Friday, September 22, 2017

THE ULTIMATE BRUSH OFF



Off the record
I refuse to have my picture taken. Or to at least
purposefully participate in any visual record of
my presence. What I see in the mirror is awful
enough. But purposefully having said visage
immortalized via a sharp lens is terrifying. Part
of me has become quite comfortable within my
expanded skin. After all the joys of that extra
glass of vino and dessert far surpass fitting into
a size or two smaller. Therefore purposefully
recording my posterior for posterity is not the
kind of spectator sport that I want to participate
in. Thus someday I hope my girth will be but a
faint memory. Gone and thankfully forgotten...
Forever and a day
That said, is there anything more decadent
and/or glorious than having one's portrait
painted? As a devotee to Mr. Singer Sargent
and James Whistler I have often wondered
just what those they immortalized actually
looked like. And yet in truth whatever their
reality was - it doesn't matter. We are now
left with the artist's perception. Thus said
individuals will live on via the verve, chic,
and panache of a few strokes of the artist's
brush. Causing one to wonder why so many
chronicle their every move via social media.
Often only to leave the wrong impression.
Love eternal
It's been said that art is a window to the soul.
Any portrait is a testament to the relationship
between creator and subject. My bestie "T"
is the daughter of an artist. Robert Baranet
was in my opinion one of the best ever. His
abstracted landscapes ALWAYS take me to
a better place. Hence I treasure the pleasure
of living with his work on a daily basis. Yet
much of his life was spent painting portraits.
Many of "T" during her formative years. As
someone who knew both - said paintings and
drawings prove that Barry loved and adored
her. What could be a more lasting tribute?
Rude awakening
Creativity is capricious at best. Little could
be more personal than seeing yourself via
an other's eye. There is an element of risk
in allowing any artist to immortalize their
vicarious view of you for future generations.
What if they don't like you and that shows?
Or much like Dorian Gray they record your
darkest secret for all to see. Hence a painted
or drawn portrait is skewed at best. It can
either demoralize or immortalize. Exposing
oneself in such a way could cause one to
lose face. Yet such a gamble might be well
worth the risk. What if it's magnificent?
Face value
Some of the most impactful and memorable
portraits are political. Gilbert Stuart's image
of George Washington is now iconographic.
Adolf Hitler posed for hundreds. Kim Jong
Un has blanketed North Korea with his face.
Yet the walls of our government buildings
remain blank due to the lack of an official
portrait of our President. Excuses for said
deficit are Donald Trump's busy schedule.
Further research indicates that to date - all
artists asked to paint his puss have declined.
Hmm... one wonders what they see that we
don't? Ultimately what will history show?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

MR. FIX-IT'S PUNCH LIST


Ready and waiting
In times such as these it would be so easy to
assume there is nothing we can do. However
when faced with seemingly insurmountable
odds - the best thing one can do is anything.
Keeping busy not only reduces stress, it gets
the job(s) done. And so I've been making a
list, checking it twice. Oh... and trying to not
be naughty but rather nice. That's not always
easy given accomplishing one's punch list can
often be quite a battle. However I've decided
to do the best with what I've got. Hence rather
than sitting and waiting for something good to
happen - I'm trying to fix things all by myself.
Wake up calls
This morning I spent about an hour speaking
out against the proposed Graham-Cassidy Act
to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. While
it may seem a futile exercise, the fact is each
and everyone of our elected representatives
work for us. Thus like it or not, it's their job
to at least listen and record our opinions. You
may be surprised but it's rather easy to call
your Senator's or Congressman's office. And
remarkably, people actually pick up the phone
and listen. You can also e-mail them and I'm
sure somebody reads them. So rather than
complain, why not let your voice be heard?!
Face time
Speaking of connecting - recently I've been
spending time with friends and colleagues.
Whether over breakfast, lunch, or booze -
It's so easy to distance oneself from those
who truly matter. Especially when you're
working the days seem to fly by. Yet what
could be a more worthwhile endeavor than
making sure people you care about get some
"face time"? One of my greatest frustrations
is that my children live far away. While my
daughters and I talk frequently it's just not
the same. So I'm resolved to book a ticket
and fly to visit them SOON. Tempus fugit!
Maintenance mode
Given a heavy frost is imminent, Frank spent
most of yesterday out in his garden. Whereas
I'm doing all sorts of bits and pieces around
the house. While it's been three years since
most of our old house was renovated - things
are already starting to show signs of wear. A
year ago winter ice caused a leak that marred
our pristine master bedroom ceiling. Finally
last week instead of paying somebody else to
do the dirty work I patched it up myself. And
while not perfect, I must say I did a damned
good job. Now I'm working on some flaking
paint on our pergola as Friday we get SNOW!
Return policy
Today is the day of all days. That's because
finally Frank and I are going to empty out
the remaining debris in our storage locker.
Given we have mucho square feet within
our home one might question our need for
such a stash. Frankly we've had this locker
for over a decade and have been working
through it slowly but surely. While we're
not ready to toss the crap into a dumpster,
we're resolved to moving it into a basement
storage room. And stop paying rent for stuff
that is worthless at best. The next step is to
either donate it all or host a garage sale.
Equal opportunity
I realize that all of the above has nothing to do
with you. Yet may I suggest that the process of
getting one's act together is more than worth
the effort. Puttering about the house not only
makes things better, it clears the mind. Getting
things off your chest and at least trying to make
the world a better place is more than gratifying.
And what could be better than reaching out to
those near and dear? I'm certain that each and
everyone of you has some sort of "punch list"
floating about your head. What I'm suggesting
is that if you do nothing else, start working on
it. Trust me, I'm certain you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

BABES IN TOYLAND


Out of play
The news today was that Toys "R" Us -
the beloved national retailer was filing
for bankruptcy. As someone who grew
up with Geoffrey the Giraffe cavorting
about "the world's biggest toy store" -
I was saddened. Especially given years
later my team resurrected him during
my three years at said company. Things
come and go out of favor. Competitive
market pressures alone can decimate an
organization in a nano second. And yet -
in my humble opinion companies fail
because their leaders are all to human.

All mixed up
A management team is like a cocktail. When
all the ingredients are right it is intoxicating.
However if one or two of it's key ingredients
are off - it can be a disaster. Inevitably such
a mishap is due to a mixologist's error. When
tasked with creating a winning combination -
they obviously missed their mark. To course
correct, a good bartender retraces their steps,
corrects any errors, and once again shakes
things up. Sadly that isn't always the case
with chief executives. Rather than embrace
their faults, some opt to blame anyone but
themselves. Proving that power intoxicates.

Road less traveled
Ten years ago I joined Toys"R"Us. Said
business proposition was challenged long
before my arrival. Inconsistent strategies,
weak leaders, plus external market forces
had almost destroyed the company. Like
victims of Hiroshima, the last survivors
wandered headquarters in a daze. It was
questionable whether the brand could be
saved. However within months all of that
changed post an influx of new people,
talent, experience, and commitment. You
see, all that was needed was a vision. A
purpose. A strategy. A pathway to success.

Back to the future
For many reasons retail success is a cyclical
phenomena. For most of my career I've joined
teams which were if nothing else challenged.
Inevitably post some "archeology" one finds
answers hidden in a brand's past. Obviously
the world evolves. What customers craved
decades prior is rarely relevant here and now.
Yet people are people. Hence human nature
is quite natural. The same levers that once
drove sales can be flipped again. The only
thing that changes is how you invite them
to engage. Retail is NOT rocket science.
It's nothing more than supply and demand.

Repeat after me...
Upon arrival at every new opportunity I've
been told that the people themselves - the
soldiers - the folks that make it happen are
the issue. Disenfranchised leaders assumed
the only solution was to fire them all and
start anew. But nothing could have been
more wrong. In my experience all that said
individuals needed to be part of a unified
collective with a clear and concise vision.
A strategy against which to execute. And
rather than derision, a constant and steady
flow of affirmation, advice, and only when
needed course correction. It's not their fault.

Secret recipe
The truth is that in most cases what a group of
individuals needs is a strong leader. One who
embraces their diversity while focusing their
efforts. Within a clearly defined construct one
knows their limitations. However are also free
to succeed within said confines. That's in truth
the secret sauce that fuels our most successful
corporations. Few viable enterprises are all
things to all men. Rather they're laser focused
machines whose sole goal is to deliver against
a specific business premise. Thus when given
a purpose all involved suddenly thrive. Once
we know what's expected, success follows.

Limited visibility
The problem is that even the greatest of leaders
are all to human. Thus at times those in charge
lose their way. Thats when a support network
must rise to the occasion. Such interventions
insure that those at the top see their world for
what it truly is. Said wakeup calls only work
if one is willing to hear it. Sadly having power
within one's grasp can corrupt even the most
well intentioned of us. Causing them to focus
internally rather than externally. Such myopia
is often ultimately what kills most businesses.
It creates a corporate culture where few if any
can be successful. And in the end we all lose.


Vision quest
In hindsight I can site many reasons why
Toys"R"Us is on the brink today. Some
challenges were beyond their control yet
the majority were self-inflicted. Deep at
their root are errors in judgement made
long ago by leaders long gone. Few if
any of them understood that their legacy
might initiate a domino effect of failure
after failure. They simply lost their way.
And now it's up to those left behind to
somehow circumvent what seems to be
a dead end. Is a turnaround possible?
Well... that depends on who is charge...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

THERE THEY GO AGAIN...



Been there, done that
I'm worried. One has only to read the news
to know that our country is in the midst of
a racial and cultural schism. Many thought
all arguments for racism were mute. Even
as an unfair system perpetuates social and
economic isolation. Our cities are melting
pots. A melange of radically diverse people,
perspectives, and perceptions. Whereas in
our U.S. heartland brews an undercurrent
of hate, exclusion, and retribution. All they
claim to want is justice. However in reality
all they want an unfair advantage. The idea
of which I find disgusting and terrifying.
Crimes of inhumanity
This morning the Huffington Post reported a
5% rise in hate crimes in 2016. To be clear
that's violence committed against someone
based solely on their race, religion, sexuality,
disability, or national origin. One has only to
recall the violence that killed a protestor in
Charlottesville to realize we're in big trouble.
For three days St. Louis has been embroiled
in protests over what many view as an unfair
acquittal of a white police officer after his
shooting of a black man. One can't but think
that we've lost our way. Why is it suddenly
legal for some of us to freely abuse the rest?
Man of war
Yesterday I watched a film about the televising
of the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1961. Viewing
the proceedings I was not surprised that said
monster claimed he was only following orders.
Rather I was fascinated to understand just how
impactful said broadcast was on the world at
large. Until the horror was aired live most had
difficulty believing a seemingly "normal" man
could inflict such cruelty. As witnesses testified
to the atrocities committed by the Nazis upon
the Jewish people, it became all too real. And
suddenly everyone had to face the facts that
people just like them can do AWFUL things.
Right and wrong
Part of me can't fathom such evil. The idea that
somebody could willingly imprison, torture or
murder another human being baffles the mind.
Yet most perpetrators of such crimes later claim
they did as they were told. Such admissions are
not only criminal - they're cowardly. Time and
again one hears of neighbor betraying neighbor.
Friend turning on friend. Family rejecting those
who don't fit a certain criteria. While many try
to blame their leaders for "forcing" them to do
such things - every individual alone bears the
full responsibility for their actions. Hence we
all must choose between doing right or wrong.
Out of the mouth of babes
Who knows what evil lurks within the hearts
of others? History has shown that cruelty and
hatred blossom if unbridled by conventional
cultural constraints. Which is exactly what is
happening in much of these United States of
America. Part of me wants to blame those
currently in control of our legislative bodies.
Yet the only ones to blame are folks just like
you and me. Seemingly ordinary people who
have harbored and hidden this poison deep
within themselves. Waiting to be spewed
upon those they consider on the wrong side.
And potentially turn on you at any time.
Dumb and dumber
What fuels such hate? Ignorance, arrogance,
and jealousy. Throughout history underdogs
have lashed out at those more privileged.
Now listen - I'm not suggesting that bigots
dislike capitalism. What they can't abide is
anybody overcoming the same obstacles
they battle on a daily basis but... WIN.
Rather than think for themselves, they sit
and wait for a leader to define their enemies.
And provide a construct within which they
can attack those deemed inferior or suspect.
However just because somebody serves you
Kool Aid - you don't have to guzzle it down.
Burning question
There is no viable excuse nor justification
for bigotry, prejudice, hatred, and cruelty.
If one opts to treat another unfairly, they
cross a line. Whoever wreaks havoc on
others takes full responsibility for THEIR
actions. And given what goes around will
come around, every perpetrator will get
their just due. Which is why most bigots
hide under a sheet or veil of subterfuge.
Causing one to wonder who is the enemy
within? The only way to confront evil
doers is to expose them for who they
are. And stop them dead in their tracks.
Red alert
My question is are we brave enough to stand
against such bigotry?  During World War II
almost every European was forced to choose
between good and evil. Many opted to follow
orders rather than stand up for what was right.
The end result murdered millions of Jews for
being who they were and nothing more. So
what if somebody suddenly put a ban on all
redheads? Would you hide a carrot topped
friend in the attic? Trust me - stranger things
have happened. Whatever the political issue
we all of a choice. So if asked to do evil -
what would you do? Just think about that...

Monday, September 18, 2017

ALTERNATIVE ROUTES


Suspended animation
Inevitably most life decisions are made for
us. External forces beyond our control alter
whatever preconceived notions we may have.
Therefore the only control we have is how
we opt to react to any given situation.  No
matter how hard we try to guide or alter it -
our destiny is an elusive target. Meaning that
life is in essence a crap shoot. A capricious
game where sometimes we win - sometimes
we lose. Some more naive or arrogant may
attempt to control the outcome. However the
smartest amongst us do their best to go with
the flow. And let the experts do the driving.
Off course
It's been a month since I exited my last job.
Soon after joining I knew that I'd made the
wrong decision. Prior to accepting I did all
of my home work. Connecting with those
I would be closely working with. Thus felt
in control of my future. However that wasn't
to be. Within two weeks everything changed.
Proving once again that what mattered was
beyond my control. As I faced alternative
facts thrown my way I realized that an exit
strategy was the only solution. Yet another
post graduate degree in adult education. So
exactly when will I finally learn my lesson?
Against wall else
Hindsight is twenty twenty. Upon reflection
one thing has been confirmed. Which is that
I did everything I could within my control to
make the right choice. Actually a second and
even more important point was also reiterated.
Which was that no matter the preparation or
forethought one puts into our life journey -
inevitably things WILL change. For whatever
reason I continue to struggle with that. Which
must be why post confronting a disaster, I had
to spend months banging my head against that
wall beyond my control. Rather than climb
over, dig under, or take a detour around it.
Climate control
Throughout the world at large there are many
lessons waiting to be gleaned. There is an ebb
and flow to life that naturally occurs whether
we like it or not. Last week Frank's garden was
at it's peak. The thermometer here in Central
Montana hit the nineties almost daily. Then all
of a sudden we awoke to frost on the grass and
rooftops. I wasn't prepared for autumn's early
arrival. Yet after three days of temperatures not
reaching above the low forties - I fired up the
furnace. That was really all that could be done
given my other option was to sit and shiver in
protest. It is what it is so I did what I had to do.
Shadow boxing
Ultimately we try to make the best of the
situation is at hand. Such subjugation is
not only humbling. It also empowers and
enlightens those facile enough to embrace
life's challenges. When one is young - self
sacrifice is quite easy given we don't know
any better. Naivety fuels bravery - even if
at times it's rather foolish. Later in life it's
almost impossible to quickly adapt to the
here and now. Prior experience informs
and inhibits our course of action. While in
theory prudent, it's usually just a waste of
time. And what we think rarely matters.
Deep dive
I'm not suggesting that the only way to survive
is in a catatonic state. What I am suggesting is
that only way to succeed in life is to continue
to take risks. Even if that means going against
your own advice. We all win some, lose others.
My quandary is how do you shift your success
ratio in your favor? In my humble opinion all
that's requires is some sort of decisive reaction.
Thus much like this morning - there are times
when we must turn up the heat. While we can't
control external forces -we have the power to
adapt any challenge to our advantage. A feat
that is usually much easier said than... done...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

7th Day Surprise: Sticky situation


What a prick
Sorry friends but all this week something was sticking in my mind.
How did we end up with such a prick in office?
Hence, this morning's missive will

STICK IT TO YOU!