tool

The Most Powerful Tool

I got yelled at on Tuesday. I was at my son’s spring track meet and as he tried to pole vault over a seven foot bar, I took a “live photo” with my iPhone 6s. A “live photo” is a funky thing my phone does where when you take a picture, the phone records 1.5 seconds of video both before and after the moment I pressed the button… pretty cool.

As you can see in the video below, he almost made it over. So, being an interested (and data driven) Dad, I walked over to show my son his vault with the idea he might correct his mistakes on his next attempt. […]

question

Answer The Damn Question!

In High School and College, we used to write essay tests in something called “Blue Books.” If you’re unfamiliar, a Blue Book is basically sixteen pages of lined paper with a light blue cover used to keep test answers in a tidy package.

My High School A.P. American History teacher taught me a valuable lesson, but it was not something you could ever find in a textbook. One day before an essay test, he explained to our class, that even though the grading of an essay appears to be subjective, the truth of the matter is the opposite. […]

Who Wants To Be In My New Book?

Every so often I run across a story of true selflessness. These are stories about people who go above and beyond to “do the right thing,” even though for many reasons it doesn’t make sense.

You all know the kind of story I am talking about. Someone sees an opportunity to help someone or something, and despite the risks to his or her own well being, reputation or personal safety, they plow ahead and do it anyway.

My next book is tentatively titled There’s Less Traffic on the High Road and it will be filled with stories like this – stories of risk, reward, noble kindness and ultimately human triumph. I have several tales ready to tell, but this is where I need your help. […]

prefixes

The Battle of the Prefixes

In recent years the term “outsourcing” has become a dirty word. This is of course due to the practice of US companies “outsourcing” jobs to subsidiaries or subcontractors overseas, resulting in the loss of employment here at home.

Despite the bad reputation it has garnered, outsourcing is something we all do every day. In fact, Americans are more adept at outsourcing than they are at just about anything else. […]

Why Legos Matter

When I was a really little kid, Legos were nothing like they are today. Almost all of the pieces in my Lego bin were the same size, the two by four rectangular brick. There were some two by twos, and a few two by ones, but the majority of the pieces were the two by four variety, and only in three colors: red, white and blue.

Don’t get me wrong; we didn’t know any better and as a result we loved to build things with Legos… until. […]

The Thing We’re Finally Talking About

This is a piece I wrote last spring, but I believe it may be more relevant now than it was when it was first published on The Good Men Project.


More so than any other time in my life, racism is at the forefront of the national conversation. I was born in 1968, the year Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. By the time I became self-aware in the early seventies, things had calmed down some, and throughout my formative years, racism as a societal topic was less prominent.

I have been giving this topic a lot of thought recently and three specific snapshots from my life come to mind. I do not have answers. My goal is simply to keep the conversation out where we can seek solutions together.

I am a 48-year-old white male, who grew up in an upper-middle-class household. My ancestry is 50% Swedish (mother’s side) and 50% Armenian (father’s side.) Both sides of my family immigrated to the USA in the late 19th century. […]

Best

Fiona Knows Best

About five years ago, my friend Fiona moved to South Dakota. She and I became friends working together on a local TV show almost a decade before, and we would get together maybe once a year for lunch, that was at least until she moved. Fiona is one of those people who you don’t see often, but when you do you’re able to pick up right were you left off, as if no time had passed at all.

Two years ago, I was driving back to Rochester from a day in Buffalo and my phone rang. It was Fiona, and she said, “Hey Steve. I have this new philosophy about far away friends. Whenever I think about them I don’t wait, I just pick up the phone and call or text them. I was thinking about you a few minutes ago so here I am giving you a call. How are you?”

We chatted for fifteen minutes, about nothing in particular, and went on with our lives… 1,500 miles apart.

[…]

neighborhood

Sourdough Starter

As many of you know, my family recently moved from Upstate NY to Charlotte, NC. One of the hardest things for us to leave was our amazing neighborhood. Sure the houses were nice and the streets were well maintained, but people are what make up a neighborhood, and what we left was simply the best there is.

I am not a baker. That said, I do know a little bit about making bread, and the history of the practice. As you scan the shelves at you local grocery store and marvel at the variety of choices before you, it is important to understand how bread today is very different than it was 100 years ago, and all the time before that. […]

Be Prepared

I am an Eagle Scout. There, I said it, and at 48 years old I’m finally over the feeling that admitting said accomplishment might result in some kind of machismo-rooted mockery, or worse… a wedgie.

As most people know the motto of the Boy Scouts is “Be Prepared.” Certainly the Boy Scouts have no exclusive claim to the idea of preparedness, but I will give them full credit for instilling the idea in me. I wrote about this idea (sort of) in my book The Penny Collector in a chapter called Hoard In Moderation. If you’d like to read that chapter (and you haven’t bought my book – shame on you), comment below and I’ll send you a PDF.

Last week I was reminded of two stories of preparedness constructed and executed by two exceedingly smart and beautiful women… my wife and my mother. […]

waffles

Waffles Are For Breakfast

The other day I dropped my eleventh-grader off to take the PSAT. As we drove the mile and a half to the high school, I blurted out the one thing I remember from my SAT prep course thirty years ago. “Scan-Discard-Select-Move On.”

In addition to all the content we covered, this was the lion’s share of the strategy I was taught, to conquer this all-important measure of my seventeen-year-old brain.

After exclaiming the one thing I remembered from three decades past, my daughter (as is often the case) looked at me like the alien creature she believes me to be. However after wiping the sour look off her face she asked, “tell me more about that.” […]

honeydew

Honeydew Terrorist

I recognize the title is odd, but I assure you the story I am about to tell involves both a honeydew melon and terrorism. Last week I saw an article about the Ozark Mountains Turkey Trot Festival.

This reminded me of (and was no doubt the inspiration for) the very best episode of a 1970s-1980s TV sitcom called WKRP in Cincinnati. The episode to which I refer, originally aired on October 30 (my brother Doug’s birthday) 1978. IMDB.com describes the episode as:

Feeling left out by all the recent changes, Mr. Carlson decides to launch his own Thanksgiving promotion. With the aid of Herb and Les, the Big Guy turns a routine turkey give-away into a comic catastrophe.

What ends up happening is this. In an attempt to make an annual turkey giveaway more exciting, the station owner arranges to drop turkeys from a helicopter flying 2,000 feet above a shopping mall. If you’re not familiar with the show or the episode, the clip is just below. […]

photobomb

Inventor of the Photobomb

My son Lawrence is an accomplished photobomber. If you’re taking a picture and Lawrence is anywhere in the vicinity, you can be sure he’s going to find his way into your pic.

According to Urbandictionary.com:

photobomb

(verb)- to drop in a photo unexpectedly…to hop in a picture right before it is taken.

Sarah: hey why is jimmy in the background of our prom picture?
Ryan: idk, he must have photobombed it at the last second.

A few years back, we attended a mass given by our new bishop at my sons’ school. My daughter Charlotte really wanted to get a picture with the new bishop, so after mass, she and her friend Erin waited in a long line.

Since the bishop was the first new one in the diocese in more than three decades, everyone seemed interested in meeting him, so Charlotte and Erin had to be very patient. When their time came, they shook hands with the bishop and then asked for the photo op. I had been waiting off to the side, camera at the ready. […]

minus

n minus one

There is a concept in business strategy known as “n-minus-one.” Simply put, the idea is you should always staff your company, office, or team with every needed resource, minus one.

For example, let’s say you run an accounting firm. You land a new contract and the analysis of the engagement calls for a team of twelve accountants and auditors. The n-minus-one concept says the team will actually be more successful if you implement a team of eleven.

It may be counter-intuitive, but I have found this to be not only true, but also applicable in situations well beyond the workplace.

Some business gurus believe the secret behind n-minus-one is how the remaining team members are required to hustle just a little more to get the job done. The resulting momentum and frantic energy will drive the eleven accountants to do the work of twelve. While hustle and momentum may have something to do with it, I believe n-minus-one works for another reason entirely… flexibility and the room to maneuver. […]

inactivity

Inactivity Timeout

This post was originally published in March of 2015 as part of a series called 500 Words To Save The World. Given the political maelstrom in which we find ourselves in 2016, it struck me as worth re-issuing. As the Irish statesman Edmund Burke aptly said,

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Do whatever you must to avoid being one fitting his description.


One day I received an email from my library informing me that my card was about to expire, however if I had used it within the last year it would automatically be renewed, no further action necessary. By simply using something, I was permitted to keep using it. […]

Stranger

Stranger Things

I know I am not alone in this. As the last weeks of summer have begun to give way to the beginning of the school year, I have been glued to Netflix, watching the oddly compelling story on Stranger Things.

If you have not watched any of this eight-episode Netflix original I will not ruin it for you here. However, if you spent any time as a kid in the 1970s or 1980s, loved Stand By Me, or The Goonies, or Close Encounters… you will absolutely flip for Stranger Things. […]