published Never Eat Alone.

David Teten, whose Blog "Brainfood" is part of my regular reading regimen, posted a Link this morning that I found useful.

The Link below represents David Moradi's summary of what he considers the most salient points to be gleaned from Never Eat Alone. I just spent 5 minutes scanning Moradi's summary and highlighting the most relevant sections. This is good stuff. If you are a regular reader of this Blog, you are probably already wired to be a good networker, but the principles found here are a nice reminder and reinforcement of best networking practices. Enjoy.


Never Eat Alone Blog: Reader's notes from NeverEatAlone

Friday, July 08, 2005

The CEO's Secret Handbook

My friend, Roy Vella, lives in San Francisco and works for eBay/PayPal. He is a fount of informaton, wisdom and networking connections. I was delighted when I received this e-mail from him earlier today:

Very rarely do I pass along "business books" as they're mostly repetitive and not very useful... however, the cover story for this month's Business2.0 was on the "CEO's Secret Handbook". I read the article and thought it was one of the most concise, coherent and useful pieces that I've recently read in a business rag with regards to management.

I'm passing it along because I believe that you'll also find it interesting and that it may resonate with you too. I've appended the article below for your convenience or you can go to:,17863,1069237,00.html. You can also get a free copy of the actual book at



I have just read the excerpts from the gray book, and also filled in the form to receive the full book from Raytheon. I think you will find it to be worth your while.

Have a great weekend.

Business 2.0 :: Magazine Article :: Features :: The CEO's Secret Handbook

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Engineering MBA Society - An Invitation To Network

My friend, Matthew Rabinowitz, is one of the brightest and most interesting people I know. He holds as BS in Electrical Engineering and an MBA from the University of Texas - Dallas. He is not only a gifted and insightful analyst, he he also among the most tenacious and effective networkers I have encountered. Matthew has recently created a LinkedIn Group for individuals with a similar dual academic background. Here is his description of the new Engineering MBA Society:

As an Engineering MBA Society co-moderator, I would like to invite you to make use of a valuable new tool that is dedicated to connecting like-minded individuals that have pursued higher education in any discipline of engineering (at any level - Bachelor / Master / PhD.) as well as an MBA to complement their technical degree.

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) was historically created to educate engineering professionals with a variety of business skills to prepare for the business world and ultimately management. We believe the combination of a technical degree and an MBA provides a solid sounding board and has inherently yielded successful individuals. (Just take a look at 75% of executive management teams in technology based corporations today!)

Through the members-only Engineering MBA Society Group on LinkedIn you can:

- Leverage the power of the Engineering MBA Society network to find and reach the like-minded business contacts you need

- Accelerate your career through referrals from Engineering MBA Society members

- Know more than a name

- View rich professional profiles from fellow Engineering MBA Society members

- Let other Engineering MBA Society members know what you have to offer to them and their contacts

- Limit your network searches to other Engineering MBA Society members only, if and when you wish to do so

LinkedIn is the leading professional network tool online, used by ~3,000,000 professionals worldwide (and constantly growing!). Access to special Engineering MBA Society features on LinkedIn is FREE and available to Engineering MBA Society members only. Whether you use LinkedIn already or you’re new to LinkedIn, please join the members-only Engineering MBA Society Group here:

Yahoo Group: Link to be provided after joining the Yahoo Group.

Thanks for being a member of the Engineering MBA Society! Likewise, this group of rare, yet in demand individuals is ONLY what we make it; therefore PLEASE FEEL FREE TO FORWARD this message to those you feel would benefit from this group.I look forward to networking with you in the future...


-Matthew Rabinowitz, MBA BSEE

Please include the name of your business school and engineering school (including both graduation dates) when requesting to join. Membership Requirements: A completed engineering degree from an accredited engineering university (BS/MS/PhD) - any discipline + A completed MBA (or EMBA) from an accredited business university.

If you are someone with such a dual background, contact Matthew. And feel free to make others aware of this new and unique networking resource for EE/MBA's.


Denzel Washington and the Brook Army Medical Center

Our recent celebrations of the 4th of July have caused me to think a great deal about our nation - our indendence, our liberty and the steep price that many of our fellow citizens pay to ensure that we preserve these freedoms. A friend of mine, who lives in Texas, passed along this story that I thought worthy of sharing with you.

Hollywood is full of stars who feel free to speak out against the war in Iraq. Precious few of them do much to demonstrate support for those who have sacrificed to serve the cause of freedom. Apparently, Denzel Washington is a refeshing exception to the stereotype. I was encouraged to learn of his support of Fisher house, a veteran's equivalent of the Ronald McDonald Houses that have been build near major medical centers across the U.S.

Here is an excerpt from Joen Elliott's e-mail:

Don't know whether you heard about this but Denzel Washington and his family visited the troops at Brook Army Medical Center, in San Antonio, Texas (BAMC) the other day. This is where soldiers that have been evacuated from Germany come to be hospitalized in the States, especially burn victims. They have buildings there called Fisher Houses. The Fisher House is a hotel where soldiers' families can stay, for little or no charge, while their soldier is staying in the hospital. BAMC has quite a few of these houses on base but as you can imagine, they are almost completely filled most of the time.Denzel toured the Fisher House facilities there, was impressed with what they were doing, and indicated a desire to support it.
(An eRumor got started that he dramatically pulled out his checkbook on the spot and wrote a check for the cost of building an entire house, which was not true.)

Fisher House says the confusion may have come when an announcement was made later in that a new $1-million facility was going to be built. It was at the same time as a mention that Denzel Washington had pledged a donation to Fisher House. Four months later, however, he came through "in a big way", according to the folks at Fisher House. They won't disclose the amount of his gift, but Fisher House spokesman, James Weiskopf, says it's one of the largest in the organization's history and that Denzel Washington has agreed to serve on the Fisher House board of trustees.

Fisher House is a program that provides special housing at each of the Army's major medical centers for the families of soldiers who are receiving medical treatment, often from being wounded on duty. Fisher house is either a facility or a group of facilities where family members can stay for no cost or reduced cost, which helps ease the burden of possibly having made a long and expensive trip to be by the beside of a family member and to make it possible for even low income families to be able to stay close by.

The question I have is why does Alec Baldwin, Madonna, Sean Penn and other Hollywood types make front-page news with their anti-everything America crap and this doesn't even make page 3 in the Metro section of any newspaper except the base newspaper in San Antonio.

Why, indeed!


A Soldier's Commitment - Steve Reich

Because I have been privileged to know so many West Point athletes whom I am proud to call my friends, this story really grabbed me, and I wanted to share it with you. Steve Reich, in the tradition of Pat Tillman, was a gifted athlete who chose to serve his nation in time of war rather than pursue an athletic career. Steve piloted the Chinook CH-47 helicopter that went down last week in Afghanistan - killing all 17 aboard. He was married only three months ago.

Please left up his family in prayer and pray, as well, for all who continue to serve and for the families that support them.