Old School Rant: Choices, Teenagers & Parents

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Alexa always gives me some interesting factoids.  Today’s report on the plummeting teenager labor force participation caused me to stop and look it up.  Here’s the article, and below the stat.


“The teen labor force participation rate reached a peak of almost 58 percent in 1979. By 2015, the most recent year of data provided by the BLS, that rate had declined to about 34 percent, which is lower than the Great Recession’s 40 percent rate.”

So What?

We can give plenty of reasons for WHY this is going on and I’m sure there are good ones.  No doubt more kids are going to summer school as they prepare for college and are likely putting a higher value on that over the long term than a minimum wage job.  I get it.

But it’s awfully hard to imagine our country in a better position with massively fewer teens participating in WORK

This is not to make a value judgment on education vs experience, it’s to ponder CHOICES that our future producers seem to be making.

Seems like you really only have 3 types of CHOICES Teenagers make.  Work.  Study.  Play.  3 distinct teens making 3 different choices.  

  • 1)  Teen Timmy makes the choice to pass up on the minimum wage job to attend “summer school” or pre-college prep.  Timmy has his sights on a scholarship at a prestigious university.  Timmy is clearly trying to hone those classroom “muscles” and I can envision his first year in college perhaps even being more successful in college as a result of this choice.  Timmy is on his way.
  • 2)  Teen Tara, an “average” high school student scores a job at the local Starbucks.  So much for sleeping in, store opens at 5am and she needs to open at least 3 days a week, and Tara isn’t a morning person so this doesn’t feel fun.  But slightly better than school for Tara, she just can’t seem to get motivated by the classroom.
  • 3)  Teen Tiffany.  She’s doing neither.  By golly it’s the summer and she’s going “Down the shore” DTS (NJ saying for hanging out on the beach) to work on her tan.  School and jobs will always be there and her bestie is joining her, it will be a blast.

I suppose there are all kinds of cross-overs between Tiffany, Tara and Tim.  Who’s to say you can’t do a little DTS, hold a job, and take a course or 2.  Our society seems to be obsessed with “balance” so one could argue this approach would kind of feel pretty darn smart?

Regardless, all could be massive successes, and all could be grade A loafers in life too.

There’s also a VERY powerful force in a Teenager’s Life:  Their Parents

One thing is hard not to notice about Parents and business leaders?  People are AWFULLY proud of their alma matter.  Their college experience shaped them, who their friends are and there is usually a tremendous sense of pride in their college.  I have a healthy degree for my college experience too.

Do yo think this rubs off on Junior?  You betcha.  Do you think Junior’s Parents vision may be a tad biased in their own hiring decisions when trying to get talent for their companies?  How can it not?

When student loan debt crosses the trillion dollar mark in the USA and countless young adults are graduating without “experience” and consider themselves “under-employed,” maybe, just maybe parents and leaders need to step back and ask themselves if we live in a different day?

Again, I’m not advocating education vs NO education.  But it’s hard not to at least challenge the underlying assumptions and recognize that the world we live in now is not our Grandparents world.  Everything should be questioned.  There are multiple paths to a fulfilled life, but listening to many of them talk about plans for junior, there only seems to be one.

Employers still want the sheepskin.  Some won’t even interview the non-degreed applicant.  That means there’s tremendous talent not even being considered in the market for talent, and that spells opportunity.

You know what employers really want MORE than the sheepskin?  Results.  Difference makers.  

For the record, I had a HELL of a teenage life.  I helped run a liquor store, and is there any cooler job for a teenager than that?  I had tons of fun, but I also remember plenty of weekends my friends going DTS while I worked at the store and locked it up at night.  The pride of being entrusted with a key to that store and locking it up, in great shape to start the next day was a responsibility I wouldn’t screw up for anything.  I think of my Uncle and Cousin often with a tremendous amount of gratitude for their trust.

Sometimes in life, success isn’t a matter of distinct choices, to work or to study or to play.  Success sometimes means, who are you trying to please?  Your parents?  Your buddies?  Or……yourself?  Coming of age usually means you get this clearly, and sometimes people take a lifetime with this struggle….

For teenagers, these are awfully tough choices.  I just hope it’s the teenager that makes the call, not their parents.   

BTW, don’t miss the video on Raven Osborne, got here college degree BEFORE her high school degree.  For free.  That’s HUSTLE, and I’d love to hire her.

[Continue Reading…]

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Hustle Case Study: Pitbull

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Education is not only about IF and where you have a degree from, it’s about lifelong learning, and more learning happens OUTSIDE the classroom than inside of it.   

You also don’t need a semester to gain great inspiration and new knowledge, 10 minutes can do the trick. 

Here are 2 Great Talents:  Ryan Seacrest and Pitbull.  A 7 minute interview, and great lessons.

Para-phrasing (Of Course)

  • “Where does the energy come from?”  It’s all about motivation!
  • My mom raised me off Anthony Robins.  I would sit in the car and listen to his lessons.
  • There’s no success without failure.  No success without losing.
  • Does your Hustle and your ability to outwork help?  ABSOLUTELY.  It’s 90% business, 10% talent.
  • On Jennifer Lopez:  She’s a pro.  She show’s up on time, gets the job done and moves on to the next thing.
  • Who makes your suits?  It doesn’t matter what you wear, it’s how you wear it!
  • The only real thing in my life, is real people, so I’m very protective of them.
  • Ryan:  I like to meet friends, greet friends and KEEP friends!
  • What are your other priorities?  Vodka, schools, slam (sports, leadership, management), branding the city with Pit Bull, finding a way to grow and put the puzzle together!
  • I love the Hustle.  Fall.  Get right back up.   

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Thoughts on Building A Company With Heart

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I was a bit surprised when one of my colleagues said they were “dreading asking me for a half day off” a few weeks ago.

“What’s the big deal, we’ll survive the few hours right?”

Like most initial reactions, when you reflect with a little time that passes, you can relate a bit better.  There’s a lesson in that alone for all of us e-mailers!

A quick story of the past before going into the role of a leader…..

I often reflect on my fantastic 8+ years at Monogram Foods which I certainly consider PIVOTAL in my life, for a couple of reasons.

  • I started at the age of 31.  Enough experience and boundless energy to make a difference, but maybe too young (never thought I’d say that) to put relevance on anything big picture related.
  • My first child Hope was  18 months old, also a turning point in my life.  Becoming a parent is big for ANYONE.  Hope was born with Down Syndrome (DS), we wouldn’t change a thing about her.

The fact that Hope DOES have DS, meant I was opened up to a new world, a world where I needed to understand communities that may need a little extra help.

My wife and I divide and conquer very well.  She focused on direct care of Hope (school system, therapies/medical, etc) and I focused on the outside world (local community, fundraising, businesses, government to a degree).  We of course came together at the big points in both worlds.

What happened with me?

  • I joined the local Memphis Down Syndrome Affiliate as a board member.  Our goal was to improve/empower the lives of people with DS and their families.  Lots of ways to do this, and all can’t be done at once, and all of it requires time and money.

Back to motivation in business…..

  • We needed a place for board meetings.  I went to my boss and asked if he wouldn’t mind if I use my company’s conference room.  I kind of felt like my colleague asking me for a half day off.  I wouldn’t call it dread, but there was certainly “butterfilies.”

My boss’s reaction?  “ABSOLUTELY!  Make sure everyone helps themselves to the soft drinks too.”

While I wasn’t surprised at his support (as solid a person as they come), I WAS elated that the reaction was an “open arms” invitation to the organization.

It sent a message:  “What’s important to you, is important to us.”

That continued.

  • I asked if we could donate hot dogs to annual awareness/fundraising walk.  They sent a crew to cook them.  And we invited the entire company, and they showed up in droves.
  • They donated.  And if you’ve ever asked people for donations, you know how difficult that is.
  • When I went to DC for a couple of days to lobby in support of the community?  They were waiting at the coffee pot wanting the run down of the experience.  Taking precedent over SEC Football reviews is big.
  • The list goes on….

This wasn’t just my boss/President of the company.  It was my team members on the exec team (I considered them like “brothers”).  The team I was honored to lead.  The plants.  High and wide.

In short, MY journey with Hope and the DS community became their journey too.

I wasn’t the only lucky one.  People’s life journies/stories became part of the culture.

Fast Forward to Today, where we work to create something great beyond Monogram….

The lessons and stories I tell as I build a company elicit a common reaction:

  • “Well you WERE a VP you know!” as if to say “rank has its privelages.”

Fair response, if you believe that leadership level determines HEART.  I do not believe that.

Another learning lesson:[Continue Reading…]

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LinkedIn’s CEO Nailed IT: His Venn Diagram

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Jeff Weiner, the CEO of Linked in flat out nailed the Venn Diagram of people he most enjoys working with.

What leader worth their salt wouldn’t say “Hell Yea!” on this little picture?


People I enjoy working with


Isn’t WHO you work with everything in business?

What if you were surrounded by people that have only 1 element, how would it work?  Maybe there would be some value to the people or to the business, but probably not.  Probably 2/3 are the minimum needed.

3 out of 3 are probably the classic “A Players,” small in % terms but great in overall impact.

What Mr. Weiner’s Venn Diagram shows clearly is that it takes a mix of all 3 elements to really provide him the “Juice” or energy to really enjoy working with them.

Everyone should go through this exercise and rank their top 3 qualities of traits they like to see in others they work with daily.

Business is certainly about delivering results.  But results are a by-product of people coming together and working effectively with each other.  

Understanding what traits in others you appreciate is a great first step.  

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Hustle in Action: Kenny Brooks

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There are so many reasons why I believe HUSTLE is one of life’s most controllable difference makers.  Hustle is one of those intangible elements, it doesn’t come with a degree or certification, but you know it when you see it.


When I think of HUSTLE, a few words/images come to mind…

  • Thick skin

  • Creative

  • Aggressive

  • Makes a $1 out of fifty cents (isn’t that a song lyric?)

  • Enjoys the ride

  • Memorable

  • Contagious

Most important?  They makes it happen:  Usually 10x’s greater results than people with < Hustle factor.  

No research to back this up.  No government study.  Simple common sense.

Lets look at Internet sensation Kenny Brooks, a door to door salesman that epitomizes the word Hustle.

Ask yourself if his success rate is significantly better than his peers?


If you own a cleaning supply company, would you hire a Harvard MBA, or would you hire Kenny Brooks?

Hustle Matters.

Role models and learning opportunities are all around us.

“Paint me green and call me a pickle!”

Hustle on…..

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Excellence in Action: The Hustlin’ Warriors

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One of the hard parts of starting a new challenge in life is a temporary separation of the family, selling a house while buying another one.  Thankfully, I have a very supportive wife, sister, brother in-law and God Daughter in Warren NJ that make this experience enjoyable along the way.

While going for a Saturday walk, I stumbled across something that made my heart “skip a beat.”  The Hustlin’ Warriors baseball field!  Home to Watchung Hills Regional High School Baseball team, the field was just the start.

My favorite word HUSTLE drew me in.  What I was about to see KEPT me there and fascinated me.  

Hustlin Warriors Baseball Watchung Hills NJ

Being around 9:30am on a Saturday I was fortunate to see the 10am start.  I’d rather be lucky than good.

  • First, there’s something about a team that clearly is INTO every single pitch.  Chanting.  Chatter.  Clearly pulling for their teammates.
  • Second:  There’s something special when the team all gets out of the dugout at once to congratulate their teammates successful accomplishment.  Homerun?  NO.  A BUNT!

I have never seen a team celebration of a bunt before in my life, and I played baseball for 12 years and followed it all my life.  Do you think this team is consumed with execution of the fundamentals?  Absolutely.

Next observations:

Bat Boy/Team Manager

  • He was into every pitch.  He was cheering on every player.  Every player ALWAYS had a smile on their face that seemed to be a bit wider when they high fived him.
  • This Team Manager happened to have Down Syndrome.

“It used to be that James Soranno only worked the home games…..Then, Watchung Hills Regional High School head baseball coach Joe Tremarco figured something out.  You don’t take the heart and soul of your team out of the dugout just because you’re not playing at home.”

* Source: Echoes Sentinel posted 5/16


Image Credit: Roger Howell, from “Heart and Soul: Watchung Hills bat boy/team manager a favorite of coaches, players and parents”

One things certain, though. When James eventually does move on, it will leave a big void.

“Because the truth is, I can replace my shortstop,” Tremarco says. “But I can’t replace James.”

*  Source:  Echoes Sentinel posted 5/16

Next, the Voice of the game.

A PA announcer at a high school baseball game is not common.  When you here with GREAT personality and clarity, that is even more rare.  And when that announcer has Cerebral Palsy?  Well, now we are talking VERY rare.

I encourage you to watch the video of Skylar Weisberg’s story…


“If you work hard, if you have a big heart, and if you have a whole lot of spirit, you can make anything happen.  Dreams can come true.”  Skylar Weisberg

The Excellence of the Hustlin’ Warriors is a complete team effort.  But like all great teams, it starts with the Coach.  I do not know Head Coach Joe Tremarco, but I certainly would love too.  He gets more than just baseball fundamentals.  He gets what it takes to create something truly special.  He has found value in hidden places, and created something memorable.  

There are examples of greatness everywhere.  

Hope you find a Hustlin’ Warriors on your next walk.  

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The Inspirational Story of Richie Parker

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One of the best 7 minute inspirational stories I’ve come across, Richie Parker.  The video tells the story better than I could, but here are some thoughts that came to mind.

  • Parents Matter
    • What would the world look like with more parents like Richie’s?  Shouldn’t every kid have the opportunity to ride a bike?
  • Attitude Matters More
    • What if everyone had the ability to NOT let adversity bring them down, not accept no for an answer, and had the optimism and ingenuity to just simply figure it out?

What if every organization was open minded enough to give a person like Richie a shot, a real opportunity to contribute?  

Do you think Richie is a massive difference maker in all ways at his organization?  
I bet the competitors are kicking themselves for not having Richie, I know I’d want him on MY team.  

Game-changers in Life are hiding in mysterious places.  Being open minded to the new and more importantly, DIFFERENT is the first step to a new world of opportunity.  

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A Role Model & a Simple Equation for “Life Moments”

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“We make kids’ days. We’re role models, and kids look up to us, and that’s something we have to embrace and take the role of,” said Randolph.Zach Randolph Memphis Grizzlies, gives the Shirt off his back to boy with Down Syndrome

Image credit: sbnation.com

A feel good story emerged in Memphis this week when Zach Randolph LITERALLY gave a young boy the shirt off his back, and it was captured on video.  Some thoughts….

  • I LOVE the fact that this video has had 400k views in less than a week.  I hope it goes to 5mm+.  Why?  

  • Because it was so simple & powerful at the same time.

  • Something KIND was caught on camera.  28 seconds.  A little shot of optimism and kindness.

Maybe I see this event as a bit more special because I’m biased.  The boy in the video is Will, my daughter’s friend, and a great one at that.  When one of your friends has a brush with fame, it is a bit more exciting than someone you don’t know.  The excitement on a young girl’s face seeing her friend on TV is priceless.  

Will and Hope also share more than friendship….they both have “Designer Jeans” (Down syndrome).  They are more alike other kids than different.  Maybe that played a role in the story, maybe it didn’t.  It doesn’t really matter….

What this little act of kindness is, I would certainly call a MOMENT.”

Life Moments equation

“Teddy” was also one of the great MOMENTS of 2013, “When a million smiles beats a homerun!” It’s impossible NOT to feel great after that story.

The other thing the Zach Randolph MOMENT shows, is self-awareness.  He came right out and acknowledged that fact that athletes are role models.

One of the famous Old School ads of my generation was the “Role Model” ad from Nike, by Charles Barkley.

I can buy into Barkley’s argument:  Parents are the ultimate role models, athletes are not. Simplicity at its finest.

There’s a problem with the argument however.  It ignores a brutal reality.  Kids look up to pro athletes, whether the athletes like it or not.  There’s a warning sign here….

It may be convenient to ignore a Brutal Reality.  But it’s not the right thing to do.  

Zach Randolph seems to naturally embrace his role model reality.  

Professional sports would be significantly better if others did the same.  


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The CoffeeHouse Test for On-Line Relationships

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In life, relationships are the source for the most enjoyable aspects of ANY experience.

Technology continues to evolve at a breathtaking pace and will not slow.  However, there is comfort in the fact that there is a constant in life in the human connection.

While writing reflections on a year anniversary of Hustle Or Bust, I realized the post was not only too long, but heavily focused on the people that came to mind, and it deserves to be a standalone post.

I thought: “Wouldn’t it be cool to meet these people IN THE REAL WORLD TOO!”

So with that said, here an Old School Test to measure the level of “Human Connection” from the Digital World

The Coffee House Test

If I’m traveling to a city, would I look forward to having a cup of coffee/glass of wine with them in the real world?  Would they feel the same?  

If the answer is a 2 way YES, you have a meaningful connection.  If the answer is a 1 way yes, perhaps not as much.  The Coffeehouse test is simple, and may only apply to a relatively small percentage of your on-line connections.

How’s this for a goal?  ACTUALLY ACT on it and meet your on-line connections in the real world!

Whatever your venue of choice (bar, coffee house, etc.), pick one that “stands up” to the importance of meeting a connection in the real world.  Since it’s the “coffeehouse” here’s my recco for those around Beantown.

Caffe Vittoria Boston

Caffe’ Vittoria is the best Old School Coffee House I know, in Boston’s North End section, with the best cappuccino and Tiramisu I’ve had. Classic black and white pictures everywhere, simple stone tables and big shiny espresso machines.  Borderline rude service, because they can.  http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/blogs/thenextgreatgeneration/2012/03/slip_into_an_atmosphere_of_pur.html

Incidentally, Boston is home to the best Italian Food “section” in the country, but I digress, so Back to the CoffeeHouse….

Role models are needed in all walks of life.  For the past year+ here are 11 that come to mind.  They certainly pass MY Coffeehouse test!

Tom Peters @tom_peters

  • One of the smartest management thinkers of the past 3 decades.  But what sets Tom apart?  Simple, he engages.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Bring your “A-Game” with Tom….

John Lee Dumas @johnleedumas

  • Host of Entrepreneur On Fire, a top-ranked daily business podcast.  John has accompanied over 100 4am work-outs in 2013, that’s over 100 hours!  If that doesn’t make the cut, what does?  Required listening for anyone in innovation or start-up mode.

Kelli Schmith @marketingveep

  • Kelli is smart, sarcastic and funny.  RARELY will I read her tweets and not find myself laughing, smiling or thinking.  How many people can you say that about?

Vala Afshar @ValaAfshar

  • Prolific writer, on twitter and the blogosphere.  Amazingly consistent on all things leadership, social and marketing.  He’s flat out smart.  And so very generous and polite, a true statesman.  So much so that I’m nervous offending him when my “New Jersey” comes out!

Gary Vaynerchuck @garyvee

  • I like to think that I coined the word “HUSTLE” but Gary would argue this, and win.  I “knew OF” Gary before he was “Garyvee”……before Wine Library (#SDL) was re-branded and exploded from his efforts …. through my NJ liquor store days in high school (’90-’92).  He’s raw, brilliant and ballsy.  He leaves no doubt with his beliefs.

Joe DeGiorgio @JoeDeGiorgio

  • When I think of “Old School,” (and of course that’s a POSITIVE connotation) Joe is the name that comes to mind.  He’s one of the best writers I’ve come across and can’t wait for his posts.  If I didn’t know differently, I’d think Joe and I were distant relatives with connections back to the old country.

Kent Huffman @KentHuffman

Ted Rubin @TedRubin

  • Well known for #RonR, or Return on Relationship.  He’s tons of personality, colorful socks, a NY’r and always interacts.  I first discovered Ted via Kent’s Top CMO list

Ted Coine @tedcoine

  • What first caught my eye is Ted’s follow back policy when I first started on twitter, and one line in particular:
    • “Much more importantly (to me), here’s why I follow everyone back: I’m not more important than my followers.”  
    • Ted’s http://switchandshift.com/ blog is one of the best in the area of business & leadership

Liz Jostes @lizjostes (Have met ITRW!)

  • Liz was one of my main coaches getting HustleorBust off the ground.  She’s brainy, witty and has an edge, a combination not often found in Memphis.  I’m sure that comment may get me into trouble.

Tom Logue@TomBLogue (Have met ITRW!)

  • He’s brainy, witty and has an edge, a combination not often found in Memphis.  I’m sure that comment will get me into trouble. Sound familiar?  When I have an in depth or controversial stance on a business issue, Tom is the name that often comes to mind and whose opinion I want to know, and why.  ESPECIALLY when his opinion is different than mine.

Thanks to all for making 2013 special, and for bringing back memories of one of my favorite coffeehouses!  And if you haven’t entered your email address (top right corner, subscribe box) please do so we can stay connected!  

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An Inspirational Story In Humanity: This Is My Brother

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So much can be learned from other people and their differences.

“Differences” are no greater than those with some type of disability, whether they are physical or intellectual.  But these differences are really only on the surface, where many people struggle to get beyond.

People who know someone with a disability often refer to it as a blessing.  What they will share with you is the joys in discovering their extraordinary ABILITIES and qualities that the rest of us should strive for daily.

I can certainly relate to the sentiments shared in this video by Elizabeth Higgins Clark.  She shares the wisdom and love she has received from her brother, David, who has Fragile X Syndrome. 

If ever there is a video you hope to go viral, this is one of them.  If you agree, please spread the word.    

For the full transcript of this speech:


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