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Life. Interrupted.

Signs of the times.

 

So much has changed.

In the blink of an eye.
That’s what’s so astonishing.
How everything about our existence can change in a matter of days.
Now intellectually we all know that. We all know that life can change in an instant.
But emotionally I’m not sure how many of us could have truly grasped how a virus could upend our lives—upend our entire world.  Until now.
A month ago, corona was a beer and we didn’t really know terms like social distancing and Covid-19. We sure do now.
There is a twilight zone aspect to this pandemic.
I’m writing this sitting in my backyard on a beautiful night and it feels like I’m living in paradise.
But somewhere out there is this virus that can kill and it’s a sobering thought. There is a Russian Roulette aspect to this pandemic that makes it extra scary.
Some may have it and never know. Some will feel fine and crash. If they do, they will die alone.
I think of my older friends, my father and my friends parents and worry about their well-being.
But I also know that younger people are susceptible as well and that no one is truly safe.
I marvel at the bravery of our medical community, first responders and all those who work in essential jobs. They are at risk but they persist.
All around me are examples of quiet heroism.
People trying to support their favorite local businesses, CEOs and business owners trying to take care of their employees and teachers who are going above and beyond.
A friend of mine told me about what’s happening at Trinity Lutheran School up the street from where I live. Teachers giving up Spring Break so they can keep teaching the children that they are so devoted too.
It fills your heart.
Papas Tapas, one of my favorite restaurants, is feeding first responders and hospital workers at a time when their sales have to be hurting.
I see small business owners reaching out to the Small Business Administration for loans to keep their people employed.
In my dark moments, I feel like a prisoner unable to go anywhere or do anything. It’s no fun to see the stock market plummet and your life savings dwindle. It’s no fun to see business endeavors die and it’s frustrating because we can’t see the bottom yet and don’t really know when or how this will end.
But..in my more hopeful moments, I see all the good in the community and in the wider world. And I wonder, if perhaps, we will come out the other side of this better people.
We will ever take lunch with a friend for granted again?
We will ever decide to skip that party or that trip because we’re tired or there’s always next year?
I will be grateful when this ends. And I’m praying it is not as bad as the best case scenarios are predicting. But when it ends I’m hopeful that this experience leaves us appreciative of all things large and small.
The ability to see your friends.
The chance to have lunch with your dad.
The opportunity to go to a wedding or a birthday party or to visit your favorite watering hole.
We may be a long way from those days. I sure hope not. But it may be a ways off. But that day will come.
Until then, be careful, be safe and use this time to see what you can do to support the simple things we love about our community.

Home Work Is Challenging

It’s challenging to work at home.

I mean really challenging. Like mountain climbing challenging.

It’s been two days and I have to admit I’m already a little stir crazy.
I’m fairly sure you can relate. I’ve heard from a few of you over the past few days and you seem out of sorts. I get it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my house. I love my wife. I love my two dogs and my two birds. But they are big distractions.
And I say that with affection and respect.
My dogs stare. Constantly. They seem confused by my presence. But that doesn’t stop them from staring.
All.
Day.
Long.

My birds are also thrown by my presence. Butters and Bailey, two adorable cockatiels want to be on my shoulder and take a keen interest in every piece of paper that I look at. Their goal: to shred it and make a nest. Every day they make a colossal mess.
Then there is my wife. I love seeing her throughout the day. I truly do.
She is lovely and it’s nice to have her in the room next door. But I have to say I’m compelled to see what she’s watching or doing. Call me curious. Or lonely. Or just smitten. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Anyway it’s not easy to work at home.
I also miss my work colleagues.
I miss the daily chit chat, the energy of the office and the daily discussion about what to do about lunch.
It’s the little things. But add them up and it’s meaningful.
I used to dream—check that—fantasize about an empty calendar. Now I have one.
Oh my book is full of scheduled calls but my appointment book where I actually leave the office to meet someone is empty for the first time since 1987 when I moved here from New York.
Now I kind of miss those 2-3 meeting days and the running around.
I miss lunch at J Alexander’s, I miss meeting my team at the bar at Madison’s and I really miss the office fridge stacked with Celsius. I ordered on Amazon and grabbed a four pack at Publix but I miss reaching in and grabbing my favorite flavor— Peach Mango— which in my superstitious mind meant I was going to have a good day.

It’s been a whole five days and it feels like a lifetime.
I’m sure you have your own small, silly rituals that you miss.
Life will get back to normal. I’m pretty sure. When? I wish I knew.
Oh how I wish I knew.

A New Landscape

Empty downtown streets in the middle of season are a stark reminder of the toll of Covid-19

 

A few months ago, we attended the opening of Rex Baron, a new restaurant in the Town Center Mall.

The restaurant’s theme was a post apocalyptic Boca Raton. Little did I know that a few months later we would be living the theme as a reality.
Yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but perhaps only a bit.
Things are mighty strange out there. What a difference a few weeks can make.
Malls are closed. Restaurants are closed. Roads are empty. There are no sports, no events and no shows —only an endless river of bad news.
The world has shifted and  it doesn’t feel very good.
My friends are edgy. We are watching our businesses and investments get crushed, we can’t go out and we are worried about our health.
Is that sniffle the coronavirus?
Will we survive this?
Will our friends and family?
Will life ever return to normal?
How long will this last? What if we get a hurricane on top of this mess?
Sometimes I can’t stop my mind and I get overcome with worry. At other times, I briefly forget and lose myself in a project, a conversation or a book and life seems normal. But something always snaps you back to reality.
Usually it’s the news. Or the fact that everything we know and love about our lives is in jeopardy, disrupted or already gone.
To quote John Lennon: you don’t know what you got until you lose it.
How true.
What this crisis brings home to me is how vulnerable we all are.
A rip roaring economy (for some, not all) gets washed away in a matter of days.
Once healthy people get sick and some may never recover.
But within every crisis there lies a lesson and even some good news which I am resolved to focus on and I hope you do too.
I’m seeing resilience in the community.
I’m seeing ingenuity too.
I’m also seeing generosity and creativity, kindness and concern.
There are so many examples: The Social Distancing Supper Club formed by my friends and neighbors John Brewer and Ian Paterson which picks a local restaurant, takes orders on Facebook and creates a mob of business for those businesses that are surely hurting. This week’s beneficiary: the excellent J&J Raw Bar on Atlantic Avenue.
I have another neighbor who owns Prime in Delray and Baciami in Boynton Beach. He is feeding his 100 employees every night taking away at least some of the burden for his stressed out workers.
I was proud to see our firefighters union step up and offer to help local restaurant to the time of over $5,000 a week. That’s the buying power of firefighters and paramedics spread out over six fire stations in our city. Pretty cool indeed.
Over the weekend, we took out from Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza which has always been here for the community. We also ordered from Grangers, an incredible restaurant, with a deeply loyal following.
The management is doing its best to adjust its ordering to prevent waste while also meeting the needs of customers who have fallen hard for their ribs and delicious soups.
In the coming weeks, we plan to support many of our local favorites including LaCigale, Caffe Luna Rosa and a few other places owned and operated by friends some of whom have become like family to us.
As a former mayor who experienced several hurricanes that challenged our resolve and patience, I’ve become a student of how public officials react and lead in these situations.
Yes, we live in cities that are governed by a council manager form of government. But mayors and commissioners have roles too, important ones in hard times. They are counted on to be visible, accessible, factual, empathetic, strong and direct with key information. They are also advocates for resources and counted on to provide hope. Not false hope but hope because we will get beyond this.
It will surely change us. It already has and life will never quite be the same. But there will be life.
Crises focus us on what’s most important. And so we relearn what truly matters. Our health. Our families. Our friends. The local businesses that serve and sustain us. Our health care system. Our first responders, health care workers and public servants. Our schools and teachers. The arts and events that give us joy and keep our communities vibrant and alive.
Let’s think of them all as we navigate the unforeseen.
Let’s think of each other too.
Kindness. Patience. Love. Empathy. Community.
Be well and stay safe.

The Language Of Reconciliation

“I believe we will soon see leaders using the language of reconciliation, of healing and unifying. Perhaps the noise of the present has been drowning out the voice of reason—the voice of the future that is still there.” —Frances Hesselbein, chair of the Hesselbein Leadership Forum at the University of Pittsburgh and former CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

I admire Frances Hesselbein.

I read her leadership themed email every day.

She is optimistic.

Leadership by definition is optimistic.

We have been missing the voice of the future for a long time in our community and that absence has created a tremendous amount of damage. When you stop focusing on the future it passes you by.  You tend to get bogged down in the mundane daily battles that blur with time and don’t add up to anything productive.

It’s the day after the Delray Beach municipal election—another bruiser that did little to elevate the conversation around town and a lot to take us further down the “hey, let’s continue to hate each other” rabbit hole that simply does not work.

So let’s congratulate Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson and newcomer Juli Casale on their victories and hope that in the midst of a huge national crisis, we are able to come together in Delray.

But before we move on and the election fades from our memories, we should do a brief post-mortem.

So what did we “learn” over the past two plus months of intense campaigning?
Here’s a brief primer in case you might have gone numb.

Election Narrative: All developers and all development is Bad—It doesn’t matter what the project is, it’s all no good. Developers are rapacious, corrupting criminals and somehow we’d be so much better off without them.

Reality: Without investment we’re dead.

Healthy cities need to grow their tax base. Healthy cities need to create jobs and they need to offer housing especially attainable housing so that families and young people have a way of becoming part of our community. We need good development, smart growth, attractive design and policies that promote economic and environmental sustainability. We didn’t get that discussion in this election cycle or in past cycles either to be fair. And until we have that conversation as a community, we are doomed to keep slinging a lot of lies and innuendo at each other. How sad for us. How unproductive. We need to do better and we can do better.

Election Narrative: Business interests— but especially developers —are a “special interest” and therefore not worthy of participating in our local elections.

They shouldn’t make a donation to a candidate who they think might be good for Delray; they can however continue to pay taxes and shut their mouths when it comes to endless approval processes and endless insults relating to the damage they are allegedly doing.

So it doesn’t matter that maybe you hope to exercise your property rights or whether you are following the city’s codes or acting on a vision…. say to jump start the Congress Avenue corridor or create a job or provide a home for a young family. The message is clear: how dare you. I’ve met a slew of developers over the years. Some were terrible. I mean lock the doors, check your wallets and take a shower after meeting them bad. And some were terrific.

Reality: In my experience, the good ones don’t want to buy anyone and would never do so. That’s one of the reasons they’re good.  They believe in their projects and their vision and are willing to take risks to make things happen.

They don’t mind tough standards as long as the playing field is level and the process is not endless. Candidates often decry “developer money” flowing to their opponents, but why would developers support candidates who base their campaigns on stopping development? Not bad development, all development.

Election Narrative: Endorsements are worthless and reflect poorly on the candidate who receives them.

So if the police and fire union endorses you, it’s only because they want bigger pensions and higher salaries. It can’t be because you have been supportive of police and fire or they think you’d best serve the people of the community they are sworn to serve and protect.

Reality: Never mind the fact that in the last contract negotiation they agreed to give up benefits. Never let the facts get in the way of a good mail piece.

Let’s pretend that it makes sense to portray our police officers and firefighters as mercenaries. Hey I get it, unions and all. But, I’ve known two-plus generations of officers and firefighters; they care about Delray and will do what’s right for the city when it comes to crunch time. If you think the best way to “deal” with them is confrontation you are wrong.

Election Narrative: Challenger vs. Corrupt Establishment

We can’t discuss issues in any kind of depth because we get caught in the endless spiral of attacks and counter-attacks.

So here’s how it goes: Challenger (usually inexperienced with little in the way of a civic resume takes on “establishment” candidate (which is code word for someone who has spent at least a few years working in the community or serving in office).

Challenger attacks record, character and integrity of their opponent. Opponent feels compelled to strike back and call the challenger inexperienced, a bully and a liar. And so it goes down into the gutter.

To be fair, in this particular cycle, several of the challenger candidates ran very positive campaigns—a few didn’t. All are to be commended for running because it’s a huge commitment.  I hope commissioners seek to put several of the candidates on boards where they can get experience and learn more about the city they seek to lead.

 

There’s a lot more to discuss. Campaign finance reform, an apparent disconnect between the stated level of spending and the amount of mail we receive, the divisions in our city. Especially the divisions and the need to move past issues once they are decided.

 

The re-elected, the newly elected, the incumbents and we the people have an opportunity here to heal those divisions or at least agree to disagree in a more civil manner.

Our first order of business is to make it through the virus—which is sure to change our world and our local community in ways we can’t even begin to fathom yet.

But this too shall pass—and we have a responsibility to each other to find a way forward together.

The election was close—and it was a split decision. Which means there is an opportunity for all “sides” and viewpoints to reach out and be inclusive.

 

 

Peace, Love & Understanding

I’m quite sure you don’t want to read another thing about the coronavirus.

And so, this column is not about Covid-19, but about the capabilities and vulnerabilities of our local community.

Despite the hasty and immediate resignation of Fire Chief Neal DeJesus last week, our Fire Rescue department is top-notch as evidenced by its recent accreditation and by the stellar service we see every single day of the year, 24/7.

It’s during times like this when you appreciate the high quality of our front line public safety professionals. You appreciate the training, the educational requirements, the tough hiring process and the culture of caring that has been nurtured for decades and carries into the present despite some upheaval at the upper ranks.

Same with our police department, which I’ve noted on many occasions, are the unsung heroes of Delray’s revitalization and the guarantor of our future success. You cannot have a future without a sense of security. People won’t live here, invest here, open for business or raise their families in a place where they don’t feel safe. So while we have our fair share of problems, the men and women who protect and serve us are more than capable and for that we can be grateful.

As a result, I will always support policies that ensure that we can field the best possible public safety departments. We must continue to invest in talent, equipment and training. It’s worth it–especially in times like these. But in less stressful times as well. When you dial 911, you want to be assured that the very best are showing up at your door within a few minutes.

I also think we are fortunate to be in a community with several outstanding hospitals—Delray Medical Center, Bethesda, Boca Regional and West Boca Medical Center—all have their strengths.

I can speak personally about Delray Medical having served 7 years on the hospital’s governing board.

Each meeting was a mini-education on the medical needs and capacity of our community as we did our best to support the efforts of the hundreds of professionals who handle everything from Class 1 trauma’s to appendectomies.

I think of rural areas that are under served by doctors, nurses and specialists and I think of how fortunate we are to live in a community with an abundance of medical and scientific talent.

By no means am I underplaying this pandemic. It is serious and potentially deadly—especially for the vulnerable in our community of which there are many.

But I do think it is helpful to understand and appreciate that we live in a community reasonably well-equipped to handle what’s thrown at us.

I joked to my wife that we live half the year in terror—fearful of monster hurricanes for months on end and what it might do to our lives and livelihoods.

Now, because of a Wuhan market filled with strange meats, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Delray is cancelled along with most other things we’ve come to enjoy and rely on to fuel our economy. I know it’s not as simple as that, but whether we like it or not, we are intertwined with the rest of the world and with each other.

Sometimes that can be really good (cheap goods, trade, foreign investment) and sometimes it can bite us.

As this crisis unfolds, please look after your neighbors and yourself. Also please keep in mind our local businesses. They are sure to be taking a whack from this situation. They will need our support going forward.

So will our front line city employees, first- responders and health workers who will tasked with so much in the coming days, weeks and possibly months.

Last week, my friend went to Publix and saw a cashier abused and insulted because the store was out of toilet paper and soap. He made sure to compliment the employee and thank her for her service.

We are all stressed. It’s important that we maintain our compassion.

Thinking of you all during this difficult time.

 

4KIDS: Addressing The Silent Crisis

Every child deserves a home.

There’s a silent crisis in Palm Beach County.
It’s not something most us see, but it’s there and it’s very real.

I’m referring to a foster care crisis right here in our backyard that is both impacting our children and straining the resources of non-profits and agencies tasked with their welfare.

I’ve gotten to know one of those non-profits 4KIDS through my good friend Karen Granger who is working with the agency. 4KIDS recently moved to The Arbors office building on Congress Avenue and they have done a great job reaching out to the community. (Full disclosure: our company owns the building).

Each month, 4KIDS hosts a “champion’s lunch” in their brightly colored and warm office.

They’ve also hosted holiday season gift events and Adoption U, where my friend City Commissioner Ryan Boylston,  has spoken about his experience as an adoptive parent.

The Champion’s lunch is a chance for 4KIDS to engage community members and build awareness about the crisis and to brainstorm ideas on how to support the cause. Last year, despite all that 4KIDS  is doing (and it’s a whole lot), they were forced to say no to 380 kids in our community. Because of the lack of foster homes, our most vulnerable children are sent to shelters or group homes often far from their home county.
That means being away from their friends and schools—a trauma that cuts deep.

It also conflicts with 4KIDS’ mission which is to provide a home for every child.

At a recent lunch, I had a chance to chat with Karen and 4KIDS CEO Kevin Enders about the organization’s philosophy and culture. It’s impressive.
The notion of home is such a simple concept, but it’s a profound one.

Home– according to 4KIDS– is a place to belong, filled with love and acceptance. It is also a place to heal and have your unique needs met.

As a result, 4KIDS has developed a comprehensive continuum of care model that serves children from birth to age 25. That continuum includes foster care, life skills training for young women with unplanned pregnancies, emergency care to meet the immediate needs of children removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect (there’s also a spike in these cases), therapy and care for young adults “aging” out of the foster care system to ensure that they can live independently.

It’s a big job. A really big job.

But as I’ve gotten to know the 4KIDS team, the passion and teamwork is evident.

This is a terrific organization, with great leadership, strong community support and strong ties to faith based communities.
My company is proud to support 4KIDS…if you want to get involved— and you are needed and there are many ways to help–please visit www.4KIDSofSFL.org 

You won’t regret it. Our children need us.

Things We Loved in February

At 6’11” Reilly Opelka is the tallest player on tour. He’s also the new Delray Beach Open champ.

Things We Loved In February

We know the month is not quite over, but close enough.

Attending the Delray Beach Open.
Nothing like watching world class tennis under the stars on a beautiful February night.
Kudos to Match Point for producing a great event.
The addition of hometown fave Coco Gauff was a master stroke. Coco played an exhibition under the lights against the NCAA champion. Great stuff.
Congratulations to the Bryan Brothers on their record sixth Delray Beach title. The brothers—arguably the best doubles duo ever—come to Delray every year and have been great supporters of the event and the city. They will be retiring so it was great to see them go out with a win.

Also congratulations to Reilly Opelka who battled weather and determined opponents to claim the singles title. He may be someone to watch. He is hard to miss at 6’11” with a serve in the 140 mph range. He has a big future and the Delray event is becoming known as the place that launches stars: i.e. Frances Tiafoe, Kei Nishikori.

Seeing Doris Kearns Goodwin at FAU. She packed them in like a rock star and we could have listened to her for hours and hours. Just a wonderful storyteller.

Having the great and vastly underrated Steve Forbert play The Arts Garage.
A great performer and wonderful songwriter, Forbert is a joy to watch and listen too. Although we were forced to give our seats away, we were told he was great and drew a big crowd. I’ve seen him several times and won’t miss him again if he comes back this way.

Art on the Square—in a word: terrific.

The new Whole Foods on Linton looks great. A most welcome addition.

Another whopper of a real estate deal: Menin Development’s $7.3 million acquisition of Johnnie Brown’s.
That’s not a typo.

February weather. We are reminded why we live here. Crisp mornings, gorgeous days and cool nights. And don’t forget the Florida sunsets.

Black History Month is a good time to learn about some of our local African American icons.
Visit the S.D. Spady Museum for a great primer and see if you can find C. Spencer Pompey’s book “Many Rivers to Cross.”

We wish Pedro Andrade well with his new restaurant Valentina’s Pizza and Pasta on Congress Avenue in Lake Worth Beach.
Pedro did an amazing job serving the community for years at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza never turning down a good cause. We plan to visit his new place ASAP.

We had some monumental birthdays in February.
Zack Straghn, a long time civil rights leader, celebrated his 92nd birthday and Bob Levinson, an author, business leader and philanthropist turned 95.
Lots of wisdom and accomplishments between those two gentlemen.
We wish them many more years of making a difference.

We tried Cena on 7th Avenue and it was wonderful.
A great place to spend Valentine’s Day.
I had the pollo parmigiano and it was spectacular. It’s also huge– so we made two meals out of it.
Don’t miss the buttered noodles and the tartufo.

Heartfelt condolences to the Dubin and Evert families on the loss of Jeanne Evert Dubin.
Jeanne was a really nice person and was a terrific tennis player herself during a brief pro career rising to number 28 in the world and top ten in the United States.
She was an owner of Dubin & Associates which manages the Delray Golf Club and Delray Tennis Center.
On a personal note, Jeanne was just a super nice person. She loved tennis, preferring to be on the court teaching or leading tennis leagues. She had a quiet influence.
She will be deeply missed.

We also offer sincere condolences to the pioneering Love family on the loss of  Marsha and Barbara Love.

Until next month…..

Building On A Rich Tennis Legacy

Coco Gauff plays on her “home” court at the Delray Beach Tennis Stadium.

I saw the future of women’s tennis Saturday night and her name is Coco.

At age 15, Coco Gauff has become a global sensation. But she’s also a native of Delray Beach and seeing her on the stadium court in her hometown was something special.

In its 23 year history, the Delray Open never featured a woman’s match. So history was made when Coco took on NCAA singles champ Estela Perez-Somarriba of the University of Miami Saturday night before a packed house.

It was a spirited match. Coco won in straight sets and the crowd was loud, large and thrilled to be seeing a local prodigy.

We saw many of our neighbors and friends.  Delray came out to support their hometown hero and it was a moment of civic pride in a city sorely needing one at the moment.

I’ve been watching tennis since I was 8 or 9 years old and every year we used to go to the U.S. Open. So I’ve seen them all from Billie Jean and Chrissie to Steffi and the Williams sisters.

Coco has the chops.

She moved beautifully, has a powerful serve, a deft drop shot, is not afraid to to rush the net and has crisp and powerful ground strokes. She’s the real deal.

But what distinguishes her is her competitive spirit. You can see it, you can feel it, she’s not afraid of the spotlight. She knows she belongs.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her family for years and they are lovely people. Based on her interviews, Coco seems grounded, humble and gracious. She reminds me of her grandmother Yvonne Odom, who is also a local historical figure. Mrs. Odom was the first African American to attend Atlantic High School and has been a civic leader for decades.

In her post match comments, Coco praised her opponent, talked glowingly about her hometown and was self deprecating— noting she lost a first round junior match a few years back at the Delray Tennis Center. She shows abundant signs of maturity, far, far, beyond her 15 years. That’s going to be important as she progresses in her career.

While Coco is the latest great tennis story in Delray, she’s not the first.

Delray has a rich tennis history.

In addition to the Delray Open and Coco, the city once hosted the event that became the Miami Open, is home to many touring pro’s and saw prodigies such as the Williams sisters and Andy Roddick cut their teeth on local courts.

Visionary Ian Laver created the Laver’s Resort off of Linton Boulevard, a project built around tennis. We once were home to the Sunshine and Continental Cups, hosted Fed and Davis Cup ties, senior events, national junior championships and more.

Center court at the stadium has seen the likes of Chris Evert (who hosts her Pro-Celebrity Classic there every year)  Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas, Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin Del Potro, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Lindsay Davenport, the Bryan Brothers, James Blake as well as locals Vince Spadea, Aaron Krickstein and Kevin Anderson who liked the town so much he bought a place here.

And the list goes on.

We should celebrate our tennis heritage. It’s special.

And it brings excitement, publicity and dollars to Delray.

The Tennis Channel is airing the tournament all week, junior events bring “heads in beds” during off peak months and the branding opportunities are endless and global. It is worth our investment and it’s worth it for us to nurture the sport too by giving some thought to how it fits into the bigger picture.

Coco is the latest and may yet end up the greatest of Delray tennis stories.

She’s part of a rich legacy. And a source of hometown pride.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss: oh the places she will go. And oh the places tennis can take us.

President’s Day Special: Time With Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest  is a History Channel special about George Washington

I absolutely adore Doris Kearns Goodwin.

And who better to talk about on President’s Day than one of our nation’s foremost presidential historians?

My admiration for Doris Kearns Goodwin goes way back, I love her books, enjoy her TV appearances and anxiously await her next work—which now includes film making (Check out “Washington” on The History Channel).

So when she came to FAU, we gobbled up tickets, got lucky and ended up in the front row in what was a sold out house. At age 77, after a Pulitzer Prize, Carnegie Medal and several best-selling books, Doris Kearns Goodwin is a rock star. That alone ought to make you optimistic about America.

Ms. Goodwin was in Boca to talk about her new book “Leadership in Turbulent Times.”
While the book is not about our current turbulent time, the great thing about history is that if we care to look, the past holds lessons for our present and our future.

“Leadership in Turbulent Times” is about Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson—presidents who Goodwin calls her “guys.”

When writing about her subjects, Goodwin “lives” with them so to speak; reading their letters, speeches and diaries and any relevant document that has to do with their lives and times. It does make one wonder how future historians will navigate our digital times. Goodwin muses that perhaps they will comb through emails (if they are kept) and tweets. It is an interesting question.

Regardless, in writing about FDR, TR, LBJ and Lincoln we as Americans can learn what it takes to be an effective leader. Not a perfect leader or a mistake free leader—they simply don’t exist, but a leader who makes an impact.

What makes Goodwin’s writing and speaking so interesting is she shares the “warts” (as she calls them) that all leaders have.

Lincoln lost several elections. He was almost comfortable with failure, but never gave up on winning.

FDR dealt with a Great Depression, a World War and a debilitating bout with polio. He built his upper body strength by crawling around for hours on the floor dragging his body.

LBJ’s legacy includes Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights and voting rights but also Vietnam. He told great tales, had boundless energy, won countless political fights but was broken by Vietnam, which inflicted untold damage on countless people.

Yes, all great leaders have warts. But they also have strengths that enable them to handle difficult times and leave a mark on the world.

Goodwin outlines six traits of great leaders. It’s a great list and very important to review as we vote in a few weeks for national and local candidates.

Here they are:

Empathy-–a feel for other people and an ability to identify with other points of view. Empathy is an essential trait of any successful leader and any successful human being, she added.

Resilience—an ability to learn and persevere when difficulties arise. In public life, in any leadership role, you are bound to get hit with a hay maker punch or two (maybe even more) but great leaders get up, dust themselves off and find a way forward. They are resilient and they get better as a result.

Communication—a leader’s ability to communicate can make all the difference. Leaders frame issues, raise important questions and are able to articulate controversial positions and why they must make some difficult decisions to benefit the greater good.

Openness to growth—an ability to evolve as you learn and as you gain experience. If you already think you know it all or are the smartest guy or gal in the room, you are off track. And you will fail as a leader. Leadership is a growth experience, but only if you are open to learning.

Impulse control- Sometimes knowing what not to say is as important as what a leader does say. Strong leaders know when to bite their tongue—and are better for it.

Relaxation—Our most iconic presidents knew that getting away from The White House could help them become better leaders. We need to balance our lives and find time to renew.

Pretty solid advice.

To these amazing traits,  I would add integrity, which is the basis for all leadership. Vision doesn’t hurt either.

What to watch for?
Narcissism, egomania, bullying, meanness and a need to win every argument. Leaders need to be able to let go—you win some, you lose some that’s the nature of life.

We can do worse than listen to our historians when we choose our present day leaders; that goes for the White House to City Hall.

I’ll stick with Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wisdom any day.

 

The Innovator’s Dilemma Applies to Cities Too

 Clayton Christensen, was a Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

Clayton Christensen died on January 23 and it’s a big deal and a really big loss for all of us who love business and entrepreneurship.

He was only 67 years old when he died of complications after a long battle with leukemia.

Back in 1997, Christensen wrote a classic book called “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” It has been called the most influential business book of the last 30 years.

Since the book came out, I’ve lost count of how many times I have been in an entrepreneur’s office and seen “The Innovators Dilemma” on a shelf.

I smile when I see the book because it tells me a lot about the entrepreneur I am meeting. It shows me that he or she is not overconfident. It tells me they are wrestling with the great questions that creating anything of value requires us to answer.

Last week, Christensen’s last interview was published in the MIT Sloan Management Review and it’s a good one. Here’s the link: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/an-interview-with-clayton-m-christensen/?utm_source=El1&utm_medium=pr&utm_campaign=Chris0220

The theory of the Innovators Dilemma addresses the issue of disruption. The dynamics that allowed Netflix to obliterate Blockbuster Video or the iPhone to render the Blackberry obsolete. In his last interview, Christensen says companies still haven’t solved the Innovator’s Dilemma 23 years after his book made us aware and gave us some tools to address the issue.

“Companies certainly know more about disruption than they did in 1995, but I still speak and write to executives who haven’t grasped the implications of the theory. The forces that combine to cause disruption are like gravity…they are constant and always at work within and around them. It takes very skilled and very astute leaders to be navigating disruption on a daily basis.

In my experience, it seems that it’s often easier for executives to spot disruptions occurring in someone else’s industry rather than their own, where their deep and nuanced knowledge can sometimes distract them from seeing the writing on the wall.”

Indeed.

I’ve referenced Christensen’s work in the businesses I’ve been involved in and I also put his theory to the test in reference to cities. The best way to avoid being disrupted and put out of business is to foster a culture of innovation. Christensen talks about innovation in relation to prosperity and growth in America in his last interview.

“In…The Prosperity Paradox, we describe three types of innovation…’sustaining innovations,’ which… is the process of making good products better…’efficiency innovation,’ which is when a company tries to do more with less…and ‘market-creating innovations,’ meaning they build a new market for new customers.’ [The last category] are the source of growth in any economy… My sense is that we in the United States, like many other developed countries, are investing far too much energy in efficiency and sustaining innovations, and not enough in market-creating innovations.”

Interesting especially if you run this through the lens of fostering a great city.

Yes, we can take what’s already working and make it better and we can strive to do more with less but the key is to open up new markets. The secret to lasting success is to be open to new ideas, to resist complacency and to try some stuff.

Better an ‘oops’, than an ‘if’.

On the municipal level, most mistakes aren’t fatal. You will never bat 1.000 but you may learn some things that help you figure it out down the road.

In cities, you always try to make what works even better—so Boca keep your pristine parks and Delray don’t mess too much with Atlantic Avenue or the beach—you can always be more efficient but in order to stay on top you need to keep innovating.

Boca can re-invent Federal Highway and Delray can and should transform and improve Congress Avenue and The Set. Create new markets, Professor Christensen advised us, and you won’t be disrupted by that city next door who will steal your jobs, commerce, residents and talent if you are smug, complacent or dysfunctional.

We’ll miss the good professor. When asked how he wanted to be remembered. Here’s what he said:

“I want to be remembered for my faith in God and my belief that he wants all of mankind to be successful. The only way to make this happen is to help individual people become better people, and innovation is the key to unlocking evermore opportunities to do that.”

Amen.