Category Archives: My $.02

My $.02 | Preparing for the Inevitable

I’ve written this post 3 different times in the past 24 hours. Each time I write it get caught up in a theme and a trend, and I end up talking about things and giving advice on things I really have no business talking about.

I’m just a guy. Who lost his dad. And who learned some things as a result of that process that I thought would be worth documenting and sharing here. Each situation is different. I am happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk and share my $.02. Email me if you want: suneet (@) gmail (dot) com

The purpose of this post is to build on those fundamental steps and move forward; as a result, I’ve organized the post into four sections:

  • The Fundamentals (what to think about first)
  • The Individual (my Daddy)
  • The Spouse (my Mom)
  • The Intended Beneficiaries (my sis, me, Priya, the kids, everyone else)

Each builds upon the prior. An important distinction because as a person, depending on age and responsibility, you can be the Individual thinking through legacy, the Spouse of someone who’s thinking through legacy, and, the Designated Beneficiary responsible for carrying forward someone else’s legacy. Most of my friends and peers are actually all three.

A Note on the Fundamentals

There is an underlying assumption here. That you have already:

  1. made a will;
  2. considered and evaluated a trust;
  3. documented all assets and ownership (financial accounts with joint ownership or designated beneficiaries, hard assets with titles of ownership, like cars and house(s)); and
  4. created a digital will, too. Yup. Accounts, usernames, passwords, for all online presences.

None of the below matters unless you’ve completed the above and established a baseline. There are hoards of resources available to you if you want to move forward; I urge you that if you are to start with an Estate Attorney make sure you talk to the Attorney about their services included up to the inevitable moment, and, what they provide after. Get clarity upfront. I issue this warning a few times because it can’t be overstated.

A Note to the Individual

If you are a person with things, then you are “the individual”. The person who will die at some point and who will leave people behind to take over. This is one of the biggest things I learned in my experience with my Daddy. He had everything incredibly under control, but, he was also terrible at communicating about it.

Lesson #1: When you’re gone, you’re gone. You won’t be available for questions.

Involve the people you love in your process. Talk to them about your attorney. About your plan. About your goals. About where things are. It doesn’t matter how organized you are; life happens in the most ridiculous of ways. Involve the other two cohorts above (spouse, beneficiaries) in the discussion early (as you plan) and often (as things change).  This is the single most important thing you can do, even above being organized. Because being organized may be helpful to you, but in the heat of the moment, it’s hard for people to think like you’ve thought and follow your logic — as organized as you think you are, if you haven’t tested your plan with the people on the other side, i assure you, it won’t be perfect.

Make sure your account lists are up-to-date. Make sure your key documents are easy-to-find. Make sure your usernames and passwords are available. Make sure none of this stuff is more than a year old.

In Daddy’s case, he spent a lifetime providing for everyone around him. He was better organized than most people I have spoken to about the same circumstances — but there’s always room to be better.

Lesson # 2: Think about the first 90 days after you’re gone. What’s the plan?

Most guidance on how to think about your death focuses heavily on what you have ready at the point of death. A will (for assignment), and trust (for added coverage and protections), a list of documents (for easy tracking of assets). The better you are on that front, amazing. But I don’t think it’s enough. Stop. Take a step back. What does the life of your spouse and your beneficiaries look like for the first 90 days after you’re gone. Who should they be working with? (Have they met before?) What things do they have to address immediately (Maslow’s hierarchy – house payments, healthcare, monthly bills, utilities, etc?) What do they have time to manage? I guarantee that if every person who reads this were to think of the first 90 days after they’re gone, and what their family has to address, the way we think about estate planning would change dramatically.

Perhaps the thing that gets left the furthest behind here is your interaction with the professionals managing your estate. Make sure your spouse and your beneficiaries know who those people are — humanize those relationships. Also, make sure you’ve worked with those professionals on their role in the estate during that first 90 days. If you don’t outline it upfront, your family will be taken for a ride. My father’s estate attorney was — terrible. The offensive way we were treated from the moment my father died up until this very moment is something to learn from. My advice to you is establish terms upfront. It’s amazing where and how people will try to make a dollar these days.

Lesson #3: It’s easier to remove someone from an account, than it is to add them.

Whatever can be joint, make joint. Whatever can have a beneficiary, designate two generations deep (spouse, children). It’s easier to remove someone from an account then it is to add them after the fact. If you have anything in one persons name, fix it. Either make the account joint (ideal, but there are tax considerations), designate a beneficiary, or designate someone clearly as the recipient and owner (will). Every. Single Account.

Lesson #4: Consolidate. Accounts. How you log in (usernames, not passwords). Where you receive statements. Where you store account information. And where all physical documents need to be.

I’m all for complex passwords; but keep your confirmations and registrations and logins from one email address. These provide a paper trail that make it easy to catch the things that slip through the cracks. Once a year spend an hour or so making sure all of your accounts are coming into one email address to help whoever gets access to your phone or laptop know how to find what they’re missing.

Lesson # 5: Try and avoid hierarchies.

Unless there are clear family dynamics at play, my recommendation is to avoid a hierarchical structure to the will. Instead of requiring certain people to take up work or relinquish rights, focus on “or” scenarios where rights can be easily transferred between people without requirement. For us, my Mumma and my Sis were designated as actors on the will before me: but I was the one who was going to do the work; things were delayed 2 weeks at least simply because we had to get the rights relinquished before I could do anything on our behalf.

It’s hard to give specific advice, but the spirit of the advice above should be helpful as a framework.

 

A Note to the Spouse

If you’re married to a person with the things, make sure you’ve thought about all I’ve outlined above. You have twice the responsibility: because you’re the person, and then you’re also a spouse of a person. For you, all of the above apply, plus…

Lesson #1: Everything is important. Not everything is urgent.

It’s incredible how helpful the state has been, the government has been, the financial institutions have been, the utilities have been. I once believed that the world loved no human being more than a pregnant women. Really. The world bends over backwards for a pregnant woman (as it should). I was happy to see that the world appears to do the same for a grieving family. You will not catch everything and trying to do so before it happens is not worth the stress. Do your best and as new things make their way to you as they inevitably will, don’t stress — simply share the truth.

Lesson #2:  Be honest about the role you will want to play.

This is the single most traumatic and life changing moment you will experience. There are very few people who will be able to make visits to banks and attorneys within the first month, if even after that. Make sure that the appropriate people in your life are around and designated to help with the administrative parts of the estate in the short-term while you get your bearings.

Lesson #3: Gain visibility.

Statements. Accounts. Assets. Titles. Anything. Make it a point to understand what is happening on a quarterly basis. Just make it a point and don’t settle for anything less.

Lesson #4: Define the plan.

As important as it is for the individual to define the first 90 days, it is equally important for you to think through those firs 90 days. Scenario plan. What are you ready for? What aren’t you ready for? Even a 20-30 minute exercise of thinking through what will happen in that environment will carry you far. If it helps, think less in terms of what happens when someone dies, and more in terms of: “what did I do the last 90 days, and what are the things that are being done for me?”

 

A Note to the Beneficiary

If you are a beneficiary, you may be in position to have the most work of anyone — you could be the individual in one case, the spouse in another, and, the beneficiary in yet another.

All of the above applies to you. But you have a few added steps to take.

Lesson #1: Be ready.

If your parents travel overseas, have your passport and VISA, ready. It’s simple. Do it.

Lesson #2: Double check your work.

If you know you’re going to be doing the work, you should be asking questions before it’s time for the work to be done. Make it your priority ahead of time as it will be your priority at some point in the future.

Lesson #3: Order your priorities, and acknowledge this will all take time.

Work your way through the urgent items according to Maslow. Acknowledge that new things will come up that were unexpected. And maintain your wits about you. Don’t change anything until you absolutely need. to. Don’t notify anyone until you absolutely need to. Give yourself the space to operate. It will make a difference.

Just My $.02

These are my thoughts and some of what I’ve experienced. Daddy was incredibly well organized but he couldn’t have planned for some of the things that happened even on his best day (being in India, selling an investment property the day before he died, having an attorney who was more focused on the next dollar than actually being of service.)

Note: I wrote a bunch of posts about my Daddy’s death that some have found helpful; either as they’ve gone through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to find ways to support others. You can find all those posts organized here.

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My $.02 | Why I am Joining Help Scout

Apologies. I’m out of practice on the blog front, and I’m writing this stream of conscious style because…I start a new job tomorrow. But I digress. Let’s start with a story?

I’ve been married for 5.5 years now. It’s a long time for some. It’s just scratching the surface for others. For me, it’s the only marriage I’ve known personally. So it’s both the longest and shortest one I’ve been a part of. Funny way of thinking about it.

Periodically, people with poor judgement will ask me the secret to a happy marriage. There’s no secret. One of my favorite pieces of advice is actually to know it’s ok to go to bed angry! Better than saying something stupid. But what I think makes for a successful marriage is how you solve problems. I get along with the entire world when we agree on things. But when the “fit hits the shan”, how do we solve problems together?

In that regard, my wife and I are like lego pieces. She is…a royal pain the *ss when it comes to the smallest decision. Trying to figure out what we’re having for dinner tonight, the night I write this, has been a 3hr 20minute discussion — and we still have no dinner options.

But when it comes to something big? Material? Something that matters? I’m the 2×4 plate to her 2×4 brick (because let’s be serious, she’s the substance of this relationship.) Buying a house. Leasing a car. Moving to North Carolina, and back again. And leaving LiveIntent because something didn’t feel right? Those were conversations that took seconds. A look in the eye. A gut check on the “why” I was making this decision. And then nothing but full, unwavering support for my decision. Even with a second kid on the way, all I got from Priya was “We’ll be fine. Find your happy.”

I don’t want to spend a second on why I left LiveIntent. Matt Keiser was the best person I have ever worked for. The Marketing Team was the best Marketing Team I’ve ever worked with. The people across the company were the best people I’ve ever worked with. It’s been a month and I miss them like hell. But it was the right move.

Early in my career I made decisions based on bosses as mentors. Which is why I have had the benefit of having some absolutely amazing ones. Maria Valez and Mark Macaravage at Prudential. Mary O’Malley at Prudential. Jim Burke at Prudential, DnB, and Global Compliance. Robert Schwartz and Prudential Securities. Kristine Tanno at Prudential Securities. Jordan McConnell at DnB. Steve Hagerty at Hagerty Consulting. Tony Haile at Chartbeat. And Matt Keiser at LiveIntent. I’d say that 9 out of 10 would speak positively of me. And I believe I could still call on 8 our of 10 for a reference today. But I digress. My point is that I picked jobs based on bosses as mentors. But at a certain point, it becomes less about bosses as mentors and more about bosses as collaborators. As peers. As people with shared approaches to decision-making.

I’ve had enough experience in my life to have strong opinions (weakly held, as I steal a line from my new boss, perhaps the line that closed me during the interview process). I’m looking less for mentors and more for people who want to make decisions with me. And who want to make those decisions based on a value system that matches mine.

I found those values and that partner in Nick Francis at Help Scout.

Before I joined LiveIntent, I reached back out to my former bosses and peers and asked their advice. What could I do better. What could I evolve. And they brought the thunder. I internalized all of the feedback I received and approached LiveIntent committed to being hard on myself and committing myself to evolving and changing. I leave LiveIntent confident that I’ve done that. The validation for me is a combination of what the company accomplished while I was there, and the relationships I’ve made and sustained with people since I’ve left.

As I enter Help Scout, it’s almost the opposite. It’s no longer about what I need to change. Because I realize now that there will always be an infinite number of things I can change, do better, improve, etc. I enter Help Scout with clarity about the things I value. The things I don’t want to change. The things I will never change.

  • Man in the Mirror. It might be hokey, but I’m fine with it. And it’s a great f*cking song. But problem solving at every level, especially at the Executive Level has to start with the Man in the Mirror. There’s an honesty and a humility that is necessary to be a leader these days. It is anchored in an honest assessment first and foremost of the role you played as a leader in putting those dependent on you in a position to succeed or fail.
  • Start with why. Every decision that was ever made was somebody making a deliberate choice for an explicit reason. I believe it is imperative to start every discussion by trying to understand why decisions were made. It saves time. It build empathy. And it makes everyone in the room smarter. If you start at the decision and the outcomes first, you set a bad habit.
  • Focus on process over outcomes. I don’t want to get to MoneyBall here, but there’s value in focusing on doing the right things. There will always be one-offs and aberrations but I can’t control for those. I can only make sure we did all the right things along the way. I’m committed to efforts and believe if you play the right game, the long game, the results will follow (and be sustainable and repeatable.)
  • Take care of your people. We’ve gotten too excited about the new. Whether its employees or customers. We’re an acquisition economy and a disposable society. Those are terrible practices. For me, there’s value in loyalty. Talk to your longest standing employees. Value your longest standing customers. Focus on what you have and meet their needs. It will take you to amazing places.

There are so many more values. There are so many more things to cover. But the above four bullets encapsulate so much of my decision. Except one.

I was introduced to Help Scout through people who knew me very well. What I value. How I work. How I treat people. And they insisted that I take the conversation with Nick and Help Scout. I was sold immediately.

Nick was focused on the customer first. Help Scout has gotten this far by focusing on being humble and being helpful. I couldn’t think of two greater values to build a brand around. And when push comes to shove, I love that I will be able to make decisions based on whether or not what we’re about to do will be helpful for the customer, and done with humility. Those are aspirational values for me. I love that I’ll get practice at them professionally, every single day I go to work.

Legos. A perfect set of legos.

Tomorrow is July 1st. I couldn’t be more excited to join this new team. I feel like a high school line worker at Taco Bell joining Top Chef (I can say that because I was actually a high school line worker at Taco Bell.) All Stars all around me. As a result, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities in front of us. And, perhaps most of all, I couldn’t be more excited to be myself and be confident in my ability to help all the amazing people who have brought Help Scout to this point, take it even farther.

Thank you, LiveIntent. For everything. Hello, Help Scout. Let’s do this.

 

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My $.02 | The Best of Other People Tributing Purple Rain

Anyone who knows me, knows how I feel about Prince. He has always been the consummate entertainer for me. It was never a contest. And what I love and admire about him is that he only became greater with time. As I grew older. As I gained the  ability to poke more and more holes in everyone else’s perfection, and as I became more and more perforated and imperfect myself. Prince … stayed perfect.

So much has been said about his music and his influence. All of it does justice to who he was. To minorities. To women. To musicians. To independent thinkers. To honest people. To those who fight everyday to make the alternative the mainstream. And ultimately, to those who just don’t give a damn.

He’s so much  more than Purple Rain. It’s not even my favorite Prince song. But I felt compelled to capture all the tributes to Purple Rain in one place. Here. Now. If for no other reason than to have it for myself.

These are not ranked. They can’t be. Try and rank them yourself. You’ll succeed. Until you go back and listen to them over again and re-rank everything.

Adam Levine – Purple Rain (for Howard Stern) – Calm down. Maroon 5 was special about 15 years ago (even a little prior.) Adam Levine has a unique voice, has some guitar skills. And if you leave this tribute not a fan, watch it again. Until you do. The fact that he did this several years ago is, IMHO, the ultimate tribute. It wasn’t a eulogy. It was a living tribute to a living legend. No nostalgia, just a superstar showing fandom for one of the greatest.

Bruce Springsteen – Purple Rain (Barclay’s Center) – It’s outstanding to see this respect reciprocated. Prince considered Bruce to be one of the greatest stage leaders and frontmen ever. An individual with an amazing command of the audience and his band, who was able to evolve sets on stage with the wave of a hand and eye contact. Hearing The Boss pay his respects was beautiful because of the level of appreciation between the two of them, one that most probably never knew existed. I love Bruce’s voice at the most energetic moments of this song too. Chilling.

Damien Escobar – Purple Rain (Violin Cover) – Prince, more than any other musician around, spoke through his performances. His songs told amazing stories. His outfits told amazing stories. But most powerfully, his instruments (every single one he played) spoke to you. That’s what makes this song so powerful. That’s what makes Purple Rain so powerful. Try and separate the words from the music in your head. It’s hard. Which is why Damien Escobar’s inversion, applying the violin to Prince’s vocals, is so beautiful.

The Color Purple Cast – Purple Rain (Broadway) – Thank you Jennfer Hudson for making this happen. Thank you more for stepping back from the opening and turning it over to Cynthia Erivo. Jennifer Hudson oversings early, but she then closes strong. When you think about the timing of the book itself (The Color Purple came on the scene as Prince came into his own, timed perfectly in the early 80’s) and the message behind the book (few books took on sexism and racism as powerfully and vocally — and explicitly as The Color Purple), it makes sense that this cast did this legend justice. Because few musicians did more to combat racism and sexism with their actions, than the Purple One.

Kelly Clarkson – Purple Rain (Fan Request) – Wow. I forget how talented American Idol singers used to be. 🙂 This is beautiful and shows how diverse Prince’s reach is, and it shows how many options there are to make a song work across genres. It’s also a testament to Prince that the greatest song of the 80’s is androgynous, asexual, and pan-racial in its own right. Just like he. Is.

Jimmy Buffet – Purple Rain – Why? Because it’s Jimmy Buffet. The Guardian said it best: “Buffet is famed in the US for purveying the “island escapist” lifestyle to baby boomers. And for owning two restaurant chains named after his songs – Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville. A peformance of Purple Rain was probably the last thing his fans expected.”

The Waterboys –  Purple Rain (largely, beautifully, acoustic) – Perhaps the most unique version of this song I’ve heard. I learned early on that the power of a song shone through when you stripped it of its production, simplified the arrangement, and sand the heck out of it. This is, that version. Touches me as much as when I heard Springsteen do Born in the USA, acoustic, solo, under a spotlight, at MSG. Mostly because I never thought of this song as being sung this way.

I couldn’t embed the video so this is 2 for 1; click on the link above for a great in studio version, or the one below for an Opera House extended play version. I prefer the one above.

David Gilmour – Purple Rain (with Comfortably Numb) (<<CLICK LINK TO WATCH VIDEO) – Maybe I love the idea of Pink Floyd and Purple Rain because, as a color blind man, I have no idea if they match. But I grew up listening to Pink Floyd. When one of my uncles got his brand new Bose speakers — think of the old school 301’s – we broke them in by laying down on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, and listening to ALL of The Wall. All of it. So when I caught wind of this, union of two songs with choruses that force me to sing at the top of my lungs (even when I’m not singing out loud, you’ll see my eye balls roll up into my head) I had to listen. And … it’s all I expected it to be. The transition in at the 4:30 mark is so subtle it shows you how well, well composed songs can be melded by beautiful musicians.

<No video embed. Please click on the link above.>

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My $.02 | 39 Years, 364 Days, 23 Hours

I’m sitting here. Having just turned off (mercifully) “This is 40” and to at least maintain some thematic consistency, popped an aged bottle of FiftyFifty’s Eclipse (Elijah Craig 12 Year) from 2012, and turned on “No Country for Old Men.” I’m about to be 40.

I used to believe in milestones. New Year’s Day, for example. A time to commit to the refresh. Like going to a chiropractor for your life and having snap your spine back into alignment. But it rarely worked. A year was like a half-step (and Big Daddy Kane taught me years ago that simply put, there would be no half-stepping.) I quickly found change to be more valuable in two very extreme time periods:

  1. At the next stroke of midnight to create momentum via urgency and adrenalin (I decided to give up cheese, fried foods, and Facebook earlier today, and set the effective time for midnight.) Deciding something, while giving myself a few hours to process, but not too much time to digress, was a great way to get things going.
  2. At the next five year mark. To create a true arc to my story, to push myself to set large, somewhat audacious goals, and to give myself the freedom and flexibility to take risks as I pursued that five year plan like hell.

I’m a short while away from a milestone many people celebrate. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that my birthday is truly worth celebrating — but not for me. I’m a short while away from 40. I’m alive. I’m happy. But celebrating 40 for me is celebrating not dying. Truly. Instead, I choose to celebrate the people who have helped me get this far. The people who keep me alive. And the people who go out of their way to make sure I’m happy. My birthday, every year, is a tribute to all of you. And evidence of the fact that even I couldn’t screw it up.

I have many things I need to improve upon in the coming five years, some of them kick-off at midnight. Most of them I’ll keep to myself (like I did at 30, and like I did at 35.) But I can tell you one thing I feel like I made great progress with in the past five years, and that I plan on kicking up several notches in the coming five: love. I love my wife. I love my daughter. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my work (and my team.) And I’m not going to be bashful about saying it.

Life is grand, folks. Years are beautiful. Whether coming at you at blinding speed, or retreating behind you with even greater pace. Life is grand.

That’s all I’ve got. No genius (no surprise?) Just admiration. Respect. Love. For everyone around me. Thank you for making the journey so wonderful. I can’t wait for what’s ahead.

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My $.02 | When Nothing Makes Sense

RU

Not everything makes sense. September 11th does not make sense. I will never be able to make it make sense. Hopefully, that isn’t the case for many things in your life. I want to have answers. But sometimes, I simply won’t. And that hurts.

You have a Neil Kaka. You had another. He was one of my best friends. For me, he is what doesn’t make sense about September 11th.

There are moments in time that one remembers vividly. This will happen to you. Elated moments. Ecstatic moments. Completely new moments. And tragic moments. The elated, ecstatic, and new moments move too quickly. It’s life on Fast Forward. But the tragic moments, that’s when the world slows down. That’s when seconds feel like minutes, and minutes feel like hours. You process just as much. But you process things in between moments of numb. And so even though I remember September 11th as vividly as any other day in my life, it still doesn’t make any sense.

I remember hearing the planes hit the tower. I remember seeing debris after the second collision. I remember watching clouds of debris race from the West side of the island to the East (where I was) enveloping and swallowing everyone and everything along the way. I remember connecting with everyone and believing in my heart-of-hearts that everyone I knew was ok. And then I remember making the walk to midtown and trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t.

The rest is a history that remains present always. Everyone wasn’t ok. Your Neil Kaka wasn’t ok. He went into work early. Nothing was ok.

When you grow older, we’ll talk about this. Like my parents talk about the partition. Or like India’s state of emergency in the mid-70’s. We’ll talk about this. And I’ll be devastated every time I tell you about it. Every new bit of information I share. Wanting to balance your innocence with your right to knowledge. And I’ll be devastated because for all I am supposed to do for you in this world, it will never be more apparent that there are some things I can never protect you from. Nonsense. Hate. Anger. Irrationality. Civic irresponsibility. The loss of innocence.

All of the things that don’t and won’t make sense. But don’t and never disappear.

So I’ll tell you this story. I’ll tell it to you honestly. With my arms around you. Most likely with tears in my eyes. So you feel the power of the moment but not the weight of the experience. We’ll talk about what happens after. How when someone leaves it’s your responsibility to figure out what part of them stays. With you. Forever. And maybe on that day you’ll carry Daddy’s tradition of carrying Neil Kaka’s tradition of always giving to the homeless along with you. You’ll see that every time Daddy sees a homeless person the street he reaches into his pocket for some change to pass back. And you’ll realize that Daddy’s just a conduit for Neil Kaka.

Just like you have the power to be a conduit for all of the people you love. Always and forever. Because — just because when nothing makes sense, you do your best to make sense of something. However little. So the world gets back to being a little right again.

I’ll tell you this story one day, munchkin. And if nothing else, I’m guessing Daddy will make a little more sense to you after we’re done.

Kaka

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My $.02 | No Father’s Day Required

I’m happy to share one and celebrate one on everyone else’s behalf, but I don’t want one. I don’t need one. I don’t deserve one. What’s more important is how we interact with each other every single day for the rest of our lives. How I make you feel. How you feel because of how you’re treated and loved. And the highest expectations in the world that I hope you have of me.

  • Tell me when you don’t feel as loved as you need to feel, munchkin. And I’ll listen. If I’m being consistent and transparent about my love for you, I will know, based on the confidence you have in yourself and in everything you do.
  • Tell me when I’m putting too much pressure on you, munchkin. And I’ll listen. If I’m being fair with you, I will know, based on the happiness you express in your smile and your actions every single day.
  • Tell me when I’m being too easy on you, munchkin. And I’ll listen. If I am inspiring you to be better, then I’ll know by the goals and standards you set for yourself.
  • Tell me when I’m being too hard on you, munchkin. And I’ll listen. If I’m supporting you the right way, then I’ll know by the manner in which you do the things you do.
  • Tell me when I’ve disappointed you, munchkin. And I’ll listen. If I want you to trust me, I will know, based on the increasing faith you place in my perspective and counsel.

I don’t need a Father’s Day. I don’t want a Father’s Day. I want you to have the ability to tell me, every single day, where and how I can be a better Father. And I will celebrate you as a daughter, an exceptionally loved daughter, every single day, based on the baby, girl, and woman you become over the years.

No day required. Just you. Just this.

Tutu

 

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My $.02 | Family and Handoffs

What a great family weekend in the Poconos. We haven’t spent nearly enough time with the family, which means you, my loveliest of little ones, haven’t built that connect yet either. We’ll get better about it. There’s no choice. These are the people who raised me and every single person in one of the following pictures has had such a profound influence on my life, it’s disappointing to me how little time you’ve actually spent with them. That is on me to fix.

I can talk about the Poconos in so many ways. A few highlights:

  • Dadaji being your formal stroller pusher. He likes predictability and schedules. And now he’s got one very clear place to own the relationship with you.
  • Dadiji filled with pride. When you smile. When you turn. When you eat. When you do anything, I swear I can see her heart swell from the outside in.
  • Dadi Naniji. One of the sweetest and most purely loving people in the world doing what she does best with everyone, with you — loving.
  • Hitu Dada Mama. One of the quirkiest members of the family and one who will undoubtedly become one of your favorites. He’s always behind the scenes but he’s always there. Like in the pictures…never the subject, always enabling. And he was the first one to hold you each morning because he was awake, there, and waiting. Like he always is.
  • Charu Dadi Mami. She’s going to make you stronger and she’s going to make you laugh. And she’s also going to make you famous with her photography. With so many boys around, she’s one reason you’ll be spoiled and supported unconditionally.
  • Chetu Dada Mama. The baby whisperer. You already have some amazing photos with him but they don’t capture his thirst for life. His will be a pair of arms and a lap that you will always gravitate to — every child does.
  • Prity Dadi Mami. She fought hard to have you sleep in her room but we were silly parents about it. 🙂 It happens. She’s  the one who made this weekend happen and you’ll see, that when family events happen, she’s such a powerful glue. She was the first person to welcome your mom to this side of the family.Massage
  • Tito Foi. If there’s a person who loves you and thinks about you more, please let us know. She gave you one of the longest, most relaxing, and most public (there was quite an audience) massages you’ll ever have. Expect more such pampering through eternity.
  • Suraj Kaka. The human jungle gym. Not just for kids, for adults too. It was his first time meeting you but you can see the love in his eyes. You’ll always be protected when he’s there. He’s truly all heart.
  • Holly Aunty. For many of us, the first time meeting her, so you were in no different a place. But she embraced you the right way, and you’re going to have a friend for life in that one — for now though, we’ll jus tfocus on commenting on each other’s Facebook walls. 🙂
  • Sohum Kaka. Daddy’s older brother. He’s off to San Francisco to become Teacher Man, and do what he does best — make other people better. I couldn’t be happier that he got time with you before he left. You know, he was the first baby Daddy actually remembers holding and changing diapers for?
  • Neil Kaka. Swoon. That’s what most people do around him and I’m sure this time will be no different. But I think, he’s met his match. And you can see it in his face and the way he talks about you to his friends. The swooning is going the other way. And you know he’s made so many trips to see you here in Jersey City — though maybe it’s because of Daddy’s fridge, too?
  • Eeshan Kaka. He took you to your first coffee shop, you know. Eeshan Kaka is saving the world starting with North Carolina, so it was great to make sure you got extended time with him here. He’s got a mind and brainpower that reinforces your pedigree — and compensates for Daddy in so many ways.
  • Amu Kaka. He’s been the same personality since he was 12 months old — and it’s bound to be one of your favorites. We’re going to drive down to visit Kaka while he’s at Delaware, and we’re going to let him carry you and push the stroller. Because that’s a great way to pick up girls. The problem might be, that based on how he looks at you (and tweets about you), he may miss all the action around him.

That’s part of your family, munchkin. Look at all that love. And if it’s hard for you to read all this, maybe it’s better for you to check out the pictures below. One of my favorite goodbyes. As a man who has struggled with goodbyes for ages (one of the best parts of my childhood were when your Dada Mama’s used to come visit almost every Friday, one of the worst parts of my childhood were when they would leave on Sunday) this brought me to tears. Every person having their own unique moment with you. Every person smiling at you smiling back.

It’s the one thing I think everyone in the world needs more of. It’s the one thing I want most for you: to feel loved. Always. Unconditionally.

As your family hugged you, kissed you, reinforced their love for you, and then passed you along to the next in line, I couldn’t help but feel certain that you are one who’s loved in ways that go beyond any form of measurement. And that, makes Mommy and me, the happiest people in the world.

Now, to the handoff!

Holly

Suraj

1-Nani

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4

5

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Feeling loved?

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My $.02 | IMHO | Moms

I’m a Dad. Which is fantastic. But as amazing as that is, I’m not and never will be a Mom. Which is humbling. Mom’s are cut from a different cloth. Which is why the best thing we can do is surround ourselves with them. As our own. As grandmothers. As aunts. As siblings. As friends. As … my wife. I’m blessed and amazed to have been raised by someone so amazing and now, to find myself standing next to someone equally brilliant.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mumma. I am and would be nothing without you. My compassionate and loving sister and I are and would be nothing without you.

Happy Mother’s Day too, Mom. You make a word I never thought I could associate to someone else, roll off the tongue.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Ba’s (gone too soon), my Masi, my Fai, my Mamis, my Kakis. And Happy Mother’s Day to my friends’ moms who represent the village that raised me. Happy Mother’s Day to my sisters, through blood and (or) through my own sheer luck. Happy Mother’s Day to all of my amazing friends who have served as role models leading up to 1/12/2014 and now, beyond.

And Happy First Mother’s Day to the love of my life, my wife. I’ve always been awed by you. And the past few months have only proven that I’ve had every reason to be. Happy Mother’s Day. Happy, Happy, Happy Mother’s Day.

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My $.02 | Work | Revisiting the Past

Resumes are interesting things. I guess LinkedIn profiles even moreso. They highlight accomplishments. We’re all taught to write our bullet points and summaries in standard formats (like STAR – Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results.) I am not crying against convention here as there is substantive, material value in highlighting what you’ve done well and achieved.

But where is the standard for self-reflection? Where is the format for all of us to reflect upon our mistakes? To look at where we made mistakes? Where we could have done better? How can we get better at seeking disconfirming evidence and critical feedback, as opposed to succumbing to our narratives and stories of success?

Before taking on a new role I do my best to reach back out to individuals I’ve worked with in the past to ask for their feedback and guidance. I share my request broadly, and I ask for feedback candidly. And I’m always amazed at the responses and interest individuals take in responding and sharing their thoughts. Often I learn as much from the time they take as the words they actually share. In advance of starting my new job at LiveIntent, I was able to connect with a few individuals for this reason:

  • Former peer and head of corporate development
  • Former boss and CMO
  • Former boss and CEO
  • Former peer and President
  • Former boss turned client
  • Former COO
  • Former mentor

That makes for seven conversations with people who have worked with me at an executive capacity and were willing to take the time to sit down with me or hop on the phone and share their advice generally, and then directed specifically at the areas and opportunities I have for improvement. I can’t thank them enough. Here’s what I heard, loudly and clearly.

  • Listen more than you talk. I heard this several times and by digging deeper into it I discovered that the problem is very obviously twofold: 1) I need to get better at active listening, and 2) I need to do a better job of making it clear that I have heard what’s been shared with me. I have a host of excuses and perspectives that I feel compelled to share here, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the most universal pieces of advice I heard was that I could improve “how” I listened.
  • Enough with the albatrosses. I take my work very seriously, and because of that, I carry my mistakes and the company’s mistakes with me, heavily. Though I do a good job of masking these (mostly) with my team I have been told that I can do a better job of handling these with respect to my peers and my bosses (notably the CEO.) I can’t thank a former CEO enough for this advice. It resonated loudly and actually set me free from some things that have stayed with me from past roles.
  • Think a level down AND a level up. A very strong pattern in my feedback sessions focused on how often I sided with my team. It was perhaps the most challenging piece of feedback to hear. I view a core tenet of my job to be supporting for, advocating for, and developing my team. But I need to continue to do a better job of finding balance between my team and the expectations of my role. One of the best pieces of advice I was given here was to think of my role as much from a level up as I practice doing from a level down. In the case of my role at LiveIntent, it’s as much about thinking about my job from the POV of our President and our CEO as it is about thinking of my role from the POV of my team.
  • Overcommunicate, and overcommunicate about overcommunicating. I tend to communicate to the level I believe I’m being heard. I’ve tried overcompensating on either side, by either assuming everything is being read or assuming nothing is (culture has dictated both.) But what I have to make sure I do is highlight the reason I’m communicating as much as I am and then validate that the audience finds it to be appropriate. And when in doubt. err on the side of more information and context while providing the recipient an easy out in the form of “here’s why I’m sharing, tell me if it’s too much or too little, and until you do, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.”
  • Don’t stop having fun. When you feel it happening, find a way to reverse it. Walk around the block. Step back and take a day off. Tell your boss the way you’re feeling and why. But find a way to transparently share what’s happening and invite people in to help you get out of your rut. Because when you stop having fun, everyone around you knows it. And when everyone around you knows it, the slippery slope to negative momentum steepens and gets that much more slick.
  • Remember why you were hired. And if you’re not sure, ask the question up front. With every new role comes a new layer of accountability and ownership. Don’t outsource your brain, don’t compromise on your values, don’t confuse collaboration and input with democracy, don’t stop moving forward and don’t stop doing these kinds of things — asking questions to find out where you can improve. It’s all of these things that made you the ideal candidate for the role you’re stepping into (assuming you were honest throughout the interview process.) So when the chips are down, reflect back on why you were hired. And put all of those reasons back on display.

I can’t thank the folks who took some time to mold me, in the past, over time, and just these past few weeks. I am whatever and whoever I am today because of your influence. Hopefully, it’s something you take a little pride in.

LiveIntent, here I come. Better for the wear. Better for all the care.

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My $.02 | Work | Guiding Principles

Tomorrow, 5/7, I take another step forward in my career when I join LiveIntent as CMO. It’s humbling. It’s an honor. Like any big move I’m motivated and excited about the challenge. And like any normal human being, I’m acutely aware that I have as much power to make things go well as I do to muck things up.

As I enter my new role, excited to work with this amazing group of people who found some value in my experiences and my person enough to invite me to join them, I took some time to reflect on some of my guiding principles. An exercise that served me well in my decision to leave my last role in search of a new one, and a decision that made it right to choose LiveIntent among my several competitive (and equally humbling) offers.

  • Progress to perfection must be a permanent exercise and should be a fruitless one. The world changes too much, and these days, also too quickly. If you’ve set yourself on the correct path, the final goal post should move farther out every time you look up to see how close you’ve gotten. When I look at what makes me happy, it’s clear that I find the permanence and pursuit of greater goals to be more motivating than I find the fruitless nature of them to be demotivating. Per James Thurber, I prefer to be the moth in pursuit of the star as opposed to the siblings in pursuit of a street lamp.
  • Maintain perspective and context by balancing confidence with humility. There are no stupid clients and there are no arrogant teams. There is merely a commitment to a lack of context and introspection. In any situation it is important that you understand the role you play in the lives of the people you serve — whether it be your employees, your clients, your investors professionally, your family and friends personally, or the world and the environment around you as a citizen. Maintain context. Because inflating your own value in your own eyes will make you miss the bigger picture and the opportunities around you, while also making you come across as foolish when all is said and done.
  • Be just as willing to act as you are to espouse. People are increasingly given platforms to share their thoughts. I believe this opportunity (from social media to document sharing to ill-timed meetings) has created a culture of conversation but not of action. As I look back at the people who have helped me and the people who I have enjoyed working with the most, it is not those who tell the greatest stories (stories can always change, stories can always extend — Hollywood has proven that with the sequel.) I find myself gravitating most toward those who work and deliver, and have committed myself to always being the one to bell-the-cat.
  • If you’re given the option, choose being clear over being clever. There’s no fable here. These are the words of my Jivan Mama, one of the strongest mentors in my life. When I was young and we were at dinner together, I used to just listen to him talk about how he approached his life and his work. One of the best pieces of advice I received from him was his desire to always be perceived as clear. I don’t think I do this nearly well enough, but boy do I want to. The moral of the story here is about where you focus. If you focus on being clever, you’re playing a game. Your energy, and the energy of everyone around you, is then focused on the playing the game as well. But by being clear, and by eliminating noise, you shift your focus from day-to-day gamesmanship and instead, focus on the outcomes. When you’re clear, nobody has to worry about what you’re thinking, what your priorities are, or how things will be received — everyone can instead focus on the task itself and the desired outcome.

There is no shortage of morals or lessons learned to pull from as I start my new role at LiveIntent. I’ll be posting one more on lessons learned from the past. But on this Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours before I start, these four bullets are the ones I find myself settling on with the greatest conviction. Looking forward to starting my new job, and to continuing to get better.

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