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.

Michael Steele: Martin Luther King proved perseverance breeds success

When I think of Dr. King, I think of his courage, vision, strength, humanity, and most importantly, his perseverance. Dr. King’s perseverance transformed him into a legendary leader but it was his challenge to each one of us that sets him apart—a challenge in this day, in this hour, to “take up the cause of freedom”.

This element of Dr. King’s life is something that hopefully each of us has incorporated into our daily lives. Perseverance breeds success; and it is his perseverance that enabled Dr. King to achieve his dream.

Dr. King knew that his dream—this movement towards civil rights—would begin a new chapter for America—a chapter we are still writing today; a chapter steeped in the hopes of “little black boys and black girls [joining hands] with little white boys and white girls” for true opportunity and equality.

446px-Michael_SteeleWe celebrate this day different from any other American holiday because we use it not only to recall the legacy of the civil rights era and the man who lived and died for the true freedom of all Americans, but also to assess how we are doing in making The Dream real. Like Dr. King, we are not just writing a chapter in the life of the African-American community, we are the authors of the book of life in America.

I know that if Dr. King were here today he would encourage us to persevere in the face of tragedies like the Trayvon Martin shooting, or efforts to roll back hard fought gains in voting and civil rights. He would remind us that “freedom is not free” and the price we must pay keeps the dream alive; that success does not come without sacrifice if you want the dream to live for future generations

And that’s the easy part because the dream lives in each one of us. Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from The Grio)

Erica and Matt Chua: Japan

Japan is what the world could be, if we all worked a lot harder.  For example, Tokyo is home to more than 30 million people, yet the streets are cleaner than restaurants in the USA.  The food chain is so trusted that meat, included beef and horse, is consumed raw.  Rush hour traffic is orderly, composed and quiet.  The grass is so green and pristine that it looks fake.  The trains run on the second, show up at 12:00:07 and you missed your train.  When you have a Japanese person explain why things are the way they are you can’t help but laugh and think, “Yeah, that makes so much sense…why is it done differently at home?”  While many things are lost in translation, understanding the order and practicality of Japan is a wonderful experience.


DON’T MISS: Nara, imagine traditional Japan hundreds of years ago, what you are imagining is Nara.
MUST SEERaw meat restaurants in Tokyo; Harajuku and Yoyogi Park (Tokyo) on Sundays to see people wearing crazy clothes such as “cosplay” and the Dancing Elvises; Arashiyama  hill and forest temples (near Kyoto); Shinjuku (Tokyo) at Night.
MUST TASTESushi at Tsukiji Fish Market…really sushi anywhere and everywhere in Japan.


TRIP PLANNING A week is enough to see the major sights of Tokyo and Kyoto, but 10-14 days would make the trip much more enjoyable.
GETTING AROUND: Trains.  The train system, especially intra-city, is among the world’s best.  Avoid traveling during rush-hour.


OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $77.58 without accommodations (we Couchsurfed)
COST OF A BEER: $3 at 7-11.
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Take the bus instead of the train from Tokyo to Kyoto.  We paid $36 each for the bus instead of over $160 for the bullet train.  This was only possible because we had a Japanese speaker arrange it for us, so find a friend.


YOU NEED TO KNOW: Japan is expensive, think Switzerland expensive.  Public transit often costs $2-4 USD a ride, a short taxi fare is $20, a meal rarely costs less than $20.  That said, it’s all worth it, Japan is an amazing country.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would buy a Japan Rail Pass and travel extensively through the country.  It would have cost a lot more than what we did, but allowed us to see a lot more than we did.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: How to travel Japan inexpensively.  Is a Japan Rail Pass worth it? Free attractions in Kyoto.   Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!


OUR HIGHLIGHT: Couchsurfing with Takeshi in Tokyo and Masato in Arashiyama.
WHERE WE WENT: TokyoArashiyamaKyotoOsakaKobe, Nara, Mt. Fuji
WE REGRET MISSING: Okinawa and Hiroshima

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Salina Bros Shakedown

We’ve all heard some version of the story of a great basketball player who in some big game misses the clutch shot that could have won the game.

After that the player is forever haunted by that “moment” and asked over and over again by fans who recognize him, “Aren’t you the guy who ……?”

Over time the wound dissipates but never quite fully goes away.

My father wasn’t a basketball player (at least after high school). But as a former professional basketball team owner, he has had to live with a similar kind haunting basketball “moment.”

Call it the “Salina Bros Shakedown.” Call it the “Greatest sports negotiation of all time.” Call it the convergence of tenacity and blind, dumb luck. Whatever it was, it now has a final-seeming price tag of $800M.

And it’s $800M that, theoretically, my father—had my father been a different kind of person and a more ruthless kind of negotiator- may have gotten a piece of.

jyb_musingsYesterday I was with my dad when we ran into Joe Arnold who stopped him to do this interview. Joe does a masterful job of explaining succinctly what happened and capturing my father’s unbothered and good-humored attitude about it all.

I believe in negotiating hard and negotiating smart. Always. And my father has taught me that well. But he has also taught me to negotiate honorably with an eye toward your reputation and future business opportunities. At the end of each negotiation you have a “bottom line” business deal and a “bottom line” reflection on your character. And both are of equal importance.

In this particular negotiation there was a fluke in which had my father been focused merely on squeezing every last penny out of this deal at the expense of his reputation, he may have gotten a piece of this improbable windfall. But that would have meant sacrificing who he is and his reputation as a fair dealer with people who had trusted him and were relying on him to close the biggest deal of their lives. The entire ABA/NBA merger was being held up by the Salina brothers final demand for TV rights in perpetuity and they knew they had the NBA and ABA over a barrel and merely had to wait them out until they capitulated. And they did.

Is a person’s reputation worth $100M, $200M or even $400M dollars?

I guess the takeaway for me is that I believe that question is the wrong question. Because one’s reputation should never be for sale. Period.

And as so-called “missed opportunities” go–they should never be the cause for time-consuming and soul-draining bitterness but rather something you laugh off magnanimously and then keep moving ahead, from, lest you miss the next opportunity.

And that’s a pretty good lesson for a son to learn from his pop.

Is any of this just some sort of happy rationalization trying to pretend a missed opportunity wasn’t really wanted anyway? Probably a little. But only a little.

Because, at the end of the day, sometimes a missed shot in a basketball game, literal or figurative, is just that. And nothing more. And leaves behind an interesting story but not something to haunt or define you. After all, it’s just a game.

Jeff Smith: Yes, Chris Christie, the Feds Are Out to Get You

Nothing is ever quite the same after you wake up to the feds pounding on your door. Trust me: I learned the hard way.

Which is why most of the media response to the “Bridgegate” scandal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s handling thereof feels off to me.

The optimists, including Time and Washington Post political analysts, have asserted that after his “virtuoso” press conference performance, Christie remains the 2016 Republican frontrunner. Somewhere in the middle are Politico and Slate columnists, who acknowledge that this episode may affect the governor’s 2016 prospects. Others less enamored of the governor say that despite his mistakes, the media’s infatuation with him will keep him afloat.

The most pessimistic analysts contend that Christie’s presidential hopes are finished because this episode has highlighted his famously overbearing style, or would force him to change it, which may be beyond his ability and/or cost him support. A few even think his governorship may be in jeopardy based on Bridgegate or the more recent revelation that he awarded a contract to the highest (as opposed to the lowest) bidder for ads featuring his own visage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Jeff SmithBut other than New York’s Jonathan Chait, who recognized the cumulative weight of multiple investigations at multiple levels of government, most commentators are focusing on the wrong thing: the politics of recent revelations. The few who are focused on the potential criminal violations by Christie aides (and perhaps Christie himself) are focused on Bridgegate and, to a lesser extent, the tourism ad kerfluffle. Was wire fraud committed by anyone who used email to further an illicit act? Do state crimes of willful negligence or public corruption might apply here? Was a federal crime of interfering with interstate transportation committed?

What these pundits forget—and, as Christie, a former U.S. attorney, knows as well as anyone—is the old saw that federal prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. They don’t need a bulletproof case. And once they have a target, they aren’t limited to investigating the matter that caught their attention; public corruption probes often widen as new information emerges. Federal prosecutors rarely have just one attack route. Remember, they brought down Al Capone for income tax evasion, not bribery, bootlegging, or murder. The Fort Lee incident may be merely a bridge, if you will, to other Christie administration misconduct. As a former target of a federal investigation that started in one place and ended in a very different one, I’m all too familiar with the unpredictable directions in which these things can go. What piques a prosecutor’s interest during plea negotiations may be totally unrelated to the original crime.

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Jeff Smith: Yes, Chris Christie, the Feds Are Out to Get You

Saul Kaplan: Random Collisions

Beware of random collisions with unusual suspects.  Unless, of course, if you want to learn something new.  In that case seek out innovators from across every imaginable silo and listen, really listen, to their stories.  New ideas, perspectives, and the big value creating opportunities are in the gray areas between the unusual suspects.  It seems so obvious and yet we spend most of our time with the usual suspects in our respective silos.  We need to get out of our silos more.

It is human nature to surround ourselves with people who are exactly like us.  We connect and spend time with people who share a common world-view, look the same, enjoy the same activities, and speak the same language.  We join clubs to be with others like us.  I want to belong to the non-club club.  The only tribe I want to be in is a tribe of unusual suspects who can challenge my world-view, expose me to new ideas, and teach me something new.  Our tribe of unusual suspects can change the world if we connect in purposeful ways.

As an “accidental bureaucrat” over the last six years I had a front row seat to observe the silos in action.  Every week went something like this; On Monday I met with the health care crowd, on Tuesday it was the education crowd, on Wednesday the energy crowd and so on, you get the idea.  This cycle repeated over and over again.  Each crowd was comprised of the usual suspects, well-intentioned people rehashing the same discussion incessantly.  The scene is right out of Groundhog Day.  Most of the participants were there to represent institutional perspectives and to protect their respective interests.  In each crowd there are always a few innovators that want to change the conversation but they make little progress.   At the end of each week I always came away with the same conclusion.  If only we could take the innovators from across each of the silos and bring them together to enable more random collisions.

Saul KaplanMaybe we could change the conversation if we connect the unusual suspects in purposeful ways.  Maybe then we can make progress on the real issues of our time, little things like health care, education, and energy.  It will take cross silo collaboration and breaking down the boundaries between industries, sectors, and disciplines.

People always ask me how I could have worked in the public sector after being in the private sector all of my career.  Doesn’t it move too slowly?   I don’t know about that.  I worked with many large companies, during my road warrior consulting days, and I don’t remember them changing so quickly.  You are right, I would say, government agencies move pretty slowly too.  I can’t resist adding, I am certain that academic institutions move the slowest of all!  The point is few organizations across both the public and private sector have the capacity to innovate and change because they are working hard pedaling the bicycle of their current business model and trying to stay alive and competitive.

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Saul Kaplan: Random Collisions

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: You Gotta Have Faith

Sometimes you read something and all you can say is “Wow.”

And then a few moments later, “Amen.”

Here’s an excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s recent piece on faith:

I attended Washington Community Fellowship when I lived in Washington D.C. But once I moved to New York, I stopped attending any kind of religious fellowship.

jyb_musingsI have often wondered why it happened that way: Why had I wandered off the path taken by the rest of my family? What I understand now is that I was one of those people who did not appreciate the weapons of the spirit. I have always been someone attracted to the quantifiable and the physical. I hate to admit it. But I don’t think I would have been able to do what the Huguenots did in Le Chambon. I would have counted up the number of soldiers and guns on each side and concluded it was too dangerous.

I have always believed in God. I have grasped the logic of Christian faith. What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power. I put that sentence in the past tense because something happened to me when I sat in Wilma Derksen’s garden. It is one thing to read in a history book about people empowered by their faith. But it is quite another to meet an otherwise very ordinary person, in the backyard of a very ordinary house, who has managed to do something utterly extraordinary.

Their daughter was murdered. And the first thing the Derksens did was to stand up at the press conference and talk about the path to forgiveness. “We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives.” Maybe we have difficulty seeing the weapons of the spirit because we don’t know where to look, or because we are distracted by the louder claims of material advantage. But I’ve seen them now, and I will never be the same.

Julie Rath: Puddlejumping and Lady Carrying

BFI National Archive, “Between Showers,”  1914.

True, I have been posting a lot lately about men’s boots, but in the winter,  sometimes all you see on a person is his outerwear and footwear, and that’s why  I’m a little obsessed. My general feeling about mens footwear is that it should  be streamlined and not chunky or clunky. However (and maybe it’s the Maine in  me), but when it comes to boots and outdoor gear, I love the look of something  rugged and tough. It just screams out masculinity. Like this is a guy who would  scoop me up, carry me across a puddle and deposit me on dry curb.

Here are my picks for rugged, lady-scooping goodness:

Red Wings

Red Wings have enjoyed a monster resurgence as of  late, largely due to smart partnerships with some major clothing companies.

These babies above are a J. Crew exclusive. If you  get them, make sure you go with the “dark wood” color. “Dark straw” is a color  no one should ever put on his or her body, I don’t care how close to the ground  it is.

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Julie Rath: Puddlejumping and Lady Carrying

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Reinventing Myself

Secret confession

Sometimes when I am at a point in my life when it is time to reinvent myself again, I ask myself if I think I can get away with using one of my older reinvented selves and hope no one notices because I cant think of anything new to do with myself.


I want to become a better person.

Not so much because of ambition or a sense of calling.

jyb_musingsBut because I am I feel that I am capable of better–more dignified– targeted online ads.

I am better than the current ads targeting me! And I know deep down that I have better targeted ads inside me. Ads my mom would be proud of.

Josh Bowen: Rules of the Gym

The new year opens up the flood gates of new gym goers, all with the mission to get in “shape.” Many of these gym goers have never worked out before and have never been to the “gym.” This is a new playground, a new adventure and a new experience. Many will be intimidated and may do things they don’t know are wrong. So with a little fun, I have compiled a list of “rules” for your gym experience. Here we go (print these off and take them with you!):

1. No one is staring at you…they are staring at themselves.


Not really a “rule” but a statement! Believe it or not, people are not staring at you working out, in fact they are staring at themselves. Why do you think they put mirrors up? To check our form? No! To check if we are showing definition in the triceps. Duh!

2. Re-rack Your Weights


One of the first rules we learn as a child; if you bring your toys out, you have to put them back where they came from. You take the 5lbs dumbbells across the gym to do hammer curls, take ‘em back Jack!

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Josh Bowen: Rules of the Gym

The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show