Under a Steel-Gray Sky

Two days ago I slipped in some mud while carrying my kayak up a hill. I caught myself, but in doing so I seem to have hurt something deep in my right shoulder. Since then the right side of my torso has ached.

This morning, at the suggestion of my Beloved Spouse, I went outside to sit in the hot tub by our pool. I am not really a hot tub guy – I have probably used it a dozen times in as many years – but she thought the heat and bubble jets might help lessen my shoulder pain.

So I sat in the steaming water under a steel-gray sky; to my surprise, my thoughts turned to an old friend.

***

Doug and I went to boarding school together. We got to know each other through rowing; he was a big, athletic guy – a gentle giant. Though we were two years apart, we became fast friends.

For we were n...

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To See America

The Idea – 1/11/16

Three months from today, I am going to set out from Los Angeles by bicycle, hoping to ride to Old Lyme, CT. I have dreamed of doing this for thirty years; it’s now or never.

Over the next three months, I’ll give a lot of thought to the logistics, and try to get fit enough so that I’ll make it.

Just now, though, I have to tell the Beloved Spouse about the plan. I’m not sure she’ll be thrilled.

Day Zero – 4/10/16

This is the first in a series of daily posts that I intend to write over the next six or seven weeks about the attempt I am about to make at riding my bicycle across the country.

I sent three bikes – my two beautiful new steel Mariposas, pictured below at home just after their arrival a month ago, and my much older carbon fiber Parlee – on ahead to Los Angeles w...

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I Don’t Want to Talk About It.

Is it possible to be thrown out of a tight-knit group that one was instrumental in forming? I have a chance to find out.

I am in a fabulous book club. I got the group rolling four or five years ago by recruiting a handful of close friends to the venture. On a rotating schedule, one person chooses a book, another cooks a meal and a third leads the discussion. We read all kinds of books, and our subsequent discussions are augmented by fine food and wine. We are just as competitive about the consumables as we are about the selections of, and our opinions about, the books.

Considering that the book club is small, and consists exclusively of people who are sociologically similar (we are all prosperous men, 55+) the points of view represented are widely divergent: our political and religious or...

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The Old Continent(s?)

At present, I am sitting in the bar of an old hotel in Lisbon, nursing a drink while my beloved has a pot of tea. Over the last couple of days, we have walked all over this city.

Europe is the cradle of Western Civilization; it is breathtakingly beautiful and its inhabitants have refined the enjoyment of life’s physical delights to a high art. Even so, its present state saddens me: Europe is tired.

For those who have money and live here or, like us, are just passing through, life is still beautiful, but whole countries look backward with nostalgia and forward with concern.

Europe’s native populations have opted for the illusions of security – personal and societal – provided by their local governments and the EU – over grander visions and more sustaining values.

For most Western Europeans,...

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Making Decisions Right

Our sources of sustenance shape our frames of mind and behaviors to a greater extent than we may like to admit.

Last weekend I spent some time getting to know a businessman with whom I serve on a nonprofit board. He told me a bit about his life, and attributed his business successes to lessons that he had learned from his father. He summarized those lessons with a wonderful aphorism:

“Success doesn’t come from making the right decisions; it comes from making the decisions right.”

An entrepreneur is forced to think that way: business is a survival-of-the-fittest contest, so if a principal doesn’t make decisions iteratively, learning from mistakes and adjusting to meet others’ expectations, the business won’t last long. “Making the decisions right” is evidence of a personal...

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The Big Walk

The posts below describe The Big Walk – from Grand Central Terminal to Old Lyme, CT – in sequential order.

These posts differ slightly from the ones I wrote each day after walking for six or seven hours. I have cleaned up the typos, added a few interesting details, and cut a bit here and there to make the original posts fit more smoothly into one continuous narrative.

Day One (7/26/14)

TBW2

Walid, yours truly and Vinny

Vinny, Walid and I had a great day today. We walked from Grand Central Terminal to my home in southern Westchester County – roughly 18 miles by the circuitous route that we followed through midtown, Harlem, the neighborhoods of northwestern Manhattan and the central and northeastern sections of the Bronx.

Everything worked...

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Advice about Business

1)      One of the hardest, and most important, things to do is to understand your own strengths and weaknesses as others see them, then find a role that plays to your strengths.

2)      Some fields are known to be highly lucrative – or sexy for other reasons, such as power or prestige; these fields attract the toughest competition. My longtime business partner sometimes jokes that he started our business – in a decidedly prosaic field – “because lots of other people were trying to cure cancer.”

3)      You want a role in which the quality of your efforts is magnified by financial or operating leverage, rather than one in which the only way to make more money is to work longer hours.

4)      If you work for a big company, try to get to the heart of the enterprise; ...

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The Internet, Life as We Know It, and Christmas

The Internet is a tool of astonishing power, but it is not an unmixed blessing.

Its dangers were prefigured with amazing prescience in the 1940s by Tolkien’s palantir. Like a palantir, the web exerts a powerful draw by offering us the ability to see whatever we wish; but, also as when using a palantir, we are watched as well as watchers: the web tracks us and subtly guides what we see. It gives us the illusion of control, while denying us the reality of physical human contact. Its world is a shadow of our own.

The Internet is a two dimensional world, but we live in three dimensions (or rather, four, including the great limiter, time)...

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A Paean to Risk

A former colleague of mine once said something wonderful:

“If you are not making any mistakes, it’s because you’re not making any decisions.”

When I consider the single characteristic that is most vital to the success of an individual, an organization or a society, I conclude that it is a willingness to innovate. Whenever we try to freeze time, and lock in the benefits of now, we consign ourselves to a future failure that will be far more painful for our efforts to avoid the change that is inevitable.

What is this innovation, then, that is so important at every level of society? It is, quite simply, the product of risks that have been taken. Note that I do not assert that it is the result of risks taken successfully, because it is also the end product of all the risks that were ta...

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Trust

Trust is far more important than law.

Think of it: how many times have you sued somebody, or been sued? Have you ever been arrested? Each of us interacts with many others in numerous ways every day, and recourse to the law is exceptionally rare. Our actions may be constrained by certain laws; but usually they are far more limited by the expectations of those with whom we are dealing.

If you were unwilling to trust others, it would be next to impossible to accomplish anything. Once, when I was a young banker, I was asked to hand deliver a package containing $10 million in fully negotiable securities to a major corporate customer...

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