The Spark Of Inspiration

Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the special people featured on the Apple Plus series.

Have you seen the TV series “Dear…” on Apple Plus?

If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.
But even if you don’t have Apple +, the premise is worth discussing.
“Dear…”  is inspired by the “Dear Apple” advertising campaign, where customers share stories about how Apple products have changed their lives. In the same vein, this docuseries features celebrities reading letters by people “whose lives have been changed through their work.” Each episode focuses on one celebrity.
So far, I’ve seen episodes featuring film director Spike Lee and Broadway impresario Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Steinem, gymnast Aly Raisman and Oprah Winfrey.
The premise is at once simple and beautiful:  Our life’s’ work creates ripples. 
Sometimes we see those ripples. Often times we don’t. 
But the important part is to recognize that we all matter and what we put out into the world may impact  people in profound ways. 
If we are lucky, we hear from those we affect.
Those messages sustain us.
Those messages inspire us.
Those messages encourage more art and more creation. As a result, we have a chance to be better and do better and move forward. Those ripples we create matter. They matter a lot. They can and do create waves. 
Exactly a year ago, I got Covid. I don’t know where I got the virus, but for me it was almost a lethal dose. 
The virus that almost took my life, changed my life. As it has changed lives across the globe. 
We are fragile beings; here today, gone tomorrow. 
So today really matters. Our work matters. Our art matters and that art should be broadly defined. 
Your art can be music, writing, teaching, running a business, volunteering or being the consummate friend, father, brother, mother, wife, leader. 
There are opportunities every single day to make a difference. We can inspire or we can deflate, we can encourage or bully, we can love or hate. 
Years ago, I chose to love. There are times where I have been able to do so and there are times when I have fallen woefully short. 
But Covid, that dreaded virus ended up giving me a wonderful gift.
Let me explain. 
From an early age, I was attracted to public service. My first expression of that art was journalism. I enjoyed telling the stories of the people in my community which was and still is Delray Beach. 
I wrote about police officers and firefighters. I wrote about musicians and entrepreneurs. I wrote about community organizers and about people who dreamed about building a better community. 
That work changed me.
Telling stories made me want to make my own stories and apply some of the ideas I had seen from a vast array of special people. 
So I went into local politics with a few simple goals: leave the town better than I found it and support the people in my town doing good work. 
I would judge my success or lack thereof by a single metric: at the end of my term in office– knowing I couldn’t please everyone–if I could look in the mirror and feel I had earned and kept the support of those doing good work in the community I would feel that I achieved my goal. If I lost the support of those investing, volunteering, building, connecting, protecting and educating I would have considered my term a failure.
  
The Dear…series celebrates people doing what I tried to do on a scale I can’t begin to fathom. The series celebrates inspiration. 
Isn’t that wonderful? 
Inspiration and aspiration is the oxygen of the world. If we aspire and inspire we can progress. 
We need progress.
Progress is more than an app. It’s more than a viral Tik Tok video or a social media post that gets scores of likes. 
All those things are fine but progress is writing a Broadway show that inspires young people to learn about our founding fathers.
Progress is a young Black director making movies that depict the Black experience in America and prompts us to ask questions and think about our beliefs. Progress is an Olympic gymnast whose courage in the face of abuse inspires others to speak out and raise awareness. 
Each story in Dear honors those who inspire, but just as important the docuseries shines a light on those who found inspiration and made their own mark on the world. 
Maya Angelou once said our legacy is what we do to inspire others. People will forget what we did, but they won’t forget how we made them feel. We can choose to make them feel good and we certainly have the power to damage them as well. 
We all have the power to create a legacy, to inspire, motivate and empower others. It’s a choice. One we can make every day. 

The Gold Standard In Local Leadership

Tom and me: Biltmore Forest, N.C. a few years back.

A month from now, on March 9, voters will go the polls and vote for Mayor and two commission seats in Delray Beach.

The upcoming election gives me an excuse to write about a very special mayor and man who has made a big difference in our city. For me, Tom Lynch has always been the gold standard in local leadership. He’s also played a special role in my leadership journey and for that I am grateful beyond words.

But how do you write about a man who opened up a new world for you?

How do you adequately describe 30 plus years of advice, counsel and inspiration?

The truth is you really can’t.

All you can do is try and share bits and pieces. I do  in the hopes that some future leader of our city will find it wise to study Tom’s exemplary model of leadership.

Tom Lynch and I have been friends since the late 80s when I moved to Delray Beach to cover the city for a local newspaper. Tom was a star on the rise in those days—already a very successful businessman, already someone leading in the community—already that someone who had that certain special something you can’t quite put your finger on.

Charismatic. Handsome. Kind. Articulate. A visionary thinker.

When Tom was elected mayor in 1990 we did a front page feature story on him. Tom was a youthful and energetic 41-year-old who oozed confidence but was always down to earth and never egotistical. But he sure looked the part of a confident leader.

I remember thinking about his “presence” when our photographer took photos of Tom in front of his Plastridge Insurance office on Federal Highway.

“Delray is a leader,” said a former city commissioner I quoted for the story. “This man will take us places.”

He sure did.

That’s what special leaders do—they transform.

They take us places that maybe we didn’t know we wanted to go—but when we get there we sure are glad.

In Delray’s case, Tom took us to a place of stability that we longed for after a tumultuous decade that featured lots of political infighting and a revolving door of city managers. When we stabilized, when we began to get along, when we talked through our differences—it felt good. Around town, the possibilities felt infinite. Nothing changed—except the leadership dynamic—and therefore everything changed. We were on the way…

–“Best Run Town in Florida” said the cover story in Florida Trend.

–A coveted All America City Award in 1993.

–An intangible feeling of optimism in the air that made all the difference.

We started believing again.

Sometimes I think we underestimate the value of belief. Businesses, relationships, organizations and yes cities can’t succeed without belief.

Great leaders instill belief.

They make you feel safe and they make you believe that things can get better; we feel protected when they are on the job and that leads to trust, cooperation and achievement.

My wife Diane, who worked in the planning department when Tom was mayor, remembers what it felt like to work with a mayor and commission who cared deeply about what the staff thought and recommended. City staff felt empowered and important, they had a sense of mission and a notion that they were doing big things—and they were doing big things.

My wife and others felt they had found heaven working in Delray where the mayor and commissioners were polite, passionately committed to building something special and willing to stand up for what was right.

Meetings were civil, productive and business like. For someone like Diane it was a sea change from what she had experienced as a young planner in Hollywood where staff presentations were often fraught and stressful exercises.

In Delray, the culture set by Tom was collaboration not confrontation. It made all the difference.

There’s a saying by Maya Angelou that I think sums up some of what I feel about Tom’s leadership legacy: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Tom made us feel confident in our future. He made us believe.

We’ve had some terrific mayors before Tom and some good ones since, but Tom Lynch was and is extra special.

He had a calming presence.

He saw the big picture.

He was a holistic thinker and he was kind to staff, fellow commissioners and constituents.

Tom Lynch was the mayor who put us back on track after we were divided and unstable in the 80s. He was blessed with a citizen driven “Visions 2000” and bond issue money which funded a slew of great projects in the 1990s.

One could argue it would have been hard to fail given those advantages, but one would be wrong to assume that success is ever assured.

It takes leadership to execute on a vision, maturity to build a team and strength to steer through the inevitable rough seas. We’ve all seen leaders fail despite given great advantages, it takes skill and intelligence to navigate the land mines which are many in public life.

Nobody did it better than Tom.

For me and I suspect others, he was the gold standard of leadership and I quietly tried to model myself after him. I don’t think I ever told him that. But every time we spoke I was taking mental notes.

We were and are very different people, but there’s a whole lot of common ground too.

We’ve been engaged in a 30 year plus conversation which is the best part of friendship and while we’ve agreed on scores of topics we’ve had a few differences as well.

But we’ve always managed to listen to each other and find a way forward. I learned from our agreements and I learned even more when we saw things differently. His high standard made me want to work hard. If you want to talk about  philosophy and leadership with Tom Lynch you best come prepared because he’s thought through or lived through the issues we’re talking about.

While Tom’s civic resume is beyond impressive—mayor of Delray, mayor of the Village of Golf, School Board Chair, Chair of the Business Development Board, President of the Palm Beach County League of Cities—and the list goes on—the true measure of a person is the lives they touch.

Tom has touched more lives through his service, friendship, business acumen and all around goodness than I could possibly quantify.

Personally, I’ve been blessed with many incredible friends and for that I am grateful. My friends have brought me immense joy and have been incredibly supportive through every phase of my life.

But there are four men in my life who have shaped me in ways too profound to describe.

Two of those men were family, my grandfather and original hero Abraham and my father and all-time idol Sandy.

The other two special guys have been Carl DeSantis—my mentor in business who opened up new worlds to me and my family and Tom Lynch who sat me down all those years ago in the old Annex in Pineapple Grove and talked to me about  giving local politics a whirl. It took a few years for me to take the leap, but he planted the seed and never left my side through hurricanes, shootings, lawsuits, controversial votes and term limits. He advised me in business and in life, attended my mom’s funeral (even though he didn’t know her), and supported me after a divorce and when I found new love.

Over the decades, we’ve talked about kids, family, education, politics, business, technology, people we admire and how to build cities and companies. We have never run out of things to talk about.

He’s been elemental in my life. Absolutely elemental.

How lucky am I?

How lucky has Delray been?
So my wish is for future mayors to find each to find each other or others who might mentor them so they can be all that they can be.

Because when a mayor succeeds so does a city. Mayors cannot succeed alone. It really does take a village.

I should note, that while Tom and I agree on many things, we are members of different political parties. And yet, we have found a way to be close, to change each other’s minds on occasion and to find a lot that we can agree on.

The two of us are admittedly, a small sample, but it shows that agreement, reconciliation and mutual respect is possible and a whole lot more desirable. We benefit when we open our hearts and minds to the special people in our midst—especially those who see some things differently.

Thirty plus years ago, I interviewed a newly elected mayor not knowing that 10 years later I would be taking the same oath that my mentor and friend took. How could I have known? But I am grateful that I knew enough to listen to this special man because he has meant the world to me and my family and I owe him more than I can ever describe.

Here are five (there are hundreds) of principles that Tom brought to our community:

The notion that cities are like sturdy tables—you need a strong foundation that includes a healthy business community, strong neighborhoods, good schools and healthy non-profits. All the legs have to be strong. Now that sounds basic, but as we navigate the blizzard of campaign mail over the next month watch the messaging of candidates who bemoan “special interests”—code word for businesses and organizations. Truth be told, successful mayors have to cultivate relationships with all the stakeholders in town. Tom felt it was important for the city to be engaged with local schools, homeowner associations and non-profits. He also knew how critical it was for the city to have good relationships with the business community, local cities, the county, School Board, state and federal governments.

 

Business-like, civil proceedings. As noted earlier, civility and professionalism breeds stability and progress. Delray became ‘the’ place to work not because we paid more than other cities, but because of our culture and the fact that we were doing big, creative things. As a result, we attracted and retained talent. Having institutional knowledge is critical.

Open Government. Tom introduced the “town hall” meeting—which was mothballed even before Covid. But the intent was to provide an annual report to citizens and business owners, much like a corporation does for its stockholders. A big part of the town hall was a presentation giving everyone a full report of where the city stood in terms of projects, financials, building permits, initiatives etc. It was educational and built community.

Brings us solutions, not just your problems. Tom stressed the importance of the community leading the process of providing solutions so he challenged groups to come to the city with ideas on how to fix problems. If there were disputes, parties were often encouraged to work it out before the city imposed a solution that might not be ideal. It proved to be a good incentive.

The Mayor as consensus builder. Tom saw his role as the consensus builder on the dais and so he most often spoke last making sure to hear the thoughts of his fellow commissioners, staff and citizens. He would try to sift through the input to piece together areas of agreement. He built consensus, he didn’t polarize, label or divide. When an issue was voted on and he lost, he moved on and urged others to do so as well.

 

 

How To Lead

An easy to read primer on leadership.

 

I saw an interview with the philanthropist David Rubenstein on Face The Nation recently.
Mr. Rubenstein just released a book on leadership that waits for me patiently on my night stand each evening.
In the book, Rubenstein talks with a variety of successful leaders and distills some of the things they’ve learned along the way.
I was sold on the book by his answer to this question by host John Dickerson.
“What do you look for in a leader?”

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I’m looking for their ability to focus, their ability to communicate well, their ability to have some sense of priority of what’s most important to them, their ability to inspire people, their ability to rise to the occasion. And I also think humility is important. Anybody that is really a successful leader I think has failed in life. And you have to persist after your failures. But failure gives you some humility.”


Isn’t that cool? I mean, doesn’t that sum it up?
Let’s break it down.
Focus: the best leaders I’ve seen are focused on goals. They don’t get distracted by bright shiny objects and they don’t let distractions throw them off their game. In other words, they don’t major in the minor. A good local example is former Mayor Dave Schmidt.
I learned many things sitting next to David for my first three years on the commission. Mayor Dave was focused on the big picture and always exhibited calm under fire. And he faced some raging ones: protests against the move of Atlantic High School and the discovery that several of the 9/11 terrorists were living in Delray which put an international media spotlight on our town. Regardless of what was thrown at him, Mayor Schmidt kept his eyes on the prize and made sure his fellow commissioners did so as well. 
Communication: Good leaders communicate. They have an ability to explain their positions and views. And they take the time to do so.
I thought former Mayor Tom Lynch did a great job articulating the city’s goals, aspirations and potential when he served from 1990-1996. I was a young reporter back then, assigned to cover city government. I always knew where the city was headed because Tom was a consistent and reliable communicator.
A sense of what’s important: Great leaders want to accomplish something. They don’t seek power for power’s sake. For the good ones, it’s a job to do, not a job to have.
I kept that phrase in my wallet through my term in office. It means that you are willing to lose your seat if it means doing the right thing for the city. Sometimes that means taking positions that are not the most popular at the time but that you know is the right thing to do for the community long term. Great leaders are willing to plant trees knowing they won’t be the ones to enjoy the shade.
An ability to inspire: I’ve seen some good leaders who were lacking in charisma, but that’s not the same as inspiration. A solid steady leader can be quietly inspiring. Why? Because they are solid and steady.
Former Chamber President Bill Wood did have charisma. And he was also very inspiring because he was reliably optimistic, had a wonderful sense of humor and a warmth that made everyone in his presence feel good. Consequently, he made businesses feel good about being in Delray. That’s an intangible that is hard to place a value on.

Rising to the Occasion: Good leaders have a way of meeting the challenges they are presented with. So if tragedy strikes they meet the moment with compassion. If there’s some sort of disaster (man made or natural) they have a way of handling it that calms the community and helps inspire confidence in the future. My local examples for this item are former police chief Rick Overman and former fire chief Kerry Koen. 
Both leaders were battle tested and enjoyed widespread support among the troops and the broader community. So during hurricanes or difficult incidents —which are par for the course in their line of work —they always rose to the occasion and you felt that everything would be OK. Steady hands during stormy seas..invaluable. 
Leaders who rise to the occasion find ways to create wins even when the going gets tough. 
Consequently, if there’s an opportunity they can seal the deal.

Humility and Failure: The best leaders are humble, real, honest and service oriented. I also happen to think a sense of humor is enormously important. The best leaders can admit when they are wrong and are committed to personal and professional growth. They have an ability to evolve. They know they aren’t the smartest person in the room and seek to surround themselves with people they can learn from. I call it intellectual humility. Those that have it can learn from others. Those who think they know it all, really don’t. 
I also think that failure is an important life experience. Failure informs. It keeps us humble and enables us to learn critical lessons. 
A good leader knows that as long as you learn from mistakes and don’t repeat them the experience is not really a failure at all.
As we edge toward national, state and local elections in November and again in March it may be helpful to review this list of traits and see how the candidates measure up. 
 
 

 

Scaling Leadership

BocaLead’s goal is to inspire, mentor and lead.

I’ve written about BocaLead before.

I’m going to do so again because something special is being built on the first Thursday of each month at Boca Community Church whenever Pastor Bill Mitchell stands before a sold-out crowd and provides 45 minutes of timely, relevant and sage advice. He’s offering tools to not only grow your business but also to achieve personal growth and a stronger community.

The community part is important. Because the Pastor Mitchell’s goal is simple but profound—make Boca the best place to live, work, play, worship, grow a business and raise a family.

BocaLead’s aims to inspire, mentor and lead and that’s what hundreds of people get each and every month when they attend the lunch and now a newly added dinner event.

But if you have attended the event or read this blog, you know already know all that.

What you might not know is that BocaLead is about to ‘scale’ as they say in the business world.

Recently, the BocaLead team traveled to Chicago and threw a Boc Lead event before 100 leaders from cities across America. As a result, about 20 cities have decided to jump on the opportunity and soon Pastor Mitchell’s smart and deeply moving messages will begin to spread across America.

And folks, we need this message to resonate far and wide.

We are a divided nation. But then again we have a whole lot in common and a host of reasons to figure out how we can work together again.

By Bill Mitchell’s estimate, we disagree on about 20 percent of the issues, but share common ground on 80 percent. Sadly, the disagreements are preventing us from working together on the 80 percent where we see eye to eye.

That’s where the opportunity exists and its thrilling to see BocaLead take their model and curriculum across America. There are already several South Florida chapters, but this concept is too good not to spread and 2020 is the ideal timing to roll it out.

You may be wondering why this Jewish guy from Long Island is so taken with a Pastor from Boca Raton.

And that’s a good question. First, BocaLead— while steeped in values embraced by the church— is inclusive of all religions and the audience that attends consists of a variety of faith traditions and professional associations.

A quick look around the room at table sponsors reveals FAU’s College of Science, the Boca Raton Resort and Club, 4Kids, Habitat for Humanity and County Commissioner Bob Weinroth and Boca Mayor Scott Singer who recently filmed testimonials urging other cities to get on board the BocaLead train.

Another glance around the room reveals many of my Delray Beach friends—which is cool because Delray Beach is crying out for this kind of community building exercise. So is the rest of America.

We have lost our civility and with it our dignity.

BocaLead’s message is a counterweight to the rancor. It simply asks that we make Boca a better town. How can you argue with that?

Here’s to spreading the word far and wide. Wouldn’t it be great to see Boca become known for exporting goodness, leadership and inspiration. Lord knows it’s needed across our great country.

 

It’s The Software That Matters Most

Seth says: hardware is sexy, but it’s the software that matters.

Seth Godin has a saying…hardware is sexy, but it’s software that matters.

Seth is a best-selling author and considered one of the top marketing minds in the world.

So while he might have been referring to products when he talked about the importance of software…I think you can also apply the sentiment to cities and community building.

Hardware can refer to buildings and software can be a stand in for the soft stuff like creating a sense of place and nurturing a feeling of community.

Last week, I had a chance to share a few things about public leadership that I have learned over 30 years with a talented group of young professionals enrolled in the Urban Land Institute’s Public Leadership Institute. ULI is a global organization dedicated to the responsible use of land. I had a chance to meet with 40 or so up and comers at Port Everglades to discuss the challenges and opportunities available in cities today and tomorrow. I tried to instill in these young leaders that they have a responsibility as stewards to leave their communities better off than they found them. There is a lot of work for them and all of us to do.

I think cities rise or fall as a direct result of leadership. I think it’s the software of cities that matter more than anything else.

Don’t misunderstand me, leadership has a lot to do with getting the hardware right…we need the buildings and the projects. We need the investment, the tax base and the jobs.

But the best places get the software right…they have a certain feel about them. You can sense the momentum, you want to be involved…they make you want to stay and leave a positive mark.

Leadership is so important, but we really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it. Oh, we say we value leadership and we want it and that it’s important. But we really don’t spend a lot of time creating, nurturing, supporting and training leaders. There are exceptions: ULI is investing in the next generation of leaders and so is Leadership Florida. There are others, but we need even more.

As a result of the leadership deficit– in cities— we leave a lot to chance. Whoever, shows up gets to run the place. And unless you get lucky and a group of visionaries show up you run the risk of placing your present and your future in the hands of those who might not be good at the software or the hardware. That’s a real problem.

Because cities thrive if leaders show up and commit to a place. And they fail if the wrong people grab the reigns. It’s just that simple and there are examples all over South Florida on both sides of that ledger.

Now I am not talking solely about mayors and commissioners—although surely the occupants of those seats are important to achieving any kind of sustained progress.

But I do not believe in waiting for a savior to show up….that may feel good for a little while, but eventually your visionary mayor moves on or terms out. You have to develop the software to create an enduring  culture of leadership in order for success to take root and to last.

So when I say leadership I am thinking broadly…we all have a role to play. The public sector—elected officials and staff, the business community, non-profits, academia, the clergy and the neighborhoods all need to show up and where possible work together on a common vision.

So how do we do that….How do we work together on a common vision?

First I’ll tell you what you don’t do…don’t get stuck and don’t allow your community to get caught in a winner take all contest.

We fixate today on what we disagree on….we see it in Washington and in Tallahassee, but we also see it on the grass roots community level.

We’ve created a giant zero sum game, where I have to lose if  you are to win….that’s not a formula for success or progress. It is a recipe for gridlock and progress that quickly gets reversed when the “other side” seizes power.

I think leadership focuses on what we can agree on.

There is so much noise and so much negativity in the world today…I believe that people are hungry for something to believe in..

We need to build communities that aspire. And as leaders it’s our responsibility to create a culture in our communities that enables aspiration.

We want to build places where people are excited about their present and thrilled about their future potential. We need to champion projects and initiatives that further these goals…and deliver for not only the direct beneficiaries but the broader community as well.

The best economic development is momentum and software that drives progress. Get that part right and it enables you to overcome inertia or any challenge that is thrown your way—be it hurricanes or crime or drugs or nasty characters who get up at meetings and throw bricks. It even inoculates you against the trolls on social media, many of whom sit back in judgment but few who actually roll up their sleeves and try themselves.

Nothing great can be accomplished without enthusiasm, calculated risk and a large dose of inspiration.

Leaders either fill the reservoir with hope or drain it with negativity.

There’s another saying that I just love and it’s this: “There is a difference between leadership and ambition. Leaders have the courage to be unpopular with those that disagree with them. The ambitious want to befriend as many people as possible.”
We need more leadership and less ambition.

 But we also need more aspiration and more emotional intelligence. Hardware is important. Hardware is indeed sexy. But software is heart. Software is love. Software is empathy and it’s gratitude.

Software is what matters.

 

 

 

 

Finding Inspiration @ Boca Lead

Pastor Bill Mitchell who has an extensive background in business draws big crowds for BocaLead.

 

I have to be honest, I’m more apt to say no these days than yes to social functions.

It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I’m tired, very busy and fantasize more about a Lazy Boy and a cold beer than I do a banquet and a baguette.

Over the years, I’ve been to countless luncheons, fundraisers, ribbon cuttings, cocktail parties and functions; you just get to a point where you just want to chill and binge on Netflix.
But there are certain people I just can’t say no to…Karen Granger is one of them.

Karen and I have known each other for many years and through many careers. The former President of the Delray Chamber is with a wonderful organization called 4 Kids these days and she’s happy doing important work for children and the community.
So when she invited me to attend a leadership luncheon I said yes.
Why?

Because I trust her judgment and because we are passionate about many of the same things. For example, we are both leadership junkies.
So Karen took me to a monthly event called BocaLead at Boca Community Church and it was amazing. Just as Karen promised.

A capacity crowd of 450 people packed into the event to hear Pastor Bill Mitchell give a fascinating and practical presentation on how to be a better leader.
It was something.

Everywhere I looked I saw community leaders—business leaders, non profit leaders, political leaders and educational leaders. These are the people who are dedicated to making Boca the finest city in the world. Yes, the world. They are ambitious in Boca and at BocaLead.
That’s a wonderful thing.

Newly elected Commissioner Ryan Boylston was there and we both agree that we would love to see something like this in Delray.

Apparently, the BocaLead concept is expanding to other cities.
Each month, the attendees enjoy lunch and fellowship and then learn about life and leadership.
Yes, it’s set in a church and it is part of Boca Community’s ministry, but the message was inclusive of all faiths.

The message is also decidedly optimistic, calling on leaders to dig deep, be present, recharge, give back and do good in the world.
That’s always a good thing, but especially now with where we are as a society these days.

It’s also very reassuring to know something like BocaLead exists and to see it so popular.
I can’t believe I didn’t know about it. I’m glad I do now.
I urge you to check it out. And mostly, I’m grateful for my friend Karen Granger.
For thinking of me. And for all she does for people and the community.

For more information on BocaLead visit http://www.bocacommunity.org/bocalead/

 

 

Inspiration…

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to acknowledge graduation season.

As students in Delray Beach and Boca Raton graduate high school and college we wish them well and offer a sampling of our favorite commencement quotes. The first few quotes are from graduations held this year. We also include some of our all-time favorites. We hope they inspire you to do great things. Remember commencement means to begin. So while you may graduate, you are really beginning the journey. Enjoy.

“Summon your compassion, your curiosity, your empathy towards others and your commitment to service. Give more than you receive and I promise you, it will come back to you in ways you can’t possibly imagine.” Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO at Arizona State University.

“Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strikes, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything.” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO at Virginia Tech.

“No matter what other work you do, every day, if you find the issues that matter to you and you get in the fight, you will build a life with more heart flutters and fewer don’t-make-me-move moments.” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren at UMass-Amherst.

“Create. Don’t wait around for people to give you things to do. If you’re a writer, write; artist, paint; builder, build! Opportunities will come to you if you create them.” Comedian Maz Jobrani, UC-Berkeley

“No matter how cliché it may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” Actor Will Ferrell at USC.

The Classics…

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is not the size of the arena in which you find yourself that counts; it is what you do with it.” Dr. Irene C. Kassorla.

It’s All About the Software

The intangibles make a community a community

The intangibles make a community a community

Seth Godin has a saying: Hardware is sexy, but it’s the software that matters.

Seth is a smart guy—arguably the smartest marketing mind around.

His thinking helps me with the companies we are involved with but his writing is also very apropos for cities and community building.

And that saying just resonates…hardware could refer to buildings in your city and software could serve as a stand in for all the “soft” stuff like “sense of place”, “community” and feeling a part of things.

Hardware is important. Your physical buildings should have character and be well-designed.

But software—that’s what makes a town special.

It’s the intangible things that make you fall in love with a place and when you fall in love you commit and that makes all the difference doesn’t it?

Recently, I attended a “Mayor’s Gala” at the Broward County Convention Center which was a benefit for the United Way. We ended up talking to an array of city officials—and I had a chance to have extended conversations with a Pompano Beach City Commissioner and a soon to be termed out commissioner from that city.

If you haven’t been to Pompano recently you owe it to yourself to visit. The beach area has been transformed. It’s just beautiful and was recently honored with an award from the Urban Land Institute (ULI). (I had a chance to tour the area with a ULI judge and we were impressed).

They built a beautiful parking garage, which sounds like it would be an oxymoron (beautiful garage? Really?!!) but it is. And so their hardware is improving.

pompanogarage

But the most important thing that’s changed in Pompano is the software. This is a city that aspires. This is a community that is gaining confidence and momentum. This has become a place where people are excited about their present and thrilled about their future potential.

The retiring commissioner had the happy but tired look of someone who has served and sees the light at the end of the tunnel. I can relate to that feeling. Public service is a privilege and a very special honor. It is also exhausting if you care enough to put your heart into it and want to move a community forward, solve problems, meet challenges and seize opportunities. The soon to be termed out commissioner was tired but happy—he was confident his city was moving in the right direction.

Chatting with him reminded me of another quote I love: “the community will give back what you give to it.”

I heard that from some speaker years ago and committed that line to memory. And yes it is so true.

The soon to be termed out commissioner had two weeks left in office and then he was off to Hawaii for some rest. But he was proud of what had transpired during his term.

His colleague has an election on Nov. 8 and is working hard to stay on the commission because he is excited about all that’s happening in his city.

The best economic development is momentum and community “software” that drives progress and enables you to overcome inertia or any challenge that are thrown your way—be it hurricanes or crime or drugs or nasty characters who get up at meetings and throw bricks. It even inoculates you against the trolls, most of whom sit back in judgment but few who actually roll up their sleeves and try themselves.

Nothing great can be accomplished without enthusiasm, calculated risk and a large dose of inspiration.

Leaders either fill the reservoir with hope or drain it with negativity.

There’s another saying that I just love and it’s this: “There is a difference between leadership and ambition. Leaders have the courage to be unpopular with those that disagree with them. The ambitious want to befriend as many people as possible.”
We need more leadership and less ambition.

But we also need more aspiration and more emotional intelligence. Hardware is important. Hardware is indeed sexy. But software is heart. Software is love. Software is empathy and its gratitude.

Software is what matters.

 

 

MLK Day: Quotes Sure to Motivate

mlkday

We’re  strong believers in the power of words.
We’re also firm believers in the power of leadership to facilitate transformational change.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day we offer some of our favorite quotes from one of our favorite leaders.
Enjoy, dream and more important put these thoughts into action:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
 
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
 
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
 
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
 
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
 
  “The time is always right to do what is right.”
   “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
 “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
 “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
 “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

 “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”

 
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

 “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

 “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”