Day 288 of The Day Experiment. Boston Strong.

When I was a kid growing up in historic Concord, MA, I lived on the same street as the North Bridge.  This is the bridge where the Revolutionary War was fought.  And on April 19th each year, the town celebrates the battle of the 500 Minutemen and their battle against the “red coats” of England.  And I was awoken every April 19th to the sound of a cannon blast commemorating this event.  Though I knew to expect it every year, it still scared the hell out of me each time I heard it.  But on the positive side,  that blast also meant the official start to April vacation. 

The other notable event that took place during that first day of vacation was watching the Boston Marathon.  Whether you watched on television or attended in person, every kid knew who the winner of the Marathon was.  It was in the days of Bill Rodgers, an American runner who won four times.  He was a hometown hero who gave us a real sense of Boston pride.  In those far less complicated days, we had no idea how much we’d be feeling that Boston pride by coming together again for a different Marathon-related reason thirty years later.

Last year on Marathon Monday, I was in Jamaica on vacation with my daughters when I got notice from my team about the bombings.  Our office was on Boylston Street; literally steps from the finish line.  And as was tradition, most of our people were enjoying the Marathon because of its easy access.  Some were at local restaurants and bars.  Some were lining the streets, or at apartments nearby.  And some were running the race.  And I, the one who is responsible for “the people” was on sitting on a lounge chair in the sun when I got the news.  I have never felt so helpless.  In my mind, that annoying cannon blast I grew up with symbolizing the start to vacation immediately morphed into a bomb blast representing the loss of life.   

My team, our CEO, and I worked together virtually to account for everyone.  It took hours.  Thankfully, everyone was safe.  It ultimately changed the way we deal with “crisis” situations at work, which is one small side benefit.  Everything else about it was horrible.  It reminded me of 9/11, when we went through the same drill at another company.  It is a awful feeling, trying to account for so many people in potential danger.  Especially people you really care about.

Today, at 6:00 am when I typically fly into work, traffic was at a standstill as I approached Boston.  The city was filling, people eager to honor those survivors and the lives lost last year.  I didn’t care about the traffic this morning.  Those people deserve that respect.  And while I am certain those who attended the somber events today were somewhat melancholy, the strength and courage the survivors showed and the rallying this entire city has done to show support is what Boston Strong is all about.  

Bill Rogers must be proud.  I know I am.  #bostonstrong.

Tags: bostonstrong

Day 287 of The 365 Day Experiment. Don’t Be THAT Person At The Office.

Being in my field, I get to be part of celebrating the very best of people in the workplace…excitement about new jobs, promotions, raises, new leadership opportunities.  I also get to witness some of the poorest judgment in decision making I’ve ever seen made by adults.  I’m going to share a few of my favorites.  Yes, these are real.  

Don’t Abuse Your Company Credit Card.  General rule of thumb: treat the money as if it was your own.  And if that includes charging a night at a strip club claiming that it was a birthday party for your three year old when you are caught, than shame on you.  No company is going to allow you to charge your kid’s party to your corporate Amex.  Nor will they allow you to put through a charge for a hooker as “entertainment.”  Just fess up and answer honestly.  And then pray that’s good enough.

Don’t Treat The Office As HookUpPalooza.  One of the best things about working in an office of young single people is that you might meet a really wonderful person.  Lots of great relationships have started at work.  But choose wisely.  You’ve got to work with these people…and when you start partying with your co-workers and get the reputation for going home with someone different every week, that’s not how you want to stand out at work.  

Don’t Play Politics.  It’s a time waster.  It hurts productivity, it’s toxic to the culture, and you are ultimately focused on the wrong thing.  Instead, focus on building strong, healthy relationships and doing great work.  It’s so much better to be noticed for that.  And you will be.  Politicians are noticed too, but for the wrong reasons.

Don’t Lie About Your Grandparents Dying.   Poor grandparents.  They are used as an excuse to get out of just about everything.  Job interviews, a long weekend, or just general blowing work off.  Bad call.  Lying in general for this stuff may seem like a good idea but someone always sells you out.  Plus, we’ve heard it so many times, we have begin to lose empathy for real grandparents dying.  Just try a simple, “I need to take the day off for a personal matter” should cover it.  It’s none of our business, unless you are in the habit of making this behavior a habit.  And then we’ve got a different issue on our hands. 

Don’t Ask For Things You Haven’t Earned. We seem to live in an entitled world these days, where people expect promotions each year, with sizable raises to accompany them.  This is where I start to show my age.  ”Back when I was starting out…” We slept under our desks to make our deliverables.  We worked all day and went to grad school at night.  We earned every promotion we got.  And yes, some of us did zoom ahead.  And some decided to take a different path because it was really hard work.  And then there are some people who don’t work hard for it and get angry because they expect 10% raises or more each year for showing up.  Or promotions because they’ve been at it for a whole six months.  And if they don’t get what they want, their mom will call you and chew you out.  

Helpful hint:  if your mom calls me to bitch me out because her son didn’t get promoted, she picked the wrong person to call.

Don’t Be The Office Gossip.  With the amount of time that we spend at work, it’s easy to fall into this trap.  While it’s fun to catch up with office buddies about the latest scoop, being known as the person who has all the office dirt is not the rep you want.  And every office has one (or several) of these.  And here’s the thing…if you are gossiping about someone, you can certainly be sure they are gossiping about you too. 

Don’t Have Sex In The Office.   There are so many things wrong with this statement.  And yet this happens.  I’ll just say this…if you are going to do this, for the love of god, do it after hours and in a room that locks.  But I’d just advise you just don’t.  

Don’t Get Drunk At Company Functions.  This seems like good common sense, but apparently most people didn’t get this bit of advice from their parents like I did.  Here’s the thing -  if you are at a work sponsored event, behave like a professional.  You are not with your fraternity brothers.  This is not the time to impress everyone with how many sake bombs you can do. 

and finally…

Don’t Have An Office Affairand conduct it over your office email account.  Helpful rule of thumb: assume anything you do at work is public information.  Don’t write any email you wouldn’t be comfortable with any person reading.  Not that anyone is spying on you, but you never know when things can fall into the wrong hands. 

I’m certain if I spent several more hours I could come up with dozens more examples. These are just the general top of mind thoughts.  Take them for what their worth, and feel free to supplement and enhance.  Just don’t ignore.  I’ve seen almost all these idiotic moves made at each company I’ve been a part of since the early 90’s.

I shouldn’t complain.  Without them, my job would be significantly less interesting and colorful.

Tags: HRDonts

Day 286 of The 365 Day Experiment. House Arrest.

I don’t watch a ton of television these days, but when I do, one of my favorite shows is Shameless.  The writing and acting are great, and it’s also interesting to follow the life of a family whose experience is so completely different than my own.  

One of the storylines this season was about how the oldest sister Fiona, who acts as the caretaker for her four siblings, finds herself in a bit of legal trouble and ultimately ends up under house arrest.  I remember watching the episode and thinking to myself, I would go insane being in that position.

Of course, I’d probably go more crazy being in real prison. I’ve often spoken of the military and prison as being two of my biggest fears.  I’ve clearly got experience with neither, but with all that I have learned of both, the loss of control and freedom to think for myself I am certain would drive me mad.  And while I am certain it is completely ignorant of me to put the military - the soldiers who I respect immensely for serving our country, mind you - in the same category as prison, I can’t help but to know myself well enough to know if I had to do time in either, it probably wouldn’t bring out the best in my mental health.

House arrest, however, offers that odd purgatory.  You are able to sleep in your own bed and eat your own food.  Perhaps even work a job between certain hours.  However you are still highly restricted and monitored by that ankle bracelet.  That is one piece of bling I’m certain no one wants to sport.  

Maybe for a few days I could make the best of it.  I bet I’d catch up on a bunch of books that I had been dying to read.  I’d probably do a ton of cooking and baking, and spend a ton of time in my kitchen. Maybe I would not set an alarm, and relish sleeping an extra few minutes in the morning. And then reality would kick in and I would begin to go stir crazy.

I am almost certain I would set some kind of stupid goal for myself, not unlike this Experiment, so I would have something productive to show for my time spent in the house at the end of my sentence.   Maybe finally I would become an accomplished guitar player or speak fluent Italian.   Or maybe I’d attempt to write a book.  

The other thing I am almost positive I’d do on day one, is to go outside and test my boundaries; not unlike a dog with a new invisible fence.  I’d want to see exactly how far I could go before I set off that beeper.  And I would likely set up a chair right on the border, catching sun or hanging out on my property, daring that thing to go off and the police to show up and find me exactly where I am supposed to be. Because I am really immature that way.  

As I am writing this, I am really glad I keep myself out of trouble.  My parents’ warning in high school during my rebellious days to “Not do anything to disrespect this family by ending up in the Police Blotter,” were heeded and served as a good set of boundaries of just how far I should push.  I’m glad I’ve retained some of that good sense now that I’m trying to be a good role model to two daughters.  

But still…there are so many boundaries asking to be pushed.  I’m glad I’ve   focused on the productive, legal ones.  But if I’m ever under house arrest, please come visit me. 

Tags: housearrest

Day 285 of The 365 Day Experiment. Casting Call.

Today my daughters and I stood in line for two hours for an open casting call for the new Johnny Depp movie, Black Mass. My older daughter is interested in acting so I thought it would be an interesting experience for her, if picked, to learn about how movies are made. Once I learned how many people were going to show up, however, I said what the hell and Gianna and I decided to go for it too. If we were going to invest all that time waiting in line, we might as well give it a shot.

The good news was that it was a gorgeous spring day, so it was really enjoyable to stand outside and catch up with my kids during that time.  The bad news was that we were surrounded by people that I think sum up with what is one of the fundamentally broken things in our culture: they are  obsessed with the notion of fame.

Right in front of us stood a young woman with multi-colored hair, wearing what I can only describe as a pin-up version of Donald Duck’s sailor suit.  I suppose it could have been considered sexy if it were on the right body, but this woman clearly was dressing for the body she wished she had, not her actual figure.  And yet, she carried her professional headshot and bragged to those who stood around us about her “extra” work of movies past.  It struck me that if I know of one Hollywood myth that must be true, you’ve got to take care of yourself.  I would imagine it’s infinitely harder to be discovered as the next Jennifer Lawrence if you are shaped more like Rebel Wilson…but think you are Jennifer Lawrence.  There seemed an altered state of reality with this girl, about her notion of fame being right around the corner, and the visible obviousness of her not looking the part of a leading lady at all.  It wasn’t unlike those singers on American Idol who think they are amazing, but can’t sing a note.  She was bragging so much of her talent, I was tempted to say, “Honey,  you are still standing in the open casting call line with all of the thousands of us, so ease up and please get in touch with reality.”  But I kept my mouth shut and just wished her luck.   

But tougher to take than her was the man who stood directly in front of her.  He continually called himself “the next James Galdonfini,” and boasted of the extra work he had done in some recent Boston movies.  ”I am always picked because I am authentic Italian guy from the North End with a Boston accent.  I’m a shoe in.”  Again, sir, if you are so fantastic, where is your agent and why are you standing in this line with us scrubs?  He was so annoying my kids took a walk to get away from him. 

I was looking for a interesting and different experience for my kids on a Saturday afternoon, and what I walked away with was a really sad state of America.  Those around us seemed to want a taste of fame, and it appears no one wants to work hard for it.  When I asked if any of these people took acting classes, there was a resounding “No!”  

And except for a handful of genuinely scary looking older men who looked like they could be Whitey Bulger themselves, no one who showed up seemed to make an effort to capitalize on what could be their 15 seconds of fame.  They came dressed in their standard sweats and baseball hats, like they had just come from lunch at McDonalds.  And yet, as my girls sat there listening to these people brag about how great it is to be chosen because you get to skip work and eat amazing food from craft services, I thought, why the hell am I exposing them to this?

I am the anti-fame person.   Perhaps it would be a cool life experience to get cast as an extra in a movie - especially a Johnny Depp movie - with my kids and see ourselves on screen for two seconds.  But beyond that, I don’t get it.  We’ve become a society that places such value on being seen and recognized.  Or of valuing a high status lifestyle.  Don’t get me wrong…money is great, but how much is enough?  And it’s lovely to be respected, but does one really need to be on the cover of a magazine or signing autographs to have self worth?

We all aspire to different things in life.  I know some people who are clearly driven by fame - or at least aspire to become famous.  I don’t judge them for it.  It’s just different than how I want to live in the world.  Having spent time with someone who needed to be followed around by a bodyguard, I can’t imagine living like that, or how it would be appealing in any way.   Not that I am in jeopardy of becoming famous…I just don’t get why it seems so appealing.  

We will find out in the next few days what happens with this casting call, and if we actually get called back to do a reading.  All three of us are in agreement we are totally cool if we don’t.  It was a fun experience to see how it worked, and it was an interesting way to spend the afternoon together.  If exposing my kids to some fame-obsessed extras results in them remaining grounded people, however, than it was a very worthwhile activity indeed.

Tags: castingcall

Day 284 of The 365 Day Experiment. The Cooking Show.

I received a really special gift a bit ago from a great friend.  He’s one of the only guy friends I exchange gifts with, and we’ve taken to being very thoughtful about selecting things the other will really appreciate.  I think I outdid myself with his 40th birthday gift as one of the best gifts I’ve ever given anyone.  It’s nice to have people in your life that you know will be just as thoughtful for you as you are for them. 

This year, he and his lovely wife gave me a gift that was perfect for me.  They got me tickets to “The Cooking Show,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a restaurant in Boston that actually films in the back and teaches and films a cooking class as well.  The host was fantastic, the meal was delicious, and the night was a ton of fun.  I brought one of my best girlfriends as a belated celebration of our two birthdays.  It turned into a special, albeit complicated night. 

We don’t get a lot of time to spend together.  Being able to spend time with her isn’t just fun for me…it’s a luxury I really cherish.  I don’t think my friends really appreciate how much it means to me when I get this kind of time with them.  It’s limited and infrequent, and when I get it, it’s meaningful.  I don’t take it for granted when someone gives up a night away from their family to spend their time with me.  It’s easier for some of them to get time away, but it still means a lot to me.  Maybe more than they realize.

Fortunately, we were able to grab a drink before we headed to the show so we could really catch up.  Unfortunately, right before we were seated, we found out that my youngest daughter, who had plans to spend the night with a girlfriend, was headed home.  Her friend has fallen ill.  My older daughter was at a birthday party and wouldn’t be home until later.  I’m stuck in Boston, trying to enjoy a rare planned night out, and now dealing with the stress of two kids entering an empty house which wasn’t the plan.  And, like everything else we’ve had to deal with, you find a way to make it work.  

I am fortunate.  I do not get overly stressed out.  I have responsible girls.  I have a problem solving personality.  I have the ability to move on quickly, and therefore was able to figure out how to make their situation work and then enjoy my night and still be home by 9:15.  Of course, my friend was able to head out and join up with the rest of our friends who are out having fun together tonight.  My situation doesn’t allow for that yet.  Someday, but not yet. 

It’s a hard balance, trying to make all these decisions about what is best for the girls and I.  All three of us need time with our friends, and time to go out and explore new things.  I am so incredibly grateful to my friend who gave me the wonderful experience of the Cooking Show, because I learned some great new recipes and had a blast with a wonderful friend.  And I am grateful to that friend for being such an incredible sense of stability in my life when I didn’t feel like I had much over the last year.

Most, however, I am grateful to my girls.  Because now matter what else is going on in my life, I know that they are the North that my compass will always point back to.  And I’ll take coming home early for them as long as I can, knowing they won’t be here but only for a few more years.  Sometimes it’s not easy life, but I’ll take it with these girls all day long. 

Tags: cookingshow

Day 283 of The 365 Day Experiment. Do You Feel Beautiful?

I am parked on my couch today.  I hate days like today, because I saw it coming last night.  I crawled into bed in 9:30 (about two hours earlier than normal), which should have indicated something was about to go down.  And in the middle of my 5:30 am workout, I had to excuse myself to get sick in the bathroom.  And yes, I went back out and finished the class.  But I completely half-assed it.

And by the time I got home I had gone from “ugh” to “uuuggghhh.”   So I put my daughters on the bus and made a nest on the couch where I promptly passed out after answering the few most important emails.

The day is done, and I finally hit the shower.  A little scary when I peeked in the mirror to assess the damage.  Who cares though? This the beauty of being home.  

And as I emerged feeling so much better, I spent the extra ten minutes I would have loved to doing something else drying my hair.  I did it because I know my hair looks way better when I make that little bit of extra effort.  And then I chuckled because my girlfriend and I have had a running joke about at what point in life you “give up” making an effort.  As in, wondering what point you get to as an older woman, for example, when you say to yourself, “screw it…I am cutting my hair off, wearing sensible shoes and elasticized waistbands”. Not everyone goes there, but many do.  Maybe I’m delusional, or just vain…but I have a really hard time seeing myself making that transition.  Maybe it’s just hard to imagine myself as a 75 year old woman rocking a pair a Rockports knowing I’m sporting a bunch of tattoos under the pale pink matching sweatsuit that I’d be wearing.  But that’s just me. 

But ultimately it’s not the effort of drying our hair or our sensible shoes that does or doesn’t make us attractive.  Of course, a little effort goes a long way.  But the older I get, the more I realize beauty comes from within.  Case in point.  I work with a woman who is by anyone’s standards a classic beauty.  And yet she recently gave birth, and is at home, falling in love with her new child.  She sent me a picture last week, of the two of them in the early morning.  No makeup, no hair done, no fuss.  I had never seen her look more beautiful.  She was lit from within.

I see that with my friends, both daily, and online, and I see that with people I don’t know as I pass them in everyday life.  We live in a world that celebrates physical perfection.  It doesn’t exist.  It’s an unrealistic standard, and it makes us all miserable if we pay too much attention to it.  Of course, who doesn’t wish they all had movie star good looks?  Guess what?  Even they don’t look that good.  Do you know how much work goes into putting someone together for a simple picture?  And then how much photoshopping takes place after it is snapped?  Or worse, if that celeb is captured looking “not glam” it is posted for the whole world to see and mock.  We are so much better than this. It’s awful we get excited to see which perfect star actually has cellulite, just because it makes us feel better about ourselves.

I’m at the point in my life where I see beauty all around me.  But it isn’t always people that you’d picture as classically attractive.  It’s the people who constantly have a smile on their face.   Or the guy who even though he might not catch your eye if you were to pass him walking down the street, he’s got the biggest heart on the planet, is so in love with his wife and is such a good person it makes him a total hottie.

We all have days when we don’t feel our best.  Some people go to great lengths to look their best every day. Some people put no effort in at all.  What is most important, it would seem, is not the clothes or the makeup or accessories we all adorn ourselves with to look our best.  It’s how we carry ourselves.  When we feel good about ourselves, it shows.  When we are happy, it shows.  And when aren’t, it shows too.

Check out this amazing video below.  We are all beautiful.  We just need to be reminded of it sometimes.

Tags: beautiful

Day 282 of The 365 Day Experiment. Face Plant.

How do you follow up a breakdown in a breakdown lane?  With a face plant on a highly congested street wearing a short dress and a new pair of heels.  Hopefully when you do it, you are with a friend who is as gracious and empathetic as mine was when it happened to me on our way out tonight.

I’m actually fairly coordinated.  Maybe because I’ve got a low center of gravity, I don’t fall or trip often.  I suppose that’s a good thing.  This time, however,  it did actually hurt, and I have a hell of a scuff on my right hand and leg.  And yet when it happened, I popped right back up and kept walking.  I’ll come back to this in a bit, so hold this thought…

"Lexi" (her name choice) is my younger friend who happens to be a reader of this Experiment.  She reached out wanting to catch up. I must admit, while I was eager to hear what was going on in her life, I wasn’t super excited to discuss what was going on in mine.  There is a really awkward dynamic now when I know people are actively following what I write, understanding they know far more about my life and thoughts than I know about them.  Given I have no one to blame but myself for being in this position, however, I still took the opportunity to get together. If nothing else, I thought it would be a good chance to hang out with a cool girl for a bit, as well as get an insight on why the hell she invests the time to read my stuff everyday. 

And both goals were met.

Cool she is.  I love that about getting older.  When we were kids, ages made such a difference.  When you are in high school, dating someone two years older was a huge deal.  As you get older, that is seemingly insignificant.  Same goes for friends.  While life differences certainly play a factor in deep friendships, there is something really nice about being to hang out with someone just because they are really interesting, smart, funny, etc. regardless of how old she/he is.  She hit on all those marks tonight, and inspired me to want to go out of my way to want to help her on something I know is really important to her.  

The other piece, about her reading my stuff, was also insightful.  When I got the courage to just ask “why?!”, she just gave me a very blunt answer.  I’m paraphrasing here, because I can’t begin to recapture her far more eloquent words…but she suggested that I just say what other people are thinking, but wouldn’t dare to admit.  Could that be true?  I mean, come on, we all have stuff going on in our lives.  I can’t be the only one who admits I have feelings about it.  Granted, perhaps the majority of people don’t publicly write about it.  

But then it struck me.  Not only did I do a very public face plant tonight, on a street, with tons of passersby watching me. But I did it and I got up and kept walking.  I didn’t give a s*it that I fell.  I just kept moving.  And maybe that is what makes me a bit of an oddity, and perhaps why people might like to peer in.  I am willing to do the public face plant, and then willing to admit to it.  Because whether it’s on a street, or in a relationship, or at work, or wherever, that is part of life.  For every amazing, incredible success or interesting thing that happens in my life, there is a face plant and a skinned knee just around the corner to keep you humble.  And I am totally ok with that. Its kept me learning, and its kept me wanting to know what’s behind that next open door.

So thank you, Lexi.  You energized me tonight after an incredibly long day, and you made it fun for me to do something that is normally very difficult for me.  You also gave me a bunch more thoughts about our discussion, which has fueled that idea engine.  I love being able to brainstorm with people and walk away with something better than what I walked in with.  

I should face plant more often.   

Tags: faceplant