Thursday, May 9, 2024

"It's hard to put a price on Wisdom!"

 Over the past few weeks, and probably more candidly over the past few months, I have been going though quite a transition.  As you can see in earlier essays, I "retired" from Bolthouse Farms early in the year, and over the past few months I have been actively working to transition my headset, schedule and indeed my lifestyle away from being a Senior Executive in a large private company based in California     (and commuting weekly to Bakersfield Ca. as part of that role) to changing gears in a big way to be focused on my family, my community here in Atlanta, and to head toward new paths for the chapters of my life that lie ahead.  I have travelled across country with my daughter Marie on an incredible roadtrip that I reflected on in a previous essay (######), travelled to see old friends across the country ( wonderful across the board) and most recently just came back from walking the last 100km off the Camino inn Spain with my wife Jennie, my sister Alice and her husband Jan Willem.  I am still processing that trip deeply and when I am done "churning," I am certain that I will post an essay about our time on the Camino.  With that precursor, I have been hit by few moments recently that keeps me turning towards this idea of "Wisdom" and I wanted to explore it today.

Over my life, I have been around a number of people that I would describe as "wise," some from my professional life ( certainly my old boss Bruce that I have written about extensively on this blog) and from my family ( certainly my paternal grandmother... dear old Mama... also mentioned widely across the blog) and I have "chewed" on the idea of what makes these two VERY different people both so "wise?"  It's not their backgrounds, education, lifestyles, etc.... all of those "definers" are so very distinct, but they were      (both now passed) both so "wise" in my eyes and I still very actively think about them both and often wonder what they would do in situation that I am facing today.  Let's dig a little deeper to help our understanding.


Wisdom: noun, the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.

Knowledge: noun, facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Intelligence: noun, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.


The unique factor that I see in the respective definitions is the implied idea of combining and applying "experience, knowledge, and good judgement."  It's rings so true that both Mama and Bruce brought these three ideas to life personally, in the actions of their lives, and in their impact on my life.  I LEARNED a lot from both of them and as I reflect on it today, I want to "live into" being a source of wisdom for those I touch.  This idea of combining and applying "experience, knowledge and good judgement" is a powerful driver for me personally as I turn toward the next chapter of my life...and maybe an aspiration for all of us regardless of what chapter of life we may be in today!


p.s. I put the title of this essay in quotes because it came from a shuttle bus driver at the Atlanta airport.  After returning from our trip to the Camino, and after a very long day of travel, we cleared customs at ATL, and boarded a shuttle bus to head to International "Park & Ride."  Our luggage didn't make it, so we were traveling light, but our fellow travelers had some large and very heavy bags.  The driver of the shuttle bus, with a smile on his face, asked for the heavy bags to be set on the floor, so he could just slide them into the rack, and to put the lighter bags higher on the luggage rack.  As he said that, he looked over to me ( the only other person in his same age range, the other travelers were all much younger) and said that "guys like us have to save our backs whenever we can....remember... its hard to put a price on wisdom!!!"  An incredible line from late last Saturday night, and one that really got me thinking!!



Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Service, Sacrifice & Solidarity

 

I don't usually comment in my essays on my travels, but this week has had quite a deep impact on yours truly.  Heading out of Atlanta on Monday, I flew to BWI and was picked up by dear old friend and work partner Cathy, who joined me on quite an intense adventure yesterday ( Tuesday) at the Shapell Center.... the archives of the Holocaust Museum... in Bowie Md.  I was doing research on a family member, my Uncle Jim, who fought in WW II and participated in the liberation of a concentration camp in April of 1945.  It was just recently that I discovered that there were original documents and photographs of his in the Holocaust Museum archives, and I made an appointment for a research visit yesterday.  I can't yet describe, or even really process the experience, and will try to find a path to share more on this experience and the resulting insights in a future essay.... to say it was intense and overwhelming is an understatement.






After leaving the Shapell Center, in a very heavy mood, I asked Cathy if we had time to go to Arlington to visit the National Cemetery ( https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/#/).  somehow, it was the only place that made sense after reviewing the photos and docs,  and we made our way through DC and parked in a quiet spot in the Cemetery near where a relative of hers is buried.  The picture above is from that spot and I wanted to share it in this essay.  I was overwhelmed and surrounded by so many who has served their/our country and made incredible sacrifices.... some with their lives...not knowing what they would be called on to do.  The breadth of the sense of service and sacrifice was brought into sharp relief by an active funeral of a navy veteran just to the north of where this photo was taken.  These acts of service and sacrifice were certainly historic, just like my Uncle Jim's incredible service and sacrifice from almost 80 years ago, AND they are very current and contemporary.  So many young men and women serving OUR country today, making incredible sacrifices today... "inspiring" seems like just too trite of a word to describe the immensity of their actions and the immensity of our gratitude that is required!

I included the word "Solidarity" in my title because coming out of the Shapell Center and at Arlington, I felt an intense pride in being American.  I am not polly-anish or naive about the complexity of our history, but when I think about the soldiers & sailors that have left our shores to support and defend the ideals of freedom and democracy while fighting the nightmarish dreams of dictators bent on destinies of racial genocide and global domination ... I am personally humbled, and profoundly thankful.  As I was taking the picture above, I was also struck that Arlington is not subdivided by political party, or personal ideology.  This is a sacred spot, maybe one of the most sacred,  for ALL AMERICANS... not of one party or another, not one class, creed, race, nationality, or another.... a sacred spot for all of us as Americans that reminds us all of the sacrifice and service of so many for what we hold dear.  As we move as a country into election season of 2024, I hope to keep these images and sensibilities of "Service, Sacrifice & Solidarity" present and keep focused on the path forward for all of us as Americans.



Friday, March 15, 2024

Patience & Fortitude

 


As we guide into the “Ides of March” (worthy of a future essay for sure,) the landscape facing us as individuals, citizens, voters, family members, business leaders, etc. is daunting.  The two active wartime “nightmares” (Ukraine and Gaza) are seemingly endless, with no end (or end-game) in sight.  Our world is rife with military coups, revolts, civil wars, gang violence (this week notably in Haiti) and the vision toward “peace and goodwill for humanity” seems ephemeral and hard to see.  Our own political landscape is divided and divisive, and the upcoming presidential election is showing all signs to be a close, hotly contested, schismatic event.  In businesses all over the world, the challenges to lead organizations, drive innovation and create value in changing times is a growing burden to leaders regardless of industry or market.


It's in this “complicated” (putting it gently) landscape that I turn to the two Lions pictured here, framing the entrance of the N.Y. Public Library, whose names are “Patience” and “Fortitude.”

 

The NY public library website shares these facts on the lion’s history:

 

Patience and Fortitude, the world-renowned pair of marble lions that stand proudly before the majestic Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, have captured the imagination and affection of New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world since they were placed on their pedestals days before the building was dedicated on May 23, 1911. 

During the Great Depression, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia dubbed them “Patience” and “Fortitude”, after the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed to get through it. As the world has changed, our lions have been there to see it and be a witness to history—all while remaining a steadfast symbol for what the Library represents: a source of inspiration and strength for all.

 

The fact that Mayor La Guadia “dubbed” the lions the names “Patience” and ”Fortitude” hits close to home, as My mother Arline and my dear Aunt Lorraine ( pictured in my last essay) both grew up during the depression in Mayor La Guadia’s  New York City and both of them spoke VERY highly of him as adults when I was a child.  I think in their mind, if La Guadia thought that New Yorkers needed to focus on these two “qualities” to endure the depression, they would focus on them personally!

 

As I explore the landscape today, I find these two attributes/ qualities in short supply broadly,  and I am personally focused on bringing them into my life/headset/actions.  Let’s look at each attribute/quality a bit deeper:”

 

Patience: noun, the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. "you can find bargains if you have the patience to sift through the dross"

 

Fortitude: noun, courage in pain or adversity"she endured her illness with great fortitude"

  

It’s vital to note that in each noun, the definition ASSUMES a problematic landscape.  The attributes of “delay, trouble, suffering, pain and adversity” are ASSUMED as part of the reality…. not to fantasized or wished away, but to be understood, fought with and overcome!  I for one find great insight in the details of these two definitions and will be focusing my energies on how to combine “patience” and “fortitude” as my personal qualities to handle the wide breadth of challenges facing all of us today!

Friday, March 1, 2024

Just one more visit

 Yesterday, 2/29/24, was a poignant and powerful day for me... visiting my dear Aunt Lorraine at her assisted living/memory care facility in New Jersey.  It had been far too long since my last visit, and Aunt Lorraine's condition continues to degrade... and while the visit was deeply a sad one, I was very glad to be there.  I arrived late morning, and sat with Lorraine for almost an hour before lunch, showing her family photos from when we were both much younger... some from when she was a young girl with my mother ( her sister) Arline.  I wasn't sure she recognized anyone in the pictures, but she was attentive and I got a few smiles out of her as we went over the pictures page by page.  

I wasn't prepared for my "responsibilities" at lunch time, when one of the care givers asked me to "help out" and "feed" Lorraine her lunch.  While I was intellectually aware that Aunt Lorraine wasn't feeding herself, I wasn't prepared to take on the job of literally feeding her every bite of her lunch yesterday.  As we worked our way from the salad to the soup and ultimately to the Spaghetti & Meat sauce ( which I literally cut up into VERY "small bites" which seemed very fitting!!)   I focused on her every bite, trying to keep as much as possible from spilling.  At one point, as I brought the straw from a  cup of juice to her lips, she raised her hand and rested it on my hand as she took a long sip... whether she knew it or not, that gentle "touch" of her hand brought tears to my eyes and I felt so fortunate to be serving her that lunch.

I share all of these details in a way to remind all of us that life ( and health, capabilities, strengths, etc.) are fleeting and that life is to be lived NOW.... here and NOW!  Ten years ago I posted an essay titled " A heartwarming selfie" about a very different visit with my Aunt Lorraine... take a look if you have a second: https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-heartwarming-selfie_4.html.  As I re-read that essay this morning, I was struck by the closing two paragraphs that are printed below.... and how glad I was to have had that "one more visit" with Aunt Lorraine yesterday.  My encouragement is to take a few moments and think about the people in your life who you want/need to see just "one more time" if you can and take action now to pay that visit... you might even be able to feed them lunch! 



As I drove home, I thought about seeing Lorraine and all the people from our past now gone, whom I would love to have a chance to visit with again and sit around a dinner table and enjoy a meal. Of course I thought about my mom Arline Wark Levisay, Lorraine’s sister, now almost forty years past. I thought about my Dad, his mother Mama, her sister Marge and husband Adley, my mother-in-law Jane and her daughter Carrie, my friend Bruce …. and as I drove west towards Philly, the list continued to grow. What would I give for just one more visit, one more dinner, and one more chance to sit for a few hours and catch up??

As I made it back to my hotel with a beautiful sunset in sight, it was clear to me that the lesson from my visit with Lorraine was simple; see the people you love NOW, while you can! If you have a chance for a few hour visit, do it NOW, no excuses! Life is lived with no rewind feature. We only have NOW and hopefully tomorrow, but you never know. Sure life is busy and work priorities, and outside obligations often get in the way, but work hard to fight those seemingly “urgent” obligations and focus in on what is truly “important” in life, sharing time with those you love! Take a few hours and visit “your Aunt Lorraine” and take a “Heartwarming Selfie” of your own to remember help you remember the moment for years to come!


Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Calm and Confident in the GMC dealership Service Bay!

 

 

As is obvious from my last post, and from a slight change to the layout of the blog itself, I formally “retired” from Bolthouse Farms earlier this month.  The process of coming to this point of transition has been underway for months, but the actual steps of publishing a written announcement to the company, followed by a “Virtual Town Hall,” followed by posting and announcement on Linked In, then saying goodbye to a host of old friends and colleagues has been emotionally wrenching.  I knew that the final ACTS (“Hands/Feet”) of transition would be hard, but I totally underestimated how deeply I would FEEL (“Heart”) the parting.  I KNEW (“Mind”) that it was the right time to make a change, but regardless of that clarity, I was (and still am a bit) floored by the impact of this big change.

 

As the month of January 2024 played out, I had one more major ACT that needed to be take place in order to complete my Bakersfield transition and “come home.”  Most readers aren’t aware that since 2021 I have kept an apartment in Bakersfield and commuted there weekly from Atlanta. (not many of us doing the weekly Atlanta->Bakersfield-> Atlanta commute!!)  As my time at Bolthouse Farms came to a close, I also wrapped up my lease at the apartment and with the help of dear old friends and work partners (Cathy & Alan) packed up the apartment and packed as much as possible into a vehicle to drive across country.  The map above depicts the majority of the route starting in California and ending in Columbus Ohio at apartment of my daughter’s boyfriend.  We were dropping most of the “apartment goods” there, then finishing the journey by bringing the vehicle back for a final “drop-off” in Atlanta.  Marie and I did the trip together (which was outstanding and certainly fodder for a future blog for sure) and after 3204 miles, I was happy to be done with cross country driving for a while!

 

The ”GMC dealership” story came about on day 5 of our trek, in Columbia Missouri.  We had driven in deserts, crossed the rockies in a snowstorm and were now squarely in the plains when after a lunch stop one day, the check engine light came on… ugh!! We had had a few challenging moments with the car over the previous few days, but now the light was solidly on, and the car wasn’t running well!  I asked Marie to see if there was a GMC dealership ANYWHERE close by and in a flash she pulled up that there was a dealership literally around the corner, less than a ½ mile away.  Incredible!!  We limped into the dealerships’ lot and pulled right up to and literally RIGHT INTO the service bay.  Now I was tired, road weary and pretty freaked that we had a major problem on our hands and we were a long way from home…. or Columbus!  

 

I went up to the service counter and met Cole (no last names on the blog) who was working the desk and after a brief explanation he dove right in.  Marie was with me every step of the way and was upbeat and calm as we were dealing with Cole and kept reminding me that we were on an adventure, and that everything was going to be ok, and that we weren’t in any real hurry… all very calming comments that helped me settle down and not be so freaked out.  Cole on the other hand had identified a “mis-fire” in cylinder 4” and was swapping our spark plugs and coils to isolate the problem.  It took about an hour and the engine was running fine and after Cole took it for a test drive on I-70 (no mis-fires!!) we were literally good to go.  It was an incredible relief to pull out of that service bay, and head off to our stop that night in Effingham Ill.

 

I share this specific story because we all feel stress from many many sources.  Mine were coming from all the emotions of the January transitions, then the check engine light in Missouri!  In that “freak-out” moment, the combo of Marie’s funny/calming confidence and Cole’s quiet competence saved the day and totally put be back on track.  I am so thankful to both of them for their impact that day and will be thinking about ways to bring a “calming confidence” to stressful moments in the future!

 

 

Friday, January 5, 2024

It's official!

 Early today I posted the following on "Linkedin," after sharing the news with the company yesterday at a virtual town hall.  Filled with emotions, I wanted to share the posting here:


It is with great pride and gratitude that I share the news today of my retirement from Bolthouse Farms.  I need to acknowledge and thank so many talented and dedicated “Bolthouse People” that have been part of my journey at the company since I first joined almost 15 years ago.  Many thanks to my long-term business partner Jeff Dunn, who asked me in 2009 to be part of this amazing company, to be part of a leadership journey which drove dramatic business growth, a sale of the company to Campbell’s, and a repurchase in partnership with Butterfly Equity. Together, along with the Executive Leadership Team, we led Bolthouse Farms through a global pandemic, the acquisition of Evolution Fresh from Starbucks, and ultimately prepared the company for its next chapter of growth and success as two separate business entities.

 

I am very proud and excited to pass the business along to Tim Escamilla who will run the Ag- Centric farming business under the company name “Bolthouse Fresh Foods,” and Steve Cornell who will run the CPG-Centric Beverage and Salad Dressing business under the company name “Generous Brands.” These two “sister-companies” will create unique value and drive growth in their respective markets, and I am confident that Tim and Steve will have a strong impact in the next chapter of the company’s 100+ year history!

 

While I am “retiring” from Bolthouse Farms, my plan is to pivot my professional path towards opportunities where I can leverage my 35+year career in board roles, and to act as a “trusted advisor” to CEOs, foundations, and non-profit organizations.  I am humbled by my experiences at Bolthouse Farms, and I know the organization will continue to grow, overcome challenges, and thrive as it continues the next chapter of its legacy.

 

 

Monday, January 1, 2024

Finding a "Fresh Perspective" for the new year

 

I am not someone who spends much time or mental focus on New Year's resolutions.  For me, they seem like fleeting whims that after a few days or weeks are forgotten in the business of calendar invites, zoom meetings, hectic schedules and unseen challenges that lie ahead.  It's in that somewhat "cynical" spirit, that I share the following resolution for 2024... its high time for some "fresh perspective" and I am going to work hard to have it start with me!

As I reflect of the year/years recently past, it is hard to find hope and possibilities amidst the nightmare of wars actively raging in Gaza and Ukraine... hard to see the "light" in the darkness of dramatic climate change issues challenging all countries... hard to see cooperation/compromise in a political landscape that is more focused on radical partisan ideologies than creating progress for the average family.... and the list goes on.  It is in this context that I look at the start of 2024 as a time for a new headset, or a "fresh perspective" not championed by others, but by yours truly!

From a dictionary's point of view: 

The phrase "a fresh perspective" is correct and usable in written English. You can use it to describe a situation in which someone adopts a different point of view, such as when considering a problem from a new angle or looking at an issue with renewed interest.

I am inspired and "nudged" into action by this headset and am heading into the new year looking for ways to shake off my traditional way of thinking about things and "work" on ways to "consider a problem from a new angle."  I emphasize the word "work," because I know that for me, it will not be easy to slow down my traditional headsets/perspectives.... to quiet my inside voice that is certain that it knows the right answer to so many things... "considering a problem from a new angle, or looking at an issue with a renewed interest" is never easy!

For me, I find it helpful to try some "tricks/games" to push my thinking or habits and to get myself out of my traditional patterns...and one such trick or habit is a restaurant game I learned years ago called "two up/two down."  It's a "game" I have played at family or team dinners over the years as a playful way to "break the ice" and to change up our normal habits and to push ourselves to try new things.  The game is simple enough... imagine a group at a restaurant table, menus in hand.  Everyone selects their entrees as normal, and allowing for any food allegories, the game commences!  I ask someone to pull out a dollar bill, and someone to pull out a quarter, ( in today's cashless world, I often come with the bill and coin in my pocket.)  I ask the person with the bill to tell us the first digit of the serial number on the bill ( lets imagines its a "2",) and for the person with the coin to flip it ... heads or tails.  If "heads," then EVERYONE finds their entree choice on the menu and goes "2 up" from it and that's their dinner order... inversely if the serial number of the bill had started with a "5" and the coin had flipped tails, then EVERYONE'S dinner choice would be "5 down" from their original order.  Its always a bit of mayhem when the person wanting a burger gets a chefs salad and other than one "ill-begotten" dish of Tripe, ( ouch, that was a smelly mess!!) the game is always worth a lot of chatter/laughs and it ALWAYS pushes folks out of their comfort zones in a very "low-stakes" environment.

I share this "game" as an idea that helps push us to consider things "from a new angle," or to try something on a menu that might never have been considered.  While a simple playful "game," I know that I will need to push myself to explore fresh perspectives to the challenges of our world in 2024...monumentally more difficult and more significant than an entree choice on a dinner menu.  I wish all of you a very happy 2024 and encourage all of us to work hard to find "fresh perspectives" to the problems of our world and our communities in the year ahead!


p.s., the image at the top is a sunrise photo from this morning, January 1, 2024 at our cabin in North Carolina... a chilly start to a new year filled with "fresh perspectives!"

p.p.s., I found that I had written about this "game" almost seven years ago, and about bringing it to life in an ice cream shop in Highlands N.C. with some dear friends and work partners... take a look:  https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2016/04/2-up-2-down-game-to-expand-innovative.html