John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Good Life Advice

jyb_musingsWe often confuse our primary task to be our ability to make the “right” decision …and avoid at all costs making a “wrong” decision.

But life doesn’t really work that way. We don’t live in a world that deterministic, like playing the game show “Let’s Make a Deal” with Monty Hall and we have to choose behind one of three doors to determine if we go home with a brand new car or ragged looking Billy goat.

In the real world the important thing is to make a decision —and then “make it right.” It’s what we do “after” the decision is made that matters most. Not the decision itself.

Oh, and one other thing. If a decision and your efforts don’t pan out, nobody said you can’t change your mind. And then change it again. Just remember if you do, the new decision is only the starting point not the final destination.

Josh Bowen: You Against Yourself

I’ve learned the statement at left the hard way. Through years of trying to “take on” the world, I have realized, we all fight a battle with ourselves. To solidify my claim that it was “me against the world” I had the lyrics to a song tattooed on my arm. As I have grown older and wiser, I realize this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is not the world that becomes the enemy but an enemy we know all too well…ourselves.

I believe in a very simple equation; “Thought plus decision equals behavior, change the thought, change the behavior.” This to me makes me a believer that if we just alter our thinking, we can alter our behavior. Thus we can accomplish anything we set out to do. It is not the physical gifts nor the outstanding acumen that separates people from one another, it is the sheer will to conquer one’s self on a quest of a goal or idea.

So many times I have seen clients succumb to their own negative thoughts in their head that they quit and never try again. They listen to that voice in their head that tells them its not possible or that it cant be done. It eats at them until the thoughts impose their will and cause them to stop chasing their dream or ideal. It truly becomes a mental game of chess between you and yourself. Deciding who to listen to will ultimate decide who the winner is. Here are a few tips to conquering self doubt and negative thoughts.

josh1. Get rid of negative people- Regardless of who you are, you will always have negative people around you. Telling you, you can’t do something, bringing your down to their level. Do not let them. Rid them of your life, if at all possible or limit your contact. Never let someone tell you, you can’t do something.

2. Surround yourself with positive people who make you better- This may only be one person or it may be many but you need at least one. Someone who positively empowers you will only make your life better. This could be a parent, a sibling or a trainer (like JB).

3. Realize your thoughts create your reality- What you think is always true. If you think you are no good, you will be no good. Your actions will emulate your thoughts. Your thoughts become your reality. Flip the thoughts from negative to positive and works the same way.

4. Right a list of positive things about yourself and post it where you can see it- This is a technique that will work wonders and will remind you that for all your faults and all the bad experiences, the good will always outweigh the bad.

5. Stop making excuses- Stop using the past as deterrent for the future. What happened back there happened back there, its over. It doesn’t predict what happens tomorrow.

Me Against the World? Never, its you against you and you get to decide who wins.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Desbate with Descartes

Point, Counterpoint: a deep philosophical debate with Rene Descartes (dead) and John Brown (not dead but bored and wasting time on a frivolous post.)

Mr. Descartes will go first:

“I think, therefore, I am”
–Rene Descartes

John Brown on rebuttal:

“Sure. That sounds really smart at first, but come on. Really? I mean….it doesnt even stand to reason. For example, some people think too much. That doesnt mean they exist too much, right?

Other people only think sometimes. We don’t say they only exist sometimes.

Do we? I don’t.

And some people dont think at all, but still exist and continue to show up at family reunions. I know this for a fact. I was one of them for about 18 months in the early1980’s and still got invited to and attended a family reunion.

jyb_musingsMaybe a better formulation could be, “I got invited to attend my family reunion, therefore, I am.” But then what about those living in cultures that don’t celebrate family reunions or families where the family member who usually hosts the family reunions has had it and finally says “I am not doing this anymore. I am sick of all you ungrateful jerks. Let someone else have it at their house next time.” This happens. A lot. What about them? They still exist, right.

Maybe Descartes would have made his point more validly by saying, “I sometimes try to sound like a know-it-all by saying things that sound really profound even though they really aren’t, therefore I am irritating and get on people’s nerves.”

If Descartes had gone with this formulation, I doubt anyone would have challenged him and we wouldn’t even be having this debate right now.

And I didn’t even have to think too hard to completely disprove Descartes’ theory. And that is pretty cool– whether or not I can prove I exist.

Lauren Mayer: “But They’re Cousins, Identical Cousins . . . “

It’s always astounding when two closely related things turn out to be complete opposites.  Like siblings who have totally different body types, books with matching bindings but one is Jane Austen and the other is Judith Krantz, or the time my father took his first bite into an avocado slice, not knowing what it was but assuming it was some sort of cucumber.

This same-but-opposite premise has been the basis of numerous stories, from The Prince & The Pauper to Hannah Montana, but perhaps the best-known example was the classic Patty Duke Show, where the teen actress played identical cousins with vastly different backgrounds and tastes.  (Yes, I know, there is no such thing as “identical cousins” and we all know it was Patty playing both roles, although if you’ve read her autobiography you know her real name was Anna, her managers manipulated her and she felt like a manufactured product, so she was playing an actress playing 2 different cousins, which is a meta-meta-façade.) (Sort of like the irony of Debbie Reynold’s role in Singin’ In The Rain, where her character was dubbing the Lena Lamont’s lines in the movie but the producers thought Reynolds sounded too cutesy so they had her lines dubbed by Jean Hagen, the actress playing Lena Lamont . . . but I digress . . . )

Anyway, The Patty Duke Show’s iconic theme song has come to symbolize any zany combination of opposites, or at least it has to those of us old enough to remember the show.  (My husband is several years younger than I am, so when I mentioned the song to him, he thought I was referring to “Sisters, Sisters” from White Christmas.) (My husband also had to be informed that Paul McCartney, of whom he is a huge fan, actually played in a successful band before Wings . . . . )  So I thought it would be an appropriate way to sum up the vastly different-yet-similar viewpoints in Washington D. C.  (Spoiler alert – I’m not referring to the Democrats vs. the Republicans . . .)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: You Know that Feeling?

You know that feeling early in the morning …..that sinking feeling that something isn’t quiet right?

That something isn’t working….something feels worrisome and troublesome….but you just can’t put your finger on exactly what it is?

And then you rack your brain to pinpoint the cause of the general disease you are feeling…

jyb_musingsYou try to figure out the reason for this vague sense of impending doom. And you realize that these discomforting and disquieting feeling you are experiencing stem from the realization that “you” are are again–for another day–still involved in your life.

And just aren’t sure how to say to yourself…. to politely suggest that you, just, ahem, you know…kind of…try to…..well…. lie low today in your own life and not screw things up again?

And you wish you could slink out door without yourself noticing and wanting to tag along?

You know that feeling?


It is important to make the most of each day….and hope to have at least one life moment each day that is worthy of the highlight reel.


Think about it. What if we get to the end of our lives and it’s our time and up rolls our life’s highlights before our eyes… know, those flashes of our the precious, thrilling, sacred and fabulous moments from our life….and what if instead of lasting for the usual 30 seconds, ours only lasts for, say, 17 seconds? And then stops.

Well, I’d be really ticked and spend my last 13 seconds wishing I’d done more exciting stuff when I was younger.

Michael Steele: Why HBCUs are Hanging by a Thread

With so many of the civil rights battles behind us, and the satisfaction that comes from the success of African-Americans in business, politics, sports and entertainment, it is no surprise that the assault upon the integrity and historic purpose of our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) has been little noticed by mainstream media and, more sadly, the black community itself.

Not only do our HBCUs stand as a testament to the challenges that lie in the future but they are an important reminder of the proud history of African-American education in America and its unlimited potential.

Across America, HBCUs are giving African-Americans the tools and the knowledge they need to fully participate in our society, to build a solid economic foundation on which to raise their families and their businesses, and to become leaders of the future.

However, many of those tools had begun to be stripped away and much of that foundation began to crumble under the weight of neglect and institutional bias. Maryland HBCUs (Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore) were treated no differently.

In October 1999, the State of Maryland and the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), entered into a partnership for the purposes of improving the educational opportunities for African Americans in Maryland’s public institutions of higher education and of ensuring compliance with the state’s obligations under federal law.  The partnership agreement set forth the commitments that the state and OCR anticipated would bring Maryland into full compliance with its obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

446px-Michael_SteeleBut as the partnership agreement expired in December 2005, it was very clear that while the state had met the letter of the law under Title VI (and its agreement with OCR); embracing the spirit of such agreements would be another matter. In practice, Maryland’s HBCUs had to deal with the growing reality of “duplication of specialized programs” whereby certain resources (e.g. laboratories and libraries) or academic programs (e.g. MBA) were duplicated at predominantly white institutions, resulting in HBCU students having to go to those institutions to access them.

As Lt. Governor of Maryland, I became acutely aware of the failure of so many to do just a little to help our state’s HBCUs. But the supposed innocuousness of program duplication only masked the knife cutting away the ability to improve access to these fine institutions and to create opportunities for them to compete with the state’s majority white institutions.

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Michael Steele: Why HBCUs are Hanging by a Thread

Erica & Matt Chua: Why Wine Taste in Mendoza

Wine regions rarely disappoint.  The combination of the visual, well-tended vines climbing towards the sky, and the experiential, flavors of the wine and food, will excite the most dull among us.  Almost universally wine regions are worth the trip, but being situated literally halfway around the world from most people, Argentina’s Mendoza region needed to offer something more than tours and tasting rooms.  Mendoza has succeeded in creating a food and wine experience worth the trip.

Mendoza is one the world’s most improbable and unique wine regions.  Naturally it is a barren, as precipitation is kept on the Chilean side by the highest part of the Andes range.  It should be a productive agriculture region as little as it should be a wine destination. Therein lies why it is successful though, generations had to work to make it happen, never taking for granted natural gifts.  The culture of hard work that led to the irrigation and cultivation of the land has since been put into creating an international tourist destination.

Fulfilling it’s duty as Argentina’s largest wine producer by volume, Trapiche offers the gold standard of large-winery tours similar to Mondavi in California.  Informative and thorough, the tours walk visitors through the entire process, albeit closer to the process than you can get in many other places.

What makes Mendoza special?  It is the overall experience of European indulgence meets Latin America.  It has incomparable views of wineries nestled against the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas.  It offers the expected wine tasting, but also locally produces the unexpected: world-class gelato, chocolate, honey, olive oil, and much more. It blends a historic town center with thousands of acres of parks and modern amenities.  It even has adventure sports including climbing of one of the Seven Summits.  In short, it has everything.

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Erica & Matt Chua: Why Wine Taste in Mendoza

Jason Grill: Socks are the businessman’s new statement piece

From the Kansas City Business-Journal:

jasongrill*600A Kansas City company is hoping a Kickstarter campaign can help it launch a new line of socks, designed with the business executive in mind.

In fact, co-founder and “sockpreneur”Jason Grill says as pants get shorter and as the tie becomes less popular, socks are the new statement piece to complement men’s business suits.

It’s a growing industry. For the 12 months ending in April, socks brought in $4.22 billion — a 5.6 percent increase over the previous year.

Sock 101 emerged from the idea that quality socks could be more affordable. Currently, the startup sells socks for $7 a pair online and is selling its products through a number of local retailers.

Sock 101 also has the “Sock of the Month Club” — a subscription-based model — which companies have used as monthly client gifts.

It’s working so far. According to Grill, the business launched about a year ago without taking on any investors and is already profitable.

Now, he is trying to add “team socks” to the mix with an addition of seven new pairs whose colors represent a handful of sports teams.

It’s also dipping its toes into custom socks for companies, complete with logo. Some of the Kickstarter funding will go toward creating a tool on Sock 101’s website where users can create their own customized pair.

Sock 101 has almost reached its goal of raising $25,000 through the crowdfunding website. It’s got less than $3,000 left to raise before the campaign ends Oct. 31. Although it’s sold about 3,000 pairs of socks so far, if the company hits its Kickstarter goal, it will have to manufacture more than 2,100.

A number of prominent Kansas Citians are already wearing them, from Mayor Sly James toUMB Bank President and COO Peter deSilva to Sporting Kansas City player Aurelien Collin.

Click here for the full piece.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Longevity

The older I get the more I realize that the most important purpose of longevity isn’t being given the opportunity to  accomplish more so I may want less —but rather being given the opportunity to forgive more so that I might judge less.

Life experience disappointingly fails to provide us with a growing insight into how uniquely superior we are to others.

And instead instructs us about how very …similar we are to those around us –and how capable we are of doing ourselves the things we fear the most and disdain most loudly.

jyb_musingsThis awareness is usually diverted before it arrives and we write it off as something foreign and separate from us.

If we can instead embrace these seemingly unsavory parts of ourselves and learn from them we are then able to replace shame with wisdom –and judgment with understanding.

And anxiety with joy.

Artur Davis: A JFK Fantasy that Doesn’t Inspire

There was every reason to think that Jeff Greenfield’s alternative history of John F. Kennedy surviving Dallas would be one of the most compelling of the hundred or so commemoratives about the late president’s legacy during this 50th anniversary of his death. Greenfield’s last venture into political counter-factual, his 2011 Then Everything Changed (three novellas that sketch a Cuban Missile Crisis that turned into a short war, a Robert Kennedy victory in 1968 and a 1980 election that made Gary Hart President), is just a few shades away from brilliant and never ceases to be briskly entertaining. There is also a finely tuned precision in each scenario that captures just how much of history hinges on narrow moments, and how one altered tide rearranges careers and social structures alike.

Somehow, all of the gifts on display in Greenfield’s prior effort fail to strike gold a second time. His If Kennedy Lived seems oddly un-ambitious: the surprises are too unimaginative, the turns too predictable, and there is the unmistakable feel of a 2000 word magazine piece that was stretched into the more lucrative territory of a book. The earlier work seemed more inventive and poignant; the sequel appears burdened by the low expectation politics of the dismal three years since the original.

For example, Then Everything Changed is typically credited for its navigation between two points of historical determinism—one emphasizing the nuances of personalities and tactics, the other favoring elements like the country’s social and ideological mood. Therefore, war or peace in Cuba are linked to the finer points of Lyndon Johnson’s insecurities while two hundred pages later, a plausible path is sketched for how a certain kind of political tide could have carried a vessel as imperfect as Gary Hart to the presidency. There is cleverness in letting the reader see the extremes of both perspectives and inviting internal argument over which seems more predictive.

davis_artur-11If Kennedy Lived seems to wage the same debate over historical causality but to lean much more heavily toward the version that regards even the most talented figures as relatively incidental characters. The result is eight years of Kennedy that mimic the imperfections of his less glamorous succesors. In Greenfield’s account, we get the following ambivalent outcomes: a secret bargain that trades a Civil Rights Act for southern congressional hawks blessing a negotiated end to the Vietnam War, the misuse of regulatory power to smash a newspaper that was digging into Kennedy’s dirty sexual laundry, and a profile of domestic achievement that is respectable but not breathtaking. There is a sustained but uneven economic prosperity; a vague, short on substance campaign for more civic responsibility; a Voting Rights Act but a tepid assault on poverty; no urban riots but a rising sense of cultural polarization.

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Artur Davis: A JFK Fantasy that Doesn’t Inspire

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