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You must first believe that America is the greatest country in the world. 

Then you must believe that you, as an American have a responsibility to uphold that reputation. Every decision we make, especially in our businesses, communities, and families, has a ripple effect on how we are viewed by the rest of the world.   

Yesterday Mark and I ran the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City. It was to commemorate the firefighter who ran from his home in Brooklyn, in full gear, through the Battery Tunnel to the burning twin towers on 9/11. He was a father of five, and a loving husband. He died in the towers that day. Along with 342 of his co-workers. Risking their lives by saving our spirit. 

alg_firefighters25,000 runners and walkers soaked by rain – some of us thinking we should have trained harder and probably not had that martini the night before – were greeted emerging from the 1.7 mile tunnel by the most amazing site.  Standing in the pouring rain were 343 uniformed men holding a banner with the picture of each firefighter killed on 9/11. Across the street were 343 uniformed men holding an American flag. They created the most inspiring tunnel of patriotism that people began to chant “USA! USA! USA!” I had trouble breathing, not only because we just ran up a hill, but because I was so choked up. 

Saturday morning before we left for the city, a venerable NYC company – Macy’s  – sent me a notification of change of terms. Seems I had to “opt out” of a new interest rate of 63%, should I ever be late on my bill. To opt out meant writing a letter or calling an 800 number. It’s not easy to opt out. And that’s the point. 

Stephen Siller had the day off on 9/11 and was on his way to play golf with his 3 brothers when he heard the towers were hit. He opted out of the game and instead turned around. He couldn’t drive through the Battery Tunnel because it was closed by then. So instead he opted out of laziness and excuses and ran the three miles with 74 pounds of gear on his shoulders.

He was last seen at West and Liberty Streets. 

These are tough times indeed. It’s easy to sit back and watch. To hope someone else will fix it. 

Opt out of apathy. Fight for our liberty. 

I’m not sure how the time capsule concept came to be. I guess I could Google it. But the notion of someone finding your message to the world decades later, after you’re dead and gone, is so romantic. It’s the classier version of writing on the bathroom wall “I was here! 9-22-09.”

bbb little red shedIt happened on Tuesday night. Mark and I were in the Little Red Shed at the McMenamin’s Edgefield Manor. Our favorite bar on the planet. This hobbit sized building that comfortably seats 10 once served as the incinerator when Edgefield was a Poor Farm. Sounds romantic, right? It gets better.

It was the first day of autumn, and a glorious Indian Summer night. Warm breeze blowing, very few people out – because it was a school night after all.

We were the only ones in the bar, except for Kendra – the bartender. She was adorable and so sweet and we got to chatting. Seems this was her last night at the Red Shed. She had been hired on as seasonal help and was notified that the season had come to an end. She’d been laid off. In a town with 14% unemployment. But she was quick to say it was all okay – she knew it was going to happen – and had another gig lined up already. 

Then she pulled out this tiny old matchbox. She asked us if we wanted to contribute to her time capsule. Carefully she unwrapped and revealed the contents of this 1 by 2 inch treasure chest. A tiny drawing of the fireplace, a scroll that contained an autumn poem. A 2009 shiny penny. A bright red leaf from the tree outside. I stood there looking at all of these offerings and wondered how I could contribute. Then it came to me. I took off my pearl earring and placed it in the box. She said “Are you sure?” And I thought, am I sure? Oh hell yes.

She asked Mark if he would “do the honors” by placing it in the wall and sealing it up. She’d been working in that shed all summer and discovered a loose piece of mortar that this matchbox would perfectly slide into. And so it is done. Sealed up. Undetectable. 

Seasons change to remind us that life has cycles. Birth and death and all the stuff in between are meant to teach us and challenge us and bring us joy. On this autumnal equinox Kendra shared her being there by including us, complete strangers, in her ceremony. 

Many years ago I was going through big big change in my life. Divorce, a move and starting my own business all at the same time.  That same year I had the opportunity to speak in Maui. The love-muffin-marriage-happy-couple-capitol-of-the-world. A place you should not go alone and lonely. Which is why it became the perfect place to get a tattoo.

The Chinese symbol for acceptance. Accept what life gives you. All of it. You can’t control many of the things that happen in your life – but you have complete control over how you react to it. 

Thank you Kendra and God speed.

A dear friend of mine once said:

The person in a relationship with the least amount of interest has the most power. 

He said this 10 years ago in reference to the power shift that was occurring with the internet. The example he used was his first home loan. Before the world wide web, the mortgage company had all the power. You dressed up to meet with the loan officer. You said “Yes ma’am,” and “No ma,am,” and did not call them – you were told “We will call you.” 

Pretty quickly you could get a mortgage loan on your cell phone while charging you dinner on your VISA card tied to your current home’s equity line that exceeded the value by 10%. Not a great idea and clearly the root cause of the economic crisis we’re in – but I digress.

In marketing – the power has shifted. And some credit unions not only get that, they are leveraging it in amazing ways. 

Two such credit unions are in the same marketplace. Seattle, Washington. Both are amazing women who have harnessed a cause and are bringing like minded member/owners together. They’re done assuming what they think their members want, and instead are letting them take control. 

I’m so proud to know Shari Storm and Jill Vicente. 

They win the Best Practice Award of the decade for Verity Mom and the simple but elegant continuing education of the 7 Cooperative Principles.

The best practice I’m referring to is Web 2.0. Making that giant leap from the electronic brochure website to providing and hosting space for others to define. They are shifting from spending thousands of dollars on printing material that quickly becomes outdated (encyclopedia/brochures) to providing that same information and saving tress (Encarta/website) to letting others own it (Wikipedia/Verity Mom). 

verity.001verity3.002

Now that’s cooperation!

I love a brand that messes with my mind. The Standard hotel in New York City is that brand. It’s located in the Meat Packing District. Each room boasts floor to ceiling windows with spectacular views. 

You walk through a bright yellow revolving door. Four people were standing at a check-in counter made of rock. They each had a MacBook Pro. After I initialed the rate, check out date and smoking policy (don’t even think about it), I was presented with my key. 

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He opened up this leather folio, and on a note pad stamped it like a passport – with the words Welcome to New York. He then wrote my room number in the stamp – as if it were the date. He gently closed the folio and handed it to me. 

My jaw dropped open and I just said “Wow, that is pretty damn cool.” He replied, “I know!” And then I was off to the elevator. It was pitch black as I entered and on either side video-mural-pictures were moving to ethereal music piped in. I was hypnotized. Ding. 12th floor. Stark white hallway with light grey carpet. My room number was mounted on the door  with white plastic numbers that filled it from top to bottom. Cool. Inside the folder was a jet black key, and their logo “The Standard” was printed on it upside down. You figure this out when you insert it in the lock. 

The bed was white. The bathroom was red tile. The walls and ceiling were wood. The windows looked out over the Hudson River and the Empire State building. Wow. The price? $225.00 a night plus tax. The leather folio, complimentary.

Seeing a brand brilliantly executed. Priceless.

Thanks New York for showing me The Standard.

I’m not sleeping well. I realized this morning that I have lots of ideas simmering around in my head and they fight with each other when I close my eyes. So I’m going to leave them here. And hopefully you can fight with them and I can get some shut eye. 

  1. The notion of a social media campaign. When I hear someone say these words together in this order it feels like “Let’s direct mail our blog!” It’s an oxymoron like Bank of America Customer Service. It’s just stupid and wrong and maddening. 
  2. Twitter. I used to love it. When people would ask me why I Twitter I’d tell them that it’s like my water cooler. I’m self employed so if I’m not on the road I’m working alone in my home office. I miss the occasional “Hey, have you heard the new DMB album?” banter at the water cooler. Now I hate Twitter. Cuz I have a hard time saying “No.” And I’ve added all these people to my conversation that don’t understand IMHO what Twitter is all about. There’s this annoying guy that Tweets a minimum of five times in a row about 10 times a day. No one wants to run into that guy in the lunch room. Gnome sayin?  And then there’s the gal that says things that are not relevant at all – like “Check out our convenient ATM locations!” Yikes! or the bank that opens up every morning with “Hi, we’re here to help you.” duh….. I think we should have a Twitter Code of Conduct and if you cannot follow it you will be labeled and virtually flogged. Oh, and some of my Twitter pals, god love ya, I think you’re great. But sometimes everyone standing around the water cooler doesn’t need to pay attention to your conversation with just one person. Take it outside. That’s what the direct message Twitter button is there for. Whew. I’m sorry I know that was harsh it’s just that I miss the old Tweet days when I would flip it on and get a chuckle from a Chaztoo potty training study or a CU Warrior declaration or an itsjustbrent “this picture needs a caption” contest. Now I have to wade through pages and pages of blather…..I did “unfollow” a ton of people yesterday but my Catholic guilt set in and I re-followed some. I need help. Tweets.001
  3. JetBlue’s All You Can Jet Campaign. It’s right there for everyone to see. The art and science of social media. It’s an organic conversation that you cannot and should not control. Ever. I love that their actual campaign was thwarted because of Twitter. What lessons can we learn from this? Will we learn the lessons or will we call this a Social Media Campaign and try to R & D it? Rip off and duplicate!

Happy Labor Day week-end y’all.

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