Vision Quest

In May 2011, I wrote in my then monthly newsletter:

Smart people who dedicate themselves to achieving goals are capable of accomplishing amazing things in life. Act One for Elon Musk was being the co-founder of PayPal, which eBay acquired for $1.5 billion in 2002. That same year he began Act Two: SpaceX – a low-cost developer of orbital spaceflight vehicles. Two years ago NASA selected the company to fly cargo to the International Space Station. You may have heard about Act Three for the 40-year-old who said he came to America because “it is where great things are possible.” He’s the chairman of electric car company Telsa Motors. Stay tuned.

Two years later, this was my note:

Not content to grow old with his billions, Musk took over electric car company Tesla five years ago when it was about to go out of business. Over the past six months, super-charged by its Model S sedan receiving rave reviews, Tesla turned its first-ever profit and the stock price tripled.

In May 2016, I followed up with:

Turning 45 next month, Elon Musk wants to ultimately get to Mars – first, though, he’s trying to redefine the speed of land travel… suggesting levitated pods could reduce the 350-mile trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to 30 minutes. Outside Las Vegas last week, the leading startup initiative – Hyperloop One – successfully tested its prototype: which some called a ‘Kitty Hawk’ moment. The company intends to move cargo within three years and predicts passenger travel will happen by 2021.

While the Hyperloop is still in testing phase, the gregarious Musk has, just this year: taken astronauts to the ISS; moved forward with his Boring company that is building a tunnel for electric cars underneath the Las Vegas Strip; announced plans for a battery that will ‘revolutionize’ Tesla; shared his intentions to travel people to Mars; and had his sixth child, with current partner Grimes, named X Æ A-Xii.

As I also wrote in 2013: Folks are daring to compare Musk to Steve Jobs: somewhat because he can be arrogant and strong-willed; mostly because he appears to be a marketing genius. Just keep in mind you don’t get to be Elon Musk by playing it straight down the middle.

If only I had put $1,000 in Tesla stock when I first wrote about Elon Musk. That would be worth more than $75,000 today.

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Never Forget

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s most tragic events… bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon and take down of UA Flight 93. As promised in the days immediately after the unthinkable, we pause each year on 9/11 and remember those who died innocently and those who gave their lives trying to save them.

In my anthology released in June, Words Flow Through Me, I included the tribute I wrote after the death of my former employer, Bud Hadfield. Within is this paragraph:

My dad, with whom I had a terrific relationship, died suddenly four years before I met Bud, so it was natural he would serve as a father figure. When the first plane struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I went into his office to inform him, and said, ‘I don’t know what to feel or think right now.’ My dad enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, and I needed someone to add perspective. ‘When you’re attacked,’ Bud said, “you do what you have to do.

In the days, weeks, months and years that followed we did what we had to do. Things got better. Then came an unending war. Then the financial crisis. Then the stock market crash. Then things got better for a long time. Then Covid.

The slog is into its seventh month and the emotional meter rises with every promise of a vaccine and falls whenever an AstraZeneca tells us it’s a long road to approval. Yet, we must stay confident that one day, hopefully, soon, we will come out the other side… and in 5, 10, 19 years, we’ll pause to remember our shared experiences.

Bud died nearly 10 years after 9/11, so he’s not here to provide guidance to me. However, I’m confident that if I could walk into his office and ask for perspective today, he would deliver one of his favorite sayings: “Let’s go to work!”

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Absolutely, Perhaps

Today marks the end of the most amazing uncertain challenging disruptive surprising controversial enlightening surreal frustrating inspirational first half of a year you’re likely to ever experience again.

Things got off to a wonderful start when the crystal ball dropped in Times Square on January 1. By February, the stock markets were hitting all-time highs.

Then Covid-19. People died. The nation shut down. Workers stayed home. The economy stopped. Those same streets of New York empty. The Fed and Treasury infused liquidity into the markets. Wall Street soared back.

Then George Floyd. Protests across the nation. Voices seeking to highlight systemic racial unjust drowned out by looters and rioters. Factions took sides. Support Black Lives Matter. Back the Blue.

Then states reopened. Georgia. Texas. Florida. Half capacity. Three-quarters. Social distancing. Prom. Graduation. Memorial Day. Maybe this pandemic isn’t what we thought. Over-hyped by the left-leaning media. Underplayed by those on the right.

Then virus spread. Arizona. Texas. The Deep South. New cases nearing 50,000 per day. Hospitalizations rising fast. Return to closure for bars. Restaurants back to fewer customers at a time. Everyone should wear a mask. No one can make me.

This look back at recent history is a reminder that we didn’t see any of this coming six months ago. In hindsight, our New Year’s Eve 2020 vision wasn’t good – and we don’t have any idea what’s to come the rest of the year.

However, you have a chance to do things differently. Rather than make everything about your personal view of things, focus your energy on those around you. Listen more. Talk less. Think about their experiences, perspectives and needs.

The world will get through these times that defy all adjectives. Humanity always finds a way. The question is will we collectively as a society be better, the same or worse than when the year started 183 days ago?

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Me First

I was oblivious to any racism at my high school in the late 70’s. My experience was on bus rides with the basketball team, as we celebrated winning most of our games – including a state championship our senior year – by loudly playing music by the Commodores, Brick, Parliament, Ohio Players and Brothers Johnson on postgame return trips to school.

I reflected on those times the past two weeks and realized I didn’t live up to how I was raised and my own expectations about equality.

There was the poem someone shared our senior year. It was titled ‘De Black Speckled Banner.’ I passed it along.

There were jokes by others I laughed at that made white people look superior. I retold them.

There were times white friends said something and I knew it was derogatory and I should have spoken up. I kept quiet.

Because of my career journey, I have worked with people who didn’t look and think just like me. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Jew. Muslim. Hindu. Buddhist. Mormon. Atheist. LGBTQ+.

I’ve always believed I am not a racist. That my experiences and the people I met along the way give me a wide and open view of humanity. That living a life based on the teaching of ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ makes me unbiased.

Then… George Floyd.

After many conversations since with my wife and the two adult daughters living with us during these socially distanced times. After reading numerous articles. After watching lots of videos. After looking deep inside and acknowledging white privilege. After considering 400 years of this country’s history.

I looked in the mirror and said, “My silence is racist.”

So I’ve been sharing a lot of links with my white friends. Most of them are open to having dialogue so they, too, can better understand the experiences of those who don’t look like us, weren’t raised like us, haven’t had our same advantages. A couple pushed back and said all the protests are a ‘narrative by the left-leaning media.’ One told me to stop sending him things because he doesn’t want to think about it.

I can’t control how people react. I can’t make people think differently. I can’t change people. However, I can’t remain silent any longer. I will continue to share. Continue to challenge. Continue to move the conversation forward. Perhaps I won’t have any impact on anyone else. I know it will make a difference in me.

The world changed May 25. I am changing too.

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Mask Charade

From my earliest childhood memory, going to church is something I’ve enjoyed. Whether getting out of bed on Sunday mornings during college, or Kathy and I taking our three kids each week through their high school years, or now when it’s only the two of us, remaining committed to attend is a priority. While faith is involved, it’s also about focusing on something greater than myself and expressing gratitude for blessings.

The past two months of a global pandemic changed our Sunday mornings from getting dressed and driving to a building into sitting on the couch barefoot and watching an online service with empty pews. While churches are starting to reopen with proper social distancing and limited attendance, I don’t plan to hurry back anytime soon.

The ‘aha!’ moment as I reach age 60 in two weeks? It’s not about the building; it’s not about the pageantry; it’s not about the ‘big T’ or ‘little t’ traditions. Nor the dogma. Nor the shared beliefs. Nor the time, treasure and talent. All that is human construct.

What does matter is do I place – 24/7/365 – the needs of others ahead of myself? If the answer is yes, then it’s not important which religion I resonate with or what location I attend. There are no points given in Heaven for showing up. The question I’ll someday have to answer is did I keep the new commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12)” for more than just an hour on Sundays?

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