Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Fast Nickel is Better Than a Slow Dime

I came across this idiom while reading “Wealth Cure – Putting Money in Its Place” by Hill Harper.  While Sales and Marketing professional will always take a fast nickel over a slow dime – in our personal lives, it can be harmful to succumb to instant gratification.  Hill writes, “The problem is that there are huge industries geared toward making people pay to live with those sorts of ghosts. There is the plastic surgery industry, the weight loss industry, the personal training industry, the makeup industry, the fashion industry, the hair-and-nails industry. It stands to reason that many of us buy into these industries because we are unhappy with who we are and, in one way or another, are living with a ghost of a life.”  While we chase the “fast nickel” you should instead slow yourself down and focus on obtaining the “slow dime”.

Hill writes that the two biggest happiness stealers in life are the areas of health and debt. To help focus on generating wealth he created a “list” to help keep focused on obtaining the “slow dime”.

• To build and maintain a healthy body and attitude; to do some form of exercise daily.

• To live credit-card debt free.

• To not let myself fall into the trap of debt in general and live under the cloud of owing money to various entities.

• To nurture and grow deeper friendships and relationships with loved ones.

• To give back in some way every day, whether through my foundation as a mentor or simple acts of kindness.

• To continue to work toward having a family of my own and having a two-parent, stable, and happy household for our kids.

• To continue to act in and create projects that uplift, inspire, and entertain.

• To take risks. and live courageously.

• To approach obstacles and opportunities the same way-with an attitude of gratitude.

• To say "please" and "thank you" even more.

• To give, give, give of my money, time, and talent.

• To remember that money plus wellness equals wealth.

• To be a peaceful warrior, having the energy of a warrior in the spirit of peace.

• To be a purveyor of new ideas and creative solutions to problems, rather than complaining about what "isn't being done" or how things "should be done."


He also offered a list of suggested readings and resources:




Bariromo, Maria. Ten Laws of Enduring Success. New York: Crown, 2011.

Givens, Charles. More Wealth Without Risk. New York: Pocket, 1995.

Greene, Robert. The 48 Laws of Power. New York: Penguin, 2000.

Lewis, Michael. The Big Short. New York: Norton, 2010.

Lynch, Peter. One Up on Wall Street, 2nd ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.

Miller, Percy. Guaranteed Success. New York: Urban Books, 2007.

Orman, Suze. Suze Orman's Money Kit for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke. New York: Riverhead, 2007.

--. The 9 Steps to Fiancial Freedom. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006.

Ramsay, Dave. The Total Money Makeover. 3rd ed. New York: Thomas Nelson, 2009.

Simmons, Russell. Super-Rich. New York: Gotham, 2011.

Stanley, Thomas, and William Danko. The Millionaire Next Door. New York: Taylor, 2010.

Timmons, Jacquette M. Financial Intimacy: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Your Money and Your Mate. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2010.











www.wellsfargo.com (My Money Map, My Spending Report, Budget Watch, and My Savings Plan®)





Bissonnette, Zac. Debt-Free U. New York: Portfolio, 2010.

Boller, Richard N. What Color Is Your Parachute? Rev. ed. New York: Ten Speed, 2010.

Gardner, Chris. Start Where You Are. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Johnson, Tory. Fired to Hired. New York: Berkley, 2009.

Lore, Nicholas. The Pathfinder. New York: Fireside, 1998.

Miller, Dan. 48 Days to the Work You Love. New York: B&H Books: 2010.

Rubin, Gretchen. The Happiness Project. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.










Alborn, Mitch. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. New York: Hyperion, 2003.

Bruno, Dave. The 100 Thing Challenge. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.

Byrne, Rhonda. The Secret. New York: Atria, 2006.

Carlson, Richard. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. .. and It's All Small Stuff New York: Hyperion, 1997.

Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

Dittmar, Warren. Completing the Wheel. New York: iUniverse, 2010.

Jackson, Harry R. The Way of the Warrior. New York: Chosen Books, 2007.

Jay-Z. Decoded. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2010.

Martel, Yann. The Life of Pi. New York: Mariner, 2003.

Murray, Liz. Breaking Night. New York: Hyperion, 2010.

Pausch, Randy, andJeffrey Zaslow. The Last Lecture. New York: Hyperion, 2008.

Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements. New York: Amber-Allen, 1997.

Shange, Ntozake. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf New York: Scribner, 1997.

VanZant, Iyanla. Peace Through Brolwn Pieces. New York: Smiley Books, 2010.

Whyte, David. Crossing the Unknown Sea. New York: Riverhead, 2002.

--. The Three Marriages. New York: Riverhead, 2010.










Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Lifetime of Fiction

The author of “A Lifetime of Fiction”, William Patrick Martin, admits that his list is not definitive. For example, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison and “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak are on his young adult list – but not his adult fiction list.

I believe that reading lists are very useful.  Unless you are active in a book club or scan the various book review lists religiously – you can miss some wonderful stories.  Therefore, I was unpleasantly surprised that I had only read nine of his 100 recommended works of fiction.  At least I can recommend those works and would agree that each one was a wonderful read.  But I can't get over the fact that I’ve missed out on ninety percent (90%) of his recommendations.  I guess I have to buckle down and get to work.

Here is his list of 100 Most Recommended Works of Fiction for Adults
   (this list is not in order of status or importance; just his recommended 100 reads)

1. Rabbit (series). Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; and Rabbit at Rest. Written by John Updike.     (I've read)

2. Bring Up the Bodies. Written by Hilary Mantel.

3. This Is How You Lose Her. Written by Junot Dfaz.

4. Atonement. Written by Ian McEwan.

5. Lolita. Written by Vladimir Nabokov.

6. On the Road. Written by Jack Kerouac.

7. The Corrections. Written by Jonathan Franzen.

8. Gilead. Written by Marilynne Robinson.

9. Midnight's Children. Written by Salman Rushdie.

10. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Written by Michael Chabon.  (I've read)

11. Cloud Atlas. Written by David Mitchell.

12. Invisible Man. Written by Ralph Ellison.    (I've read)

13. Gone Girl. Written by Gillian Flynn.

14. Love in the Time of Cholera. Written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

15. Possession. Written by A. S. Byatt.

16. Ulysses. Written by James Joyce.      (I've read)

17. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. Written by Ben Fountain.

18. All the King's Men. Written by Robert Penn Warren.

19. The Handmaid's Tale. Written by Margaret Atwood.

20. Brideshead Revisited. Written by Evelyn Waugh.

21. Housekeeping. Written by Marilynne Robinson.

22. The Poisonwood Bible. Written by Barbra Kingsolver.

23. American Pastoral. Written by Philip Roth.

24. White Teeth. Written by Zadie Smith.

25. Bel Canto. Written by Ann Patchett.

26. Empire Falls. Written by Richard Russo.

27. Brave New World. Written by Aldous Huxley.

28. Love Medicine. Written by Louise Erdrich.

29. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Written by Junor Dfaz.

30. A Clockwork Orange. Written by Anthony Burgess.

31. Gone with the Wind. Written by Margaret Mitchell.

32. The Known World. Written by Edward P. Jones.

33. The Yellow Birds. Written by Kevin Powers.

34. Middlesex. Written by Jeffrey Eugenides.

35. The Road. Written by Cormac McCarthy.

36. On Beauty. Written by Zadie Smith.

37. The Remains of the Day. Written by Kazuo Ishiguro.

38. The Sun Also Rises. Written by Ernest Hemingway.

39. The Age of Innocence. Written by Edith Wharton.

40. Years of Red Dust: Stories of Shanghai. Written by Qiu Xiaolong.

41. As I Lay Dying. Written by William Faulkner.

42. Brick Lane. Written by Monica Ali.

43. Austerlitz. Written by W. G. Sebald.

44. The Bonfire of the Vanities. Written by Tom Wolfe.

45. Kafka on the Shore. Written by Haruki Murakami.

46. Death Comes for the Archbishop. Written by Willa Cather.

47. The Inheritance of Loss. Written by Kiran Desai.

48. Arcadia. Written by Lauren Groff.

49. Ironweed. Written by William Kennedy.

50. The Kite Runner. Written by Khaled Hosseini.        (I've read)

51. The Maltese Falcon. Written by Dashiell Hammett.

52. Wolf Hall. Written by Hilary Mantel.

53. The Name of the Rose. Written by Umberto Eco.      (I've read)

54. A Prayer for Owen Meany. Written by John Irving.

55. Tree of Smoke. Written by Denis Johnson.

56. Song of Solomon. Written by Toni Morrison.     (I've read)

57. To the Lighthouse. Written by Virginia Woolf.

58. The Adventures of Augie March. Written by Saul Bellow.

59. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Written by Haruki Murakami.

60. Alias Grace. Written by Margaret Atwood.

61. Anna Karenina. Written by Leo Tolstoy.

62. Freedom. Written by Jonathan Franzen.

63. Billy Bathgate. Written by E. L. Doctorow.

64. Disgrace. Written by J.M. Coetzee.

65. The Blind Assassin. Written by Margaret Atwood.

66. Cathedral. Written by Raymond Carver.

67. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Written by Carson McCullers.

68. A Confederacy of Dunces. Written by John Kennedy Toole.       (I've read)

69. The Day of the Locust. Written by Nathanael West.

70. A Flag for Sunrise. Written by Robert Stone.

71. Dune. Written by Frank Herbert.       (I've read)

72. Howards End. Written by E. M. Forster.

73. Life of Pi. Written by Yann Martel.        (I've read)

74. The Human Stain. Written by Philip Roth.

75. The Line of Beauty. Written by Alan Hollinghurst.

76. The Naked and the Dead. Written by Norman Mailer.

77. Lonesome Dove. Written by Larry McMurtry.

78. Angle of Repose. Written by Wallace Stegner.

79. The Master. Written by Colm Toibin.

80. The Lovely Bones. Written by Alice Sebold.

81. Money: A Suicide Note. Written by Martin Amis.

82. Old School. Written by Tobias Wolff.

83. The Moviegoer. Written by Walker Percy.

84. A Passage to India. Written by E. M. Forster.

85. Mrs. Dalloway. Written by Virginia Woolf.

86. Never Let Me Go. Written by Kazuo Ishiguro.

87. A Visit from the Goon Squad. Written by Jennifer Egan.

88. Portnoy's Complaint. Written by Philip Roth.

89. Netherland. Written by Joseph O'Neill.

90. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Written by Muriel Spark.

91. Ragtime. Written by E. L. Doctorow.

92. Schindler's List. Written by Thomas Keneally.

93. Rebecca. Written by Daphne Du Maurier.

94. The Satanic Verses. Written by Salman Rushdie.

95. On Chesil Beach. Written by Ian McEwan.

96. The Secret History. Written by Donna Tartt.

97. The Tiger's Wife. Written by Tea Obreht.

98. The Sheltering Sky. Written by Paul Bowles.

99. The March. Written by E. L. Doctorow.

100. Sophie's Choice. Written by William Styron.

Monday, July 07, 2014

‘Make It An Experience’ How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change

When designing a strategic conversation, ask, How can we best engage participants as whole people? How can we tap into their logical and emotional selves in a way that leads to smarter choices and action? The De La Salle Christian Brothers are one of the largest teaching orders in the Catholic Church. They operate hundreds of schools, universities, and educational works serving more than 900,000 students in more than a thousand schools and other institutions across more than eighty countries, with a strong preference for serving the poor. Around the world-and for almost three centuries-the Brothers have provided countless people with a quality education grounded in a strong moral and spiritual foundation.

But their numbers are declining every year, due to the aging of the order and a long, steady decrease in new vocations, or recruits. As compelling as their history and mission are, the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience just aren't the talent magnet they used to be.

In 2002, leaders of the Christian Brothers' regional operations across Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea (referred to as the District) needed to come up with a plan for ensuring the continued vitality of their work. At the time, seventy-nine active Brothers were working in eighteen schools across the three-country District-many of them focused on helping poor or troubled kids.

A Catholic order is not your average business organization, to put it mildly. Imagine working at a place where you and your peers are committed to the organization for life. An organization where you all came up through the same formative training as young adults. An organization where, after the workday is done, you go home to find your coworkers there, too.

In short, an organization where work, family, community, and social life are all blended together into a lifelong commitment and identity.

The elected head of the District at the time (who holds the title visitor) was Brother David Hawke, a New Zealander with a warm, pastoral style. The auxiliary visitor, or next-in-line leader, was Ambrose Payne, a pragmatic idealist with keen operational skills who was also principal at a high school in a suburb of Sydney with a large immigrant population.

Brothers David and Ambrose knew that to create meaningful strategies for the future of the District, all Brothers would need to take their declining numbers more seriously. They also knew this would be a challenge, given the Brothers' natural tendency to avoid problems or leave them for leadership to solve.

Working closely with Brothers David and Ambrose, the project team designed a three-day strategic conversation for two dozen leaders across the District, including three lay partners (i.e., non-Brother colleagues). "Please understand that this event is not just another planning session," wrote Brother David in his invitation note to participants. "No less is at stake here than the future health and vitality of the Lasallian mission in the District." The session, held in March 2002 in Narooma, Australia-a quiet beach town a couple hundred miles south of Sydney-included a number of familiar strategy and planning activities, and two key experiential elements.

Much of the first day consisted of level-setting activities, such as reviewing current trends data and prioritizing key issues. The first "experience" came after dinner, when the group watched the award-winning documentary Breaking the Silence: The Story of the Sisters at DeSales Heights. The film tells the story of the dismantling of a r 50-year-old monastery in West Virginia.  It follows twelve elderly nuns as they prepare to leave the only life they have known as adults and enter an uncertain future outside. The film shows the pain of a group of devoted women realizing that the role they've played their entire lives is no longer valued.

While the Brothers sat stoically through the screening of this brutally sad film, the few lay partners present seemed very affected; some were in tears. After it ended, the group went to bed without conversation. This was intense input that they needed to sleep on.

The next day, after a debrief discussion of the film, came the main event: a simulation game called Demography in Action. The objective of the game was to adapt, in real time, to the expected retirements of twenty-four Brothers-about one-third of the active Brothers working in t:~1e District's eighteen schools-scheduled in quick succession over the next eight years.

Participants were divided into three teams of eight players each. Each team assumed the role of the District Council (leadership team), with one member playing the role of visitor with final decision rights. Each team played out the events of the coming eight years on a large, colorful, hand-drawn game board showing a map of every location across the District where the Brothers worked. The "pieces" to this game board were the seventy-nine active Brothers, each represented by a cheerful (and nameless) cartoonlike character, with an estimated retirement date shown at his feet.

The teams were given a few minutes to review the expected retirements and form a draft plan. Then a bell rang, announcing that a year had passed-forcing each team to remove from the board all Brothers with a 2003 retirement date. The teams were given a short time to respond to the retirements-either by closing or merging institutions, moving Brothers around, promoting lay partners to leadership roles, or keeping things as they were. This activity was repeated eight times-once for each year from 2003 to 2010-but with decreasing amounts of response time, to turn up the intensity and create the sense of time slipping away.

To the project team's surprise, the energy in the room was extremely high. The groups were actually having fun working through the implications of their own decline.

"The game shocked everybody," Brother Ambrose recalls. "It captured everyone's imagination and freed up the situation. Once you get into the domain of play, there's an opportunity to break through how people normally think about their challenges." By taking a shapeless, depressing fact and converting it into a game where the group could take action, the experience made a challenge that they'd been avoiding much more approachable.

During a debrief discussion afterward, participants made the very observations that the game was designed to evoke. All three teams reported variations on three core insights. The first was "We need to prioritize our energy better and stop spreading ourselves too thin." The second: "If we act sooner, we'll be in better shape and have more choices later." The third: "If you don't have a good game plan going in, you keep getting hit with surprises."

Though the teams had made quite different choices during the game, they didn't bother debating which of their quickly drawn plans was "better." They understood that-at this point in their journey-getting to the "right" plan was not the point. Participants took the game seriously, but not literally.

Even though each Brother in the room could easily identify himself and his school on the game board, the Brothers didn't waste time protecting their turf. After all, it was "just a game."

What's more, says Brother David, "The combination of the documentary film and the board game really helped us to start facing the stark reality of the future. The movie-difficult as it was-engaged the group's emotions.

But then the game really excited them. The whole session was a catalyst for the actions that followed."

While the game would probably have worked without showing the film the night before, it wouldn't have been the same. The movie created an emotional tension that was then looking for release-which came with the outburst of positive energy during the board game.

Was all this design work necessary? What if the project team had taken a more typical approach and delivered detailed reports on the District's resources, with specific recommendations? "That would have just felt like more of the same," says Brother Ambrose. "I can't see how that would have had much impact."

In the months after the session, District leaders took the movie and board game on the road to regional sessions that engaged almost all Brothers across the three countries. They kicked off an ongoing strategy and planning process that's still paying dividends to this day-with surprising results.

While the Brothers' discussion in 2002 focused mainly on options for consolidating their operations, the scale and scope of the District's work has actually expanded since then. The District grew its impact by embracing a shift to lay leadership-to a greater degree than the Brothers had once thought possible. Today, lay teachers and administrators are stepping into the leadership roles vacated by retiring Brothers at different schools. The District has invested in extensive training and leadership-development programs to ensure that lay leaders are carrying forward the legacy and mission of the order.

"Our mission is as strong as it's ever been today-and probably stronger," says Brother David. The Narooma session alone could never have accomplished this result-but it's proved to be a critical catalyst. "If we hadn't had this process to help start us down the path, I really wonder where we would be today."

Once a group has the desire to do something, setting goals is much more straightforward. But clear goals without desire behind them will fail to motivate. What made the strategic conversations at Intuit and the Christian Brothers so effective is that participants in both cases felt the need for change in a way that rarely happens in a standard meeting. After both sessions, it was hard to imagine participants going back to their "real" work and ignoring the agreements they'd come to together.

You could argue that both outcomes were inevitable. Intuit had no choice but to get behind mobile-that's where their customers were heading.

And the Christian Brothers had to deal with their aging challenge sooner rather than later if they wanted their important mission of educating kids to thrive. Yet, as we'll discuss in the next chapter, organizations routinely ignore obvious facts-sometimes to the point of self-destruction.

As we've pointed out before, it's nearly impossible to solve an adaptive challenge in just one strategic conversation. But it is possible to design experiences that leave participants knowing and feeling that they must do something. In both of the cases in this chapter, it became clear that moving forward with the current strategies was not an option. When confronted with an adaptive challenge, mustering the collective courage to let go of the status quo can be the most important step of all.

Moments of Impact – ‘Make It An Experience’  How to DesignStrategic Conversations That Accelerate Change
by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

I’m Supported To Exit Now

Actors who speak their stage directions, in Drop Dead! and The Brothers Size
by Steven Leigh Morris

Tarell Alvin McCraney's tender, poetical drama The Brothers Size (Fountain Theatre) and Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore's meta-theatrical farce Drop Dead! (presented by Theatre 68, at North Hollywood's NoHo Arts Center) share one salient commonality: Each production has moments when the actors recite stage directions about their own characters.

There's precedent for the device, from Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood – an ensemble-performed portrait of a quaint Welsh village - to any number or literary adaptations staged by the likes of Seattle's Book-It Repertory Company, where the company's hallmark is putting books onstage in a style of presentation that has characters reciting not only their own dialogue but also the author's narration surrounding it.

There's something more jocular than intrusive about the device. You'd think it would snap the flow of emotions drawn from text and subtext that actors work so hard to generate, like the splash from a pebble thrown into a swift-moving stream.

But it doesn't.

Such narrative interruptions are an integral part of playwright McCraney's style: It shows up in The Brothers Size in much the same way it did in his In the Red and Brown Water, presented by the same theater in 2012. Both were directed by Shirley Jo Finney and choreographed by Ameenah Kaplan with seamless physicality and dramatic urgency. Both plays study African-Americans in Louisiana and take 90 minutes to two hours to set up one excruciating decision that cuts to the core of the deciding character's humanity.

The Brothers Size homes in on a pair of brothers: Oguh (Gilbert Glenn Brown) owns an auto shop and is caring for his younger, parolee brother, Oshoosi (Matthew Hancock). Through the intervention of Oshoosi's jailhouse friend Elegba (Theo Perkins), Oshoosi finds himself a fugitive, sorely testing the love and loyalty between the siblings.

Yet the story is far greater than its plot. It lies in the characters' gorgeous drift into song, and into segments of Kaplan's intoxicating choreography and, finally, into those wry moments when stage directions are narrated. Example: Ogun rages when he tells Oshoosi something, but Ogun has the coda, "smiling." We don't see him smile smiling. It's something for us to imagine, or at least to consider.

The muscular ensemble doesn't let up for a moment. This is sure to be one of the season's memorable productions.

Drop Dead!, directed by co-writer Van Zandt, is now almost 30 years old, and it shows. That's not meant to belittle the fine, pull-out-the-stops ensemble, which has been directed to play this play-within-a-play farce with gestures and expressions and double-takes so over-the-top in this intimate venue that you'd think they were prepping it for the Pantages.

A theater troupe is staging a murder mystery show for its Broadway debut, and the comedy is of the "Can a show in trouble be saved?" genre that theater lovers warm to. We start by watching the show, with furniture painted onto the walls of the $35 set, only to discover that it's a rehearsal - at which point the Gay Concept Director, Victor Le Pewe (Cy Creamer), his doting Assistant (Timothy Alonzo), the Dollars-in-His Eyes Producer P.G. ''Piggy" Banks (Barry Brisco) and eventually the Forlorn Playwright Alabama Miller (Grey Rodriguez) all put in appearances. No theater cliche goes unturned, which is part of the shows antique charm, and also part of its capacity to irritate.

Brisco, and Mews Small - portraying a deaf cast elder- get points for pulling off the overbearing style with a persistent, subtle sense of bewilderment. On the other end of the scale, Claudine Claudio as the resident diva is equally impressive, bringing sharp authenticity to her grandiloquent attitude and gestures.

There are some very funny moments of timeless physical comedy, such as how the show's leading man (the excellent Bill Doherty Jr.) gets his nose broken, and in the playwright's "My life is over" opening-night speech.

The show mostly satirizes a former, ex-purged era. Still, when the forgetful elder actress's directions, read into headphones she's wearing, get "accidentally" broadcast for the audience to hear, or when another character, subbing on opening night, forgets his lines, pulls out a paper and reads out loud, "Exit upstage right," we're back in that intriguing land where first person meets third.

THE BROTHERS SIZE | by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue, Hollywood, CA
Thurs - Sat 8PM; Sun 2PM through July 27
(323) 663-1525 | foundtaintheatre.com

DROP DEAD! | by Billy van Zandt
Presented by Threatre 68 at NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hollywood, CA
Thurs - Sat 8PM; Sun 3PM through June 28
(323) 960-5069 | theatre68.com