Art Endures…

Robbie Robertson’s music and influence will live on.

My heroes are dying.One by one. Drip by drip, they drop from this world into the next.Tina Turner, Randy Meisner and Robbie Robertson are just the latest.Before that, we said goodbye to Tom Petty, Glenn Frey, Prince, David Crosby, Burt Bacharach and David Bowie—and the list goes on.

If those names are familiar, you probably grew up in the 60s,70s or 80s. You probably loved music and the songs of these icons became a part of your DNA, a big part of your soul.Randy Meisner was the Nebraska native whose sweet voice turned “Take it to the Limit” into a song that inspired millions.Robbie Robertson was the genius who led The Band and virtually created “Americana” music.

I remember going to see “The Last Waltz” at the Smithhaven Mall  with my friends Scott and Howie. We were 14. We loved music, but our tastes were not quite sophisticated, not quite fully formed. We adored The Beatles and that’s why we probably went to see “The Last Waltz”, because Ringo was in the film —for a few minutes anyway.I came away loving The Band.

I remember being swept up by Robbie’s cool and Levon Helm’s soulful singing. But it would be years until I fully appreciated the genius of The Band, the greatness of their work and the power of that amazing film, in my mind the best “rock movie” ever made. The best concert movie ever.And at the center of it all was Robbie Robertson, the epitome of hip, the wise soul, road weary and weathered but full of wisdom and great songs.Now he’s gone, but the music lives on. And will live on, I’m sure of it.Why?Because here we are in 2023, and we are still listening to music from the 70s. If we did the same thing in the 70s, we would have been listening to music from the 20s. I don’t think we did too much of that in those days.

I remember, a number of years ago, going to Old School Square’s Crest Theater to see local musicians reenact The Last Waltz. People were dancing in the aisles. I can’t imagine a better time.

A few years after that, we went to The Arts Garage to see Rusty Young of Poco perform. He sang like an angel. And shortly after he passed too. That beautiful voice and dobro silenced.We’ve been making it a point to see the legends when they pass through South Florida. Many of the shows were farewell tours and all of them were awesome: Paul Simon, Elton John, David Byrne, Colin Hay, Roger McGuinn (at the Crest) Steve Forbert (Arts Garage) Queen (without Freddie Mercury), The Eagles right before we lost Glenn Frey and of course, Bruce Springsteenand the E Street Band.I’m sorry I missed Jackson Browne who just played Fort Lauderdale. What a songwriter he is, what a voice too.My goodness, these people are special.

And so I wonder why this music penetrates my mind and never leaves my heart. Why do these songs mean so much?They’ve gotten me through sadness and propelled me when I felt joy.

I think we’re all searching; for answers, for a way to express ourselves. I find my answers in music and I express myself by writing.Last week, I was sitting around the house thinking about a friend I just lost. My mind wandered to music.  And I began to wonder what it is about a great song that moves us.

Then magically— as if on cue–an old friend called. We talked about a whole bunch of things. And she said something profound. She said something that I can’t let go of.

Our heroes give us ladders, she said.  It could be a song, a painting or an essay that touches something deep down. They hit on a truth and give us a ladder to climb so we can get to another level of understanding. And we climb, carefully, so as not to fall. We climb to see what’s at the top.If we’re kind and generous, when we get to the top, we gaze a few rungs down and extend a hand.That’s what my heroes do for me. And that’s what I aspire to do for others, even though I often doubt I can do what they do. I try anyway. I will keep trying.

We forget all but the greatest statesmen and all but the most amazing sports heroes.We come.

We go.

But the music lives on. Always and forever.  The heroes live on.They leave behind ladders if we care to look and if we care to climb them.

Change The World

From heavyweight champ to fighting Putin, who could have known what history had in store.

“We can change the world rearrange the world
It’s dying – to get better” -Graham Nash


“I’m sorry, where should we go? This is our home… we defend it”—Wladimir Klitschko, former heavyweight champion.

Ten years ago, I went to Burbank, California with a colleague to film a commercial for Celsius, the beverage company that we worked for and believed in with all our hearts when few others felt the same way.

We were there to film a commercial with Mario Lopez, our first celebrity spokesman. Mario was also an evangelist for Celsius.  He didn’t need to get paid to drink Celsius. But we wanted him to promote the brand.

A few months earlier, that same colleague, Irina Lorenzi, and I had gone to LA to negotiate a deal for Mario to represent Celsius.

We felt beat up by the experience, but later learned it was all part of the game. Mario loved the brand, and it was his passion for our mission that sealed the deal. After all, we weren’t exactly Coca-Cola. (Today, we have a multibillion dollar market cap, so the lesson is believe!).

So here we were a few months later, filming a commercial based on a concept that Mario had conceived.

We went to a boxing gym in downtown Burbank, a place where Mario– an ardent fan of the “sweet science”– trained. The ad was cute but simple. Mario would be sparring with an older gentleman who was being pummeled until he took a swig of Celsius and turned the tables on Mr. Lopez.

During the filming, a very large, very muscular man stepped into the gym. It was heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. He was 6’6” and looked like he was chiseled from granite. He came by to see Mario, his friend.

After a few moments of chit chat, it was decided that we would write Wladimir into the script. He didn’t charge us (we couldn’t have afforded him) but he was gracious, a good sport and willing to help the cause, which is apparently a character trait.

Irina and I were elated. So was Mario. The commercial was better than we had imagined.

Here it is.

I was so taken by Mr. Klitschko’s kindness, that I read up on him. He was born in the Soviet Union and his father was a General who was one of the commanders in charge of cleaning up the effects of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. His dad was later diagnosed with cancer. His brother is Vitali, also a former heavyweight champion and the current Mayor Kyiv. Both Wladmir and Vitali hold PhDs in sports science. They are not your typical boxers.

I’ve been thinking about Wladimir, his brother and of course the Ukrainian people since the Russian invasion.

The brothers are together in Kyiv bravely facing the brutal assault of a ruthless dictator hellbent on death and destruction. I have been following the brothers on social media and praying for their safety and the safety of their citizens.

Both Klitschko’s made a fortune because of their boxing prowess.

They could be in any exotic location enjoying their riches and the opportunities that their fame and their education’s would afford them. Instead they are in Ukraine defending their home and their freedom.

Wladimir signs his twitter posts with the hashtags “we are all Ukrainians”, “stay with Ukraine” and “stand together.”

And we will.

I hope we will.

For the love of Ukraine.

Sand in His Shoes

On a happier note, legendary journalist David Lawrence Jr., received a major award last week from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

It’s aptly titled the “Sand in my Shoes” award and it is given to a Miamian who has added value to the community and to our state.

I can think of no better person than Mr. Lawrence, who is a hero to journalists nationwide and those of us who value public service. He used to work for the Palm Beach Post.

I had a chance to meet Mr. Lawrence a few years ago after he led a discussion with former Governor and Senator Bob Graham at the annual meeting of Leadership Florida. It was a thrill to see two legends trade stories. I bought Mr. Lawrence’s book “A Dedicated Life: Journalism, Justice and a Chance for Every Child.” It was inspiring.

A friend posted 12 lessons that Mr. Lawrence shared after receiving the award last week. I thought I would print them here.

  1. Tell people that you love them while they are still alive.
  2. Believe in people.
  3. Grow spiritually – believe in something.
  4. Racism is the great cancer of societies.
  5. Have the courage to speak up.
  6. Be a lifelong learner.
  7. We cannot get through life without pain – but we can grow through it.
  8. Get back to people quickly.
  9. Believe in redemption.
  10. Always vote for someone with a moral core.
  11. Love this country- help us make it better.
  12. “The purpose of life is not to be happy—but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”-Leo Rosten


Forever Young…

The Franchise

It’s hard when your childhood heroes are leveled by life.

I don’t know why, but for some reason the heroes of our childhood remain vibrant, young and strong in our mind’s eye.
We remember their primes and often don’t “age” them in our memories.

So when I think of Tom Seaver, I still see a powerful young pitcher rearing back and dragging his knee on the mound firing fastball after fastball past the best hitters of his era.
But those days are long gone.

Today, “Tom Terrific” is 74 and last week his family announced his retreat from public life as a result of dementia.

For those of us of a certain age and a certain geography, Tom Seaver is an icon. He’s the best New York Met ever. A legend and one of the best pitchers ever.

I saw him pitch once at the old Shea Stadium and watched many other times on WOR Channel 9. When he pitched it was an event and even when we watched we looked the next day at the box score in Newsday because seeing his pitching “line” was also a  thing of beauty.
He was that great.
Truth is, I hadn’t thought of Tom Seaver in quite some time but I was still floored by the news.

Seaver was always an analytical pitcher, who despite his physical gifts was cerebral on the mound. He mentored younger pitchers and they hung on his every word.
That doesn’t seem right. And then I realized that all of us kids who followed him are eligible to receive AARP magazine every month.

The decades have flown by.

I read a lot about Tom Seaver over the past week. By all accounts, he lives a peaceful and happy life tending to his family’s vineyard in California.
While he will fade from public view, I’m confident he will never fade from our memories.

The truly great ones never do. Their accomplishments live on. They change the world in their own distinct way and they change us too.

Tom Seaver brought a generation of fans tremendous joy.

He gave us lasting memories of endless summers watching baseball with our friends. Only the summers weren’t endless. They fade into fall and then winter. If we remember that, we will cherish the seasons all the more.

iPic Opens

A quick note about last week’s grand opening of iPic Delray.

In a word, it was amazing. A great party, a great night and most important the new theater and office complex is terrific. Truly, a new level.

IPic CEO Hamid Hashemi and his development team are to be commended for their vision and execution. They should be thanked for their belief in Delray and their willingness to make a colossal investment and create 250 jobs.

During the needlessly brutal approval process, the iPic team were called amateurs by a former elected official. It was a nasty comment and unbecoming of Delray. It’s possible to oppose a project without belittling those seeking to invest in your city.

Take a trip to the new Ipic and you’ll see firsthand that Mr. Hashemi and his company are far from amateurs. They are innovators and we are lucky to have iPic’s corporate headquarters in our city.

Leadership Is The Most Important Currency

Tina Turner was right.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine sent me an article about one of my favorite subjects: leadership.


There are a lot of articles and books about leadership and to be honest a great many of them miss the mark, but this particular article was one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject and I feel the need to tell you about it especially as voters go to the polls in Delray and Boca on March 13.


Basically, the author argues that there are two styles of leadership: a “hero” and a “host.”


The hero leader takes everything on by herself; he or she assumes all responsibilities and wants to be seen as the savior; the hero per se of the story.


Inevitably, hero leaders fail, because nobody– regardless of talent, intellect and energy level–can do it all. No man or woman, as the saying goes is an island.


Once the hero slips, we are quick to abandon them as yet another in a long line of people who failed to live up to their promises.


So what happens? Well, invariably we look for a new and better hero and the cycle continues building cynicism every step of the way.


We have all seen the hero phenomenon play out in our lives, whether it’s a hot shot CEO who is going to come in and turn it all around or a candidate who is going to get under the hood and by sheer force of will fix what everybody else has been unable to mend.


It’s the story of American politics at every level of government.


Which is why so many of us are disgusted right around this time of year as we cope with a barrage of expensive and slick campaign ads telling us how (fill in the blank) is going to fight for the people and fix everything from crime and taxes to schools and  traffic.


But the crop of heroes will fail. It’s inevitable.


So are we relegated to an endless cycle of failure, frustration and phonies? Or is there a better way?

Fortunately, there is a better and much more effective leadership style—that of the host, not the hero.


The host is a collaborator, a motivator, a convener and an alchemist who brings people and resources together to tackle problems, meet challenges and seize opportunities.


He or she doesn’t try to do it alone and does not pretend to have all the answers.


Rather, they believe in the wisdom of the crowd and in hosting conversations and problem solving exercises that really and truly move the needle.


I happen to think this is the best leadership approach possible. Not only does it involve people, but it challenges them to think and work together. And when they do come up with solutions , there is automatic buy-in because they were part of the process. They were engaged, someone bothered to ask them what they thought and trusted in their abilities to figure things out.


Can this work on a local level?

Absolutely, Delray Beach is a prime example of a community that re-invented itself through visioning, and extensive and ongoing community engagement beginning with the Atlantic Avenue Task Force in the mid-80s, Visions 2000 in the late 80s and 90s and through the Citizen’s Downtown Master Planning Process in the 2000s. And then we stopped.


We get in trouble when we veer away from that formula either through failing to engage residents or having elected officials think they are heroes who can do it all, and let us know about it later.


Can it work on the national level?

Well, that’s a trickier beast to deal with. But perhaps it could… if presidents saw themselves (and more importantly) we viewed them as above partisanship and if somehow they could lead by “hosting” rather than dictating policies. But this only works if Congress can get over its hyper-partisanship and remember they are there to do a job and get things done for Americans; a simple concept that seems to be hopelessly lost at the moment.


Regardless, next time you see a mayor beating his chest, or a gubernatorial candidate promising to save Florida remember the host and hero dynamic and ask yourself when the last time someone succeeded without being a host.

Be Nice

Wayne Gretzky: The Great One, Also the Nice One

Wayne Gretzky: The Great One is also the Nice One

“It’s so easy being nice.” – Wayne Gretzky.
You know what else is easy? This simple concept: we have the power–so much power— to help each other.

We have so much power to heal one another; to build each other up, to support good things and good people.

It’s so easy to help. All we have to do is try. It’s a decision.
Or we can choose not to.

We can choose to accuse, divide, hurt, harm, disparage, disrespect and violate.
And because we often do, we also have so much power to harm.

Clearly we see this play out in our national politics but we also see it play out in City Halls and Commission Chambers and on social media platforms all across the world.
Leaders have the extraordinary power and opportunity to harm or heal. It’s their choice.

With every email they send, with every comment they make they can uplift or they can deflate.
Right about now at this point in the column, some of you are getting a cavity from all this “sweetness.”  I feel you.

And I know what you’re thinking: what about accountability? What about people who deserve a good rebuke?
Well glad you asked. Because accountability is tied closely to emotional intelligence and to kindness.

If mistakes are made—and they will be– they give us teachable moments. But most of the time, the people and organizations who can use the education don’t deserve to be obliterated. They need to be taught and while instilling fear and bullying may be your preferred method, it isn’t sustainable. Oh you’ll get short term results and when you’re gone or not looking you’ll be ignored, forgotten or mocked.
Bullies don’t age well.

Narcissists inflict lots of damage. But they don’t transform or uplift. They are too busy tearing down others so they can feel better about themselves.

True accountability occurs when learning and growth happens. You can only grow in an environment that values personal dignity and respect. The best teams, the best platoons, the best organizations build their success around chemistry, respect, love, kindness and education. The best teams root for each other. Caring becomes your DNA.
As a baseball fan, I love the story of Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs slugger who came back for The World Series after suffering a devastating knee injury at the beginning of the baseball season.
Schwarber was befriended by a 10 year old boy in Arizona who is suffering from a debilitating physical condition. The boy is very sick but he’s comforting the ballplayer and Schwarber was quickly able to put his disappointing but temporary knee problems into perspective.
The two friends exchange letters and encouragement. They inspire each other through simple acts of kindness: text messages, small gifts, kind words. When Kyle gave his friend a bat, the boy asked if he could auction off the memorabilia so other sick children could benefit from better care.

Isn’t that powerful? Isn’t it moving?

Kindness is strength.
We all know stories of unspeakable horror so there’s no need to relate them here. But it’s the every day bruises that some dole out that can take a toll and can leave a mark as well.
The snide email that insults a volunteer, the insensitive attack based on cooked up info, the attempt to bully those who don’t agree with you.
Leaders build, bullies deflate and harass.

Bullies need to be confronted and when that happens they tend to do two things: deflect (it’s not my fault, you are bullying me, how dare you) and shrink.

Because once revealed, a bully is seen as small, petty, mean and insecure. Exactly the opposite of a leader.
Wayne Gretzky was my favorite hockey player. He is also said to be a nice guy.

Being nice is indeed a choice. And yes; it is easy.

Guest Post: Memorial Day Thoughts


Editor’s Note: Jack Levine is a Leadership Florida friend and a frequent blogger. He runs the 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee. We thought we’d share his thoughts on Memorial Day. Have a safe weekend.

By Jack Levine

4 Generations Institute

As Memorial Day, Monday May 25th, approaches please join me in pausing to honor family members and neighbors who sacrificed as members of our Armed Forces.


Whether our veterans survived their military service, or were lost on the field of battle, our country owes each of them, and their families, a debt of gratitude.


As we look back at the wars advocated by presidents, declared by Congress, and supported to varying degrees by our citizens, let’s remember that none of these conflicts were or, to this day, are immune from political and social controversy.


But we should never confuse debate over military policy with the need to be respectful of those whose lives are at risk on the battlefield, in the air, or on the seas.


Our freedoms were earned, bled for, and in many cases, died for.


Memorial Day presents the chance to gather our thoughts and honor the military service of our parents and grandparents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.


Individuals who either volunteered or were drafted, wore the uniform of our armed forces, and gave all or a portion of their lives in service to our nation and its allies.


Our American WWII veterans are passing away at the rate of 1,000 per day.  These elders deserve a great measure of our respect in their advancing years.


In honor of those we’ve lost, let’s not be passive about the importance of their sacrifice.  In their honor, let’s pledge to participate in the following advocacy activities:


  • Register, vote, and urge others to do the same. Democracy demands dedication!


  • Actively communicate with our elected officials about issues affecting families, including military families. Remember, our elected officials work for us!


  • Share your thoughts in the media by writing letters to the editor and interviewing about your advocacy passions with reporters. Media is our most cost-effective megaphone.


  • Motivate youth to exercise their voice in matters which affect them. The next generation of advocates needs good role modeling.


  • Confront those who think that complaining about problems is sufficient. Whining is not as good as winning!


  • Compliment community leadership and promote active involvement by friends, colleagues and neighbors as volunteers, whom I call “time philanthropists.”


  • Support causes which focus on advocating positive change. Spectatorism doesn’t produce progress.


Leadership is….

Caring more than others think wise,

Dreaming more than others think practical,

Risking more than others think safe, and

Expecting more than others think possible.


Please keep in mind that while we relax over holiday weekends, some neighbors…our first responders….police, EMT, firefighters, abuse investigators and hospital personnel…and of course our military forces abroad and here in domestic service…remain on call and stay vigilant to protect us and our families.


Recognizing these heroes among us, supporting them, taking care of their families and giving them an honest compliment is a worthy action that pays great dividends.