Oldies But Goodies

Phil Mickelson, a champion at 50.

Let’s hear it for the old folks.

Maybe they’re not so old after all.

Or maybe age and experience is an advantage and not a liability.

Look no further than Phil Mickelson who just won the 103rd PGA Championship at the ripe age of 50. Or Tom Brady who won yet another Super Bowl at the age of 44.

Or President Biden who became leader of the free world at age 78.

Other examples abound in every field you can imagine: Dr. Tony Fauci is 80 and has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid, Queen Elizabeth is still reigning at age 95 and Warren Buffett remains an investing legend at 90. His partner, Charlie Munger, is 97 and still at it.

I have a rooting interest in the continuing viability of the older set. I’ll be 57 in August. Granted that’s a long way from 90 but it’s comforting to know that there’s life after a certain age.

I have found the 50s to be a poignant decade.

In many ways we are better than ever. We’ve got patience, experience, history, perspective and savvy that can only come with age and hard won experience.

We’ve also got more than a few miles on us so we are a wee bit tired at times and we know how fast time passes. We’ll blink and be 80 if we’re fortunate to survive. And that’s the poignant part.

Just when we get good, we get old.

But the Mickelson’s and the Brady’s of the world inspire us. It’s getting dark, but it ain’t over yet as the song says.

Still despite these inspiring examples we are very much a youth obsessed culture.

We adore the prodigy, laud the next big thing and remain obsessed with appearing youthful.

But I’m finding the seasoned players in this world have a lot to give and even more to impart.

I think we “old timers” can learn a thing or two from Phil and other folks who are crushing it as they age.

The first lesson is we can stay in the game if we choose. We might have to compensate for being a step slower than we used to be. We might not hit the ball as far as the youngsters or zip a football with the same velocity, but we’ve experienced a whole lot and that’s an advantage.

We can take comfort in the fact that we’ve seen most situations before and we know how to make the odds work for us.

It’s called being seasoned.

If you are a smart young person, you should seek out the elders in your community. You should hear their stories, soak up their experiences and listen to the wisdom you are assured of receiving if you just take the time to ask some simple questions.

What was it like?

Why did you make the decisions you made?

What did you learn? How did you get past your mistakes?

How did you run your company, build your business, raise your family, serve your community?

There is so much to learn. The best school there is right in front of us. All we have to do is ask others to share.

Whatever success I’ve had in anything I’ve ever done—-business, politics, love and family life is a direct result of asking for advice from people I’ve admired. Most of them were my elders. My grandparents, my parents.

At Delray City Hall, I was mentored by an extraordinary array of department heads and staff who took the time to explain issues to me, teach me about urban planning, police work, the work of the fire department and how municipal law and redevelopment can be applied to build something special.

After a while you leave– in my case due to term limits—but I never left those relationships behind. I treasure them and regularly draw on the lessons I learned.

But as magical as those teachers were, I learned just as much from some predecessors who served on the City Commission and a bunch more from a slew of community leaders who built this city. From Old School Square and Pineapple Grove to the Spady Museum and local schools these special people did special things. They made a lasting difference and left us lessons— but only if we choose to look and to ask for guidance.

The same lessons apply in business which is changing so fast that it can feel overwhelming to keep up with technology and trends. But there are fundamentals that never change: how you treat partners. employees, customers and the communities in which you work. The seasoned veterans have learned these lessons and I have found that most are happy to share if you take the time to ask for advice.

In business, I have been so fortunate to learn from a series of older mentors including one gentleman who has helped to build two multi billion dollar companies.

Recently, a friend told me about the Halftime Institute, a non-profit built on a belief that the second half of life can be better than the first. I plan to explore a few of their programs and read their literature.

Yes, life in your 50s and beyond can be both meaningful and fun.

Sure those knees creak, that back aches and your hair may be gone (on your head at least) but there’s life in those bones and wisdom too. There’s also time to grab a few more brass rings (or Super Bowl rings). Thanks Mr. Mickelson for reminding us.

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell T.J.

Coach Jackson has been a valued mentor to scores of young athletes.

Last week, T.J. Jackson, the decorated football coach at Atlantic High School, announced that he would be leaving for a new opportunity which has yet to be announced.

When I saw the news, I was happy for T.J.

He’s a really good guy and a great football coach. It’s not surprising that his talents would take him away from Delray Beach.

 

Mr. Jackson was the Eagles’ head coach for eight seasons, compiling a record of 68-23. His 2017 team made it all the way to the Class 7A state championship. And this past season, the Eagles won the Class 7A Tri-County championship after going 5-1 in what was a shortened season because of the pandemic.

 

But T.J. is so much more than his impressive win/loss record.

He is a beloved local figure, an inspiring young leader who earned the love and respect of hundreds of young men that he has coached.

Lee Cohen, a great supporter of Atlantic High football and all-around good guy, had this to say about his friend when news of the resignation was announced.

“Coach TJ understood the importance of not just having a winning team, but in creating a successful program.  Over the past 8 seasons, he led the Eagles to incredible success both on and off the field.  Following a challenging first season, the Eagles’ overall record was 66-16 over the next 7 years and included a trip to the state championship. He created a winning culture that included attention to education, discipline and respect.”

Delray’s current Chief of Police Javaro Sims and former Chief Jeff Goldman praised TJ for his mentoring skills and for his leadership in the community.

In scrolling through the congratulatory comments, my mind drifted back to when I first met TJ a number of years ago.

He was running a non-profit at the time called “Prep and Sports” which was teaching football skills and life skills to kids in our community. He was doing great work and was passionate about making a difference.

T.J. was quiet, almost painfully shy.

But as the saying goes, still waters run deep. T.J. knew kids, had his fingers on the pulse of the community and had a passion for football. That’s a great set of tools if you want to make positive change in the community.

T.J. and a partner brought scores of NFL players and prospects to Delray to train for the season or the NFL Combine, the annual showcase where aspiring players perform physical and mental tests in front of coaches and scouts. The players seemed to like Delray and I had a few lunches with players who expressed a strong desire to help kids find a positive path and they did.

T.J., former Delray Police Capt. Michael Coleman and former assistant community improvement director Jamael Stewart and a few others led that effort.

It’s the kind of activity that often goes undetected, but this is the type of work that builds a community by changing lives.

So let’s say it straight out: these guys change lives.

Michael and Jamael no longer work for the City of Delray. That’s a longer and sadder story for another day. But I sometimes fear that we are losing sight of the special efforts below the radar that make all the difference. If my instincts are correct and those efforts dry up we will be in trouble. Because if we care about the entirety of this community we need to care about the men and women who do this work.

And we should care. We either rise together or we will we fall.

It’s really that simple.

T.J. is a guy who helps people rise.

Losing him in this community is a big deal.

So was losing Jen Costello, a neighborhood planner who went above and beyond because of her passion for Delray—her hometown.

Back in the day, we had Officer Skip Brown organizing Haitian Roving Patrols and working with a wide cross section of the community. I don’t think anyone ever quite replaced Skip or Sgt. Adam Rosenthal who died 10 years ago last week while on the way to work in his police cruiser. Adam taught self-defense classes to women in our community and worked with kids interested in martial arts.

We also lost Officer Johnny Pun, who along with his partner Fred Glass, founded a charter school to teach kids marketable automotive repair skills. The Delray Police Department became the first department in the state to charter a school, an effort that the City Commission at the time was proud to support. Johnny died tragically in a motorcycle crash. He is deeply missed.

When these guys and gals move on, retire, pass away (or are shoved out) it leaves a void. You just don’t go to a job board and replace people like this. It’s not that easy.

Their success is borne of passion for a place and for the people who live there. When you find that, it’s gold.

When you lose it, well you lose a lot.

See you down the road T.J. We all know you’ll do great things at your next stop.

Many in Delray are sorry to see you go.

 

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.

 

Finding A Way Forward

Economic gardening is more than just growing your own, it’s seeing that one generation looks out for the next.

There was a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times recently about Silicon Valley’s “old money” and how one generation of tech titans mentored and invested in the next generation.

University of Washington history professor Margaret O’Mara sketched out a family tree of sorts— tracing the influence the founders of Fairchild Semiconductor and Hewlett-Packard had on Apple, PayPal, Netscape and AOL and how those founders and their networks  helped today’s world beaters: Uber, Lyft and AirBnB.

Many early tech founders cashed out and went into venture capital  funding the next generation of entrepreneurs who grew the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
The article ends with a call to action. Tech titans– now facing backlash from consumers and regulators–should change their ways and use their windfalls to do something meaningful for the rest of the world.

It’s hard to disagree with that conclusion. But I came away with another thought.

Silicon Valley, was built on the vision and entrepreneurial energies of talented engineers who took risks, leveraged Stanford University’s amazing resources and built companies that achieved global dominance.

While many cities and regions have tried to replicate that success, none have quite been able to create anything to seriously rival the Valley’s dominance in technology.

But Professor O’Mara, in drawing a family tree of business leaders mentoring the next wave of entrepreneurial talent,  may offer a way forward for other communities.

Perhaps, communities can ask: “Who are today’s local business titans and what are they doing to ensure that the next generation of entrepreneurs will succeed?”

There are many examples of philanthropy, particularly in Boca Raton where the arts, health care and education have received enviable and much needed support.

Some of that philanthropy will have an economic impact—having a great hospital or a world class neuroscience institute is a wonderful calling card for our community. Likewise, building institutions such as FAU and Lynn University will undoubtedly yield a return on investment.

Having robust cultural institutions are also investments in economic development. Talent and forward looking companies seek quality of life and place when deciding where to locate.

But unless I’m missing it  (and please tell me if I am) I’m not seeing as much mentoring and venture investing as can be expected in an area as rich in talent and experience as Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

If it is happening, it needs to be publicized so that other talented and successful business and civic leaders can be encouraged to offer their wisdom and experience to the up and coming stars in our community.

There are notable exceptions. I know some generous angel investors and we have been blessed to see some successful entrepreneurs use their wealth to help others climb the ladder of success.

But I also know a whole lot of successful people who remain insulated in terms of the community.

Their success stories, the lessons they’ve learned and the mistakes they’ve made, would be invaluable to the next wave of people trying to build businesses and careers.

It seems Silicon Valley has figured it out—despite the much needed debate occurring on the harmful affects of some of the technology that has emerged from that hotbed of innovation.

There’s a model there to be looked at. We have an amazing amount of successful leaders in every field imaginable roaming our beaches, golf courses, waterways etc.

Can you imagine what would happen if a few hundred or even a few dozen decided to invest in some of the talent coming out of our high schools and colleges?

Heroes Change Lives

Delray Students First is a local non-profit that is changing the lives of young people.

 

Mark Sauer is one of my local heroes.

The founder and visionary behind Delray Students First has a passionate desire to help young people break the cycle of poverty so they can find a better life. We are blessed that he landed in Delray and has decided to put his considerable talents, abilities and passions into changing the lives of our young men and women. After a long and successful career at the top of the sports and corporate worlds (past president of the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Blues), Mark has immersed himself in our community. Thank goodness.

One of those lucky folks who landed in Mark’s orbit was Delray’s own Tre’Quan Smith, a University of Central Florida wide receiver who was drafted in the third round by the New Orleans Saints this year.

Smith is currently experiencing his first NFL training camp training under the watchful eye of disciplinarian coach Sean Payton.

So imagine the delight when we got an email last week from Mark directing us to the New Orleans Saints website  http://(https://www.neworleanssaints.com/video/afternoon-wrap-for-monday-july-30) where we caught a first glimpse of Tre’Quan doing his thing which is basically catching everything thrown his way by future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.

The Saints are absolutely over the moon with Tre’Quan’s early performance—although Coach Payton sticks to the script with some cautious words of what he needs to improve. But based on what we know about Tre’Quan Smith, we can rest assured that he will do what needs to be done to make the most of this shot at the NFL.

Now my friend Mark Sauer will never say it because he’s humble and kind, but there are many young people like Tre’ Quan who have a shot at a good life because of the efforts of Mark and his talented team at Delray Students First.

The organization provides tutoring and mentoring to talented young people who need a dose of caring and love in order to succeed.

These are the type of efforts that change lives and communities. Mark and his lovely wife refer to Tre’Quan as a son—and that love, caring, attention and help has made all the difference.

There is a very good chance that Tre’Quan can have a successful career in the NFL. He’s talented, hardworking and hungry. If you watch the video you won’t see over confidence despite a strong early camp. What you will see is a humble young man who is dedicated to getting better, who is anxious to dive into the complex playbook so he can make the most of a unique opportunity that a whole bunch of people have worked hard to make happen.

While Tre’Quan gets the ink and is the most vivid story of Delray Students First’s success, he is not the only example of a life made better thanks to the efforts of an organization and its supporters.

Delray Students First empowers high school students in Delray Beach to reach their potential…We love that word empower. Because this program asks a lot of its students. They have to put in the work. They have to study, avoid temptation and work hard. If they do, there is a community of caring professionals and volunteers who will help them achieve.

But it does take a village and so Mark is an evangelist in search of resources. So if you happen to be looking for a great cause driven by great people—look no further. Delray Students First changes lives.