10.20.2014

Too Long For a Tweet, Too Short for a Blog Post XI

http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2011/04/08/plastic.freinkel1_custom-9ef5ba3ed81966639e150a5a39a2d34e1893e76b.jpgHere's an excerpt from a book I recently read: "Plastic: A Toxic Love Story," by Susan Freinkel.

I’ve looked at photos of dozens of dead Laysan albatrosses — pictures that capture in the starkest way the threat plastics pose to the natural world.  Every carcass seems a mockery of the natural order: a crumbling bird-shaped basket of bleached bones and features filled with a mound of gaily colored lighters and straws and bottle caps. The birds are dissolving back into the ground; the plastics promise to endure for centuries.

10.17.2014

Reading for Success

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_B5nNZ6dCV3s/THSFyvl8BqI/AAAAAAAAR88/07j3h4jYD14/s1600/1)+Mouse+can+often+be+found+with+her+nose+in+a+book.JPGRunning a business means two more things more than just doing the work of the business.  First, it means actually running the business: HR, payroll, office stuff, etc.  I dig this kind of stuff because I think of it in terms of systems and enjoy having a role in making those systems and making them better.

Second, it means sales.  Ruh roh.  Not that I don't like networking and making the case and closing the deal.  In fact, I quite enjoy these tasks.  It's just that, as an introvert, I find them incredibly tiring.  So I do them, but I need to make sure I recharge afterwards. 

Usually, that recharging is through reading books.  There's something about the silence and solitude of reading that is comforting, energizing, and fulfilling for the introvert.

What a pleasant surprise, then, to read in The Economist earlier this month that business leaders ought to do more solitary reading.  The article takes a dim view of what often counts as personal development for the business leader: inane retreats, gab fests, and pep talks by the industry's latest gurus.  It argues instead for time with Plato, Confucious, and Dostoyevsky.  It elevates Gates and Welch for carving out time to read and think without interruption.  And it touches on this contemporary notion of "mindfulness," which is usually some combination of meditation, centeredness, and deep breathing.

At last, some business advice I can get behind.  So, I'll still go out and press the flesh some evenings.  But, other evenings, when I crawl into bed and put my nose between the pages, I can consider that time well spent too.

10.15.2014

Love and Marriage...and Parenthood...and Depression and Dysfunction and Disaster?

http://annagodfrey.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/539187_10202243932398210_1569656851_n.jpgFor introverted, inquisitive voyeurs like me, Facebook is a godsend.  Here is sanctioned stalking of friends and family, with a big assist from those very same friends and family who so helpfully post constant updates and pics.

I hope that didn't sound too creepy; I'm half-joking.  In all seriousness, though, Facebook is a wonderful way to keep in touch in your relationships.  It is delightful to be able to follow the people that matter the most to you as they go through the seasons in their lives: falling in love, getting married, having babies, raising kids, kindergarten, soccer games, prom, and so on and so forth.  It may sound corny, but it makes the world seem smaller and cozier, that I can see how my friends and family are doing and I can keep them posted on what I'm up to.  And all the cute baby pictures and to-die-for vacation pictures and yes even the annoying fancy dinner plate pictures, all of that makes me smile because I am able to share in other people's happiness.

Of course, sometimes we use Facebook to vent or rage or wallow or lament.  But usually if something is really going wrong, we find it hard to share in a setting like social media.  Not that that's a bad thing: there is such a thing as sharing different things to different people in different ways.  It's just important to remember that when we scroll through our news feeds, that everything we see is real but it is not quite all of reality.

In life, in marriage, in parenthood, we have our great days, our so-so days, and our awful days.  Sometimes, we have a season of awful.  And sometimes, we have unending phases of truly awful.  It can seem dissonant when all we see when we check in on our friends and family is the great days.  It can atrophy our ability to share when all we share is the great days.

This all seems so obvious.  Plus most of us have real relationships outside of social media so there are ample opportunities to be real, to share about cruddy times and to hear about cruddy times.  But I find myself having to remind myself that life isn't just the stuff you post on your Facebook page.  There are seasons of sorrow, and we can make it through them.  And there are people struggling and scuffling all around us and all around the world, and we can be people who are available to be confided in and cried on. Through love and marriage and parenthood, and depression and dysfunction and disaster, I hope to have good friends and be a good friend, smiling at the happy shares but also mindful of the fact that life also consists of unhappy seasons too.

10.14.2014

The Hardest Thing About Being a Christian

http://ionecontramundum.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/long_road-ahead.jpegIn church and amongst believers, being a Christian is fun and easy.  We can encourage one another with words we all understand the meaning of.  We can sing uplifting songs.  We can recollect together great things our God has done in the past and hope together for great things our God will do in the future.

Out in the world, being a Christian is often not fun and not easy.  We are mocked for not accepting evolution.  We are chastised for being intolerant or hypocritical.  We seem to have no satisfactory answer for why there is so much suffering in a world made by a loving God.

Out in the world, it can be hard to be a Christian.  In response, we can choose to stop being Christians.  I know many people who have chosen this route.  We can also choose to stop being out in the world.  I know many people who have chosen this route.

As for me, I choose to continue to be a Christian.  I also choose to continue to be out in the world.  I also believe that the hardest thing about being a Christian has nothing to do with evolution or homosexuality or hypocrisy or suffering.  I believe the hardest thing about being a Christian is that I want to be my own god.  I want to make my own sense of the world, I want to make my own world, I want to figure out the rules and behaviors and ends and means that work best for me.  And I want these things as deeply as I could possibly want anything.

There is a lot of language in the Bible about self-denial.  Many people far nobler than I have responded to this language with extreme forms of self-denial.  They have forsaken physical comforts, disciplined their eyes, mastered their stray thoughts.

The hardest thing about being a Christian is that being a Christian is even harder than all of those things.  Because being a Christian means truly dying to self.  It is the hardest possible thing to do.  It is the opposite of what I want.  It is the last thing my body and mind are predisposed to do.

And it is the gateway to truly living, truly becoming who we were made to be, truly shining like you can't even imagine.  People think of God making them the way they are and that they are therefore free to be and act however they choose.  I believe in something even more freeing and even more exalting.  But following the path to that is the hardest thing you will ever do.  And it is the easiest choice you will ever make. 


10.13.2014

A Romantic Getaway, Philly Style

Growing up in suburban San Jose, when my friends and I talked about the perfect date (and, since we were all losers, it was mostly talking and not a whole lot of actually going out on dates), it always involved a car.  You needed a car to go to dinner and a movie.  A car was how you got your date to the, um, scenic vistas in the area.  And what car you drove was how you impressed a girl enough so they would date you.  (I drove a barf green Buick station wagon.  Again, loser.)

This past weekend, Amy's siblings took our kids and she and I got to check into a hotel in our neighborhood for a romantic getaway.  As we reveled in this rare extended period of one-on-one time, I couldn't help but think how different our time together was than the dates of my teenhood.  Namely, we didn't need a car.

On Saturday, we walked to our hotel, dropped our stuff off, and took the trolley downtown.  From the trolley stop, we walked through Chinatown and Reading Terminal Market to Franklin Square, where we enjoyed 18 holes of mini-golf.  We trolleyed back to our hotel area, partook of a fancy dinner at Pod, and then bought candy bars at Wawa before retiring to our room.

The next morning, while Amy slept in, I took in a run in the early light.  I hit the new Boardwalk, took Schuylkill River Trail north to the Art Museum, looped back into University City, and ran through the Drexel and Penn campuses back to the hotel.  Though the sun was barely up, already there were lots of people biking, running, and walking.

When our kids get old enough to date, I assume they will hit some of these very same places, and will be able to do so without a car.  What a wonderful city we live in, full of fun date night activities that are there for the enjoyment. 

10.10.2014

Wistar

Late last week I had the honor of hearing from, sitting next to, and being introduced by Dr. Russel Kaufman, head of the Wistar Institute in University City.  We were at a CEO Council for Growth meeting at Wistar, I was presenting on a report we are working on, and Dr. Kaufman was tasked with teeing up my remarks.

I live less than a mile from Wistar, but most people aren't familiar with this mighty little engine. They were the nation’s first independent medical research and training institution.  They happen to have developed the vaccines for rabies, rubella, and rotavirus.  And I think it's an even bet that if we ever beat cancer, Wistar is going to be where the case is cracked. 

To me, it's remarkable how incredibly rich and dense is the intellectual firepower just blocks from my house.  Within one mile of my humble abode you can find, in addition to Wistar:

1. An Ivy League school (Penn)

2. The world's best undergraduate business school (Wharton)

3. The #1 children's hospital in the US (CHOP)

4. North America's first pharmacy college (USciences)

And you wonder why I'm bullish on Philadelphia and long on my neighborhood.



10.09.2014

Economic Analysis of Detroit’s Food System

Detroit Food & Fitness CollaborativeShameless plug for my firm slash public service announcement: a study we worked on last year on the economics of the local food system in Detroit is now available online. Click here to get a copy. Big ups to co-author Urbane Development and senior advisors Catherine Timko and Greg Heller