Smiling for pictures. A confession.
My new family Facebook photo got me to thinking about something that has always been a little understood pet peeve of mine: Smiling for pictures.
The kind waiter at the restaurant offered to take a picture of us tonight and we stood together and posed along the street behind us. His fist shot caused him to hesitate and give me a look that said, “C’mon guy. What’s wrong? Smile for goodness sake.” So I tried harder for his second attempt and only modestly succeeded, as you can see. It’s not really a smile but more of a pose that tries to appear as a candid shot yet could be honestly mistaken by others for a smile. Like when you aren’t sure of a person’s name and when introducing them you slur what you think is their first and last name into an almost indecipherable gibberish name that you hope sounds close enough to fool everyone involved.
And that is about the best I ever seem able to do in photos. (Note; the other profile pic of me with just my wife is an exception and I believe I was honestly laughing about something when it was taken…so it really wasn’t a successful “posed smile.”)
And the “posed smile” is the problem for me. I don’t remember when it started but as far back as I can remember I never liked posing for pictures. As a boy it was because I was–like most all boys–too restless to stand still for 6 to 7 consecutive seconds. And to be expected to smile on top of this inconvenience was simply asking too much.
Later on as a young man, I still disliked standing still but mostly didn’t smile fully because I was, in my own petty way, rebelling against whoever was demanding the picture. Sure, on the surface I may be posing for the picture. But I wanted to be clear I wasn’t anyone’s monkey and the childish rebel in me was getting a subtle satisfaction by not smiling fully for the requested picture.
And then there was the period between being a young adult and a full adult when I was in college and law school where I did pose for pictures when requested but refused to smile easily because I wanted to look smart and serious and deep (I was for a while a philosophy major and wanted to look the part) —and also not be a poser who would lower himself to manufacturing an emotion to create a fake image for others to see. In other words, I feared being a phony, maaan!
But then as an adult, no longer as restless and seeing the benefit of taking photographs with family and friends, I tried to smile but couldn’t pull it off. I don’t know if it was that I never learned when I was younger how to just smile and “say cheese” when someone was taking a picture or if there is just something in me that can’t beam happiness on cue.
Maybe there is just this odd combination of restlessness, rebellion and philosophical determination “not to give in to ‘the man’” by smiling naturally for photos. Or maybe you can’t teach an old dog a new trick. But whatever the reason, there is a “smile deficit” I suffer from in most photographs I am in. I typically look to be the least happy person in the photo. Not because I really am. I like to think my happiness is at least in the 50th percentile of people with whom I am photographed. I’m just not very good at expressing “photograph happiness.”
And my hope is that “photograph happiness” is a lot like other kinds of happiness. It’s not something that is easily seen from the outside as it is something you feel on the inside. So if you see a picture of me that I post and I appear to be in mid-scowl, just try to overlook the clueless non-pose and just know I’m probably smiling –or trying to smile–on the inside.
I was ten years old when I first became an avid Cincinnati Reds fan. Growing up just over one hour’s drive from Cincinnati, I could not help but notice when the legendary “Big Red Machine” won their second consecutive World Series the year before – but the 1977 season marked the first time that I personally followed almost every game. Staying awake in bed listening to Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall call games from the West Coast remains one of my fondest childhood memories – as do the many trips my dad and I made up I-75 to watch the Reds in person.
Like many kids my age, I mimicked the batting stances of all-time greats like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan. I also tried to teach myself the knee-in-the-dirt pitching motion of Tom Seaver, who joined the Reds at mid-season that year (I tore the cover off several of the baseballs I hurled at the “strike zone” I envisioned on the brick side of our garage). As the years rolled by, it became clear that my athletic skills did not match the profile of a budding big-league ballplayer. Yet, the Reds and their up-and-down fortunes throughout the 1980s remained a central feature of every summer.
I had just started my freshman year in college when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record on September 11, 1985. “Charlie Hustle” had never been one of my favorite players when I was younger. As I matured, I grew to appreciate Rose – his head-first slides; his blue-collar grit; and, most of all, the message he conveyed – that excellence is not always captive to natural ability. Rose looked and played like any of us might if we had the chance to play pro ball, which is why this native son of Cincinnati captured hearts in that city like no one else ever has, or likely will again.
After Rose retired as a player, he managed the Reds to a succession of second-place finishes during the late 1980s. He was an average manager at best, in retrospect; though his prodigious knowledge of the game suggested that Rose possessed tremendous potential in that capacity. Led by stars like like Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, and future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the Reds were once again a team on the rise – and Rose seemed like the natural link between this brightening future and the dominant teams of the 1970s.
The Reds won the World Series in 1990, the season after Rose received a “lifetime ban” for betting on games involving his own team. There is no evidence that Rose ever bet against the Reds (his ultra-competitive nature strongly suggests that he never entertained the thought). Yet, Rose clearly presided over a series of underachieving teams. Sadly, we will never know what he could have accomplished as a manager without the distraction of his gambling habit.
The scandal which sundered Rose’s connection with the game he personified seemed to erupt out of nowhere. From all accounts, Rose thought that Major League Baseball officials had already convicted and sentenced him, so he opted for a very public fight. This battle consumed the Reds’ 1989 season – and for the first time I could remember, I lost interest as the team limped toward a fifth-place finish. As saddened as I was by Rose’s abrupt fall from grace, I cannot deny that I was relieved to see him go.
Like most Reds fans, I wanted to believe Rose’s denials. Yet, it was hard to ignore Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s grim conclusion: “One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game.” Giamatti’s sterling reputation further made it difficult to question the justice and fairness of the outcome.
Major League Baseball never officially concluded that Rose had bet on his own team in exchange for Rose’s acquiescence to the “lifetime ban.” For every other individual in the modern era to whom it has applied, baseball’s “lifetime ban” has, in reality, meant a suspension for a few years. Yet, Giamatti’s death from a heart attack eight days after announcing baseball’s settlement with Rose seems to have fueled a lasting personal vendetta at the game’s highest echelons.
First, the National Baseball Hall of Fame officially decided to exclude banned players from its annual baseball writer’s ballot in 1991, just before Rose became eligible to appear on that ballot. Next came Major League Baseball’s inexplicable and inexcusable refusal to act on Rose’s application for reinstatement, which persists to this day.
To me, the exclusion of baseball’s all-time hits leader transformed the “Hall of Fame” into a farce. Then, when the 1994 players’ strike canceled the World Series and eviscerated a promising Reds season, my attachment to baseball began to fray; particularly when neither the owners nor the players association even bothered to apologize – to the fans who pay their bills, or to the concessionaires, ushers, and other hard-working individuals who truly suffered the effects of the strike.
Baseball gradually recovered after 1994; in large part due to the record-breaking exploits of a bevy of new “superstars,” including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds. We subsequently learned that these performances may have been the product of steroid use. Meanwhile, no one has ever accused Pete Rose of cheating, and his all-time hits record remains unassailable and, perhaps, unreachable. Yet, McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds remain eligible for the Hall of Fame, while Rose remains the game’s lone outcast.
On its face, this scenario seems outrageous and absurd; particularly when Pete Rose the player remains the exemplar of everything that once mattered about baseball. Yet, I remain initially persuaded by the argument that Rose flagrantly violated a “prime directive,” of sorts – a rule that is prominently displayed in every team’s clubhouse, for which the penalty has always been clear and certain. By contrast, while Major League Baseball appears to have banned steroid use for more than two decades, its enforcement of this policy has not always been consistent.
Gambling is a clinically recognized addiction, just like alcoholism and drug abuse. The late Steve Howe notoriously received suspension after suspension for cocaine use during his 17-year pitching career. Does anyone seriously believe that Howe would have stopped had drug abuse held the same “prime directive” status as the rule against betting on one’s own team? Still, amidst all the judgments pronounced against Pete Rose in the media and elsewhere, I have never heard anyone suggest that an illness might have deprived Rose of complete control over his actions.
Admittedly, Rose has often been his own worst enemy. I cannot help but believe that had he quietly come clean with Bart Giamatti when the gambling allegations first arose early in 1989, Rose might still have enjoyed a long association with baseball after a few years away from the game. Instead, he lied about his actions until 2004, when it became apparent that he might never be reinstated without a full confession. Rose also apparently continues to gamble; though his once-defiant attitude about his circumstances seems to have mellowed somewhat into genuine humility and remorse.
Perhaps Rose’s lack of genuine rehabilitation justifies Major League Baseball’s refusal to consider his reinstatement. After all, no less than Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays spent two years on the “banned list” merely for working for casinos in public relations capacities. But why not make this fact clear? Even at this late date, why not give Rose a very public choice between the game he loves and the habit he seemingly refuses to conquer? Wouldn’t this approach communicate the most productive message to anyone battling addiction: mercy for those who seek help and consequences for those who do not?
Otherwise, it is naïve to suggest that by potentially making Rose the only modern player against whom it has literally enforced a “lifetime ban,” Major League Baseball has protected itself one iota from the influences of gambling. Indeed, the exact opposite may have occurred. Instead of encouraging players, coaches, and managers who suffer from a gambling addiction to obtain the treatment they need, Major League Baseball has sent an unmistakable message of “no quarter;” one which seems destined to drive these individuals further underground. Unbending rules often produce inflexible results – which means that one had better guess correctly regarding the outcome.
During his recent appearance in Cincinnati, outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig addressed baseball’s “Pete Rose question” by reiterating his obligation “to do what I think is in the best interest of this sport” and then reminding his audience that he “was particularly close to Bart Giamatti.” As understandable as these personal sentiments might be, confusing them with an appropriate resolution does no favors for Selig’s legacy or baseball’s future.
Selig’s comments strongly suggest that Rose’s continued punishment has little to do with the rule he broke. Instead, personal animus seems to be driving Selig’s approach to this matter – and that fact says a lot more about our culture than we would like to think it does. Particularly in politics, everything seems to revolve around individual personalities. We cannot have mere disagreements without judging one another’s motives and character – then we wonder why our legislative bodies have become utterly dysfunctional. Instead of debating the practical merits of specific programs and proposals, we back our opponents into a corner and force them to defend their personal honor. Under such conditions, how can they ever give an inch toward compromise?
In short, the debate about Pete Rose’s fate continues to be about Pete Rose, when it ought to focus on what promotes the long-term health of baseball and the general welfare of our society. Whether a “lifetime ban” remains an appropriate penalty given what we know today about gambling and addiction is a much more relevant question than whether Rose has earned “forgiveness.”
My first visit to Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park with my teenage son two years ago lifted my spirits and took me back to a time before player strikes, steroids, and “lifetime bans.” I still follow baseball – but for far too long, baseball’s off-the-field errors have interfered with my genuine enjoyment of the game. By making peace with Pete Rose, Major League Baseball might offer the rest of our society with a desperately needed and realistic model of justice, compassion, and practicality. And it might finally win back fans like me.
Hiking the Himalayas shouldn’t be a dream as it is easier and cheaper than most people think. Want to cross this off your bucket list? You can indulge yourself in scenes like this for as little as $20 a day!
A view worth the walk from the Cho-La Pass on the Three Passes Trek.
Let me start with a quick intro: if I can do it, you can too. Traveling for almost two years has taken it’s toll on me. I probably couldn’t complete a 5k without requiring medical attention and have extra “padding” in places that need no padding. Prior to this my longest hikes were four days, staying in quasi-luxury New Zealand accommodations. In summary, you don’t need a Kenyan running partner to prepare for these hikes, reasonable fitness will suffice.
Part of the Annapurna Circuit, always surprising with beautiful views and unexpected changes from desert, to mountain, to lush oasis.
Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: Himalayan Hiking Logistics
“Now I’ll be bold as well as strong. Use my head alongside my heart.”
I Will Wait – Mumford and Sons
In my last post, I talked about lessons I learned about myself during my continuing journey as an entrepreneur. You gain knowledge, mostly from your mistakes and your peers. You try to keep making constant improvements to your business, your team and your leadership skills. In the true entrepreneurial spirit of paying it forward, I thought I’d share some lessons about what I’ve learned about actually managing a business:
1. Be smart about funding. Raise money when you don’t need it, and raise it from the right investors. Don’t wait until you’re cash strapped to push the panic button, and look for investors who go beyond the wire transfer; those that will provide consistent guidance and be true coaches along the way.
This is clearly easier said than done. I have seen too many first time founders who have focused on the wrong things like valuation or control issues instead of getting investors who will add value beyond their cash. Some investors can actually harm your business- I was unfortunate to have a few of those in my first company and it had a very negative impact on our growth.
2. Fail fast. Most new ideas won’t work but you need to keep trying. Then, be ruthless about killing the ones that aren’t working and try to do it as quickly as possible. Time, money and focus are very limited resources in a startup. An idea that isn’t working can be a big drain.
3. Build a business, not just a great product or service. While it is fine to start with a great idea for a service or product and not worry about revenue immediately, you want to have a clear picture of where you will get paid and how you will build a sustainable business. Today, in the internet space, you can build interesting products quickly but it is much harder to build long term businesses with deep competitive moats.
4. Look at each market differently. When expanding beyond your own backyard, be prepared to address the specific concerns of multiple markets – a one-size-fits-all global strategy doesn’t work. Geo-specific insights, customer feedback, local case studies and social media channels are pivotal resources for establishing a voice that resonates with consumers in local markets across the globe.
5. Embrace competition. Don’t let competitors keep you from pursuing your idea. Good competitors can help your efforts by laying a foundation of credibility for your product category, help isolate your competitive niche and compel you to bring your best to the marketplace. We often wished we had more competition in my first business because we had to create the market by ourselves.
Running a start up today was different than it was 20 years ago. In 1994, when I started my first company, Incubators didn’t really exist outside of biology class. “Online” meant Compuserve and Prodigy on a speedy 28.8 modem. Mobile apps were eating Taco Bell nachos while driving.
Today, capital, knowledge, bandwidth and talent are in great abundance. What hasn’t changed is the belief that an inspired idea paired with an entrepreneurial spirit can lead to great things.
Why learning foreign languages is important.
Just now I was emailing a friend and colleague back home who knows I am in the Netherlands and I wanted to say “Thank you very much” at the end of the email and be clever about it by saying it in Dutch. But I don’t know how to say “Thank you very much” in Dutch. Or German (which is close to Dutch). I only know how to say “You’re welcome” in German.
So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the moment and added at the end of the email “Muchos gracios!” I explained that Spanish was the only foreign language I had ever studied and was determined to say “Thank you very much” in some foreign language since I was traveling overseas now.
Of course, after my first email I had to write back and correct my spelling and note it is “gracias” not “gracios.” (I Googled it).
I also Googled the phrase again just now and realized I was supposed to use “Muchas” not “Muchos” But I already explained in the prior email that I had to take Spanish I twice in high school and, besides, a third email correcting my hip use of a foreign language phrase would start to undermine the cleverness of the effect I was going for.
One of the great things about having the kids around the house this summer is the temporary return of snack food. But this summer is different; the snacks are all lined up in the cupboard in 100-calorie bite size packages. As if the packaging alone will ensure portion control and make snacking consistent with our attempts at healthy living. Of course it only works if you stop with one 100-calorie package, which I seldom do. While snacking I have been thinking about the idea of bite size packaging and wondering if breaking up big hairy social goals into 100-calorie bite size packages of work tasks would better enable us to harness the power of social media to get more stuff done.
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are incredible at stirring up the pot but not as good at serving the meal. I have been amazed at the way social media enables the exchange of ideas. The school doors are open 24/7 for life long learning. Diverse communities of interest arise spontaneously reacting to world events, spectacles, and provocative ideas. But how do we translate interest and commentary into action?
I am fortunate to interact every day with passionate and motivated innovators who agree that we must transform our health care, education, and energy systems. We also agree that the technology we need is available today to enable transformative change. This is our window of opportunity. Tweaking the current systems won’t work. We need real systems change and the key will be to unleash the power of social media beyond exchanging ideas to taking meaningful action. What if we could make it as easy to take an action step, as it is today to contribute and react to ideas? The way forward is to break these seemingly overwhelming social tasks down in to bite size 100-calorie packages so that social media enabled communities can engage by rolling up their sleeves and contributing deliverables that will advance these important causes.
We have to get better at asks. Asks have to be simple. Asks must be accessible at the point of interest. Asks should not require more than 140 characters. It has to be easy to say yes and to accomplish the bite size task. There should be immediate feedback on all completed tasks and it must be clear how the task fits into the bigger picture contributing to the overall social objective and systems change.
Social media platforms have the potential to move beyond talking about changing the world to actually enabling us to change it. We can accelerate progress by breaking down wicked goals in to 100-calorie bite size packages that are easier to snack on.
Many years ago I was visiting my uncle who was a voracious reader and I was perusing his library of classic books. I picked up a collection of works by Ralph Waldo Emerson, cracked the book open near the middle, and began reading.
As I read I became enthralled by the sense that this writer was tapped into something almost divine. I recalled learning that holy books were written by individuals who were inspired by God — that they were in some sense just moving the pen. I wasn’t necessarily thinking Emerson’s writing was inspired by God, but as I read I did feel he had a channel into something beyond himself and his words were an inspiration from this divine source.
This morning I stumbled across Desiderata. I have read it many times and always felt the very same thing about its author. That the words he wrote were in some way delievered to, rather than formulated by, the author, who served primarily as a channel to a source of wisdom beyond his own.
One of the crazy fun ways we spend our time here at Rath & Co. is styling grooms and groomsmen for weddings (sometimes the brides get in on the action too). I recently got pictures from a beautiful wedding I styled for Sarah Jenks and Jonathan Brajtbord, above, back in June. Sarah is a bridal weight loss coach, and Jonathan is a urologist — certainly a case of opposites attract in terms of her eastern and his western approach to health care, but it works. They were ridiculously happy, and not to mention all over each other, at every point in the wardrobe planning process.
Details: The color scheme for the bridal party was grey and pink. We got Jonathan into a winning three-piece suit from Simon Spurr, a white dress shirt from Michael Andrews Bespoke, a pink and grey stripe tie from Billy Reid, and a pair of black Lucchese cowboy boots (the man is a Texan, after all). The groomsmen all wore gray suits, white shirts, and the same Billy Reid tie as Jonathan. The couple wanted some uniformity between the groom and groomsmen, with Jonathan standing out marginally. So we opted for a three-piece suit for him and two-piece suits for the guys. And the ties matched the pink of the bridesmaids dresses. More pictures below.
Congratulations Sarah and Jonathan! You guys rock.
Read more about Sarah and Jonathan’s wedding here.
-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more: http://rathandco.com/2011/11/a-rath-co-wedding-sarah-and-jonathan/#ixzz35xMtTPeZ
Facebook does a lot of things like allowing us to network, connect, communicate, share and stay abreast of our world and circle of friends and do all of these things in real time 24/7.
But behind all these useful activities there is something more basic that is happening while we post,follow, peruse and comment. We are, in a very real sense, marketing ourseleves on a poweful new medium. We create the image of ourselves we hope others will adopt of us. It is like a virtual version of high school except the audience is more discerning and sophisticated and harder to penetrate.
So we try different methods until we find one that seems to work best. It is usually the method that is most authentic and revealing in ways that resonate with others. And yes, it is usually the method that accrues the most “likes” from others.
The liking mechanism of Facebook reminds me of training a dog to do tricks by providing treats when the dog successfully performs. On the surface of Facebook it appears the Facebook audience is training individuals by how their posts and pictures are receieved. But really, at a closer look, it is each of us training ourseleves. We try out a new trick and if we are rewarded with likes we perform similar tricks and build our repertoire around related posts and images. And for those posts and images that don’t work, we modify or scrap until we have our image honed.
Our final product, so to speak (whch continues in process), is a reflection of what in ourseleves resonates most favorably with others. Again, not all that different from high school.
But is that who we really are? No, of course not. But as we are marketing ourselves and honing our public image are there any other reasons we continue playing on Facebook? I think so. And I think it is because of something much deeper at play in the human psyche.
At our most basic level we need to know that we are affirmed. Or liked. The pre-Facebook internet allowed for communication and engagement but was more, at the human level, like shouting into a giant cave and, after a pause, hearing our own echo. A response of some sort that validated that we exist in this vast digital world.
Facebook took it to the next level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Now when we shout into the vast internet black space –but do so through the virtual megaphone of Facebook and shout it in a certain manner and in a certain tone and with a certain purpose in mind — and pause, we not only hear our own echo but are affirmed. “Liked,” quite literally.
And that is a profound advantage that Facebook can boast over other all other internet mediums. And an advance that has far more to do with filling a basic human need than providing a new and cool technological advance.
This week’s installment, is not necessary about “tips” but more so about perspective. I took on a new fitness challenge recently and it got my thinking about my time as a trainer and what it has taught me. I believe we can look at all aspects of our life and extract many learning experiences from it. Here are mine.
My 11 years in the fitness industry has taught me a lot about life. It has taught me what to do and in some cases what not to do. Life often emulates art and I have always thought of personal training as art, it makes sense that I have learned some important life lessons. In no particular order, these are the 5 things I have learned about life from being a personal trainer:
1. Anything can be achieved with passion.
I’m not the best personal trainer and I am far from perfect. I am however passionate, a word that is thrown around in the fitness industry more than anything. My definition is simply one who eats, sleeps, breathes their work. That I do. Fitness taught me how. Through ups in downs, passion has let me conquer personal issues as well as professional. An unrelenting quest to be the best version of myself was taught to me from my experience in this industry. I attribute everything I have accomplished personally and collectively due to that passion. Without it, I have nothing.
2. If you want something bad enough you will do whatever it takes to achieve it.
My clients and clients of other trainers have taught me this. My client Rolodex is full of people who conquered the odds, all because they wanted it bad enough. In my book 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom I tell a story about a woman from Columbus who lost an extraordinary amount of weight and developed a community of enthusiastic people wanting to do the same. Or the woman who I have trained for many moons, who at first just wanted to be fit but now owns her own personal training business, all because wanted it more than other people. If you want it bad enough, you’ll go get it.
3. No one gets to where they are, alone.
I didn’t get to this point by myself. I had help…a lot of help. That help came in the form of support from others a long this 11 year journey. It also came in the form of detractors and negative people who taught me what I didn’t want be. No matter how successful you are, you got there with help. If I was never given a shot to train at Gold’s Gym in 2004, I would never be here today.
4. Bad times will always pass.
Obstacles are put in front of us not to stay and best us down but to leave after we have conquered it. I’ve seen it a thousand times, some one who goes through turmoil but keeps at it and never quits, always turns out for the better. If I have learned anything from working with trainers and clients is, regardless of the situation, if you keep at it, never waiver and never quit you will come out of the dark and into the light. It’s that simple.
5.Look to add value versus make money.
Money comes and goes like the wind blows. No matter how much you have you cannot take it with you. Having money is not impressive, adding value to other’s is. I have learned this through experience in the fitness industry. I have seen people with lots of money that truly had nothing, nothing because they were not adding value to others. The single most important lesson we can all learn is how to add value to someone else’s life. Whether it is to listen, be a shoulder to cry on or help a friend in need, adding value to someone means so much more than money. “Choose legacy over currency,” is a favorite quote of mine and it means to simple to add so much value to someone that you build a legacy and are never forgotten. A very important lesson.
I could write a list longer than this but for time purposes I will keep it short. Being in fitness has taught me so much that I feel honored to talk about it everyday. The lessons I have learned are so important not only to my life but the lives that interact with on a daily basis.