I Am Grateful….

Nov 26

In: Family life, Personal, Philosophy

I am grateful for many people and for many things.

I’m grateful that my children have enough to eat each day–and, that they are secure. My mother grew up as a war refugee and did not eat three meals a day. She and nearly all of her siblings died relatively young.

I’m grateful for my marriage. I feel that we’ve gone from being dependent on each other to interdependent with each other. It’s hard to explain, but earlier in the marriage, I put a lot of pressure on myself to “make my spouse happy” and be “the perfect husband.” For me, striving to be a good parent/provider/spouse/cook is partially tied to my greatest personal fear. This led to the following behavior on Thanksgiving: getting up at 4 am to make home-made cinnamon rolls, cooking a ham and side dishes for lunch, and, then, cooking a turkey and sides for dinner.

And, then, feeling very resentful about it after. Self-inflicted wounds due to perfectionism.

Now, I try to do a better job of articulating what I need and not feeling guilty about asking for help. So, this year, we are splitting the cooking chores for Thanksgiving. And, we’ve streamlined the guest list (long story).

I’m grateful for my sister. She sent me a card for my birthday, in which she wrote a few things. One of which was this: when she talks to me, she suddenly finds herself “home.” So true here, too (more here). Siblings with a shared past that no one else can understand or experience.

I’m grateful for Kepha Partners. We strive to do our best each day for our entrepreneurs and investors. We are a social experiment: a “socialist” model as an equal partnership for its investors. I really look forward to Monday morning partners’ meetings. We are a very functional partnership and complement each other well. I also get great “life advice” from my partners. I’m also grateful to our entrepreneurs and investors, who have given us the chance of a lifetime to have impact and “do well and do good.”

I’m grateful for my friends. When I need help or advice, I can call Anne, Steve, Andy, Jim, Dan and so many others. They are quick to reply and are a source of tremendous camaraderie and insight.

I’m grateful for our nation. I hail from a country with tremendous poverty, social unrest and mind-boggling pollution. I hope our politicians will start acting like fiduciaries and do what is best for the country vs. optimizing for themselves or their political party.

So, I am grateful on this Thanksgiving Eve….

Applying to College

Nov 25

In: Family life, Personal

I applied to colleges sight unseen. My guidance counselor, a really nice person, was one of the freshman football coaches. My high school had negligible experience with selective east coast colleges.

So, it is really weird to observe college admissions today. Two of my children are in high school and at schools that prescribe a great deal of homework and have high expectations about involvement in sports, theater, music, leadership and community service.

Honestly, I’m grateful that my children are getting a tremendous education and one much “better” than what I experienced. But, I’m not sure how I feel about young children staying up late fairly consistently. I’m not sure who will fare better: those who get into their first-choice colleges, or those who do not. The latter will face an early disappointment but end up enjoying their college experience nonetheless; so, they will learn grit and be more than OK in the end.

This is all a very foreign process to observe.

A Rant: Immigration Reform

Nov 20

In: Politics

This is a political rant.  You’ve been warned.

The President’s move on immigration, which he is announcing tonight, is politically brilliant, IMO. He immediately goes on offense to try to drive a wedge between minorities and the Republicans. I suspect he hopes this will better position his party for the 2016 elections, particularly when The Big Prize, the Presidency, is up for grabs.

I’m sure the political consultants have done their polling to show that this is an effective strategy. Moreover, the NY Times recently published this article, which is that the Hispanic vote for the GOP is a “nice to have,” not a “must have.” So, to score points with their base, Republicans can afford to push back on immigration reform.

That’s all fine for 2016, but I ask this: who is looking out for our nation’s long-term needs? I can understand short-term politics but what about long-term policy?

Maybe I was naive, but I really had hoped that the President and Congress could find some common ground on some important issues. But, he’s going on offense and now the Republicans are saying that his executive orders will affect other issues.

Frankly, we need leaders with a long-term time horizon, and we’re not getting it right now. Frustrating.

‘Future Forward’ Conferences & Irony

Nov 20

In: Entrepreneurship

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For me, today has been a day for conferences. In the morning, I attended Scott Kirsner’s “Future Forward” gathering, and, in the afternoon I spoke at the MIT Sloan CFO Conference. Serendipitously, the theme was “The Future Forward CFO.”

Two completely different events. Scott’s conference was in town and featured founders with a lot of edgy ideas, such as MegaBots (giant robots for paintball wars). Start-ups really pushing the edges. The MIT conference was at a hotel out in the suburbs and many attendees wore suits and probably aren’t the edgy founder type.

A day of contrasts.

As I thought about it more, moreover, I started to think that both constituents need each other. It is tempting to simplify the world and say that it is all about Kendall Square and young founders and social apps.

But, I think building a real company and a real business is a lot more than building a product. You need other DNA strands with which to complement founders. I’ve found that founders are indispensable to a company. Their energy, drive and institutional memory cannot be replaced. But, often, they need much help to grow a company.

IMO, founders who admit gaps/weaknesses are the ones who tend to do best. The ones who have all the answers usually find they do not, but then, it becomes very difficult, or it is too late, to change the company’s course.

It is a true irony: acknowledging weaknesses leads to a stronger team.

Peace, Jerusalem and A Cappella Music

Nov 15

In: Music, Personal, Politics

I recently was at a college mini-reunion. While there, they showed this very cool and moving video, a song called “Home,” which featured the Jerusalem YMCA Youth Chorus (click above or here) and YouTube sensation and Yale grad Sam Tsui. Micah Hendler, also a Yale grad, founded and directs the Chorus.

I ran into someone after, who said: “I was in tears by the end of that video.”

I love this song and that it features a chorus comprised of both both Israeli and Palestinian teens, striving to promote peace through a cappella music.

Some years ago, I went to Israel for business. I made a point of seeing Jerusalem. I’ve read a lot about the conflicts in the Middle East, but seeing the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall so close together really crystallized for me how difficult this conflict is. A true zero-sum situation.

I wandered the narrow alleys in Jerusalem, which itself is divided into “quarters” for Jews, Muslims, Christians and Armenians.

I don’t know if true peace in Jerusalem is possible. But, I laud and greatly respect those who keep striving for it.

If you want to support the Chorus, as I just did, click here.