Tuesday, August 26, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 100 - PURPOSE.. (#1 Lesson)

And so it is, I am here. Day 100 of my 100 Business Days Out (in all honesty, I writing this two days later because it took me the extra time to really settle on this last post of this series. After 100 Business Days Out (which on some days seems an eternity and other days seems a blink of an eye), I have listened, talked, watched, experienced, and learned much. I started this journey as a way mush through what it is like to stop working cold turkey and figure out what to do next. Along the way there have been a lot of you have helped as you read the blog, dropped me a note of encouragement or said that something I have written resonated with you. I appreciate all of those comments. They helped a lot. I also during this 100 Business Days Out got to know myself again and to borrow Senator Clinton's line, "you helped me find my voice". Over the last 10 days I have tried and sum up the things I have learned during this period. That might have been more of a challenge than I was up to, but I hope the 10 lessons haven't been too trite. And on this last day, this last lesson, I don't want to stop the learning but rather transition from these 100 Business Days Out to another topic that has been the true lesson learned for me since April 3rd. I sincerely have no more clue what I should do next with myself than I did on April 3rd when I started this. It's too bad as I really wanted to have it nailed and be able to articulate it clearly on this 100th day. But, not to be and that's okay. It's okay with me because I went into this exercise time wanting to decide what I "should" be doing next. That "should" thing meant it would not be my own decision, it would be a decision informed by what is needed from me, what I could best contribute to make things better and what was important to be done. In summary, what was going to be my purpose going forward? And that is where I still am. I am listening and waiting for that call of purpose. Where does that call come from? For me, that call comes from God and no it doesn't come in a note in the mailbox like in the book "The Shack". God has never spoken to me that I could hear Him audibly. I believe He could if He wanted to and maybe He has tried and I wasn't willing or able to hear Him, but not likely. Instead, I believe God speaks to us through the Bible, through the intuitions we feel when we pray, through others who are like-minded, and through the circumstances of our lives. What I know to be true is that God does have a purpose for all of us. Whether or not, in our free-will that we are given, we choose to seek that purpose, find it, and live it, that is a different story. Where I am on this 100th Business Day Out is convinced that the lesson I was to learn during this period is that what I should be doing next is not within my own power but instead within the power beyond me and that it will not reveal itself to me until it is the right time and place that I am ready and willing to follow. It is the lesson of patience, faith and obedience.

In the meantime, the idea of purpose in what we do with our work is something I have long been passionate. We spend so much time in our work and it consumes, yes consumes like fire consumes wood and oxygen, all aspects of our lives, that we MUST seek our life purpose within our work if we are to ever be truly satisfied and fulfilled in what we do. I have many life experiences and have been blessed to have seen and done much within a short time that I want to give as much of that back as I can with the time left to do so. I don't know just yet the best way to do so, but I have come to how I should start. Beginning October 1, 2008, you can log into http://www.purposedworking.blogspot.com to find a daily business reflection of how to help make your working life more purposeful. I will be creating these for 365 days of work so that someone can drop in and check out as many as they would like, or follow along day to day. 365 small lessons to make the work life go a little better.

As for Bolts of Thinking, it will also continue and along the way with my random thoughts, I will keep you up to date with where I am seeing that purpose call coming from. And, when I answer it, I will be sure and let you know what it is that I decide to do next.

For now, thank you for being a part of my 100 Business Days Out travels. It has been my pleasure to give you a peak inside of me and I hope, that something along the way helped you too.


Monday, August 25, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 99 - FINISH LINES .. (#2 Lesson)

Funny, how it is for me when I come to the end of anything, I always feel like the finish line is the biggest let down vs. the moment of peaking. I am amazed by athletes who can so tune their bodies and their attitudes to be ready for just that moment of competition. We just finished seeing that in the Summer Olympic Games. Imagining the readiness of four years of hard work either being completed or shattered within a two-week period is hard for me to fathom. I went into this 100 Business Days Out expecting to have peaked right about now. For me the peak would be that I would have figured out everything that needed to be figured out, done what needed to have been done, worked through whatever emotions were to be worked through, etc. For the most part, the only part I really got done was to work through the emotions thing. I can say that I have successfully worked through these and feel pretty comfortable now in my own skin so that I can flex and move in a number of directions without the worry of my self-esteem cracking. What finally got me over that finish line was the realization that everyone wants to be in this position and I just got to it earlier than most and that I shouldn't feel guilty or weird about it. And no, I am not wasting my potential by taking the needed time to figure out what it is I should do next. That said, I do believe that I (nor anyone) should just fold up their talents and take them to the beach. Talents are different than potential. Talents can go away if not used and exercised. It's a whole different topic (and one I will write on soon in another forum) but an important one to recognize in life. But for me, right now, I am good with where I am mentally. So, the learning of the finish line is one that I can see and understand more clearly now than before. Arbitrary finish lines that we create in life are just that, they are arbitrary. But, I, and many others I know make these finish lines seem so real that when we complete them we are let down because we have given so much to get to one place not recognizing that there is another mile beyond that has to be traveled. And worse yet, we build up these finish lines to be so monumental that if we miss them, we are devastated by the incompleteness and we struggle to get back up and try again. I have been there myself and I have seen way too many people in their work lives reach for these artificial finish lines whether it be promotions, new jobs, financial attainments, or retirement dates. Each time, if a year, month, week or even a day off from what was expected there is a sense of failure that exceeds the accomplishment of how far they have come or the recognition of how close they are to achievement. For me, I have come to realize that there are no finish lines. All things I strive for and goals I set are just mile markers along the way, along the path to something bigger in my life that I may or may not ever know what it is. None of this means that I will stop setting goals and objectives (this is way too ingrained in me to stop now) but it does mean that I will think differently about the definition of finish lines going forward. If I can remove the need to create these finish lines within my life and instead move forward in a steady progress, I believe I will be happier because of this lesson learned.

Friday, August 22, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 98 - LIFE TAKES A BIT OF TIME... (#3 Lesson)

...AND A LOT OF RELATIONSHIP. I sure wish this was my quote. It's not. It comes from page 92 of the book, The Shack, written by William P. Young. It does not matter what you think of the content of the book, the quote is one that I felt was telling as a lesson for me during these 100 Business Days Out. I went into these 100Business Days Out pretty sure that within 100 Business Days (which is many more calendar days with holidays and weekends) I would have the answer as to what I should do next with my life. I mean, come on, of course I could have the answer within this frame time, this is a lot of time, right? Well, I would like to say that on Day 98 I have the answer, but I don't. And, what I have learned is that you can't push these things. The time frame is not really my time time frame, it's a time frame that is bigger than me and I just must adjust and fall in line with what I hear and and feel that I am being asked to do next. The quote in the book as it relates to "a lot of relationship" is a reference to the need of relationship with God. That is for me, a truth, but it also means to me that in order to work through life in the way we are supposed to, it takes "a lot of relationship" with others as well. A great lesson during these 100 Business Days Out has been the power of relationships in life, but also for me, the need I have for strong and healthy relationships with Patti, my family, and my friends. And, where life is usually filled with all the things that put in front of relationship building and nurturing, it should be the other way around. If the days we spend, at work, or not, we were to start with the relationship first and then back into the rest of life with the patience of time letting things work out then that would be a better path. This inward out approach is the approach I hope to carry with me through the rest of my life. I expect this to be a lesson that I will carry with me forward. While I would have hoped that I could have come to this realization while I was working my 60-70 hours a week, I don't think I would have been able to internalize and make the lesson real and actionable. As the quote says, life takes a bit of time. The same is true for me and my learning...it takes a bit of time for me too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 97 - VERIFICATION AND VALIDATION (#4 Lesson)

During these 100 Business Days Out I spent a number of blog entries on the validation one receives from their work and how that affects self-esteem and self-worth. There is no doubt that had I fallen way more victim to the coupling of what I do/did to who I am than I ever thought I would. I beleive it must have snuck up on me over the years and with each and every time that I would describe myself first by my job title and company that I was subconsciously reinforcing the welding together of work and self-worth in my life. Once removed (which took the same force that it takes a torch to cut through a weld) I have become more comfortable in who I am and how I verfify who I am with others. I now don't start with what I do. I can't since I don't have that crutch. I am more discplined to be thoughtful in the description of who I am trying to "become". The learning that has been of the mostimpact for me is that the verfication of who you are by who you are working to become is what people really care about anyway. Sure, it is always immediately gratifying to see the eyebrows of someone go up when they hear that you work at a company they admire or your job position is one that they admire or aspire to achieve. But, like instant gratification, that is fleeting. What people really care about, if they will talk honestly and openly, is who you are a character filled and purposed human being. Even in the work world we are not drawn to emulate those who solely just do. We instead look up to those who do in a way we know is the right way; with integrity, caring, excellence and quality of the action. Isn't that what we want in our personal lives as well? So, I have come to learn (not easily) that the verification of who I am with others (who I know or may be meeting for the first time) is for them to see a human being who is working to become (I don't know that the journey ever ends) a quality, trustworthy, caring and positive human being. From that platform, I can then receive whatever validation I may need to hold up self-esteem and self-worth. Try the next time to answer the question, "what do you do?" with an answer that starts with, "well...what I am doing is working on becoming a better person by (fill in your own blank)...." It is in this answer to the everyday question that I have come to find more about how I verify and validate who I truly am.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 96 - THE MIND AND SPIRIT ARE MUSCLES TOO (#5 Lesson)

It's been great to exercise so much during these 100 Business Days Out. I am reminded daily of the price of age with my physical workouts whether it be a run, a bike, a swim or other activities. But, I am also reminded that both my mind and my spirit are like muscles as well that must be exercised to keep from atrophying. I have used the time away to read a whole bunch. Since June 25th I have read six books and will knock off another two or three before the end of the summer. Some of them, like James Fenimore Cooper's Pioneers, McGrath's Christian Spirituality, and Doris Kearn Goodwins' Team of Rivals, were honestly difficult reads. The others less so, but without a doubt I have been reminded that to keep up, the mind must be exercised as as diligently as the body. Also the discipline of this blog and other things I do for my mind have been great. Writing for myself and others is a great exercise of the mind for me. But just as important, if not more important, is the exercising of the spirit. What I mean by this is the spirit that is faith in God and love for one another. Just because one has faith in God does mot mean that this shouldn't be exercised as rigorously as the exercise of body and mind. I have found that the moments in my life that I have needed my faith to make it from point A to point B has each and every time been because my faith was strong enough already to get me there when needed. For me, I exercise this part of my spirit through a daily devotional time, prayer and time with other like minded people. But even harder is keeping the muscles of spirit around love for others strong. I'm not talking about the love we have for those in our families or love life, but I am talking about the love for the not so nice neighbor, the love for the fellow co-worker, the love for the person who doesn't expect the extra attention or care from you. I have lots of people like this every day in my life that if I am not careful and conscientious, I miss the opportunity to ask how they are or offer my assistance when they have a need. This summer I was challenged a number of times with this either through the finishing of the construction project here and the hassles that came from others during that time, or the uncertain times with Louie and seemingly uncaring doctors, etc. Each and every time I am faced with those moments, I have a choice to either respond in a loving and caring way or to take the easy way out and fight back or internalize a response that festers. We all know the heart is a muscle. I believe that the love that comes from our hearts can harden and atrophy, if not exercised, just like the physical heart that does not get enough exercise to keep it pumping the blood like it should. For me, it stands to reason that the mind and the spirit are two critical muscles that I must continuously exercise, like I do my body to ensure that I am living and becoming the person that I am supposed to be. Having the time to focus on this has been great and I anticipate continuing to build these muscles to their maximum strength and longevity for a lifetime of mental and spiritual health.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 95 - LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS... (#6 Lesson)

...WHILE YOU ARE PLANNING IT. How true is this? I think back to how I got to these first 100 Business Days Out and if I could rewind time nine months prior to April 3rd (the beginning of this free time)I would not have been able to tell you that I would have ended up with the company sold and me having all of this time to figure out what I should do next. It's a long story, which I am glad to tell anyone who is interested, but I will never forget the Friday afternoon about a year ago when I was standing in Penn Station getting ready to board a train and my cell phone rang from the investor who was going to lead the next investment round for SNOCAP. What I heard on the other end of the digital transmission was that because of this "issue" coming that had something to do with some problems with sub-prime mortgages (this was a few weeks before we read it in the papers)that this investor's hedge fund could not now make the investment in SNOCAP. That was the beginning of what ended up a decision a few months later to sell the company. I could not have known this was coming and was not planning for it, but it hit me out of the blue and it was real. That's a real life esample, but not a disastrous one like the deaths of Tim Russert and Randy Pausch were. I have written about both of them a couple of times during these 100 Business Days Out. They both hit me hard. The lesson that comes from these examples is that we just don't know what is going to come next. Change or tragedy, they both can come from left field as we are planning what tomorrow will bring. I am a planner. I always have been and I suspect always will be. I like to be able to see what is coming around the corner and be ready for it. And in many cases, that is what makes life run better for me, but that's not the way life always work. And because of that I know I can spend too much time looking to the future versus living in the present. These 100 Business Days Out have been really good for me on this front. I have found myself living more in the moment, perhaps because there is nothing to plan for the future, but I would like to believe it is because I am listening more to the heeding of others who for one reason or another have missed days and opportunities in their lives. Once a day is lost, it can't be taken back and beleive me, they go faster and faster each year. So, I know now more than ever that life is just what happens, reagardless of what you plan and how you plan for it. And with this lesson, it is more imperative than ever that I make the most of each and every precious day I am given.

Monday, August 18, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 94 - BOREDOM IS A CHOICE (#7Lesson)

When I was a kid I would get punished when I used the word "bored" or said, "I was bored". I was taught that there are too many things to do in life to ever become bored. It didn't make sense to me at the time, but it sure does now. There is never a reason to be bored. I marvel at the people I know who have retired and come back to work because they got bored. What I have learned over these nearly 100 Business Days Out is that becoming bored is a choice that one makes or not. I personally can't imagine that I would ever get bored, what with all that I want to do but haven't even been able to get to yet. What I think happens is that people misinterpret doing what they have always done (as the easy and known way) and trying and learning new things (the harder and more unknown) and when the new is too hard or they aren't good at it the first time, they stop. Then, they run out of things to do and consequently, they choose to become bored. I have seen some of that in me too. There are things which I want to learn to be good. They are new and different to me. They are hard and take time...maybe even the rest of my life to become good at them. They use different physical or mental muscles and because I know the things I am good at already (and like doing them and when I did them because I was good at them I got praised or rewarded) I want to continue to do them over and over. That would be a good reason to go back to work. But what an interesting and difficult cycle life can become. We take and change jobs because the work seems boring. We go back to work because we are getting bored out of work. The lesson to me is that boredom is clearly nothing but a choice of attitude and approach to life. There is no shortage of things for me to do, whether I am good at them or not. And, maybe this isn't the point in the first place. It's not whether I am good at them or not, it's what I am trying and doing to become good at something or to do good with what I do. My parents were right, and how much better we might all be if we felt punished or felt guilty every time we throught we were bored. Imagine the possibilities of the new things we would try and do if we all thought this way.

Friday, August 15, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 93 - YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE...(#8 Lesson)

...WHEN NO ONE ELSE IS LOOKING. It is true, you are who you are when no one else is looking. I knew this going into the 100 Business Days Out, but I did not comprehend it as fully as I know it now. What I know now, after this time of no one else looking is that there is a "me" that becomes the default for the things I will do and not do when left to my own time, demands and constraints. I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago who is a recruiter and he says that he sees a lot of executives who go to take time off and they end up in a bad place with bad behaviors, etc. I guess I can see that happening to people too as their default mode would be that when no one is looking. For me, I have found that when no one is looking I have come back to the basics: spirituality, relationships, physical conditioning, and doing my best within those three areas. It's not really true that I never have anyone looking, as there is family and friends and they each set their own level of accountability with me, but when I remove all others (work and outside influences) I find a life baseline that is more me than not. What I have also found to be true is when I remove these other "eyes" that I am driven more on fundamental principles of human nature. For example, I have found that bad habits are easy to establish and hard to break and good habits are hard to establish and easy to break. That is why, when all is said and done, I need others to be looking. I need others; family , friends, and yes, the outside influences to help me be accountable and be stronger than what I would be without them. I think of just the simple things that I do for myself that are good. I am a runner. I like to run and when I don't, I get irritable and don't feel good about myself. So, I will run, with or without others watching. But, to run a little further, push myself a little harder and add a stronger base for the future, I need other influences to push me. Signing up for a race and then letting others know I am going to do it helps me get pushed to train harder and complete the race as best I can. I can take this philosophy into my spiritual and relationship categories of my life as well. So, I have learned that I am who I am, regardless, but to think that life can be lived in a cocoon and still become the best I can be, is a fallacy. I need to have others watching to be the best I can be.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 92 - REAL FRIENDS (#9 Lesson)

As hard as it is to realize, your "real friends" are those that call and reach out to you when they don't need anything from you. During this 100 Business Days Out, I have seen both sides of this. Early in the time away there was a flurry of people who reached out to "help and assist". They were well intentioned and they would have done what I needed if there was something to be done. And, I want to believe that they would have done it because they wanted to, not because they knew if they did something for me, I would be there to return the deed in the future. Then there were those who knew I had time on my hands and they reached out for me to assist them. This ranged from taking meetings, reviewing businesses, giving career advice, making connections and introductions, etc. I did a lot of this. It felt (superficially I have since learned) connected and "in the game". These were the most disappointing interactions as some of them became very deep and elongated and at the end of what the other person needed, they disappeared. In fact, with two long time friends who were going through job changes I spent a whole bunch of hours on the phone with them and then never heard anything since. In fact, one of them, after giving references, talking to the headhunter to help build his development plan in the new company, etc. I can't even get an email response back from him to see how things turned out. What I have determined is that while these are people who I would call good friends, they are not "real friends". What I have learned is that "real friends" are the ones who care about you and reach out to help when there is no return need, or no need at all other than to be there for you. During these 100 Days Out for me, there have been six people who fit into this category. These are the people who have been checking in by email or phone calls to just "see how you are". You know who you are, and I thank you. What this lesson as taught me is that as I build this next phase of life that the time I have to spend should be spent with those that meet the criteria of "real friends". With so little time left, it is more important than ever to recognize that this is where it should be spent. The lesson also tells me that I need to do my own soul-searching and decide who I can be a "real friend" to as well. I am just as guilty as the others and I am sure there are people who feel the same about me as I might feel about them when I don't call or write. The lesson goes both ways and it is a real lesson to learn; the lesson of how to be a real friend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 91 - EXPERIENCE (#10 Lesson)

I can't find out who exactly said it first (lots of people take credit for it) but the quote "a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument" is a lesson from these 100 Business Days Out that I will cerainly take with me. It can be said in many other ways, like walk 100 miles in the shoes of another man, etc. but the point is the same, in order to talk about someting with authority it is better to have experience vs. just talk about doing it. I always felt that way in my business life and for those who I managed, I always told them that they needed to be in the middle of the fray to understand what was really going on and to be able to speak from a position of credibility. Without this, you were just an observer. These 100 Business Days out for me have allowed me to walk in the shoes of those who have been out of work, either by choice or had the rug pulled out from under them. I have a new language that I can speak with others who have gone or are going through the same thing. It's like speaking a foreign language. You think you can do it but it's not until you become fluent in the language through immersion that you understand the nuances and messages behind the words. It is now, through these 100 Business Days out that I have come to an experience that wins out over any argument. This is a lesson that I take with me and encourage you to think the same when you are up against an issue or dealing with something that someone else is going through. Take a walk in the experience and shoes of others and on the backside of it, you will see a different side of you and a credible side will be seen by others.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 90 - What I Have Learned About Myself in 100 Days

It's now 90 business days since SNOCAP was sold to imeem and I found myself not working, or knowing what the next job would be, for the first time since I was 15 years old. 15 years old was a looong time ago. Today we had a visit from my god daughter Kristin and her family. She's 20 now and going to be a junior in college. She's 5 years older than when I was 15 and when she was talking about what to do after college and the summer job that she has now, I was reminded of the work ethic that was instilled in me at that age and before, and why I have been such a work-aholic all of these years. The 90 days out have been good for me. What I don't know is what happens after the first 100, but I am sure I will figure that out as it comes. What I am going to do, starting tomorrow, to finish out this series, is take each day and share the 10 things I think I have learned within this 100 days. I don't know if any of them will be earth-shattering, but they are me and I want to share back with others what this blessing of time has meant to me. So, stay tuned and thanks to everyone who has reached out in support, care and concern. Each of you are appreciated. The first of ten lessons/learning come tomorrow...

Monday, August 11, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 89 - Relative Jacques

Regardless of what I have done in my career, I have always been fascinated with who is doing what as it relates to work, where and when. Back in the days when I was on the radio I would religiously read Radio & Records every week and I could tell you what disc jockey had moved from what staion to where down to the smallest market. It was just my thing. And then I ended up a "talent guy" in the corporate world and even wrote about book about it. Even at SNOCAP it was about what band was doing what, etc. So, the talent/employment thing has always been ingrained in me. Well, today I am reading some things online and I came across this article about a distant relative, Jacques Rueff, who was an economist and the father of the modern French Franc. As I reflect on this day, I think and wonder how much of who we are is already inside of us, ready to be revealed if we only let it come out? Reading this made me wonder what else could be inside of me that I just don't know yet. However if I spent time checking in on where the rest of the Rueff DNA ended up, then I would even know more about myself. A random thought I know. In the meantime, I give you my relative, Jacques Rueff:

Our dollar-based financial system is like a loaded pistol...

Today, we take a summer rest and let a dead man do the talking. Jacques Rueff died 30 years ago. But in a couple of articles written for Le Monde in February 1976, this economic advisor to Charles de Gaulle, explained today’s monetary system and what was likely to become of it. His articles were unusual, in several respects. It is rare for an economist to have any idea what is going on - especially a French one. And on the subject of economics, Le Monde has things worth reading about as often as Leap Years.

To fully appreciate Rueff’s insight - and how it applies to the macro-economic circus circa 2008 - you have to begin by understanding the problem of unemployment. In the world of the ‘30s, the triumph of capitalism was no sure thing. Communism, for all its faults, at least put people to work. Capitalism often left them ‘sittin’ on the dock of the bay.’ And here we have our first measure of how far we have come since the ‘70s; the average post-Mitterand Frenchman now believes that there are worse things than not working. Such as working, for example. Today, he is eager to pass laws to prevent it.

The real cause of joblessness is obvious, even to an economist. People don’t have jobs when it costs more to employ them than employers can get out of them. And in an economic downturn, the unemployment rate goes up. Because, in a slump, prices for ‘things’ fall quickly. But labor rates tend to be sticky. Workers have contracts. And rights! Employers’ profit margins are soon squeezed between slippery revenue...and stubborn costs for labor. Result: output falls and fewer workers can earn their keep.

In a free market, wages eventually ease their way down to levels that allow capitalists to exploit workers again. Always have. But for some reason, in Britain in the 1920s, this didn’t happen. Rueff identified the culprit even before Milton Friedman did:

"Since 1911, there existed in England a system of unemployment insurance that gave an indemnity to jobless workers, known as the "dole." The consequence of this regime was to establish a minimum salary level, at which workers would prefer to ask for the dole rather than work for less. It appears that in the beginning of 1923 salaries, which had been declining with other prices in England, suddenly hit this new minimum. There, they stopped falling, and since then, they practically ceased to move."

That’s why France runs such high unemployment rates today; its dole is bountiful. When you add up the costs of "charges sociales," paperwork, and the minimum wage, more than one in ten potential workers is not worth the money. But no right thinking politician is about to suggest the obvious solution: get rid of the dole. So, Keynes came up with a subterfuge. The central bank should cause price inflation during a slump, he proposed. Rising prices for ‘things’ meant that salaries - in real terms - would go down. That was the greasy scam behind Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money: inflation robbed the working class of their wages without them realizing it. The poor schmucks even thank the politicians for picking their pockets: "salary cuts without tears," Rueff called them.

"Full employment" was soon no longer a wish, but an obligation. In France, the Constitution of 1946 obliged the government to present an annual economic plan that achieves the goal of full employment. In the same year, Harry Truman pushed an Employment Act through the US Congress. And today the central bank of the USA has a "dual mission" - to preserve the value of the dollar while assuring full employment.

"No religion spread as fast as the belief in full employment," wrote Rueff.

"...and in this roundabout way, allowed governments that had exhausted their tax and borrowing resources to ressort to the phony delights of monetary inflation »

This is where the post-’71, dollar-based monetary system comes in. It allowed the US to issue dollars - and never have to redeem them in gold. At first, the inflation caused by the build up of dollars was moderate and agreeable, said Rueff. It reduced the cost of labor. Then, when the tether with gold was hacked off in the early ‘70s, inflation began "galloping away." Readers may remember that inflation got the bit between its teeth in the ‘70s, racing along at a record speed of 14.8% in the US in March, 1980, and even faster in Britain. The US government was forced to borrow at 15% yields. Britain could barely borrow at all.

Rueff died in 1978. Had he lived, he probably would have been as surprised as we have been by the stamina of the monetary horses. Except for a brief rest while Paul Volcker was managing the stables, they have run from bubble to bubble...delivering more liquidity wherever it would do the most damage. All the while, inflation continued to cut the price of labor. Between ’74 and ’84, real wages fell as much as 30%. Then, more moderate levels of inflation held them down for the next 24 years.

But Rueff’s insight comes with a warning. The faith-based, dollar-dependent monetary system is like a loaded pistol in front of a depressed man. It is too easy for the US to end its financial troubles, Rueff pointed out, just by printing more dollars. Eventually, this "exorbitant privilege" will be "suicidal" for the western economies, he predicted.

Paul Volcker put the pistol in the drawer. Ben Bernanke has found it. And Jacques .Rueff must look on in amusement to see what happens next.

Friday, August 8, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 88 - Made in China

Okay...it's day 88...on 8/08/08...so how could today not be about the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics? First of all, if you didn't watch the entire opening ceremony, then find someone who has a DVR and invite yourself over for four hours. For me, events like the Opening Ceremonies are a must see. I figure that over a lifetime of watching these and comparing them to one another that you not only get to experience a significant event, but you also become a small part of that history yourself. This must go back to my parents waking me in the middle of the night to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. So, I don't miss these kinds of things and I usually like to make a party or something special of them. Tonight, we (along with the Newtons and Sue's sister's family) ate Chinese food for dinner, dressed in our red, white and blue and sat down to watch the ceremony. I also have learned over the years that not everyone is "in to" these kinds of things like me so I usually get a little frustrated over everyone talking and going about their own business, etc.. So, I did like I usually do and go home (in this case go next door) to watch the rest of it on my own. And, wow was I glad I did. As Bob Costas said late in the night, "just retire the opening ceremony trophy". What I was most impressed with in the ceremony was the power of the people and the masses that they demonstrated. At one time during the opening drumming event, there was a feeling that was like when we were kids watching Russia and China exhibit their military strength on May Day marching through Red Square or Tienanmen Square. The might of the people, the power of the masses, the ability to marshall and synchronize thousands of people at one time, were all demonstrations to me why "Made in China" has gotten to be the three most household words in America. I was impressed. I was a little frightened. But more than anything I was a little sad. There was a time when our country could not be outshined. Tonight's events and what I believe these games will show (from the pomp and circumstance, the architecture, the competition) is that there is more being made in China than we realize. What is being made there now is the future. When you get to that DVR realize that you are not seeing science fiction, you are seeing the future realized right in front of your eyes; the next 100 years, will be made in China.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 87 - Awakenings

It must be that vacation season is over for most people as this week (and today in particular) my inbox became filled with inquiries, requests, introductions and invites. A series of request for meetings, conversations, advice and one very cool job offer (not one that I am going to do, but one that at one time would have been a dream job and beyond). All of this in a matter of days and hours. I was reflecting on this today and trying to get at the feelings that I felt as I saw all of this happening and I must admit that I felt an awakening kind of feeling nudging inside of me. Maybe it was coincidental with the beginning of the feeling that there is a season change coming here with cooler nights and mornings and change of light. Yes, it was a nudge of awakening. I am not sure it was enough to spring me into full action, but I did feel a stirring inside of me. I did decide that I have put off a number of things long enough and I have scheduled Monday for a lot of phone calls. It will be interesting to see how I feel come Monday morning. The stirring of an awakening has me both intrigued as to where it might go and also frightened as to where it might go. Up until this point I have been able to provide a blanket pause as to activities and interests, but coming soon I will have to pick and choose and master the art of closing (and locking) doors and just saying no. That in itself will be a new awakening.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 86 - Window Panes

Back on Day 9 of this (maybe overly exhausted set of blogs on one topic?) 100 Business Day out journey, I talked about the return of dreaming into my life. Over the many weeks since that post, my dreaming has continued and in fact expanded into a much more creative set of dreams and recurrences. In the last month, each night there are people in my dreams who I have not thought of or remembered since I was a child or in many years. Names and faces of people who I might have met once or twice have come back to me and I can see and hear them as if they are here with me now. It's really been amazing. What my dreams have also consisted of have been every abstract thoughts on many random topics. Where in the past, while working, my dreams would revolve around work and things that took place in the day, or were to just become extended meetings in my head to work out problems or anticipate conversations and situations that might be coming the next day. But now, I find that the dreams are less catalyzed by daily events or things that happen but instead more deeply instigated from somewhere else. For example, I had a dream the other night, and again last night, about the window panes of our lives. That is, that our lives are like a six paned window where each pane represents an important aspect of our lives that we want to keep intact and clean. What the dream said to me is that the broken window theory is true in our own lives as well. The theory is that when one pane of glass in a window is broken and not repaired that it becomes an easy target for someone to pick up a stone and knock out another until they are all shattered. And the same is true in our lives. If we have a pane that is cracked or gone all together the others (and the inside of our lives) stand to be so much more vulnerable thus it becomes imperative to ensure that we are constantly doing preventative maintenance to ensure that the panes in our lives are strong and intact. What I saw in my dream were the panes of my life being: Spiritual, Physical, Relationships, Vocational, Mental and Financial. What was interesting to me was that when (in my dream) there were cracks in any one of the ones above, that they all became targets to be the next one to be put out. Not your ordinary dream and a dream that I got to, I believe because my mind is clearer and less cluttered than any other time I can remember. This journey is turning out to be one of interesting revelations and if I get it right, then maybe my window panes are not only triple-pane strength but also clean and clear to see right through to the other side.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 85 - Home Lunch

It is our week of venturing out. Today, Patti, Louie and I took the ferry over to Block Island to have lunch and spend the afternoon with Jerry and Jenny Noonan. The Noonans, friends since our days at Frito-Lay/PepsiCo in the 80's, have been summering out on Block Island for nearly 20 years now and a few years ago moved to a spectacular home on the southeast side of the Island. The view is panoramic of the ocean and the backyard setting and view off of the porch is one that would make any postcard photographer covet. Jenny made a fantastic lunch and what transpired was, as we reflected on the way home, the lost art of the long afternoon lunch at someones home. Sure, we occasionally do lunch over business in a restaurant(usually because no one wants to go back to work) but when was the last time that you had someone over for a lunch at home in the middle of the afternoon to share a meal, a glass of tea or a glass of wine and just talk with no hard stop but just until there is no more to talk about? That's what we did (although there was still more to talk about...we didn't want to totally overstay our welcome). And it was just an ideal afternoon. No other way to say it other than it was perfect. Mark Twain once said that the best way to mark the passing of a perfect summer afternoon was in a ballpark with nine innings of baseball. While, he may be more right than wrong, I would argue that good friends, good food, good drink, on a porch overlooking the ocean with a slight breeze and good conversation might just be better than extra innings. I can also imagine how nice it would be to take an afternoon from the office and go home, with colleagues, and have the same kind of lunch. If you think about the intimacy of opening up your home for this, then you also can imagine the level of conversation and potential productivity that could stem from one get together. The afternoon lunch at home is a lost occasion of a time before us. After yesterday, I intend to bring back that tradition in our household.

Monday, August 4, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 84 - Honest Talk

Yesterday we ventured away from Quonnie. This was the first time I have traveled more than 30 miles since I have been here (other than for the emergency trips to the animal hospital for Louie). But this was also momentous as it was the first time that I have had a pair of long pants on, not to mention dress shoes in over a month. Okay, let's just cut through it, the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle is not bad! But, there has to be those times when even Jimmy gets dressed up. We did so yesterday as we attended a reception and fundraiser for West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, put on by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, at the home of Senator Clairborne Pell. The event was great in many aspects, which I will write about, but first of all, it was very special to be in the presence of Senator Pell, who authored the Pell Education Grants, which I received while going through college. It was an honor to be in his home. It was also an extraordinary event as Senator Rockefeller gave, from what I have witnessed, the most honest talks of any politician I have ever heard. He hit on all of the hot topics but in summary what he said was that he holds the same trepidations and concerns that most of us have about the future. He talked about the next 30-40 years being "years of sacrifice" if we want to leave behind a better country for the next generations. His genuine concern and words about the inability to get things done in today's government were not said to inspire or bring about hope. They were to ground us in the reality that we are a country in trouble. We do not have the financial strength or capabilities to do all that is needed. We are in tough times and a difficult situation and we aren't going to get through all of this without having to make significant changes and sacrifices. Patti and I didn't go home excited or buoyant, but we did go home feeling like we had been spoken to honestly, plainly and bluntly. That is a rarity in today's age. I continue to believe, and while it does cost money, that the best way to gauge our political representatives is to spend time with them face to face in small groups. For this one it took two Californians to be across the country and available (another blessing of this time away), invited by a Rhode Island Senator, to meet a West Virginian Senator. But, for a few words of honesty, it was all well worth it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 83 - New Faces

Fig and Sue brought friends up from Columbus for the weekend. Bryan, Harrah, Scott and Shelly. They got in late last night (later than they expected because of mechanical plane problems) and we met them this morning for a run and walk. We than added them into our routine of the day: the workout, some piddling time, off to beach around noon, hang out there until 3 or 4, back to the house for shower and happy hour, and then dinner, and then time in the fire pit talking, and then off to bed. What I now take for granted as a routine was for them, (and others who come visit), a great vacation day. Oh the things we take for granted if we are not careful. Fig and Sue's friends are great. That should not be surprising when you think about it. Leaves don't fall far from the tree, birds of a feather, etc. They all apply. It does make me stop and think on why when we work we aren't surrounded with our best friends and family. The family stuff is an easy answer. We have spent the last 50 years trying to get rid of families in business with anti-nepotism policies. I have to come to think that this is actually antiquated thinking. Family-oriented businesses have for a long time thrived and grown (and might even last longer than other businesses) and they are built on the foundation of people who want to be with each other and have a true vested interest in the continued success of the business. I think we should be trying to return to the family model and make work again a place where it would not be out of the ordinary to be in a meeting with your brother or daughter. And as to friends, we need to figure out how to work with the best of our friends if we are to make work the enjoyable experience it should be. After today hanging with Fig's friends (two of them work with him), I could see myself wanting to work with them and I can imagine how they get along at the office. That's the way it is supposed to work. I am just glad I get a few days with them to enjoy the new company and make friends of the new faces.