My Year In Review: 2019 Was Strange But Hey I Powered Through

My Year In Review: 2019 Was Strange But Hey I Powered Through

What an odd year it’s been. We’re living in an “alternative facts” world and things seem to be getting more unhinged by the minute but somehow we’ve all managed to prevail and overcome the challenges coming at us. I learned a lot this year and had some phenomenal travel experiences. I’m closing out the year with a great sense of accomplishment. Can’t ask for more than that!

Here are the 5 things that made 2019 an excellent year for me
1. I had a major birthday and was thrilled to celebrate with some of my travel besties

Turning 70 just snuck up on me but I’ve got to tell you I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled than I am right now. How this stage of my life turned out to be the best, I have no idea. But I’m definitely more content and carefree than ever before.

One of the great things about being this age is that it makes you aware of just how precious and finite time is and how important it is to make the most of every moment. It focuses you on the present and makes you much more appreciative of the people and the good things in your life. You’re less likely to take things for granted. It changes your perspective on what’s really important and what’s just nonsense and not worth getting into a tussle about.

Also, now that I’m a member of that elite 70s-plus club, I’m in great company. Tina Turner just celebrated her 80th birthday with this amazing video (watch it if you haven’t already). Yayoi Kusama, one of my favorite artists, turned 90 this year. And, of course, there are dozens of amazing women strutting their stuff on Instagram who inspire me daily to be bolder and more creative in how I live my life.

People often ask me if I have any secrets for leading such a great life at this age. Here’s what I tell them to focus on.

  • HEALTH: Nothing is more important than staying healthy (eating right, being physically active, watching your weight). I’m also not shy about talking about the importance of “looking” healthy. That’s where botox and little nips and tucks come in. In my experience, if the reflection you see in the mirror matches how you “feel,” you’ll be happier – and healthier. I know not everyone agrees with this but it’s worked for me.
  • PURPOSE: Stay engaged with the world, don’t live in the past, embrace the new. Keep your network of friends and acquaintances fresh and vibrant.
  • FINANCIAL FREEDOM: Being disciplined about money is essential. Live within your means. By the time you’re 40 (if not earlier), you have to start building that nest egg for when you’re older.
Scroll down for more on what made this such an “excellent” year.
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Blinkist Update: Top 3 Books From November

Blinkist Update: Top 3 Books From November

I’ve now read almost 70 books since I signed up with Blinkist in late September. I read one book every morning at the gym while working out on the stationary bike. Best app ever and it does indeed deliver on its promise to “Serve Curious Minds.”

and Here are my top 3 reads from NovemberšŸ˜œ
For The Record – – by David Cameron

Great read from the former Prime Minister of England who was brought down by the Brexit referendum. Until I read this book I hadn’t been aware of the role immigration played in the outcome of the vote.

I thought it was all about trade but according to Cameron’s book, the biggest factor in the decision to stay or leave the EU was the influx of immigrants to Britain from other EU countries (over a million when they had been told it would be 13K).

The Ride of a Lifetime – – by Robert Iger

The inside story of Disney’s comeback and how Iger’s career was shaped by his father and by preparedness for chance encounters (one especially fateful one at a hospital while visiting a distant relative).

Iger had several career-defining moments throughout his life but one of his biggest bets came just as he was named the president of ABC TV. ABC was failing and he knew he needed something groundbreaking to get it out of its doldrums. He staked his reputation on David Lynch and the cult TV show, Twin Peaks. It was a risky gamble but it paid off. He was suddenly getting calls from filmmakers like Spielberg and George Lucas who now wanted to work with him. It had been a dicey move to go with Lynch but it cemented his reputation as a visionary leader with good creative instincts.

The low point of his career came during his first years at Disney. All his efforts were stymied by Eisner who had a particularly poor relationship with Pixar. No sooner had that been resolved then 9/11 happened. It was a very challenging start for his tenure at Disney.

However, Iger had developed a great working relationship with Steve Jobs, which led to the acquisition of Pixar. Later, with the purchase of Marvel, Disney’s fortunes turned around. Most recently, he bet big on streaming and it appears to be paying off spectacularly. His leadership has been defined by such bold, risky moves.

The Surprising Science of Meetings – – by Steven G. Rogelberg

Fantastic read on how to organize productive meetings. Here are some highlights:

  • Most meetings are scheduled to last an hour but researchers have found that shortening meetings, makes attendees more productive.
  • One company found that by starting its meetings at a quirky time, e.g., 8:48 am, people were more intrigued and they were more likely to arrive on time.
  • Another tip is to make meetings very short, e.g., 15-minutes. These meetings, known as “huddles,” have been shown to boost performance. Huddles were very popular in the Obama White House.
  • And the most intriguing tip of all: the optimal number of people to have at a meeting? No more than seven! That’s the key number if you want to have the most productive meeting. All those extra people are dead weight, and actually counterproductive!
Bottom Line.

Based on having read almost 70 books, I’m now more on board with Blinkist than ever. I love everything about it and consider it the best $99 I’ve spent on self-improvement. I am also naming Blinkist my best product discovery of the year.

Happy Reading!!

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Sorry, But Sweetgreen Is NOT The New Power-lunch.

Sorry, But Sweetgreen Is NOT The New Power-lunch.

I recently read an article on how sweetgreen is where millennials are power-lunching!. I hadn’t been in a few years so decided I needed to check out this bold assertion in person. Five lunches later, I’m done.

Here’s what I found

I was excited to try sweetgreen’s three new Fall menu items. All sounded delicious especially the Curry Cauliflower (and it was!).

I also tried one of their bowls and one of their regular salads.

Two out of five menu items were delicious. Three were blah.

To me, that isn’t a ringing endorsement for the menu side of things.

The store itself is clean and easy to navigate and the staff is great.

And I appreciate the calorie listings although skeptical of them since in preparing your salad, they ask you how much salad dressing you want, i.e., light, medium or heavy (and we all know the dressing is where the calories lurk). They also offer a delicious-looking bread that I am sure is not included in the calorie count either. I asked my server about it. She was startled by the question but thought it was a good one!

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BEWARE: LuminoCity Is NYC’s Version Of The Fyre Festival!

BEWARE: LuminoCity Is NYC’s Version Of The Fyre Festival!

I’ve written about LuminoCity previously and cautioned that something was not quite right about it. What triggered my suspicions was the lack of info on the organizers (I mean zero info). A 16-acre project developed by an inexperienced team? What could possibly go wrong? Plenty as it turns out. After the first day, I saw the first of what would become a flood of horrid reviews. Currently 1.5 rating on Trip Advisor!

But, it’s actually 10X worse than I imagined.

This festival was a rip off. Disorganized, overpriced, and misleading in its execution. The shuttle was impossible to find and was in a shady ass area. We waited in line for two hours in the freezing cold, only to walk through a muddy venue. Uneven plastic tiles tripped everyone. It was a waste of $200. If you read the reviews on yelp, every single one of them is accurate. Do not waste your money

Luna_Plutonium, Instagram Dec 3, 2019
And for those of you who are wondering “what’s the Fyre Festival?”

Fyre Festival was a fraudulent luxury music festival in the Bahamas. It was promoted on Instagram by paid “social media influencers” like Kendall Jenner. It was billed as THE most phenomenal festival ever but the organizers had no experience putting on an event of this scale and it quickly turned into THE most phenomenal disaster when the first guests arrived and saw their “luxury” accommodations were FEMA tents in a parking lot. Plus, no food and no security. The organizers were ultimately sentenced to 6 years in jail and Netflix did a scathing documentary on the whole thing.

Scroll down to see Who Is to blame for NYC’s Luminocity fiasco.
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Bob Dylan Rocks Out At The Beacon: But An Odd Concert!

Bob Dylan Rocks Out At The Beacon: But An Odd Concert!

What can I say? Worth seeing if he was a seminal music figure in your life. And at 78, your chances of seeing this icon perform too many more times are slim.

I had never seen him before so it was a big thrill to see him on the stage at the Beacon.

That said it’s one of the weirdest concerts I’ve ever attended. I didn’t understand a single word he sang or sadly, recognize too many songs. It was a very rock kind of night whereas in my mind, he’s an amazing folksinger but he wasn’t into doing any of his early folk or protest anthems.

Also, I can’t recall ever being at a concert where the performer did not utter a single word to the audience – not that we could have understood him if he had tried to communicate with us. The only time he spoke was to introduce the band and I couldn’t make out a single name then either.

Based on conversations with die-hard fans afterward, they were disappointed. They said they had seen him perform many times and he’s never before been this inaudible. “Where’s his voice?” one of them asked.

Bottom Line.

Three more nights to see Dylan in NYC before the tour moves to Washington DC for one night. Then a long hiatus until April when they pick up again in Japan.

While I was thrilled to have finally seen Dylan live in concert, I kept thinking how cool it would have been to have someone like Patti Smith up there on the stage with him. And for me, good banter makes the whole experience even better – so I missed that with him because I’m sure he could tell some amazing stories.

Also, no photos allowed but I snuck a few in during the encore! You’re welcome!

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Deliveries This Year Will Be A Nightmare

Deliveries This Year Will Be A Nightmare

This week, UPS dropped off a box on the street outside of our building. It was addressed to somebody at a building across the street. It was big and heavy but I managed to wrangle it over there and left it with the plant store on the ground floor. Then I tweeted about it and UPS got in touch and I sent them a photo of the package label. But lest you think this was a one-off problem, read on.

My trainer at the gym told me yesterday that he had the same thing happen to him this weekend. He had purchased a 56″ TV from Best Buy. He stayed home to receive the delivery which never came. Why? Because his giant TV was dropped off in an unattended lobby of a neighboring highrise – again by UPS. An honest neighbor in that building rang his buzzer to alert him. To make matters worse, Best Buy had shipped the wrong TV and he ended up having to schlep it back and get a new one.

I’ve written about this several times previously. But this year – especially from now until after the holidays, I’m expecting nothing but the worst when it comes to deliveries.

WHY?

Retailers posted a record $7.4B in online sales on BlackĀ Friday – that’s a 20% increase over last year. And Cyber Monday, at $9.2B, was up 17% from last year.

On top of those increases in online shopping, more people are demanding next day -or even same-day – deliveries.

For UPS, FedEx, USPS to meet that demand is clearly a bridge too far. They’re not able to hire enough good people nor are the logistics in place for them to be able to make 20% more deliveries in such a short period of time.

I’ve observed, firsthand, delivery guys with all their packages scattered over the street as they try to organize deliveries by building. They look stressed and they are stressed. I personally don’t understand why we need everything delivered in a nanosecond. On top of everything else, it is hugely wasteful and inefficient.

And then there’s the whole issue of porch pirates.

Research firm Edelman Intelligence estimates that 23 million Americans have had at least one holiday package stolen since 2014. Most were taken from porches while residents were at work.

For 18 to 34 year-olds who do more online shopping, 45% have had a package not show up.

Per the NY Times, in NYC, where more orders are delivered than anywhere else in the country, over 90,000 packages a day are stolen or disappear without explanation, up 20% from four years ago.

15% of all deliveries in urban areas fail to reach customers because of package theft or mistakes that result in deliveries to the wrong address.

Bottom line.

Online shopping is easy and convenient if you have a doorman or other safe way of receiving packages. For those of us who do not, it’s become a total crapshoot.

I place a monthly household order which is starting to fill me with dread as I consider whether any of my purchases will end up at my address or will some neighbor soon be enjoying my raisin bran and Lavazza coffee. The most important item ordered this month are my Blundstone boots – scheduled for delivery today. They had better not go astray.

And, by the way, I have also considered shipping items to the Amazon lockers at my local Whole Foods. But that just defeats the whole purpose of delivery which is convenience. I might then just as well buy all those items at my local drug store or at Whole Foods itself. Aaargh.

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Mom-And-Pops Are Overrated. There, I Said It.

Mom-And-Pops Are Overrated. There, I Said It.

I don’t understand why people feel the need to romanticize these frequently disorganized, out-of-date, dirty stores and restaurants.

I’ve never been a fan (or a patron) of the old-school stores and greasy spoons in my neighborhood (and I’ve lived here for almost 30 years so have seen them all). Most of them suck.

What I find most annoying is that when one of these businesses shutters, people’s first reaction is to blame greedy landlords. And they do this even if they have not patronized that mom-and-pop in years. And even when the mom-and-pop is actually its own landlord – as is frequently the case with the kitchen supply stores on the Bowery as well as restaurants in the neighborhood, e.g., Noho Star. These owners have struggled and worked hard in this neighborhood when it was at its absolute worst. Now they have the opportunity to cash out and retire. We should be celebrating them not bitching at them because they’re messing with our nostalgia for the past.

So what is happening?
First and foremost, tastes are changing
  • And they’re changing faster than ever. How we’re shopping, store design, environmental-issues, dietary restrictions, e.g., vegan, how food is served, e.g., in bowls, delivery vs. eating out, partnerships and collaborations, the excitement of product drops.
  • Those that don’t keep up, go under – and they’re going under more quickly than before.
But There are plenty of small, independent businesses
  • My neighborhood is filled with them, some are flourishing.
  • But I would never, under any circumstances, call these small, independent businesses “mom-and-pops,” e.g., Wildfang, Everlane, Allbirds, the Plantshed, Supreme to name a few.
  • My question is if these small businesses actually succeed and expand at what point are we obligated to start hating on them? The Plantshed, e.g., has two stores if it grows to ten are we still allowed to love it or do we have to go all hostile on it for being a chain?
I’m also a huge fan of independent restaurants/cafes
  • That’s all I patronize and am always rooting for them to thrive and succeed over the long haul. The “long haul,” however, is shorter today than in years past.
  • My neighborhood is filled with gems like Wayan, Uncle Boon’s (my favorite Thai), Lovely Day and Smile (Brad’s favorites), Cafe Habana, Cafe Gitane, and Freeman’s (all always bustling). And, of course, my neighbor on Rivington Street, Morgenstern’s Ice Cream is a mom-and-pop without the mom or the pop.
  • These are all creative, independent, flourishing businesses that have succeeded, where others have failed because they’ve kept up with the times. They are not resting on their laurels, they’re constantly experimenting and trying new things. Will they still be there in 20 years? I doubt it. But maybe.
To be a mom-and-pop you need a family to take over the business.
  • That is less likely to happen today.
  • Many restaurants in Chinatown, for example, are expected to close over the next few years as the owners retire and their sons and daughters have gone on to be doctors and lawyers. The adult children of some of these restaurateurs, have told me that their parents would consider themselves failures if their children were to take over their “mom and pop” businesses.
  • You can’t have a mom-and-pop if nobody is carrying on the family business.
Scroll down for more on the old vs. the new
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Teens Have Political Fatigue – And So Do I

Teens Have Political Fatigue – And So Do I

A recent thought leadership piece from Fuse (teen/young adult marketing agency), stopped me in my tracks. If true, it suggests not only that teens are worn out by politics but they are also more likely to identify as Independents or Republicans than Democrats.

This runs counter to everything I’ve previously believed about young voters

According to Fuse’s survey, GenZ (i.e., 13-17-year-olds), are exhausted by politics:

  • A majority expressed disinterest in politics
  • Nearly one-third said they donā€™t plan to vote in the future.
  • Teens that do plan to be involved in politics are more likely to identify as Independents (25%) versus Republicans (21%) or Democrats (20%).
  • But 34% plan to be apolitical, i.e., not voting or being involved in politics in any way.
  • Beyond expressing frustration with political rants and posts on social media, no reason was given for their apathy to politics, e.g., are the candidates not stumping on relevant issues? Are they too out-of-touch? It’s a mystery that I’m hoping Fuse will clarify for us.

I will keep track of this development as we head into the 2020 elections (although teens will not be voting in these elections in any large numbers).

I admit I am nonplussed by these findings. However, Fuse has always supplied reliable research.

Their findings, however, are given extra credence by recent comments made by Barack Obama and BET founder Bob Johnson. Both have lately been cautioning Democrats about straying too far left. Johnson, in particular, has recently flat-out stated that 2020 Democrats don’t stand a chance against Trump because they are not centrist enough for African American voters. And Johnson, for those of you not familiar with him, is Americaā€™s first black billionaire. It seems that the leftist shift of the party and its day-in/day-out demonizing of anyone who has become wealthy and successful through business might not be sitting as well with the full-range of Democrats as the left-wing of the party led by Warren and Sanders have assumed.

Bottom Line.

IF these results are true, it spells trouble for Democrats who are convinced they’ve got young voters in the bag.

On top of that, based on conversations with Democratic friends (who are of voting age), I’m picking up mostly dissatisfaction with the leading candidates. I would not be surprised if many voters end up sitting out the election (as important as it is) because they simply cannot stomach the party choices.

Link to Fuse report here. (It’s the fourth topic in the deck.)

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