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Nov 19, 2008

Discovering The Public Library!

Yes... you read that right. Recently, I had an epiphany when my wife and I were thinking of something to do with our little daughter, one Sunday afternoon. I never thought to go before, but I picked up a weekly circular for our public library and was instantly amazed at the activities and events advertised. I thought aloud,"this is all going on at the library?! Maybe we should check it out." So we did.

Surprisingly, our public library was only a 5 minute drive from our house. Entering the automatic doors and initially glancing around, I had a face of a kid in a candy store. I'm sure the regular patrons thought I was weird for staring in awe. Part of my amazement was the fact that the library wasn't just a library anymore... at least not the type I had known growing up.

The interior was massive and contained everything, from books to PS3 videogames! It was structured almost exactly like a Borders or Barnes & Noble store; the only difference being that you didn't have to buy any items to enjoy them.

After registering for a library card, my wife and I received a complete list of what we were entitled to borrow as registered library patrons. Anything from CDs, audio books, the most recent movies, the latest magazines, computer software and console video games, could be checked out - some for a minimal fee. There was a large play and story-telling area for children, a periodical and cafe section mostly frequented by adults, and a dedicated "teen" room, which I was too old to enter. Amazing!

So, after spending about an hour looking around, my wife and I settled on the following items:
  • 1 audio book (Atonement)
  • 1 video game (Soul Caliber IV for PS3)
  • 1 children's book (Eloise goes to Moscow)
I wish I had known about this magical place sooner...

Nov 18, 2008

Baby it's cold outside!

Well, it's sad, but I can feel Winter almost upon us and we aren't even done with Fall yet. It was about 43 degrees Fahrenheit when I left my house to go to work this morning. I was in denial as I put on my scarf, overcoat, and gloves just to head out to my car.

Where did the summer go? I can still remember listening to Michael Buble croon, "The summer wind, keeps blowing in... from across the sea..." It didn't seem like long ago that I was driving my family to some quaint New Jersey town on a scorching, sunny day.

Heck... even the radio station are now playing holiday music in preparation for Christmas... and we haven't even passed Thanksgiving yet!!! Just another sign of the times - the rampant commercialization of every friggin holiday that we held sacred as a child!

I can't wait until next week when they start advertising Valentine dinner specials... my, how time flies!

Nov 4, 2008

Vote for America!

The day has descended upon us... it's time to vote! I'm not here to promote my own views of each Presidential candidate's agendas or even agendas of the Republican and Democratic parties. I'm just here to say that it is time to vote!

Today I, as well as many others, have seen an overflow of eager, registered voters flood the polling stations. It's amazing that more people than ever have showed up to demonstrate that they care about the country and its future... or maybe their own not-so-obvious agendas? Nevertheless, I was shocked to venture out at 6am this morning and witness a long line wrapping around my designated polling station.

If you read the news lately, you would see that America is not prepared for the upsurge of interest in the Presidential polls. Read a clip here from Fox News (Broken Machines, Shortages Plague Voters).

But, what is it that drives all these voters to action, when action was already needed years ago? Is it truly "change"? Is it merely the impressive rhetoric spouting out of one charismatic candidate's pie-hole? Is it fear of the "same" 8 years that we've lived under the shadow of a Bush? Is it the ridicule showered upon a certain Vice Presidential candidate's reputation, made popular by a consistently leftist, Saturday night skit-show? Is it racial tension?

Who knows? All I can say is, "Good for you, America!" Interest has finally peaked for your welfare. Whether the reasons are right or wrong, at least Americans are out to do something about the way things are. This is what the United States stands for... freedom to choose.

Now, let's just hope that the broken polls, missing ballots, and "mistakes", don't lead to another "recount"!

Oct 21, 2008

Rants & Raves: Andrew Lahde bids farewell to the System!

It’s not new news that the financial market sucks. Everyone’s been affected in some way by now; whether you’re worrying about your own job, your credit, your mortgage payments, gas prices, or unnecessary expenses (e.g. dining out, entertainment, luxury vacations, etc.). Sympathies also go out to the graduating classes that now find it difficult to obtain a good paying job. Wall Street and every other financial corner of the United States are “re-assessing” the value of fancy MBA education – therefore leaving those with educational debt in the red.

But, just because the market sucks, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be entertaining. Nowadays, former bankers, analysts, and hedge funders are lashing out at the big, bad, world… claiming that they are the victims of capitalism and long hours, chained to a computer. Yet, with some of the wealth they have accumulated… should we feel sorry for them? Should anyone (who is not an i-banker, analyst, or financial monkey) who has a dream of making it big in any metropolitan area, feel sorry for these shmucks who dare voice out in an attempt to exemplify an ounce of integrity? Here is one of the most recent communications by Andrew Lahde, a successful, Santa Monica hedge fund manager, who now despises the very system that allowed him to retire comfortably. You decide… should we empathize with this guy? Do you think his statement, while insightful… is genuine?

The Andrew Lahde Farewell Letter:

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, "What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it." I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don't worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer's company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government. Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man's interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft's near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won't see it included in BP's, "Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions," television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM's similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country? Ah, the female. The evil female plant -- marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let's stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best,
Andrew Lahde

So in conclusion, Andrew thinks the solution to achieving utopia is pot? Mind you... this is my assumption, but it is funny how he ends his letter on this note.

Sep 11, 2008

September 11 - Tragic Memories, Strong Reminder

(Photo by :Robert McMahan

Seven years ago, the day was September 11, 2001. The wound has healed, but a slight bruise in place of it still stirs up tragic memories. I remember that day as if it just happened; and I remember the few days leading up to that grim event that would change everyone and everything.

At the time I was still employed by a global accounting firm, headquartered in Two World Financial Center. The lovely Winter Garden sat, nestled perfectly between the Two Towers and the buildings of the Financial Center. It was always pleasant to stroll through the bridge connecting my building to One World Trade Center; especially when the Winter Garden would empty, signaling the end of the work day for most, but just the middle of the work day for myself and others.

The week of September 3rd was a quiet one… foreboding, but quiet. It was one of the first weeks when I actually had some downtime and would often contemplate my life amidst the palm trees of the Winter Garden. After finishing up some big projects, I had decided to take advantage of my free time by exploring the job market and pursuing a new opportunity. It was September 5th, when my first job interview led me to 85th floor of Two World Trade Center.

The position was with a Japanese broker dealer and I had performed well with the various managers and peers that I met throughout the day, including Max, the light-hearted hiring manager who would be my potential boss. I felt good walking the halls of the firm – the people were friendly, the environment was laid back, and the company seemed to value family life, as there was artwork made by children, pasted along the walls of the office. The artwork made me smile and gave me hope that there was a company out there that valued life above work. Max’s own son had drawn his portrait rather accurately, a bit rotund, with a huge smile on his face.

So, we’ll see you next week for the final interview?” Max seemed pretty certain that I was interested, which of course, I was.

Yes”, I smiled enthusiastically, “please give me a call and let me know what day to come in!”

Little did I know, I would never come back into that office… and I still have the temporary ID from that day as a reminder.

Every morning from September 5th on, would be the same. I lived in a pretty convenient spot on 42nd Street and had only a few steps to take from my apartment building to the subway platform on the corner of my block. My alarm clock would ring at 7am, and because I had a shoebox for a room, I would bang my right elbow on the wall and my left elbow on the bookcase, while trying to hit the snooze button. My roommate would still be sleeping off the late night he had, working on his start-up business and tune out the noise I made stumbling around my room and the bathroom, while getting ready for work..

Fifteen minutes… that’s all it took for me to get from Hell’s Kitchen to the World Trade Center; another 5 minutes is all it took to emerge from the bowels of the subway at 6 World Trade Center and walk through the army of suited drones in a mechanical fashion.

I would make my first stop at Timothy’s World of Coffee after stepping off the escalator for a quick caffeine fix. Afterwards, a quick browse of the Banana Republic store window and quick walk through Borders, and I would blast through the revolving glass doors that served as the portal to the vast lobby of 1 World Trade Center. Dodging the usual tourists, I would make my way to the bridge connecting the World Trade Center to the World Financial Center. It was an invigorating walk, and a walk I miss.

Fast forward 5:30pm – Monday, September 10th, my friend Bob and I were standing in the middle of the bridge to the Winter Garden, staring out into the rain as traffic raced past underneath us.

What a lousy day,” I grumbled, “but better on a Tuesday than over the weekend.” Bob nodded his head in agreement and stared blankly down at West Street. He had also come off some pretty grueling projects and was in shock that he actually had time to breathe.

Tomorrow’s my birthday,” Bob muttered indifferently. “Man, I’m getting old… I’m only 26 and I already have a bald spot.

I held myself back from laughing; the comment was true after all. I patted Bob on the back to cheer him up. “Hey man, a few drinks tomorrow night will cheer you up! Oh wait… I forgot that you don’t drink, so you’re screwed.

Ass!” Bob replied with a half smile, to let me know that he knew I was kidding.

Hey… maybe we can catch Cirque Du Soleil when they get here in two weeks,” I suggested, “now, that would be cool!” All week there had been giant banners advertising the coming of the mysterious circus troupe… all of my co-workers were eager to see them in action in the Winter Garden.

Well, 6pm… time to go home,” Bob stated matter-of-factly, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 – I woke up rather disoriented. My alarm clock didn’t sound and I squinted in the darkness to see the time. “Shit! It’s 8:20am!” I jumped out of bed and dashed for the bathroom. I quickly showered, brushed my teeth, and jumped into my suit, trying to button my dress shirt furiously.

RIIIIIIIIING… the telephone rang at 8:47am. It was my girlfriend who asked how I was and if I saw the news.

Did you see the tower?” she asked sounding concerned. I turned on my 13” television and saw smoke from 1 World Trade Center being broadcast on NY1. I dismissed the sight as some accident, stating… “Eh… they’ll put that fire out… hey, I gotta get going now.” Much to my girlfriend’s disappointment, I reassured her that everything would be okay and made a dash down the stairs… to the subway… and in the subway.

The time was 8:55am – the E train creaked its way to 34th Street, then 14th Street. Then at 9:10am it stopped. The conductor announced that service to the World Trade Center would be suspended due to a fire in the towers.

What did that mean? Towers? I thought only one tower was on fire?” I looked as a stream of people boarded the train to head back uptown. As I got back to my apartment, I found my roommate surprisingly awake and watching TV.

Did you see what happened?” he asked.

No… are they putting out the fire now?” I replied.

It’s a terrorist attack… a second plane just hit the tower when you were gone”.

I stared at the TV in shock as a replay of the second plane looped on NY1. It was unbelievable… surreal… unbelievable.

The time was 10:05am – My roommate and I felt the pangs of disbelief and denial. The first tower went down. 23 minutes later, the second tower fell.

My phone didn’t work… then I got through to my girlfriend… to my family… but I couldn’t get through to my co-workers or my other friends downtown. The day was damned… but I was alive and questioned why I wasn’t there. Later I would find out that hundreds of others would have this same question, “How did I manage to wake up late for work?”

The following weeks were rough on everyone. Upper-management from my firm called and confirmed that I was alive. Everywhere, there was a bogus bomb scare, from Port Authority to Grand Central to Empire State. Some sick people actually thought it would be funny to capitalize on the aftermath.

I was scared and still in denial… a bunch of my co-workers got together to cope with the events over lunch, over dinner, over drinks and more drinks… but nothing seemed to fill the void we all felt.

The second week following the attack, I went to visit my parents in Jersey City to give them comfort that I in fact still existed. They didn’t want me to go back… but I felt that I had to… My roommate, who was an overly ambitious photographer, would keep me updated on the happenings around town. He would then go on to capture one of the most touching photographs of firefighters in the midst of disaster, “Walk of Courage” (

Feeling like I had to fill a void, I drove to downtown Jersey City to volunteer with the groups unloading trucks to supply the fire fighters and law enforcement with much needed supplies. Volunteering helped my soul feel better… just a little, but it was never enough.

I look back now… it’s September 11, 2008. I’m grateful that I woke up late that morning and that it was my destiny to live to be a husband, to be a father, and to be a friend. I’ve embraced the chance I was given and lived positively for the next few years – but we all know that over time positive spirit can fade. But, every year on September 11, I’m reminded of my pact with hope, and my positive feelings through grim reminders are always renewed.

God bless everyone who was affected on this day… you are not alone.

Sep 4, 2008

Social Prowess: How to Infuse Vodka!

Entertaining has become an important part of developing yourself as a successful individual and leader. Not only must you be able to adapt to the interests of others to build on relationships, but you should also have a few tricks up your sleeves to ensure that people remember you.

So, what do you do if your peers at work are out one night and you all decide to congregate at your place for some much needed R&R? Well, one thing you can do is whip out your special batch of infused vodka... always a special treat! Wait... you say you don't know how to infuse vodka? No problem... just follow the steps below and show how suave you are with your cocktail knowledge and become an instant hit!

How to Infuse Vodka -- From my past experiences as a frequent bar-hopper in Manhattan, I happened upon some truly tasty infused vodkas at places like Punch Lounge and the notorious Russian Vodka Room.

Some of the infused vodka flavors I've tried range from peach and apple to black currant and chili pepper to chocolate and licorice. Each of them were delicious in their own right... except for the licorice infusion (because I really don't like licorice to start with).

So if you're interested in trying vodkas that depart from the norm, visit a local, somewhat trendy bar/lounge and sample any of the concoctions available. Or you can infuse your own vodka:

Gather Your Desired Ingredients. In terms of choosing a flavor, you can use almost anything. Some of my suggestions would be chocolate, apple, berries, and peach. You can also experiment with herbs, but citrus fruit like lime or orange are the easiest to start with.

Use a potato peeler to shave the peel into an airtight jar filled with a mid-priced vodka. Take note that about 1 liter of vodka needs approximately 2 to 3 limes or oranges. Store the jar in a cool, dark, place.

Taste test the stuff! Shake the jar once a day to ensure that the ingredients are distributed throughout the jar. After about three to four days take a sample from the jar and test its taste; also check the smell. According to one mixologist that I spoke with at Punch Lounge, flavors usually peak after 7 to 10 days, after which the vodka pulls too much of the undesirable flavors out of the ingredients.

Cold Filter your creation. When the vodka tastes like you want it to taste, take a funnel and a bottle and pour the infusion through an unbleached coffee filter. The concoction should come out to be clear and flavorful, or if infused with darker ingredients like chocolate or wild berries, should turn out delicious and tinted. And, there you have it... fancy, infused vodka to impress your friends and associates!


Aug 28, 2008

Social Prowess: Top 10 Tips for Navigating or Avoiding a New York City Crowd

If you’re visiting the city, commuting, or have taken the plunge and decided to move into the thriving metropolis full-time, it will always be useful to know how to properly navigate through its overcrowded streets and subterranean tunnels. Follow these 10 tips to avoid getting stuck in a sea of jaded commuters or photo-happy tourists, and reduce your walk time by at least 10 minutes (results may vary)

10) Treat the masses of people like a body of water. Rivers and oceans always have equally opposing currents. Look out for a mass of people who are moving in your general direction and tag along behind them until you reach your desired location. Find an exit point such as an open entrance to a shop when stepping out of the ‘current’ to avoid getting trampled.

9) Avoid walking in a cluster of people who are dressed like tourists. Sorry to generalize, but tourists usually wear "I Love NY” t-shirts, carry a camera around their necks, and may have the occasional fanny-pack). More than likely, tourists will unknowingly block your path by stopping to ask for directions, pondering which deli or restaurant to explore, taking a picture of something mentioned in their guidebooks, etc. It’s a much better gamble to walk behind people in suits or dressed business casual, carrying a briefcase or messenger bag (good luck if they’re business guests from Delaware).

8) Find a ‘bulldozer’ or ‘Noah’ (Note: Religious Advocates please excuse the dramatic use of a biblical figure). A bulldozer is what I call a person who can skillfully push people aside, making a clear path. A ‘Noah’ is a reference to a Christian biblical figure, who had the power to part the Red Sea… the sea in this instance, is the masses of people. Usually a bull dozer is a person whose obvious size or momentum intimidates people to step aside (think the Juggernaut or Mr. T)… a bull dozer may also be a person with a steel dolly (they hurt if you bump into them) or a fast-moving, aggressive couple. A Noah is a term I reserve for authority (e.g. police, EMT, security guards, etc.) One of these types will pave the way for you… making it easy to get to where you are going. Just don’t get in front of a ‘Noah’ or the Red Sea may come crashing down.

7) Use roads less traveled. As with any area, I recommend that you consider the safety precautions of alleyways and desolate streets, if you are not familiar with them. I recommend looking out for street grates (women with high heels always avoid them) or unused bicycle paths; these pathways are less frequented by tourists, groups, and crowds, as they don’t allow for easy group navigation.

6) In conjunction with #7, try to walk on the East Side if it is convenient enough to do so. Because of the lack of subway lines on the East Side, larger crowds converge in the Western most avenues. (e.g. It is much easier to briskly walk without interruption on Park Avenue, than it is to walk on Broadway.)

5) Time your walk during off-peak periods. On weekdays, streets are much clearer during the hours of (10am – 11am) and (2pm – 3pm), since workers are usually in their buildings. In the evening, watch out for the Broadway crew, who make their way to the shows at around 7:30pm(around 11:30pm or midnight they all get out again).

4) Use large public areas in buildings to your advantage. If you can enter a large, public building with several street exits you may be able to get to the next block quicker (e.g. Walk through Macy’s in Herald Square to get from Broadway to 8th Avenue). Master the tunnels of Grand Central and you’ll be king/queen of the East Side.

3) Master the subway system. Knowing where the subway will drop you off ahead of time, will greatly reduce your time walking and bumping through the crowds. (The 1, 2, 3 trains stop every 3-5 blocks on the west side, as well as the C,E. The 4, 5, trains on the east side, stop about every 6 – 10 blocks, with the 6 train going local.).

2)Use to plan your commute ahead of time. It is a mapquest-like tool for the subway hopper!

1) And the #1 tip to navigate through a New York Crowd? Be rich, powerful, and important. Then, have a motorcade escort you to the front door of your destination!

Jul 31, 2008

Leadership Tips: Translate Ideas into Action!

Leadership is ultimately about producing results. Leaders may have the talent and character, but unless they produce sustained, high quality results for the team and organization, they are simply not effective leaders.

The best leaders translate ideas into action. They create the environment to move to the next step by bringing their energy, passion and sense of urgency to what needs to be done. They are constantly looking for ways to improve.

Great leaders:
  1. Continually stretch their team members by creating exciting, client and business focused performance goals and corresponding individual and team development plans.
  2. Take personal responsibility for results
  3. Provide continuous feedback and coaching to their teamSet ambitious goals for their organization
  4. Personally sponsor initiative and action
  5. Initiate new programs, projects, processes, client relationships, and technology
  6. Focus on organizational goals and ensure they are translated into meaningful action by their teams
  7. Operate with speed and intensity
  8. Champion the cause of the customer
  9. Balance short and long term business objectives

Jul 30, 2008

Leadership Tips: What I've Learned from Donald Trump - by Robert Kiyosaki

Unless you've lived under a rock or don't care for personal development much, you've probably read or at least heard about ,"Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money--That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!", which was co-authored by Robert T. Kiyosaki. The premise of the book is that one may attain wealth through creativity and thinking out of the box; one doesn't necessarily have to be an Ivy League graduate, or formally trained via a corporate program. I'll divulge more tips from the book in a detailed review, but for now, I wanted to share what Kiyosaki said he learned from The Donald. I thought it was an interesting read, so here it is:

Now that our book, Why We Want You to Be Rich, is out, I can tell you what working with Donald Trump has been like.

Millions of people know "the Donald" as the tough guy who says, "You're fired" at the end of The Apprentice. I've been asked often if he's that gruff in real life. The answer is yes. My experience with Donald is that he's being real whether he's on camera or off. He never pretends to be Donald Trump. He is Donald Trump.

Obviously, co-authoring a book with him has been a milestone for me -- as an author and as a businessman. Appearing on Larry King Live, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, The Today Show, The Early Show, and CNBC with Donald gave me more credibility in the business world.
An Unofficial Apprenticeship

Yet I gained more than just recognition and credibility. I also became a better businessman and a better person just from working with Donald over the years.
Here are a few of the ways that knowing Donald has enriched my life:

1. I got tougher.
I know many people don't like Donald because he comes across as a tough guy. That's their problem. In spending time with him, I realized that I wasn't as successful as I could be simply because I wasn't tough enough.

As a businessman, I often didn't say what I wanted to say because I was afraid of hurting someone's feelings, or of having my feelings hurt. Instead of being forthright, I would be polite. Because of my association with Donald, I took back control of my business in 2005 and 2006 and fired people who should have been let go a long time ago.
The employees I got rid of weren't bad people, they were just the wrong people for my company. Today, business is thriving and people are happier.

2. I became kinder and more respectful.
One of my problems is that I'm very impatient and get angry too quickly. I believe Donald can be the same. Yet I saw him be patient, kind, and respectful in many situations that would have caused me to lose my patience.

When I asked him about this trait, he simply said, "One of the most important lessons my parents taught me was to treat all people with respect, even if I'm angry with them." Today, in my dealings with people, I do my best to treat all people with respect -- especially if I'm angry at them. Although I haven't always been successful, I believe I've become a little kinder as a result.
3. I got richer.
My wife, Kim, and I have more than enough money. We consider ourselves rich. When we entered Donald's world, however, we saw a whole new level of rich.
There's a difference between being a millionaire and a billionaire. The Trump lifestyle -- the penthouse, mansion, limos, and 727 -- gave me a firsthand glimpse into his world, and I began to understand why he constantly talks about thinking big.
Just being around him, I began to think bigger and richer. I set my sights on becoming a billionaire and began redesigning my business to become a billion-dollar business. Today, I constantly remind my staff that my job is to make them millionaires -- and their job is to make me a billionaire.

4. I became less petty.
One day, during a meeting in Donald's office, I was complaining about someone we were doing business with. I didn't like the way we were being treated. When I asked Donald about this person and voiced my concerns, he simply said, "Don't be so petty. Sometimes you have to do business with people you don't like. It doesn't mean you have to be like them or like them."
From that, I learned to think bigger and, more important, to know the difference between paying attention to details and being petty.

5. I was reminded of the value of collaboration and partnership, as well as the value of loyalty.
I saw this repeatedly as we developed the concept for our book, discovered our shared concerns and our passion for teaching, and shared the stage for dozens of media interviews.
Getting on Larry King Live and The Today Show is easy for Donald, but in booking a few of these interviews he insisted that we get equal billing. And when a show host mispronounced my name, Donald jumped in to correct him on national television. These simple acts spoke volumes.
History in the Making
About the same time our book was released, a new book about Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world at the start of the 20th century, was also published. The timing is ironic. I believe that when history looks back at the start of the 21st century, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Donald Trump will be seen as the Carnegies of the era.

Many historians view Carnegie as a ruthless man, and I know that many people also see these three in the same light. Yet if you study Carnegie's life, you find that he was extremely generous, and donated billions of dollars in support of building libraries and preserving world peace.

He even envisioned the League of Peace, a precursor to President Wilson's League of Nations. I trust that history will allow a space for the good that Gates, Buffett, and Trump have done, and not simply resent them for their wealth.

Donald and I got together to write our book as teachers, not just as rich men. We're both concerned about the lack of financial education in our schools. In the process of writing it, I not only became a richer person, I believe I also become a better human being. And for this, I feel privileged to have seen a side of Donald Trump that not many people see.

Jul 27, 2008

Leadership Tips: Top 10 Lessons Learned From Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins has been an inspiration for millions. Love him and his philosophy or not, it is undeniable that he has had a positive impact on millions of people. He has sold over 30-million motivational tapes, published three best-selling self-help books, more than 2 million people attended his seminars and another 10,000 (including myself) have attended his mastery university in Hawaii. His core products include Get The Edge - Unlimited Power - Date with Destiny - Mastery University and more.

Here are the top 10 lessons that people have learned from Tony Robbins:

  1. By altering your body's physiology, you can achieve an immediate change of your emotional state. The mind will follow whatever state your phsyical body is in and not vice-versa.

  2. Ask specific questions of yourself (in your self-talk) to direct and control your attention to the various aspects of the human experience. The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions you ask of yourself.

  3. Get leverage to create personal change by associating an old behavior with massive pain and the desired new behavior with massive pleasure. Tony is a big believer in the pain/pleasure principles of life and this applies in business as well.

  4. When you get stuck, interrupt your limiting pattern by doing something totally unexpected.

  5. You can condition your behavior by visualizing it over and over again. This is not exactly unique to Tony Robbins, but he does reinforce this message in all of his products.

  6. Goal-setting strategy: Know your end outcome; Take massive intelligent action; Have sensory-acuity to notice if you are getting the results you desire and if not; change your approach; and change *until* you get your end outcome.

  7. Create a "Compelling future" by vividly imagining your end result to generate enthusiasm and power within yourself. The past does not equal the future. Find beliefs that support your goals and desires.

  8. Youth is Power! This is one of Tony's beliefs. Even if you don't have fancy degrees, your youth can still mean power, flexibility and opportunity for your life.

  9. Principles of CANI! CANI stands for Constant And Never-ending Improvement. It's a basic tenet of Tony Robbins.

  10. NLP can be useful. NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming and there are many NLP undertones in Tony's basic tenets. He went on to morph NLP into his own technology called "NAC" (Neuro Associative Conditioning).

I was actually fortunate to see Tony in person at a Learning Annex event in New York. He was very charismatic and down-to-earth, despite his "larger than life" public image. What I found personally important is that his methods must constantly be applied to every aspect of your life (consistently) in order to see any substantial impact. Be the person that you want to be 'EVERY DAY'! Be POSITIVE and don't let anything bring you down!

Jul 24, 2008

Deep Thoughts: Let's manifest $1,000,000 together!!!

The million dollar experiment... initiated by Steve Pavlina (based on the intention- manifestation model)

Steve Pavlina is a well-known blogger who went from very little to being a well compensated entrepreneur. I have been reading some of his blogs for sometime now and have been applying some of his tips to supplement my own success tips. (Click on the link above to check his site out).

By now, many people are skeptical of get-rich quick schemes... but I can assure you that intention-manifestation is not that type of thing. In fact, after reading his blog, there is strong indication that some of his experiments are things that one has to work on and to have faith in. One experiment that caught my interest was the million dollar experiment that he began in 2006. It seems that with strong faith and increased awareness, one could have wealth accumulate passively (the amount of the wealth obviously varies from $0.01 to $500k +). But let's face it... if you found a penny after participating in this experiment, you are one penny richer than before.

The one thing Steve emphasizes is that no matter the amount of your manifested money, you should express gratitude to the forces that be, thus opening up more doors of opportunity for you. I did exactly this, and found myself winning $50 in a scratch off lotto game that my Mom gave me for my birthday. Try it for yourself... and know that other readers are also empowering your chances of manifesting a fortune.

Here's what you do... print out the manifesto below and dedicate at least 60 seconds each day to read it to yourself... believe in its energy/power, and open yourself up to any opportunities. Then, don't forget to express gratitude to the forces that be!

"In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own perfect time, for the highest good of all, I intend $1,000,000 to come into my life and into the lives of everyone who holds this intention."

When good fortune happens for you... please do leave a comment and let me know. I would love to share experiences. All the best! -Vincent

Jul 21, 2008

Leadership Tips: Robert Mondavi’s Philosophy of Life

Hello all! As part of my inspiration series, I'd like to re-hash Robert Mondavi's Philsophy of Life, which is in my opinion true and heart-felt. His words can help steer us in the right direction... so, if you haven't seen them already, here they are:

  1. Have faith in yourself

  2. Make a commitment to excel

  3. Be passionate about what you do

  4. Set goals just beyond what you can do

  5. Be completely honest and open

  6. Be generous and giving

  7. Only make promises you can keep

  8. Accept people the way they are

  9. Be tolerant , empathetic and compassionate

  10. Recognize that no two people understand things the same way

  11. Listen and speak carefully

  12. When you find your soul mate, open yourself completely

  13. Be flexible

  14. Always be positive

  15. The greatest leaders don’t rule, they inspire

Jul 18, 2008

Rants & Raves: Welcome to Just Salad... "you want attitude with that?"

Once the big and little hands on your analog watch/clock rendezvous over the 12 marker during the workday, you automatically feel a familiar grumbling in your midsection... translating into either, "what's for lunch", or, "maybe it wasn't a good idea to scarf down that heavy breakfast burrito with extra black beans." In this post I will address the former... with my opinion on what I had for lunch today.

Being the 'health-conscious' person that I am... *cough*BS*cough*... I decided to make my way to the local 'Just Salad' joint at 100 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan. I've always been impressed with the concept; blending the salad bar at any local deli with the barista concept at Starbucks. In fact, the concept may have also been derived from the set of rules posted at the original Soup Nazi's storefront... although not as restrictive or enforced.
  1. You step through the front door and wait for your turn in line
  2. A designated order-taker yells out, 'next guest', and you give him/her your order.
  3. When it comes to ordering, you have a few options. You can either order from the menu of 11 chef designed salads, or opt to make your own ala carte.
  4. You may also order a wrap-sandwich, which is basically a salad in a wrap (so the place technically doesn't offer 'Just Salad'). There are 10 varieties of chef designed wraps currently available.
  5. After placing your order and providing the 'saladista' with your name, your salad bowl is then passed down the chain of saladistas, who hastily add the rest of the ingredients of for your order.
  6. Your salad then exits stage left, and is picked up by the 'dispatcher', usually the manager of the establishment, calls out your name and then assigns you to one of several 'salad choppers' arranged in a row at the back of the restaurant.
  7. The 'salad chopper' immediately takes your salad bowl and dumps the contents onto the long chopping counter, as you stand in awe watching him chop vigorously away at your greens and other vegetables. You are then prompted to choose from about 26 different salad dressings or elect to go with the chef's recommended dressing for the menu salads.

Pretty neat, huh? The concept is especially impressive, coming from a pair of twentysomething entrepreneurs, who thought up the idea after scouring the city for healthy food options. A brief article features the two owners in Inc. Magazine. The place may even double as a pick-up spot, since the clientele are usually young, upwardly mobile indviduals.

Where 'Just Salad' fails for me is not the quality of the ingredients or the taste of the menu items... but in the quality of the service. Other reviews I've read compare some of the salad staff to rejects from your local DMV... I can see why. Most of the time, if you are not deemed flirt-worthy, the staff treats you with a certain indifference and you feel brushed off once the salad process is over. Now, I for one, can understand that a hectic 2 hours of catering to the lunchtime masses can take a toll on one's positive demeanor; but everytime I fork over the cost of the salad(on average $9 with what I assume is a $1 premium for the chopping concept added on), I can't help but think, "I didn't want to pay extra for attitude!"

Recommendations: If you can't decide what to order, I would recommend trying the Just Salad Signature - prepared with baby spinach, apples, bacon, red onions, walnuts, white cheddar, and topped off with sherry shallot vinaigrette. It's a good choice to sample the place, but if you want a little more interesting, try the Far East Salad.

Jul 17, 2008

Deep Thoughts: Ying Yang -- Increase your awareness!

I've been meaning to write about the ying and yang for quite some time; and I'm not talking about the Ying Yang Twins. As many of you already know, the concept of yin and yang describes two opposing and, at the same time, complementary (completing) aspects of any one phenomenon (object or process) or comparison of any two phenomena. They are universal standards of quality at the basis of the systems of correspondence seen in most branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy. At least that's how it is described in Wikipedia...

Now, it may be old news to some of you more enlightened folks out there, but I began to notice the reality of the ying and the yang in my own life. For instance, whenever something TOTALLY EXCELLENT happened to me, whenever I came across some good fortune or performed some good deed, an equally balancing negative force inevitably came later. I remember one time I was on a high after accomplishing something at work and I was Mr. Smiles to everyone I passed all day (a really strange thing if you happen to be in New York) -- I even opened the door for a little, old lady as she was leaving Duane Reade... when the Ying suddenly slapped me across the face, a middle aged, 'rough-looking woman' brushed passed this poor, old lady and looked me straight in the eye muttering, "Get the f*%k outta my way!"

Well, the expected reaction I would have given was," F*%k you", but I held back and took three deep breaths to calm myself (see my post on Avoiding Conflict). I came to the realization that this unpredictable, unexpected event occurred to balance out the positive energy that I was projecting. By reacting in the expected fashion, I would have expended about half of my positive energy, convert it into negative energy, and subsequently felt less positive or even neutral from that point on. Instead, I took a different path of reaction... I let my feeling of rage pass and I focused on helping the little, old lady who was pushed aside and smiled at her. She smiled back and thanked me... adding a little more to my positive energy.

Following that incident, I decided to conduct a difficult social experiment... I decided that I would beam positive energy and try hard not to let anything bring me down. The results? Good things happened, but bad things soon followed.

So, in conclusion... stay positive! It's difficult... but if you can maintain it, you'll notice a big change in your world! If you have noticed similar things in your life... please leave me a comment and share your thoughts... thanks!

Jul 12, 2008

Deep Thoughts: Dreams in Lancaster

So, my wife and I decided to get away for the weekend. Seeing as how the shore will be overwhelmingly crowded, and that last minute planning would not allow for a quick trip to tropical destination, we settled on the serene setting of Lancaster, PA. After a day of touring the countryside, the Amish farms, and local eateries, my creative juices started flowing once again. Here is a poem I composed on a whim to summarize our day:

Oh the endless trees and grass, the peaceful swaying of the fields,
I am grateful for the peacefulness your softness yields.
Escape from rush of metropolis, I seek peace of mind...
In Lancaster's fields and skies, a refuge I did find.
A land seemingly disconnected;
where alienation is perfected
Horse drawn buggies, remind me of life so humble,
that feelings of city pressure seem in time to crumble.
Not my best work... but the words adequately describe my thoughts for the trip.

Jul 10, 2008

Leadership Tips: Conflicts at Work & Tips for a Speedy Path to Resolution

You may be one smart employee or you may be the big boss, but whatever your situation is at work there is one skill not taught in business school or included in most employee training manuals – the skill of effectively and constructively dealing with conflict.

Conflicts appear everywhere… in your existing job, in a new job, and in everyday life. Reasons for conflict may come from the most trivial matters, to bothersome issues that have accumulated over time. Conflicts may also be the result of varying work styles, clashing personalities, and/or differing opinions.

Sometimes conflicts arise when people feel pressured or stressed for reasons that may have nothing to do with work. Conflicts may also arise because one’s objectives and challenges are not fully communicated to another, thus creating an unnecessary misunderstanding. Whatever the cause it is critical to your career and personal progression to learn how to effectively deal with conflicts. Here are some tips that may help you with conflicts encountered at work:

Avoid losing your temper in front of your audience. Losing your temper may be perceived as a sign of weakness and your rivals, if any, will be alerted on how to easily push your buttons. Instead, take 3 deep breaths, use a stress reliever to expend frustration (e.g. stress ball, paper clip, etc.) and promptly and politely leave the situation, only to return to the scene when you reach a calmer state. If the other person(s) persistently remain in your face and block your path, state that you do not want to make the situation worse than it is and that if he/she feels the real need to rant, you can meet for a productive and open session at a later time.

Be proactive in creating a list of possible solutions before you talk to the other person. When you feel the tension in the air and anticipate a particularly heated discussion in the near future, be prepared with suggestions on how to resolve a specific conflict. Also remember, that the delivery of your suggestions should be carried out in a way so that the other person(s) will feel engaged and collaborative.

Maintain a calm, cool, and collected temperament. Avoid accusatory remarks such as, "You're always . . ." or "You never . . ." Attempt to make the discussion collaborative and open. For example, “I thought we spoke about the deadline for this project, but I do want to understand why it is late. Can we talk about what went wrong and how we can both work together to learn from our mistakes?” Then, wait for the other person’s response. If you sense the other person becoming defensive, try to calm him/her down by stating, “We’re both in this together, I just want to know how we can make things better. Can you help me to do this?”.

Be empathetic. Try to step into the other person’s shoes. Ask yourself how he/she feels about the situation. Step back and think about how you are contributing to the situation. Are you adding onto the pressure/grief/anger? Or, are you the one delaying the progress to a speedy resolution?

Listen…listen…listen. Provide the other person with the courtesy of your attention. Once he/she is able to tell his/her own perspective without interruption, he/she will be more inclined to listen attentively to you. Providing others with the opportunity to share how they feel helps to calm tempers, resolve problems and differences, and allows for compromise.

Determine the underlying reason for a conflict. As a successful negotiator, ask yourself questions to determine the real issue surrounding a conflict. Approaching a conflict in this manner can save you and the other person a lot of time in arguing. Make sure that no personal emotions get embedded into the conflict and attempt to resolve the real issue quickly and move on.

Compromise and take what you can get. Let’s face it… maybe these tips may work for you, or maybe you have encountered a person so difficult to interact with, that they won’t work. If this is the case, try to get him/her to agree with at least 50% of your proposals, having at least half of a proposed resolution done is better than nothing. After some time, approach the other person again and see if you can work in the other half of a resolution at a later, less heated time.

Jul 9, 2008

Rants & Raves: Facebook = 0 - (Time + Productivity)

Facebook is just another social experiment to add to the likes of Friendster, MySpace, YouTube, etc. Many of my friends, colleagues, and family members urged me to get on... "It's the medium of the future, man!" I wouldn't disagree with this statement, as there has been an explosion of social networking sites to prove the importance of this medium; but Facebook really led me to ponder its real purpose.

I've had an account on Facebook for several months now and let me tell you that the initial fascination I had with it faded away fast. It's not that the website is unimpressive or a total waste of time, it's just that it is super-saturated with all these so-called 'social applications' that suck the life out of your productive, even leisure time.

Lame applications

You get:
  • poked,
  • super-poked,
  • hugged,
  • bumper stickered to death,
  • requests to see how much you're worth (or your photo at least), etc.
When you're "found" by a bunch of your friends/family/colleagues/old school mates, these applications are inevitable! I remember the first time I logged on, I already had 20 friend requests and a bunch of "gifts" from various people... I was surprised. Yes, I was also flattered at first.

I also enjoyed re-connecting with people from my past and catching up through online games of scrabble, or sharing photos and stories. I was also flattered that many of my buddies labeled me as 'most successful', 'hottest', or valued my photo's initial net worth over $100K.

Then, I got myself sucked into those competitive applications... applications that heckled you to join and provide them with access to all of your profile information. I would get messages like, "Stevie just exceeded his personal best at Scramble... think you can beat him", or, "Julie got voted Most Popular by her Top Friends... see how you rank." Just then, I was transported back into time to the halls of my Freshman year in high school - a time when I really did give a damn of what people thought of me; a time when I was too self-conscious to even speak out loud... and a time when petty little things such as not being invited to some 'cool' kid's party labeled you an outcast or nerd.

I disliked and forgot those times... just like I disliked not getting a bumper sticker or cyber-drink when someone else did. Sometimes the lame applications promote exclusivity and broadcast it to your entire network.

So why spend time on a social platform that does just that?

Useful applications

Sure, there are a good number of resources connected to Facebook as well, such as:
  • groups for new parents,
  • groups for food and wine enthusiasts,
  • car enthusiasts,
  • and other networking groups.
These resources could provide you with exposure and a good network of people, if you are starting up your own business or merely looking to stay on top of the latest trends.

There are also a few cool applications like:
  • "Places I've visited", sponsored by TripAdvisor, where I can visually keep track of where I have been or where my friends have been.
  • Yelp, an Facebook extension of the original website, where I can upload my latest restaurant reviews and extend those reviews to my Facebook network.
  • And, "Business Cards", an application that enables you to personalize a business card and attach it to your messages (for self-promotion and networking).
So, there can be a useful and somewhat novel side to Facebook.

On Socializing

Facebook however, is not an ideal substitute for the telephone and/or face-to-face interaction. But for some busy, working, parents like me and my wife, Facebook can be a great way to keep in touch to an extent.

The overbearing fact is, because you get the surreal feeling that you know where your friends are and what they are doing, you may treat a FB notification (e.g. poke, post, tag, etc.) as a false sense of personal interaction. This is unhealthy and detrimental to any relationships that you worked hard to establish (I am totally guilty of this...).

Also remember, that Facebook makes it difficult to interact with just those people with whom you actually know or care about. Other people WILL find you. Yes, this includes people who you may not want to connect with; in which case FB becomes a great way to invite stalkers into your life.

You know that weird trench-coat wearing kid always sitting in the back of the classroom or hanging out under the bleachers in the gym, or that freaky co-worker from your previous job that used to hang around you like a parasite? They WILL find you... unless of course you choose not to publish your school, real name, places of employment, associations, etc. In which case... no one will find you and then... what's the point?

Guilt may keep you from declining that 'friend request' from a person that you do not really know and/or who doesn't really know you. Why anyone other than a friend or associate would want to be on your friends list still puzzles me, but it happens. And best of luck if a nasty manager from your job 'befriends you'...

Some people seem anxious when their Friends list is hovering below 20 or so, thus compensating by adding and requesting friendships from you to the newspaper delivery guy.

Don't get me wrong though... there are many people from the past, with whom I was pleasantly surprised to receive a friend request from. And it's okay to just send along a casual, "What's going on with you... where have you been," message and periodically share updates. But what really annoys me is when someone requests you as a friend, and then never responds to your messages... I mean, what's the point???

Did you just want to peek into my life for gossip's sake? These people... I quickly remove from my Friend's list... two tears in a bucket (as one of my good buddies always says).

Overall the appeal of Facebook is dependent on your preference of use, but here are the pros and cons as I see them:

  • Social Networking for start-up business owners and bloggers has high potential
  • Re-connecting with old friends and keeping in touch with those far away is nice.
  • The knowledge base shared on Facebook is valuable if you can find what you're looking for.
  • If you're an old fart, you're 'hip factor' may be increased by a few points, since you can say that you are on Facebook.
  • Stupid applications are abundant and make you feel obliged to honor a friend's challenge or invitation. Plus, what are programmers really doing with the profile information you grant them access to?
  • Friends may embarrass you... if you're not careful and diligent to check on your daily notifications, your 'friends' may post unappealing or inappropriate pictures that include you, or may make some idiotic comment that may incriminate you and air out your dirty laundry.
  • Employers who have a presence on Facebook make it less fun for those employed... Big Brother is watching!
  • You may attract stalkers if you're not careful.
  • And finally, your productive time will be ultimately wasted if you're sucked into the hype (I speak/write from experience!).
Is Facebook all that and a bag of chips? Personally, I think not. Until more discipline goes around limiting applications to only the most useful, Facebook seems like just another venue for procrastination.

Jul 4, 2008

Deep Thoughts: Daydreams in the office...

So, today was a very slow day at the office, despite the fact that the powers that be released everyone earlier than usual due to the holiday weekend.
While trying hard to remain focused on my lengthy to-do list and managing my calendar for the next week, I could not help but mentally drift away into the realm of daydreams.

As I continuously typed various characters on my keyboard, I reflected on my career, my life, and my aspirations. I almost felt trapped in my fishbowl of an office, wondering if there was an alternate life for me beyond the concrete jungle.
Do any of you ever ever have this type of reflective moment?

I've heard and read many stories of people... successful, corporate people, such as myself and my wife, who decided one day to give it all up and open up shop in some tropical locale... and become permanent vacationers.
I've spoken to several people during my trips to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Greek isles, who fell in love with their surroundings when they were visiting and ventured to make those surroundings a permanent fixture in their own lives. Was something like this even possible for someone like me or you? Well, if you already are a permanent vacationer, you would say, "sure... anything is possible," because you've already taken and survived the risks. If you're an office hamster like me who is tied down by a great paying job, house, child(ren), you would think of a hundred and one things that prevent you from giving it all up.

In an ideal situation, I could take refuge in some 'fantastical' island utopia... drag my family with me... and attempt to make a living by creative means.
*Pop* my thoughts were now just suddenly interrupted by my co-worker wishing me a good weekend.

I'll have to continue these thoughts another time... perhaps with a more rational perspective, or perhaps not. If anyone out there has any good suggestions... let me know...

Jun 26, 2008

Deepm Thoughts: A poem I wrote when I suffered from insomnia...

I dreamt deeply, slept lightly, knew I was awake in my dream,
Thoughts raced through my head, making sense it did seem.
Sometimes I remember, most times I forget
The vivid image that slips from me one I covet
Sleeps’ freedom is lost and my prison returned,
Escape that was welcome was Eutopia unearned
But consciousness may offer aspiration and love
Both are rare treasures, both gifts from above.
Oh the choices I have and the choices I made,
Why do I pursue fairytales that in true life will fade?

Deep Thoughts: A failed commute yields an enlightened journey

Today's commute ended with a bang... and I mean that in a literal sense. The moment my commuter bus emerged from the Holland Tunnel, a pompous, Mercedes-driving, imbecile side-swiped it... startling all the passengers, including myself, out of our usual daze. Many of my fellow riders proceeded to groan and mutter complaints about how this is the fifth time something happened with the buses this month - the worst being the time when the bus broke down on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Others who were already near their stop just shrugged and filed routinely down the single row and continued their journey to their places of employment. So there I was, stuck in the bus, waiting for the police to resolve the incident, ten blocks away from my destination... wondering if I should skip breakfast because I was going to be late, or if I should grab a quick, unhealthy croissant from one of the street vendors lined in front of my building. Hmmmn... choices... choices.

Then it hit me... instead of sitting and waiting for whatever fate had in store for the rest of my commute and my breakfast, I should take my destiny into my own hands. I have a pair of good, strong legs, after all. I exited the bus and quickly made my way past the driver and the Mercedes-driving imbecile, who were trading unpleasant words with each other. With the sun in my face, racing down my head and down my back... I was solar-powered! I took off making long, brisk strides. I had ten minutes to go before I could officially be counted as late. Now it didn't really matter what time I arrived at work, but it just made it all the more fun to give myself a time limit and work toward beating that limit. There were many distractions and obstacles in the way... of course there were the delis calling out for me to stop and smell the pastries and the delicious fried foods. There were also Sunday strollers and the usual tourists that stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to take pictures. But, those things did not slow me down... I weaved effortlessly through them, using the dormant Manhattanite skills that I left behind two years ago. Throughout my "journey" I actually felt real good! It was a beautiful day, and I felt free from the confines of the steel box I relied on daily to get me to where I needed to be. My body parts actually spoke to each other almost as if saying, "hey there... haven't seen or heard from you in awhile", and my heart seemed to sing with delight, as my eyes, ears, and nose took in everything that I have missed... the feeling of being young, fit, and free in New York City! Alas, my journey had to end... my ten minutes, which I reduced to seven, afforded me time to stop at my favorite deli, Maiden Heaven, before heading to my destination. Climbing up the stone stairs of the plaza, I thought to myself... where have I been? I'm going to do this more often...