Nicholas Kristof, a celebrated New York Times columnist, has written a series of articles on racial issues in America several entitled, “Why whites don’t get it.” This poignant article on a 13 year-old black male who was sentenced to life in prison for shooting Debbie Baigrie in the face causing severe and lasting injuries. Though she suffered immensely from her ordeal, Ms. Baigrie has been in correspondence with her attacker, Ian Manuel, for over two decades even arguing on his behalf for early release.
Racial issues are clearly complex but essentially the chances of a white boy getting life in prison under similar circumstances is slim. Racial bias in our judicial system has been well documented. As Mr. Kristof often points out, many people, especially white people, don’t understand how tilted the system is against the success of inner city black youth. Mr. Manual, the shooter, was raised by a drug abusing mother without a father in poverty and had been arrested 16 times before the gang initiation shooting. Far to often, the precursors to a life of criminal activity is poverty, poor education, and broken homes. As Ms. Baigrie shares, “Walk a mile in his shoes.” As a society, Mr. Kristof feels we can do a lot better. I agree!
I found the New York Times Sunday Review cover article by Arthur C. Brooks particularly interesting having lived in relatively affluent environments on and off for decades. People who are overly focused on acquiring and maintaining things often miss a huge part of the process of happiness which is more related to experiences and our perception of them. The swami Mr. Brooks interviewed, a Western educated enunciate, agrees that the problem lies not in abundance but in out attachment to abundance which is one way of defining materialism. The solution, according to the author, is to celebrate abundance but not be hung up on it by collecting experiences, avoid doing things only as a means to an end and cultivating one’s faith.
In my own life, I constantly remind myself to focus on enjoying the moment and the process (journey) and do my darnedest to stay clear of focus on outcomes. After all, “If you want true success focus on process, if you want stress focus on outcome.” Dr. Brett
Yesterday, I received a text from the builder who is buying my house in Westport to tell me that we are good to go! The percolation tests on my property are fine which means the contract is now valid. I looked up and put my arms in the air feeling a sense of relief. Then I took a picture to commemorate the occasion! I was in Westwood near UCLA looking for a coffee shop to work on my book. I like to write in public places where I listen to music and don’t feel so isolated. Everyone has their own writing style and this works for me! The feeling of relief or letting go had been a long time coming. I’d left Westport, CT several times only to return, the last time under difficult circumstances, the gist of which makes up a large part of my story. The irony of my situation is that I came down with a head cold only a few hours later. I don’t consider this a coincidence. I’d owned the house for nearly 18 years and letting it go had been a huge emotional decision. Sometimes, when we let go, the body relaxes and then we get sick. I welcome the head cold!
Living in LA is cool, especially if you like diversity! This painting by Archibald Motley, a famous early twentieth century African American painter, is one of many that mesmerized me at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Much like the Met, a night at the museum makes for a creative and different kind of evening for a sports lover like myself. In that spirit, my girlfriend and I walked around the neighbourhood afterwards looking for a restaurant and instead stumbled upon the diner where Pulp Fiction was filmed. Needless to say it was closed for food business so we wound up trying a wonderful Moroccan restaurant in West LA instead – fun!
Last night my girlfriend and I tried Moroccan food, a new experience for both of us! One of the pleasures of living in big cities like New York or LA is the diversity of people, cultures and especially food. I love to try new things and have new experiences. I especially love it when it’s spontaneous like last night when we drove down Westwood Blvd in LA and pulled into the parking lot of this restaurant solely because it looked interesting. Too often in life many of us do the same things over and over mired in similar routines. No wonder so many people are tired and bored. Win, loose or draw, mix it up a bit. It’s a great way to live!
I’m a big fan of people who communicate straight-up and with integrity. The challenge for many of us is consistency and practice. The more we practice being straight forward and authentic the better we get. I often tell people that I am a trying to help and teach people to communicate better and with more authenticity. And the good news is that the more we practice the more graceful we become!
Anne Williams-Isom, the head of Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit anti poverty organization, seems to have a similar style. She learned from a mentor to have clear goals and be really straightforward with people. I couldn’t agree more!
Roger Ferguson, C.E.O of TIAA-CREF, the retirement services provider, is a huge believer in personal responsibility. So am I! The first thing I do with a new client or business is to make sure they own everything in their lives regardless of how difficult that might be. Our parents and early environment may shape who we were but what we become rests upon taking ownership of who we are, our strengths, weaknesses and all the rest. Determining to change what we don’t like and develop ourselves by constantly learning and growing is how will become what we want.
Mr. Ferguson went to Harvard and scrubbed toilets for other students as part of his student aid package. He wasn’t the least bit resentful but did the job better than anyone else. Fortunately for him his father helped instill such values as hard work and doing things well. There is little substitute for a great attitude. With passion, creativity and common sense, so much more is possible!
These days travel can be stressful given the TSA stuff, Ebola, and congestion among other issues. Nevertheless, I find travel to be deeply rewarding because it offers me so many different perspectives on life and business. I tend to be very open and friendly when I travel thereby meeting lots of interesting people from all kinds of backgrounds. It’s a great way to learn and expand your awareness. The more exposed one is to diverse perspectives the greater the chance of relating to others as if we are all in this together as opposed to us verses them or other limited ways of thinking and being. People are fascinating in all their shapes and sizes and personalities. And at the end of the day, most people want to feel and be loved even if they have a funny way of showing it at times!
Before I left Connecticut for Los Angeles in late September, I had a magical night on the fishing boat with my twin brother. Just as the sun was setting, emanating an outrageously gorgeous glow, I hooked into a twenty pound bass with light tackle. The ten minute fight was as exhilarating as the sunset. As I’ve written in other blog posts, spend time in nature! Life goes quickly as we all know. Nights Iike this one are forever!
I’m a huge pet and nature lover! Clients often come to me for Stress Management issues. I often suggest they spend time in nature, with a pet if they have one, or both. It’s nearly impossible to stay in your head, stressed out and miserable if you go for a long hike. Nature is so powerful that the elements will eventually cause the mind to release or let go! When was the last time you found yourself stressed out on a fishing boat? At some point, the mind lets go when exposed to beauty and the natural world, especially in copious amounts. So take a hike, go fishing or just hang with your beast the next time you are upset and see how the magic of nature and animals help!