John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Word of the Day

jyb_musingsWord of the day

Coherent–a degree of clarity sufficiently clearer than anyone is capable of on a Monday morning.


Kudos to the US Postal Service!

I still check the Post Office Drop Box to make sure the letters I just dropped in and am trying to mail didn’t get stuck in the chute.

And counting the letter I just mailed tonight—for 51 consecutive years— not a single letter has ever gotten stuck!

“Hey body,” you will say to yourself one day at around age 50, “I’m really sorry I did that to you.”

And after a long pause you will hear your body say back, in almost inaudible tones, something you can’t post on Facebook.

Betsy Powell: Expert advice on how Rob Ford can get his second chance

From Betsy Power of the Toronto Star:

Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller

Hi, I’m Rob. And I’m a recovering politician.

When Toronto’s world famous mayor leaves rehab and returns to city hall and the campaign trail Monday, Rob Ford might want to get his hands on The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis, a 2013 book edited by Jonathan Miller, a former state treasurer of Kentucky. (His editor’s note opens with that take on the well-known Alcoholics Anonymous’ salutation.)

The book includes contributions from a dozen former American politicians sharing their “war stories” and advice on how to survive and transcend a crisis.

The steps include: Tell the truth. Own your mistakes, take responsibility and sincerely say “I’m sorry.” Make an emotional connection. Be first to frame your narrative in your own voice, with facts and sincerity. Present your fix-it plan.

North Americans, generally speaking, like to give public figures a second chance, Miller says, citing former U.S. president Bill Clinton, “the ultimate survivor,” and Marion Barry, the ex-Washington, D.C., mayor whom the New York Post calls the “original Rob Ford.”

Some comeback attempts don’t work out. Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s campaign for comptroller last year acknowledged his hooker scandal with an ad that said he’d “failed, big time,” and then he did. Former congressman Anthony Weiner scuttled his political re-entry by getting caught in a second sexting scandal.

Miller says that in his memory, no other scandal-scarred politician has sought re-election with the kind of “comprehensive baggage” Ford has accumulated.

“You’ve had people who suffered from addiction, others accused of hanging with criminal elements, and ethical impropriety. It’s just unprecedented to think of anybody with all of these accusations,” said Miller, a crisis management attorney and founder

The mayor and Councillor Doug Ford, his older brother and campaign manager, have promised the 45-year-old Rob Ford will be a “new man” after spending the last two months in a Muskoka rehab centre where he received treatment for alcoholism.

Ford went to the facility April 30 after audio recordings of him making racist remarks surfaced as well as another video allegedly showing him smoking crack cocaine, which was viewed by a Star reporter.

Ford’s actions in the coming days will be critical if he has a chance of persuading voters to re-elect him mayor on Oct. 27, Miller said.

His advice to Ford? Address the public and answer any and all questions — similar to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s two-hour news conference after a bridge closing scandal.

“He (Ford) really needs to have a full, free, honest and sincere admission of wrongdoing and to say, ‘Here are the ways I am going to change my behaviour so you’ll never see this happen again.’ ”

Ford has scheduled a city hall news conference at 3:30 p.m. Monday, but he will not take any questions. That’s a mistake, said Miller, who is married to a Mississauga native and has spent a lot of time in Canada.

“Letting his critics come in and take every single question and answer it honestly and sincerely . . . that is the way to survive something like this.”

Miller would also advise Ford to speak to youths about the perils of drug and alcohol abuse, and donate money to addiction treatment facilities.

The key will be his sincerity, “and whether people really believe that what he is doing is sincere or rather just a cover for trying to find political redemption.”

But after months of defiance, name calling and angry denials about substance abuse and a string of embarrassing and outrageous behaviour, Ford will face a doubtful public. Emailing a photo of himself in a swimming pool and proclaiming rehab is “amazing” might play well with his hardcore base but it will do little to sway skeptics.

Down at city hall, for instance, Ford has invited councillors to join him in his office Monday afternoon for an “informal meeting.” None contacted by the Star planned to attend. Some wished him luck and hoped rehab had done him some good.

“I don’t make time to meet with bigots, sexists or homophobes,” Councillor Josh Matlow said, referring to some of the comments Ford has made in his drunken stupors…

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

Former Missouri senator Jeff Smith, a Recovering Politician contributor and another co-author of Scandal and Resurgence, said there’s a “reservoir of goodwill” for Ford, the same way there was for Barry, the former Washington mayor.

While both shared the ignominy of being caught on videotape smoking crack, the two men are popular with a similar constituency: people suspicious of government and media, and who view these politicians “as sort of persecuted underdogs,” Smith said.

“If Ford is able to channel peoples’ sympathies in a way that Marion Barry, I don’t think it’s inconceivable that he could be re-elected, but he can’t come back and have another episode, then it’s over,” Smith said.

Just last week, Barry, who is on a book tour promoting his memoir, Mayor for Life, denied he ever smoked crack in a hotel room when he was mayor in 1990. After going to jail, he was re-elected as mayor in 1994 and later won a seat on council that he still occupies.

Voters also respond to personal scandals differently than they do financial transgressions or those involving abuses of power,” Smith noted. In recent American history, financial scandals are more damaging.

“If it’s sex, a lot of voters are like, ‘what does that have to do with me, that’s between him and his wife and his God.’ If it’s public money, voters are like, ‘that’s my tax money,’ so it’s a different reaction.”

Smith was once a rising star in the Democratic Party and subject of the critically acclaimed documentary Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? His political career ended after he pleaded guilty to election-related fraud and went to prison in 2010 — punishment even his political enemies believed was wildly excessive.

Now a politics professor, Smith said Ford will have to craft his message aimed at the “fence sitters,” and not direct his message to the people “who identify with the sort of grievance-based politics that fuelled his rise.”

Saul Kaplan: 100 Calorie Bite Size Snacks

photo-saulOne 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.


Video of The RP’s 30 Minute Training Session with Jim Fannin prior to the World Series of Poker

Day 2 WSOP





As The RP heads to Vegas for a return trip to play in he World Series of Poker (read here about his improbable journey to the 2012 Final Table), he talks to his friend — and nationally-renowned mental fitness coach — Jim Fannin for some critical pre-tourney advice.

Jim’s advice about how The RP can get “into the zone” — a strategy that Fannin has used to advice some of the world’s most famous professional athletes — can help you better yourself at poker…and in any other aspect of life.

Read about Jim here. And here.

And listen in to their 30 minute poker coaching session…

The RP HIGHLY RECOMMENDS Jim Fannin to his friends looking for an edge in business, sports or any other competitive field. Contact him here.

Welcome Canadian Visitors to The Recovering Politician

If you are one of the thousands of new visitors to the site joining us via the Rob Ford profile in the Toronto Star, welcome!

While you are here, we encourage you to surf through The Recovering Politician, a web site dedicated to civil dialogue, led by those who’ve served in the political arena and now are using their experiences to offer lessons to fix our political system.  Here’s a sampling of some of our most popular posts and contributors:

We’ll start with The RP because, well…uh…he paid for that microphone. In his most popular piece, The RP shared his impossible journey to the final table of the World Series of Poker.  Over the course of the past year and a half, The RP has explained Why Kentucky Basketball Matters, he’s made The Liberal Case for Israel, outlined Debt Ceilings and Credit Downgrade for Dummies, and shared his Top Five lists for about everything. (Our favorite –The Top Five Jew-ish Gentiles in Pop Culture).

The Cycle‘s very own Krystal Ball, generated considerable reader interest with her first piece about Why We Need More Women in Politics.  Krystal should know; her first campaign for office was interrupted by a ridiculous media inquiry into pictures taken of her in college; PG-13 pictures that caused a mini-national-sensation only because of Krystal’s gender.

MSNBC’s commentary crew is also represented by Michael Steele  –whom you also know as the former Lt. Governor of Maryland, as well as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Michael has shared with RP readers his vision of the new American Dream, and assessed both President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Our most popular writer, hands down, has been contributing RP and former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith.  Jeff’s first piece — the story of his rise into national celebrity, his dramatic fall that resulted in a prison term, and his hopes for redemption — put the RP on the national map, earning recognition from New York magazine’s “Approval Matrix.” Jeff’s followup — about love and sex behind bars — drew in nearly 100,000 readers, literally crashing the Web site.  Every few weeks, Jeff offers a political advice column — “Do As I Say” — and just this week, he shares the ugly fate of convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky as he enters prison.

Read the rest of…
Welcome Canadian Visitors to The Recovering Politician

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Ease and Comfort

jyb_musingsI am all for ease and comfort. I am a fan of both, in fact.

But an irtitating feature in new cars is that every time the driver plops into the driver seat, the seat begins moving automatically to “self adjust” into just the right position for the driver.

The entire experience starts and ends in about 4 seconds and is supposed to be some sort of luxury addition. But it scares me every time I get in my car and I then wait impatiently as I am manuevered electronicly back and forth until I am delievered into, what my car believes, is my “optimum seated position.”

First, I feel like I am not going to be doing a lot of different tasks other than driving while seated in my car so there really isn’t a need for multiple position options. I’m not going to sun bath or take an eye exam or anything like that in my car. The only time I need to reposition my seat is when I have dropped something under it and can’t reach it. And no need really to move the seat then. I have been squating beside the driver seat and sticking my arm under it to successfully find things for 35 years without a complaint.

Which leads me to the real reason I think I resent this new “automatic self- adjusting” driver seats. I fear they are manufactured by the same company that makes those stair case
seat lifts. And that my car seat is just a starter version.

Julie Rath: Reader Question – Versatile Briefcase

Question: Hey Rath & Co! I see that you have some fun backpack recommendations…how about a nice, professional, hip, not-too-expensive briefcase? Big enough to carry a laptop, cute enough for after-work drinks and nice enough for an interview. Thoughts? -Arielle (on behalf of boyfriend)

Answer: Hey Arielle (+ boyfriend),

Here are three briefcase-type bags that I love and that fit your criteria. Note that you don’t want to go too inexpensive with something like this because you’ll be carrying your laptop in it. So it needs to be sturdy and well-constructed.

Each suggestion below has a slightly different vibe:

Jack Spade Men's Briefcase

J. Crew-Billykirk Men's Satchel

Doucal's Men's Briefcase

Cheers, and let me know how you do!

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Self-Help Books

self helpSo let me tell you about what I’ve been reading lately –not!

If you frequently drive around clients in your car, you have to be careful not to leave every self-help book you happen to be reading in plain sight in the back seat.

Clients sitting in the back seat will notice them even if you tell yourself “Oh, they probably didn’t see that.”

And they will either make an unflattering assumption about you or ask to borrow the book from you. Neither of which is desireable.

jyb_musingsIt is much better if I client finds out about the self-help books you are reading by you posting pictures of them on Facebook. That way they won’t ask to borrow them. And if they make a snarky remark to you about what you are reading, you can tease them about still being on Facebook at their age. (Of course, they might find that comeback from you ironic and buy you a few more self-help books.)

And if all else fails you can tell them you bought the books to help you learn better how to cope with them. That is a good line for saving face–and losing clients.

It just makes better business sense to talk about the weather.

Help End the War About Coal: Support Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky

jmandclinton14I just returned from the Clinton Global Initiative America summit in Denver, where I saw an old friend (see pictures spanning 20 years), and spoke about an initiative that is already uniting both “Friends of Coal” and passionate environmentalists:

Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky

As I discussed in this op-ed in today’s Louisville Courier-Journal, Rebuilding West Liberty, a project announced this week as a Clinton Global Initiative America Commitment to Action,  is a multi-faceted approach to redevelop a small town in coal country — nearly destroyed by a tornado two years ago —  as a national model for sustainability.

Phase One of this private/public partnership involves the construction of state-of-the-art, energy efficient homes that utilize renewable technologies, and the educational promotion of its innovations to school children and similarly-situated rural communities across the country.

The project holds great promise, not simply for West Liberty itself, but perhaps more importantly, as an example for all of coal country.  It’s a chance to stop merely complaining about what’s wrong in the “War About Coal,” and start supporting what’s great about Eastern Kentucky.

Of course there’s a catch:  We need to raise $500,000 to see this exciting local vision realized.  The good news is that you can help:  With your tax-deductible contribution (the project’s fiscal agent is the nationally-estemeed Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises, FAHE), you can make a real difference in helping this risilient community, and working towards an end to the War About Coal.

Click here to contribute $5, $10, $50, $100, $1000 — whatever you can afford.

What’s clear is that we can’t afford to give up on coal country.  It’s time to put aside the heated rhetoric and take a step for real progress in the region.

Please join us.

Josh Bowen: 12 Hints to Hiring a Personal Trainer


You may decide one day to work with a personal trainer, like myself. It potentially could be the best decision you have ever made. However, it does require you do a little homework. No different than any profession, there are some great ones and then there are some not so great ones. Sometimes it falls down to a matter of personality and preference.

*insert from my book 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom available now on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

1. Know what you are looking for
Hopefully this book has helped you make things seem clearer. You have a better idea of what you want out of fitness. Seeing a personal trainer takes commitment. You need to know what you are looking for both in yourself and your trainer. Who do you want this person to be in your life? A motivator? Someone to hold you accountable or someone to refresh your workouts? Having this in mind will help in making a decision.

2. Know your budget
Trainers that are accomplished and have loads of experience are not cheap and nor should they be. Know what you are willing to spend and what you are able to spend.

3. Make sure personality clicks
A trainer can have a high level of skill but if the personality of his or her client doesn’t match or click, it won’t work. Ask a lot of questions about past clients with your personality type. If it gels, great if not move on.

4. Check qualifications but do not be blinded by it
At one point or another I have held 16 nationally recognized certifications and I hold a bachelors degree in Exercise Science. It shows my knowledge base and my passion for learning but it does not show what type of trainer I am. Check your potential trainers qualifications but realize that experience and passion for people matter more than pieces of paper.

5. Ask for testimonials
Ask to see what the trainer has done with other clients. This can give you a great idea of what type of trainer you are dealing with.

6. Watch them train
If possible, watch a few sessions while working yourself out to see the body language, engagement etc they have.

7. If they don’t discuss goals in detail, walk
A must for every client is goal setting, without goals we are just working out. There is no point to training with a trainer if they don’t discuss your goals.

8. See if they practice what they preach
How a trainer takes care of themselves is an indication of how they will take care of you.

9. Ask for their 6 week plan
See, based on you and your goals, if they have a plan of action for you.

10. Pick someone who is motivating
A positive, motivating person can make even a dark situation seem light.

11. Set up a consultation with your trainer
Most trainers will do a consultation to show what they offer. Take advantage of this to see if you click.

12. Choose wisely
There are a lot of great, qualified trainers out there. I have personally hired, certified, managed a good number of them. Find the best one that fits you.


The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show