How Does It Feel At The Top

A colleague told me something interesting about what it feels like at the top.


He said:

The 360 degree view is good, but it get’s windy at times!


I thought this was pretty smart, and one reason that many people opt out of moving into senior and executive positions in their organizations. 


Yes, it’s great to be able to lead and have more visibility, influence, and impact. 


But at the same time, this does not come for free or without risks. 


At the top of the pyramid or corporate offices or whatever, there is opportunity. 


Yet, your dealing with other top honchos with strong personalities, egos, and often harsh ways of dealing with others and conflict can be perilous for many. 


My father used to tell me his philosophy:

Better a little less, but you know what you have. 


There is definitely wisdom in those words. 


Maybe as with most things in life, there is a time and place for everything. 


It is great to have the opportunity to lead.


It’s also not bad to have a time to follow and contribute in that way. 


What’s important is that whatever role your in at the time, that you do it with integrity and passion to do good. 


So how does it feel at the top–sure, it’s a nice view, but it can get very windy too. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Solar Eclipse 2017

Eclipse.jpeg

In honor of the solar eclipse tomorrow, the local grocery store was selling these cool celebratory pies!


Everyone is excited about this eclipse that is cutting a path across the U.S. 


The last one that did this was almost 100 years ago in 1918.


It’s a magnificent thing to see two amazing and large celestial spheres like this literally cross paths. 

“Hi sun.”
“Hello moon.”
“Nice to meet you!” 

We are so small in the realm of these universal things…it’s almost funny how big we think we are. 


Yet, we have so much ambition and desire to be bigger–to solve problems, innovate, and delve into the depths of the sea and to the far reaches of heavens.


You can blot out the sun, but we’ll still figure out all the details on precisely when, where, and which goo goo goggles to wear so we don’t hurt our eyes. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Disease Of The Ordinary

Disease Of The Ordinary

Wow, I love these glasses–red, big, and with wings!

I asked the store owner about them, and he said he gets these mostly for (window) display purposes.

But one lady actually bought a pair similar to this for a big event she was going to.

I think these would certainly make a statement (however crazy) when someone walks into the room wearing these.

Maybe that’s the point for many people–to stand out!

People want to be noticed, special, and be thought of as something or as somebodies.

Being 1 of 7 billion people is not very satisfying–so how do we differentiate ourselves?

  • The fancy house and cars we have
  • The clothing and accessories we wear and carry
  • The trophy wife or husband that hangs on us
  • Our own physical good looks, fitness, and skills
  • The prestigious university we went to and the degrees we possess
  • Climbing the career ladder and our titles and offices
  • Our pedigree from kings, clergy, hollywood, rich, or otherwise famous or successful people
  • The children (and grandchildren) that we rear to be smart, successful, well-integrated, etc.?
  • How religious we are, how much charity we give, the kindness we show others?

This is something that we all struggle with as human beings–what is a life of purpose, meaning and how do we know that we’ve achieved it?

I think the problem for many is that we measure ourselves by what we have and not who we are. Perhaps, this is a clear mistaken case of quantity over quality.

Down in Florida, I see so many “haves” and “have nots”–but it’s not enough for the haves to have, but if they aren’t showing it off, getting stares, having people talk about them, then they seem to feel uncomfortably ordinary.

What is this disease of the ordinary that people must ever run to escape from–and even with the reddest, wildest, wing glasses or whatever–will they ever feel truly happy and satisfied inside?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Work Life IMBALance

Work Life IMBALance

Mental, emotional, and physical health often feeds off of maintaining a good balance in life.

Yet, the financial services industry has been notorious for making people work unearthly hours, but also paying them unG-dly sums of money, especially in end-of-year bonuses.

I remember reading the other year that the average bonus at Goldman Sachs was something like $750,000!

The price people pay for this is work, work, and more work (and like in the film, Wall Street, often some very unscrupulous behavior as well).

Many people get apartments down by Wall Street, so when they stroll out of the office at 1 am (maybe that’s a good night), they can get to their place and clock a few hours of sleep before it’s back to the office–in record time.

Does the wealth accumulation and perhaps early retirement make it worth it–I guess to some people it does.

Today, the New York Times reported how financial firms like Bank of America (BOA) Merrill Lynch is perhaps seeing the ill effects of this misguided “human capital strategy.”

Finally, they are now encouraging people to “take four days off a month” and we’re taking about weekends.

That still leaves you with 6 days a week of work and typically 90 hours per week in the office!

Anyway, this is what they call being “committed to making the work experience better.”

This is coming off the heels of a 21-year old intern at BOA that died last Summer in the office “after working three consecutive nights” even though they attributed the death to epilepsy.

Work is good and healthy, except when it’s extreme and not. Work-a-holism is a disease and money is at the root cause.

It’s great to be committed to the organization, mission, people and to doing your best, but it’s another to sacrifice your soul, health, family and friends, and other interests that make you a well-rounded person.

Ambition is healthy, greed is deadly–and if you have to come up with three lemons to see that, then it may be too late. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Teamwork, There Is No I

Teamwork, There Is No I

I really love this saying–“There is no I in Team.”

A colleague said very astutely, “even though some try to put it in there!”

Teams work best, when everyone does their part and contributes, and no one makes it about their personal agendas, ambitions, and issues.

A team implies a large degree of selflessness where we do what is best for the team and the mission we serve, and we don’t get caught up in personal ego trips.

When people place themselves above the team–and they try to impose that “I” right on in there, then rather than teamwork, we end up with rivalry and conflict.

From my experience, those who try to take the credit for themselves–typically end up exposed for who they really are and without the honor they chase.

But those who give recognition genuinely and generously to others are in turn respected for their contributions to the mission as well as to the team.

Selflessly united as a team we can assuredly succeed, but selfishly divided as just a bunch of I’s, we will most certainly fail. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

The Nature of Envy and Ambition

Throne

I watched a really good movie the other day called “The Violin.”

It was about a civil war in a South American country where freedom fighters are vastly outnumbered and outgunned and an old violinist tries to smuggle weapons and ammunition to his people in his violin case. 

At one point in the movie, their village in overrun by the army, and the boy’s mother and sister are killed. 

The little boy asks the grandfather to explain the horrible life events that have befallen them to him and the grandfather tells how G-d created the world with good people as well as people the are envious and ambitious and those people sought to take everything away from the others–no matter how much they accumulated, they wanted more.

I thought about this with respect to a quote I had learned in Yeshiva that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”–that those who have unbridled power and ability, will use it without limitation and in wrong and harmful ways to others, because they can.

Envy and ambition and power–can be used for good–when people see others succeed and are motivated to work hard and do their best too. 

But when people become blindly consumed with it for its own sake–they can’t stand anyone having more than them or even having anything–they think they should just as well have it all–then they will not just work hard to achieve it, but they will act out against others to unjustly take what they want and as much as they want. 

My father always taught me never to be jeoulous of anyone. He told me that if you knew what really went on in their lives–what their basket [of good and bad] was–you wouldn’t trade places with them in a million years. 

And I believe he was right. Often when I know someone only superficially and their life looks so grand and “perfect,” it is tempting to think they have it all or even just better, but then when you get to know their life challenges–sickness, abuse, death, loneliness, and other hardships–you realize how things could always be a lot worse and how truly lucky you are. 

Of course, there will there always be people who are superficial, materialistic, and can’t control their urge for power and things–and they will try to take more than their fair due and by force if necessary. In the end, will it bring them real fulfillment and happiness, the answer is obvious. 

I believe it was my Oma (grandmother), a survivor of The Holocaust, who used to say “count your blessings”–she was right. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

That Special Cane

Cane_with_mirror_and_horn

After seeing one of my colleagues with this souped-up cane at work this week, I learned that this is the special gift for someone reaching their 50th birthday.

This is not an ordinary bamboo cane as you can see, but one with a rear-view mirror for passing, a honking horn for warning people out of your path, and even a little green change purse for the toll. 🙂

While I am no spring chicken anymore, I am still not old enough to receive my special cane–oh shucks!

But this did give me pause to think about what it means as we get older and the weeks and months at work turn into years and decades.

Before we know it, the up-hill climb of life, plateau and eventually heads in the other direction.

It reminds me of whenever someone asks my father how old he is…he flips the numbers–so for example, when he was 72, he would say I “turned” 27 and so on

It’s not easy getting old(er), we all want to be back in our youth or prime of life, which my father calls the time period, “when the world is too small,” and I think what he means is our aspirations are large.

This week at work, I learned that one of my colleagues who retired just a few years ago passed away from one of the horrible “C’s” — it was terrible to hear this.

Moreover, it reminded me of other colleagues who I have seen work hard their whole life, sacrificing and putting off all types of enjoyment, and waiting for that big day when they would retire and then they “could live the good life.”

And one guy, I remember, did retire after putting in his time and within about 3 months, he dropped dead of a massive coronary–I don’t think he even made it with heart beating to the hospital.

Life is too short!  And of course, life is hard–that’s how we are tested and grow–but we can’t wait for the good times. We need to savor every moment of our lives, appreciate our loved ones , and enjoy what we do day-in and day-out.

Else, we may miss the finest times that we have here on earth and then we really will be left holding that special cane and looking back at our lives in the rear-view mirror wondering why we wasted so much precious, precious time.