Saul Kaplan: Your Own Path

Is your path to success more like Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra?  Do you start out slow, figure out the game, and then sprint past the competition to win the race or do you come out of the gates strong, define the race, and than hold off contenders looking back as you cross the finish line?  Both paths can lead to the winner’s circle but the journey is completely different.

No one was paying attention to Mine That Bird before the Kentucky Derby.  He was a 50 to 1 shot and the race favorites were not focusing on how to compete against him.  He lagged behind at the start, waited for an opening on the rail and took off.  By the time the field recognized the competitive threat it was too late and Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby running away.  Are you like Mine That Bird?  Do you scope out the race and the competition before making your move.   Coming from behind is always exciting.  We love a good underdog story.  By letting the race unfold before making your move you can size up the competition and look for a clear opening.  But, what if the early front-runner has an insurmountable lead or finds a new gear making it impossible to catch up?  What if your strategy doesn’t work and there is no clear path through the competition to take on the leader?

Saul KaplanBy contrast, Rachel Alexandra was the clear favorite in the Preakness.  She was expected to win and broke out of the gate fast, living up to the early hype and expectations.  She defined the race throughout, daring the competition to come after her.  She led from start to finish and held off any attempt including a strong bid from Mine That Bird to come from behind.  Everyone knew the talented filly was the horse to beat.  Are you more like Rachel Alexandra in your path to success?  Do you define the rules of the race and create the market leaving competitors to come from behind?  By the time competitors figure out your approach you are already off to the races creating distance that they are forced to make up.  The biggest challenge with coming out of the gate fast is that by putting yourself out in front you immediately become the target.  Unlike the underdog coming from behind everyone wants a piece of your action and focuses all of their energy on finding a way to beat you.  If you take the front-runner approach it is important not to put blinders on.  Are you prepared to go the distance and sustain the lead through out the race?  Can you respond to competitive threats during the race?  Can you kick in to an entire new gear to change the game during the race to keep competitors from catching up and overtaking you?

Both paths to success can work.  I am biased toward Rachel Alexandra’s approach.  I like to define any race I compete in and prefer to lead, redefine, and lead again.   It might not be as compelling as the underdog story, coming from behind to win, but I like the odds and the view from the front of the race better.   It will be interesting to see if Rachel Alexandra can win in the longer distance Belmont Stakes.  The competition will be coming after her and have more track to catch her if she comes out with the early lead.   Are you more like Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra in your path to the winner’s circle?

Julie Rath: Your Guide to Stylish Ski Attire

You want the latest when it comes to skis and other equipment, but do you look the part when it comes to your ski clothes?

Man's style: what to wear skiingEven if you’re not arriving via helicopter (à la Fiat Group founder Gianni Agnelli), there are plenty of ways to stay stylish on the slopes.

If you look like the Michelin Man when you ski, it’s likely you haven’t rethought your attire since the late 90′s. Fortunately, along with advancements in skis, poles and other gear, there’s a lot new in the style department with plenty of excellent options that serve both form and function. Ski-wear designers have been heavily influenced by the more fitted cuts on the runways. And new fabric technologies allow for close fits that still provide warmth and flexibility. Bottom line: you can project a flattering physique on the slopes while staying warm and maintaining mobility.

When dressing for the slopes, you should wear a baselayer, midlayer, insulating layer, and coat or shell. Below are my suggestions within each category, plus accessories.

A baselayer is skin tight (or close to), thin- to medium-weight, and synthetic or wool. For wool, try brands like Ibex and Icebreaker. And for a high-performance synthetic, check out X-Bionic products, which are moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, and designed to optimize circulation. All three brands even make boxer shorts. (Better safe than sorry.)

Men's image consultant: what to wear skiingMidlayer
A midlayer is a sweater, fleece or thicker base layer like a turtleneck. Dale Norway (above left) makes very sharp-looking ski sweaters. And for something sportier, check out the half-zip options from Kjus (above right).

Insulating Layer
This is a thin, light down jacket worn beneath your shell (note: this layer is not always needed in non-frigid temps and/or if your winter jacket is very warm; it can also be a vest as opposed to having full sleeves). I like Kjus for this, along with Peak Performance.

Men's Personal Shopper: Ski Clothes

For heavy-duty insulated pants, try Peak Performance’s Supreme Aosta. They’re highly wind- and waterproof and also have ankle guards, which is good if you ski with your ankles together (most intermediate or advanced skiers do). A good-looking lighter-weight option with more stretch and ankle reinforcement is Frauenschuh’s Alex pant.

Men's Personal Shopper: what to wear skiing

For your outermost top layer, you can’t go wrong with a Canada Goose duck-down parka (above left). If you’re not a fan of logos, Moorer (above right) makes absolutely gorgeous, luxurious (and splurgy) parkas that sacrifice nothing in terms of protection from the elements.

Gloves or Mittens
Black Diamond is by the far the highest-ranking winter company for accessories by outdoor enthusiasts. These mittens are warm in sub-zero temps, are fully waterproof, and have removal liners, which is great because you can use them on warmer days without the liners. Liners are key also if you’re skiing multiple days because you can dry and/or wash them more easily. For gloves, if you’re really popular, these are integrated with Bluetooth technology and a vibration alarm for incoming calls.

A single layer is best because it preserves the “micro climate” between your foot and boot, circulating air and keeping your feet warm. Go with 100% wool. DarnTough is great quality and has a lifetime guarantee.

You can’t go wrong with one of these in a color that coordinates with the rest of your gear.

Men's Personal Shopper: what to wear skiingHat
Wear a beanie like this one above under your helmet.

Face Mask
In very cold weather, it’s nice to have something that goes over your face, like this face mask or buff. If you wear one of these, you may not need a scarf.

Smith I/O Recon goggles have a micro-optics display where you can view your speed, real-time jump analytics, weather and buddy tracking, GPS mapping, and even a music playlist mode.

A note on combining: don’t go nuts mixing too many colors. If you wear a pop of color like bright red or orange, have it be on either top or bottom, with the remaining colors in the look neutral and coordinating with one another.

PSA: make sure to wear sunblock when skiing. The sun reflects off the snow onto your face, so you need to take extra precaution. I like Armada Sport 70 for all outdoor activities.

Are you ready to hit the slopes in style? I’d love to hear what you’ll be wearing – let me know in the comments below. And if you’re more about hot chocolate than black diamonds, stay tuned for an upcoming post on one of my favorite activities to style: après-ski.

-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Confessions of a Former Adrenaline Junkie

I was reminded today of a concerning game I devised at age 5. That was a long time ago and wouldn’t seem to have any reflection on who I am today except what I came up with was so out of the ordinary, it made me wonder less about the events themselves and more about what they said about me.

We lived in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee and I was playing outside at the bottom of the hill in our front yard with my then best friend George Baker. George was as easygoing and likable a guy as I’ve ever met and I was glad to have him as a friend. He was tall and athletic but I was able to persuade him to play games I made up even if they didn’t make a great deal of sense and even if they happened to put him at bodily risk. George was a good sport.

A few weeks earlier I had broken George’s thumb playing Batman and Robin with him. I asked George to play The Penguin and I played Batman because I wanted to jump off the bed and on top of my 5 year old friend George (now The Penguin) just like Batman had done in an episode we just watched. I put on a towel cape, got into the mindset of the caped crusader about to rescue the city of Gotham and got a running start on my parent’s bed and pounced just like Batman on little George. But unlike the Penguin, George started crying like a baby after I jumped on him. Whaling, in fact. I tried to get him to be quiet because he was going to ruin our game but he wouldn’t stop until his mom came in. The next week George came over to play with a cast on his thumb and I was told I couldn’t jump on him anymore for awhile.

This day we were playing outside and looking for something new to do that didn’t involve capes, jumping or reenactments from Batman and Robin. I don’t know how I came up with the game I’m about to describe, but I did. All by myself. And in just a matter of seconds.

I reminded George that we both liked to run and having a cast on his thumb didn’t prevent him from running. He agreed. But how could I make plain old running interesting? I told George to step down right beside me on the side of the road that ran in front of our house. The speed limit was about 35 miles an hour but often cars, when they would drive by, would go even faster.

I said we’d wait until the next car came and when it got really close to us–maybe 10 feet away–we’d take off running as fast as we possibly could run when I said “Go!” and try to get across the street before the car hit us. I guess, according to my game, if we made it across without getting flattened by the car, we won. If that didn’t happen, I guess that meant we lost. Frankly, I hadn’t fully thought through all the details at this point. But I was ready to get started.

jyb_musingsI can’t say in retrospect that I understand why George, the sensible one between the two of us, went along with my idea. But he did. Or seemed to.

We stood beside the road for a couple of minutes waiting for the next car so we could get started. Finally, we saw one coming. Going about the speed limit, all I remember about the car was it was a dark green color and an older car. As it approached –and got within my “adrenaline zone” of within 10 feet –I shouted “Go!” and took off running as fast as I possibly could. I wasn’t wearing my usual superhero cape but felt I had some sort of superpower as I took off running. Think Flash Gordon not Batman. Except that superhuman feeling didn’t last for long.

They say baseball players can see a 90 mph pitch in slow motion so that they can even see the seams on the ball slowly spinning before they swing. After about 5 paces of hard run, I could see the gleaming metal front fender of that old dark green car just a few feet away from me–and it was moving in slow motion.

And here’s the hopeful part. I may be an adrenaline junkie; but I’m I’m not stupid. OK. I am stupid but not really, really super stupid. Anyway, at that moment I made a brilliant split second decision to turn around and run back the other way to the side of the road. And I did.

I looked up and there was my sensible friend George just standing there looking at me with this goofy scared and confused grin on his face as if to say he was sorry for not running with me—but also saying that he never even considered running with me and couldn’t believe I was serious.

The car came to a screeching halt and the woman driving was white as a ghost, mortified at what I had just tried to do. She took a few moments to gather herself and catch her breath. She was still in a state of mild shock and with her voice quavering she scolded me (and George, even though he hadn’t done anything) and made me promise her I would never ever try anything like that again. I promised I wouldn’t.

It finally began to sink into me that my idea was, in fact, a very bad one despite how much fun it may have sounded when I first thought of it. And it did sound pretty exciting. I just didn’t do a good job of thinking the game through to the end before proposing it.

I can’t believe, in the first place, I would ever think up such a game. Yeah, I was only 5 but that’s not a good enough excuse. I didn’t bother to think. I just had a fun idea pop into my head –and went for it. Along with anyone else I could get to join me.

That was 45 years ago and my friend George Baker is alive and well and has a nice family of his own and many new friends besides me. And I’m alive and well, too, but had to wonder what this long ago incident says about me. They say kids who drink alcohol are “self-medicating.” Maybe the risky games that I made up was a form of “self-medicating.” A 5 year old jonesing for an adrenaline hit.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’m overthinking it all. Perhaps I was just an adventurous kid who overshot himself with that particular game. And there’s nothing more to read into it. Maybe.

A few weeks later my dad pulled into the driveway and found me playing by myself in the backyard –not the front yard near that dangerous road. This time I was climbing up the side of a wall where my parents parked their car. I had climbed all the way to the top and was hanging by my hands and had gotten stuck. My hands were getting very tired and if I let go I would drop about six feet and that looked like a bad idea. So, I decided to just hang tight and wait for someone to drive into the driveway and rescue me. My plan worked. My dad came home and helped me down before my hands got too tired.

Another day; another game.

But also the beginning of the end of my days as an adrenaline junkie. I had hit my bottom. I guess hanging by the whites of my fingertips made me re-think things.

I can’t remember what game I made up after that. But if memory serves, my parents started buying me lots of board games after that. And I became one heck of a Chinese Checkers player.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Speeding

Never, never, ever, ever no matter what, no matter why, no matter how lucky you are feeling or how good your “excuse” is, never, never, ever, ever go beyond the speed limit.

I won’t try to scare you about potential car accidents that can cause serious, even permanent, bodily injuries –or even death to you or another driver or a bystander. Those kind of scare tactics don’t seem to work well.

So I’m using my personal experience about something very likely to happen to you if you do speed. You could….pay attention now!


Pay attention because this could save your life and even your weekend. If you get caught speeding you could end up spending your entire Friday and Saturday night taking the “I Drive Safely” Traffic School course online. It is educational and a well organized and presented course.

But not the way you want to spend a Friday and Saturday night–especially just before a major holiday. The course improves your driving but not your mood. Take it from me.

jyb_musingsHo friggin’ ho!

So….I am easing up on the pedal. And suggest any of you who have read my cautionary tale do the same….Trust me.  You don’t want to  spend an entire weekend before Christmas being taught all the things you know about driving but seem to have trouble remembering when you actually get into a car and start driving.

Now I remember.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Travel Advice

Travel advice.

If you run a business off your laptop, be sure not to leave the laptop in the seat pocket in front of you after idling on the Tarmac for 45 minutes before take-off.

It is posaible you will get in a conversation with a man from Jordan in the window seat next to you and forget to use the laptop when airborne and above 10,000 feet. (As a sidenote airplanes these days go much higher than 10,000 feet. In fact, about 35,000 —Vanessa Armstrong and Steven Riggs. Not everybody knows this but probably should. Especially of they are going to post about air travel on Facebook.)

Back to the main topic. If you do get engrossed in a conversation with a member of the Jordanian military under these circumstances DO NOT leave your laptop in the seat pocket in front of you. Also, if asked by the Jordanian member of the military seated next to you “What do you know about Jordan?” Don’t say “You mean Michael Jordan? The greatest basketball player of all time?” Because that is not what they are talking about. They are talking about a different Jordan that you probably don’t know much about. (Hint: Try Googling Jordan, the country, when they are not looking so don’t sound like a complete embecile).

jyb_musingsAnd if you do leave your laptop in the seat pocket and it is a US Air flight, call customer service and ask for Roberta. She is great and can help you locate your laptop the next morning. Just don’t try to blame USAir for your memory lapse. That only ticks off Roberta and she won’t try as hard to find it for you.

Hope this helps.

Also, turns out Jordan is a really interesting place to talk about. But probably not worth losing your laptop over.


What I did over the last two hours.

On plane to NYC

Left Louisville, Kentucky this late this afternoon to travel to New York City, New York.

Not walking, of course.
Not taking horse drawn carriage.
Not traveling by boat.
Not traveling by automobile either.

But flying –soaring really–12,000 feet above the ground at over 500 miles per hour.

Over 500 mph!!

Like a giant steel bird flying confidently and safely through outer space high above the clouds and now swooping down to land in a new brightly lit up city with millions and millions of strangers just like you and me but different too.


Wheels touched down and we have arrived in New York City, New York from Louisville, Kentucky in a 2 long hours.

We are not your tired and huddled masses seeking refuge but more like well rested and well fed aliens visiting from a distant planet because we can.

For the weekend.

I suspect that Lady Liberty in her permanently proud and protective pose is trying to defy gravity by grinning to herself and thinking “This is happening!”

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Honking Etiquette

Horn honking rules of etiquette:

When waiting at a traffic light that has turned green but the car in front of you hasn’t noticed yet.

1) One short honk means a head’s up to driver that the light has changed

2) Two short honks means the light has changed and the driver honking is in a hurry

3) Three short honks means the light has changed, the honking driver is in a hurry and thinks the driver …in the car in front of him is an idiot.

jyb_musings4) One long honk means the honking driver  is a total a****le and is in a hurry because he started late and is an idiot. (

Note: if the honked at driver responds with a symbolic retaliatory hand gesture, then he becomes a bigger a***ole and idiot than the honking driver.)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Back Seat

I am writing this entreaty from the back seat of my wife’s mini van. My daughter is sitting in the font seat and controlling the music and music volume (keeping it turned up just slightly higher than she knows I want it to be) and my wife is driving and the two of them are chatting away (somehow) over the music and seem to be laughing and enjoying each others company.

I, as always, am alone in the back seat. I feel like a refugee from another country who can’t speak the language and who doesn’t understand the cultural customs.

I sometimes feel the loud music is to keep me muted. I can’t engage in the conversation anyway because 1) I can’t hear well enough to understand it (even without music blaring); 2) I don’t understand it even when I can hear it, 3) I make really “stupid” comments even when I can hear and understand what is being said.

I am worried it won’t be long until I am asked to move to the trunk part of the minivan when we go out to eat—the part behind the final row of seats and the rear hatch. It is really cold back there in the winter and even lonelier than where I am sitting now. But only by a little. (Although I suspect, on the positive side, the music won’t seem as loud)

jyb_musingsI am writing because I, frankly, don’t know how this situation happened. It wasn’t long ago that I confidently strode to the front passenger seat every time my wife drove the family out to eat. And I didn’t even have to run to get to the front seat first. At first it was an inconvenience but it was still clear (to me, at least) who the head of the household was. But it wasn’t long –maybe two weeks or less–before that sinking confidence that I was still head of the household turned into spiraling self-doubt about my status in the family— to the current state of near obsolescence. If it wasn’t for the annoying contributions I made to family outings, my wife and daughter may not even think to acknowledge me at all.

I’ve tried to turn things around by playing to my current strengths and being even more annoying than usual but that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I thought about offering to drive but I have a smallish compact car that the family never wants to drive in anywhere –even to circle the driveway. I’m now out of plans to reassert myself to a position in my family, not of dominance, but simply relevance. I am much more realistic now. I don’t have to actually matter…just as long as family members would be willing to pretend like I “could matter.”

Is that asking for too much? Or should I start dressing more warmly and placing pillows around the flooring and sides between the hatch and back seats, where I seemed destined to find myself any night we next go out for dinner?


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Stoplight

Is the stop light becoming the abacus of transportation technology?

Maybe I am just restless and hate waiting.

Maybe I am a complete fool when it comes to technology and logistics.

Maybe I have no right or qualifications to comment on topics, like traffic control, that I know nothing about.

Well, there’s the thing. Even if all those things are true they haven’t stopped me before.

So here goes. I was sitting at several stop lights today for very long periods of time. Several minutes which is a long time in stop light time. And there was no other traffic because it was very early. This happens to me most days and got me thinking that I probably spend about an hour a week sitting at stop lights when there is no reason to —if we had the proper smart technology. For some people sitting at stop lights unnecessarily  for 50 hours a years is a huge loss in production and an inefficient use of their time. (In my case, it is probably a good protective measure and prevents me from screwing things up, but that isn’t true for everyone).

Which got me thinking about the abacus as I stared (leered, really, at the stop light). For centuries, even millennia,  the abacus was considered an advanced and ingenious discovery for making mathematical calculations. And is still used today in many countries that haven’t moved over to hand calculators. (Which are actually much superior in terms of speed and efficiency).

jyb_musingsAt the time the abacus was invented, it was a breakthrough technology right up there with fire and the wheel…..but that doesn’t mean we should never try to improve on the abacus.

Hence hand calculators. So, is there a “hand calculator” like advancement on the horizon for smarter stop lights? Or is this truly the best we can do? I don’t know.

I would just hate to find out that every time I was sitting for several minutes unnecessarily at a stop light with no cars in sight it was because someone somewhere was operating the stop light from an abacus-like system. That when it was invented was an utterly brilliant breakthrough but over time could have been improved on.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Road Rage

Early this morning I realized I was in the wrong lane and was about to miss my turn. I quickly turned on my blinker and slid over to the next lane in time to turn.

However, the driver behind me, was not only frustrated by my last minute lane switch, but she also felt the need to express her displeasure audibly by laying on her car horn– four times. One short perfunctory honk followed by a series of three very long and dramatic honks that seemed to create a melody of disgust toward me and seemed to foreshadow some sort of revenge being plotted against me.

I waved in my rear view mirror that I was sorry and appreciated her generous and courteous allowance for my car to cut in front of her while at the same time duly noting her understandable frustration.
I thought that was the end of our exchange but had that sneaking feeling characters in horror movies get when they are being followed. Not by someone who was curious about me; but by someone who would like to do bodily harm to me.

After a couple of miles a recognized a car that had pulled up beside me and was hovering –and the driver, an attractive but angry blond-haired woman, waving her hands as if to say, “I hate everything about you and hope you burn in Hell for cutting in front of me two miles back.”

jyb_musingsHow do you respond to that? I acknowledged her but then pretended she was only trying to wave hello to me and acted like I was excited to see my friend and waved back enthusiastically. That is not the reaction she was hoping for and she staid beside me and motioned again in some way that I couldn’t understand but seemed to reflect a sense of frustration that I was ever born. I waved enthusiastically again and again she motioned her frustration that I wasn’t “getting it.”

So then I had a brilliant idea. I held up my left hand and pointed to my ring finger and mouthed the words. “I am married. I am flattered that you are interested –but no way, I am spoken for and am very happily married.” And then added, “Sorry, I’m not selling what you are trying to buy!” And then shook my head in mock disgust I drove off in a huff!

But smiling mischievously. And hoping she would eventually laugh at herself and the situation too.

But still checking my review mirror periodically throughout the day.

Saul Kaplan: Mercury Falling

I’m not much of a car guy but when Ford announced it was dumping its Mercury line I got a little nostalgic.  I wasn’t born when “Rebel Without a Cause” was released in 1955 but remember seeing the movie as a kid and being in awe of James Dean.  Who can’t relate to the lonely rebellious outsider, with his slicked back hair and leather jacket, trying to fit in? No one remembers the name of the character Dean played (Jim Stark).  After a tragic death James Dean became the character in our minds for eternity. Don’t get me started on Natalie Wood. The thing everyone remembers and the real icon from the classic movie is the cool Mercury James Dean drove.  It was a 1949 six-passenger coupe, fitted with a V-8 and an attitude to match Dean’s character.  The Merc was coolness personified.

Don’t you wonder how the Merc became so cool coming from Ford where Henry’s motto was, any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.  The Model T was the iconic product of a new industrial era. Henry Ford gave us the assembly line and mass production.  He didn’t give us cool.  For that you have to look to his only son Edsel, who had a better idea.   I know we associate the name Edsel with failure but that is because of a disastrous Ford model that was introduced in 1958 well after Edsel had died in 1943.  Edsel Ford was not a failure.

Edsel was far more interested in design and flashier styling for cars than his father.  He relentlessly advocated for more modern cars reflecting consumer tastes to replace the Model T but was consistently overruled by his father.  It wasn’t until sales of the Model T started to decline that Edsel began having influence on car body design and performance specifications.  He was very interested in high performance cars and many give him credit for customizing the first “Hot Rod” with a V-8 engine.  In 1939 he started the Mercury brand from scratch.  It was a way to offer consumers a car that was more stylish than a Ford at a price point between a Ford and the luxury Lincoln brand. Edsel brought the power of design to Ford and had a big impact on the auto industry.

Saul KaplanMercury really took off with the introduction of the 1949 model, the Mercury Eight.  Not only did it become famous as James Dean’s ride in “Rebel Without a Cause” it quickly was popular with car customizers.  Maybe it was an early example of open source innovation.  An entire ecosystem of hobbyists and suppliers grew up around customizing the 49 Mercury.  Hot Rod and Motor Trend featured pictures and stories about the coolest chopped Mercs.  Hobbyists today still customize old Mercs and there are fiberglass replicas in production that are popular with today’s kit car and hot rod enthusiasts.  Not many cars have had that much staying power and impact.

Unfortunately Mercury’s heyday was in the 50′s.  It hasn’t been interesting since with few remarkable models.  I am not surprised that Ford is dumping the brand.  It has no clear positioning in the market.  I can’t think of a single person I know who owns one.  While it makes sense for Ford to consolidate its brands and platforms it didn’t stop me from a little nostalgia when I heard that Mercury, the messenger of the Gods, had a simple message for the brand, you’re fired. For all rebels without a cause it is worth taking a moment to remember what the 49 Merc stood for.

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