Sunday, July 21, 2019

Heads I do the hard thing

"What are the odds that you will be coming home?" Wow.

I have two amazing sons. I think that the special purpose of any parent (or leader) is to teach everything you know.

When they were young, from time to time, my boys would come to me with a problem. The classic, "I don't know what to do" question that we all have experienced in our lives. When I was growing up I learned a lesson from my father, that I was happy to pass on to my two sons.

Which of the choices would be harder to do? 

If it truly is a toss up, if you really could flip a coin, which would be HARDER, the more DIFFICULT thing to do?

Do that. Because if the options are truly equally good or bad, doing the thing that is more difficult will give you more satisfaction, more joy, and ultimately provide more reward for you - and for others.

When you are torn between saying yes or no, when you swing between staying or going, doing or not doing, taking the leap or staying put - simply ask yourself - which would the more difficult thing to do? 

Last night (on July 20th, 2019) we all watched "First Man" the movie about NASA's mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on the years 1961 - 1969. I was born in 1960 and I know EXACTLY where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped off the LEM. Now let's reflect.

What if JFK never gave his speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962?

OF COURSE it was going to be hard - and very EXPENSIVE. The technology required to go to the moon did not even exist. We were at war at the time, and there were PLENTY of things that needed attention and money back home. JFK gave that speech because most people at the time were against the mission. Too expensive, and too difficult. Too......hard.

People were going to die along the way. There would be setbacks. There would be tragedy, and pain and suffering. And yet, the Leader of the Free World set us on a path to do the hard things. Because they were hard.

We, all of us, are humans. Effectively, we are all some form of smart monkeys. Our brains are hard-wired for survival. It's hard to pass on our genes if we don't live long enough to find a mate. Taking risks seems to be against our primary mission of survival.

And yet, there is something in our smart monkey brains that pushes us to do risky things, dangerous things, difficult things - hard things. In fact, our entire purpose seems to be to explore, to take risks, to do things that are SO HARD, and so difficult, that they change our lives - and the lives of our future generations forever.

And there it is. Taking risks - doing hard things - actually ensures the survival of our future generations. Doing hard things is the right thing to do, always. When we say to ourselves "I don't know what I should do" our smart monkey brains are lying to us. We actually know exactly what do to. We know the right answer. We just pause to see if there is a shortcut, an easy way out. Hint: there is none. The obstacle is the path. We don't control what happens to us, we control how we react to what happens to us. Stoicism. 

What is the next BHAG for our country? Or how about the next BHAG your family? Your business? What is the next BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS THING that you shall choose to do - BECAUSE it is hard?

OK, fine. If you MUST flip a coin:

Heads - do the hard thing.
Tails - keep flipping until it comes up heads......

President Kennedy's BHAG Speech at Rice University

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Must Love Dogs

Last week, I was invited by a friend to a VIP event in NYC. It was the grand opening of a bank branch, their first in New York City. It was a bank that at this point, I never heard of.

I had no reason to be in New York City on that day. This would be a special trip to the city. After vacillating back and forth, I agreed to go to the event. You would think that by now I would have learned my lesson: when you get invited to something, especially a VIP event, you go.

Last year I was invited to present at the NYC WordPress Users Group. Even with 30,000 members, they had no budget for a speaker. I would be doing this event for free. Including paying for my own transportation.

Well, I do love public speaking. When it comes to public speaking, some people would rather be in the coffin than to be giving the eulogy. For me personally, I tend to be mortally offended if I don't get my turn with a microphone.

So, I did the gig for free. It turns out that someone in the room liked what I had to say. It turns out this person was very close with John Catsimatidis, an American billionaire businessman and radio talk show host. John just recently purchased WABC Radio. And all things "media" (especially podcasts) is a big part of the NYDLA community.

It was that same WordPress friend that invited me to last week's Republic Bank grand opening event. I almost didn't go. But I do love dogs. And I'm a big fan of Tom Peters, the co-author of In Search of Excellence. Tom was connected to Vernon and I am connected to Tom and he said quickly and with conviction: GO.

Vernon Hill is the founder of Metro Bank UK and Commerce Bancorp. Hill founded Commerce in 1973. It became the fastest growing bank in the US before being sold for $8.5 billion. Vernon is also the Chairman of Petplan.

I don't have the time to tell the entire story of what happened last week, but things are now moving very fast. As of today, Republic Bank has one branch in New York City. And the NYDLA shall be hosting "Sunset Seminars" at the branch for our entrepreneurial members. Something tells me there will be other branches opening in The Big Apple. Many. I see the pattern of success - it will be fun to watch it unfold.

I read Vernon's book this weekend. I could not put it down. Vernon describes how to create growth companies by building FANS! Not Customers with:
  • A unique and value-added MODEL
  • A persuasive and supporting CULTURE
  • Fanatical EXECUTION
From 1973 to 2007, Vernon led the growth of Commerce Bank from 1 to 440 stores with a 30+ year, 23% per year compounded shareholder return. Vernon says: "Give the customer legendary service, and one day your company will be a legend, too. BE ALL YOU CAN BE."

I will be telling everyone that I know to check out Republic Bank. And until further notice, everyone who joins the shall be getting a free copy of Vernon's book FANS! Not Customers - How to Create Growth Companies in a No Growth World. 

But to be totally honest, Vernon had me at loving dogs. 

And kids......they also love kids. <<<

Sunday, July 7, 2019

You CAN Go Home Again - You Never Left

I was born in Union City, New Jersey. Within months of my birth (I am told) we moved to Cedar Grove, New Jersey. We moved from "the city" to "the country" as that is what Cedar Grove was back in the day.

Here in the USA, the sixth grade is the sixth school year after kindergarten. Students in the sixth grade are usually either 11 or 12, though could be younger or older, if they are promoted (skip grades) or held back for not reaching a standard.

After a fire, the new Pompton Avenue School opened in April of 1961. Leonard R. Parks, who began his career in Cedar Grove as a manual training teacher, became the principal of Pompton Avenue School and eventually the district's first Superintendent of Schools. He retired in 1965 and the school was renamed in his honor.

When you are a kid, you were taught to memorize your phone number, your address, and where you went to school. 

My first phone number:  201-239-0213.
My first address: 45 Bowden Road, Cedar Grove, New Jersey.
My first school: Leonard R. Parks.

Because of a fire, my first school in the '60s was BRAND SPANKIN' NEW. And, we had a BRAND SPANKIN' NEW Public Library in town, too. Everything was state-of-the-art. It was a big deal.

6th grade was my last year of school in Cedar Grove. We moved to Boca Raton, Florida where I would enjoy my "Wonder Years" on the Intracostal Waterway, and Spanish River Park. But before we moved from New Jersey to Florida, I looked up Boca Raton at the Cedar Grove Public Library.

The city's name comes from boca de ratones, a Spanish term meaning "rat's mouth" that appeared on early maps and referred to hidden sharp-pointed rocks that gnawed or fretted ship's cables.

We are moving from Cedar Grove to some place with RATS???????

I'm not going!

I remember the Librarian at the Cedar Grove library calming me down. The Spanish word boca, or mouth, often describes an inlet, while raton means literally, mouse. 


As in Mickey Mouse. I remember the Librarian and my teachers telling me how lucky I was to be moving to Boca Raton, Florida. Not that far from Orlando. The Magic Kingdom Disney World opened October 1, 1971. I remember asking (begging?) to go to Disney World for my birthday: October 2nd. I remember getting my wish.

Ah yes, my first home was Cedar Grove, New Jersey. And then Boca Raton, Florida. In hindsight, Mom and Dad had it all on lock-down.

Yesterday my wife had a patient in Cedar Grove - and I drove her from Boonton Township, New Jersey (where we now live). I saw the old house. The Library. The School. The playgrounds. Wow, what a time capsule.

You CAN go home again - but everything is so much smaller than you remember it. Thank you Leonard R. Parks Elementary School. Thank you Cedar Grove Public Library. I find it interesting how much of our lives are connected to schools and learning.

Is this where the term "lifelong learning" comes from? The ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Yeah, lifelong learning. It enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development. I don't know if PHYSICAL schools or libraries will even exist in the future - but home is where the lifelong learning will always live.

The back of the house.... 50+ years later