John Y’s Musings from the Middle: “Survivor: For Real”

reality tvIdea for a new reality TV show

“Survivor: For Real”

Twelve companies that provide online services (e.g. reservations, etc) –and then make it nearly impossible to ever reach a human by phone and, if you do, it is only to talk to a well-trained call center worker who has memorized every conceivable polite way of telling you you will get absolutely no help— will have their CEOs and call center employees transported to a marooned island with no food or shelter or cell phones.

jyb_musingsAlso on the island are the frustrated customers of these 12 companies and they will have much more food and shelter than they need –as well as having cell phones. But this group will be unable to talk live to any of the CEOs or call center workers who are begging for food and shelter because they will be on their cell phones and can’t be bothered. But they will be very polite about explaining why they can’t talk or help right now. And tell them to have a nice day and ask if they would agree to participate in a customer service survey.

The ensuing fun will be something most every viewer will be able to appreciate.

Please Vote for Me — on Dancing with the Stars

Dancing with the Stars 2I never thought I’d say this again, but…I’d like to ask for your vote.

Don’t worry: I haven’t fallen off the recovering politician wagon.

Lisa and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary by competing in Lexington’s version of Dancing with the Stars (sponsored by our local Rotary Club).  And despite my two left liberal feet, with the awesome instruction of Arthur Murray dance teacher Rae Dunn, and the continued fitness direction of globally-recognized personal trainer Josh Bowen, we’re actually getting in pretty good shape for the competition on May 10.

But I need your help.

(Sorry for that last sentence.  My fundraising letter-writing muscle is to blame)

Your vote matters. and it is easy, affordable and for a great cause.  Click here and scroll down the left side of the page to my picture, enter the number of votes you want to cast (at $5 per vote), and click the button at the bottom of the page to “pay now and vote.”

Your $5 contribution will go straight to benefit an incredible local program: Surgery on Sunday, as well as to the Lexington Rotary Club Endowment Fund, which supports more than 15 local community initiatives and charitable endeavors including the Carnegie Center of Literacy and Learning, Central Kentucky Radio Eye, Saint James Place, Explorium of Lexington, The Friends of the Arboretum, God’s Pantry Food Bank,  International Book Project, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Mustang Troop, OWL-Opportunity for Work and Learning, Toyota Bluegrass Miracle League, World Fit and the YMCA of Central Kentucky Back to School Rallies.

So please click here, vote for me early and often (just $5 a vote!!!), and I promise not to run any negative campaign ads against my opponents.  (Of course, if independent groups and 527s join the fray, I can’t do anything about that.)

Julie Rath: Follow these Six Rules for Success in Any Meeting

Today’s post is courtesy of speech and communication specialist, Marjorie  Feinstein-Whittaker, of The  Whittaker Group. I was introduced to Marjorie by a client and have been  thoroughly impressed by the progress she’s made with his communication skills  throughout the course of my work with him.

Men's Image Consulting: Communication SkillsMany of us spend a significant amount of work time  in meetings ranging from routine staff and management meetings, to client  presentations, and more. Unfortunately, these frequent opportunities for  education, collaboration, and communication are often perceived as boring,  unproductive, and even contentious. One of the most important things you  can do to make your participation in meetings positive is to be a good  listener. By offering your full and focused attention, and conveying  respectful and socially appropriate behaviors, you can build and maintain  healthy long-term business relationships. This is easier said than done. Many of us have both verbal and non-verbal habits that can sabotage our  best efforts. However, if you identify and address some of these  behaviors, you can learn how to exude confidence, competence and poise.

If you typically:

1. Interrupt others – If you have an enthusiastic, perhaps  impulsive personality, it may be difficult not to blurt out comments at  inopportune times. Take a slow, deep breath, or silently count to three  before you speak. If you inadvertently interrupt someone, acknowledge  it by apologizing, and encouraging the speaker to go on. For example, “I am  sorry for interrupting. Please finish what you were saying.” If you need to  interrupt a speaker to get a meeting back on track, or give another participant  time to reply, raise your hand slightly (to chest level), and acknowledge the  speaker by name. “James, I’m sorry to have to cut you off, but I promised I  would leave 10 minutes for Q and A.”

2. Have a trash-mouth –

If you are a person who litters their speech with expletives to get attention  or express extremes of emotions, you are negatively affecting your  professionalism and credibility. It is best to refrain from inappropriate or  potentially offensive remarks. Work on expanding your vocabulary so you can  explicitly and appropriately convey your thoughts and emotions. Instead of  saying, “It was a damn good meeting,” try something like, “The meeting exceeded  all of our expectations.” Learn how to choose your words carefully.  Rehearse alternative ways of expressing your feelings and ideas in a more  professional manner. If your colleagues include nonnative English  speakers, be careful not to use unfamiliar figurative expressions, slang or  colloquialisms which may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Also avoid jargon  or acronyms that might be unfamiliar to some members of the group.

3. See the glass as half-empty –

If you are the nay-sayer in the group, think of ways to re-frame what  you say with a more positive spin. Instead of remarking, “That is never  going to work,” or “That is a ridiculous proposal,” try something like, “This  project is going to be challenging. Perhaps if we delegate the responsibilities,  we can meet the deadline.”

4. Have “monkey-brain” –

If you sit in meetings and your mind jumps from one thing to another as if  you were swinging from tree to tree by your tail in the jungle, you need to  learn how to focus. Of course there are a myriad of external distractors, such  as people walking past your office, interesting things outside the window,  office chatter, and buzzing smart phones. There are also internal thoughts that  may range from a growling stomach to how you feel about your co-worker on a  given day. Learn how to be in the moment. Look at the person who is  speaking, and really listen with your eyes, body and mind. Offer to  take the minutes. This task will ensure that you are really engaged and  listening mindfully.

5. Ramble, mumble, or speak too softly or rapidly –

Sometimes it is difficult to get to the point, especially if you are asked a  question that you didn’t anticipate. Instead of answering immediately, take a  breath, and organize your thoughts silently. Create a mini outline in your mind  so you can stay on topic and avoid rambling. A convenient acronym to help you  achieve this is T-I-E-S. T= re-state or paraphrase the question or  topic I= introduce your main idea E=  cite 2-3 supporting facts or examples   S=summarize

Make sure you speak at a reasonable pace (not too fast or slow), and at an  adequate volume (not too soft or loud). Finish the ends of your words, and don’t  let your voice trail off at the ends of words. Try to minimize stereotypical and  meaningless remarks such as, “Do you hear what I am saying,” and empty fillers  such as “you know,” “It was like,” “uh,” etc. Pause silently, and speak when you  have something worthwhile to say. Make sure you speak with varied pitch and  intonation, and avoid a monotone (boring) delivery.

6. Send the wrong message without saying a word –

It is extremely important to be aware of what kinds of non-verbal messages  you are sending through eye contact, gestures, and body language. For example,  bouncing your leg, drumming your fingers, or rolling your eyes could convey  impatience or frustration. Closing your eyes/pinching the bridge of your nose,  looking away and yawning could convey boredom, and raising your eyebrows,  covering your mouth with your hands could convey disbelief. Much of what  we say isn’t spoken at all. Try to maintain appropriate eye contact  with speakers, lean forward with your body, and nod to convey interest and  attentiveness.

Of course, you cannot control what other colleagues or clients say or do in  meetings, but you can control your reactions. You will find that being a good  listener who is in the moment will have benefits that go beyond the  Boardroom.

Men's Image Consulting: Speech and Communication Specialist

Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker is owner and principal consultant at The Whittaker Group in Boston and is co-founder of ESL  RULES. Her companies  provide assessment and consultation services to both  native and nonnative English speakers in a variety of fields. She develops and  delivers specialized foreign and regional accent modification programs  and  customized workplace communication programs for those seeking to improve the  clarity and effectiveness of their speech and communication. Marjorie works with  clients from all over the world, both in person and via distance learning. Her  training programs have been featured on The Today Show and many local  media outlets.

You can contact Marjorie here.

-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more: http://rathandco.com/2014/03/follow-these-6-rules-for-success-in-any-meeting/#ixzz2xZ1CJ78r

Jeff Smith: Chris Christie is Toast

Chris ChristieThe good news for Chris Christie is that some of the country’s most prominent  pundits believe that nearly three months after the George Washington Bridge  scandal first broke, the New Jersey governor is in good shape.

“You go around and you talk to Republicans, and they like Chris Christie more  today than they did three months ago … other than Jeb Bush, he still has the  clearest path to this nomination,” said“Morning Joe” host and Politico columnist Joe Scarborough last Tuesday,  apparently not as an April Fool’s joke. Scarborough reasoned that the liberal  media’s Christie pile-on might have endeared the governor to some conservatives  put off by his post-Hurricane Sandy embrace of President Barack Obama.

The bad news for Christie is that unlike some pundits, federal prosecutors  are not persuaded by white-shoe law firms’ “independent” investigations or  confrontational press conferences during which politicians are said to have  regained their “mojo.” Political pundits don’t tend to think like lawyers;  they’re focused on the horse race. It’s no wonder the narrative thus far has  downplayed legal liability.

I noted this divide in January, when I predicted  that Christie’s real problem was legal, not political, and that he would  ultimately be brought down not by Bridgegate itself but by an unrelated  investigation stemming from it in the same way that Monica Lewinsky had nothing  to do with an ill-fated Arkansas land deal called Whitewater and Al Capone went  down for tax evasion. Federal prosecutorial tentacles would make an octopus  envious. And so despite two marathon press conferences, a 360-page report  produced after an internal investigation by Christie’s lawyer Randy Mastro and  beheadings for much of his inner circle, Christie is actually in worse  shape than he was in when the scandal first broke.

***

The first reason for this is simple. As I know  all too well, having gone to prison for charges related to campaign finance  violations, years can elapse between the time federal agencies first begin  probing a target and the time they actually bring charges, and the deliberate,  exhaustive nature of federal investigations is legend. (To take one example,  when I reported for my post-conviction interview with agents, they knew the  dates I had visited a casino and amounts of money I had withdrawn from an ATM a  decade earlier, despite this being totally unrelated to the investigation.) Just  ask Vincent Gray, the soon-to-be  former mayor of Washington, D.C., who has been on the defensive after a  multi-year federal investigation into his campaign finances. The recent lull in  the Christie case (briefly interrupted Friday afternoon by the appearance  of Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak before a grand jury) may be just an  illusion—a glassy ocean surface with vicious activity occurring in the depths.  No one who talks to the feds would breathe a word, for multiple reasons, from  the obvious (prosecutorial orders/fear of an obstruction of justice charge) to  the more subtle (the shame of snitching on a beloved boss and patron).

Christie’s continuing  travel and exceptional  fundraising as Republic Governors Association chair and likely  presidential candidate is aimed in large part at combating the impression of  a weakening governor with all avenues of political advancement quickly closing.  But given the length, breadth and opacity of federal investigations, this is  like a surfer in the eye of the hurricane exhorting his pals, “Rain’s stopped – surf’s up!”

Perhaps there’s even a whiff of denial on Christie’s part: If I just  pretend that everything’s back to normal, and wow the national Republican  audiences who like me more than ever, maybe this will all fade away.

Jeff SmithI know the psychology well: After the feds knocked on my door the morning of  my re-election kickoff fundraiser, I gritted my teeth, raised $100,000 that  night (on the advice of counsel, who recommended that I proceed as if nothing  were amiss) and wished the successful event could make it all go away. (I ended  up returning all the donations.) But while a federal target is traipsing around  with billionaires in Orlando and Las Vegas, the gears of justice continue  grinding away with a singular focus. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like  a nail; and for federal prosecutors focused on public corruption, the bigger the  public figure, the larger the scalp. Of course, the only thing sweeter than  bringing down a front-running presidential candidate would be nabbing one who  made his name prosecuting public corruption as a U.S. attorney.

The second reason Christie may be in worse shape now is the accumulation of  troubling information about David Samson. The Christie-appointed Port Authority  Commission chairman’s continued silence in the face of emails suggesting that he  wanted to “retaliate” against Port Authority staff who re-opened the lanes is disturbing enough. In  another e-mail, Samson accused the authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye  (who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat) of “stirring up  trouble” by talking about the lane closures. Both of these contemporaneous  emails strongly indicate that if – as Christie has maintained – Samson denied  knowing the reason for the lane closures, he was lying. If Samson, per the  emails, knew the truth then and told Christie, the governor has been lying.  Neither option suits Christie, which may explain why the internal investigatory  report essentially ignored the emails.

But far more problematic from a legal perspective are the myriad conflict of  interest questions raised by the involvement of Samson’s law firm, Wolff &  Samson, in Port Authority business. First came Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s  allegation that New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Christie ally, threatened to  withhold hurricane recovery aid to Hoboken – one of the state’s hardest hit  cities – unless Zimmer agreed to support a billion-dollar development project  spearheaded by a Wolff & Samson client. Guadagno strenuously denies  that accusation as “false” and “illogical,” but MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki obtained  emails related to the project sent from a Wolff & Samson attorney  representing the developer to a Hoboken city attorney, pressing Hoboken’s  attorney to speak with Samson and copying him on the email. If the Port  Authority chairman’s law associate was trying to muscle the city into  green-lighting a development—and keeping him in the loop on his activities—that  would obliterate the line between Samson’s personal business interests and his  public role as chairman.

Read the rest of…
Jeff Smith: Chris Christie is Toast

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Car Alarms

04car-alarm-manDon’t you hate it when you are trying to work in your office and someone’s car alarm goes off…..?

And blares on…..?

And on….?

And you start to wonder if the owner knows their car is driving everyone within earshot crazy …..?

jyb_musingsAnd then finally give in and go outside and try to figure out how to determine which car it is in your office parking lot that is going off and hope you can find someone who knows the car owner and they can get hold of them to turn off the annoying and offensive car alarm……?

And realize it is your car?

Josh Bowen: Never Waiver

76

This week I needed something. I needed something that would instill positivity in my opinions of the world. Lately, all I hear about is death, disease, war etc. on the TV (one of the reason I do not watch television). And right on cue is a story about a young man with Down Syndrome who signed an NBA contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. A story about a boy who was his high school basketball team’s student manager who was given an opportunity to finally fulfill his dream of playing basketball…and made the best of that opportunity. This young man is unafraid of his situation and though his condition limits certain things, his enthusiasm and passion never waiver. It was refreshing. It was a feel good story. And maybe it is an example that could be applied to all aspects of life?

if-you-could-not-fail

If you knew for certain you couldn’t fail, what would you attempt? Would you exercise more? Would save more money? Would you open a business? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

This young man has everything against him but shows heart and valor and a love for a game on par with the professional players he will be sitting with. He doesn’t think of failure, he thinks of opportunities and lets his passion lead the way.

I challenge you this week to think about what you would do if you knew you would not fail. Whatever that is, find a way to go do it. This young man did and his life is forever changed.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Diet Update

Diet-Meme1Week 10 of my diet and down 14.7 lbs (oh hell, let’s just day 15 lbs!)

My goal is 12 more pounds. Not sure why that is my goal other than Kent Oyler, who is my height and much fitter than I am, told me what he weighed when I was starting my diet and I decided I wanted to look like him. We were at an event at the Kentucky Science Center and talked about it. I never told him that because it sounds kind of creepy but it’s the truth.

I lost 12 lbs the first 6 weeks and only 3 lbs the past 4 weeks….but I am moving in the right direction–just slowly.

It may be summertime before I have my Kent Oyler-esque bod. But I looked at a picture of Kent and I on Facebook just now and I think it will be worth the wait. And that sounds really, really creepy and is probably something I should have just kept to myself. But dieting finds the strangest motivators and that is all I am trying to say.

And if Kent sees this post please know that just because I imagine your physique in my mind daily as an idealized motivator for my diet, I am not imaging your body in any kind of weird way that should concern Kathy. I swear. It is just a dietary tool and totally normal, I am sure. I hope. And thanks for being my inspiration. And I don’t mean that in any kind of weird way either. I really don’t. I swear.

jyb_musingsLook, all I am trying to say here is I have lost 15 lbs and have 12 lbs to go. And when I get there perhaps Kent Oyler and I can dress up like twins one day just for fun. OK, I know that is really, really weird and I am totally joking. Promise!!

Although…I suppose it could be kinda cool. But probably not. Not “probably not” that I will lose the additional 12 pounds but “probably not” that when I do Kent and I will dress in the same outfit one day. Unless, of course, Kent insisted on it. Out of respect for him I would have to consider it then. But it would have to be his idea. And even if I ageed to do it I would pull Kent aside and tell him I thought his idea was a little weird and I wasn’t completely comfortable with it. But I would do it anyway because Kent’s a good guy I respect a lot and I feel like I owe him.

===

Diet update: For the first time in 3 months, I went shopping for a new pair of pants.

3 months ago I wore a 38×29 (and was pushing it at 38 in and measured 39″) –but today fit comfortably into, get this, 35×30 pants.

That’s right. I have lost 4 inches in my waist.

But perhaps even more impressive, I have –apparently–grown an inch as well. And I wasn’t even trying to grow. Buying a pair of medium boxers ….well….that was just showing off.

Lauren Mayer: Good News Can Be Funny, Too!

As a political humorist, I gravitate toward bad news and schadenfreude. This is hardly surprising since satirists are often inspired by idiotic comments, horrible laws, and ludicrous judicial decisions.

I’m getting ready to record an album of my “greatest hits,” songs from my weekly videos going back to the 2012 election, and I’m noticing how many of them were inspired by things that would have otherwise made me angry. These include Todd Akin’s “shut that whole thing down,” Paul Ryan blaming poverty on lazy inner city men, the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook, and the dire need for a minimum wage increase. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this— humor has always been used to cope with difficulty by ridiculing authority, highlighting hypocrisy, and helping people laugh at what might otherwise make them cry.

However, it’s nice to change things up a bit. As my dad used to say, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” (Which is either brilliant, or weirdly redundant.  As were most of his aphorisms, including “Eschew obfuscation” – if you need a definition, ask a teenager who just finished SATs.  But I digress.)

Last week there was still plenty of news to inspire dark humor, but the ACA enrollment news was surprisingly good. Add that to my love of word play and seeing a short-lived internet pun, and I decided it was time to celebrate instead of skewer.  (Okay, I took a few digs at the Obamacare nay-sayers, but gloating is too hard to resist!)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: De-victimize yourself

Playing the VictimIf you are an adult and think you are a victim in life, you are sadly correct.

You are a victim of your own need to be a victim.

I am not saying we are not sometimes victimized. We most certainly are. People get raped, maimed, murdered, and harmed physically and emtionally in inmumerable and unthinkable ways. But those instances of being victimized are situational and do not permanently define us.

Unless, of course, we decide it is preferable to be defined as a victim than to get on with our life.

There are many enticing advantages to being a victim. When we are in that role we get pity, attention, compassion, concern, are the center of attention, less is expected of us and we expect less of ourseleves.

Not a bad deal.

jyb_musingsIf you don’t mind spending your life “on the sidelines,” so to speak. We are like an injured athlete that sits with the team during the games but never gets to play and we are always pointing to our injury to explain why.

We nurture and promote how we have been harmed until it really does define us.

It is as though we place a sign around our neck for all to see that says, “Wounded. Don’t expect much of me.”

But on our back is another sign that only others can see that says, “Because I choose to be a victim. And don’t expect much of myself.”

And the sign on our back doesn’t come off until we take off the sign that proclaims we are a victim –that we put on ourselves.

George Phillips: The View from a Dukie

Aaron Harrison Shot WisconsinEditors’ Note:  The author, a Duke alum,  is one of my very best friends, and also one of my biggest enemies on game day.  I have excerpted a letter he wrote me this morning.

I didn’t text or call last night because I knew how crushing that loss must have been, and even this may be too soon.  But you know I hope you will forgive me for intruding on your, “It was a great season moment.”

You had the most talented team in the nation, they were favored, they could taste it and they deserved it having beaten Wichita State, Michigan and Louisville, and they were playing UConn who lost to Louisville 3 times this year, once by 30 points, who the Cats killed twice this year.  I know you thought even if UConn was able to lead in the first half it would only a matter of time before UK’s immense talent would take over and dominate in the second half.  It looked that way, UConn was on the ropes, everybody knew it was only a matter of time, UConn’s bigs were in four trouble, Randle was, as he was all year, a man among boys, one of the Harrison twins could be counted on to hit a 3 if it was needed, the Cats were destined to win.

UK had a dozen possessions in the second half 0with UConn clinging to a 1-pt lead, and they just couldn’t take the lead.  Instead they will always be remembered as one of the most talented basketball teams in NCAA history not to win the National Championship.  Right up there with Calipari’s 2008 Memphis team ranked #1 with Derrick Rose with a 106-9 record over the last 3 years coming into the finals with Kansas.  Rose had an unbelievable second half leading Memphis to a 9 point lead with 2 minutes left.  But then like last night, Calipari’s stars as talented as they were, couldn’t hit their free throws missing 4 of 5 over the last minute.  The other less talented team last night like Kanas hit theirs, all 10 of them.  The team with less talent, with less freshmen starters, who worked at free throws intently in every practice where misses result in wind sprints, won.

Comparisons to the ’83 Houston Cougars with Olajuwon and Drexler, or Michigan’s ’93 Fab Five or the most dominant team ever the ’91 UNLV Running Rebels led by the Calipari like Tark the Shark.  The Running Rebels demolished every team they played in 1990, including the largest blow-out ever in the finals beating Duke by 30 points.  In ’91 they were undefeated trouncing teams by an average margin of victory of almost 30 points and they faced Duke in the quarter finals who they had humiliated in the finals the year before. And they, like UK last night, lost. And like last night, there was a feeling that the more talented team lost, but somehow there was justice in Calipari like Tarkanian being denied a Championship that by all rights they should have won.  Sometimes preparation, hard work and experience beats talent.  Sometimes there is justice in the world.  Last night felt to a non-Kentucky fan like one of those times.

College basketball is a cruel, crushing sport, and none more cruel to BBN and one of the most talented teams in the history of College basketball, than last night’s loss.  I feel your pain.

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