Category Archives: My $.02

SAYING GOODBYE TO BOLDR or THROWING COLOR BACK

Spring is as hopeful, optimistic and vibrant a time as the calendar affords. The past few days put the best of what makes Spring such an incredible time of year forward, especially here in the Northeastern US. 

Spring is about revival, growth, vibrancy; an emergence from what was … well, winter. 

Spring is a celebration which explains why it’s greeted with festivals. In Thailand, it’s Songkran, a multi-day water festival, whose name originates in Sanskrit meaning “to move forward”. In Mexico, there’s the celebration of the Spring Equinox at the Teotihuacan Pyramid, where people wear white to soak up the energy of the sun while climbing the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. 

In India there’s Holi, which at its most fundamental spirit, celebrates the arrival of Spring and all the beauty and color it brings.

We celebrate Holi by stuffing ourselves with indulgent treats and showering everyone with a wild assortment of colored powders. Think of the world’s largest pillow fight where everyone is armed with a stunning array of colored baby powders with a shared purpose: to cover as many people and as much earth with that powder as possible. 

Photo by Neeraj kumar from Pexels

To participate or observe is to feel the best one can feel. True happiness, hope, optimism. It’s the food. It’s the color. It’s the energy. And it’s the bright smiles peeking through those powder dusted faces of all ages.

Walking away from Holi feeling hopeful for what follows is a promise. (It’s also an amazing life lesson: no matter what the world throws at you, throw color back.)

Which is why I’m choosing this moment, at the seasonal, philosophical and physical start of Spring, to share that I’m leaving my “partnership” at Boldr, and am hopeful and optimistic for what’s next. 

Boldr is the Best Work I’ve Ever Been a Part of

I joined Boldr when I met the company’s founder 5 years ago at a conference. His mission and goal of building a world-class, purpose-driven outsourcing company was hard not to love. David’s story was wonderful, and love it I did.

I joined his Board immediately. And over the course of the next 5 years I worked as a coach, as an advisor, and slowly found myself unable to resist doing more and more to support the mission, to support the people, and to support the companies and organizations who chose to invest in Boldr. 

As the company worked through some trying times, many of which many small or emerging businesses would understand (losing its largest client, struggling to balance cash flows, balancing employee health with client need), I was invited and I agreed to join full-time as President and Board Chair. The timing was fascinating as it coincided with the emergence of COVID-19 which we started feeling first-hand in the Philippines in late 2019, and which nearly leveled the business (the world?) in 2020. 

We found our way through it together by prioritizing our team members and our clients. We proved that by doing the right thing, over and over again, you’d ultimately get to the right outcomes. When a crisis hits you don’t start from the outcomes you desire and work back – you don’t have that luxury – you start from the moment you’re in, respond like hell, and work forward.

I’m proud of what Boldr has become during my time there, especially the last two years. 

There’s tremendous responsiveness (our response to COVID-19 is a case study in crisis response). 

Tremendous growth (our bootstrapped growth of 5x across revenue, team, and geographic locations is a case study in how to build a conscious business). 

Tremendous impact (we transformed and we grew, while taking better care and paying more attention to our people, which should be a case study in employee success). 

And tremendous achievements (a few months ago, Boldr became the largest B-Corp certified outsourcing company in the world, which is a case study for how to turn your purpose from words on pages to evidence in practice).

The company has been celebrated and rewarded with a strong pipeline and clarity for what’s ahead. More importantly, we built the next generation of leaders for Boldr and they have the brains, the shoulders, and the hearts (compassion, empathy, love for themselves and one another) to carry Boldr forward.

To the Team who Made me Feel Like I was at my Best

The thing about teams is that you can fail as a leader all by yourself; but you can only succeed as a leader with your team. I’ve done both. This was the latter. The team I inherited, collected, built and worked with directly at Boldr (that’s every single one of the 1,050+ of you on the commercial side of the business at our peak in December) took me from Winter to Spring. You delivered Boldr and me your competence, your confidence, your capabilities, and in so many ways, your trust and friendship – and I indulged, like the greatest desserts Holi has to offer.

You are why I felt full and fully capable while at Boldr and did my best work there. 

Anyone reading this can now understand why the hardest part for me of resigning in January was knowing that I would no longer meet with these Team Members with any consistency anymore. The last two months have both been and felt like winter.

To our team, thank you. I love you. And in such a short time, I already miss you.

The Worst Goodbye is the One That’s Never Said

My time at Boldr helped me get closer to working on the areas where I’ve received my best feedback: working with people and setting them up for their success. Sometimes that means they stay on the team, sometimes that means they pursue a new role, and sometimes that means I encourage them to say goodbye.

See, I’ve never felt hurt by the people who want to say goodbye and do.

I’ve been hurt most by the people who want to say goodbye – and don’t

For the past few months I struggled about my place at Boldr. As we looked at the best way forward for Boldr, I realized that there was no better time for me to say goodbye. 

2021 was an exceptional growth year. Our next generation of leaders were primed and ready for what was next. The pipeline we’d built for 2022 was delivering even better than our historical growth rates would have assumed. And after the company’s incredible growth of the past few years, Boldr was embarking upon another cycle and iteration (sparked also by that B-Corp certification!)

Looking Forward and Building on What Spring Brings

I ran through my personal favorite exercise on agile self-reflection, “Happy, Proud, and Not Yet Satisfied”, and found myself with an abundance of things I want to do next (if you have 20 minutes, I encourage you to do this exercise yourself).

I’ve got a lot of things on my mind and much still to reconcile, but professionally, I’m leaning into three projects all at varying levels of success and maturity.

My Authentic Story

People have consistently turned to me when there’s something they want to synthesize and articulate. I also love hearing people’s stories and helping them find the passion, truth, and confidence to tell that story with greater power and conviction. On my birthday in 2021, I launched My Authentic Story, a unique approach to helping people and organizations unearth, frame and share their authentic stories. I have 6 clients right now and I love every moment of every one of those interactions.

If you or your business have a story you want to tell, let’s talk. 

The Employee Success Network

If you’ve heard me talk or read something I’ve written in the past few years, you’ll know I believe that the organizations that succeed over the next decade and beyond will be those who put their full energy toward supporting, equipping and unleashing the talent and potential of their people. I have two consulting projects with incredible organizations allowing me to explore whether I enter via the People organization or as a leader and partner on the Executive side who operates as a strong ally to the People organization. My talk and my experiences at HR Transform last week still have me spinning in the best of ways.

If your organization is looking to explore bringing an employee success strategy to life in a way that transforms your culture while sparking commercial success, let’s talk.

Dream Village, Where Kids Build Better Tomorrows

I’ve published three kids books on social issues over the past 12 years and I’m incredibly proud of each. I’ve had a fourth in the queue for the past year and let it stagnate; I’m eager to pick that story up and bring it to life while hopefully creating ongoing momentum for the premise itself. It’s amazing what a kids book can capture and convey (global water crisis, sustainability, interdependence, bullying, childhood cancer). I’m excited to write more.

If you’re interested in exploring the three titles I’ve written thus far, visit the Dream Village website or Amazon, where all three titles are available.

Throwing Color Back

To Spring, and to the friends and family who joined us in that small Holi celebration in our yard yesterday, thank you for bringing it all back, full circle. You helped inspire this post and how I wanted to handle sharing this message.

This past weekend, this past week, felt like Spring again for me personally and professionally. I needed it. It was a perfect transition of seasons. 

Winter cast its shade. I’m throwing color back.

Farewell, Boldr. I’ll be rooting for you.

Hello, Spring. I’m ready for you.

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My $.02 | Happy, Proud, but Not Yet Satisfied – Just the Questions

Over the past few months, I’ve shared my approach to goal setting at work. A variation on a tactic I’ve used for almost 10 years to help people approach their holiday break productively; one that positions them to reflect a bit while also thinking deeply about what they want to pursue in the coming year.

It’s why, without fail, my teams, the people I work with, tend to have higher than normal turnover in January and February. People are encouraged to think deeply about what they want but hopefully, they also feel supported in pursuing it.

I’ll share more on Happy, Proud, but Not Yet Satisfied here soon; but in the short term, the biggest ask I continue to get is a list of the questions and/or slides people can use for reference.

Here’s a link to the slides I used to present these concepts this past holiday season.

And here are the questions.

Happy: Spend 5-6 minutes on the following questions. Write down thoughts, bullet points, ideas. The key is “up to three”.

  1. What are (up to) three things you remember from 2020 that still make you smile?
  2. What are (up to) three things you would do if you had infinite time and money wasn’t an issue?
  3. What are (up to) three things you can do seemingly forever without losing energy or passion?

Proud: Spend 5-6 minutes on the following questions. Write down thoughts, bullet points, ideas. The key is “up to three”.

  1. What are (up to) three new things you did in 2020 that you can add to your resume and LinkedIn Profile?
  2. What are (up to) three moments you recall from 2020 where you felt your confidence in your abilities grow?
  3. What are (up to) three things that happened in 2020 that would not have happened without your presence and participation?

Not Yet Satisfied: Spend 5-6 minutes on the following questions. Write down thoughts, bullet points, ideas. The key is “up to three”.

  1. What are (up to) three things you know you can do better in 2021?
  2. What are (up to) three new things you want to experiment with in 2021?
  3. What are (up to) the three most important things you want to arrive at this point, next year, having completed? These things will likely become your “Happy” and “Proud” items for next year.

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My $.02 | Faithpatches

I wrote the first version of this in early 2002, and the most recent version of this in 2007 (the version below is that last version). I saved it because I knew I’d want to revisit it. And here I am.

I’m revisiting this at 45. I’m still just as lost as I was then; if not moreso because I’m older, and with less time to figure it out. I vacillate between my lack of success against this happiness ideal as either thinking too much or, thinking too much of myself. Both are my own failures.

I am coming back to this concept during these times because maybe more than anything, I realize that the person who needs faithpatches is me? I had grand plans for this concept as a way to communicate the power of small good things as ways to start patching tested and even challenged faith. Now, at 45, I realize at least one thing: I’m the only one I know who needs patching. 

Everything below is where the concept originated:

In 1999 I was a little more innocent and frankly, life just felt right.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) went up almost 2,000 points that year. The Yankees of New York and the Braves of Atlanta, the two most prominent baseball teams of the 1990’s, met in the decade’s final World Series to settle the debate around which team would be crowned the decade’s indisputable champ (“The team of the 90’s”). The public’s national security concerns were focused on a PhD from China named Qian Xuesen and a “spy scandal”. 

 

And most importantly, even when things were going wrong, we had the confidence that things would end-up, right. 

 

We had faith.

 

And then things changed and the world started to feel a bit “off”. We had a presidential election wrought with failed processes. The DJIA has since spent years working its way back over 10,000, forget about approaching its peak at over 11,800. New national security concerns arise on what seems to be a daily basis, and the spy scandals we talk about today involve our own government ‘spying’ on its own people. 

 

And no human being alive on September 11, 2001 will ever fully recover from the affects of that day’s events. Ever.

 

Life had gained momentum, but in a very different direction. Now, when things go wrong, we still have confidence. We have confidence that things may actually get worse.

 

We have started to lose our faith.

 

Faith is a term which has been hijacked by the religious (right, left, center, anywhere). [You may alienate a large number of people with this language.  I agree that religion has no real bearing on your book, but I think this book may speak well to many religious people.  You may want to soften the language so as not to send them packing early]  When I considered the title of this book I struggled with the use of the word ‘faith’ and what it would inevitably connote. Considering its etymology, the word faith is derived from the Latin fides, which according to Mirriam-Webstier, is “akin” to the Latin word for trust, fidere. Definitions abound, the word faith universally implies a confident trust in some thing, some value, some belief. Whether that trust is codified in spiritual texts or social contracts is irrelevant. Faith, in its purest form, identifies the confidence with which we trust whatever we are accepting (or want to accept) as truth. 

 

When those planes struck the World Trade Center (the second plane striking right before my very eyes) they pierced through glass, concrete and steel. We have all seen the pictures. We have all watched the replayed broadcasts on TV. But something more serious was pierced that Tuesday morning. 

 

Our faith. Not a religious or even spiritual one; simply, our faith and belief in one another. Human faith.

 

In his book “The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation”, Robert Jay Lifton introduces the concept of “The Protean Self”, based on the Greek sea god Proteus, a god capable of adapting and modifying his form. The term Protean has since come to mean the ability to exhibit diversity and reflect variety—versatility. Lifton’s analysis was stimulated by a catalyst similar to that which inspired this work in-front of you. His goal was to analyze human resiliency in the face of ever-increasing uncertainty; life blossoming squarely in the face of a force working so hard to stifle it.

 

“The protean self emerges from confusion, from the widespread feeling that we are losing our psychological moorings. We feel ourselves buffeted about by unmanageable historical forces and social uncertainties. Leaders appear suddenly, recede equally rapidly, and are difficult for us to believe in when they are around. We change ideas and partners frequently, and do the same with jobs and places of residence. Enduring moral convictions, clear principles of action and behavior: we believe these must exist, but where? Whether dealing with world problems or child rearing, out behavior tends to be ad hoc, more ore less decided upon as we go along. We are beset by a contradiction: schooled in the virtues of constancy and stability—whether as individuals, groups or nations—our world and our lives seem inconstant and utterly unpredictable. We readily come to view ourselves as unsteady, neurotic or worse.” (Page 1, Chapter 1)

 

It is impossible to argue with human resiliency. It is prevalent, but it is not absolute. Our faith, too, is subject to similar bounds. Human faith is a powerful, radiant fabric which surrounds and protects the human spirit. It is supple, it is flexible, it is unsettled—but it is not impenetrable. Our faith can be pierced, the fabric can be punctured—but it can also be repaired. Our faith can be fixed, can be made whole again—but sometimes we need help.

 

Sometimes we need faith patches.

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MY $.02 | The Chicken and the Egg of Priorities and Choices

I run a couple of small businesses right now. I also advise two others. Much of my time is spent helping the people I work with identify priorities.

What should they be focused on? What is their priority?

It is the priority that dictates the choices we make. More often than not we’re in position to make choices based on our priorities. I’ve worked with people who cherished such constraints. So much so that they would create them artificially (I believe creating artificial constraints is an incredibly powerful force, depending on the constraints you dictate of course). I have my own philosophy on creating constraints that I’ll write about at some point — as time permits.

If we focus on the priority we can be motivated in good times (or when there is no other choice). We can also be demotivated because of the constraint that we’ve committed so much time to; that may not be working out as well as we had planned.

There is always then a discussion about whether or not we have the right priority. That’s an easy discussion. Because often times, it’s easy to change. Simply adjust the priority and you either have new goals that are more attainable or, you at the very least, have no priorities that can be invigorating purely because … they are new.

These are easy discussions at work. At home, they are sometimes not so easy. The choices we make are more permanent. Which is why I think it’s most important to realize that before the priority, came a choice.

Instead of the priority dictating the choice in our personal lives we must never forget that it is our choices that dictate our priorities. To go to college (and beyond). Where we live. What career we choose to pursue (and what environments we choose to work within). Who we marry. And perhaps penultimately, whether we choose to have kids.

Each one of those choices dictates another set of priorities. And along the way, each one of those decisions elevates a set of priorities and clarifies a future set of choices.

KIDS--Halloween

Of all the choices, the most unique one is the decision to have kids. Whereas all other choices are ones that are designed to make you better, to advance your self — I’ve often told the people I love, the people I work with, the (few and far between) people who (stumble into) asking me questions about life — I’ve often told these people that the two most selfish decisions you make in your life should be (1) the career you choose (and as a subset, the jobs you take and the people you choose to work for) and (2) the person you choose to spend the rest of your life with.

Those are the two most selfish decisions one can make. And if made selfishly, they end up being the most valuable decisions and personally advancing decisions you can make.

KIDS--An--HalloweenKids, however, are something else. They become the most selfless decision you can make You have to embrace and realize that more than anything else, all decisions from the moment of conception or birth forward, are made with their life, their livelihood, their success, as the top priority.

I often hear parents talk about life with kids as a limitation and restriction on

KIDS--Jaanu--Halloweenchoices. I don’t feel that way. I never have. And after this past year and this past few weeks as time to reflect around the annual approach of important Indian and US holidays — I realize kids aren’t restricting.

They were my choice. They were more honestly our choice. Our BEST choice.

And they will always be, as a result, our top priority going forward. Ourselves, dutifully, practically, deliberately, in service.

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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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