Sep 22

The flotsam and jetsam of the blogosphere

Warning: Some readers, especially those who post or Tweet inspirational quotes, may be offended  by the following blog. Reader discretion is advised.

Idoms-793706I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with the countless inspirational quotes that clog up my Twitter and Facebook feeds. Here’s just a random sampling from the last hour:

-    ‘The ability to convert ideas to things is the secret to outward success.’
-    ‘The only validation a young company needs is customers.’ 
-    ‘Lead if you can! Follow if you must. But, don’t stand still.’

What, exactly, am I supposed to do with these inspirational quotes? They’re not actionable items. They don’t change the way I think or my day-to-day existence. More to the point, they only clutter an already cluttered blogosphere. If I want inspiration, I simply turn on the tube and find an ironman triathlon to watch.
The inspirational quote’s evil cousin is the daily horoscope. Here’s a few from this morning:
-    ‘Today is a good day for an Aries to invest wisely.’
-    ‘A Taurus should beware of making new acquaintances today.’
-    ‘Cancers take warning. All signs indicate to a possible loss of a close friend.’

Again, why should I care about someone else’s daily horoscope prediction when I don’t give a rat’s posterior for my own? Horoscope readings, like inspirational quotes, are the flotsam and jetsam of the blogosphere. They’re useless bits of debris floating by you on the vast ocean of life.

More to the point, people who continually post inspirational quotes as well as their daily horoscopes tell me something about themselves: namely, that they don’t have an original point of view so they co-opt someone else’s. A journalist would call that plagiarism. I call it spam. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to check my horoscope to see if it’s safe for me to go for a run.

Jun 29

Golden Years

174857103v1_225x225_FrontI'm 57 today. That's old. It sounds old and it looks old. As a matter of fact, 57 only looks good on  the label of a Heinz's ketchup bottle.

Turning 57 is an actuarial wake-up call. There's no denying that, statistically speaking, I'm much closer to the end than the beginning. But, to add insult to injury, there are lots of other signs that Father Time is breathing down my neck. To wit:

– An attractive young lady in a bar smiles at me, walks up and whispers in my ear, 'Excuse me sir. But is anyone using that stool next to you? We'd like to borrow it." (Note: sir = elderly).
– A friend shows my photo to her friend who responds by saying, “My, he's rather distinguished looking, isn't he?” (Note: distinguished looking = dissipated. Sean Connery is distinguished looking. I do NOT want to be called distinguished looking.).
– An otherwise intelligent intern tells me she's never heard of a DeLorean or the 'Back to the Future' movies. (Note: it's no fun to be surrounded by a whole new generation of employees who are clueless about ANYTHING that occurred before 1990).

That carnage aside, I'm absolutely loving 57. In fact, I think I've crammed more living in the past five years than I had in the previous 52.

'They' say experience is one advantage that comes with aging. But, they rarely mention another less obvious, but more important, value-add: freedom.

I'm now totally free to take risks and try things that would have been unthinkable 10, 20 or even 30 years earlier. They include performing improvisation and stand-up comedy, as well as rock, ice and mountain climbing. Toss in some long-distance cycling, gyrotonic (www.bodyevolution.com) and devising brand new Peppercom service offerings and you'll have an inkling of just how free I feel at such an advanced age.

I've been blessed. But, I've also embraced risk.

In fact, I now understand what David Bowie meant when he sang in 'Golden Years': 'Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere.'

There are two ways to go through life: you take life or life takes you. You're either a driver who take risks and isn't afraid to fail or you're a passenger who blames others when your dreams don't come true.

Whether you're 27, 37, 47 or 57, do yourself a favor and get behind the wheel as soon as possible. You never know. It might just end up being a mint condition DeLorean and you might just end up having the time of your life.

Make the most of your golden years. They'll be over before you know it.

Jun 16

Communication breakdown

Blog-or-facebookI'm perplexed. I'm faced with a communications conundrum and need your help to make a  decision.
 
Here's my problem. Several months ago, we decided to simultaneously post the latest Repman blog on my Facebook page. I thought this was a smart move since the lines between the personal and professional are becoming more blurry than the meaning of Sarah Palin's latest Tweet. LinkedIn is no longer the exclusive enclave of one's professional networking life. And, the business world seems to be becoming ever more prevalent on Facebook.

So, we decided to post Repman on my Facebook page.

And, that's when my communication breakdown began.
 
Almost overnight, the number of comments decreased on the Repman blog website itself and increased on the Facebook comments section accompanying each blog post. Blogs that would sometimes generate as many as 50 comments on Repman site were now being abandoned in favor of direct postings on my Facebook page. And, all of a sudden, I started receiving Facebook alerts to new comments all day long.
 
So, here's my conundrum. Like all marketing communications blogs, Repman is rated on the quality and quantity of its content (and comments). With the latter suffering as a direct result of my simultaneous Facebook posting, Repman reader comments are becoming scarcer than positive coverage of Anthony Weiner.
 
I see three possible courses of action:

1.) Do nothing and let the blogosphere decide when and where it wants to engage with Repman/me.
 
2.) Pull down the Facebook posting and go back to the future with Repman content existing solely on www.repmanblog.com.
 
3.) Figure out some sort of hybrid solution (i.e. maybe we post the blog on Facebook later in the day?).
 
These are clearly high class problems. I love writing blogs that engender good, bad and even ugly comments in response. I'm just at a crossroads as to how best to maintain the buzz for the original Repman while still engaging with new, and different, readers on my Facebook page.
 
So, what would you do?

Jun 07

Another day, another summit

P60204mmmm80 Some people prefer to lounge on a Caribbean beach. Others play the tables in Vegas. Me? I climb mountains. And, I do it with my best friend, Chris, who doubles as my son.

This past week, we joined a few other good friends to attempt Colorado's formidable, 14,197 ft. Mt. Princeton.

We were dubious of success because, aside from the acclimatization challenges, all of Colorado's 60 something 14k'ers were buried in snow. In fact, locals told us this past winter was the worst in memory, with three times the average amount of snowfall.

So, when we arrived, we heard lots of conflicting reports, such as:

– “There's at least eight feet of snow on top of every 14k'er.”
– “The small stream you see on your way up will be a raging river on your way down.” (Note: as a notoriously weak swimmer, I envisioned myself being dragged under a class five rapid as I struggled for air.)
– “Everything north of Buena Vista (our base) is buried, but you just might find something passable due south.”

It wasn't until we happened on a seasoned local guide by the name of Mike Mays that things began to look up. Mays, who knows Vern Tejas, the legendary guide who took us up Russia's Mt. Elbrus, said there were two or three 14k'ers that could be summited. His words were echoed the very next day by a clerk at the local climbing, biking and kayaking outfitter.

And so, throwing caution to the wind, we decided to give it a go. It turned out to be a brutal slog, replete with few trails, lots of huge boulders and, of course, the requisite snow. At some points, we went in right to our hips. But, the snow was stable and there weren't huge mounds of it directly above, so we continued.

In all, it took 10 hours and 30 minutes to make it to the top and back. But, it was well worth it. In fact, I highly recommend a week of climbing, cycling and running at high altitude as a superb remedy to the stresses of everyday life.

I understand why most people prefer sucking down margaritas in Cancun or playing the roulette wheel at the Mandalay Bay. Me? I'll just keep climbing and smiling.

Apr 25

Dear Prudence

A recently published book entitled, The Longevity Project puts the lie to conventional wisdom  about the keys to a long and healthy life. Authors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, picked up on an original study that began in 1921 with 1,528 San Francisco 11-year-olds and analyzed what personality traits and lifestyle choices made some members of the original cohort far outlive their peers.

Happy-old-folksGuess what? Things such as optimism, happiness, a good marriage and the ability to handle stress didn’t rate very highly. Instead, the “…best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness. The qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person wins out every time.” And, that has to be very bad news for those of you who double and triple book meetings and/or maintain sloppy cubicles.

he exhaustive study also confirmed what I’d always read and believed: “Genes constitute about one-third of the factors leading to a long life. The other two-thirds have to do with lifestyle and chance.”

When one looks beneath the surface, it’s easy to see why prudence and persistence are so important to longevity say the authors. Conscientious people are more likely to live healthy lifestyles, to not smoke or drink to excess, wear seat belts and follow doctors’ orders. Prudent and persistent people also tend to find themselves in healthier, happier workplaces and personal relationships. They also understand the importance of stress. “There’s a misconception about stress,” says Dr., Friedman. “People think everyone should take it easy. Rather, he says, “a hard job that is also stressful, but which enables people to eventually succeed, leads to a longer life.” So much for retiring to Del Boca Vista and playing golf every day.

One finding really struck home with me. Optimism has a huge downside. “If you’re cheerful, very optimistic, especially in the face of illness and recovery, if you don’t consider the possibility that you might have setbacks, than those setbacks are harder to deal with.” says Dr. Martin. “If you’re one of those people who think everything’s fine–the stress of failure, because you haven’t been more careful, is harmful. You almost set yourself up for more problems.”

I may die tomorrow, but I have to say The longevity Project made me smile for a number of reasons. First, because by recognizing that I was working in a toxic environment in the mid-1990s, I walked away from it and, along with Ed, created a workplace I knew I’d enjoy. Second, and this sentence is aimed directly at our firm’s management committee, I have always considered myself a ‘realist’ when it comes to such things as new business presentations, employee issues, economic downturns or other fundamental challenges.  As a result, I never expect to win a big, new piece of business, retain an important employee who’s being wooed away by a competitor or change the mindset of a clique within Peppercom who take exception to a particular management decision. My peers call me a pessimist. Rather, I’m doing exactly what the authors suggest is a key ingredient to longevity: I’m not setting myself up for more problems by being overly optimistic.

Anyway, that’s my take on The Longevity Project. What’s yours? Sorry, but I’ve got to run. I have another 40 years to live.

Apr 06

My mom named us after mediocre actors

I was minding my own business at New Jersey's world-famous Colts Neck Inn the other night when 6a00d83451be5969e200e54f3a9af18833-640wi I overheard this conversation:

Woman #1: 'Hi, I'm Jan, and this is my boyfriend, Tommy."

Woman #2: "Hello. I'm Raquel, and this is Luis. My mom named my sisters and me after movie stars. I was named after Raquel Welch. My sister, Tina, was named for Tina Louise. My sister, Yvonne, was named for Yvonne DeCarlo, a great actress of the '40s. And, then there's Norma Jean. And, well, you know who she was named after."

I was stunned. How could any self-respecting mom name her girls after Hollywood starlets? More to the point, Marilyn Monroe aside, who would name her kids after B-level TV actresses? Yvonne DeCarlo's chief claim to fame was playing Mrs. Herman Munster on TV and Tina Louise was the
glamorous Ginger in 'Gilligan's Island', another one-and-done, ersatz 1960s TV sitcom. And, while Raquel Welch proved herself a competent Broadway actress in later life (and, guest starred in one of my all-time favorite 'Seinfeld' episodes), she's certainly not A-level material.

The whole scene got me thinking. Maybe naming one's kids after marginal actresses reflects a larger trend of Americans embracing all things mediocre? (i.e. 'Glee,' fast food, the former Alaskan governor, etc.).

If my hypothesis is accurate, why limit the name game to Hollywood's second-tier performers? How about naming one's sons after, say, obscure 19th century U.S. presidents? 'Hi. I'm Rutherford. My brothers and I were named after other, little-known American presidents. There's Millard, James Knox and my kid brother, William Henry. But, everyone calls him 'Tippecanoe.'"

And, what about utterly forgettable sports stars? "Nice to make your acquaintance. I'm Wally and was named after Wally Pipp, who played first base for the Yankees before Lou Gehrig. This is my twin brother, Donny. He's named for Donny Anderson, who succeeded the Packers' Golden Boy, Paul Hornung, but accomplished absolutely nothing in his pro career. Then there's my sister, Tonya, whose Olympic figure skating namesake's career was, shall we say, whacked?'

Imagine going through life named in honor of a second-rate actress, an unknown president or a failed athlete? Talk about overcoming image and reputation challenges.

The Colts Neck materfamilias is clearly a trendsetter in the name game. And, who knows where it will lead? In fact, I'll bet some mom is already planning on naming her brood after the ultimate Hollywood bad boys. There would be Errol (for Errol Flynn), Nick (for Nick Nolte), Robert (for
Robert Downey, Jr,) and the pick of the litter, Charlie (named for the one, and only, Charlie Sheen). Winning!

Jan 18

All work and no play…

Today's guest post is by  Catharine “Goose" Cody.

I have the best mother ever.  I’ve always known that. But, a recent Wall Street Journal article by Amy Chua just confirmed it. 

Me and mom In her piece, entitled: ‘Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior’,  Chua describes parenting customs that are inherent in the Chinese culture, but missing in most Western homes.  For example, Chua says she never allowed her children to attend a sleepover, have play dates, act in a school play, watch television or achieve any grade lower than an A. Talk about all work and no play making Jack a dull boy!

Chua insists these strict rules are the reason why her daughters are successful.  Had she not been such a stern taskmaster, Chua writes, her kids wouldn’t be performing at Carnegie Hall or consistently finishing first in their respective classes.

That may be true. But, in my opinion, the Chua children undoubtedly missed out on some of the best parts of childhood.

My brother, Chris and I, grew up in a fairly lenient household. Our parents encouraged, rather than forced, us to pursue our dreams.  We were permitted to sleep over at a friend’s house, perform in talent shows, and even, dare I say it, bring home grades of B, and lower! 

Chris and I are turned out to be pretty normal kids (at least in my mind). And, we did very well academically.  As far as how we’re doing professionally, I’ve just graduated from Monmouth University and am a full-time production assistant at MSNBC. Chris is pursuing his passion for history, and is in the midst of attaining a master’s degree at Northeastern University.

I’ll bet that, as they mature and reflect on their childhoods, Amy Chua’s kids will feel they missed out on, well, being kids.
I can tell you that performing in grammar school talent shows was probably one of the best experiences of my life. In fact, dancing to ‘No Limit’ provided a once-in-a-lifetime high I’ll never forget.  There I was, at the tender age of eight, dancing on stage in a glitter-and-rhinestone studded costume that most surely would have made Amy Chua cringe.

Chris and I were also pretty big partiers in high school.  We had curfews, but our parents didn’t flip if we came home a little late.  It’s not that they weren’t worried about our safety, they most certainly were. Instead, they trusted us to make our own decisions.  And, that was huge.

If our parents hadn’t let us date during high school, I shudder to think what would have happened when we reached college.  Many of my friends with strict, Chua-like parents, went berserk during their freshman years and, unfortunately, fell victim to alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases and other setbacks.

My dad writes a great deal about image and reputation in his blog. And, many of us buy into the notion that one of the reasons our country is falling behind is precisely because Asian moms such as Amy Chua are raising baby Einsteins. I think the issue is much more complex. And, while Amy’s kids might be ridiculously smart, are they happy?  Or, will they be happy in the future? Maybe. But, I don’t think so.

Too much of anything is a bad thing. My biggest fear for Amy Chua’s kids is that, one day many years from now, they’ll look back and ask the ‘What if’ question. What if I hadn’t done everything my mom insisted I do and, instead, did what I wanted to do? Chris Cody and I will never be asking ourselves that question. And, thanks for that, Mom.

Oct 20

The ‘Other’ Big C

I'm in the midst of flipping through Jon Stewart's laugh out loud coffee table book, Earth. It's   TMCQuentinMeaseCroppedRGB written for aliens who have stumbled across planet earth long after we humans have annihilated ourselves. In it, Stewart provides his P.O.V. on the who, what, when, where, why and how humanity got itself into the mess that is life in the year 2010.

As is the case with all of Stewart's humor, the text is decidedly tongue-in-cheek. One section, entitled ‘The Phases of Man’ is both hilarious and insightful.

The middle-age section naturally hit home with me. It features a photograph of a portly, balding middle-aged guy rocking a Hawaiian shirt, mandals, a couple of tats and an earring. Various arrows point to the man's anatomy and contain captions such as this one about his visible chest hair, “Men of a certain age were eager to show the world not all of their hairlines were receding.” Another arrow pointing to the man's sagging chest reads, “Decreased metabolism manifested itself in the form of love handles, spare tires, saddle bags, walrus knees, beluga back and manteats.”

Stewart describes middle age as the period of time between 45 and 60 (Phew! I still qualify). He then goes on to say that middle age varied greatly due to changing life expectancies. “For instance,” he writes, “victims of midlife crisis during the Dark Ages would comfort themselves with the thought that 20 is the new 16.”

Tuesday's New York Times Science section neatly complemented Stewart's wisdom on middle age with an in-depth analysis of how and why centenarians make it to 100 years of age and beyond. There are now 96,548 humans 100 years of age, or older (there were only 38,300 in 1990). That's enough oldsters to fill the Rose Bowl! Of course, they'd fall asleep before halftime, but still…

According to the article, which cites findings of a New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, there's a direct link between longevity and people who are extroverts, have a healthy dose of self-esteem and strong ties to family and community (note: two out of three ain't bad). It also reports on a University of Pittsburgh study that followed 97,000 women for eight years and said those 'deemed optimistic' were significantly less likely to die from heart disease than were pessimistic women, which the study described as “cynically hostile.” (Note: I've had more than one cynically hostile client over the years). Pessimists were also more likely to be overweight, smoke cigarettes and avoid exercise.

Here's the kicker, though. A Swedish study of identical twins separated at birth and reared apart concluded that only about 20 to 30 percent of longevity is genetically determined. That's huge. That means we can play a major role in determining how long we live and whether we can make it to the 'other’ Big C.

My game plan to reach 100 is two-fold:

– Challenge my body with intense physical exercise such as this past weekend's rock climbing in New Hampshire  , the Tour de Pink charity ride and other seemingly nonsensical middle-age pursuits.
– Challenge my mind with daily blogs, bi-monthly podcasts, performing stand-up comedy and trying to devise new service offerings for Peppercom. I find battling with Ed also keeps my mind fresh. I may die before this blog is even posted, but I've got a ‘Big C Plan’ that I'm implementing. What about you? Are you thinking of making it to the other Big C? If so, share your game plan. Lifelong learning is another key ingredient in the lives of centenarians portrayed in the Times article. And, I'm all ears (minus the eDSCN4689arring, of course).IMAG0066 (2)

Oct 04

Tour de Pink II: The Sequel

Peppercommers Matt Purdue, Trish Taylor and this blogger joined 200 other cyclists this past IMAG0066 weekend to battle flooded roads, steep hills and aching muscles to successfully complete the 230-mile Tour de Pink charity fundraising ride.

Click here to see a video of Matt being interviewed by FoxNews at the end of the ride in New York City.

Tour de Pink 2009 was an amazing experience for me- some of my readers may recall my "post ride" post from last year. This year was even more extraordinary

Created six years ago by Matt and a few other pioneering souls, the Tour's goal is to raise awareness of and monetary support for the Young Survival Coalition. This is an amazing group that, unlike Susan G. Komen and other high profile breast cancer charities, has had to depend on Matt and his circle of friends to make a difference. And, what a difference they've made. In just six years, Matt & Co. have elevated the tour from an initial event that raised just $30,000 to this year's Woodstock-like experience that has already put some $550,000 in the YSC coffers. The event’s lead sponsor, The Hershey Company (cultivated by Matt and his committee), also donated $300,000 and sent nearly 40 riders to the tour.

But, the event is about much more than the much-needed moola. It's an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual roller coaster that pushes riders to the max. In many ways, it reminds me of the demands of climbing Kilimanjaro, Elbrus or other 14,000-plus foot peaks. Cyclists, like climbers, bond immediately. We push each other through the pain. We urge each other to go just one more mile, or stagger in to just one more rest stop.

There's no hype, no false pretense and, above all, no mind games. When a rider says she has your back, she means it. When one rider falls (and, unfortunately, three cyclists suffered broken collar bones the first day), we all stop to provide whatever support we can.

You won't find that type of individual riding Matt Purdue's Tour de Pink. Many of Matt's riders begin the three days as complete strangers and end up BFFs. The exact same things holds true for climbing.

So, before ending, I wanted to send a few shoutouts:

– To all my friends, family and co-workers who contributed money. Thank you.
– To the Tour de Pink support staff who had PBJ sandwiches, bananas and Advil waiting at every rest stop.
– To the three riders who broke their collar bones on day one, but traveled with the group for the rest of the tour.
– To my most excellent assistant, Dandy Stevenson, who handled all of my personal logistics so that I could concentrate on the matter at hand
– To Matt Purdue, who lost his partner, Randi, to breast cancer this past February. This one was for you, Matt.

Although I've exceeded my $3,000 fundraising goal, I can accept donations on my fundraising page through December 31st. And, to further help Matt and YSC, we'll once again be hosting a charity comedy event this coming Saturday night, October 9th, at 8pm at the New York Comedy Club. I promise that, too, will be a special experience.

So, if the spirit so moves you, help Matt, Trish and me raise the awareness of the Young Survivors Coalition. And, if you think your legs, beck, back and lower extremities can take it, join us for next year's Tour de Pink. I've done it twice now and cannot wait for a threepeat.

If you do decide to join us, I guarantee it'll be one of the best experiences of your life.

Sep 27

“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.”

Those aren’t my words. They were spoken by John D. Rockefeller who, if memory serves, knew a  Rockefeller-7 little bit about business. And, although I’m not a fan of billionaires past or present, I do find profound wisdom in JRock’s words. You see, I’ve started, and conducted, business with friends and it’s almost always gone south.

While Ed and I were friends when we started Peppercom, it was a business friendship that had been forged through the ‘Romper Room’ days of Earle Palmer Brown and the Kremlin-like autocracy of Brouillard. Just like some of the case studies mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing book, ‘The Outliers.’  Ed and I had probably already logged some 10,000 hours of working together before we ever hung up the Peppercom shingle. We may have been nascent entrepreneurs, but we were tried and tested public relations executives.

Compare that example with the several times my friend, Tommy, and I have tried to help each other out in business. Thos, as he is also known, reached out to me first, hiring my firm to do some corporate ID/branding assignments for the credit union he was running at the time. It started out well enough, but soon I was receiving some rather unpleasant calls from Le Poer (another one of Tommy’s monikers) questioning an invoice. The situation quickly escalated and we agreed to disengage. Now, fast forward to a time when I was able to reciprocate. It occurred when Ed and I started our very own dotcom firm, called PartnershipCentral. This was at the height of dotcom mania and, like everyone else, we figured we’d be multimillionaires within a few months. So, Ed spun out of Peppercom to run P’Central and hired 26 souls to staff it (a ragtag bunch if ever there was one, BTW). TLP (yet another one of Tommy’s aliases) was one of the few, decent employees we hired. If memory serves, he headed up research. But, when the dotcom bubble burst, guess who had to be laid off along with 25 other luckless people? Tommy. And, while it didn’t damage our friendship, it certainly didn’t help either.

I’ve also crossed the line with Dave Mandell, a good friend from long ago who resurfaced to hire us. Having Dave as a client, no matter how well he treated us, nonetheless put a strain on a friendship that, happily, remains very strong.

Ed’s done work with more ‘friends’ than me. In fact, his extended network of friends and contacts has become affectionately known as The Moed Mafia within Peppercom. It’s been the source of some great new business (as well as some totally bizarre dead ends). But, I’ll leave it to him to comment on whether mixing business and friendship works. I don’t think it does.

That said, I sincerely appreciate new business and prospective employee leads that come from my friends. But, I’ve learned enough to know by now that I’ll never cross the line again. JRock’s words are spot on: a friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.