John Y’s Musings from the Middle: I’m soooooo smart

I am soooo smart sometimes….

Why do I say this?

Mostly because I am always looking for clever and cost-saving short cuts in life.

And it is fun when I come up with one.

For example, last month I decided the 5 sportscoats and suit jackets I wear most frequently all had arms thst came down to long on my shirt sleeve and I was going to do something about it. The typical person would go to a tailor or to the store they bought the jackets.

But not me. That is too expensive and time consuming for a guy  like me–who can comes up with ingenious short cuts I simply tried each jacket on and estimated in my mind how much needed to be taken out of each arm. Took me all of 3 minutes.

Then I dropped them off at the cleaners with my  instructions.

jyb_musingsAnd Voila!! Just look at that sleeve now!! It’s not too long anymore, is it?

Ok, maybe a little too short….I know. Ahem. So this week I am taking the 5 jackets and suit jackets to a tailor to have them taken back out to the appropriate length.

Ok. So, maybe I’m not sooo smart after all. But it was fun thinking for a day or two that I really was.

Greg Coker: Emotional Intelligence: A Key Factor in Life, Business & Politics

The political season is in full swing, and it is not uncommon to see candidates/potential candidates, consultants and supporters at public events and in the media floating trial balloons and testing the political waters. And while many gravitate toward one candidate and/or party, most would agree certain candidates on both sides of the isle seem to have more appeal than others and are clearly gaining more traction. That appeal and political movement may have more to do with “Emotional Intelligence” than any other factor.

From a life, business and political perspective, Emotional Intelligence is changing our concept of “being smart.” Emotional Intelligence (EI)-how we handle ourselves and our relationships-coupled with IQ, determine life, career and political success. Most have witnessed someone with extremely high IQ coupled with low EI crash and burn. In the business world way too many CEO’s are hired on their expertise and fired on their personality. Politically, way too many candidates are recruited because of their resume and defeated at the ballot box because they never really connected with voters.

Simply put, a candidate’s emotions are contagious, resonating energy and enthusiasm, all playing a crucial role in the success of a political organization. Volunteers, campaign staff and voters get excited, want to get involved, will work the long hours and most importantly, support the EI candidate and recruit others to do the same. Similarly, in business, we follow leaders with whom we connect. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll cited the number one reason for employee engagement was a personal relationship with one’s immediate supervisor, a supervisor with high EI that recognizes this important link between relationship and performance.

Greg Coker PortraitIn short, our view of human intelligence tends to be narrowly focused, and often ignores a crucial range of abilities that matter immensely in terms of how well we do in politics, business and in our personal life. Emotional Intelligence might be a key factor and help explain when people of high IQ flounder and those of modest IQ coupled with high EI do surprisingly well. The following are key factors in determining our Emotional Intelligence:


  • Emotional self-awareness: understanding one’s own emotions and recognizing their impact; using “gut sense” to guide decisions
  • Accurate self-assessment: knowing one’s strengths and limitations
  • Self-confidence: A sound sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities


  • Emotional self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control
  • Transparency: Displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in adapting to changing situations or overcoming obstacles
  • Achievement: The drive to improve performance to meet inner standards of excellence
  • Initiative: Readiness to act and seize opportunities
  • Optimism: Seeing the upside in events

Social Awareness

Saul Kaplan: The Plumber and the Police Chief

Innovation is about a better way to deliver value. Innovators are all around us. They are taking advantage of today’s technologies and creating new ways to deliver value. We can learn from them if we look up from our silos.

Sometimes the most inspiring innovators are in places we would never have thought to look. Or perhaps we just don’t notice them because our attention is focused on the inventors of new technologies or the entrepreneurs who are making progress in bringing inventions to market. Those people are important but not the whole story.

Meet the plumber and the police chief.

Anthony Gemma is president of Gem Plumbing in Lincoln, R.I. Together with his brothers, Anthony runs one of the most innovative businesses I have seen. I didn’t expect it when I first visited the company. After all, how innovative can a plumbing supply company be? The answer is very innovative.

Gem is on a mission to win the Baldrige National Quality Award. I believe they will achieve it. They have established a culture of excellence and innovation in every aspect of their regional business. They collect, analyze and share data ranging from the location of every part — from the supplier to the service truck to the home — to how long a customer waits to talk live to the dispatcher on the phone. They benchmark themselves against the best. Not the best plumbing supply company, the best companies.

Gem’s customer call and dispatch center would blow you away. It is like standing in NASA mission control. On 12-foot monitoring screens they have live feeds of real-time traffic conditions and satellite mapping of every service vehicle. If there is available capacity in the fleet, Gem is placing a customized radio ad to create tailored demand. They are so good at tracking traffic conditions they supply information to the Department of Transportation and local radio stations for traffic reports.

Saul KaplanTheir business grew from $9 million in 1999 to $40 million in 2007. They get so many businesses coming in for tours and information about their innovation programs they set up the Gem Institute for Performance Excellence. Who would have thought to look at a regional plumbing supply company as an example of innovation best practices?

Next, meet Dean Esserman, chief of police in Providence, R.I. When he was hired by Mayor David Cicilline in 2003, Esserman found a city where the crime rates were high and a force that was troubled by corruption and distrusted by the community. People were afraid to travel downtown. What he’s done since is a great story of business model innovation, and he has delivered significant value to the citizens of Providence.

In six years, Esserman transformed the Providence policing model from a centralized department where police were anonymous and came to the neighborhood after receiving a 911 call to a decentralized department with neighborhood substations and district commanders who are accountable for crime in the local community. His philosophy is that when police get out of their cars and into the life of a neighborhood they become trusted allies.

I have attended the chief’s regular Tuesday morning command meetings where a sophisticated crime tracking system displays crime statistics by district. Each commander is called upon to talk about crime activity in their district and what they are doing about it. The new business model is working, with double digit declines in the overall Providence crime rate. Who would have thought to look at a police chief as an example of innovation best practices?

The plumber and the police chief are just two examples of the innovators among us. Examples are everywhere. We just have to look in the places that we would least expect to find them.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Smartest People I Know

I’m not talking about highest IQ-smart, most knowledge, the most deeply insightful or profoundly creative.

I am talking about useful, practical, everyday smarts that arguably is the most important kind of smart we can seek to be.

Those people. Those are the ones I am talking about.

And their intelligence is hard to define, pigeonhole or quantify.

In many cases they aren’t even described by friends as “smart” and may not think of themselves as overly bright or well educated.

It is more than street smarts, too. Although that is a big part of it.

They are the people you go to when you have an important life or work or personal problem to solve and you need help.

jyb_musingsMaybe the best test for these kind of people is this. You know when you hear someone say–even yourself— “Well, when you think about it that way, it does make sense?” I know I say that a lot.

My theory is that the kind of smart people I am trying to describe are the ones who we never hear say that. Because they are always thinking in “that way” –the seemingly odd and unconventional way about a problem that may make little logical sense but just seems to work.

Those are the smartest people I know.

And the advice I have received from them has meant everything to me. And they probably don’t even know it because I rarely tell them how smart their suggestion is. I usually just say, “Well, when you think about it that way it does make sense.”

Julie Rath: Bringing Your Style A-Game in a Casual Work Environment

There’s nothing better than a well-dressed man in a suit. And yet, while suiting is one of my favorite things to style, many Rath & Co. clients work in casual environments and don’t have the need or opportunity to wear dressy clothes very often. For these clients, the challenge becomes how to be well-dressed and get noticed without looking out of place among their peers. There’s a fine line between putting some effort into your appearance and seeming like you’re trying too hard (which can often result in getting busted on by coworkers – never fun). Those offices where jeans, t-shirts and sneakers are more common than a jacket and tie can range from tech startups to laboratories.

With these challenges in mind, I’ve created the below list of 8 tips on how to step up your style just enough so that it improves your  self-image and the way you’re perceived by others, but not to the degree that you overdo it and become the object of skepticism or even ridicule.

Men's Style: Converse Jack Purcell1) If you’re wearing sneakers, make sure they’re not ones you’d actually exercise in but rather what I call “social sneaks.” These are sneakers you wear for every day, not working out. They should be clean and fresh-looking. Wash or replace them as soon as they start to look grungy. Converse Jack Purcell’s are a great choice.


Men's Style: Avoid hybrid dress shoes
2) Same goes for any other kind of footwear you might find yourself in: keep it classy and avoid anything with the word “hybrid” in its description. The place where the sneaker meets any other kind of shoe (i.e., dress shoe, boot or sandal) is like a dark alley late at night — nowhere you’d want to be.


Men's Style: Socks3) Just because you’re wearing a casual shoe, you don’t need to wear white gym socks or plain black dress socks. In fact, wearing more interesting socks is a great way to inject style into your look without going over the top. Try different colors or patterns, like those above from Drumohr. And even simply switching from black to navy or grey is a big improvement.

Read the rest of…
Julie Rath: Bringing Your Style A-Game in a Casual Work Environment

“No Bracket, No Pay” Awards Revealed

bb33003ebdd250e695_4bm6iixz4Nearly 100 brave souls signed up to compete in the third annual Recovering Politician/No Labels NCAA basketball tournament prediction contest, No Bracket, No Pay.

(The name comes from No Labels’ signature proposal, “No Budget, No Pay,” the simple proposition that if Congress doesn’t perform its constitutional duty to pass a budget, they shouldn’t get paid.  Click here to learn more about No Labels, and here to learn about “No Budget, No Pay”).

Today, we announce the fabulous prizes to be awarded to the winners of this free contest:

1.  The top prize — for the person who earns the most points through being the best predictor of the entire bracket, wins the new No Labels iPhone case.  What does it look like?  Well, take a look at the finalists above and vote on your favorite by clicking here.

2.  Everyone who correctly predicts the NCAA Champion, but doesn’t win the entire contest, will receive a No Labels car magnet!

So good luck to all, and in the interim, help us decide on the best iPhone case.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Pirates of the Caribbean


Time to mix it up

Last night went to Disney with family for couple hours and rode Pirates of the Caribbean –again.

And, again, for the 47th consecutive year the three jailed pirates were unsuccessful at coaxing the keys from the dog a few feet away.

jyb_musingsJust once I would like to see an empty jail cell with the door swung open and the dog chewing on the bone that tempted him, finally, to part with the keys.

Josh Bowen: The Price of Anything


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Change, Zen, Lions and Letting Go

A good friend with an exciting opportunity for a career change recently messaged me about the fear of making such a big change.

I shared a Zen parable I heard years ago that I think exemplifies shrewdly the fear of “letting go” of something we know for something new and scary.

I can’t recall the specifics of the story but this is my very paraphrased version.

“A monk was being chased by a lion and to save himself had to jump of a cliff in the dark of night where he grabbed a thin limb growing on the side of the cliff. The monk, dangling for his life in the pitch black dark, waited for the sun to come up before his strength gave way and, he feared, falling to his death.

But the sunrise didnt come soon enough and the monk’s arms, exhausted and numb, gave way slipping off the branch.

And the monk fell 6 inches to the ground below.

About that is often about as far we have to fall when making a compelling life change.

Something to think about…when you feel like letting go.


jyb_musingsThought for the day

Each day try to learn one thing that will enhance your life

And….more importantly

Try to unlearn one old thing that is diminishing your life

Last Chance to Sign up for No Labels/Recovering Politician NCAA Contest: “No Bracket, No Pay”!

Printable NCAA Bracket 2014

Click here for a printable 2014 NCAA Bracket

You have only about 15 more hours to sign up for year three of “No Bracket, No Pay” — The Recovering Politician’s contest for college hoops forecasting mastery. Just click here to signup, and fill our your brackets before TONIGHT at Midnight.

Our first two years were spectacular successes — not only did over 150 people compete, but two of my home state teams, the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the University of Louisville Cardinals, won the national championship.  Better yet, “No Budget, No Pay” — the hallmark policy proposal of our co-sponsor, No Labels — passed through Congress and became law.  All because of our hoops competition! (OK, maybe the cause and effect was a little tenuous.)

Stay tuned to read about the fabulous prizes that we will be offering.

Anyway, you are invited to join us in No Bracket, No Pay III.  Simply click here to signup, and fill our your brackets before Wednesday night at Midnight.

Good luck!

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