John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Negotiation Tactics

Negotiation Tactics

Sometimes when you are in a negotiation you can feel like the Washington Generals basketball team (the exhibition team whose record against the Harlem Globetrotters is 6 wins and over 1300 losses).

jyb_musingsYou aren’t asking for parity or for something that will help you win more games. You just want to persuasively plead with the Globetrotters not to run up the score so much in future games.

In such instances, you are not negotiating from a place of strength; but rather a place of pity.

When you find yourself in this negotiating situation, at least try to get an autographed ball from the opposing team.

Julie Rath: How to Choose the Right Tie Width

Skinny, and even slim ties, are not one size fits all. Check out GQ’s August 2010 cover above featuring Zac Galifianakis ridiculously sporting a tie barely two inches wide. While super skinny ties have had their moment (and thankfully seem to be on their way out), one of the most important considerations you can make when getting dressed is scale, i.e. matching the size of the things you put on your body to your body. This creates balance and visual harmony, which is a nice way of saying, I am trying to help you not look like a lollipop.

See how much better Galifianakis looks with a slightly broader tie? It complements the width of his face and large scale of his facial features, whereas the pencil-thin version only emphasizes them.

Bottom line. If you have a broad face and neck, you’re best off with a wider tie. You don’t have to go for the lobster-bib look of the 80’s and 90’s, but consider something in the 3 ¾ -4″ range depending on your size. This way you’ll look more well-proportioned and less tootsie pop. If your face and neck are more average width, you can select a more modern, slim tie, somewhere between 3” and 3 ½” across. Of course, your tie at its widest point should equal your jacket lapel at its widest point, and there are ways to determine that. Stay tuned for more posts on proportion as it relates to other elements of your wardrobe, as it truly is the foundation of sartorial distinction.

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Julie Rath: How to Choose the Right Tie Width

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Why I Love YouTube

jyb_musingsWhy I love YouTube.

Not because it can capture funny home video clips, or humorous gags or sports highlight or memorable musical clips or an embarrassing public moment or a truly newsworthy current event.

Although I enjoy all of those things, too.

Rather, it is because from time to time, a rare gem of a video clip gets formatted to YouTube and shared with the world.

Like, for example, this 1963 interview with Peter O’Toole and Orson Wells discussing Hamlet that reveals the day-to-day personalities of both these extraordinary gentleman.

It’s not just educational; not just entertaining. It’s mesmerizing and magical in its own mundane way.

And that is why I love YouTube.

Josh Bowen: Without Consistency



Without consistency there is no progress

Story time.

When I was an exercise science student at the University of Kentucky, I had to take swimming in order to graduate. Why? Who knows but also would think it would be difficult. I’m not an avid swimmer, I do better under the water than on top but I absolutely hate cold water. I freeze easy and it’s hard for me to move any part of my body. The very thought of cold water makes me cringe but I needed this class to graduate and I was taking it in January no less. The first day of class the teacher throws us in the water to see where our “skills” were. Back stroke, front stroke, butterfly all your favorite Olympic disciples were graded. She would decide if we needed to be in the class or would need to drop it. I couldn’t of done worse. I damn near drowned in the water and ran out of gas easy because it was so cold. Did I mention I don’t do cold? Anyway, the next class the teacher pulled me aside and asked me to drop the class. Appalled, I asked why and she replied “you don’t have the skills to pass my class.” I told her I wouldn’t be dropping her class and I would show up an hour early everyday to practice. Her reply, “good luck.” Seriously, who makes swimming hard?

So everyday I showed up to the UK aquatics center an hour before class to practice my strokes. I braved the cold weather and cold pool, to get use to it so I could show this teacher she was wrong. I was consistent and with my consistency, I saw progress. Real progress. So good I amazed this teacher and I got an A in the class. Now, everyone should get an A in swimming, that’s not impressive, the point is I was consistent and I got better. Much better. We have to apply this principle to fitness. You can’t expect great results with minimal effort. The infomercials lie to you. Using a Shake Weight is not going to help you lose 15lbs, it’s just that simple. But also with that, you can’t expect significant results if you are not consistent in two areas:

1. Your workouts
2. Your diet

So here are two strategies to help with consistency as we make this fitness journey together:

1. Commit less- This may sound weird but as I’ve said before we often commit too much too soon that it becomes sensory overload and we quit. It becomes too much to maintain. Had I told the teacher I would be in the pool five days a week, there would be no way for me to keep that pace consistent (nor would I want too). Commit to what you think you can do. This works for your nutrition as well. Commit to eating one vegetable at dinner, 3 nights per week. Any one can do this. This creates momentum. There is great value in little, everyday successes. Foundation is always something to build off of.

2. Commit more- Contrary to the above, some people may be able to commit to more because they are ready for more. If this is you make consistency a commitment, a marriage. Start what you finish and don’t let off the gas pedal.

In order to see progress we NEED consistency. It is vital to anything we want to accomplish.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Sales Techniques

Sales techniques: connecting with the customer.

It is important, sales people are taught, to find ways to identify with the customer to help build rapport.

Last night I had an experience with a sales clerk who tried this technique on me–but it didn’t have quite the intended effect.

I was shopping for a plain blue dress shirt. The sales rep was a heavy roundish fellow who was very affable and extremely helpful.

We found my size but I learned there were three different tailoring styles within my size.

The sales clerk explained, “This shirt has a taper on it and is for men who, you know, still have the wide shoulders and narrow waist (he used his hands to illustrate a small waist). And the shirt you are holding is for guys who, well, who are just really skinny and always will be and have narrow shoulders (he made hand gesture for narrow shoulders). These guys will never have much meat on them.”

jyb_musingsHe then reached over and grabbed a third blue dress shirt and proceeded, “And then this shirt is for guys like you and me.”

Hmmmm. I guess we sorta connected with that observation but I didn’t care for it personally. Just wasn’t expecting it and almost asked for the tapered shirt because I’m on this new diet.

But didn’t.

I bought the shirt. And the hell of it is that the shirt fits perfectly.


Artur Davis: Christie’s Other Big Problem

A second week into Chris Christie’s soap opera, one sign of trouble is pretty hard to dispute: subpoenas and inquiries from federal prosecutors almost never end well for politicians, and the newest allegation, of conditioning access to federal grant money on a political favor, fits the four corners of federal criminal statutes much more neatly than the traffic tie-up element of the affair. And of course, if the legal side of the equation unravels, the political side collapses with it.

Assuming that the worst case doesn’t transpire, the Christie camp ought to still fear something else, and it goes beyond the conventional wisdom that Christie looks petty, vindictive, and guilty of fostering a culture of retaliation. That risk is obviously real enough, but probably more likely to rub off on insiders than Republican caucus and primary voters, and may not ultimately prove more damaging to voters than Ted Cruz’s embrace of obstructionism or the more exotic pieces of Rand Paul’s profile.

In fact, there are already early signs that Christie is being insulated with Republicans for the simple reason that his sharpest inquisitors are a left-wing cable network and the ever disreputable beast in Republican circles, the mainstream media.

And therein lies the more subtle danger to Christie—the possibility that his effort to armor himself by donning the hardware of conservative resentment remakes the governor into the partisan warrior he has so assiduously avoided becoming. To put this in perspective, consider that the general election promise of a Christie candidacy has always had two related components: (1) that he is not the kind of Republican who revels in pseudo theories about socialist conspiracies being cooked up in Washington and (2) that his best (and shrewdest) critique of Barack Obama has arisen from a high ground that is not terribly partisan, namely that five years of liberal ascension have contributed to rather than softened the country’s divisions.

davis_artur-11That profile explains how Christie has so effectively assailed liberal interest group politics in New Jersey as a threat to the common good without seeming overly ideological. It is also what enabled Christie to practice a genuinely coalitional reelection strategy last year, which was stunningly effective in splintering the Democratic voting base, from Latinos to blacks to suburban female professionals.

It is hardly that Christie is some anodyne, passionless figure who keeps votes in play by saying little and offending no sacred cows. Instead, the Christie persona has been that he is the rare Republican whose anger seems less directed at lost cultural ground, or Obama’s presumptions, or dark fantasies about diminished liberty, and more at the dysfunction and smallness of the current political landscape.

Can that image survive if Christie’s mainline of defense is that he is just another Republican under siege by the left? How much is left of Christie’s national appeal if he is about to morph into another Fox Republican? And even in the context of the Republican nomination, just how sustainable is the path of conservative warrior for a politician who has been known to bristle at right-wing orthodoxy on guns, the environment, and healthcare?

Assuming that Christie’s fingerprints aren’t found any places that they shouldn’t be, I would still bet that the verdict on the governor’s character and political style will end up being rendered by the primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, not the thirty-somethings at MSNBC and Politico, much less a handful of government lawyers. But Christie’s center-right admirers ought to worry that the tactics of survival don’t end up erasing what made Christie worth admiring in the first place.

Lauren Mayer: Uncle Sugar vs. Carlos Danger

Yes, folks, once again it’s time for a male politician to introduce us to an outlandish character, in the course of either sending indiscreet texts or making tone-deaf remarks about women.  And for the record, I am NOT taking Mike Huckabee’s remarks out of context – I know he was saying that he believes Democrats are the ones ‘making women believe they are helpless without Uncle Sugar providing them a prescription for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.’   You know, because the Democrats’ real war on women is forcing us to make our own decisions and denying us mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds . . . ?     (Not to mention an apparently confused idea of exactly what birth control pills do . . . )

At any rate, it was yet another example of why men of either party should stay away from sex – from talking about it, from texting about it, and certainly from making up middle-school-worthy aliases.  Fortunately, I was raised by a feminist mother (which had some disadvantages – I was never allowed to have a Barbie because my mom disapproved of the unrealistic body image expectations generated by a doll whose real life measurements would be 39-21-33, who would be 6′ and weigh 100 lbs. . . . . . but I digress).  Anyway, as an unpopular late-blooming geeky high school sophomore (whose real life measurements at the time were approximately 24-24-24), I came in for a fair amount of name-calling and teasing.  One day I complained to my mother about the football captain in my physics class who constantly leered at me, “Hey, Mayer – your place or mine?” and made his buddies erupt in raucous laughter.  (Remember, this was way before anyone had heard of ‘sexual harassment’ – it was only a couple of years after girls were finally allowed to wear pants at my school!)  Mom suggested I try joking back (reminding me of the scene in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn where Francie is ostracized by the other girls at her first job until she laughs at something . . . like I said, I was a geek!)  So the next day, when he re-used the same joke for the 47th time (and confirmed that he was a jock and no scholar-athlete), I retorted, “How about my place tonight and yours tomorrow, if you’re man enough?”  His friends laughed, he turned beet red, and that was the end of the teasing.   And I learned a valuable lesson!

In other words,  Mike Huckabee just wrote my next song for me . . .

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Learning to Fail

We all want our kids to learn how to handle success and to strive to achieve and excel.

But that’s only half the equation. Maybe less. Learning to fail….learning to cope with disappointment, disillusionment and downright depression whenever you try hard for something and coming up short—maybe way short–is indispensable to being a thriving and resilient human being.

Oh,… I’ve had my share of experiences with failure– but one experience in particular that comes to mind is something that happened my sophomore year at Bellarmine College (now Bellarmine University)

Bellarmine had a student essay contest and offered prizes for first, second and third place. I fancied myself a good writer and wanted to give it a shot. It was the first time I’d entered a competition like this and I worked late into the night several nights in a row writing, editing, rewriting and refining my essay. When I finished, I felt I had a mini-masterpiece. I was just sure my little five page essay would get the attention of the judges and stand out enough, I hoped, to somehow place.

The judging took several weeks. I found out which professors were on the judging committee and asked them when the winners would be announced. I was really hoping they’d offer some tidbit about how much they liked my essay, too. One did, Professor Wade Hall.  The other, whose name escapes me, was in the men’s room when I ran into him and awkwardly asked him when he expected the winner’s to be announced. He turned his head and said, “Not long. There were only three entrants so it shouldn’t be much longer.”

“Only three entrants?!” I was “in.” I was guaranteed to “place.” I was ecstatic. Of course, I’d rather be able to say I placed among, say, fifty entrants. But placing among just three was OK with me–as long as it didn’t leak out that there were only three competing.

Another week passed and nothing. I worked in a tutoring center in the afternoons and while there late in the afternoon I called Bellarmine and was told the winners had been posted next to the cafeteria.

I was so eager to see where I had placed I was about to burst with excitement. Maybe I had won. If so, I could put that on my resume and law school application. Maybe I could go to Harvard law school. Or at least Vandy or Georgetown. The possibilities were endless. Heck, I didn’t care if I finished third. At least I placed!

jyb_musingsI called my sister, Sissy, and asked her to drive over to Bellarmine since I was at work and to please check the posting outside the cafeteria that listed the the three winners of the essay contest. She said she would and would call me with the winners as soon as she could.

I waited and waited….pacing excitedly back and forth. I imagined what it would feel like to officially be one of the winners of a “college essay contest.” I had arrived in academia. I wondered if I’d have to give a speech or thank you address. That would be fine. I’d be ready.

The phone rang at the learning center and I grabbed it. It was my sister Sissy.

“John,” she said, “It’s kinda weird. It says they decided to only award two winners and your name isn’t one of them. I guess because there was only three entrants they only awarded two winners. I’m sorry.”

I was devastated. I asked Sissy to go back and check again. And make sure she read the list correctly and was reading the right list. She did and she was.

And so there you have it. One moment, writing my ticket to an elite law school. The next humbled and humiliated that my third place essay was so weak the judges dropped the third place

But I let it sink in and decided it was a good learning experience and  would try to pick my spots better in the future but to keep trying–and to be grateful for the opportunity to compete and even more grateful when I achieved any small level of successes.

The footnote to this story is I ended up an UK law school and loved it. I graduated with honors. And entered an essay contest on criminal law my second year in law school. The paper had to be about 25 pages and contain about 100 footnotes. About 50 second and third year law students entered the contest.

I won.

Actually, I was a co-winner. The auditorium was filled with the entrants when they announced the winner. Professor Welling addressed us and said, “We didn’t have any one essay that really “wowed” us but we had two essays that were really solid so we are splitting the award between two students” and she named me and another student.

OK, it was an unenthusiastic announcement and I had to split the scholarship money. But I got the award. And it’s hanging in my law office today.

But the far more valuable lesson I learned in my essay competition experiences was how to humiliatingly lose, accept it, and learn to bounce back and try harder next time.

Because I had learned the important life lesson that life isn’t about winning. It’s about playing your best and playing honorably  and doing so day after day and being grateful for the opportunity —regardless of the outcome.

And I learned that important life lesson not from being a successful winner but by learning how to be a successful loser. Which is even more important to learn how to do if you want to be a winner in the game of life.

Berry Craig: The ‘fresh face’ who wants to retire Ed Whitfield

DSC_04600008Wesley Bolin, a 25-year-old college student from Murray, knows it usually takes a ton of money, name recognition and some political experience to win a seat in Congress.

The candidate confesses he lacks all three.

Plus, Bolin is running as an unabashed liberal in the First Congressional District, where more than a few voters cast ballots based on what some wags call the “Four Gs – God, guns, gays and government.”

“People say we need a fresh face in Washington,” said Bolin, a Democrat who wants to unseat 10-term incumbent Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield in November. “Well, nobody’s face is fresher than mine.”

Bolin’s mug is also bearded.  He considered shaving his whiskers for the campaign but decided against it “because it is better to look 25 than twelve. My beard isn’t presidential like Lincoln’s, but I think it looks congressional.”

Bolin is a senior history major at hometown Murray State University. His dad, Dr. Duane Bolin, is a history professor, author and well-known Kentucky historian.

Both Bolins are partial to hand-tied bow ties. Neither Bolin minds being compared to the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.

The Bolins, Wesley, his dad, mom Evelyn, and sister, Cammie Jo, are devout Southern Baptists and active in the Murray Baptist Church.

The candidate believes in strict separation of church and state and promises not to pander on the social issues. “I believe in equality for all Kentuckians,” he declared.
Bolin leans decidedly leftward on economic issues. He is for upping the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits to the approximately 1.4 million jobless Americans whose eligibility ended Dec. 28. Bolin is also pro-Affordable Care Act.

Bolin, like his dad, is a fan of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The candidate favors New Deal-style public works programs.

He is staunchly pro-labor, declaring “I learned a lot about unions listening to Pete Seeger songs.”

Bolin opposes right to work laws. He supports prevailing wage laws and the Employee Free Choice Act. He believes public employees should have the right to unionize.

He opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar trade deals including the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, “NAFTA on steroids” to its opponents.

He said he isn’t fazed by the fact that the district delivered more than        66 percent of its vote to Republican Mitt Romney over President Obama in 2012. Nor is he daunted because Whitfield piled up nearly 70 percent of district ballots against Charles Hatchett, another little known and underfunded Democrat, and a conservative, to boot . Hatchett has also filed in the Democratic primary.

Bolin knows his path to Washington is a steep climb. “I’ve only been to Washington twice,” he confessed, “once on a band trip.”

He says a big reason he decided to run for congress “is because I’m tired of having to choose between the lesser of two ‘who cares’ on election day.”

Bolin plans to shake a lot of hands across the district, which meanders from the Mississippi River through western Kentucky and rolls eastward to Casey County in south central Kentucky. “But I’m not kissing any babies until after flu season.”

He added, “In 20 years, I’ve learned to read and write, tie my shoes, ride a bicycle and play two instruments – banjo poorly, and saxophone well . A lot has changed for the better in my life, but the district hasn’t changed for the better since Newt Gingrich helped elect Ed Whitfield in 1994.”

Bolin says he has no choice but to run a campaign on a shoestring.  Between classes, he works as a library assistant and makes $8.92 an hour. He will take a leave of absence to hit the campaign trail.

Bolin said he understands all too well that Whitfield enjoys an almost bottomless campaign war chest, much of it filled by well-heeled contributors, the candidate added. The Democrat doubts any corporate cash will come his way.

Bolin’s email address is  Also, he can be reached at his official Facebook page, and on twitter @wesleybolin.

Erica and Matt Chua: Australia

The land down-under, a sunburned country, home of deadly animals, no matter what you call it, Australia is known for many things.  No matter what your expectations, Australia will impress you, with cosmopolitan cities, untouched wilderness and rich marine life.  It is a country that many visitors fall in love with and rightly so, with something for everyone.  To see and understand it though, takes a commitment of time, money and, of course, getting to the most remote continent.  The rewards of making the trip are worth it, but make sure to plan and prepare your trip lest you be surprised by the $20 USD 6-packs of beer, $4 coffees, and $22 fish and chips.


DON’T MISS: Tasmania, it is one of the few places we’ve ever visited and wanted to call home.
MUST SEE: Great barrier reef, Great Ocean Road, wineries near Adelaide, and the fabulous cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
MUST TASTEPavlova and meat pie.


TRIP PLANNING: Australia is huge, it takes at least a few weeks to visit the key sights (Great Barrier Reef, Great Ocean Road, Melbourne and Sydney).  If you want to see any more of the country plan for at least a month.
GETTING AROUND: Virgin Blue Airpass, for as little as $90 a flight, you can fly from city to city in Australia.  Once you land in a city renting a car is a good option as an economy car for the day costs the same as the airport bus/train links to the city centers.


OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $123.76, the most expensive country we’ve visited on this trip.
COST OF A BEER: $3 from a liquor store, $6 at a bar.  A six-pack at a liquor store costs at least $18 AUD, making Australia probably the most expensive Western country to buy beer in.  Wine is much more accessible at under $10 a bottle.
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Couchsurfing.  We paid for accommodation three of 31 days as we couchsurfed, this not only saved money, but allowed us to meet locals, see interesting places, and have a lot of fun.


YOU NEED TO KNOW: Airport transfers are ridiculous, it cost us about $60 AUD (round-trip) for the both of us to get between the airport and most Australian cities.  If you need a car in any of the cities rent them from the airport and save the excessive transportation cost to the city.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have given ourselves more time to visit Perth, Ayer’s rock, Darwin and to just slow down.  Four weeks was not enough to comfortably see all we did.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Aussie money savers, tips to free things to do in AustraliaAustralia’s best wineriesAustralia Tourism Board (they have exceptional information), Wikitravel AustraliaVirgin Blue Airpass.  Any suggestions?  Please let us know by sending them our way!


WE WERE THERE FOR: Four weeks.
WHERE WE WENT: Sydney, Townsville/Magnetic Island (Great Barrier Reef), Brisbane, Tasmania, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Adelaide
WE REGRET MISSING: The Outback.  Had we known that there were affordable tours such as these, we would have made the trip up to Ayer’s rock.

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