4 Reasons Why Broken and Fixed is Better Than New

Western society discards used and broken items like so much flotsam and jetsam. Once something loses its shiny and new appearance, we don’t want it anymore. Trash piles and landfills are replete with mounds of unwanted, broken and discarded things. First desired and valued, once we have “put a few miles” on these treasures, once they have become broken and flawed, we are quick to disregard, to snub, to throw away. 
We do this with people as well. We kick once close friends to the curb if they fall from grace. We brand as forever useless and shameful, those that no longer meet our definition of the beautiful, desirable and ideal. We are quick to judge, slow to forgive and relentless in our persecution of those unfortunate human beings that make mistakes, fall off the wagon, and no longer measure up to our self defined and imposed standards. 
Japanese society and culture is quite different. The Japanese continue to treasure and value once broken things, repaired and restored to a new level of beauty. The essence of this philosophy is called Wabi Sabi. 

Wikipedia defines Wabi Sabi as the comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. 

Wabi Sabi is well captured in the concepts of Kintsukuroi, the art of repaired pottery, also known as Kintsugi, golden joinery, or joined with gold. Basically, when an item of pottery or ceramic is broken, it is not looked down on and discarded. It is repaired, with gold and lacquer or epoxy. The repaired item now takes on a new life, and is even more treasured and valued than it was originally. 
Let’s relate these concepts to people. People rise to great heights, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. In both their professional and personal lives, people excel, they prosper and achieve great success. But at times, people “fall of their shelf” like a piece of beautiful pottery, and break. They can be dropped like we would drop a treasured ceramic serving bowl, no longer able to serve the original purpose, becoming pieces of brokenness and shame. They are shunned, snubbed, discarded. 
What if we were to apply Wabi Sabi, utilizing techniques like Kintsugi, like Kintsukuroi, to repair and restore these broken lives? Why wouldn’t their value be restored? Why couldn’t we once again begin to cherish and treasure them, as we once did in their original state? Why wouldn’t their lives be able to start anew?
I submit to you that all of the above can and should apply to people that have been repaired and restored. As a former truly broken and shattered person, due to a period in my life I am not proud of, I can attest to both the shunning and shame, as well as to the restoration and value that takes place after a period of applied Kintsurukoi. 

We do know it is true that some people will never repair and restore. They will remain broken and flawed, mostly due to a self imposed sense of shame and lack of self esteem. They will forever be relegated to the landfills of life, never to be valued again. But many can and will regain their beauty and value. And again I submit to you that they are worthy of our admiration and re-acceptance. Here are 4 reasons why:

  1. When people break and shatter, the ordeal and the process of restoration teaches valuable lessons. We can greatly benefit from these lessons. Re-engaging with restored people will in turn add significant value to our lives as we learn from their lessons
  2. Repaired and restored people are great role models. We can point to the breaks as pitfalls to avoid in our own lives
  3. We enrich our own lives and fulfill one of the prime reasons we exist, by extending a helping hand, and by putting those restored people back on their valued place on the “shelf”
  4. Putting people back to good useful work, much like putting that serving dish back into service, is an effective and efficient use of valuable resource, something which our planet sorely needs.  

We can learn much from Japanese culture. Wabi Sabi, embodied in the concepts of Kintsugi and Kintsukuroi, are lessons our society should adopt and embrace. There are a lot of formerly broken people, now repaired and restored that should be welcomed back into our lives. They should be put back on their “shelves” to be admired and revered. They deserve it, and we deserve benefitting from the valuable lessons and renewed beauty they have to share with us. 
Let me know what you think about all this. I’m keenly interested!

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14 Leadership Lessons from Fred

Fred DeFred and MeLuca, co-founder of Subway, passed away this week. Fred was a remarkable man, by any definition of the word remarkable. He was brilliant, witty, quick, passionate, compassionate, kind, considerate, and many other adjectives way too numerous to mention here. For 50 years, Fred established and built his company into a powerhouse in the industry. Fred was Subway, and Subway was Fred. No one could ever argue that.

I was privileged and grateful for having known him over the last 5 years, and to have spent quality time with him, listening to his outlook on life and leadership, learning from a true master. I share with you 14 golden nuggets from my time with

Fred’s lessons:

  1. Eliminate Silos – Get people to work together. The team is more powerful than a set of individuals. Stress teamwork in everything you do.
  2. Recognize High Achievement in the team and individuals – Reward it. And then most importantly, figure out how to teach High Achievement to others using the high achieving team’s example. Replicate this throughout the organization.
  3. Be Creative in How to Get Things Done – Analytical, and project management skills are important, but nothing beats creativity for getting something accomplished. This means that at times, you put aside the tools of management, and you put on the leadership hat to think out of the box.
  4. Think Big, but Start Small – Then tweak and build on it. If you start small, and it doesn’t work well, the tweaking is easier, and you have not invested a great deal in the effort, even if you have to tear it down and start again, or scrap it as a bad idea.
  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail – Fail fast, so you learn from the failure, and then move on. (He also added, “try not to fail TOO much” and laughed).
  6. Place Some of the Burden of an Initiative on the Recipients/Stakeholders – But not too much. He called this “having skin in the game”. If people don’t have skin in the game, they won’t really accept the solution, and won’t see the true value.
  7. On Any Initiative, Examine Who Is Struggling, Because They Don’t Have the Required Firepower – Then, help them get the firepower. There is nothing worse than someone struggling and feeling they are failing, because they don’t have resources or the wherewithal to get something done. Don’t stand idly by and let this happen!!!
  8. There is a BIG Difference Between Leadership and Management – Learn when to manage something, and when to just plain lead people. Good people are looking for leadership, and won’t always need to be managed. They will often know HOW to do something, they need leadership on WHY and WHAT to do.
  9. Keep Your Eyes Open – This seems obvious, but in thinking about it, it is not. I am reminded of
    the “beach ball” story. A beach ball’s colors are different depending on where you are standing, and you can only see the totality if you step back. Fred was saying, “look at things from different perspectives. Look at it from your customer’s perspective”. Problems will be easier to see and to solve.
  10. On Communication, Pick the Lowest Level Possible – A Brilliant nugget! He was saying two things here. One, Simplify your communications so that it is clear and concise, and then make sure you communicate things to the level of people for which it is truly important so they know and understand what you want them to know. Otherwise, higher levels may not share the message, or will water it down to the point where it is not useful and does not hit the intended target you were aiming at.
  11. Whenever Possible, Give People the Keys to Do Things Themselves – This is Fred’s flexibility mantra. He was always looking for ways to give people more flexibility and autonomy in getting things done.  What is material? How much flex can we allow? Flexibility, with some structure and guidelines. Observe and learn.
  12. When You Are Going to Miss a Commitment, Warn as Quickly as Possible – We always want to avoid missing our commitments, but Fred was a realist and knew that not everything was going to fall into place every time. Keeping people properly informed and engaged was always on his mind.
  13. Think About Total Chaos – This one threw me for a loop. We were talking about this in the context of a global implementation (more than 100 countries, and 44,000 stores). He said, “don’t think about global from a HQ perspective, think about it from the local perspectives in each country. If you think about it from our tiny HQ location in Milford, Connecticut you’ll miss the mark. Think about the Total Chaos you will cause if you don’t think about it locally! Use local resources to help you think through and resolve the potential Chaos. The local guys KNOW! Wow is all I could say.
  14. Always Quantify How Your Solutions Help People Be More Efficient, Be More Profitable, Lead Better Lives. – Help people to see the value. If we can’t do that, we don’t have real solutions. This is our ultimate reason for being, period.

Some of these nuggets were shared with me over the time I knew Fred. Most were shared in a 2+ hour, rapid fire meeting that Fred had with myself and a colleague back in November of 2014. Even though he was already stricken, he was in great spirits, and was so energized, I had trouble keeping up to take notes. And I kept meaning to go back and write these up to share them, but, things got busy (sound familiar?), and I was stricken with my own illness, so it was placed on the back burner. Fred’s passing brought me back to that meeting, at 5 o’clock, back in November. An impromptu meeting (he was in our Miami office and dropped in on us at 5 PM), and lasting well over 2 hours, Fred kept asking, “are you guys OK on time? Do you have somewhere you have to be?”. Are you kidding me?, I laughed to myself. There is nowhere I’d rather be than here, listening to you! I had no idea, until I distilled my notes into these 14 nuggets, just how blessed I had been to have known him, and to have learned directly from Fred.

Fred, I only knew you for 5 years, but I will miss you, your smile, your wisdom, your intellect, your energy, your passion, your drive, and your desire to make the Subway world, and the world in general, a better place. You have set a stellar example for us to follow. Rest in Peace Fred DeLuca, comfortable and fulfilled in the great legacy you have left with us all.

If you knew Fred, or are familiar with him and his story, I’d love to hear from you.

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The Way – A Fable About Right and Wrong

Chapter 2


I looked out at the evening sky, overlooking Central Park. There was a full moon out, and the weather was January crisp. I had chosen to be alone this night, and my half eaten dinner sat on the room service tray on the cart behind me. As I walked out onto the balcony, I fingered the gold plated name tag I had been given that morning, and sipped the cup of hot English Breakfast tea. I thought of how the day had unfolded, wrapping up with a speech that evening at the New York Athletic Club, after having rung the opening bell to open trading in the morning at the New York Stock Exchange, following that with countless interviews, speeches, a breakfast, lunch, and purchase of the first 100 shares of our stock on the floor of the exchange. Peter Perez-Gonzalez, the CEO boy wonder. The cheers and applause of those in attendance, the New York sales force, our customers, trusted suppliers, advisers, and my family, still echoed in my ears. And the huge barbeque and party I had kicked off by long distance video conference, held under the tents outside our headquarters, with more than 1,500 of the local Total Networks employees had been such a rush. I could literally hear them screaming with delight as I addressed them via video conference, wishing I was there with them. This was more gratifying than any man ever deserved, especially me, as I had never really considered myself worthy of leading such an incredible company and group of employees.

I thought back to that first time I met Juan Carlos, when he first taught me about the “law of the farm”, and he said to me, “Soon the day will come when you will harvest what you have planted. You must stop to enjoy that moment, but it will be merely a temporary stop on a long, continuous journey. Acknowledge it, savor the moment, and move on, for the work will continue, as another season begins. Remember, the Journey is more incredible, and more satisfying than the Destination”. And so, for the moment, I stopped, and savored, before continuing with the journey.

It had indeed been a long road. The naysayers had first ridiculed our business plan, and openly derided us and jeered our approach. Our story was not an incredibly sexy, meteoric, “50% year over year growth” story. We weren’t in the fastest growing sectors of the Internet technology markets. We were considered plodders. A good product line, great technology, talented engineers, a solutions based approach, and superior customer service. But we weren’t the big boys on the block, and we weren’t the start-up darlings of the dot.com world. As a result, our potential IPO did not attract the kind of buzz that the Wall Street know-it-all analysts loved and catered to. So we struggled, and we fought, and we stayed the course. Loyal customers, solid products, tough and battle hardened sales and technical support people, and engineers that would pull all-nighters for days to meet a deadline. That’s who we were. And while some of our competitors, and other start-ups cut corners, walked the thin line, and often strayed into the gray areas and toyed with the edge and corner cases of GAAP, we played it straight, and by the book.

During those times, I listened to Juan Carlos’s counsel, his no-nonsense approach to life, his basic, real world methods for tackling the basics, and for producing hard, clean and consistent results. That was our secret sauce. And if the Wall Street experts had known that it was a plain old gardener that had guided our rise through the mine fields of the dot.com debacle, seeing us to the other side as a great all American business success story, they would have laughed themselves silly. That was A-OK with me, because the laugh was on all of them. We laughed all the way to Wall Street, all the way to a place in the history books, and all the way into the hearts of our customers, our loving families, and our shareholders.

And so, yes, I recalled in my mind the words that Juan Carlos had uttered, and I did savor the moment, while I thought about all of the people that had worked so hard that we might get here someday. That day had indeed arrived.

And I thought about Paul, my brother, my friend. I thought about what had befallen him, where he was right now, and what he was about to face. Truth be told, I thought about Paul often, and thanked God the All Mighty that I had been blessed with someone to guide me through the shark infested waters of this Hi-Tech, high pressure, short term thinking, cut every corner, play with the numbers world. Because there, in that prison, forsaken, broken, and forgotten, but for the Grace of God, was Paul, instead of I. I shivered in the cold January night on that balcony, while I sipped the last of my tea.

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The Way – A Fable About Right and Wrong


This is the second part of the first Chapter of my book:

The Way – A Fable About Right and Wrong.

Chapter 1 (continued)

A man walked up to Paul, a big smile on his face, his hand outstretched. A diminutive older, almost regal looking gentleman with a cane, stood slightly behind the man.
“My name is Orlando, welcome to our humble abode. This is Levi, we call him O.C., which stands for ‘Old Codger’”, as he gestured toward the old man.

“Don’t believe a word he says,” said Levi. “The last person to call me O.C. ended up in the infirmary missing a few of his teeth. I still have them if you want to see.”

Orlando extended his hand further, until he grasped mine, and shook it firmly. The old man just smiled, as he handed me several items he was carrying in the hand that wasn’t holding the cane.

“Here are a few items you will need. They are supposed to give you this stuff when they check you in, but they never do. Seems the Federal Government doesn’t have enough money for the essentials, or perhaps it’s that the essentials disappear before we can get them.” With that, he handed me a bar of soap, toothbrush, and tube of toothpaste, deodorant, a razor, and a towel.

“I know you have a towel in your bedroll there, but you really need two. They are so thin, you could read a newspaper through them. That’s something you might want to invest in from the commissary. You won’t get anything else around here until at least Monday, probably Tuesday when the Camp Laundry opens back up for business. And it will take you at least until next week to be able to buy anything at the commissary. So, take these, and if you need anything else, just let me know.”

Orlando took a look at the shoes I was wearing, and the pants, as I had finally gotten the strength to stand.

“You are going to need something else to wear until the laundry opens up and you are able to get clothes and shoes. You can’t walk around all weekend in those shoes and pants. As usual, those assholes in Intake, love to mess with new blood, and give you stuff that they know won’t fit. I’ll find you some shoes and some pants that will feel a lot more comfortable. And I will get you a pair of shower shoes until you can buy some. You cannot take a shower in this place in your bare feet. I don’t even want to explain that to you just now”, he said with a wry grin. “In the meantime, let me help you make up your bunk, so that you are ready for the stand-up count. Have you met your “bunkee” yet? Here he comes now.”

With that, a short, balding, chunky, but powerfully built sixty-ish looking fellow with a sour expression on his face, strode up.

“Make sure you understand, that bottom bunk is mine, and so is that metal chair. The top bunk is yours, and you can use this green plastic chair.”

“You haven’t even introduced yourself yet Amado, and already you are pissing off your new bunkee and giving him orders. Be careful he doesn’t kick your ass and embarrass you in front of the whole unit”, said Orlando.

“Besides”, said Levi, “this man is going to have a lot of trouble getting up on that top bunk. Just look at him.”

Levi was right. I was at least 60 pounds overweight, and my body felt it. I had no idea how I would climb up into that bunk, and more importantly, climb down again, especially in the middle of the night when I had to take a leak.

“That’s not my problem” said Amado. “I’ve been in this dump for 7 of the last 17 years of my bid, and I have at least 5 more to go. I am not giving up my bottom bunk. I don’t give a rat’s ass who needs it, how fat or how sick they are“.

“If I were you my friend” said Levi, “what’s your name again? I would put in a request at the clinic for a bottom bunk. You stand a better chance of them giving it to you before the counselors or guards will”.

“Paul, my name is Paul Gonzalez-Perez, and I appreciate all of your help”.

Orlando continued to make up my bunk with an ease and dexterity that spoke to years of practice. I would have to learn how to do this. Without even looking up, he said “you won’t get phone privileges until you establish an account and put some money in it. That will take a week or two. Give me a phone number for someone you want to reach in your family, and I will have my wife call them to let them know you are OK.”

Before I could answer, and as Orlando finished making up my bunk, a raspy, obnoxious and incredibly loud female voice boomed from the front of the dorm, “COUNT!”. The entire unit, which just until now had been as loud as a rock concert, fell completely silent, and my first 4 PM count began.

I was in jail. Along, with 400 other men. Yet I was alone. And I wished I was physically dead, because I felt emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and most importantly, spiritually dead. And it was the absolute worst day of my 56 year old, worthless life. But little did I know, that at the same time, it was also the best day of my life.

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The Way – A Fable About Right and Wrong

highway sign

<strong>CHAPTER 1</strong>
Paul sat on the folding metal chair as the noise swelled around him and washed over him in waves. It was almost too much to bear. Dozens of different conversations, a hundred voices, all wanting to be heard, talking in riddles, speaking in tongues. The language of the street, of the scam, of the mundane, of the lawless, of the convict, as he would quickly come to know.
His clothes were provisional, given to him just 15 minutes ago during Intake, too tight, and reeking of sweat and a number of other unidentified odors. The pants would not fit over his hips, no matter how hard he pulled on them, exposing the crack of his ass, and who knew what else. The white t-shirt, was stained, and straining over his gut. The shoes were slip-on sneakers, with paper thin soles, and he could feel the bare concrete floor all the way to his knees.
The cacophony of the conversations continued. By his rough estimate, in his drunken stupor, about 40 or so conversations, men feeling the urgent need to make known a very important opinion about the most trivial thing. Some of the men lay quietly in their bunks, some reading, some just staring blankly at the bunk above them, or at the ceiling. This was J Camp, Unit A, one of 4 in the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Miami Satellite Prison Camp.
There were 400 or so total inmates at the camp, 100 to a dormitory, each with 4 rows of double bunk beds. The camp was adjacent to a Medium security Federal Correctional Institution housing another 800 or so prisoners. He was now known as Federal inmate number 03479-049.
The reason for all the noisy conversations, on this Friday about 3:45 PM, was the end of the work day and week at the camp, with the men letting off a little steam, getting ready for the 4 PM stand up count, a without-fail, daily ritual. Soon after the count, it would be dinner time. Dinner at 4:30 PM? Unconscionable. Just one of many things that Paul would learn was starkly different about life inside versus his former normal life outside. But then again, who was to say what normal was.

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BFOs – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious

Are you getting more than a little frustrated with the quality and value of Blog Posts on the Internet?caution stairs Then why don’t we agree to do this: When you run across one of these posts, full of grammatical errors, too simplistic, stating the obvious, not adding much value, if any – make a comment, let them know “hey, watch your grammar, post something of value, don’t click-bait us” – whatever the issues are with the post. Yes, people have a right to Post, but we have a right to object to nonsense.

The world is full of voices. Voices are embedded inside Posts. My voice is embedded inside this Post. My voice is struggling to get out and be heard. There are loud voices, non-nonsensical voices, B.S. voices, voices that shout inane, moronic advice from the roof tops, voices that are out of tune, vitriolically filled voices, all kinds of voices.

Then there are voices of value. Sometimes, its really hard to hear the voices of value among the cacophonous voices that fill our airwaves, big screen TVs, print media, and blog pages. You have to wade through all the junk to get to the real valuable stuff. It’s kind of like going to a garage sale, and sifting though the junk, to find that one classic rare book, or vinyl record, or cameo brooch, or antique pearl handled buck knife that makes the effort all worthwhile. So here are some tips for wading through Blog Posts and their related voices:

1) Look at the background of the voice. Do they have a solid track record, with experience, and skills? When they give advice are they doing it purely to share their knowledge, and to leave the world a better place than how they found it? Or are they just talking to hear themselves talk?

2) Does the advice or point being made, make sense? Does it sound to good to be true? Is it so blatantly outright ridiculous, that you should be discounting it immediately? Is it so obvious, your 3 year old daughter has been saying it for weeks now? If so, quit reading, make a comment to the blogger, and move on!

3) Is the voice sharing something that makes you quickly come to the conclusion that you should in turn share it with family, friends, and acquaintances? Is it something you would be willing to link your name to?

Positive answers to these questions should give you a fairly good feeling that you have found a voice of value. Mark that voice down, and come back periodically. It will be good for your psyche, for your development, and for your soul. And it will become a haven and respite from that jungle of voices that continue to blare and shout, and to state Blinding Flashes of the Obvious.

I hope I was able to share a reasonable voice with you about this topic. As far as my voice being one of value, that will be totally up to you to decide!

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Walking the Talk – Are you “Followable”?

It is sometimes easy for Leaders to forget or overlook the impact they have on their followers.

In my experience, leaders cannot choose to lead people. It does not work that way. People choose to follow people who have exhibited a set of characteristics that make them “followable”. In my experience, there are three characteristics that makes you a “followable” leader.

  1.  Integrity – followable leaders have integrity. There is never a question as to their motives and whether they are ethical. You don’t find followable leaders looking for the loopholes, or walking the thin line or within the gray area. Followable leaders are consistent with their integrity and for them, it is black or it is white. A followable leader makes it very clear which kinds of behaviors are acceptable and which are not. And a followable leader enforces the established ethical practices completely and fairly. It is really hard to get in ethical trouble working for a followable leader. 
  2. Skills – followable leaders have skills. They can skillfully lead, skillfully hire, skillfully coach and develop, and skilfully steer their followers. They are competent in key areas of the business, and they hire competent people for those areas where they may lack skills required for the business. You will learn a lot from followable leaders because they are world class at coaching and developing.
  3. Accountability – Followable leaders hold themselves accountable, before they attempt to hold anyone else accountable. You will not find followable leaders passing the buck, or saying “not me”, “not my mistake”. They own up, woman up, fess up, and take full responsibility for what they say and what they do. And they do it, long before they expect anyone to do it as well. If you are accountable to yourself, you will thrive under a followable leader. Accountability is the cornerstone of organizational success and followable leaders talk it, walk it, expect it and reward it.

Of these three characteristics, Integrity is key. People won’t follow you for long if you are not competent, and may not follow you if you are not accountable, but only people who lack integrity themselves will follow a leader without it. And that is bad organizational mojo.

What about you? What kind of leader do you follow? Are they followable, or are you following someone lacking in any of these key areas? Your personal success and well being may depend on it.

I’d love to hear your comments! 

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