December 26, 2020

When I was young the day after Christmas was a downer of a day. It meant the thrill of the season was far away. Right after Thanksgiving I entered into the start of three separate seasons. The first was the short time from Thanksgiving to the first day of December and the beginning of Advent, the start of the Christmas Season. Then there was the twenty four days leading up to Christmas Day ending on Christmas Eve. And finally there was Christmas Day and in just twenty four hours it was all over.

I anticipated Christmas more than any other day of the year, even more than I anticipated my birthday. Every birthday you have represents change and moving on. Christmas is about renewal.

Anticipation is a complicated feeling/emotion. Anticipation can get you into trouble because it can be the cause of great disappointment. It can also get you into trouble because it causes anxiety. The anticipation of Christmas for me has largely been positive.

A Christmas Story – The Broken Record

One of my favorite records growing up in New York City was A Christmas Carol. As you can see from the cover it was Narrated by Basil Rathbone. I just about wore the record out and one day the record was lying on my bed out of its cover and brother Scott caught the edge of it when he was swinging his belt buckle and a little piece broke off. I was devastated and I missed listening to it.

Those who know me know this is one of my favorite stories.

A Christmas Carol
The second record

Years later in my late 50’s I received a large envelope in the mail from my cousin Paul Thompson. In it was the record. Somehow he had found it online, purchased and sent it to me. I don’t know when I even told him the story of the broken record. Looking at the cover brought back wonderful memories. It looked like the outside envelope had not been “handled with care” and when I pulled the record from the sleeve it had a piece missing in just about the same place and shape as the one which been broken in the late 1960’s. I never got to listen to this record because it too was damaged but I was always amazed Paul remembered the story and found it for me. I doubt he knew it was the same version from my childhood when he purchased it.

Generous Work

In Seth Godin’s new book “The Practice – Shipping Creative Work” he has a section called Generous with 45 short chapters. Seth has long written and spoken about doing generous work. There is something about “generous” which demands some study and attention. You can be generous with your time and money and you can generously listen and try to understand what someone needs.

If you want to make a change in the world and I hope everyone does you first need to be generous. What problem do you want to solve? What changes are you trying to make? It seems to me very few great things are done where someone asks for payment in advance. This is being generous. If you are looking to change the world you might find the best way to accomplish this is to share an idea with someone else. It does put you in a position of vulnerability. The person might take the idea and run off with it. But keeping the idea to yourself might be selfish.

Make something to help improve someone or something. Then generously share it. You will get paid but there is risk.

Christmas Gift 1966

My Mom Nancy Marshall created and gave gifts to her Mother and Mother in Law Christmas of 1966. Her Mom was Marion Irene Hodges (Duffet – Maiden name) and Martha Lilian Marshall (Veall – Maiden Name) was my Dad’s Mom. Dad’s Mom went by her middle name Lilian. They were two personalized collages. Thought the family might enjoy a look at these while they are still around.

Marion Hodges

You will notice a predominant New England here.

This was soon after my grandfather died. They had moved from Marblehead to Harwich on Cape Cod when Grampy retired a couple years earlier.

Lilian Marshall

After the Veall sisters sailed over from England in the 1920’s, if I remember correctly, she settled in Toronto.

My only Aunt, Anne Thompson has compiles quite a bit of Marshall and Veall history and has gifted this work to her children.

Because it is not easy to see all the detail I added some close ups in a slideshow format.

Words for 2021 – Business

My business partner Peter Viliesis and I have a clear focus going into 2021 after this rather different year. In order to stay on track we’ve created a list of words to remind us of our mission. Here it goes in random order:

  • Generous
  • Goal
  • Strategy
  • Tactics
  • Constraints
  • Tension
  • Generous
  • Partnership
  • Story
  • Empathy
  • Trust
  • Plan
  • Connection
  • Action
  • Protect
  • Value
  • Transformation
  • Collaboration
  • Process
  • Principles
  • Clarity
  • Simple

Each of these words has an important part in the overall business plan. I put this list here first on the personal website using my non business persona to get it out and to document it for myself. There are more we could add but for now this will do.

Two Books – Instant Replay

There are books I read which leave me empty. Not because they were not good, because I simply did not want them to end. On occasion I have remedied this sense of loss by flipping the pages to the beginning and reading it all over.

John Steinbeck’s The Pearl is one of those books. I remember coming to the end and asking myself, “What did I just read?” I wanted to remain in La Paz and was not ready to leave Kino, Juana and Coyotito. Steinbeck took me to a places I was not ready to leave.

I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a lesser known book written by Margaret Craven. It had the same effect on me as The Pearl did. Her first novel published in 1967 in her mid 60’s, the setting is Kingcome in British Columbia where First Nation people have lived for thousands of years. This is where Mark Brian, a young vicar is sent by the Bishop.

Even today as I think about these books I feel the profound sense of loneliness, starting deep inside me after just a few pages in. The loneliness I found in these books has never resolved itself when I return to their pages.

Inside Bill’s Brain (Again)

If you want to challenge yourself and this is not about trying to convince you about anything it is simply worth looking at this three part series on Netflix.

1 – Episode One looks at ways to turn human waste into drinkable water.

2 – Episode Two digs deep into Bill Gates and documents how he needed partnership with others to move forward.

3 – Episode Three will challenge you to think differently about how we produce energy now and how nuclear still might be a viable and out best option to reduce carbon emissions.

Plus you will meet some radically fascinating people you would never have otherwise know. It is a good three hours spent. And don’t forget his desire to defeat polio once and for all.

The Next Time You Shit

Okay maybe a bit of a harsh title but worth thinking about. Billions of people in the world play and drink water from a source where their own piss and shit flows to. Watching the first Netflix episode of “Inside Bill’s Brain” you understand what a monumental problem this is. Children are dying from diarrhea because of the lack of sanitation where they live and Bill and Melinda Gates set out to look for solutions after reading an article written by Nicholas Kristof.

I’ll admit I was uncomfortable watching the episode so focused on human waste yet at the end I was inspired by the story and the journey. If you have Netflix it is well worth watching and learning, but perhaps not during dinner.

A documentary that tells Bill Gates’ life story as he pursues solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems.

Systems Again

If you have not watched the movie Spotlight or if it has been a while or if you did not really pay attention it is worth seeing right now. It is on Netflix now and I’m not sure for how much longer.

It is the devastating story of how the Catholic Church covered up years of predatory sexual abuse committed by priests and others.

Spotlight


The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Now I’ve watched this movie several times over the past few months to study great writing and to think about how systems work and why we need to know more about them. How does a system like the Catholic Church allow this to happen and let it go on for years? How did it not protect thousands of victims? It wasn’t just in Boston, it was discovered to be a global problem. Wherever the Catholic Church was it most likely had priests who were sexual predators. In the end you realize the system enabled it. The Catholic Church covered it up and then moved the offending priests to other positions where they abused all over again.

The same thing has happened in the Boy Scouts. There are over 82,000 sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America. Keep it quiet and cover it up.

Everyone is a part of many systems to varying degrees. It is important to identify the systems we are a part of and look critically at those systems. Are they good or bad? What is the history of the system? Systems influence our daily life and sometimes they make our lives easier and sometimes they make our lives more difficult. Systems which benefit me may put others at a disadvantage or do outright harm to them. This is where the systems break down.

Brandon Stanton – Tim Ferriss

Have you heard about Humans of New York? Created by Brandon Stanton it has over 25 Million Followers. A few years ago I had the privilege to hear him in person with my daughter Jessica. It was her Christmas gift to me. Tim Ferriss interview Brandon and if you need a great listen this weekend check this out.

You can fast forward through the first part until you get to the interview. Brandon lays is all out when talking about his journey.