Archive for the ‘By Andrew’ Category

From His Perspective: Arguing & Understanding

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

I know today is all about politics, but I for one am not into using social media to scream about my beliefs.  It’s been very interesting to see some serious vitriol and name calling on Facebook and Twitter this election season between friends of opposing party affiliations. Never mind all the ridiculous ads we are barraged with when trying to watch TV!  I happen to believe one thing above all- no one person can solve all our problems.  It will take partnerships and collaboration to get America back on it’s feet just as it takes the same type of work in ALL relationships.  Andrew and I have been discussing this a lot at home and he wrote a great piece about arguing and working together that I thought would be the perfect thing to post today, regardless of the outcome- without further ado, my better half:

They say you should never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes (or something close to that). I have recently come to realize how powerful and loaded that statement really is.

While there are several directions I could go from here I would like to use this as a base to discuss communication. A overburdened topic in and of itself, the nearing of the election, the debates, etc. have caused me to stop and think about how people interact. Whether its family, friends, colleagues, or politicians, we could all do better by walking a mile in the others shoes.

9 times out of 10, a disagreement that leads to an argument isn’t resolved at the end of the discussion. In fact it’s probably closer to 9.99999 times out of 10. If you have ever been on the outside looking in it’s rare that one side is so wrong and the other is so right. There’s usually a bit of gray. Parts where one has a good point, parts where the other does, and many where there is no clear right or wrong.

What is missing, at least in order to move the discussion along, is understanding. You have to stop, see the other person’s side of things (no matter how wrong they obviously are), and actually understand their point of view. In fact, try and argue for their side. It is rare that they don’t have a point, and while you may not agree with it, it is their right to think that way. You have to accept that…try and change them and it falls apart.

This is clearly at the heart of the failings of congress. Republicans, democrats, and independents can all agree on one thing…the country can’t move forward with all sides digging in their heels and being unwillingly to work together and compromise. The same can be true in our own personal lives. Erin and I are evolving in the way we argue. We are much better at hearing and listening. We don’t always agree, but we understand. It makes for a much happier household.

How did we do it? It was all me (honestly, not patting my own back, but its true). I stopped and decided to listen. To understand. And then the strangest thing happened…so did she. It only takes one side to try for this to work. So the next time you are arguing and not going anywhere, whether it is in work, family or politics, try to be the one who changes the nature of the conversation. Be the one who understands the other side. It’s the only way you’ll get your point across.

I would like to remind Andrew to consider this “other side” when arguing about the number of pillows we have on the bed and the necessity of lucite furniture, which is NOT Miami Vice. Thank you.

From His Perspective: For A Cause

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Hi Guys- Taking a little detour from my usual style/design/renovation topics to bring you this important message from Andrew.  Please consider coming, spreading the word or supporting this cause! After all, it’s incredibly stylish to be charitable, no?

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. I have all sorts of excuses like a new job, it was the summer, and you may have heard that we moved. So now that I have gotten into more of a groove with work and the house, I hope to get back to doing a post here and there.

But before we get back to my normal topics, I coerced Erin to let me make a blatant pitch, on a relatively non-blog related topic.

About three years ago one of my New Year’s resolutions was to do something unselfish. Get involved in some way, with some thing, which is for the good of others. Of course we all know that those of us who do for others get just as much, if not more, from it but that is beside the point.

My aunt invited us to a charity dinner at the Seaport Hotel in Boston benefiting a cause called Summer Search. She was on the board of this charity at the time and raved about it. Also, she said would foot the bill for our seats at the table and there was to be an open bar. So Erin and I crawled out from under our rock to go out on the town, hob nob with the philanthropic folks in Boston, and have a couple glasses of wine.

As we ascend the escalator to the second floor of the hotel to register, we are already feeling intimidated. Lots of older, richer, wiser people who all seem to know each other. Erin and I deicide our best course of action is to b-line it to the bar for a glass of wine. As we make our way through the crowd, bar in sight, we are stopped just shy of our goal by Daniel.

“You guys probably want to hear about my experience with Summer Search,” says Daniel in a confident, youthful voice. As I begin to say “right after we hit the bar” he launches into his story.

I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared to hear such a sad, heart wrenching, tale. I wasn’t prepared to hear that this young man was abandoned by his parents, spent life in and out of foster homes, and considered a problem child because of his drug use. I wasn’t prepared to hear it from a seemingly confident, educated, outgoing young man who closed his story with where he was going to college and what he was going to do with his life. Could a charity really make that big a difference? I had my doubts…anyone can get lucky once.

And then, as Erin and I had a glass of wine, others came up to us. Each one cheery, confident, disarming, and bright. Each one with a story not to be believed. Parents on crack. Escaped from another country while their parents were left behind. Shy, abused, addicted. They were the forgotten. Their lives too hard by the time they were 15 for anyone to believe in them. Spend the money where it has a chance, most would say. These kids are a lost cause.

We sit down to dinner in a room with 750 other people. 750 educated, advantaged, successful, caring people. And as we begin the first course, we hear from more of the students. These 17 year olds, getting up in front of the most intimidating crowd, sharing their stories with a passion, grace and delivery Dr. King would have been proud of. It was personal. It was stunning. I would have been nervous to speak in front of this crowd and I am life-long salesman who loves to hear myself talk, and yet these kids were brimming with confidence! It brought tears to our eyes and I knew I had to be involved.

Summer Search spends a lot on every kid it allows in, about $6,000 each, per year. For a charity, that is unheard of. Not every kid is accepted. They have to be recommended by a teacher or guidance counselor. They then go through a series of intense interviews. At the end, about 60% to 70% get into the program. They are assigned a Summer Search staff member to guide them from their sophomore year on. Each week they meet with their mentor to track progression in school, family and life.

At the end of their sophomore year, they are sent on an outward-bound type of trip…actually, in most cases it is an actual Outward Bound program they are in. They are not there with others who are Summer Search students, but with all the kids who you would normally find partaking in such a program. No special treatment, no segregation. Nearly half of the kids in Summer Search Boston have never even seen the ocean. The ocean you could pay $2.00 on the T (subway for non-Bostonians) to go to. The ocean that is less than 10 miles from any of them. And now they are on a plane, set out in the woods or desert, with a group of people they have never met and who have likely had far more exposure to the world. Scary.

Their Junior year is the same. Every week meeting with their mentor. And at the end…an international trip in which they spend half the time helping others and half the time with a host family learning about the culture and language. Such an incredible opportunity.

Of their peer group in the Boston area, 7% graduate high school. That is not a typo. 7%. Needless to say, college is not even a consideration. Of the students in Summer Search, 98% graduate high school, 93% go to college, 89% graduate college. Most are the first generation to go to college, never mind graduate. These are kids who have truly transformed not only themselves, but the generations that follow them as well. Ask any one of them what they want to do with their life and they can tell you, in great detail, both what they want to do and exactly how they are going to do it.

I could go on, but I need to get to the point. What I have done to play my small part in making this organization grow, is to help throw a party to raise money and awareness. For those of you in the Boston area who are free Friday 21st, we are inviting you to an event at the W from 7 to 11. Tickets are $75 and include beer, wine and snacks. It is always fun, great music, you get to meet some of the kids and there are raffle and auction items that are pretty cool. If you want to come, click here to order your tickets and get more details.

If you can’t come, but you want to help support this cause, please click here to donate. Any amount is greatly appreciated. Just imagine what could be done if everyone who read this donated $5 or $10?

If you want to learn more about Summer Search click here.

Thank you all for all that you have done for Erin and me. You all feel like a part of our family and keep Erin going and growing. And thanks for listening to me ramble on about Summer Search. I can’t help it. Hope to see you there.

Andrew

P.S. Note from Erin: Pleeeeeeease come support this (and hang out with Andrew and I) and spread the word about the event!

From His Perspective: Fear & Happiness

Monday, May 14th, 2012

This sounds silly, being afraid of happiness, but I think there are a lot of out there who are. Certainly there are varying degrees of this fear, but I wanted to put my two cents in on this topic.  A recent string of arguments between Erin and I have had this central theme. We all know that Erin is a perfectionist and strives to provide the “perfect” life for us. This alone puts a tremendous amount of strain and pressure on her and when things aren’t going as she envisions, it is harder for her to feel happy. I think this is pretty common among perfectionists.

However, there is another factor contributing to her not being as happy as she ought to be. Fear. Fear of being disappointed (or disappointing). Fear that the happiness is temporary and that the let down when it ultimately goes away is too much to bear. She is safer by not allowing herself to feel that happiness, because the disappointment when it goes away is devastating. It is better to not have loved at all.

I have not been too helpful on this front. Over the past few years I have either been in a start-up company or in a position where I wasn’t really satisfied. Neither provided a tremendous amount of stability, a key to Erin being able to let her happiness flourish. So now that I am in a new job the relief she feels about my employment is fleeting. She cannot allow herself to feel happy about it because she does not yet trust it. Understandably.

Here’s the thing though. Life is bumpy. For everyone. Even for CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies (perhaps especially for them). There are going be times you are happy and they won’t last. There are times you are going to be sad and they won’t last either. Think about the times when you have been elated to be who you are. I can think of lots of times; sitting on a beach, on the Seine with Erin watching the Eiffel tower light up, when we first got Baxter, and then again with Oliver, when we got married, our honeymoon, meeting Erin, graduating from college, getting my new job, a glass of wine watching the sunset at the ranch, and I can go on.   At every one of those moments I was as happy as I could be even though I knew it couldn’t last.

Those are some of the easy moments. The trick is to realize you have that skill and apply it more often. Learn to love the smaller moments. They happen all the time. Accept that there are some rough roads ahead, but there are some smooth spots as well. Grab some happiness while you can.

What is the difference if Erin feels safe and happy with my new job now or a year from now? A year of happiness that has been dampened by something she cannot control anyway. This is what people mean when they say you have to choose happiness (and has its roots in the phrase “shit happens”).

This is just another example of life is all in how you approach it. You get to choose. There are going to be times in life when things aren’t perfect (a little secret…those can be happy times too if you really master this skill). But when things are going well jump right in and soak it up as much as you can. It helps you get through the bumpy times and makes life a whole lot easier and enjoyable.

From His Perspective: Breaking the Mold

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

I am on my way to Charleston, SC today so I thought it was the perfect day to post a new essay from my better half.  It’s been a tough month for us and I think Andrew sums up his view on such a challenge perfectly.  Anyone looking for a job will probably relate….

(a relevant book, and an Andrew favorite)

It has been a little bit since I had the inspiration to write a post. That has mostly to do with the fact that I have been hot on the trail of finding my next career opportunity. It appears (fingers crossed) that this dilemma is coming close to a close soon. It has been an interesting few months looking for a job/career/passion. I have learned a few things that I thought I would share with you all. This is not the typical “here’s what Erin and I are talking about” post. No relationship advice forthcoming. But I hope that the following you will still find interesting and helpful.

Early on in my career I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I liked talking to people, I had a variety of interests and an entrepreneurial streak. I didn’t have the feeling that I wanted to be in real estate, finance, hospitality, tech, web, etc. I liked all of those and a few others as well. I got excited by the opportunity. If I thought something was a good idea, then I could get passionate about it. So I tried a lot of different things.

I think this experience is invaluable. They say variety is the spice of life, but not everyone in corporate America agrees. Experience has its place to be sure, but do you really want a team of people all with the same backgrounds? Doesn’t that make new and innovative thinking harder? Sometimes a lack of experience in an industry allows for a much freer thought process. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by an “experienced” business development person that a particular company would not be interested in our service…they had tried before and it didn’t work. Guess what. Things change. New people take over, strategic objectives change, and companies pivot. Not to mention that if you catch someone on an off day it might not be your product/service it might be the person you are talking to has his/her mind somewhere else. This is truly where ignorance can be bliss. I know. I have been told that so-and-so company would never be interested only to turn around and get an appointment the next day.

More and more companies are valuing diversity because getting different perspectives is actually beneficial, but for some reason most are limiting that to race, sex, religion, etc. My advice? Hire good people. They are much harder to find than experienced ones. You can teach the industry not integrity and talent. And with the pace of the world today is experience from 3 years ago really that relevant any more? Depending on your industry…probably not.

From all that I have read, people are starting to think this way. So my advice in this post is to keep your eyes open. A career should be not only about climbing up the corporate ladder, but about self-exploration. If you are debating two opportunities perhaps the one least familiar and less relevant will propel you further in the end. Allow yourself to learn from your experience, but don’t let it put borders on your thought process. Wherever I land I am going to be doing something a little different from what I have been doing. The companies I am talking to see that as an advantage for them. They encourage new thinking, mold breaking, and personal development. They will get more from me because of that and I will get more from them. Seems like a perfect scenario to me.

From His Perspective: Optimism

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Most people can be classified into one of two categories: Optimist or Pessimist. Erin and I have the “advantage” in our household of having both under one roof. This makes for a lot of fun during turbulent times…even in times of relative calm things can get interesting. For example, I love to think about the future and what great things could be coming our way. She thinks I am jinxing it and we should prepare for and expect the worst. The start-up I joined recently is not going to make it. While disappointing, I look at this as an opportunity to get closer to where I should be. Erin is understandably scared, nervous, and probably thinks I will never find another job, we’ll lose our home and live in a ditch (as a side note, I have several opportunities already…no need to worry folks…no “How I decorate my ditch” posts forthcoming).

Optimists are classified as naïve dreamers by pessimists. Pessimists are classified as negative nellies by optimists. Some people see life as a series of challenges, others as a series of obstacles. My glass is half full while Erin’s is half empty and dangerously close to being dropped on the floor. Ying and Yang.

What I find is true here, and in most every other part of life, is it’s not black and white. While I am an optimist, it doesn’t mean I am unaware of the worst-case scenario. It doesn’t mean I haven’t considered it. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me. It means I function better when I am looking forward to the best-case scenario. I would rather run to something than away. While Erin is a pessimist, it doesn’t mean she thinks we will actually live in a ditch. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t hope for the best. She even at times believes things will work out. It means she functions better planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Both ways are perfectly fine.

In fact, I don’t know anyone who is so optimistic that they have no idea something bad could happen. I also don’t know anyone who is sure that the worst-case scenario is in fact the only scenario. Even the people predicting the demise of the world at the end of the year are looking forward to the after-life.

The world is not black and white…it is very much grey. There are very few areas in which only one approach works. Are there not “experts” on both sides of almost every issue? I have a style that works for me. Erin has one that works for her. We have a therapist that works for us. A lot of the world’s problems could be solved if we all were a little better at understanding this. We need all kinds of people in our lives. If our thoughts, ideas, and actions are not challenged, we don’t grow. While it aggravates me to no end to hear the doomsday scenario from Erin it is also a needed reminder. It ensures that I do stay grounded. And while she thinks I am naïve and a dreamer, she needs a bit if that too. And when we both realize we are right, but just in different ways, we realize why we love and need each other so much.

-AG