Friday, February 26, 2010

Passion Party #169 - The Three Rs

We grew up in a world
where school was based on the three Rs:
Reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic.
But I would suggest
that school spends way too much time teaching "facts" and how to pass tests
instead of teaching how to live a purposeful and successful life.
In high school they will teach you calculus, but not how to balance a checkbook.
Our brains are full of information, but not so full of knowledge.

Today I will practice
the three Rs of life:
*Respect for self
*Respect for others
*Responsibility in all my actions

Everything else will follow from that.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Passion Party #168 - Share Knowledge

There are days like today
I feel so small
The world is dark and cold
All I want to do is
crawl back under the covers.

It is times like this that I need to get quiet
listen to that inner voice
and then focus on my expertise,
on what I am best at,
on what I know best,
and be willing to share it.

Today I can be a teacher
Not perfect
but fearless
to share what I know is true.

Sharing knowledge is the greatest gift
more precious than jewels
I have heard that sharing knowledge
is a way to immortality.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Passion Party #167 - My Heart Is Open

I can be of service
I can walk in beauty
I can practice patience and understanding
I can see the good in others
My heart is open
to serve, to share beauty, to be patient and understand
that we are all on of this Path of Life together.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Passion Party #166 - Personal Integrity

It is so important
to walk the high road
to maintain personal integrity

Integrity is something that is hard to define, but we know it when we see it or feel it.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states, "A musical work might be said to have integrity when its musical structure has a certain completeness that is not intruded upon by uncoordinated, unrelated musical ideas; that is, when it possesses a kind of musical wholeness, intactness and purity."

I aim to have this wholeness, intactness and purity in my personal integrity as well.

Not that I am perfect
far from it
but I can't do anything
that troubles my spirit
or keeps me up at night.

When it comes to business
my personal integrity
stems from the primary fiduciary responsibility of
"Know your client".
To me that means to know
the Question behind the Question
not just "what do you want to do", but
"Why do you want to do it?"

If the motivation is clear
decisions are easy
we all win
and then the battle is worth winning.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Passion Party #165 - Silence

There is an old proverb
"Don't speak unless you can improve upon the silence."
We develop in silence
only the sounds of our mother's heart beating,
the blood pulsing through the body.

In the morning I find silence again
before the dawn
before the world wakes up and starts rushing about
on the 405 Freeway

At night I can find that silence too,
if I am willing to look for it in the stars;
I find it on my Friday hikes,
and by the ocean when I let the tide become my soundtrack.

It is harder to find it in conversation
but that is often where it is needed most
that moment of listening, not responding
except in support, as I feel your pain
a gentle touch, a shoulder to cry on
I have to remember
Silence is sometimes the best answer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Passion Party #164 - Computers Run Amok, Part 2

Computers Run Amok, Part 2

Once the mortgage industry decided that anyone with a high credit score that was breathing deserved to buy a house, we should have known we were in trouble.

All bets were off, and we were in for a wild ride.

This fundamentally flawed concept was then multiplied by banks looking to rush in to this growing market to move more product (remember, in the upside-down world of bankers a loan is an asset and benefits the balance sheet.)

And then came the Quants:

A new breed of computer scientists and mathematicians, they were financial engineers that used super-powered computers and crazy-complex math formulas to pluck money from small discrepancies in the market and hand it to their investors. They worked for companies like “Process Driven Trading” and “Applied Quantitative Research”. They used “random walks” and “calibrated correlations”. They created CDO’s (Collateralized Debt Obligations) and CDS’s (Credit Default Swaps) and other “derivatives”, like side bets in a poker game, that were built to mitigate risk.

In reality, they just broke the risk up and made it so invisible that it began to permeate the system.

Once again the computer models, built by fallible humans, had some fatal flaws.

They were built on the “fact” that a sudden national collapse in American home prices would never happen.
They were built on the “fact” that the movement of the US housing market could not possibly trigger losses in stock portfolios that had nothing to do with housing; stock portfolios, say, of British stocks or banks based, say, in Iceland.


For more information, I recommend two new books:
“Quants” by Scott Patterson (a writer for the Wall Street Journal) and
“I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay” by John Lanchester (a British novelist who gives a bit of world view to this whole mess)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Passion Party #163 - Sitting At The Feet of The Masters

The other night I had a peak experience
at Disney Hall
with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax
two of the greatest living musicians
at the Top of their Game
playing gorgeous romantic music
by Schumann and Chopin.

Perfectly in sync with the music and each other
as if they were one being

Not only was it beautiful music
they each had total control of their instruments:
no wasted motion
contour of phrase
dynamic clarity

After spending two hours sitting at the feet of these Masters
I felt awe
I felt honored to be there
And then they came back to play an encore
that was such a gem
everyone in the hall finally became still
and there was that magical moment of silence
when the music sings out until it fades
and the crystal silence takes over...
I was at peace, complete.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Passion Party #161 - Anti-Social Media

When did "friend" become a verb?
When did staring at a computer screen become social?
When did we decide that "multi-tasking" is something to aspire to?
As anyone who talks on the cell phone while driving can tell you,
multi-tasking really means doing a half-assed job at numerous things simultaneously.

Last night I went out with a friend I have known for 40 years.
We had a drink and went out to dinner in Chinatown.
We talked
For hours
He is not a verb.
It was a wonderful hang.
It was social, not "social-media"
It felt great.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Passion Party #160 - Valentine's Day Secret

A doctor had an appointment with a 92-year old patient, and she showed up with her husband who was 94. They told her that they had been married for almost 70 years.

The doctor, highly impressed, asked the couple the secret of their union's longevity. They looked at each other for a moment. Then the wife spoke: "Eh, neither of us died."

(Thanks to Elizabeth Bernstein, Wall Street Journal 2/9/10,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Passion Party #159 - Computers Run Amok

There is no denying that computers have taken over banking, and Wall Street in general.
As we move forward in time, past the Banking Crisis of 2008
and the Great Crash of 2009
it is becoming clear that a root cause of the mess we're in stems from faulty computer models that made people (and banks and investors) believe that a risky transaction would become risk-less if it were sliced and diced enough to become unintelligible to mortal man.

Faulty computer model #1
The Fair Issacs Company (FICO) uses computer models to create a risk-based credit score that banks take as gospel in creating loans. As The Market continued on its frothy way in the early 2000s, FICO discovered an amazing "fact" - that people with a very high credit score historically never default on a home loan, even if they borrow 100% of the purchase price to buy the house.
Viola! 100% financing for "qualified" borrowers ("qualified" at this point equaled a high FICO as the banks had already accepted computer models that allowed them to do "stated income" loans, rather than dealing with those pesky tax returns).
Then somehow, a few months AFTER real estate prices started to drop in 2007, FICO retracted this idea. It seems the computer model was flawed. They discovered that with NO equity in a house, a person with perfect credit had as much likelihood of defaulting as a person with bad credit that put 30 - 40% down to buy a home.
Of course, this was a severe case of "closing the stable door after the horse has bolted".
100% financing had snared many folks into a belief that borrowing money was a way to riches
as opposed to a way to be in debt up to their eyeballs.
(to be continued...)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Passion Party #158 - Life Purpose Mad Libs

This whole Purpose - Mission - Vision - Goal Thing is quite confusing.

Your purpose and your goal are two very different things.
Your goal may be to become a TV screenwriter,
but your purpose in life is not to be a TV screenwriter.
Your goal may be to make more money
but your purpose in life is not to make money.

The more your life is aligned with your purpose
the more joyful and passionate your life becomes.

Four years ago I discovered this simple formula to help find my purpose. This "Life Purpose Exercise" was created by Arnold M. Patent and it goes like this:

1) List two of your unique personal qualities, such a "enthusiasm" and "persistence"
2) List one or two ways you enjoy expressing these qualities when interacting with others, such as "to support" and "to care for"
3) Assume the world is perfect right now. What does the world look like? How is everyone interacting with everyone else? What does it feel like? Write your answer in the present tense describing the perfect world as you see it and feel it. Remember, a perfect world is fun place to be.
Example: "Everyone is expressing their own unique talents. Everyone is working in harmony."
4) Now combine these items into a single statement:

My purpose is to use my _____(1)_______ and _____(1)__________ to ______(2)_______ and _____(2)_________ others to _____________(3)___________.

Four years ago I did this exercise.
Here were my answers:
1) Creativity, organization
2) To help, to inspire
3) There is enough for everyone. We are all working together to build better lives. Everyone works from a place of love.

And here is my life purpose:

"My purpose is to use my creativity and organization skills to inspire and help others to build a better life in abundance and love."

I had not looked back at this exercise for the last four years.
So - surprise!
The Passion Party fits my life purpose.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Passion Party #157 - Inspect What You Expect

So you have a vision
of where you want to be a year from now

And you have a goal
to help you get there.

What do you expect to happen when your vision is reality?
What do you expect to run into along the way to your goal?
Expectations can be too lofty or unreal
You can reach your goal and be disappointed
or you can be unprepared for the success that follows

How will this process affect your family?
How will it affect your friends?
How will it affect you?
So much of life is unknown and unpredictable
but if I
inspect what I expect
there will be more purposeful action
and the results will be
more from my heart
less from my ego

Monday, February 8, 2010

Passion Party #156 - Accountability

Setting a goal is great
Making a plan is also great
but who makes sure it gets done?
Who will keep you accountable?

This is possibly the trickiest challenge.
Left to my own devices
the entropy of the world takes over
I exercise less
I sleep a little more
I watch more TV
and I still get by.

"Getting by" is not what I want
My passion lives in Playing Big
and to Play Big I must be accountable
to a partner
to a group
to a mentor
to myself

The more accountability I have, the more likely I am to either complete the goal, or to admit that it is something I really don't want to do, and move on.
This is why sharing your goal is so important
It is the first step towards accountability.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Passion Party #155 - Up Your Game

There are days when
all the preparation comes together
you are at the top of your game
and then you surround yourself with the best
and it kicks your game up a notch.

The other night I got to Play Big
In celebration of my birthday
I surrounded myself with great musicians
and played full out.

My game is about practice
My game is about preparation
My game is about giving
it is about sharing my passion
it is about inspiring others
it is about freedom - it is about heart
and next time, if you are in the area
I hope you can join me

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Passion Party #154 - Complain Upwards

One of the first lessons I learned in management
is still one of the best lessons:

Praise downwards
and complain upwards.

You always want to praise the people that work for you,
be supportive and complement people when they do something good.
There is not point in complaining in the lunchroom or around the water cooler. This just destroys morale and makes the workplace less pleasant.

If you have a problem or complaint, complain upwards, to your superior.
Report it to the person that is in a position to do something about it.

Praise downwards
and complain upwards.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Passion Party #153 - Plan Thoroughly

One of my Big Goals this year
is to release a new album -
a combination of new material and original compositions
from my previous jazz releases.

It is a great goal, and quite a challenge.
The goal needs a plan,
motivation and action.

Why am I doing this?
What are my expectations?
What is my budget?
How will it be spent?
What is the release date?
When do I need to have physical product?

And then:
What are the steps I need to take to complete this?
This is the key: the planning
all the way down to the most mundane steps
like buying the postage and mailing envelopes or creating the liner notes and thank yous.

And then:
In what order do these things need to be done?
Who is responsible for each task?
When does each step need to be completed?

The more detailed the plan
the more complete the vision
the more it becomes a reality.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Passion Party #152 - Create Space

Sometimes the answer
is to create space
The Universe abhors a vacuum
and it will fill the void,
but if you don't create the space to begin with
nothing can come in.

Some days my calendar is so full that
I don't know how i will get things done.
Even worse, some days I double-book myself,
over-committing in advance
and creating disappointment in advance
for myself and others.
Like a pack-rat, I fill my calendar with old things I don't really need.

It is the days when I leave space
it is the moments when I have extra time at the office,
or the days when I take time off to walk on the beach or take a hike
it is these occasions of quiet
that allow the Universe
to bring me what I so richly deserve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Passion Party #151 - Recovery Time

My favorite time of the year
is when I buy a new monthly planner
(the kind that shows the whole year and hangs on a wall)
and I start to fill in my vacation days.
I have learned that, for me to give my all during the work week,
for me to get the best results
I need to first plan my Recovery Time.

I write it with Sharpie pens (the kind you can't erase)
and I call to make reservations
so it is a commitment
to myself and to my well being.

This year it is a lot of small vacations,
some are just a day off to go to a museum or on a long day-hike, some long weekends...
One big family reunion in Massachusetts this summer for a week
and a 4-day hiking trip in Sequoia National Park to Bearpaw Meadow.

And when I am feeling depressed or overwhelmed
I can look at my year-at-a-glance
and know that Recovery is just around the corner.