Earlier this week, I was meeting with one of my work colleagues and we got into a conversation about errors that are made at work. It’s not unusual for someone to say, “Well, I do it correctly 99% of the time.” For some people, that might seem like a pretty good ratio.

But when this came up in our conversation, I was reminded of the work I did more than 30 years ago studying and implementing TQM (Total Quality Management). The following list is discussed often when it comes to 99.99% quality:

Possible Outcomes of 99.99% Quality 

What is the potential outcome if 99.99% is the quality metric standard?

When we consider the implications in medical procedures or commercial airline flights, it puts things in perspective.

What is your expectation for yourself and for others when it comes to accomplishing tasks? Whether it is at home or work, or with family, friends or coworkers, we set the standard in terms of acceptable expectations with our own self-standards.

I know that I oftentimes drive my coworkers and family crazy with my goal of 100% accuracy—but after reviewing this list, perhaps they will understand why I ask so many questions and strive for 100%.

So, as you transition this week into another year, perhaps you will consider what percentage of accuracy and accomplishment are acceptable to you. What will you tolerate?

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

And I didn’t imagine ever saying this … I am actually looking forward to seeing the Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA, this Saturday morning, after it was cancelled last year. It will make me feel like things are getting back to normal!

Karen

About this time last year, I wrote about visiting the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, CA. Due to COVID, the library was only partially open to visitors, so that visit left me with the feeling that I should return to see more.

So during this past year, I not only visited the Nixon Presidential Library for a second time, but I also made the trek to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA (a two-hour drive from where I live).

What a contrast! The Nixon Library is tucked in a heavily residential area, and is a popular venue for weddings, proms and other events. The teeny-tiny home where Richard Nixon and his four brothers grew up in are part of the Presidential Library complex. You get the feeling of Nixon’s humble beginnings. And through the permanent exhibits, I got a real feeling about the challenges of Nixon’s Presidency and the world in which he had to function as the leader of the free world.

In contrast, the Reagan Presidential Library sits on more than 100 acres and the main building is an enormous Spanish-style hacienda surrounded by gardens, plus both Reagan and his beloved wife Nancy, are buried there. There is a replica of the Oval Office with a curious twist.  According to our tour guide, when President Reagan came to visit the Presidential Library while it was being built, he commented that the ceiling wasn’t high enough and he wanted it to be an actual replica of the real Oval Office in The White House. So, the architect measured it, and indeed it was a few inches too short! So, the replica Oval Office was modified with a couple of steps down leading into the Oval Office, so that the ceiling was at the proper height (and when you exit, you walk up a short ramp, to put you back at the level of the rest of the museum).

But, the most magnificent part of the Reagan Library is the pavilion in which Air Force One is displayed. More than one-half of the room is glass, so that it appears (if you use your imagination) as if the plane is ready for takeoff. It is truly breathtaking to see the airplane, which carried several presidents and their entourages around the world. Frankly, it appears much less techy and fancy than the images you see on television.

As I walked through the many exhibits at the Reagan Library that were open that day, I was struck by exactly how numerous the challenges are that a sitting President faces on any given day. Literally, I turned to Jack while we were walking through one of the galleries at the Reagan Library and commented on how incredible the amount of pressure was and how many big decisions needed to be made by the sitting President—it was quite daunting.

Philosopher George Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I find studying history is most interesting and memorable, and I believe there is a great opportunity to learn lessons from the past. And it seems so much more real to me when I do it through the lens of people. That must be why I like biographies and autobiographies so much.

Visiting the Presidential Libraries allows me to learn about our own American history through the eyes of Presidents, past and present. One of the surprises for me was that there is so much more on display in addition to memorabilia of the President. There are temporary exhibits including other presidents, world events, books, movies and more. Most of the Presidential Libraries are set up for students to visit and to be a learning lab. And just like when you visit Washington, D.C., and our nation’s capitol for the first time—including all the monuments and museums—you leave with a new appreciation of our nation’s roots and the complicated journey over the past 200-plus years.

And so it has been for me. I’ve been able to relive the era around Nixon’s Presidency (1969–1974) and Reagan’s Presidency (1981–1989) from the time I was still in elementary school through when I gave birth to my first child.

The added bonus? While at the Nixon Library, there was an exhibit highlighting books on all the Presidents.  I snapped a photo of one, which I read last week titled, Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump by Kate Anderson Brower. Brower is a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, and this book looks at the relationships between members of the Presidents Club and includes an Oval Office interview with President Trump. The “Presidents Club” is made up of the living Presidents and is an informal, yet important support group for the current acting President of the United States. The book was fascinating, as she spoke specifically about the personal and professional relationships between former Presidents Carter, Bush 41, Obama, Bush 43, and Clinton (jokingly called Bush 42 due to his close personal relationship with George H.W. Bush after they both left office) along with insights from her personal interview with Trump while in office.

See the source image

So, as you are making travel plans for 2022, I encourage you make time to visit one of these amazing fifteen repositories of American History that represent these Presidents:

Herbert Hoover – West Branch, IA

Franklin D. Roosevelt – Hyde Park, NY

Harry S. Truman – Independence, MO

Dwight D. Eisenhower – Abilene, KS

John F. Kennedy – Boston, MA

Lyndon B. Johnson – Austin, TX

Richard Nixon – Yorba Linda, CA

Gerald Ford – Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, MI (two separate locations)

Jimmy Carter – Atlanta, GA

Ronald Reagan – Simi Valley, CA

George H. Bush – College Station, TX

William J. Clinton – Little Rock, AR

George W. Bush – Dallas, TX

Barack Obama – Hoffman Estates, IL

Can’t wait to learn more history this next year when I visit at least a couple more!

Karen

I admit to falling for many of those ads I see whenever I am on Instagram, Facebook, browsing the internet or reading an online article.

However, some of my best new gift ideas have come from referrals from friends.

And so, as you are doing last-minute shopping for holiday gifts, here are several of my favorites:

ONDO socks: Once I tried these thin, no slip socks, I was hooked! When I wear non-running sneakers or loafers, I like to wear a light sock, as it makes the shoes more comfortable and eliminates the sweaty, sticky feeling. And they really DO NOT slip! They come in a few colors, and I’ve even gifted them to a few friends and houseguests.

VASTITCH Comfortable Leggings: For many of the holidays (St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc.) it’s fun to dress up. I have found the easiest way to dress up is with my exercise outfits, and it’s so easy since I found this website. Instead of trying to find decorative sweaters or T-shirts, now when I go for a run on a weekend near a Hallmark holiday, I go into my drawer and choose a color-coordinated pair of leggings. They make a perfect gift and ARE super comfortable.

ETSY for wine bags: Have you ever been going to a friend’s home for a party and want to bring a bottle of wine? You want to wrap it, and look all over for a wine bag. What’s a neutral color scheme that doesn’t look like you are reusing a wine bag from Christmas when it’s for a housewarming gift? Well check out this designer.

Etsy (an American e-commerce company focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies) is where many independent artists sell their wares. I was looking for personalized wine bags last year and came across this woman in Florida who makes custom-printed canvas wine bags and delivers them quickly with an incredible personal touch. Heyar (the owner), whose Etsy handle is Socialholic, is so busy that she is taking a break from new orders until January 3—but check out her offerings after the new year.

VISTAPRINT for address labels: One of the most surprising and appreciated gifts I ever received was when my dear friend Miriam sent me 10-20 postage stamps with a red heart on them! Miriam knows that I am all about love, and that I write a lot of handwritten notes, so postage stamps with a heart on them was a perfect gift for me! And we all know you can never have enough stamps handy … so, what about gifting a friend some custom-designed return address labels? Professionally printed address labels plus a page of postage stamps is the perfect gift.

I would love to learn about your favorite go-to or signature gifts. We all have them! Perhaps they are a brand of candles or stationery.

Gifts this year don’t have to be expensive, but they should come from the heart!

Enjoy!

Karen

Los Alamitos, CA (December 2021) – This new year will, without a doubt, open up more doors (quite literally) as the world adjusts to the reality of COVID being a long-term reality. That said, food trends are more important than ever, as food is truly being used for comfort and as a way to explore the world. The tastemakers at Frieda’s—known since 1962 for creating and spotting trends—offer some interesting predictions for the New Year.

“Whether it’s more time for a leisurely breakfast while working from home, or embracing Korean culture, we are seeing people crave sensorial explorations and the desire to make every moment and bite count,” said Cindy Sherman, director of marketing, innovation and insights for Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “Consumers are seeking new experiences, starting with redefining their morning cup of joe, a rainbow of milk colors, and infusing health & wellness into every nook & cranny of their daily life.”

Frieda’s predicts these trends will make big waves this upcoming year:

Superhero Coffee

Move over coffee! Instead of “supersizing,” give yourself a “superpower”. Try infusing dried mushrooms and fresh turmeric into coffee to inject extra nutritional benefits and energy into your standard cup of joe.

Korea Worldwide

From K-Pop to K-dramas to fashion, beauty, and food, Korean culture and flavors remind us that our global world is united. Explore Korea from your kitchen by creating Musaengchae (spicy radish salad) with daikon radish.

Breakfast at Leisure 

Working from home allows time to savor the first meal of the day. While your superhero coffee is brewing, cube Fire Dragons® dragon fruit into a smoothie bowl or put oomph into eggs with Stokes Purple sweet potatoes.

Bloom of the ‘Shroom 

Mushrooms are starring in food, functional drinks, and fashion. Designers are even making fungi into fabric, and the culinary/beverage worlds are eating up the umami flavors and health benefits by adding dried shiitake or porcinis into sipping broths.

Milk Gets Tubular

Potatoes as milk? Yes! Low in sugar and saturated fat, this creamy liquid is ripe with possibilities. Make potato milk sweet by adding Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and enjoy creamy, lavender deliciousness.

 

About Frieda’s Inc.

 

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit and dragon fruit to Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

It’s no secret that I read a lot of books. Let me correct that—I listen to a lot of books. With my 45-minute commute each way to work, I have found the perfect way to fill that time with something useful—listening to books.

In 2020, I listened to 52 books during the year and so far in 2021, I am at 84 books. I know that sounds like a lot (it is), but it is amazing that the 90 minutes of commuting each day, plus some extra time when I go to doctors’ appointments or visit friends, allows me to finish so many books. Last month, while on our cruise, I actually read three printed books, which I carried with me in my luggage.

With so many books under my belt, there are always a few standouts that I like to share with friends. So, in the hope that you’ll consider adding Audible to your mobile device or have a Kindle, here are my top recommendations from 2021 for you to consider adding to your reading list for 2022:

Autobiographies or Biographies (I love reading peoples’ stories):

  1. Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are my Keys.Narrated by Billy Crystal, the chapters alternate with actual comedy gigs, and his life story.
  2. Beginner’s Mind by Yo-Yo Ma. I didn’t know anything about Yo-Yo’s life history or his story. It’s a short read but really made me want to go to one of his concerts.
  3. Ladyparts by Deborah Copaken. Through every health challenge imaginable and a lot of laughter (she’s a comedian) and positive thinking, the author narrates this book and keeps you both laughing and in amazement.
  4. A Runner’s High: My Life in Motion by Dean Karnazes. The story of the ultramarathoning legend, I literally would find places to drive or walk while I was listening to this incredibly inspiring story so it wouldn’t stop.

Business Books:

  1. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. The author is a doctor who helped create the modern operating room checklist for surgery published and promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO). Examples of checklist usage by airplane pilots and surgery doctors made me realize how important and time-saving systems and processes are.
  2. Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable—Your Journey to Get Real, Get Simple, and Get Results by Gino Wickman. Similar to the fable approach that Patrick Lencioni used in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I had my entire management team read this book and we continue to discuss lessons from it.

Life Lessons:

  1. Make Your Next Shot Your Best Shot: The Secret to Playing Great Golf by Dr. Bob Rotella. He is America’s preeminent sports psychologist, and this book helped me keep my head in the game.
  2. The Splendid and the Vile:  Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. The story of Winston Churchill during one year of World War II … Talk about having a vision and believing.

Health:

  1. Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. This book has been on my list for a few years, recommended by a friend. I eliminated wheat from my diet after reading this book last month and it has helped me feel healthier, sleep better, have less aches and pains and, oh yeah, lose a few pounds.

Fiction:

  1. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Truth: Lisa is a personal friend of mine. I could not believe I had never read one of her books (she is a world-renowned writer and author). The storyline was fascinating about lifelong friendships and reminded me that you never know someone else’s story.

Do you have books you’d like to recommend to me? I would love that. Almost every single book on my list above was an unsolicited recommendation from a friend.

Karen

Anyone who has gone out to eat with me knows that as soon as we are seated and the server comes to our table, the first three words out of my mouth are always, “What’s your name?”

I think years ago my two daughters were embarrassed by my question. But as they have grown older and wiser, I think they agree that by asking the server’s name, you establish a closer connection.

I’ve found 100% of the time that once I know the server’s name, I find ways to use it. I thank them for taking my order, for bringing me my drink, for refilling my water, etc. And with this more authentic, personal connection—using their first name—I always get better service. My party seems to get more attention and when we leave, it feels like we had a superior experience.

Sometimes, the server will ask me my name in return! That always catches me off guard, but when they use my name when addressing me, my positive experience is significantly increased.

So, that made me think, how could other businesses or positions leverage using someone’s name?

For example, when I go to the doctor, it would make a positive difference for me if the receptionist or nurse would introduce themselves: “Hello, I’m Sandra and I am the doctor’s nurse. I will be taking you to your examination room, but first I need to get your vitals.” Surely that’s a lot better than barking out my name from the waiting room and then, after a walk down a long hallway, them indicating to me to sit down to get my blood pressure taken or get my weight.

Or, when I arrive at a restaurant, wouldn’t it enhance my experience to have the person at the host station say, “Hello Ms. Caplan, so happy to have you with us this evening. I am Thomas and I am checking to make sure your table is ready. It will be my pleasure to take you there now! Please follow me.”?

Some organizations depend on name tags to do the job. Did you know that the proper side to wear your name badge on is your RIGHT side? That’s because when shaking a person’s hand it is easiest to read a tag/label on the right. Most people put it on the left side and oftentimes it’s covered by a lapel or long hair, making it difficult to read. And don’t get me started on those companies who put no thought into the typeface size or ease of legibility on name tags. But, why depend on a name tag? I think it’s better to properly introduce yourself verbally.

I went to a small holiday party last week and there were no name tags. The gathering was in a person’s home and there were only a dozen people. But some people were new to the group and others hadn’t seen each other for a long time. Frankly, I didn’t remember everyone’s name and had to whisper to a friend and ask. I personally think that even in these kinds of personal settings, it is a gesture of kindness to your guests to prepare name tags, if only with the person’s first name, printed in large, easy-to-read lettering. Then have guests apply it on the right side.

So, the next time you go someplace, try it out. Ask the persons’ name—no matter where you are. It will make them feel more important, and you will probably have a better experience.

“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  Dale Carnegie

Karen

Did you know that the first “marathon” was run in Greece? Yes, the idea for a modern marathon was inspired by an ancient Greek messenger who raced from the battlefield site of Marathon (a city in Greece) to Athens, a distance of about 40 kilometers or nearly 25 miles, with the news of an important Greek victory over an invading army of Persians in 490 BCE. As the legend goes, after the long run and making his announcement “We won!”, he collapsed and died (please note, there were other complications). You can read the historical details of the marathon race here.

So why am I writing about the Athens Marathon? Because on Sunday, November 14, I got to watch my partner Jack finish his 100th marathon, when he completed the famed Athens Marathon. Let me repeat that—he completed his 100th marathon! It’s almost impossible to comprehend someone running 100 marathons, but that’s what he did—completed a race of 26.2 miles (or 42 kilometers) 100 times! That’s a lot of miles on your feet!

Although the run was delayed by a year (due to COVID travel restrictions), the anticipation, training and excitement of traveling to Greece for my first time was amazing. Frankly, with all the ups and downs of vaccinations, travel restrictions, work responsibilities, etc., the trip didn’t seem real until we boarded our flight at LAX on Monday November 1.

We did have time to tour Athens, including a hike up to visit the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the New Acropolis Museum (gorgeous and amazing), the National Archeological Museum and more. After two days in the city, we boarded a cruise ship to spend eight days visiting ports in Greece, Sicily and Sardinia (both now part of Italy) and ended in Barcelona, Spain. And then we flew back to Athens to prep for the marathon.

As you may recall, I have been running/walking and completed four half marathons during COVID, so when Jack casually mentioned that I should sign up to run the Athens 10K the day before his marathon, I readily agreed. However, as it turns out, I did minimal training for the 10K. But I think I had enough walking and running miles from the last few months, that after extensive stretching the day of the 10K (as my leg muscles were quite tight from all the travel), I got dressed and we walked over to the starting line for a 5 p.m. start. Yes, the 10K was run the night before the marathon. It was exhilarating to line up with almost 10,000 other runners from around the world. Lots of selfies, lots of warm-up and so many different languages being spoken!

But the best part of running the Athens 10K was that the finish of the race was run into the Olympic Stadium. THE Olympic stadium! When full, the all-marble stadium seats more than 69,000 people (it is home to two of the biggest sports clubs in Greece). Due to COVID restrictions, there were probably less than 5,000 people when I ran into the stadium, but the bright lights and the finisher clock were motivating and rewarding! Plus, spectators are lined up throughout the route cheering you on. As I got ready to enter the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium hundreds of complete strangers were cheering “BRAVO! BRAVO!”, which definitely made that last quarter mile more bearable.

Sweaty me after completing the 10K and receiving my medal.

But the real treat was witnessing the more than 10,000 runners who ran the full 42K (26.2 mile) marathon. Although running the AUTHENTIC Athens Marathon (they call it the “authentic”, aka the “original”) is on many runners’ bucket lists, it is not as sexy or fun as one might imagine. First of all, you get bussed 26 miles to the outskirts of Athens to the rustic farming community near Marathon at 6 o’clock in the morning. There are no crowds, no music, no scenery. You wait around for two hours in the chilly weather until the race starts at 9 a.m. And then the first 18 miles of the running route back to Athens is uphill, which can be especially hard.

But I am guessing the excitement of completing a more than 25-year journey of running marathons, and knowing you are finally at the finish line—so to speak—kept Jack motivated and excited!

I waited at the finish line (inside the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium) for Jack until I saw him enter. I had been standing there for about an hour (his finish time was just 6 hours), and noticed that when some runners entered the stadium, their kids, grandkids and some family members somehow were running with the marathoners to the finish line. And then I discovered that the small area where I was standing had a movable “fence”—and after watching a few other people “sneak” onto the track (and they didn’t get arrested or bothered by the police)—I decided to make my break when Jack entered the arena.

As I stood there with my phone (camera) to catch a photo of him, I could see him looking for me in the stands (I had texted him that I was there) but he couldn’t find me. Until he saw me on the track! When he ran to where I was standing, I was able to run with him the last 100 yards or so to cross the finish line together. Talk about a feeling of elation!

Jack when he spotted me on the track in front of him.
Jack and I with our finisher medals.

As I reflect upon how I ended up running the Athens 10K and Jack running his 100th marathon, I can’t help but think about the importance of goal setting.  And how those goals can evolve over time. My first 5K was more than 20 years ago. One and done. I never thought I would be physically able to run a 10K, let alone four half marathons in the last 18 months. But, I put them on my annual goal list, starting in 2020, and then again in 2021. I knew to complete them, I would have to train on a regular basis. So, I started tracking my running and walking daily and monthly, and I am able to hold myself accountable for what I set out to do at the beginning of the year.

Jack ran his first marathon at age 46, with no goal in mind. He then entered and ran a few more marathons before he saw a fellow runner with a “Ran All 50 State Marathons” on a t-shirt. He caught up with the runner and asked him about it. The runner told him there is an online “tracker” where you can register your runs and become one of less than 1,000 runners who have completed marathons in all 50 states. So, he set that as a goal.

Jack completed his 50th state marathon in New Jersey a few years ago, along with completing marathons on all 7 continents (another goal).

Now, at age 72, he can finally cross those marathons off his bucket list.

Do you have a bucket list? How about an annual goals list (please do not call them new years’ resolutions). Does your goal list include fitness goals? As we enter December, you might be thinking about what you want to set as goals for yourself for 2022. Perhaps you might consider adding a few fitness goals. So many people put on their goal list how much weight they want to lose. And most of us lose enthusiasm for that within a month or two. What about shifting your focus to fitness?

How about weekly or monthly fitness goals? # of times you exercise each week. # of Peloton rides. Average resting heart rate. # of rounds of golf or tennis.  # of hours of sleep each night.

These are just some of the goals I have set for 2022. I’d love to hear what your goals are!

Karen

P.S. I was pleased to hear that the 100th marathon was Jack’s last. After a few weeks, Jack set a new goal for 2022: run a half marathon (13.2 miles) each week for the whole year! What a crazy (but fit) guy!