In past blogs, I have mentioned how my favorite books are biographies. I love people and peoples’ stories, so discovering the details and background on the lives of interesting people is a constant source of fascination and learning for me.

But, I am not an avid sports fan and I don’t follow any teams. And Boxing is the one sport that I am least interested in. The thought of people punching each other (many times in the head) with the objective of knocking them out, seems barbaric and ludicrous to me.

So, with this background, it may surprise you to learn that the latest book I read entitled “Sound and Fury” by Dave Kindred is the story of three-time world championship heavyweight boxer Mohammad Ali (aka Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) and newscaster Howard Cosell. Author Dave Kindred knew both Ali and Cosell, so he wrote the book as a compare-and-contrast study of the athlete and the sportscaster, alternating chapters in the book about each person. The two men interacted many times during Ali’s career and formed a special relationship of uncanny understanding.

Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell in 1992. Photo Credit…Marty Lederhandler/Associated Press

I listen to most books on Audible, and the narrator Dick Hill really enhanced this book, as he had an entertaining way of changing his voice to resemble Mohammad Ali’s deep, almost whisper-style, to the fast-talking, blustery, New York-accented Cosell.

If the name Howard Cosell doesn’t sound familiar (he passed away in 1995 at age 77), he is the guy who conceived of Monday Night Football! In his bright yellow jacket, he turned sports broadcasting into its own genre. An attorney by education, he switched to sports broadcasting as a career after he was asked to host a radio show on Little League in 1953. After a decade in radio, he moved to television. His most famous catchphrase was “I’m just telling it like it is!”

Mohammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) was quite a contrast to Cosell. In the book, you realize that Clay was born to be a boxer, as he started throwing punches and using his fancy footwork when he first started walking. He represented the USA at the Olympics, and at age 18 he was awarded the gold medal in light heavyweight boxing at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He then turned professional and changed his name to Mohammad Ali in 1964 (he became Muslim in 1961).

Surprisingly, he was an activist, being one of the few people who came out publicly against the war in Vietnam. At the time he was considered un-American, and was stripped of his boxing titles and his passport was taken away. In hindsight, it seems incredible that he stayed true to his beliefs and persisted. In one chapter of the book, when his case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, you learn the backstory of how the vote of the justices went from a 4-4 tie, to a 0-8 in favor of Ali! It’s such an amazing story.

“Float like a butterfly—sting like a bee” was his mantra. At the time, most fighters let their managers do the talking, but Ali was considered provocative and outlandish and spoke on his own behalf. He was known for “trash-talking” and often did freestyling rhyme schemes and spoken word poetry. On his Wikipedia page, there is reference to two Grammy nominations he received as a spoken-word artist (aka rapper).

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the 1980s (which some attribute to boxing-related injuries) but remained active as a public figure globally until his death in 2016 at age 74.

Here is my small world story. In the 1980s, I was flying from Chicago to Los Angeles. As I was sitting in flight, I kept hearing an odd noise. It sounded like a bee was buzzing near my head. When I turned around in my seat, I saw this husky black man, sitting directly behind me, rubbing his fingers together. I smiled at him. I think he may have said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” When we exited the plane, Mohammad Ali and his wife were rushed off to a waiting car, like all dignitaries are. It was a moment I will never forget.

I never realized how both men, with such different backgrounds, had a hand in changing the world of sports. Howard Cosell added an intellectual perspective to an otherwise blow-by-blow, rather mundane broadcast genre. And Mohammad Ali truly believed in world peace, in contrast to his chosen field of brutalist boxing.

Sound and Fury is an incredible story and definitely worth a read or listen.

Karen

Have you ever heard good news from a doctor that just made you take a deep breath and breathe a sigh of relief? Well that’s what happened to me last week. Before I tell you what the news was, I’d like to share the back story.

A few years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to get a stress test. You know the kind where the doctor (a cardiologist) puts you on a treadmill or a bicycle to test the health and functionality of your heart. I figured that since running a company was a stressful job (and I had always heard that public company executives had annual physicals), it would be a good idea for me to get a stress test to see how I was doing health-wise.

My regular doctor referred me to a cardiologist in my local community. When I went to his office for my first EKG and stress test, I realized quickly that he did not have a warm and friendly bedside manner. Ironically, being in his office seemed stressful to me. During my first visit, he proclaimed “you have high blood pressure!” I knew that I did not have high blood pressure, but it turns out I have “white coat syndrome” which means when I go to the doctor (and see someone in a white coat), my blood pressure goes up.

So, my first assignment from my doctor was to go home, go to Costco, buy a blood pressure cuff and test my blood pressure twice a day–morning and night. I was told to keep a log of the readings and return to his office in a month. Of course, my blood pressure turned out to be in the normal range, so he said I could come back in 12 months for another EKG and stress test.

The following year, he noticed that my cholesterol had edged up to over 200 (having a total cholesterol count less than 200 is most desirable and considered in the healthy range). I told him I had no interest in taking medication to lower my cholesterol (like many physicians that was his first suggestion). I asked him to tell me what actions I could take that did not involve prescription medication to lower my cholesterol.

He told me to exercise every single day. Eight days a week. He said I needed to do cardio exercise between 30 and 75 minutes each day, and keep my heart rate between 120-140 (based on my age). Then he told me to lower my animal protein intake and eat a plant-based diet to help me drop some excess weight. That wasn’t hard for me, as I have eaten a mostly plant-based diet for many years and regularly snack on Jicama, Watermelon Radish and Shishito Peppers which are all excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber. He told me to come back in six months.

It felt as if it was punishment to have to come back in six months, as it meant I would have to log my blood pressure for the two weeks before my visit so I could prove to the doctor that my blood pressure was in the normal range, just in case my “white coat syndrome” kicked in. And honestly, going to the doctor for a stress test was stressful!

The next time I went back, I reported that I had been diligently doing my daily exercise, but honestly, I never really pushed myself. I sweated a little bit, but I never totally hit my maximum potential. I hadn’t really lost any weight, and he once again suggested a solution would be to take medicine to lower my cholesterol. I told him I was really committed to lowering my cholesterol and improving my health. I asked him for any other suggestions. This time, he suggested I start doing intermittent fasting and reducing my total daily calorie intake.

Intermittent fasting. I had no idea how I was going to NOT eat when I got up in the morning and to hold off consuming any food until noon each day. But that’s what he told me to do, and he said scientific studies show this was incredibly effective.

I’ll never forget my kids’ reactions when I told them I was going to start intermittent fasting each day, only drinking water and black coffee until noon. “Good luck with that” was their exact comment.

What I learned is that the key to intermittent fasting is all mental. Instead of focusing on “no food,” I prepared myself by thinking about eating at 12 noon. I drank tons of water and made sure I kept myself very busy in the morning. Meetings and phone calls were my friends. It wasn’t hard to skip making breakfast in the morning, as that gave me an extra 20 minutes, and once I arrived at work, I kept myself so busy that the time flew by. I also found I wasn’t as hungry as I had been previously and I cut back on the amount of food I ate. Previously when I had embraced a plant-based (vegan) eating plan, I always felt hungry. This time I felt light and energetic.

And I really amped up my exercise regime. If you’ve been reading my blog for the last year, you know that my partner Jack is an exercise maniac. At age 72, he still runs 4-8 miles a day, rides the Peloton and the Concept 2 Rower at least once a day, does marathons, Ironman’s, etc. With him as my exercise partner, and quasi-fitness coach, I have been able to complete three half marathons in the last year, rode the Peloton and used the rower almost daily, in addition to resuming swimming laps as a form of regular exercise. I’m not totally plant-based with my meals, as I enjoy fish a few times a week (I’ve found I really do need that protein).

During the last year, since my last visit to the cardiologist, my body changed. I hadn’t really noticed anything until friends started commenting that I looked a lot thinner and more fit. Then I started to notice how my clothes were fitting differently, and when I looked at photos of myself during the last few months, I was surprised to see a thinner, more fit self.

So, back to the doctor I went last week. When I handed him my two-week log of my blood pressure when I walked in the office, I commented to him, “some days my blood pressure was really low … like 96/66 … I am kind of concerned. Plus my resting heart rate has gone from the low 70s to 58-60 bpm.” Dr. Rizi commented, “The lower, the better on your blood pressure! Don’t be worried about that.”

He gave me the EKG and stress test. When he walked in to give me the results, for the very first time he had a big smile on his face. He was pleased I had dropped about 12 pounds in the last year, my waist size was a lot smaller and that my EKG and stress test were amazing! His exact words were, “Everything is working perfectly! You couldn’t have better results.”

He then told me to come back in a year. I asked him, why do I need to come to see you every year? Several doctors I had spoken with questioned why I was continuing to get a stress test every year since my results had been normal. Dr. Rizi told me there are two philosophies. First, you can wait until you have a cardiac issue and then try to treat it. Or you can prophylactically get tested each year to monitor your heart health. I also think it’s a way to keep yourself honest—driving your mindset to success, since you are going to get tested each year.

When I left his office last week, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and satisfaction. I knew that the reason my results were so improved was that I had worked hard to exercise at least one hour every day (I track it daily). I pushed myself to sweat, made it a goal to do at least two forms of exercise a day (rower + Peloton, or rower + walk/run or, swim + rower, etc.). I also weigh myself every morning as a way to keep myself honest. When I’ve overindulged at dinner or had wine, I see it on the scale the next day, which forces me to be more diligent the following day.

As I reflect back on the last few years of seeing the cardiologist, I realize that optimal health is truly a combination of what you eat and how much you exercise. You cannot exercise yourself out of a poor diet. It’s a combination of food AND diet. And sleep of course. I’ve also managed my schedule to get an average of 8+ hours of sleep a night.

It’s a great feeling to have a good handle on my health and to know how to maintain it. How about you? Are you procrastinating going to the doctor to find out if you really are overweight? Or do you know your cholesterol or blood pressure are too high? Do you dread the thought of a doctor telling you what you already know deep inside? Get ahead of the game now. Start walking daily, even for 30 minutes at a time.

Take baby steps and try intermittent fasting—don’t eat until 10:00 a.m., then you can work up to not eating until noon. Cut back on your total calories consumed.

Believe me, the ability to take that deep breath, that sigh of relief, to know that you are in outstanding health is worth it!

Karen

There is a lot of talk about how the pandemic has changed consumer retail purchasing patterns. Consumers are far more likely to purchase groceries online (for either delivery or pick up) than they were pre-COVID. My dear friends Mary and Russ have not been in a grocery store in more than 13 months. Mary goes to the Ralphs website, orders her regular food staples including almond milk, coconut water and Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and she drives to her local market parking lot to pick up her bagged groceries. She doesn’t even get out of her car—she pops open her trunk and a porter puts them in for her.

Some retail grocers were prepared for this online shopping phenomenon, but most had to amp up their website, get updated images of their most popular product offerings, and some even outsourced this (pick-up and delivery) service to Instacart and other online shopping delivery services to quickly respond to the onslaught of consumer demand.

Now that many are vaccinated, some of my friends are venturing out to once again make purchases in person.

Last week I discovered how the car-buying business has evolved and about how shopping in a Nordstrom department store has changed. Some would say these changes stemmed from the desire for contactless shopping; others would say the process happened to remove roadblocks that consumers always hated.

Changes when purchasing a car: A friend told me that she went to purchase a vehicle and when she went to the finance “office” to do the financial paperwork, she was blown away that there was NO paper.

Not only was the entire transaction done via a screen, but the screen was actually the desk of the finance manager. You can see in these photos that the finance guy could not only have her sign each form with a stylus, but he could also write out personal messages and notes for her to see. Of course, the stylus was sanitized before given to her to sign, and she was able to pick and choose what extended warranties she wanted, then—in one click—her revised payment amount was updated. The dealer emailed the entire contract to her, making it far easier to send to her insurance company and to keep as a record—no more super long bill-of-sale forms that have to be stored in a file.

Changes in department store shopping: I took my daughter Sophia shopping for her 27th birthday last week. We had not been into a Nordstrom department store together in more than a year. As we were finishing up, I left her with my credit card to complete the sales transaction and I headed downstairs to buy some lipstick for myself.

Once I had selected what I wanted, I confessed to the sales associate that my Nordstrom credit card was upstairs with my daughter. She said, “That’s not an issue—here are quick and easy instructions to get a temporary QR code to use to charge on your account.”

Because my mobile number is associated with my account, I texted the message “Hi Nordstrom” to a number, they asked me via text for my zip code and date of birth and then I requested they “get my card” and I instantaneously got a QR code that I could use for purchases during the next 24 hours. It literally took less than 30 seconds. I was able to make my purchase without having my credit card in my possession.

QR Code Text Message
QR Code Text Message

If I were to identify one of the silver linings of the pandemic, it would be that businesses were forced quickly to embrace technology in ways they never imagined.

For example, I have my main credit card loaded on my iPhone wallet app, so I don’t have to carry a credit card and purse into the grocery store when I shop. I simply hold my phone next to the credit card reader and double click my iPhone and the purchase is automatically charged. Three of the four stores I frequent when shopping for food have updated technology to enable the use of this “wallet app.” You can imagine that the ease of purchase (and removal of obstacles) has helped me modify where I shop. These three stores make it more convenient when I shop.

My mom always said, “Technology is just amazing these days.”  I have to agree. Necessity is the mother of invention, and due to COVID lockdowns, many companies and organizations were forced to embrace technological change quickly.

Kudos to the automobile dealers, retail markets and department stores who have embraced technology.

What changes have you seen in your adventures that have happened in the last 12 months?

Karen

This past weekend a good friend came over for lunch at my house. Now that we are both vaccinated, it was nice to finally be able to hang out together, hug, and not wear masks. Somehow in the conversation she commented on how nice it was that we connect to each other so regularly.

I reluctantly told her how I was making sure we were staying connected.

Ever since COVID forced me and everyone else into this locked down, work-from-home-and-don’t-go-anywhere mode a year ago, I found myself feeling really isolated and disconnected from my friends. Prior to March of 2020 (which was when I coincidentally moved 45 miles south of my long-time residence), I attended several social events a month, plus setup dinners and lunches with friends on a regular basis.

All of that came to a screeching halt 13 months ago.

By the time December 2020 rolled around—as I was addressing my holiday cards—I realized how much I missed seeing my friends. Posting on Instagram and Facebook just wasn’t cutting it!

So, I took a page from my business life and started a quasi-project list.

On a piece of paper, I made a list of those friends and family who I consider my closest and dearest connections. (Disclaimer: I am an over-the-top extrovert, so my list includes around 25-30 people.) You can read more about that process . . . [Here]

Then, across the top of the page, I wrote the names of the months: January, February, March, etc. As I go through each month, I glance at the list and see how I’m doing about creating and maintaining a connection.

When I started in January, it was not until the end of the month that I glanced at the list. I did not have many “checks” on my list, so I immediately made a few phone calls, and sent a few texts. I put a bright red check by each persons’ name when I connected with them.

In February, I was better about glancing at my list earlier in the month and was reminded it was time to “check in” with some of my friends who I had not spoken with. At that time, only I was fully vaccinated, so I knew most of my friends would not be ready to meet in person.

But, by mid-March, I started sending texts and emails similar to this: “Hey! I am fully vaccinated, how about you? Would love to get together when you feel comfortable.” It was so fun to meet a friend at a nearby patio restaurant to have lunch together. Others told me when they would be fully vaccinated and we started planning for the day we would be able to meet up in person.

This past weekend was the first time I had a friend come to my house! The night before, we had dinner with two other couples at a friend’s home.

It was like old times.

How is it going for you? Are you fully vaccinated? Or is that date coming soon? Are you wondering how best to approach your friends and family who might be hesitant to get together after a year of being isolated? I found that a text message suggesting you are ready “when they are comfortable” is a gentle way to nudge someone. Not too pushy, but suggestive.

So, make a list.  After a year of not seeing people in person, you may need the reminder to meet up with those “regular connection” people. Or the folks you are just jonesing to see.

My goal is to set up one or two in-person meetings each week, plus phone calls. Maybe we start with a during-the-week lunch with a friend near the office, and then brunch or dinner on the weekend with someone who lives closer to my home. It’s like I am easing back into my normal social life.

I know it may sound a little too businesslike to make reconnecting with your family and friends a project. But I found it actually made me feel more comfortable … and more connected.

Reconnecting with those closest to you can be the anecdote to feeling isolated and fearful. Let me know how it goes for you!

Karen

Okay, so maybe I am a little prejudiced, but when a well-published children’s book author contacted me three years ago and said she planned to write a book about my mom, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, I was so excited! I’ve always found kids are fascinated (and grateful) when they discover that it was my mom who is credited with introducing kiwifruit to America in 1962. Honestly, who can imagine a world before kiwifruit?

Here’s how it happened. About three years ago, Mara Rockliff—an author of more than 75 children’s books—sent an ordinary email to our company. Mara had taken a trip to Israel organized by the nonprofit PJ Library for children’s authors and illustrators, and she was inspired to think about Jewish subjects she might write about. When she got back, she dug around and found an amazing resource called the “Jewish Women’s Archive,” and decided to scroll through the listing alphabetically. There are hundreds of women listed, so thank goodness my mom was listed under “Caplan”… near the front of the alpha listing. As luck would have it, the photo image under my mom’s listing was a green kiwifruit slice, not an image of her face like most everyone else’s!

That spurred Mara to research Frieda a bit more, and in the end, Frieda’s story was too intriguing to pass up! See more of why Mara decided to write the book here: Just Try It: An Interview with Mara Rockliff

As you can imagine, we get dozens of email inquiries every week through our website, mostly from consumers. I’ve always told our team that we treat every inquiry with equal importance. It didn’t take long for the message to make its way from our marketing team to me, and I immediately sent Mara an email.

From that moment on, Mara and I exchanged close to a dozen emails with her asking me all sorts of questions over the next 12 months. For instance:

So, in early February it was with great joy that I received a large box containing two copies of “TRY IT! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat.” The book was completed in early 2020 and was finally published in hardcover format on January 12, 2021, by Beach Lane Books, a subsidiary of the huge publishing entity Simon & Schuster.

Book Cover: Simon & Schuster Try-It! by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Giselle Potter

As I paged through the book and saw the hand-painted illustrations by Giselle Potter of my mom always in a purple dress (which is exactly how she dressed), talking with a buyer about a flat of brown, fuzzy kiwifruit—I got chills. There were pages loaded with images of her discoveries (like mangosteen in 2008, habanero peppers in 1990 and dragonfruit in 1994). Unreal!

Frieda “feeling it in her elbows”

 

Mom at the L.A. Produce Market in the early days

To have my mom recognized by a complete industry outsider for her amazing contributions to changing the way America eats was mind boggling, and so gratifying. I never had a chance to tell mom about the book, as I wanted to surprise her with it after it was actually published. As you know, my mom passed away 14 months ago.

But as my sister Jackie and my eldest daughter Alex looked at the newly minted book, we knew exactly what mom would have wanted us to do.

And that is, to share the great news of this book during the week of our company anniversary. And that’s exactly why I have waited until this week to announce it.

This week, on April 2, we will be celebrating our 59th company anniversary! And what better way to celebrate than to tell all our friends about this amazing children’s book?

Because we think it is such a great story—full of inspiration for all ages, but especially for young children, we want to make sure it is a #1 best seller! There are many places you can purchase the book online, but because we want to make it an Amazon #1 best seller, we are asking all our friends to help us accomplish this by purchasing the book at the exact same day and time (this will help the algorithm recognize the book and push it to the top of the list!) I learned this technique from a book author who has had three Amazon #1 best sellers!

So, if you are so inclined, please click this link Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat and purchase one or more copies of “TRY IT!” On Friday, April 2, at 9:00 a.m. PST (or 12:00 p.m. EST).

This book is not only a great tribute to the first lady of produce, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, but it is a great way to introduce a new generation of young kids to some of the weirdest looking fruits and veggies—dragonfruit, mangosteen, fresh lychee, starfruit, donut peaches, green cauliflower and purple asparagus.

When you receive your copy and read through it, I’m hoping you will get the same chills that Jackie, Alex and I got. It’s a fitting tribute to share with you on our company anniversary! And, in keeping with company tradition, know that we will be celebrating our anniversary the same way we do every year—by gathering our employees all together (physically distanced) and handing out purple-frosted cupcakes!

Me, Mom and Alex celebrated our company anniversary a few years ago – with purple frosted cupcakes!

The book has already received rave reviews and is the perfect way to inspire the little ones in your life. For more information, please visit: Simon & Schuster Try-It! by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Giselle Potter and TRY IT! for yourself!

Enjoy and happy reading!

Karen

 

Reminder, if you are so inclined, please click this link Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat and purchase one or more copies of “TRY IT!” On Friday, April 2, at 9:00 a.m. PST (or 12:00 p.m. EST) and help us make this book an Amazon #1 best seller.

Last week we went on a long-planned mini-vacation to northern California. Because our drive to Carmel was a long one (350 miles), we had to borrow a gas-powered car to make the drive (another unintended consequence of purchasing an all-electric car, is that my car’s range is only 200 miles before it requires a 12-hour charge).

The trip didn’t start as a “vacation” … my partner Jack had three speaking gigs (two virtual and one live) in the Monterey area, and we decided to add a few days to the trip and play several rounds of golf. So we packed up our golf clubs and road trip snacks (Kumquats being my go to) and hit the road!

About four years ago I purchased a set of golf clubs and started taking lessons. I blogged about “The Zen of Golf” and shared some of the lessons I learned. One of the silver linings of COVID in 2020 was that playing golf outdoors was one of the few things that did not stop during the various “lockdowns,” so about six months ago, I decided to make the time to get better at golf. Jack and I golf once a week, plus I have taken a few more lessons from our local golf pro.

So now I had the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone (which includes playing only on my home course each week) to play golf at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links in Carmel, CA. To say I was a bit nervous/excited/apprehensive would be an understatement.

Pebble Beach is one of several courses in the area that is rated quite difficult and, of course, is where the legendary AT&T Pro-am Golf Tournament takes place every year. The grounds are stunningly beautiful with many holes overlooking the gorgeous California coast.

We watched the weather forecast before we left for our road trip. We had planned to play four rounds of golf while we were in Carmel, so it was concerning that rain was in the forecast. I kept a positive attitude the entire time, hoping my positive “weather karma” would help chase away those clouds and showers.

Unfortunately, my weather karma did not work.

When we got in the car on Thursday at noon to drive to Pebble Beach, it was drizzling intermittently. “Maybe it will stop” was what I kept thinking. No such luck. The drizzle continued. And there was no rescheduling our round of golf to another (rain free) day … we were told that it would be impossible to find another tee time on such short notice.

So, I sucked it up and donned four layers of clothing (the temperature was hovering around 50 degrees all day) and a golf hat.

As I look back on that four-and-a-half-hour round of golf, there were many positives:

1. We got to play as a twosome, which is much faster than a foursome.
2. Because of the almost torrential rain, everyone in front of us was playing fast, so there wasn’t a lot of waiting between holes.
3. I actually shot par (a three) on Hole #7! Here are a couple of photos, so you can see how small the target green was … and if I had overshot or undershot, I would have been in big trouble! I feel like I have bragging rights for that par 3!

Karen at Hole #7 – Target Green
Karen Celebrating Par 3 at Hole #7 – Bragging Rights

And I learned a few lessons during that round, too:

1. Even though I was soaked to the bone, I was forced to not quit early. Unlike most courses, once you start on Hole #1 at Pebble Beach you do not end up near the clubhouse until you finish Hole #18. In my head, I was thinking we might stop after Hole #9 … but we were so far away from the clubhouse that we had to continue. Has that ever happened to you? You want to quit after starting something, but you can’t, as you are far away from your home base. It reminds me of the first time I soloed as a pilot in a Cessna 152 … once I was in the air by myself, I had to stick with it and concentrate, as I could not quit (even though I was super nervous), until I landed the plane.

2. I got better at using the clubs I hate. Like the sand wedge. I used to dread hitting a golf ball and having it land in a sand trap (aka “bunker”). But, I got significantly better that day getting out of a bunker and onto the green because I had lots of practice. Have you noticed that happens to you, too? Maybe you’re not great at a certain skill, but as they say, “practice makes progress.” We all get better with practice.

Karen in the “bunker”— Practice Makes Progress

3. Due to the constant drizzle, my hands and clubs got wet. Several times while I was swinging the club, it slipped in my hand, sending the ball in a direction I did not want. What I learned was the importance of having a dry towel handy, a spare glove or two in my bag, and planning my club needs in advance of getting out of the cart. Do you ever show up to a meeting and realize you forgot something important that you need in your presentation? How do you prevent that? You visualize the situation in advance and role play, which allows you to anticipate your needs and how the meeting will go. Of course, I brought lots of extra golf balls with me, but I never thought about packing an extra golf glove in my bag.

Golfing in the rain definitely taught me contingency planning, the importance of regular practice and the benefit of self-determination. It also taught me to appreciate the beauty of a situation, even if it is not exactly what I had expected. The lush green fairways and the pounding waves of the ocean were dramatic and breathtaking. If I had been only worrying about my score, I would have missed all of that.
So next time you are in a situation that is not exactly what you expected or planned for, take a deep breath and find something to appreciate! Your attitude can make all the difference in the world. And, who knows, you may find a silver lining.

Karen

Jack & me at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links Carmel, CA – Silver Linings

 

Who would ever have thought the primary topic of conversation with friends, family members and strangers would be: Have you been vaccinated yet? I actually chuckle internally every time I ask someone this question. It seems so personal, yet—despite all the federal legislation (i.e. HIPAA laws) meant to protect our medical information from being shared freely and publicly—everyone is talking about it.

And then, of course, the next question is, “Moderna or Pfizer?” And now, Johnson & Johnson has their vaccine approved, so I am guessing the conversation will change again.

The challenge for some of us is securing an appointment to get the first (and second) shots. We had planned to go to Hawaii last October, but due to a snafu at our local (Hawaii travel-approved) drug store where we had our COVID test scheduled, we had to cancel our planned vacation. So, I have been paying close attention to the news and social media to see how successful my friends have been in getting their vaccines.

As luck would have it, two months ago, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of her 75-year-old mother getting her first vaccine at Planned Parenthood here in Orange County, California. I know that Planned Parenthood is well-known for providing affordable health care services for women and men, but I had no idea they were delivering vaccines. So, I texted my friend, and it turned out that Planned Parenthood was giving vaccines to a small group of staff, board members, etc. Since they provide health care services that made sense to me, just like other health care workers would have priority access to the vaccine. Well, due to my persistence and interest, I was able to get an access code for Jack and me to get vaccinated a few days later at our local Planned Parenthood.

I have to say, it was invigorating to have an access code, and I almost couldn’t sleep the night before in anticipation. Our first vaccine was on Sunday January 31, and—besides a slightly sore arm—there were no immediate side effects. However, I did sense a bit more fatigue during the following week, but it could be that I have been working out a lot lately and didn’t take a break when we received our shots.

(Jack and me after getting our first vaccine)

Four weeks later we received a text reminder of our appointment for our second vaccine. Like most people, I had read mixed messages about the potential for a reaction to the second shot. Most people (whether the vaccine was from Moderna or Pfizer) said they only had a slightly sore arm after the first vaccine and then it was a split reaction after the second. You either had NO reaction, or you got the chills and a fever and spent a day resting in bed.

Having no idea how we would react, both Jack and I cleared our calendar for the day after our second vaccines. As luck would have it, Jack had no reaction at all. No soreness, no fatigue, nothing. And me? Even though I set my mind that I would have no reaction, I got progressively colder and colder about 3 hours after my second shot, and I was pretty lethargic that evening. I went to bed early, and found myself with a slight fever all night (around 100 degrees). I took it easy the next day, staying in bed and sleeping, and at about 3 p.m. I got up and took a shower. By 6 p.m. (32 hours after the shot), I felt completely normal!

I spoke to many, many friends who had Moderna like we did, and also to those who had the Pfizer vaccine. There was no consistency in how people physically reacted to their second vaccine. Except that everyone had a sense of relief! Being vaccinated makes it feel like you’re one step closer to getting back to a “normal” life.

So here is my advice to you, if you have not yet arranged to get vaccinated:

  1. The science is clear. Getting vaccinated will protect you from severe COVID-19. There is no guarantee that you won’t get the virus, but if you do, it should be extremely mild.
  2. Be persistent in signing up to get vaccinated. If you are waiting for someone to call you and let you know you can get it, you will likely be waiting a very long time. Longer than is necessary. Do a search on the Internet for your county. Here in So Cal, there are many ways to sign up. But if you don’t spend at least 30-45 minutes online doing a search, you will be last in line.
  3. Check with your employer or your health care provider to see if they can assist you in getting an access code or priority access. Being persistent and diligent helps! (Several of my co-workers successfully helped each other find ways to sign up, even though they are younger than 65.)
  4. Tell everyone you know once you are vaccinated! Spreading the good news, whether by posting photos on social media or just having conversations, lets other people know they can feel confident to do the same. Confidence creates more confidence!

One of the best sources of rational and accurate information I have received has been from a blog/newsletter written by Dr. Lucy Miller McBride, an internal medicine doctor based in Washington, D.C. She is upbeat, realistic and always has the most current information, based on facts and science. You can visit her website here . . . Lucy McBride, MD. I encourage you to sign up for her newsletter.

I’m looking forward to traveling and entertaining and going back to more normal times! Feel free to share your vaccination story with me!

Karen

You may remember the feature film The Social Network, which came out in 2010 and told the story of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg. It seemed to glamorize the genesis of this social media behemoth.

Fast forward to 2020. At about the same time as the U.S. Congress was holding hearings with the CEOs of Facebook, Google (Alphabet), and Twitter—exploring their near domination of the social media world, including accusations of influencing political elections and manipulation—comes a full-length documentary called The Social Dilemma. This film features a look behind the curtains of Facebook and all social media platforms. What a difference a decade has made!

I first learned about this Netflix documentary through my friend Laurie David, who was one of the executive producers of the film. You may recognize her name, as she also produced An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 (the first film exposing and warning us about global warming and climate change) and she teamed up with news anchor Katie Couric to produce Fed Up, about the causes of obesity in the United States. Laurie clearly is passionate about educating and opening the eyes of consumers to societal and global challenges. And when Laurie speaks, or is involved in a cause, people listen.

I felt so fortunate to have been invited to a Zoom session last week that Laurie hosted featuring The Social Dilemma’s director, Jeff Orlowski and Tristan Harris (featured prominently in the documentary). We were all asked to watch the film before the session.

So, a few weeks ago, Jack and I opened our Netflix account and launched The Social Dilemma. That’s after we had both spent time that evening doing what we always do after dinner: holding our smart phones and checking our Facebook feed, Instagram stories and connections through LinkedIn. Frankly, I didn’t exactly know what the documentary was about, but Laurie and another friend Miriam both told me it would change my view of social media. So, we set our iPhones down on the table and tuned in.

Do you ever wonder why you get certain emails letting you know that someone tagged you on Facebook? Are you someone who can’t wake up or go to sleep without first checking your Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest feed just one more time? Do you find yourself feeling strangely addicted to scrolling through posts, spending minutes and sometimes hours a day doing so? There is evidence presented in the film on why you feel that way! And it’s not a pretty story.

The essence of the film presents real-life examples of the purposeful, manipulative effects of social media. They show a young teen girl who posted a selfie. Someone commented on the size of her ears, and you could see her ease into a depressive state. Another young man received (unsolicited and ongoing) targeted Facebook posts featuring ongoing messages of hate, paranoia and racism—so much so, that he felt compelled to attend a local rally and ended up being arrested. (The scary thing is, he was in disbelief about what had happened, as he didn’t realize how he ended up going to it.)

The film was eye-opening in terms of how much social media channels like Facebook, etc., know about you, manipulate you and eventually can impact your beliefs and behaviors. They interviewed dozens of people for the film who formerly worked for firms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Google, plus educators and researchers from prestigious universities like Harvard, along with social psychologists.

If you are a parent or grandparent, I highly, highly recommend you watch the film. Even better, watch it with your kids and grandkids. Have a conversation about addictive behavior and social media.

Thirty-six-year-old forward-thinker Tristan Harris is considered the conscience of Silicon Valley. He is president and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. Earlier, he worked as a design ethicist at Google and received a degree from Stanford University where he studied the ethics of human persuasion. He has given two TED talks. You can check them out [Here]—it will really get you thinking. He was one of the people featured in the film and it was amazing to hear his candid insights and thoughts “live” in addition to having seen him in the film.

The 37-year-old producer Jeff Orlowski, who directed and produced the film, actually referred to the effects of social media manipulation as “the climate change of culture.” He has produced other films, including the Emmy-award winning documentary Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral (about the effects of climate change).

So, if you’re wondering if my thoughts are just one lone opinion, it might be reassuring to know that The Social Dilemma was the #1 most viewed film on Netflix in September 2020 and the #2 viewed film of all time! Clearly there is something significantly eye-opening and worthwhile about this film.

Click here to watch the movie trailer: Social Dilemma Trailer

I hope you will watch the trailer and then the film. I would love to know what you think about the damaging societal impact of social media and what changes you are going to make in your behavior.

By the way, both Jeff and Tristan were highly positive and optimistic about the future and feel that openly sharing information about current social media will wake people up and will force change that will produce a healthier society. That made me feel very optimistic and happy!

Karen

P.S. Today is National Day of Unplugging. This awareness campaign elevates the human connection by promoting a 24-hour break from technology to inspire healthy living and tech balance. Will you accept the challenge?

“Connecting & communicating in the time of COVID-19.” This was the title of a flyer I received from my Temple a few weeks ago. Like most people, I have not been in person to a church, a temple or any kind of religious service for a year due to COVID restrictions. Our temple has done what most religious organizations have done and that is rely on Zoom to hold services, events, etc. I’ve even attended a funeral via Zoom.

When I received this webinar flyer, I felt a special connection: the speaker, Dr. Lois Abrams, is a lifelong friend—a psychotherapist who helped me through some of my darkest divorce moments and actually encouraged my youngest daughter Sophia to pursue HER dream to become a marriage and family therapist (Sophia will graduate in 10 weeks with a master’s degree).

So, last Thursday evening, I attended the virtual program with Lois speaking. The content was particularly relevant, so I wanted to share some of the insights with you. And, thankfully, Lois interspersed a bit of humor into the evening, which made it a lighter conversation.

As you can probably guess, Lois uses dogs as part of her therapy practice. I believe she was one of the first therapists to use animals to help treat patients and she has spoken across the country and personally trained many therapists on how therapy dogs can assist in identification, treatment and recovery.

So, now to the topic of the evening: COVID. First Lois acknowledged the cultural, gender and age differences in reactions to the pandemic. It may come as a surprise to learn that everyone does not react the same to the situation. There are proven racial differences, gender differences and, as far as age goes, some of the youngest children do the best with mask wearing. In contrast, high school and college students may feel cheated out of their educational experiences of the rites of passage and, as we’ve seen, may not believe that fraternity and sorority parties are not really the best idea (as these events can become “super spreaders” for COVID).

Lois called COVID-19 the “emotional pandemic.” Most of us when we watch the news are aware of the physical effects (illness, hospitalization, recovery and sometimes death), but have we acknowledged the emotional effects of isolation and feelings of abandonment? One of the most significant effects of the pandemic has been the large numbers of people who are experiencing significant depression. I have several friends who have mentioned to me their own friends and family who are suffering from COVID-induced depression. The effects are real.

Have you ever thought about the similarities between the pandemic and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)? Is the reaction we are seeing from many people during COVID similar to symptoms of PTSD?

*Isolation

*Feeling overwhelmed

*Moody

*Irritable

*Sleep issues

*Fears

*Overeating and not eating

*Drinking in excess

*Intrusive thoughts and images

*Blaming others

*Nightmares

*Heightened or lowered alertness

*Guilt

*Anxiety

*Agitation

Lois said that these are all normal reactions to an abnormal situation when we feel anxious, depressed or frustrated.

So then, Lois turned to what YOU can do during COVID—for yourself. Like with any circumstance, you can let things happen, or you can take control and make things happen! Here are a few of her suggestions about simple actions you can take to help you, or your loved one, deal with the reactions to the isolation and loneliness felt from COVID.

*Journal writing—you can write both about frustrations and gratitude. I hear a lot about expressing gratitude … but how about being “real” and also acknowledging the frustrations? I have found that once you talk about them out loud, they actually seem to subside.

*What about writing letters to family and friends? I certainly have started doing this, and I believe a handwritten and addressed note, in my own handwriting, shows I am sending “love and caring” to someone. How about writing one handwritten card a week? That’s a good start.

*Talk on the phone with family or friends. Pre-COVID, we never had enough time in the day to call friends … well, now we do! Try it! I know that I have started to do this more often, and I have found it to be quite enjoyable.

*It’s okay to send text messages as a way to check in with friends, clients or family. If you don’t feel like writing a letter or calling them, a quick text lets them know you are thinking about them.

*Facetime is a great tool. (My two daughters and I used Facetime so we could be together all eight nights of Hanukkah in December … it was amazing!)

*Self talk—sometimes it’s helpful to talk to yourself out loud, perhaps when you are in the car, or in the bathroom by yourself.

*Spiritual Prayer—prayer or meditation is very personal and can be quite grounding. Perhaps using some quiet time to reduce stress may be helpful.

*Playing music—try listening to or playing calming music or your favorites. My mom Frieda always had classical music blaring inside her house. When I was younger, I was annoyed by that. Now I find that hearing music while I am inside my house grounds me and makes me feel less lonely, even when I am alone.

On a more physical note, Lois also talked about the importance of getting physical … exercising and gardening (being outdoors). Doing physical exercise stimulates endorphins in your system which makes you feel better! It’s not just the burning of calories we’re talking about here—it’s creating positivity with movement.

And of course, she emphasized that the simple act of petting a dog or cat is proven to lower your blood pressure (and stress). No wonder that adopt-a-pet and rescue organizations have seen increased interest in their services! Believe it or not, some places in the U.S. have no pets to adopt—they ran out!

So, until we are all vaccinated and are free to visit our closest friends and family members, I hope my friend Dr. Lois Abrams’ advice resonates with you in some way. I can say that I am 100% positive that my own increase in exercise level during COVID has helped me greatly in feeling positive and not so isolated. And hand writing notes (108 written so far this year) to family, friends and business colleagues has become a new habit that I actually love!

Remember that old saying: Don’t worry—be happy!

Karen

So, in case you haven’t heard, having the name “Karen” is not necessarily a good thing these days. I’m sure my parents had no idea that choosing “Karen” as my first name would be an issue in future years. Apparently (according to Urban Dictionary) the definition of a “Karen”:

This new pop culture label actually got a write up on Newsweek.com last May What Is a ‘Karen’? If Somebody’s Called You One Chances Are You Spoke to Their Manager. The article refers to another website “Know Your Meme” and says the term can be used to describe someone “characterized as an irritating, entitled woman, sometimes an ex-wife who took custody of “the kids.” Basically, calling someone a “Karen” is a gentle way of reminding them that they are a b**ch!

And, if that wasn’t enough, if you watched the Super Bowl two weeks ago and viewed the M&M’S Super Bowl Commercial “Come together” . . . you saw that my name was featured in their 30-second spot:

When I first heard the term, I laughed it off. In fact, I never even researched what “being a Karen” meant until after the Super Bowl ad, when a friend thought it might be a good blogpost. These “funny” not so funny Karen memes and references have absolutely blown up on social media and are making life problematic for some people actually named Karen. None of this pop culture phenom really bothers me. I’m confident in who I am and what I do, but it is setting a bad example and Name Calling is never ok.

According to a September 9, 2020, article in the Huffington Post:

Nameberry co-founder and CEO Pamela Redmond told People in July that she felt “sure” that “Karen is going to become one of those names that no parent wants to give their child.” Names associated with controversial figures and events often fall in popularity, which is why there aren’t many young Adolfs or Katrinas in preschool classes these days.

But this isn’t always the case, according to Bellevue University psychology professor and former president of the American Name Society Cleveland K. Evans. He told the Associated Press in 2007 that publicity around a particular name, whether positive or negative, usually boosts its popularity.

So will we actually see a rise in the number of newborn Karens in 2020? We’ll have to wait until the SSA releases the data next year.”

The popularity of my first name has been dropping since it peaked in popularity in 1965 when it was the third most popular name for baby girls. As you can see, in 2019 it dropped to number 660 as a popular name:

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

I guess we will have to wait and see what happens in the naming game…

Do yourself and your favorite Karen a favor: remember that not every Karen is “a Karen” and take a moment to send your favorite Karen a virtual hug today. Meanwhile, you can call me Karen!

Karen

If you recall, my list of goals for 2020 included reading 40 books for the year. It was amazing to me that I sailed right through that goal and achieved 52 books! That’s an average of one a week. It really helps that I can listen to most books while I walk by having the Audible app loaded on my mobile phone. And, now that I have long drives to and from work, I listen to books in the car. (Hint: With Audible, you can increase the speed of the book. On some books, I can listen to them at 2X speed, meaning a 10-hour book only takes five hours to listen to. Sometimes, I can only listen at 1.6X speed—it really depends on who is narrating the book and how understandable their diction is at such a fast speed.)

My first month of this year, I was a bit of an overachiever. I completed 10 books! Now that you know my secret of listening to books at 2X speed, you realize how I am able to get through so many books. It’s not a contest for me, but rather I find it really enriches my life. My favorite books are either autobiographies, biographies, or history books. Some of my favorites from January include “Mrs. Kennedy and Me” (authored by Clint Hill, the secret service agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy when her husband became President) and “Leadership in Turbulent Times” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which highlights the leadership lessons and connections of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson. I highly recommend both books, and if you are in a book club, they would make for fabulous discussion.

This month, as you know, is Black History Month, and at first it seemed like a coincidence that the first book I chose to listen to in February was “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson.

I had downloaded it last month, along with the two books I mentioned above, as a dear friend recommended all three books to me. The 14-hour length was a bit intimidating, but as soon as I started the book, I realized why it has been named the No. 1 Nonfiction Book of the Year by Time Magazine, was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks, and was longlisted for the national book award. It is personal, it is serious, and it is a historical recounting of the powerful caste system that influences peoples’ lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. It was eye-opening, as Ms. Wilkerson linked the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany. Because of my Jewish heritage, it felt more personal to read about how the Nazi’s studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-casting of the Jews.

If you want to have a better understanding of the roots of the Black Lives Matter movement, why tensions are so high about voter rights, and various other political and emotional issues, I highly recommend this deeply researched book.

My second book was “It Worked for Me” by retired General Colin Powell. My favorite books are those which are read by the author, and General Powell read the book. I did NOT read it at 2X the speed, as I wanted to enjoy his voice and to hear him tell his stories. He recounted his 13 Rules of Life and the story behind them. The best part was the epilogue of the book, during which General Powell told the story of reading a story to his grandson while being recorded for a television show. He wrote the book to feel like a personal story and it was very authentic.

General Colin Powell's 13 Rules

Now I am on to my third book of the month. By now I have set a goal to read about Black history or books authored by Black writers in February, and after much research I chose “My Life, My Love, My Legacy” by Coretta Scott King, the widow of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It has been wonderful to read about how they met, how Dr. King fell instantly in love with Coretta, how they were truly soulmates, and the birth of their four children. I was a young girl when Dr. King was gunned down and murdered in Memphis, TN, at the age of 39. I learned that at the age of 35 he was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a leader of the American Civil Rights movement, but, more notably, that he took his ideals not only from Christianity, but also from the operational techniques of Gandhi (the recognized, non-elected leader of India). I have not yet finished the book, but it is incredible to learn about the strength and conviction of Mrs. King, even after the death of her husband left her with four young children. She died of ovarian cancer in 2006 at the age of 78 after successfully establishing The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, GA. Visiting The King Center is now on my bucket list.

How about you? What are you reading these days? Why not use the rest of this month to learn more about Black History? Next month is Women’s History Month … I’m already making my list!

Karen

Even I, the most non-sports-oriented person on the planet, know that this weekend is SUPER BOWL LV. And that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are facing the Kansas City Chiefs. And that an even bigger story is the tale of the two quarterbacks. Tom Brady, age 43, of Tampa Bay will face Patrick Mahomes, age 25, of Kansas City. That’s an amazing and kind of crazy match up in itself, if you think about it.

But I want to share the back story on how I know the guy who authored, “12 Lessons in Business Leadership; Insights from the Championship Career of Tom Brady.” Yes, if you are wondering how Tom Brady led his team to multiple wins and the 10th SUPER BOWL of his career, this book probably has the answers for you.

The guy who wrote the book is Kevin Daum. You may recognize his name, as he has penned more than 1,000 articles for Inc. Magazine. He is an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University in New York at the Gabelli School of Business. Because he is not an over achiever, he also does podcasts (10 Minute Tips from the TOP) and serves as a coach for people needing marketing and business advice. This is his sixth book. I asked Kevin what’s his “superpower”—the secret to his success as a writer and teacher. He told me that he is good at taking complex subjects and making them simple.

That’s probably why the publisher Skyhorse Publishing called him a few years ago and said, “Hey Kevin, we think there is a story here on leadership lessons and Tom Brady. Would you write a book about that?” (Frankly, that was not the answer I expected when I called Kevin earlier this week to find out the back story on his book featuring Tom Brady.)

I’ve always heard that most sports teams are run better than most companies, notes the foreword of his book. Because they have a Playbook, they Practice and they have a Professional Coach.* So, Kevin (and co-author and collaborator Anne Mary Ciminelli) set out to uncover what the secret lessons were from Tom Brady’s unquestioned success. But the most interesting thing about this book is that Kevin and Anne Mary did NOT speak to Tom Brady! They actually chose to review all the public information on Brady and his style, and then they validated their conclusions by consulting some well-respected business coaches and owners.

Because they are using public information and are writing “about” Tom Brady, they did not have to talk to Brady, nor did they have to get his permission before writing the book. Which, IMHO, makes the book more authentic; there is no autobiographical spin.

What are Tom Brady’s 12 Lessons in Business Leadership?

  1. Creating A Winning Playbook
  2. Make Time Your Ally
  3. Lead Through Each And Every Moment
  4. Meetings Are A Championship Tool
  5. Empower The Team And Hold Them Accountable
  6. Always Prepare For Crisis
  7. Trust Is the Twelfth Man
  8. Elevate Everyone
  9. Talk To People Where They Are
  10. Executing Team Success
  11. Attitude Is Everything
  12. Live The Image

I asked Kevin what he thought Tom Brady’s superpower was. He thought deeply, and said there are two:  Attitude and he talks to people where they are.

So, if this book sounds of interest to you and you want to order it, I would ask that you wait until Friday, February 5 at 12:00 p.m. PT/ 3 p.m. ET to order it on Amazon—because I want to support my friend Kevin in making his book an Amazon #1 bestseller! How do you do that? By reaching out into your network and all your friends’ networks and asking them all to make their purchase at the very same time. This causes a spike in demand, pushing the book to the top of the list!

The publisher of the book, along with all of Kevin’s clients, followers and friends are all asking that we make that purchase at the same time:  Friday, February 5 at 12:00 p.m. PT/ 3:00 p.m. ET. Here is the link again:  12 Lessons in Business Leadership; Insights from the Championship Career of Tom Brady

Book Cover Image - 12 Lessons in Business Leadership Cover

 

So on Sunday, while I am watching the Super Bowl, cozying up with some delicious fresh jackfruit chili, I will be thinking about the difference a great leader makes in the success of his/her team. I will be thinking about having a playbook, talking to people where they are and empowering the team and holding them accountable.

And I will be thinking about my friend Kevin and his co-author Anne Mary, and wondering if they will be studying Tom Brady’s moves on the field and in the locker room.

Karen

P.S. I promised to share how I know Kevin. Well, Kevin is business colleague of my partner Jack, and our first date in 2019 was to take a hike up a huge mountain in San Diego County with Kevin and his wife Van. We spent the weekend with them, and that’s when I got to witness what a smart guy Kevin is.

*The quotes above are taken from the foreword of the book, which was written by Jack.

Jack, Karen, Kevin and Van ready to start their hike up Potato Chip Rock.

 

A few months ago, just days before my big birthday (the one that makes me eligible to get vaccinated later this week), Jack and I went to test drive a car. My car lease was expiring in a few months and I thought it would be fun to test drive a car model that I had never driven before. I wanted a fast car and a sedan.

So, Jack convinced me to test drive a Jaguar. I’ve never had a Jaguar, and they have a cool-sounding name, so I thought it would be a fun afternoon. We met at the Jaguar dealership on my way home from work one day in late October. Jack had already selected the car he thought I would enjoy driving. We hopped into the car—me in the driver’s seat, Jack next to me, and the sales guy in the back. Yes, we were all masked up!

That car was fast. Like a rocket! I loved it. It was after I floored it and was going 80 mph within seconds that the sales guy told me it was an all-electric vehicle. Not a hybrid—a 100% electric car. A Jaguar i-Pace.

The whole evening went by so fast—the excitement of driving a super-fast all-electric car was so mesmerizing that I decided on the spot to trade in my Lexus and get the Jaguar. It was like an early birthday present to myself (I took delivery the day before my birthday).

Here’s what’s interesting. The car salesman only asked me one question that evening of my purchase: what color did I want? That made me assume that every vehicle had the same features, with the only difference being the color. He didn’t ask me a single question about my driving habits. For example, he could have asked me, do you drive long distances because this i-Pace only has a distance range of 210 miles? Nope—he didn’t ask me that, and if he did, he would’ve discovered my round-trip drive to work is 100 miles, and if I go up to see my daughter in L.A. it is a round trip of over 150 miles.

Or, have you thought about how you are going to charge the car? Will you install a car charging contraption in your garage (at a cost of nearly $1,000) to charge your car, or do you plan to locate and then charge your car at a ChargePoint station, where there’s a fee per kilowatt every time you charge? And, of course, he could’ve said: you will need to download the ChargePoint app to locate charging stations along the freeway, in case you need to charge your car when you are “out and about.”

Or, my favorite question he did not ask, is it important to you that your trunk pop open when you click your car fob for when your hands are full of packages? Nope, he did not ask that question either.

Can you tell that I am still a bit annoyed by this whole experience? As I have reflected on my car purchase over the last three months, what bothers me most (besides the fact that I made a hasty decision) was that the salesperson did not ask me a single question. He seemed so anxious to make a one-time sale that he didn’t take the time to find out what was important to me. And because of that, I am 100% sure that I will never recommend that car dealership or salesperson to anyone. The lifetime value of me as a customer is nil.

What makes a great salesperson? Someone who takes the time to ask you questions about what is important to you. After 30+ years in sales I have learned that it’s all about doing your homework and that is the approach we take at my company Frieda’s, to really understand the needs of our customers.  And if you uncover that your product or service is not right for the customer, then you help the customer find a better match for them. Remember the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” where the Santa Claus at Macy’s referred customers to a local competitor (Gimbels) to find the gift they are looking for. The result? Incredible publicity and loyalty to Macy’s for doing what was best for the customer. People actually became MORE loyal to Macy’s after they started referring customers to other stores….to make them happy!

Have you ever encountered a salesperson who was super anxious to make the sale, so anxious that they kind of made you uneasy and made you think that maybe you were being taken advantage of, or would regret your purchase later on? That’s exactly how I felt after my Jaguar purchase.

Now, truth be told, I do like driving my Jaguar. It’s fast and quiet. But when I go super-fast (which I like to do), my driving range drops from 210 miles to about 180. I never have to take it in for maintenance service—just a once a year update for the internal electronic programming. I don’t miss stopping at a gas station to fuel up my car, but have had to always make sure I plan ahead on charging my car based on my next days’ driving plans.

I admit, the final, impulsive decision to buy the Jaguar was mine. And I learned a valuable lesson about not making such big investment decisions so quickly. I do realize that better decisions are made after some reflection, rather than on impulse. I plead guilty and am never too old to learn!

So, here is the pièce de résistance of this experience. I received a handwritten thank-you note last Friday. Well, actually, the card said “Congratulations!” on it. Three full months after I made the purchase, I received a card that said, “Congratulations and thank you.” Three full months later.

The guy didn’t have a baby or get married—for both occasions one is allowed an extended acceptable period of time to write thank-you notes. But for the purchase of a rather expensive car, during which you didn’t ask the customer a single thing about their wants and needs, it felt par for the course for him to send a thank-you note so long after the purchase.

So, for anyone who is in sales, please heed my advice:

The best salespeople will always take the time to ask questions to seek an understanding of the wants and needs of the customer. Your job is not to sell them something, you are there to help them buy.

And if you want to be a classy, memorable salesperson, you will immediately send a handwritten thank-you note, or a quick text, that demonstrates your genuine interest in and gratitude for the customer. Don’t wait three months, as you are demonstrating what a non-priority the customer was to you.

I haven’t had the heart to text my Lexus service consultant and tell him that I sold my Lexus a few months ago. I loved my Lexus service consultant Don and actually looked forward to seeing him every 3-4 months when I took my car in for service. In fact, he is the reason my next car will most likely be a Lexus.

Karen

Karen proudly standing next to her new Jaguar i-Pace with large red bow
Me, when I picked up my new car the day before my birthday – thus the bow!

About 15 years ago, I started seeing a Naturopath. Well, actually, I was looking for a nutritionist and a dear friend of mine recommended I see Lisa, who was not only a nutritionist but also a Naturopath. Naturopathic medicine is a system that uses natural remedies to help the body heal itself. I liked the idea of seeing a naturopath, as I took way too many antibiotics when I was younger and I decided that if there was a more natural way to feel better or heal when I was ill, I was super interested. And I had not been feeling 100%, but couldn’t put my finger on why.

As I readied for my first appointment, Lisa’s office called me and asked that I bring with me all medicines, supplements and vitamins I was taking.

First thing Lisa did, was “Muscle Test” me to see if I had any negative reactions (or intolerance) to any of the medications I was taking. What an eye-opening experience! Turns out, I had a negative reaction (like inflammation) to seven of the 11 things I was taking!! Surprisingly, it turned out that I was actually allergic to the coating on the vitamin brand I was taking. No wonder I was kind of achy and didn’t feel 100%.

Then she tested me for allergic reactions to about 100 different food substances. Things like every kind of nut (I can only eat Almonds and Sunflower seeds, I am allergic to all other kinds), nightshade plants (which include tomatoes, potatoes, and some of my previous favorites like graffiti eggplant and shishito peppers…..they cause inflammation for me, so I rarely eat any of them) and corn. I recall saying to her, “Can you tell me if it’s okay for me to drink coffee and eat chocolate?” Thankfully, both were okay for me.

And then there was soy. Turns out that weird feeling I got when I ate edamame, tofu and soy sauce was now explainable. I cannot eat soy. But, what I didn’t know was that I was also consuming soybean oil and didn’t realize it.

Have you ever read the label at the store when you buy “vegetable” oil? Well, if so, you would know that “vegetable” oil is almost always soybean oil. I guess someone figured out that “vegetable” oil sounds better than soybean oil. Plus, from what I know, soybean oil is the cheapest oil, so many producers and manufacturers use it for the cost benefit.

Due to my reaction to it, if I am purchasing oil for cooking, I now only purchase avocado oil or sunflower oil (and olive oil, of course).

Then I started thinking, “I wonder if restaurants and salad dressing companies use soybean oil when they cook or produce salad dressings?” Getting the lowest cost ingredient is oftentimes a big deciding factor in business, so I had a suspicion.

Yep, you guessed it. I started becoming a diligent label reader. Did you know that many ready-to-eat loaves of bread are made with soybean oil? So are frozen pie crusts. And almost all candies and chocolate contain “soy lecithin.” Check out that pasta sauce you buy in a jar—many contain soybean oil.

I don’t really want to get into the discussion of soy, GMOs and Monsanto’s pesticide Roundup, but you can guess there might be a connection.

So, last week when I was reading a recent article published by the University of California-Riverside titled “America’s most widely consumed oil causes genetic changes in the brain,” I had a feeling that they were talking about soybean oil.

New UC Riverside research shows soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes, but could also affect neurological conditions like autism, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and depression.” You can read the rest of the article here: EurekAlert! America’s most widely consumed oil causes genetic changes in the brain

So, next time you order french fries, taquitos or ready-made salad dressing, ask what kind of oil they use to fry or make the food. Although some restaurants and food producers use sunflower, safflower or canola oils, many more use “vegetable” oil (which probably means soybean oil).

Believe me, it was eye opening to read the article on the research linking soybean oil consumption to obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. I think you’ll agree, it makes it even more important to ask or read a label to find out what goes into your food.

After all, we are what we eat!

Karen

We all have them. Shitty days. Admit it!

And in 2020, didn’t it seem like you had more than your fair share?

One day late last summer, I drove into the office for the day. It seemed like everything went wrong that day. I couldn’t get anything done on my To Do list. My meetings ran long. There were customer complaints that ended up coming to my desk. We had an incident in the warehouse (thankfully no one was seriously hurt).

And then, I had to drive home—my new, 45-minute, occasionally annoying commute home.

So, I did what most people do, I called a friend to vent. He said, “So how was your day?”

And I said, “It was shitty” and, consequently, I was in a shitty mood.

Then he said what was potentially the most life-changing comment to me:

“Everyone gets to choose what kind of day they have. Are you sure you want to choose shitty?”

I was slightly annoyed at that moment, but admitted, that, no, I didn’t WANT to choose shitty.

So my friend reminded me that we each get to choose how we react to stressful situations. Some people get up and walk away from their desk. Others power through stress. But, realistically, we choose how we react and what our mood will be. Will we take it out on the next person we see or talk to? Or will we take a few deep breaths, look out the window and daydream about something happy?

For me, ever since that day, when things are NOT going the way I expected, or tensions get high, I say to myself, “I get to choose what kind of day I want. Do I really want to choose shitty?” Saying those exact words are a positive trigger for me. It reminds me that my mood, my approach, my reaction is completely my choice.

I know I am NOT the only person who is having a rough day, and there are tons of people out there who have it far worse than I do. So, I mindfully decide, I am going to have a good day. I will make the best of things. Sometimes I get up from my desk and walk around just to clear my head. I might do a few deep breaths. Oftentimes when I meditate each morning, I set my intention for the day.

How about you? Ever have a rough day? Ever call a friend or coworker to vent? Ever feel yourself starting a pity party for yourself? So, how about this instead? Next time you are headed down that “whoa, poor me…” spiral, how about saying to yourself:

Everyone gets to choose what kind of day you have. Am I sure I want to choose shitty?

Have a fantastic day! I plan to!

Karen

Happy New Year! As you may recall, 13 months ago I made a decision to try something new. I decided NOT to make any new year’s resolutions, but rather, set some goals for myself for 2020 in a few areas of my life.

I set physical goals, professional goals and personal goals. I did not write these in pencil. I wrote them in pen. I was serious. But, I was also a bit nervous about the whole process.

After all, when you put something in writing, and share it with others, it is a commitment.

The first time I did this was when I decided to go vegan about eight years ago. I committed publicly (via this blog) that I would become vegan for 30 days to see what it was like, and how I felt. My reasoning was that I could do ANYTHING for 30 days. An interesting thing happened—by putting my goal in writing, and making the commitment to others, it was like I flipped a switch in my brain. All those obstacles and temptations seemed to disappear, and becoming vegan seemed achievable.

Well, the same thing happened for me in 2020. But the big difference for me this time was that I had a partner for the journey. We didn’t have the same exact goals, but we were both focused on our fitness and health. My partner (Jack Daly), happens to be one of the most goal-oriented, driven and determined people I’ve ever met. I first met Jack more than 20 years ago when he spoke to my CEO group. In the ensuing 20 years, I invited Jack to speak at my company multiple times about sales and sales management. I recall him talking about goal setting, tracking your goals and setting your sights high. Never in a million years did I think life would take a few turns and we would end up in a relationship and living together.

So, I am proud and excited to share what my goals were this past year and what I accomplished. I learned from Jack that one of the additional benefits of sharing this information is that it can motivate other people to step up their game.

*bold=goal achieved/exceeded

(If you think I’m crazy, then click [here] to see Jack’s 2020 goals and achievements)

So what were my top three learnings?

  1. Be specific with your goals and figure out the best tracking metric with the outcome in mind (i.e. knowing I had to get up at 5 a.m. in the morning meant I had to figure out that I needed to be headed to bed by 9 p.m. in order to get more than 7.5 hours of sleep each night).
  2. Importance of balance in the goals kept me balanced as a person (by having personal and family goals, along with fitness goals gave me a sense of a “win” in some areas, even if I was missing in others).
  3. The tracking system made all the difference in the world. The discipline of writing everything down, and tallying each month, kept me moving forward. And it was a gentle reminder of what I set out to do.

So what are you going to do in 2021? Have you thought about writing down some specific, measurable goals for yourself? Have you chosen an accountability partner or two who you can share your wins or losses with?

As you can imagine, after one year of following this process, I can see how the specificity of what I did can help me get things done. Is it a surprise that I have added a few new items to my list for 2021?

  1. I made a list of my closest friends, and have set goals for how often I want to touch base with them during the year.
  2. I’ve added a few of the items off my bucket list to my goals for 2021.
  3. I have pre-vaccination and post-vaccination goal categories (mostly for traveling and socializing).
  4. Number of rounds of golf I plan to play and number of times a month I will do yoga.

I invite you to join me on this journey and feel free to share YOUR goals with me!

Cheers to a fantastic 2021!

Karen

So far I have received about 100 holiday cards from friends and family from every part of the country. My tradition has been to tape them on the walls at the entry to my house, and I have continued that tradition in my new house. It makes me smile to walk into the house and see the smiling faces of friends and their families. I leave them up through January which makes me feel connected to people far past the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

I have been so happy to see that just a small percentage of the cards referenced the pandemic in a less than positive light, or had everyone in the photo with masks on.

For me, 2020 turned out to be a fantastic year. As I’ve heard many people say, there has been a “silver lining” from the pandemic.

My silver linings included selling my residence of 17 years and moving to a new house with the love of my life at the beginning of the year.

It was so sad that my mother Frieda passed away in January, but the silver lining was that we were able to have a Celebration of Life on February 22 with more than 1,000 friends and family in attendance, just a few days before the coronavirus caused large gatherings to be limited.

Because I was forced to work from home for most of the time since March, instead of spending 90 minutes a day commuting, I was able to use that time to start running and taking hikes in the hills of San Clemente and upping my fitness level. I would never have been able to do if I was commuting to work every day.

But, definitely, the highlight of the year happened this week.

And that was the birthday of my grandson.

Shortly after my mom’s memorial, my eldest daughter Alex and her husband Ben became pregnant and shared the exciting news with me in June (most couples are told to keep the news a secret until they pass the three-month mark). I’m not quite sure how Alex kept it from me, as we work together and I would see her daily via our Zoom business meetings. I did notice a kind of glow and a big smile on her face but was so preoccupied with the business challenges of COVID that frankly, I didn’t give it a second thought.

When Alex was born on October 17, 1989, it was the last day of our big annual produce convention (the Produce Marketing Association). I remember when I found out I was pregnant and they told me my due date. I was so naïve about things that I asked the doctor if he could change my due date as I planned to be at a convention that day. My doctor chuckled at me and said things don’t work that way.

October 17, 1989, was the day of the big San Francisco earthquake. For anyone who is a baseball fan, you will recall the earthquake that happened 30 minutes before Game 3 of the World Series was scheduled to start with the San Francisco Giants vs. the Oakland Athletics. I was in a hospital bed in Long Beach, Calif., and remember the earthquake well. I thought to myself, well this baby is going to shake up this world!

Both my parents were in the delivery room with me and my husband when Alexandra Nicole Caplan Jackson came into this world. And just a few days later, my mom, in her weekly produce “Hotsheet,” decided to describe the play-by-play of Alex’s birth, instead of promoting our latest produce products. It was a bit shocking to me and to many of our male customers when they received the purple newsletter in the mail the following week to read about the birth of a child. But it still brings a smile to my face when I think about the joy my mother felt to see her first grandchild born.

Now, that child is 31 years old, and as we entered the last week of the year 2020, our family anxiously awaited her turn to give birth. Although it has been 31 years since I gave birth to my first child, it seemed like just a short while ago. I was able to talk Alex through what to expect and she had a bit of that same naïveté that I did. When I awoke on Tuesday morning, there was a text from my son-in-law Ben that they had been at the hospital since 2:30 a.m. I got continual texts during the day from him keeping me updated on the contractions, the epidural, and of course when Alex was fully dilated.

I was on pins and needles all day, and frankly found myself quite distracted during my normal course of Zoom meetings and calls during the day. So, my partner Jack convinced me to go for a beach run in the afternoon to help distract me. Just as we were leaving the house, I received the most amazing news via text:

My grandson, Eli Fredaric Berkley was born at 2:53 p.m. weighing 6 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 20.5 inches long. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. At first, I thought that Ben had made a typo with the spelling of the middle name. Then he explained to me, in the Jewish tradition of taking the same first letter of a deceased family member and using it in the baby’s name, Eli’s middle name “Fredaric” was after my mother, Frieda.

One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “Technology is just amazing these days!” And during my beach walk, when I saw a FaceTime call coming from Ben, I stopped and answered, and was able to see Alex and Eli just a short while after he was born and to talk with them. Technology IS amazing these days!

Alex with her son Eli

So, in the next few days, as you reflect on 2020, and look forward to 2021, I hope you will look for the silver lining in your year. What connections did you make? What new habits did you form? What did you learn about yourself?

There are always silver linings. And that glass . . . well, it is more than half full.

Happy New Year!

Grandma Karen

Where I live in San Clemente, Calif., we face the same scenario as most everyone does. Part of our town is made up of old residential neighborhoods with longtime residents (and in our case, many surfers) and older buildings in need of repair on the “main drag.” Up the hill we have newer residential neighborhoods with more modern, larger homes and higher-income residents. We don’t have a lot of gas stations, but we have a fair number of supermarkets and have lots of wide streets and roadways which are perfect for runners and cyclists (and recently many e-bike riders).

We all frequent the various restaurants and small shops on our main street—Del Mar—and our part of the famed Pacific Coast Highway (called El Camino Real here in San Clemente). Nearby neighborhoods of Dana Point, Laguna Beach and San Juan Capistrano also have shops and restaurants, and many residents consider this one giant community. We all support and frequent businesses all around us.

It’s been heartbreaking to watch the ebb and flow of the dining scene. Pre-COVID, there was a thriving cadre of upscale restaurants, some with super creative chefs. We also have the typical fast-casual chains of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Chipotle and there are rumors of an In-N-Out Burger starting construction.

In April and May, we took long walks and drives down El Camino Real and saw virtually no one and no business on the street. Then the summer came, and our little beach town started bustling, many of the restaurants occupied the parking space in front of their buildings with semi-permanent tables and chairs, plus awnings. At least weekly, we did our best to support our community by going out to eat, always dining outdoors of course.

Now, with the most recent surge of COVID cases, some restaurants in our community are offering “Food to Go.” Unfortunately, there are restaurants nearby that have closed completely and permanently. It is so sad to see, as I know many of those restaurants were hanging on by a thread even before the pandemic.

I, like most people, am getting a little tired of cooking at home every night, so ordering in dinner is a welcome treat. Plus, it makes me feel like I am supporting the local restaurant business owners. I know many of my friends and family love to order in food as well, and some of them have chosen to use a delivery service, such as Postmates or DoorDash. You order online through the delivery service and pay them, and they pick your order up at the restaurant and deliver it to your home.

Let me tell you why I do not use a delivery service. It costs a restaurant between 25-30% of the total check to pay for the delivery service. For a restaurant owner to give up 25-30% of their revenue doesn’t make business sense. But many businesses are so desperate to have the income (to keep their employees employed), that they absorb that cost. Of course, using Postmates or DoorDash when you are not able to drive yourself to get food makes sense if you’re not feeling well, or if you have child care challenges, but that is not the case for me.

So, I have decided to make a conscious effort during the current lockdown to:

  1. Order from a local restaurant at least two times a week (sometimes more). We alternate the restaurant, so we are spreading the wealth. We always order from restaurants in our own town.
  2. We also go pick up the food ourselves, saving the restaurant the cost of paying a delivery service.
  3. We tip generously, as we assume the business volume is down so the servers really need and appreciate the generous tips.

I hope that as you are sheltering in place in your home town that you consider supporting local restaurants in a similar manner. As they say “We are all in this together.” We don’t give a second thought to ordering online for our regular groceries or Christmas shopping and having it delivered to our home. But when it comes to perishable food, and supporting our local business owners, I think we should make a mindful decision to “Order In” and make a difference.

Happy Holidays and stay healthy!

Karen

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve tried them before, and like most everyone, I slip back into my normal routine by the end of January and that is usually that.

But, last year about this time, I decided to try something new. As you may remember, the first week of January I wrote about my new idea of goal-setting plans Are New Years’ Resolutions Passé?

And I’d like to share some of my learnings and results this year as a way to potentially inspire you to try the same thing for 2021.

First of all, in my goal-setting routine for 2020, I set up categories (such as family, physical, personal, and travel). I broke the goals down to be as specific as possible, so I could measure them.

For example, in “physical,” I had goals for how many hours of sleep I wanted to average every night, my resting heart rate goal, how many times a week I would exercise, what type of exercise, and although I had a “weight loss” goal, it was a small part of my focus.

In the “personal” category, I listed how many books I planned to read/listen to, how many times I wanted to give blood, and how many handwritten notes I wanted to write during the year. These items are always important to me, but I was inconsistent in getting them done, so I figured establishing goals and then tracking them might make a difference.

In “family,” I had goals around how often I would spend time with both my daughters, my sister, my partner Jack (like dress-up dinners once a month).

And of course, I had vacation and travel goals … but those kind of got sidelined for the year due to COVID.

Then I bought a MONTHLY PLANNER for 2020 so I could record what I did each day. Now, I know what you are thinking, “Seriously, Karen, you are going to write down everything, every day? That sounds too tedious and hard!”

 

It was tedious, and it was hard to get into the habit. I cannot tell you how many times I realized that I had forgotten to write down how much sleep I got for an entire week, or what my workout was, but my goal was progress, not perfection. So, I learned to do hacks that would help me. I left my planner on the kitchen table so when I came into the kitchen each morning and each evening, I was reminded to update my calendar. Each weekend, my partner Jack and I would gently watch each other do our weekly totals on some of the categories, which inspired me to up my game many times. And then, on the first day of each month, we would do our totals for the previous month on one of the back pages of the planner for many of the categories.

I have to admit, the task of recording everything every day all year long was daunting. If I didn’t have such an aligned accountability partner, I know I would not have done as well. But having Jack, and then starting to see my own accomplishments and progress, was actually inspiring. And I think the results were amazing!

So, here is a little tease to whet your appetite (final results for 2020 will be tallied on January 1):

  1. Goal: To complete a 5K and a 10K. Result: I completed two half-marathon (13.1 miles each)!
  2. Goal:  Do a cardio workout four times a week: Result: YTD, I have walked/run over 1,600 miles (that’s an average of more than 4.5 miles a day!)
  3. Goal: Read/listen to more than 20 books. Result: YTD, I have listened to and completed 43 books!
  4. Goal: Sleep an average of more than 7.5 hours a night. Result: YTD, I have averaged 7.78 hours of sleep a night!
  5. Goal: Lose 14.4 pounds. Result: YTD, I have lost 4.4 pounds! But, I think I have a lot more muscle due to all my exercising. (BTW – Those were the hardest 4.4 pounds I’ve ever lost!)

What I’ve learned is writing down your goals, not having too many, sharing them with an accountability partner and tracking your progress—really works!

So, during the next two weeks, please don’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Instead, why don’t you go to Staples and purchase a 2021 MONTHLY PLANNING calendar. Make a list of a few goals. Start tracking them daily. Each month, recap your activity and progress. And perhaps add a few goals to your list for the next month.

One last thought:  If we are friends on Facebook, then you probably notice that both Jack (aka John Daly) and I post a lot of our physical activities, and I post when I donate blood. Some people (who shall remain nameless) have commented that it seems a little self-absorbed to post so much about what we do. All I can say is I know for a fact that my determination and consistency have inspired others to step up their game and exercise more. And to start donating blood.

Last week, after I gave blood for the fourth time this year and posted the traditional photo of me in the donor chair with the IV and blood bag showing, I received two messages:

“People like you, taking the time to give blood truly saved my daughter’s life. Almost brings me to tears, thank you!” (From Christina in Ventura)

“You are a lifesaver! Thanks, Karen. If it weren’t for wonderful people like you and my amazing sister, I would not be here today.” (From Janie in Atlanta)

If I inspire others to accomplish things they thought were not possible, then I have done a great deed.  I hope my sharing inspires you to take a big step to make 2021 your best year ever!

Karen

A few months ago, I wrote about my experience (The Difference One Person Can Make) visiting two separate wineries in Napa owned by the same family. We had a fantastic experience at one and a so-so experience at the other. It really highlighted for me how the experience I had visiting a place could be dramatically affected by the individuals you interact with.

So last weekend, as shelter-in-place orders were getting ready to go into force, we decided to visit one of the local restaurants here in San Clemente for our last night out before “lockdown.” A few weeks ago, we discovered a new outdoor restaurant, FIG@313, the chef is world class and his food—divine!

Outside Front View FIG@313  (Source: FIG@313 Facebook)
Outside back patio by the firepit where we ate that night.  (Source: Fig@313 Facebook Page)

So we made a reservation on OpenTable, bundled up for our 7:30 p.m. reservation (it was a chilly 58 degrees) and drove the few miles to the main drag, El Camino Real.

We were seated near the firepit, and appropriately physically distanced from the other parties in our area. All wait staff were masked and wore black plastic gloves. Our server came over to greet us—let’s call him Robert. Robert was nice enough, but when we asked him questions about the menu, his answers were curt, in fact, he did not actually answer our specific questions (like, can we get the mashed potatoes WITHOUT garlic in them?). It made me feel like he didn’t really know the ingredients and foods on the menu well. Also, it was especially frustrating during our meal that he wasn’t particularly attentive to us. For example, we had to request a few items from other servers as they came near us.

As we were finishing up our dinner, Jack and I were reminiscing about the service we had the first time we came there. That time, our server was Chris (that’s his real name), who was big and tall and completely boisterous. He was enthusiastic, genuine and passionate about the food and the restaurant. Chris even told us that he used to be a patron of the restaurant, and after COVID when he needed some extra money, he decided to work at FIG@313 as a server. His passion and appreciation for the food and the talents of the chef came through so clearly, that he actually talked us into ordering different menu items based on his recommendations. I found my mouth actually watering when he was describing the food.

Just then, Chris came to help clear our table. We said, “Hi Chris!” and he said right back to us, “Oh, so good to see you both back here! What wine did you bring? Did you enjoy your dinner?” Even if he was faking, we felt like he remembered us, took a genuine interest in us (he remembered that we brought our own wine) and actually brightened the evening for us.

I know that for the next few months at least, all of us will be either eating at home or ordering in food. No treks to our favorite restaurants. But we will be making phone calls (either for work or fun), working, doing Zoom meetings, going to the grocery store, etc. Have you ever thought about how your intonation during a personal interaction affects the other person?

During these times of heightened stress and tension, it really can make a positive difference to others if you put a smile on your face before starting a phone, Zoom or in-person conversation. Did you know that people can tell if you are smiling when you are on the phone? What about taking a moment to have a personal check-in with someone before a meeting or before starting a conversation? How are they doing? How are their kids, parents, spouse, etc.?

Frankly, I’ve been doing this with everyone I’ve been interacting with since COVID—even with the electrician who has been coming to my house for the last four months. Each time Richard comes over to fix something, I ask him something about himself. Last time he was here, I learned that he surfs almost every day (pretty amazing to me since he is 72 years old!), that he and his wife have fostered more than a dozen kids and that he lives in Escondido. We communicate via text and that personal touch I used not only made him smile, it seemed to personalize our working relationship and I now have found him to be super responsive, like he is doing work for a friend or family member, not just a regular customer.

Think about this: You go to the same grocery store every week. You probably recognize the checkers or the managers. Have you thought about asking them how they are? How is their family—do they have kids? Instead of being in a rush to get out of the store or through the line, think about your interaction and make it personal. You could actually bring joy to someone’s day.

My assistant, Tricia went to a large store this morning to pick up some gift cards for our employees and was delayed due to how busy the store was. Instead of getting frustrated and taking it out on the employees, she texted me, “It’s always in adventure!” and I’m sure she was accommodating, pleasant and full of smiles to the employee she was interacting with.

Make a positive difference the next time you interact with someone. At home. At work. With a stranger.

It is the season of gratitude and generosity—share the spirit of the season!

Karen

Like almost everyone, I end my day by checking my Instagram and Facebook feeds. It gives me a chance to see what my friends and family—near and far—are doing. In the absence of seeing people in person, I have resorted to spending a little extra time online, then following up with texts, emails and sometimes phone calls if a post inspires me to connect more deeply.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post from a longtime friend Betty Mower Potalivo. Betty retired two years ago after an amazing career as regional president and group managing director of Northern Trust Corporation here in California. I met Betty through my mother, Frieda, who did all her banking and personal investments at Northern Trust. Since Betty retired, we haven’t seen each other, but I occasionally see her posts on Facebook. Hint: When I find out someone is retiring or changing professions, I always make sure I am connected with them on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. That way, at least I will know when something is happening in their life.

So three weeks ago, I saw this post on Facebook:

Hmm, I thought, those are some pretty cute golf clothes! And now that we have joined a golf club and I am playing once a week, golf clothes have moved up on my priority list. But, as you may’ve guessed—as with any sport-specific clothing—golf clothes can be expensive.

So, after seeing her post about www.skorzie.com , I decided to check it out. What I saw were cute clothes at fantastic prices. Plus, it was a woman-owned business, so I immediately purchased a few things. In case you’re wondering, I picked out seven pieces of clothing, paying a total of $300 and received them two days later! And thanks to the detailed sizing charts available by brand, the clothes all fit! I am hooked.

So I sent Betty a text thanking her for the recommendation and said I would love to be introduced to her sister, Eileen. I always love talking to women business owners to find out their inspiration and talk about their success.

Well, within a week the three of us were talking on a Zoom call.

The first thing I learned about Eileen was that she had a fantastic and successful career in the non-profit world. Most recently, she ran a local large chamber of commerce. Before that, she ran a hospital foundation, all while being a single mom of two. I also learned that she turned 60 in February and loved golf.

I mention her age (with her permission, by the way), because turning 60 seems to be a turning point in many peoples’ lives. I have heard multiple stories of professionals pivoting in their career at that age. Pre-60, they worked like a mad dog up the corporate ladder. Then at age 60, they changed to focus on what was in their heart. That may mean devoting yourself to a charity, being an advisor on non-profit boards, or spending more time with family. But while many people joke about mid-life crises at age 50, I have found that just as many people start following their passion at age 60.

Eileen told me that she and her sister Betty, plus their other siblings, were raised as a welfare family in Huntington Beach, Calif., and always struggled to have food on their table. As she called it, she became a “sensitive shopper.” That was her way of saying she was cost conscious and frugal. She knew how hard it was to make ends meet.

So, when she stepped away from running the chamber of commerce at age 60, she decided she wanted to combine her passions: helping others less fortunate, saving money and golf.  She told me she leveraged her connections at the chamber of commerce and was able to meet the head of sales for a sports clothing manufacturer. She pitched her concept of being an alternative, online distribution channel for golf fashion for women. Through that single personal connection, she met with additional manufacturers who were thrilled to sell her their entire unsold seasonal inventory.

So, she rented a small warehouse, bought a camera and hired a couple of people and some freelancers to develop a website, post photos, and handle marketing via digital ads on IG. She does all the inventory purchasing herself and has financed the entire business herself through her savings and retirement funds. She confided in me that she didn’t always get the best advice. Some things worked. Some things didn’t. It has been a lot of trial and error.

But at the end of six months (she launched her business in mid-May 2020), she is on track to do more than $250,000 in sales in the first year and is cash-flow positive.

In addition to selling clothes she purchases directly from manufacturers, she was inspired by www.thredup.com and takes gently used golf clothing on consignment. But perhaps the most heartwarming component of her business model is the part that really hits home for her.

Eileen invests in causes that help stop bullying and body shaming for girls. Because she is based in Escondido, Calif., (near San Diego), she was introduce to LPGA golfer Haley Moore.  You can read about Haley [Here] and [More Here] but Haley was bullied for much of her life due to her weight and body type.

As you are reading this article, Haley is playing in an LPGA Tournament in Texas. She is an incredibly talented golfer and has a foundation to which Eileen contributes some of her profits.

So, next time you are looking at Facebook or IG, or thinking about what the next chapter in your career might be, don’t be afraid to dream big. Dream differently. Think about your passions. Think about your struggles in your earlier life and how you got through. Reading an article online or in a magazine and feel a tug at your heart? Spend a little time dreaming about what a difference you could make in someone’s life.

And if you’re in the market for women’s golf clothes, I hope you will check out www.skorzie.com and support my new friend Eileen.  If you’re watching sports this weekend, how about taking a break from typical college and regular sports and check out who’s playing in the LPGA tournament. It might provide a different kind of inspiration for you and your daughters, sisters and female friends.

That next chapter of your life will be here before you know it.  And, most likely, you can make a difference—an even bigger difference—by listening to your heart.

Karen

With the election top of mind, last Saturday morning we were looking for things to do with our out-of-town house guest. Visiting all 13 presidential libraries is something I added to my bucket list last year. But ever since COVID hit, both Southern California’s Presidential Libraries (Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan) have been closed. But we took a chance by doing a Google search to see if anything had changed.

And—lo and behold—although the entire permanent collection was not open, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library had a special collection that was open for visitors along with free reign of their beautiful gardens.

I have attended several events at The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum over the years, including my daughter Sophia’s senior prom, but I have never toured the actual museum. Because it was a rainy day, and due to COVID, there were actually no other visitors while were there. It was amazing to have the time to read every document hanging on the walls and to not feel rushed.

Richard Milhous Nixon was born and raised in a small farmhouse in Yorba Linda, California.  Apparently when deciding the site for his presidential library and museum, a significant parcel of land was purchased surrounding that childhood home, and that is where the museum is located. It was amazing to see the humble house he grew up in, in contrast to the huge buildings, exhibits and the presidential helicopter in close proximity, which are all part of the presidential library and museum compound.

The original childhood home of President Nixon

The small exhibit that was open highlighted the special relationships between presidents and their predecessors. Barack Obama was inspired by John F. Kennedy, Nixon was fascinated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and obviously there was a special relationship between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. There were photos of how Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush became close friends after they left office, working together to raising money for humanitarian aid after a ravaging tsunami in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The theme was really about the special brotherhood (at least for now it is all men). In fact, hanging on the wall in the exhibit is the cover of a book entitled, “The Presidents Club, Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity.” I have put that book on my reading list.

As you enter the museum, there is a larger-than-life quote made by President Bill Clinton at the funeral of President Nixon (who is best known as the only president who resigned and left office due to implications from the Watergate scandal):

“May the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.”

So, what was it about President Nixon and the more than four years he served as President that was so remarkable? Here are a few highlights:

Especially during the last few months of watching the presidential election campaigns, many of us may ask ourselves “What motivates someone to run for public office when every part of your personal life will be scrutinized, and you will never again have privacy?” As I walked through the exhibit, I could see the passion and love of county of so many incredible leaders: Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, FDR, Reagan, Bush (#41), Bush (#43), Clinton, and Obama. Each of them left their special mark on our nation and the planet.

As an adult, the only things I remember distinctly about President Nixon was that he was impeached due to the Watergate scandal, that he debated Kennedy during the first televised presidential debate, and his “salute” as he boarded Air Force One after he resigned. I never knew anything about what he did for women, in sports and in business, and I vaguely remember that he opened up trade with China.

Photos from the permanent exhibit highlighting the impact of Title IX

 

I am so glad we spent a couple of hours touring his presidential library and museum. It was just a tease for me. I hope in 2021 that the full museum will open up so I can learn more and now, more than ever, I want to be sure I find a way to visit the other 12 presidential libraries. There is so much to be learned from history.

Jack, me and our friend Rick in front of the museum.

And, in this digital time, when we are in the habit of “googling” everything or attending all meetings by Zoom … it is even more important than ever to see history, “in person.”

Karen

All of us do it. We do it in our own way. We do it either alone or with friends and family. Sometimes we try to ignore it.

I’m talking about celebrating a birthday—that one day out of the year that is ours alone.

Now, I realize that birthdays may not be a big deal to some people—especially in 2020, the year of the pandemic and if birthdays are usually not a big deal and you are happy to let it go by each year unnoticed, then it would not be a big deal for you this year either way.

But for me, birthdays have always been a big deal. My special day.

It started when I was a young girl and my dad would kid me, pretending he didn’t know when my birthday was. I still remember every year on October 1, I’d comment to my dad—“Do you know what happens this month?” He would always say, “No. Is something happening this month?”

And, being as gullible as I was, I always fell for it.

My mom always made me feel special on my birthday. She called me every year on my birthday at 4:15 a.m. No matter what time zone I was in, since I was born at 4:15 a.m., she figured it was fair play for her to wake me up. Every year. Last year, for some reason, when I went to bed, and put my phone on my nightstand, I didn’t realize it was on silent mode. So when I woke up in the morning, I kind of shrugged it off that mom had forgotten. But, never fear! There was a voicemail for me from mom! Who would have known that it would be the last year she would be calling me (since she passed away three months later)?

This year was a milestone birthday for me, so before the pandemic my partner Jack and I started planning to have a party at our house to celebrate my birthday (last week). We even started re-landscaping our backyard in July to make it extra special for the soiree.

Well, you know how this story ended. Not only are we still in the middle of our landscaping project, but there was no party. No lunches and dinners with friends during the month, which is another birthday tradition for me. If you’re not a super extrovert like me, this may not be a big deal, but I thrive on in-person interactions with people. It gives me energy.

Frankly, I had a pretty hard time last week. It was all my “head trash” (thank you Jack for putting a name on it!).  I began to focus on the reality that there are so many people who have been locked in their homes since March, in constant fear of contracting COVID-19. I needed to remind myself that I have been fortunate enough to go into my office three or four days a week, and to get to spend time with my teammates (with masks and physical distance, of course). Multiple times a week I am interacting with friends, business professionals and others via Zoom.

In fact, last Friday on my actual birthday, I attended a virtual global session with three of the most powerful and influential women in the world: Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors; Virginia (Ginni) Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM; and Fatma Samoura, Secretary General of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association)! It was quite a session.

Have you ever had a pity party for yourself? Especially since the coronavirus has taken over our lives, I think there are many of us who have regular pity parties. I was guilty as charged. So, I did what I needed to do to stop that pity party—I took matters into my own hands, within the limitations of masking and social distancing.

I let my partner Jack know how important my birthday was to me, without any specifics. Fortunately, he is very creative and amongst the cards and gifts he gave me, I giggled when I opened up a package with bottles of Benadryl and Advil (he said I would need them more at my age). I set up a birthday dinner with my family, putting no pressure on them to attend, as I know to not judge those who have health considerations during the pandemic.

I contacted two of my dearest friends, and they each happily offered to meet us for breakfast and lunch at an outdoor restaurant. It was so good to see them—in person!

And I did one of the coolest things ever—I played the recorded voicemail message that my mom had left me last year on my birthday. It was fate that I had my phone on silent, as I now have a lifetime memory.

As I think back to last week and what I had originally hoped to have happen to celebrate my milestone birthday, and then reflect on how the week went, I realized that everything worked out perfectly. It was different for sure. I found new ways to celebrate (such as hiking up to the top of the HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles, which allowed me to check something off my bucket list).

It was QUALITY, not quantity. Perhaps I learned that the new normal, starting in 2020, is about quality of life. Have you thought about how your life is going to be different now? Maybe it’s not so bad that we have had to slow down our hectic pace. We’re not traveling as much, not eating as much, perhaps sleeping more and taking better self-care.

I think this trip around the sun was awesome and I look forward to what the near year holds!

Karen

Sixteen years ago, I met Sarah Frey (pictured above). She was the 2004 recipient of the annual scholarship that my sister Jackie and I created in 2001 to honor our mother while she was alive. The Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship annually funds up to four members of family owned businesses in the produce industry to attend The Washington Conference (formerly the Washington Public Policy Conference). The conference, held each year in September, was created by the United Fresh Produce Association to bring members of our industry to Washington, D.C., to talk with our elected officials (Senators and members of Congress) about the priorities of the agriculture industry.

Members of the industry apply for the scholarship each year and an independent selection committee chooses the winners. Jackie and I attend the conference and always spend time interacting and encouraging the scholarship winners. Over the years, more than 60 members of family owned produce businesses have joined us in Washington D.C.! In the fourth year, a young woman from the Midwest was awarded the scholarship and she stood out like no other. Her name is Sarah Frey (pronounced fry).

In 2004, when I first met Sarah in Washington, frankly, she seemed very timid and too quiet to be a business owner. She was 28. I was told that she was one of the largest pumpkin and watermelon growers in America and, as a woman-owned business, she was on the radar of many of the biggest retailers in America. My friends at Walmart told me that they really enjoyed doing business with Sarah and her company. And she had hired as one of her company managers, a longtime friend of mine, Paul Fleming.

Paul confided that she was amazing and she really was a force to be reckoned with. Not only did she spend time that week on the hill talking with our elected officials about the shortage of farm labor, water rights and hours of service regulations for truckers—but later I realized I could have learned a thing or two FROM her! Although quiet in her demeanor, she was compelling, knowledgeable and frankly, fearless.

Over the years, I have enjoyed getting to know Sarah better. Her niece, Hilary, and my eldest daughter Alex were both selected for United’s year-long Leadership Program in 2014. So Sarah and I met up at their class graduation. When my mother passed away in January, Sarah arranged to attend the celebration of life we held in February, flying all the way out to California to attend.

When our industry was soliciting nominations for its annual Women in Produce Award this past June, I couldn’t wait to nominate Sarah for this recognition. The Women in Produce Award was created over 25 years ago to highlight and give recognition to those women in our industry who have an inspiring untold story. Little did I know when I was putting together the nomination packet that Sarah’s story was about to be told to the public.

Sarah had just completed her autobiography The Growing Season and it was published in August by Penguin/Random House. I had the incredible opportunity to listen to it last week on Audible. Talk about a compelling and inspiring story!

 

Sarah is the youngest of eight children and moved out on her own when she was 15. To support herself, she bought melons from local farmers and developed a route of delivering those melons in her pickup truck direct to grocery stores. She was so successful that she ended up buying her family farm and house out of bankruptcy! When I originally heard that she was the owner of Frey Farms and her four older brothers worked for her, I was in disbelief! But, after reading the book, I now know how it all happened.

Sarah is a survivor. She never takes no for an answer. She always finds a way to get things done. Here is a perfect example: while she was in bed recovering from the birth of her eldest son, she was interviewed by telephone by a Harvard Business School professor for a case study on how she negotiated with Walmart!

If you ever want to be inspired, especially in times like now, when many of us live in fear of being caught without a mask and hand sanitizer, I highly recommend you either read or listen to The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life—and Saved an American Farm.

Or perhaps, you will have tuned into Good Morning America this week and saw Sarah being interviewed. Or, in a few years, you may see an ABC Television/Cable series based on the book!  Just last week Sarah texted me the announcement of the deal she signed with ABC.

When I think back to that first meeting with Sarah in 2004 and fast forward to seeing her accept the Women in Produce Award earlier this year, I am in awe of how determined Sarah has always been her entire life and how much I can learn from her. Just like my mother, success came to Sarah because she never saw obstacles. How many of us put up our own obstacles? How many of us have self-talk that is negative or not productive? Next time we think we have hit a bump in the road (or a pothole), or a door has started to shut on us, let’s be a little more like Sarah. Where there is a will, there is definitely a way!

Karen

Besides COVID (and our new work-from-home, self-isolating, temperature-taking and no-handshaking lifestyle) and climate change (exemplified by the raging fires in Northern California, fires in Southern California, flooding in Iowa, high winds and overcast skies/poor air quality), I’m guessing we all have the same thing at the top of our minds—the election.

Every time an election rolls around (whether it’s in a Presidential election year like this year, or every two years when we elect congressional representatives, state officials or local community leaders), I oftentimes get a sense of apathy from many people. Apathy sounds like: “My vote doesn’t matter. I don’t know which candidate is better. I don’t understand what the (California) propositions really mean. I’m not registered. I’ve never voted before.”

Well, this year I am channeling my inner “Frieda Caplan”—my mom. When we held her celebration of life in February, we shared her favorite quote from the commencement speech she gave in 2014 at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo when she was awarded an Honorary PhD. On that Saturday morning, she spoke to thousands of newly graduated students who were embarking on the next step in their life journey. Here was her advice:

“Never badmouth others. Always listen to the whole story.

Be a voice in your community. Be politically active, VOTE, speak up.”

This week, millions of Americans will be receiving their ballots at home. Many of us have signed up for or are eligible to vote by mail, making it incredibly easy to cast your vote in the comfort of your home. But, as you know, there has been a lot of controversy about the U.S. Postal Service and its ability to handle the anticipated surge in mail volume and to safely ensure the delivery of ballots to secure ballot-counting locations.

I am personally thrilled that there is so much publicity about the ease of voting and the ability for most everyone to vote by mail. So many of our citizens take our right to vote for granted. In fact, it has only been 100 years since female citizens in the United States have had the right to vote! [That one is personally shocking to me!]

Did you know that Chile, Ecuador, Australia and more than 15 other countries require compulsory voting (if you don’t vote, you can be fined and, in fact, in Bolivia you can be denied your salary if you cannot show proof of voting within three months after the election!)?

So, if you are one of those people who doesn’t think your vote matters, or you feel you don’t have time to go to the polls, or can’t make a decision on who or what to vote for … you have one month to do your research! Time to get on it!

Here in California, the land of “propositions” (where citizens and groups can petition to put issues on the ballot for a direct vote of citizens, therefore bypassing the regular legislative process), voting for or against an item can be tremendously confusing. I was just introduced to www.CalMatters.Org — a nonpartisan, non political organization that explains the real meaning of items on the ballot. If you live in California, check it out: The CalMatters 2020 Elections Guide.

In closing, I want to say this. We live in a democracy where we have the ability and the responsibility to be active citizens. We may not all agree with each other as to who should be elected to represent us. But, as citizens, and responsible members of humanity, we should take advantage of the right we have to vote and have our voice heard.

If you own a company, encourage your employees to vote; remind them that it is their hard-earned right. Give them time off to vote if they didn’t vote by mail.

If you’re not an owner, then as you talk with your friends, family and coworkers—without politicizing the conversation—encourage them to vote. If they want more information, help them find it. In California, our Secretary of State sends out an Official Voter Information Guide. Read it!

Wear red, white and blue every day until the election to remind people that being patriotic is being an active citizen. It does not indicate whether you are Republican or Democrat. It says you care.

As my mother said, “Be a voice in your community. Be politically active. VOTE. Silence is not an option.”

 Karen

Thanks to my 45-minute commute each way to work daily, I am reading one book a week. By “reading,” I mean I am listening to them on Audible. I am a huge fan of audio books. At this pace, I am constantly looking for recommendations of books to read.

Thanks to AI (Artificial Intelligence), Audible takes care of that for me, if I let it. So last week, after I finished No Rules Rules, by Reed Hastings (CEO and co-founder of Netflix), Audible suggested I might like to read the Dale Carnegie classic How to Win Friends & Influence People.

 

Even though I had read the book many years ago—and have taken several of the Dale Carnegie training courses (which, by the way, I still find helpful and relevant)—I thought, “It never hurts to reread a classic.”

Part of my inspiration for rereading this book was a speaker I heard probably 20 years ago. Boaz Rauchwerger continues to be a popular speaker in business circles. I use Boaz’ “Five Key Questions” when I meet someone for the first time, and have done so for years:

Boaz Rauchwerger’s Five Key Questions

Boaz always started his presentation by saying he reads, or rather rereads, the Dale Carnegie classic How to Win Friends & Influence People once a year! He shared that he always gets a new insight regarding people relations. So, I figured if Boaz reads it once a year, I could reread it for the second time.

Because I am listening to this book during my two-way daily commute, I have a unique opportunity to apply the principles twice every day, once when I get to work and then again when I get home at night.

The Carnegie book is divided into four sections. This infographic outlines it for you: How to Win Friends & Influence People Summary:

  1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
  2. Six Ways to Make People Like You
  3. How to Win People To Your Way of Thinking
  4. Be a Leader: How to Change People

There are so many lessons to be learned through following the practices in this book. Several stood out to me that I have tried out in the last week. I’ve had incredible success in using them authentically.

  1. Even when I am calling a service rep (like my painter) or a doctor’s office, I have started by paying a compliment to the person or company as my first sentence. For example, when I called the painter a few days ago, I started by saying, “First of all, I need to tell you that you guys did a FANTASTIC job hanging wallpaper in our bathroom last month. Your guy did such an amazing job that we could not find the seams in the wallpaper!” The rest of our conversation was so much more friendly and cooperative than my previous call, and the owner offered to come out to give us a quote on a painting job (where previously they had told me, due to COVID, there would be no in-person quotes). They expected us to do the measurements and email them.
  2. I was reminded in the book that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So, when I went to the doctor’s office this morning, I complimented the receptionist, saying how beautiful her name was (is it Paola). Not only did she share with me the story about how her mother chose her first name, but she made sure I got in to see the doctor without waiting (pulling a few strings for me).
  3. Another principle is to “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” So, I have started to make a diligent effort when I have been talking with someone who has an opinion different than mine to purposefully acknowledge THEIR point of view first, saying something like, “I know that you have told me how difficult it is dealing with this situation, so I want to say ‘thank you.’ This kind of situation is never easy, and before we discuss it further I wanted to acknowledge you and your effort.” This approach has worked especially well multiple times in the past few weeks. Previously I would dive right into the subject, and I found every person reacted negatively or defensively.

Probably the easiest and most effective of Dale Carnegie’s principles is just one word: Smile. It’s so easy to do, but I for one can say that it is easy to forget. I learned long ago that if you smile at someone it is the other person’s natural instinct to smile back. Physically, it is impossible to NOT smile back. I’ve tried it many times, whether at work, at home, or out in public. A person always smiles back at me. And then, the rest is easy.

So, during these stressful times when tensions are high and nothing seems to go the way you are used to, it might be a good refresher to pull out that dusty copy of Dale Carnegie’s book and read a chapter a day, or even a chapter a week. The chapters are short but the message is timeless.

After all, the book was first published in 1936 (thus all the references to Presidents Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson) and the paper copy I just pulled off my bookshelf was the 102nd printing in December 1975!

Timeless wisdom.

Karen

This past weekend we took a trip to wine country in northern California. Spending a few days in Napa Valley and staying in a B&B, visiting wineries and taking long hike/walks each morning was a nice break from the back-to-back Zoom meetings of my regular work week.

First, let me answer the obvious questions and concerns.

  1. Yes, we wore masks everywhere we went, including at the airport, on the one-hour flight, while renting the car, at the B&B and at the wineries and restaurants.
  2. Some wineries provided hand-washing stations or hand sanitizer when we arrived.
  3. All wine tastings were by appointment only, which allowed venues to properly limit and space out the number of people.
  4. All wine tastings and meals were outdoors—thank goodness for the temperate weather we have in California!

Even with these potential obstacles, we had a really lovely time and enjoyed the wines and wineries.

What was surprising, however, was that even with all the protocols for COVID, the human factor still played a significant role in our experience.

One of our favorite wineries is Silver Oak—considered a premiere producer of Cabernet Sauvignon. The owner David Duncan is a serial entrepreneur and has expanded his portfolio by adding other wine labels, including Twomey—known for its Pinot Noir. On this trip, we booked in-person wine tastings at both Twomey in St. Helena and at the mothership, Silver Oak, on Oakville Cross Road near Napa. A few years ago, the wine tasting room at Silver Oak experienced a fire, so the wine tasting room and winery were rebuilt and they are state of the art and quite beautiful.

So on Thursday we drove up to Twomey, and were immediately seated at our appointment time at an outdoor table. Our wine guide Max (wearing a mask) was filled with enthusiasm. He asked us questions about where we were from, our experience and likes of wine varietals and seemed genuinely excited about sharing his wine expertise. His eyes showed how excited he was to tell us the story of the vineyards and every few minutes he would lean in (from 10 feet away) and ask, “Would you like to try a different vintage of Pinot Noir? I have something in mind for you—and I’ll be right back.”

Our table set for our wine tasting at Twomey, with our guide masked Max.

 

We just finished our wine tasting with Max at Twomey.

He would disappear into the winery and would reappear with another new bottle that was not part of the “standard tasting” and excitedly told us about the grapes, the winemaker, etc. Even with all the limitations with spacing, timing, etc., Max made us feel as if we were his only clients and there was no rush. The standard tasting was four different wines—and I’m guessing we ended up tasting seven or eight wines. After 45 minutes or so, he gently apologized and said he needed to assist another table, but assured us there was no rush, to enjoy ourselves and that he would be back shortly. We leisurely enjoyed the wine, the view, took photos of the gorgeous grounds and spent another 30 minutes or so relaxing. As we were leaving, Max assisted us with a purchase, and we wished each other well (he had shared with us that he was recently engaged to be married and where he was attending college, so we felt a genuine connection to him)

As we left, we both commented that the experience was amazing, but we were sure that it was nothing compared to what we would experience the next day at Silver Oak Winery in Napa.

We arrived at Silver Oak on time the next day and had to wait just a few moments before our wine guide David appeared for our 1 p.m. tasting. The first thing he said to us as we were seated was, “I have another tasting at 2 p.m.” (Wow, not the best opening line for a guest!)

For the next 45 minutes or so, we tasted the four wines that were poured for us. When we would ask a question to engage David and learn more about the winery, he would say, “I will get to that later on in my presentation.” We were immediately discouraged from asking any questions for fear of going off script. I think he brought us an additional wine to taste, but frankly, we were so disconnected by his approach and his lack of genuineness that we found ourselves hurrying to leave before his next 2 p.m. appointment. It’s hard to remember anything about his presentation.

As we left the Silver Oak grounds, we looked at each other in amazement. Here we were at potentially the most well-known and respected winemaker in the entire Napa Valley—whose Cabernet Sauvignon wines are world class and top-rated—and we felt underwhelmed and disappointed.

The wines were still awesome, but the experience we had with our “sales rep” was less than.

Isn’t it interesting that the way we were treated affected our experience? Think about it. The same owner—who is passionate about his craft—is behind both wineries, they have virtually the same geography, offer the same wine glasses and in some cases the same wine. But the person who we interacted with was the difference.

Have you ever had that experience? Same store, different sales reps, polar opposite experience? One person turned you on and engaged you and made you feel like you were the only person in the place; the other one was simply going through the motions just to get through their day.

If you are a business owner or leader, you may want to see if your vision is alive and well with everyone on your team. Most especially, gauge how they interact with clients or new employees: do they show the same care and enthusiasm that you do? Or are they just going through the motions?

It’s amazing the difference one person can make, isn’t it?

Karen

P.S. Our purchase at Twomey was four figures, but we passed on making a purchase at Silver Oak. Think about it—the power a single person can make to both the top line and the bottom line of a company!

Let me start by saying I don’t watch (much) television. It’s probably because I’ve always gotten up early (5:00 a.m.) to go to work, and when I get home in the late afternoon, I usually spend my time exercising, doing a little catch up work and then hit the sack, so I can get my 8 hours of sleep. That—combined with the 24-hour news cycle of negative and bad news that makes me crazy—is probably why the only things I will occasionally watch on weekends are the Food Network (think “Chopped”) or HGTV (to watch others remodel their homes).

That was until my niece Heather sent me a text four weeks ago. It said, “Do you have Amazon Prime Video? I’m watching something called ‘World’s Toughest Race—The Eco Challenge.’ They advertise it as a race that eats Ironmen for lunch. Jack might be interested in watching.”

I didn’t think anything of it, until my partner Jack brought up the show a couple of weeks later (fun fact: Jack has completed 15 full Ironman challenges!). He wanted to watch it one night (it’s a 10-show series). I agreed because, after all, my niece had recommended it.

I want to add that I have never had any interest in watching the “Survivor” series, and I am not an outdoorsy person. But after watching the first night of “The Eco Challenge,” I was shocked to find myself completely hooked and potentially obsessed with it.

A quick synopsis: the challenge consisted of 66 teams of four people (each team had members of both sexes). Their goal was an 11-day “dash” over 400 miles of the rugged mountains, rivers and jungles of Fiji. Participants came from 30 countries and the 10-part series followed eight teams of endurance athletes 24 hours a day (they slept very little) from the beginning to the very end of this dangerous trek.

Cycling, hiking in the jungle, rowing, riding the rapids, swimming in a 55-degree river for hours, stand-up paddle boarding—they did it all!

Each night, I found myself rushing through dinner so we could turn on “The Eco Challenge” to watch the latest installment of this incredible and exhilarating human experience. Not only did the 700-person camera crew follow the teams into the jungle, they interviewed them and got a lens into their personal life, pre-Eco.

Of all the teams that were profiled, one from Spain really caught my eye. Team Summit was made up of a group who have a broad experience in expedition races. They were friends and had a deep personal connection before they came together for “The Eco Challenge.” The team captain was Emma Roca from Barcelona and there was something about her that caught my eye.

(Emma and the three other members of TEAM SUMMIT, plus one additional team member as the support person who kept them fed, clothed and rested at each checkpoint.)

So after watching the series, I googled her and found her website Emma Roca. Not only was she a world-class elite athlete—she has a PhD in biomedical engineering! She currently is a firefighter and she and her husband have three young children.

To quote her website (thank you google for translating from Catalan):

“Between putting out fires, being a mother, competing all over the world and enjoying as much as I can, I was able to finish my PhD in Biomedical Engineering and co-found several companies related to health and sports. I combine being a mother, a scientist, an entrepreneur, a professional firefighter and an ultra-background athlete squaring a minute-by-minute agenda. They call me a multi-tasking woman, but I keep the secret with the great team I have behind me!”

As I read further on her website, I learned that 18 months ago she was diagnosed with a vulvar carcinoma (cancer of the vulva). It usually appears in women over the age of 70. Emma has taken on the fight by having surgery and is now having radiation treatments. She is incredibly optimistic and inspiring.

So, I looked her up on LinkedIn, found her Messenger account and sent her a message. Then I crossed my fingers. I asked myself, would she write back to a total stranger from California, who was obsessed with her leadership and accomplishments from “The Eco Challenge”?

She wrote back the next day!

“Thanks Karen! Just doing treatment and very motivated to compete again!” And she sent me this photo.

All I can say is Wow! Even if you are like me, and not really into outdoorsy or sports challenge shows, I suggest you check out “The Eco Challenge.” It immediately fired me up and inspired me to step up my fitness game—big time.

After watching these teams compete 24 hours a day for up to 11 days straight, I found myself really driven to push myself a little harder. Instead of 30 minutes on the Peloton®, I did 45 minutes. Instead of a three-mile walk at the beach, I did five miles at 6 a.m. on a Sunday. I find myself visualizing my goal and being even more determined to get there.

How about you? Looking for a little motivation?  “ECO” “ECO” “ECO” is my new mantra!

Karen

When I was a sophomore in college, I attended Mills College in Oakland, California. It was only for one year, but that one year really changed my life. It’s a women’s college, so I didn’t have the distractions of guys in my classes. But that’s not what changed my life. What changed my life was their swimming pool.

Right in the middle of campus, next to the bookstore and coffee shop was a pool, with lap lanes. It wasn’t a large pool, but something about it attracted me. So I bought a black Speedo bathing suit and started swimming laps every day. The pool couldn’t have been too long (maybe 15 or 20 yards), because I could hold my breath the entire length of the pool. Between swimming daily laps, and cutting my food consumption down to 1,000 calories a day, I lost about 25 pounds my last semester and gained a ton of self-esteem.

Even when I came to work on the L.A. produce market with my mom that summer, I had someone come up to me to ask me where my sister was? The one who had been working there the summer before? Well, that “sister” was me! I looked transformed.

And that was the last time I swam laps. Until about three months ago.

Thanks to COVID, I have had to be creative about my exercise routine. We quit our gym membership, bought a Peloton® to do indoor cycling, have been doing running and taking 5–10 mile fast walks. Because I can’t go to Orangetheory® for my cardio, I have been using the Concept2® Rower my partner Jack had at home (as a Triathlete/Ironman, of course he has a rower at home). And three months ago, the community pools in our development opened up.

I told Jack that I loved to swim, but it had been years. Literally more than 40 years since I swam laps. But I pulled out my swimming suit and we headed to the pool one day. Man, was it long. Way longer than I recall that pool at Mills College was. I was told it was 25 yards. So four lengths (two laps) was 100 yards.

Right away, in my head, I’m thinking that I am going to get side cramps. And that my sore right shoulder is going to make it difficult to swim more than a lap or two before I have to rest. So, I swam two lengths of the pool. Not too bad. I didn’t push it and I noticed that my shoulder liked me being in the water and I did not get one single side cramp.

We were swimming in adjacent lanes, and every few days Jack would suggest a new “twist” on my swimming.  He would shoot a video so I could see my awkward strokes—I was able to fix that right away. He would time my swim, when I did four lengths (two laps) of the pool without stopping. I was so slow, especially compared to him. When I asked how I could learn to swim faster, he suggested using the rower to build upper body and shoulder strength since that is what helped him. So, I started rowing 15 minutes daily.

Finally, Jack dropped the big challenge on me last week. “Let’s swim 20 lengths of the pool straight through,” he says. I’m like, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? 20 lengths? I can only do four.” I told him how much my arms would hurt and that my shoulders couldn’t take it.

That’s when Jack said, swimming 20 lengths is not hard because of your arms. It’s your breathing. And I’ve been watching you, timing you, etc. for two months. I think you’re ready. He’s been a good coach, and I trust him. (After all, he got me to do two half-marathons in the last four months!)

So, I adjusted my goggles, took a deep breath, and started swimming. I counted my strokes: one, two, three, four (then took a breath). Back and forth. Staying calm. He was right—my arms didn’t hurt at all. And because I was concentrating on counting my strokes and pacing my breathing, I didn’t find myself out of breath.

At the end of 20 lengths of the pool, I stopped, pulled my head out of the water and started talking to Jack about how I could just keep swimming. Wow—I cannot believe that came out of my mouth!

Have you ever told yourself that you couldn’t do something? Whether it’s related to the pandemic, to your personal or business life—it doesn’t matter. I told myself I could only swim two lengths of the pool. Then I could only swim four. And then one day, I received a new challenge and I easily swam 20 lengths of the pool.

I think that it is the same way with life. Perhaps you thought you could never work from home; but then the pandemic happened. Or you had to always have breakfast—then you learned about intermittent fasting and found yourself not eating until noon each day.

I think all of us have self-limiting beliefs or self-imposed limitations. Consider what yours are. What stories do you tell yourself? What things do you not try because that is what you’ve always done, or what you’ve never done?

Next time you are telling yourself what you cannot do, I want you to think: two lengths of the pool . . . four lengths of the pool . . . 20 lengths of the pool . . . the goals are limitless!

Karen

Since mid-March, most of the office workers at Frieda’s have been working from home, either partially or full time. Because we are in the food business, we have continued to follow Good Manufacturing Practices, which involve certain sanitizing procedures. We distributed masks to our employees, put decals on the floor to indicate a distance of six feet, and in some instances relocated work stations. And we significantly increased the frequency of our sanitizing procedures and did a lot of training of all employees.

But I could never wrap my head around the need to take temperatures. I mean, in all the research I had done, the only information you get from doing that is you have someone’s temp. If they are asymptomatic, a person could have COVID but not have an elevated temperature. So we did not institute this in our facility.

I even talked honestly and off the record with some HR professionals, and they admitted that taking a person’s temperature before they enter a building or workplace was more of a “PR” move.

As I went to various doctor appointments over the past three months and to some restaurants, I noticed many businesses were taking my temperature before I could enter. Doctors’ offices always did a health survey, but because I always answered “no” to each question, it didn’t seem too disruptive.

As a company, we had been working on our written COVID Preparedness Plan, which included having formalized procedures for quarantining employees should any of them be exposed to or test positive for COVID. We already had the practices in place, but felt to have a written plan that would be distributed to all employees would be a smart thing to do. It would create more peace of mind for all.

And then one of our temporary workers in the warehouse, who had been home sick for a week, informed us that they tested positive for COVID. Like most employers, we had already experienced an employee being exposed to someone who tested positive and we had them self-isolate for 14 days. But to have someone who worked in our facility test positive put our team into high gear.

Within a couple of hours, we had done tracing, had identified any employees who had close contact with this person and sent them home to self-isolate. Our COVID team, including myself, was out and about in our facility, making sure to personally inform people of what we were doing and what actions we wanted them to take.

Taking the extra time to have our leadership team on the floor to answer any questions was a smart move. I think it made all our team members feel supported and informed.

When we were recapping afterwards (with masks on and standing at least six feet apart), I asked for feedback. Our HR person told me that a few employees had asked why we weren’t taking peoples’ temperatures before entering the building. We discussed it at that time, and what I learned was that the taking of temperatures would make all the employees feel “better.” So, even though it might not inform us if someone was positive for COVID, it would make the employees feel more comfortable coming to work.

So, within a day we had portable thermometers and were taking temps and having paper health surveys completed at the door. We had most of our office employees revert to working from home again. And this week, we installed a Contactless Temperature Screening Kiosk with facial recognition at the entrances to our building. Some of our employees find it kind of fun “scanning in!” Next week our health surveys will able to be completed on our payroll app.

Keeping our facility clean and safe is a given. But giving our team members peace of mind by responding to their suggestions was even more important to me.

Each time I walk our facility, I make eye contact with each person and thank them. They are my heroes. They are all heroes. We are all in this together.

Karen

About 6 weeks ago, my eldest daughter Alex (pictured above at age 8 months with Grandma Frieda, doing her first produce taste-test) texted me asking if she and her husband Ben could come down on Friday to have dinner with us at our home in San Clemente (70 miles from their house). It was out of the ordinary and off schedule for her to set up one of our family dinners (it is usually me setting them up once a month), but of course I said yes, absolutely!

I then had a dream that Alex and Ben were coming to tell us they were pregnant. When I asked Alex if that was so … she blew me off in complete Alex style, ”Mom, you need to calm down about that sh*t. We just want to have dinner with you guys.” And I bought it.

So, when they arrived for dinner that Friday, after they settled in, Alex said, “Mom, when I was cleaning out the garage, I realized when I moved out of grandmas’ house years ago, I accidently grabbed a box of her jewelry by mistake. I brought it back for you.” And then she handed me this black box.

I opened it up and it was a metal button, like a giant campaign button. I kind of rolled my eyes and said, “This is the jewelry that you were concerned about returning? Really?” Alex said, “Did you read it?”

Well, the minute I read the button, I blurted out: “Are you pregnant?” She smiled, I started crying and we hugged. Of course, later I learned that my son-in-law Ben was taping the whole scene, so we replayed it over and over that evening.

What was extra special about that button was it was the very button I gave MY mom—Frieda—when I announced I was expecting Alex back in 1989. What an incredible coincidence that Alex found it! It brought back memories of telling my parents that I was pregnant and their wonder through the whole experience of pregnancy through childbirth (they were both there in the delivery room when Alex was born!).

It turned out that Alex and Ben had dreamed up a special and unique way to surprise each of their immediate family members with their news. For my daughter Sophia, they visited her at work and presented her a sweatshirt that said, “Cool Aunt.” I so appreciate how Alex and Ben took the time to surprise me with their news and how they took great care to do the same for the other grandparents-to-be and their siblings.

As Alex and I talked about 2020 and all the happenings, she said to me, “Mom, we started the year with grandma passing away in January. The next weekend, Ben and I got our first dog, and named it Kiwi (in memory of grandma bringing the kiwifruit to America). Then came the pandemic. And now on Christmas Eve, our first son is due to arrive. What an unbelievable year 2020 will be!”

It is especially bittersweet for me, as Monday, August 10 is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 97. My sister Jackie and I and our immediate family of nieces, nephews, spouses and kids are gathering at mom’s house for a light snack and chocolate cupcakes (my mom’s favorite), with masks, separate tables and proper physical distancing. I’m sure we will reminisce by looking through old photos, telling funny “Grandma Frieda” stories and eating a few of her favorite foods (beets, olives, honey mustard and avocados).

And we will talk about the circle of life. 2020 is definitely an example of how the miracle of the circle of life works.

I remember my mom hearing from all her friends how much she would love being a grandparent. It was perplexing to her, as she admittedly didn’t have great motherly instincts. But from the moment Alex (and then Sophia) was born, she reveled with joy and pride how much fun it was to watch her offspring. She was there for every Grandparent Day at elementary school, every graduation and every life cycle event.

She softened over the years, but maintained her sharpness, wit and complete interest in others, up until a few days before she passed.

She would be so excited that I will now be able to experience the joy of becoming a grandparent.

So Happy Birthday, Mom! We miss you and will be celebrating you this weekend!

Karen

(Me, baby Alex at 6 months, and my mom, Frieda, celebrating Earth Day 1990 at our office)

Several decades ago, my mother Frieda went to a spa in Ojai, Calif. It was called “The Oaks at Ojai” and was founded and owned by Sheila Cluff. If you have ever heard of Ojai, you know it is a small, sleepy town nestled into the inland hills just east of Ventura. It’s hot and dry and somewhat remote. (It’s also the home of Pixie Mandarins!)

I’m thinking it was in 1986, the month after I was named President of Frieda’s, when my mother took her first two-week vacation away from the business. She went to The Oaks at Ojai to rest, relax and lose a few pounds. She left me in charge of the business for the first time. I have so many vivid memories of those two weeks.

When my mom came back from her trip, she told me that each night at the spa, there were guest speakers talking about everything from books to exercise to proper eating. One of the speakers who she found most fascinating was a dermatologist. Her name was Dr. Cheryl Effron and she had an office in Anaheim Hills, not too far from my mom’s home. My mom was so impressed with Dr. Effron that she started seeing her regularly to have her skin checked. Dr. Effron and my mom developed an amazing and long friendship, and when mom came back to the Frieda’s office after each visit, she would start talking about Dr. Effron’s daughter, Jessica Koslow.

According to my mom, Jessica was apparently a child prodigy (isn’t every doctor’s only child a prodigy?) and a world-class ice skater. My mom would get the update on Jessica’s ice skating career after each appointment. And, typical of my mom, they all became friends—Dr. Effron, Jessica and my mom.

Fifteen years ago, after Dr. Effron found a malignant melanoma on the back of my mom’s leg (and arranged for her to have surgery to remove it), my mom announced to my sister Jackie and me that we needed to start going to see Dr. Effron every six months, since we could be at risk for skin cancer, too. And being the obedient daughters we were, we both started seeing Dr. Effron every six months … and still do to this day.

Fast forward to about 10 years ago, when our company forager Mary was walking the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Mary noticed this dark, curly haired woman was kind of following her from stand to stand, tasting the various peaches, plums, and other fresh fruits. Finally, Mary turned to the girl and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Mary from Frieda’s. So, who are you?” And the girl answered, “You work for Frieda’s? My mom is Frieda’s dermatologist!” As it turns out, Jessica Koslow, the ice skater, had pivoted in her career to become a jam maker.

She started a jam-making company that she named SQIRL, and she would purchase fresh, in-season fruit weekly to process her jams and create delicious flavors like Raspberry Rhubarb and Blood Orange and Hibiscus Marmalade.

 

When I learned this, I called my mom and she said, “Of course, Jessica makes the best and tastiest jams in the world. Literally, Karen, she has become so famous, people order her jams from all over the country!” Hey mom, you never told me that Jessica stopped ice skating.

When I would go see Dr. Effron for my twice-yearly appointments, I always asked about Jessica. I hadn’t met her, but after she and Mary met up at the farmer’s market, it piqued my interest. One day when I was in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles—where SQIRL LA is located (Jessica expanded from being just a jam company to a restaurant that served breakfast, brunch and lunch)—I stopped in there to smell the heavenly pastries they served and view the chalkboard where they had their menu and the teeny tiny seating area. SQIRL seemed bigger than life when I read about it, and to visit it in person was like making a trek to a mecca.

Sometimes Jessica would send jars of jam to my mom. She knew that my mom had a bit of a sweet tooth, so her jam was a perfect gift. Honestly, the jam was soooo delicious, so addictive, that I ate almost a whole jar once while I was visiting my mom’s house (that was one of the few times my mom got mad at me, and I had to call and order replacement jars for her).

My daughter Alex proclaimed to me last week: “Jessica Koslow and SQIRL put Silver Lake on the map. Before SQIRL, it was a sleepy, unknown neighborhood. Jessica made it a destination!”

So, last week, I did something that made me very happy … I ordered two copies of Jessica’s second cookbook, The Sqirl (Jelly, Fruit Butter, and Others) Book. It was published and first available for orders on July 22.

I received an autographed copy of Jessica’s first book, Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking when it came out in October 2016. Her mother Dr. Effron hand-delivered it to me during one of my regular appointments! Jessica’s first book was named Eater L.A.’s 2016 Cookbook of the Year.

I am salivating as I look at the photos in the cookbook and am thinking when citrus season starts up again that I may try my hand at the KumquatMandarinquatLimequats Marmalade recipe on page 238.

No wonder The New York Times called her “The Genius of Jam.” I think I will always call her Dr. Effron’s daughter, the ice skater.

Karen

Have you ever gotten up quickly and felt a little dizzy or turned over in bed and had the room start spinning? Well, that’s exactly what has been happening to me intermittently since March. It’s a pretty helpless feeling when it comes on suddenly. And it is especially confusing and frustrating when it disappears as quickly as it comes on.

But about two weeks ago, the day after I hiked the Grand Canyon, I had a terrible bout of vertigo. It included nausea, a complete feeling of being unbalanced and it was all around yucky. I had a hard time standing up from a seated position and had to avoid any quick head or neck movements.

I couldn’t even drive to work the next day, so I attended our morning meeting via Zoom. One of my coworkers said, “You need to go to Dizziland.”

“Ha! Ha!” I thought. But then I remembered that this coworker Leslie had had a weeklong bout of vertigo along with migraines last year and had found a specialist who treated and cured her. So, after our Zoom meeting, I called her. She told me that there are only two places in the United States that have an extensive treatment center to treat vertigo and one happens to be in Newport Beach—about 20 miles from our offices (the other one is in Florida). She told me to check out their website www.dizziland.com.

I immediately went on the website and filled out the inquiry form and within a day I received a phone call. After I described my symptoms, it was as if the universe was working on my behalf, as she said, “Wow—we have an opening at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. Are you available?” “Of course I am!” was my answer. She told me I would come in for a consultation with the doctor and would then go through a battery of tests for four hours.

I was advised to wear loose clothing and to not eat a lot, as during the testing, some patients have gotten nauseous. So, I opted for no food in the morning (thank goodness).

When I walked in to meet the doctor, I got a smile on my face. His name is Dr. Howard Mango. Mango! So immediately I told him that I sell mangoes and we started talking about the produce business. What a small world. When he was a student at the University of Southern California, he used to work at the 32nd Street Market near downtown LA—in the produce department! Talk about establishing immediate rapport!

I asked him how he got into the audiology field—he told me that his real passion was acting, but he also loved the sciences. He said that John Ritter (famed actor) was in one of his early acting classes at USC. Well, Dr. Mango realized that John was really good … so thought maybe he should pursue a career in science!

Back to the assessment of my vertigo. I spent more than four solid hours being tested. Two separate times, my complete torso was strapped into a chair (looks like an astronaut’s seat on a space capsule) and was turned in every possible direction.

One of the tests involved being spun at what felt like a really high speed, in the dark, and having to focus on various shapes and bright spots. Another test involved lying on a table with blackout goggles on, then they put a long, thin balloon in each of my ears—one with warm water and one filled with cold water.I stood on a platform, and below my feet the floor would jerk or move, and they were recording how I reacted and whether I lost my balance. I never felt terrible or anxious during the four hours of testing, but it was comforting that the three separate technicians who guided me through the morning (actually medical students doing their training), were kind and nurturing. I’m guessing that my vertigo challenges were mild compared to some of the people who came for treatment. It made me laugh as during one test (when I was strapped into a chair in the dark and spinning very fast), the technician was asking me to list things. It’s a great distraction technique. She asked me to name all kinds of animals. I said, “Hey, I sell fruits and veggies for a living—can I just name them for you?!” The whole idea was to distract me from getting anxious about being spun around.

So this week, I got my diagnosis. During the testing, I figured out that the issue was probably on my left side and, in fact, Dr. Mango told me that it is my left ear that is “sick.” The diagnosis is called “Vestibular Neuritis and Labyrinthitis”—a disorder resulting from a viral infection that inflames the inner ear. This has caused Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (sounds awful, but really means: not life-threatening, sudden and caused by certain head positions). It was fascinating to learn about how the eyes, the ears and the brain really do work together to keep us balanced.

The treatment is Advanced Vestibular Treatment™ which is solely directed by doctors of audiology. The Dizziland Institute and one other facility in St. Louis are the only practices in the country using it. This treatment is performed at the doctors’ office twice a week and at home (on my computer) on all other days of the week, to retrain my eyes, brain and ears. The doctor also confirmed that part of the treatment is to take at least 2000 mg of Vitamin D3 a day and to eat a diet of healthy (non-junk) foods. I am relieved that he was able to quickly pinpoint the cause of my vertigo, and in six weeks of physical therapy I should be well on my way to being vertigo-free!

If you know someone who has experienced vertigo, and they are willing to see an audiologist/specialist who specializes in vertigo treatment, please pass this website along to them:  www.dizziland.com. My insurance covered everything except the copay.

It will be a life-changer!

Karen

Me, in the treatment chair this week.

I have always heard about the Grand Canyon and that seeing photos of it, versus being there in person, is no comparison. I recall that it was one of the Original Seven Wonders of the World.

After a lot of juggling of calendars, and working around COVID-19 travel restrictions, we were able to squeeze in my first trip to see the Grand Canyon about two weeks ago.

This visit seemed like a bit of a tease, as we flew into Las Vegas on a Friday morning, drove four hours to the Canyon, and only hiked for a few hours (Friday night and again early Saturday), before heading back to Las Vegas the next morning.

We entered the South entrance of Grand Canyon National Park, and I came to a strikingly swift realization—that you could be within 20 yards of the rim of the canyon and not even know it was there! It’s true! We pulled into the parking lot near the entrance and as we got out of the car, I had no idea how close we were to the rim. We literally walked down a short asphalt path, with small plantings of trees and bushes interspersed between the pathways, and all of a sudden—there it was. It was breathtaking! And huge.

Actually, it IS huge, but it doesn’t necessarily appear that way when you are standing on the rim. The Grand Canyon itself is a mile (1.6 km) deep and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide. But if you drive the circumference, from the South Rim entrance to the North Rim entrance—it takes more than five hours! So, to drive completely around it would take more than 10 hours.

We decided to hike down at Bright Angel Trailhead late Friday afternoon. As you might imagine, it was pretty hot in the Arizona sun. The trail didn’t look that difficult to me, especially since I saw at least a dozen people who were also hiking down that path.

But, when we met the first hikers who were coming UP the trail, after a day of hiking and saw the look on their faces, I knew this was a serious hike. In fact, we asked two women hikers if they would take our photo for us … and they refused. They were so exhausted from their three-mile return hike, they were afraid if they stopped moving, that they would not be able to start walking again to return to the rim. That’s serious!

We ended up hiking one mile down Bright Angel and turned around and hiked a mile back to the entrance. With all the switchbacks on the trail that we had to take during that mile, I realized it didn’t even take us very far down the canyon.

That’s when I finally understood why to hike “Rim2Rim” (that’s the official name of the hike from the top of the South Rim down across the canyon up to the North Rim, or the reverse course) takes at least 12 hours. And because it is treacherous to hike in the dark, many groups choose to do the Rim2Rim in June or July, because that is when the days are the longest and you have the most sunlight. Needless to say, that is also when it is the hottest. Today the temperature at the Grand Canyon is over 90 degrees (which means it is probably over 110 degrees on the floor of the canyon, where there is no breeze). So, that two-mile hike on Friday evening was just fine for my first venture.

We got up at 6:00 a.m. the next morning to do a four-mile walk around the rim, as there is a lot of historical information and an educational pathway along the South Rim which demonstrates the 2-billion-year timeline of Grand Canyon geology.

With all this being said, I highly encourage you to visit the Grand Canyon. Know that you do not need to be an elite athlete to experience the amazing vistas, the history, and the beauty of Northern Arizona. You can take it at your own pace.

But, let me tell you what I learned during my time at the Grand Canyon.

During the morning walk around a small part of the rim, on the path there were signs that said “take one large step—about 3 feet—and you will have traveled a Million Years.”

Let me repeat that: 3 feet = 1 million years.

That means, this freaky year we are in right now—2020—won’t even show up in the Grand Canyon.

And that bad day you had? It’s not even a blip on the geological timeline.

It really put things in perspective for me. I find that when I am having a rough day, a rough week, or even a rough few months, that all I have to say to myself is “GC”—Grand Canyon. It puts it into perspective.

And that’s why I recommend you make time to go visit the Grand Canyon. Go with at least one person who you can share the experience with. And allow some time for you to walk slowly, to meditate, to journal if you want. I was not surprised that we came across a robed monk seated cross-legged on a rock meditating in the early morning hours.

It is truly a heavenly place.

Karen

I don’t know about you and your company, but at Frieda’s we invited all our employees back into the office a couple of weeks ago. In early March, like the rest of America, we thought it was best to have employees work from home. As an essential business (the food business, supplying grocery stores), our employees in the warehouse still came in every day. Thankfully our business continued to be very busy, packing and receiving all of our specialty and exotic produce, like Dragon Fruit and Jackfruit. Of course, we made sure to establish many new protocols to ensure workers’ health and safety—spacing workers six feet apart, lots of hand sanitizer, no large meetings and we set up satellite break rooms so everyone had plenty of space when they took their lunch breaks.

During the last three months, our office team rotated into the office—one person per department each day. This ensured the essential duties that involve phone calls and paperwork were done in a timely fashion. Everyone else worked from home. Thankfully, we had purchased laptops for all employees a few years ago as part of our Emergency Plan, so the staff were all equipped to make that move with less than 24 hours’ notice.  Thank goodness for cell phones and Zoom.

Now that most everyone is back at work, the challenge became: how do we promote some fun, healthy activities plus get the team vibe back? When I received a LinkedIn comment from one of my produce industry friends suggesting we organize a team for a fitness walk/run/5K/30-mile online event sponsored by the Center For Growing Talent by the Produce Marketing Association—I jumped right on it.

What a great idea! Any company in the produce industry could put together a team, and each team member could choose the distance they wanted to do: 1 mile, 5K, or 30 miles in 30 days. Since I am newly into running, fast walking and half-marathons (daily fitness)—and being the competitive person that I am—I decided to invite everyone at our company to join me. I started with a personal email to all employees and then I asked our HR team to help me register employees who wanted to sign up. My goal was to get 25 employees to participate.

Man, was I surprised at how it turned out! At first the sign-ups were slow. But when we announced that if you signed up and completed your commitment, you would receive a $50 gift card … that seemed to get everyone’s attention!

This weekend marks the final day to record times and distances. We ended up having 48 of our employees sign up, and this Monday we had a spirit day and took some fun photos! (There is an award, of course, for the team who showed the most spirit and SWAG.) One group of employees from the warehouse even decided to get together on the weekend and hike 15-20 miles up Mount Wilson (the tallest peak in So Cal)!
Have you ever organized or participated in a team run with your coworkers? It’s a great way to promote teamwork and camaraderie—and break up the monotony of work. I remember years ago I worked with a woman who wanted to have a company softball league. She told me that when you play sports with your coworkers, you come back to the office more likely to work harder for and get along better with your coworkers—because you’re literally on the same team!

There are many silver linings to the coronavirus/shelter-at-home orders if we just look for them. For us, it seems like everyone was ready to get moving, exercise and spend time with their coworkers!

Karen

Last weekend I took my first plane flights since COVID-19 pretty much grounded me from my normal business travel schedule. Actually, as I look back on my calendar, I have not been on a plane this year!

So, this trip took me from Orange County through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to change planes.

I had seen photos that friends had posted on Facebook of eerily empty airports and planes, so I was somewhat prepared. I carried my own mask (plus a back-up), along with sanitizing wipes. And, of course, I packed my own snacks.

The Orange County airport was incredibly empty. There are three separate terminals, and only the central terminal was open for security; flights and food outlets were quite limited.

That all changed when we boarded our flight, as I would estimate the flight was half to two-thirds full. Interestingly, there was little chatting or the usual banter between passengers. After take-off, the flight attendants were rarely seen. Of course, I realized that this was because currently there is no food service on domestic flights.

Once we landed, exited the flight at DFW, and rode the Skylink to another terminal, I had a chance to chat with a few flight attendants. They shared with me that the passenger load on flights had just started to increase in the last week or two. They had been flying the last three months, but anticipated there would be furloughs after the summer.

Since we had an extra hour on the ground, we made our way to a restaurant and witnessed firsthand physical distancing practices in food establishments. The young host was calm as he let us know our seating options, and we decided to sit at the bar, as we saw two chairs available there. Tables in the restaurant were spaced out farther than usual, and there was no silverware or anything on the tables.

We sat and had an adult beverage and did our people-watching. Of course, we were wearing our masks at all times until our drinks came.

And that’s when I witnessed incredible, gentle kindness.

A 60-something gentleman traveling alone was getting up from the bar and could not find his mask. He was visibly flustered, as it was obvious he would be getting on a flight soon, and a mask would be required. He checked with the bartender, “Did you accidently throw away my mask?” The bartender looked; none of us could find his mask.

Then a 20-something young man came to sit at the bar and could tell the older gentleman was a bit frantic. The 20-something deposited his backpack on a bar chair and said, “What kind of mask do you want?” As he opened his backpack, he pulled out a large sleeve of masks in every style imaginable! There must have been 15 or 20 masks in that clear plastic bag. The 60-something-year-old man was so grateful and picked out the kind of mask he wanted and said thank you. No handshaking, of course. Just big smiles.

I was so struck by the simple kind gesture of that 20-something man. Travel is stressful enough with trying to make connections and getting a quick bite to eat between flights, but in these times of COVID-19 and physical distancing, many people are walking on eggshells. With everyone wearing masks, even if you smile at someone, it is doubtful that they will feel the impact of a smiling face, since our mouths are covered.

But a simple act of selfless kindness goes a long way. And I am hoping that we see more of this in the months to come.

And, about getting on your first airplane after months of not traveling … it’s not so hard. Just prepare (with masks, wipes, snacks and reading). Be kind to your fellow passengers. I do recommend taking a nice hot, soapy shower once you arrive at your destination. You will sleep better knowing that any errant germs are gone!

Karen

It’s graduation time around the country and many of us are not able to witness that enormous rite of passage—walking across the stage in front of a celebratory crowd to shake hands and receive a diploma in front of family and friends. Whether it’s graduation from middle school, high school or college, it is heartbreaking to some people and families to miss out on the traditional life cycle event.

In contrast, we’ve all seen the “drive by” birthday or special celebrations, where friends and families cruise by the home of the birthday celebrant with posters, honking horns and lots of waves and blowing kisses.

But a college graduation is a really big deal, especially when someone goes back to school to get an advanced degree.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I received an email a few weeks ago from my industry friend, Kevin Coupe who is a well-known thought leader in the supermarket and food business at the Morning News Beat. (I had been a guest speaker at a summertime Marketing Business Class he teaches at Portland State University in Oregon a few years ago, and after class we went to dinner. His wife Laura and daughter Allison joined us—we had a fabulous conversation—and Allison and I felt an instant connection. She and I have stayed in touch the last few years via email.)

So, on Saturday, Allison Joan is supposed to graduate with her masters in special education. But, of course, because of the pandemic, she won’t have a graduation ceremony (which she was looking forward to because she has a 4.0 GPA), so we’re just going to celebrate at home.

So, I have a favor to ask.  Would you record a 2-3 minute video commencement address for her that I could play when we’re having dinner on Saturday night? Just words of wisdom … or whatever you want to tell her. I guess what I am hoping for is some advice for going forward … the stuff that I could tell her that she’d never pay attention to because I’m her father. The stuff you’ve learned in your life and career that you’d want someone to tell your daughters.

Thanks… I appreciate it.”  

The first thing that I noticed were the words “commencement address.” My heart skipped a beat, as giving a college commencement address has been on my bucket list for almost 10 years! But this wasn’t the type of commencement address I had in mind when I added it to my list. Of course, I replied immediately and told Kevin “yes.” And then I started thinking: what kind of “stuff” had I learned in my life and career that I would want to share with a recent grad?

I made a few notes, then on a Friday morning, while I was working from my home office, I recorded it on my iPhone. As my mom would always say, “Technology is just amazing!” I had watched Kevin’s recordings for many months, and my partner Jack had just done a “happy birthday” message for one of his nieces. I watched how they looked into the camera, how they both made their recordings seem folksy and human, and then, I just did it. No makeup, no special lighting, I was just real and I spoke from my heart.

When I was done, I watched it and then emailed it to Kevin. I heard he received it, but that was it.

Until yesterday’s mail arrived. A handwritten card from Allison:

“Dear Karen,

Words cannot express how touched I was at your contribution to my commencement video. Your words brought tears to my eyes, and it was amazing how appropriate they were—far more than any regular commencement speech could’ve been. I feel like you laid out the challenges and opportunities I will have really well—I’ve spent today making a list of the things I want to accomplish and how to make the days ahead of me my best ones—cause they will be! And I loved the reminder that it’s okay to ask for help and to use my connections to help with success.

 The greatest thing is I get to keep the video on my laptop so in moments when I need a little inspiration or encouragement, I’ll be able to turn to you again (and I hope I can reach out in person as well … ).  I hope to have dinner again soon! Thank you again! 

 Sincerely, Allison

P.S. Your shirt is the coolest shirt ever!”

Well, talk about making a difference in someone’s life! Check, check, check! I got the chills.

Perhaps there is a lesson here.  Maybe one of the gifts of the pandemic is that instead of “being a number” at a graduation, or having to listen to someone you don’t know or have a connection to, there is now an opportunity to make your graduation more personal and full of meaning. Is there a special person in your life who is celebrating a momentous occasion? Don’t be afraid to record a personal message.

A couple of hints that gave me peace of mind in doing this:

  1. In advance, outline the three or four points you want to make (that way you are not rambling or running out of things to say).
  2. Look directly at the camera on your mobile phone—it makes the recipient feel as if you are talking directly to them.
  3. Make it personal. Come up with one or two specific memories that you can mention. This will make the recipient feel like this is a personal message to them.
  4. It’s okay to be a little scrappy when you are doing it—it makes you seem more approachable and is easier than getting all dressed up and being worried about the background, tripping over a word, etc.
  5. Do at least one run-through. I recommend you record it, so you can play it back and see the angle of the camera, how your hair looks and to make sure you’re not doing any weird motions.

If you’d like to see my “First Commencement Address”— here it is!

 

Onward and upward!

Karen

Yes, you read that correctly. This past Sunday I completed my first half-marathon—13.1 miles.

That may not seem like a big deal … but, please note: I am not a runner. The last time I ran a 5K or a 10K was more than 15 years ago. You might wonder what motivated me to complete a half-marathon, so here goes.

Let me start with my goals for the year. Many of you know that I started a new process back in December of setting some annual goals for myself (read about it here).  Some were weekly (number of workouts), some were monthly (number of books I read or dinners with my family) or annual (number of trips or vacations). Many of those goals were centered around fitness, such as how many times a week I would exercise. Plus, I wrote in my annual goals that I would complete a 10K this year. But frankly, I thought that accomplishment was far-fetched, since I couldn’t even run a full mile continuously.

Then enter the COVID-19 pandemic. No more visits to the gym I had just joined. No more weekend cardio-intense fitness classes at Orangetheory Fitness. No more twice-weekly weight training sessions with my strength coach. I was very concerned about how I would maintain the fitness level I had been working on. Obviously, without the disciplined fitness routine I had, my biggest concern was: would I gain weight?

So, my partner Jack and I started taking evening walks at the end of our work days. What began as a “sauntering walk” around the neighborhood evolved into two-hour mini-hikes. With our phones and tracking devices, we found ourselves making sure we completed at least 3 miles each night, and oftentimes those evening walks were 5-6 miles long. Sometimes the route was flat; other times we did a battery of hills and mountain trails. Our favorites were when we could walk the beach trail and see the sunset. But, thanks to the virus, those beach trails were closed, and we had to stay in the hills near our house.

One of the things that made these evening walks so enjoyable was that I had a partner. And I noticed we weren’t the only people in our neighborhood going for long regular walks. Over time, especially since mid-March, we started to see more and more groups of people walking together. Sometimes families (adults and children together), sometimes couples, and sometimes groups of same-sex friends. And over time, we saw more smiles—people got friendlier!

We started to see groups of runners or people riding bicycles together—it actually was quite a phenomenon! Since our goal was to walk every night, we started to meet our neighbors. We noticed who had dogs. One day, as we were leaving the house, a couple walked past and stopped to announce, “Hello – we think we are your next door neighbors!” I don’t know about you, but because I was usually at work from early morning until early evening, I never got a chance to meet or see my neighbors. Now that I am often working from home, and walking around the neighborhood, we are starting to meet them. What a nice side benefit of walking the neighborhood!

So, back to the half-marathon. Early last week, Jack said to me, “I think we should do a half-marathon this weekend.” I’m like … “What????” (Full disclosure, Jack has run 95 marathons, completed 15 Ironman Triathlons and is very into running.)

He said, “I have been watching you ‘build your base’ of walking strength, and you are easily completing one or two 5-mile walks a day. A half-marathon is only 13.1 miles, and we can walk it!” Wow—I never thought about completing a marathon by walking it, but that definitely sounded more doable than running it. He said, “The Marines are hosting a ‘virtual half-marathon’ this weekend and we can register online. And that means, once we complete it and give proof of our time and mileage (by uploading a photo of his Garmin Watch), you will get a really cool medal and T-shirt to commemorate your first half- marathon!”

That sounded so exciting to me—to have a medal, a completion certificate and a cool T-shirt—and so I said, “I’m in.” Jack was able to answer all my questions about best time of day to do it (early morning, when it is cool), proper nutrition (pack snacks with salt and plan where you can purchase water along your route) and what to wear (proper socks, running shoes, sunscreen, etc.)

I have to admit that I didn’t tell anyone I was doing this in advance, and I was a bit skeptical that I would be able to complete a 13.1-mile walk in a reasonable time. But, I did it! And it wasn’t as hard as you might have expected it would be.

Here’s how you can set yourself up for similar success, especially if you want to step outside your fitness comfort zone:

  1. Set a fitness goal for yourself. It’s okay if it seems a bit outlandish or far-reaching.
  2. Get a partner, an accountability partner, who shares your goal. It sure makes it easier, especially on those days you don’t feel like training.
  3. Set yourself up for success by having a regular training schedule. Record it manually (it reinforces your commitment by having to write it down).
  4. Tell everyone you can what you plan to do. It’s another way to hold yourself accountable, by making a public announcement. I chose to announce it afterwards, but feel free to enlist your supporters early!
  5. Celebrate when you achieve your goal.  You never know, by sharing your personal success or achievement, you might actually inspire others!

And that’s why I decided to share the story of completing my first half-marathon. I am pretty sure there are more half-marathons in my future. Now that I know that I can walk it, or mix in both jogging with walking, my next half-marathon goal will be beating my first completion time.

How about you? In this time of the pandemic, and virtual cocktail parties, why not sign up for a virtual 5K, 10K, or half-marathon? It’s a great way to step up your game!

#RunWithTheMarines

Karen

During the last eight weeks, there has been a single topic on our minds: when will the sheltering in place and disruption of the COVID-19 virus be over?

Well, since no one has the answer to this question right now, I want to share a different perspective.

No matter what is going on in your mind or in your life, you should ask yourself this question: Are my best years behind me or are my best years ahead of me?

The reality is … we all get to choose! Frankly, I believe strongly that it is all a mindset (consider this great book: Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.).

Sure, you could lament about the “good old days” and “the way it used to be,” or you could change your perspective. If you buy into the idea that the best days in your life are truly ahead of you—and you believe in that—it can actually make it exciting to get up each day!

First of all, you would say to yourself: How can I make that happen? How can I ensure that the best days of my life are ahead of me? What would cause that to happen? And what stands in the way? Well, really nothing stands in the way.

It’s all about how do you want to live your life. How do you guarantee that your life is full of joy and excitement? What things would have to happen to make your future the best part of your life?

Start by making a list. Make a list of all the things that you want to do, or you want to happen. Places you want to go, people to see, hobbies to learn, and so on. List things that would make your future years the best ones.

Some might refer to this as a “bucket list.” It doesn’t have to be outrageous, unless there are some outrageous things you want to do. For example, bungee jumping is not on my list, but visiting the Grand Canyon is. Taking a vacation several times a year is on my list and so is having family dinners with my daughters at least once a month.

Think about it, to have a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction, it’s good to create that road map with stops along the way. If this sounds too organized and goal-oriented for you, you might find it interesting to learn that more people spend time planning their annual one-week vacation than they do planning their life. Why not think bigger than only planning an annual vacation?

It’s long term thinking vs. short term thinking.

Back to the COVID-19 sheltering-in-place time we are in, it is easy to feel like the sky is falling. But let’s put this into perspective based on our own history.

It was over 30 years ago that HIV and AIDS were discovered and famed basketball player Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991. He immediately retired from professional sports. When diagnosed, he could easily have thought his best days were behind him. Today, in 2020, Magic Johnson is better known for his incredible success as a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and civic business leader than as a basketball player. Clearly, his best days were in front of him, even when he was faced with what seemed like a life-or-death situation.

During the financial crisis of 2008, bankers and investors saw their fortunes disappear in the economic downturn. People could easily have told themselves that their lives as they knew it were over and that their fortunes would never be restored. The smart folks, with a growth mindset, didn’t give up and some of them are significantly wealthier today than they were pre-2008. They leveraged their experience and saw an opportunity for a different kind of success. Certainly, their best days were in front of them.

What about when the dot.com bubble burst in 2000? Sure, in the short term, many companies almost completely lost their value. But now, tech companies like Facebook, Alphabet (Google) and Amazon are all booming and their owners and investors are successful beyond belief. But in 2000–2002, it sure seemed to appear as if the world was ending. I bet Jeff Bezos would have said his best years were ahead of him.

Back to the question: Are your best days behind you, or are the best years of your life in front of you? Ultimately, you get to decide.

Perhaps you can think about the base of experiences you have built pre-COVID. The experiences, the contacts, the habits. Can you now leverage all that experience to make your future years even better?

For me, the easiest choice I make every day is to only worry about those things I have control over. Everything else is not worth a worry.

For example, my personal health and fitness are within my control. Some people would see it as a hurdle or excuse that all gyms are closed. For me, my trainer is now 60 miles away since I moved. But my health is within my control, and so instead I have taken up vigorous walking and hiking every afternoon. Five-mile walks with plenty of hills are my new routine. I dusted off all those free weights gathering dust in my garage and have now converted a spare bedroom into a mock gym.

So, as you are pondering how you can guarantee that your best days are ahead of you, consider these three perspectives:

For me, I know the best days of my life ARE in front of me and no pandemic or sheltering-in-place guidelines can stop me from enjoying life! How about you?

Karen

Times like these allow us the opportunity to discover what we are truly made of, and for me, perspective is key. Thanks to COVID-19 and social distancing and sheltering from home mandates, I have now been working from my home office for more than four weeks and have had time to reflect on what lessons I’ve learned from this experience. My decades in this industry have taught me much about crises and resiliency, and how to see obstacles as opportunities.

One of the lessons that I have gleaned from this time, in partnership with my experience moving through the ups and downs of the produce industry is that you should Plan for Future Opportunities. Play for the rebound. The produce industry is a resilient business.  And there will be a new normal, with plenty of opportunities for those who have planned ahead. If you have people in your business who are focused on the day-to-day and the here and now, then make sure you are looking at three, six, even 12 months down the road. Do you have the right team for your future business model? Are you selling the right products?  Is your customer mix optimal? I imagine those produce companies who were focused almost 100 percent on food service must be evaluating how they can diversify. Are there opportunities to partner with other companies—companies you would have never considered before?

Another lesson I have learned is: Make decisions that are best for your business. It was Winston Churchill who said, “No crisis should go to waste.”  In business, during this crisis, many of us are being forced to make difficult decisions: decisions about people, suppliers, products, and customers.  Let’s be honest, how many of us already knew that we had issues with people, suppliers, or customers? Probably all of us. But we never took care of making those tough decisions, because, well, we didn’t HAVE to.  But now, at a time when we are being forced to make those difficult, life-changing decisions to assure our viability as businesses, we are making them. This allows us to re-prioritize and do a deep dive into our values and find that resiliency. Each challenge is an opportunity for discovery.

Always remember to take care of yourself first. If you are not in a good space you cannot take care of anyone else. That is why the most important priority is to take care of ourselves— physically and mentally.  Getting enough sleep, a regular exercise regime (preferably outdoors for fresh air) and making healthy eating choices. During the workday, I make myself get up every hour or so, for a walk around the house.  After work, walks or hikes are the highlight of every day (if it’s not raining) and having set sleeping hours has certainly made getting in this new work-from-home (WFH) rhythm easier. Social distancing i.e. not seeing friends in person has been a challenge. Connecting with friends—whether they are in produce or not—helps with our mental health.  Even if you have to make a “Friends List” and schedule time each day to call at least one friend or see them via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, staying connected will prevent that feeling of isolation.

And the lesson that should remain a steadfast practice rain or shine: Show gratitude. Be grateful. Whether you are grateful to be healthy, or grateful for your friends and family—or grateful for a paycheck or a nimble business strategy.  At least once a day, I find myself being grateful, even in the midst of the trials and tribulations of running a company, having friends face health challenges, and not being able to see my family, coworkers, and friends in person. I can always find something that I am grateful for.  And stopping, taking a deep breath and saying it out loud causes me to be a little bit calmer.

A few years from now, as we look back on 2020, we will say “I am a better person because of what I learned during that crazy year.”  Let’s not forget, this is a great year to make lemonade out of Meyer Lemons.

Onward and upward,

Karen

I am not a game person. I don’t play cards and I don’t do puzzles. (Or at least that’s what I’ve always told myself.)

However, occasionally my BFF Betsy will invite me over for an evening of cards with her poker group. Or when I visit my friends David and Paula in Prescott, Ariz., we will work on a puzzle between glasses of wine and rounds of golf.

But honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times I have played Monopoly in my life.

Enter: social distancing and sheltering at home.

So, I’ve been working from home for almost four weeks, and after working hours and an evening walk, it’s been a challenge to decide on evening entertainment. Oh, did I mention that I don’t really watch much TV?

So one evening, my partner Jack says to me, “Have you ever played MasterMind®?” Uh, did I mention that I don’t play games?

I took a deep breath and said, “No, have never heard of it.”  So, Jack tells me that it was the “Game of the Year” in 1973 and it’s his favorite travel game, as only two people play it.

Out comes this plastic box filled with colored pegs.

 

Jack tells me this is his travel version and I quickly Google it to find out that not only are there regular-sized MasterMind® sets, but you can with play it online alone or with friends!

Here’s the lowdown on the game, based on my first three experiences.

  1. There are six colors of pegs:  Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue, Green and Brown.
  2. One person (the codemaker), arranges four pegs in a shielded part of the board (any color combination of one, two, three or four colors).
  3. The second person (the codebreaker) has the job of figuring out the correct colors and proper order, by arranging four pegs on the board.
  4. The codemaker scores the setup of the pegs: for each correct color you give a white peg and for each correct color in the correct location, a black peg.
  5. You have six chances to guess the correct color configuration.

Now, because I am not a regular game player, this game sounded ludicrous. I mean, how would you be able to figure it out? But, because I am fairly competitive, I decided to give it a go. During my first go-around as the codebreaker, I talked through my thought process with Jack (who has played it hundreds of times). I was surprised by using deductive reasoning, and testing various colors and positions, during my first game I solved the problem in six rounds! The second and third time I solved the problem in five rounds.

As I was playing the game, I realized that I was working different parts of my brain than I normally use during the day. And it felt kind of good. Was I actually learning a few business lessons from playing MasterMind®? In business and in life, I learned that by taking a break from my normal routine I was exercising different parts of my brain.

I learned that even if a solution seems impossible, by using deductive reasoning and eliminating options, I could—by process of elimination—figure out the answer. By talking possible options through—out loud—the simple act of hearing my evaluation of both the current scenario and the desired state helped me find the perfect solution.

Unfortunately in this game, you cannot consult someone else. It is you, the codebreaker, against your opponent, the codemaker. But doesn’t that happen in business, too? You don’t have time or the option to consult someone else who might see things from a different view. Sometimes we have to make decisions on our own, with what seems to be limited information. So it is important that we train ourselves to consider all options, use all available information and concentrate.

Although I’ve never been a big fan of playing games, my eyes have been opened to how games and game strategy can help us with other challenges in our life.

If you’ve never heard of MasterMind®—or played it—I encourage you to check it out. I’ve become a big fan.

I see more game playing in my future. Monopoly, anyone?

Karen

Obviously, the hardest part of this entire “social distancing” requirement is that we cannot spend physical time with our family, friends and coworkers. Sure, we can wave at our neighbors on neighborhood walks, but what about those friends who we used to get coffee with, or in my case, see at the multitude of industry conferences and meetings?

I’ve decided to attack this challenge the same way I do my normal work stuff. I’m going to plan my day in advance and make a list of everything I want to do—in this case, who I want to connect with.

How about this?

  1. Make a list of all the friends you normally keep in touch with.
  2. Make a separate list of your family members who you want to touch base with.
  3. Get out your daily calendar (or use the task list in Outlook on your computer) and block out time each day for touch-base calls. Block out this time on your calendar a week at a time vs. each day.
  4. Text or email each of your friends and family and slot them into times that work for both of you. Try blocks of 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Be sure to give yourself breaks between calls.
  5. I’ve found that for me two calls a day is optimal (mostly because I am working from home during the day).
  6. Get a feel for how often you want to touch base with people. With my two daughters, I check in daily. Sometimes the calls are 5 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. For friends, the calls may be once a week, and for others twice a month.
  7. Make a check-mark on your lists (above) to indicate when you’ve completed each call.
  8. Consider sending the person a quick text after your call to show your gratitude to them. Emojis are a great way to express your feelings. Or, go old school, and pen a handwritten note. (Good use for all that stationary you’ve had sitting in your desk drawer!)
  9. And be ready to throw out the plan when you need to! Sometimes I just need to call my sister Jackie and have a good laugh. Connecting with others has done wonders to get me through this crazy time.

And what about exercising? I keep seeing photos of friends on Facebook and Instagram who are baking and cooking up a storm. I’m a bit worried to see what happens after a few months of this—will all of us have gained unwanted weight? (I use a fitness app to track my weight a couple of times a week. This keeps me honest.)

I’ve really become diligent about tracking my steps each day and writing down what kind of physical activity I’m doing daily, including how long I spend exercising. Working from home, it’s super easy to stay seated at my desk all day and not find time for exercise. So, each day I fill my Month-at-a-Glance calendar with:

  1. Number of steps each day
  2. Type and length of exercise completed
  3. Books I’ve completed
  4. Number of handwritten notes I’ve sent
  5. Hours of sleep each night

I have also heard about some of the family dance challenges on social media and that seems like a great way to keep you moving along with your quarantine-mates!

I know it might sound a little crazy to be tracking so many things and planning out my personal phone calls to friends and family, but I’ve found that I am getting so much more done by taking an organized approach to each day. And that’s exactly what I’ve learned from time management experts: Those who approach their personal lives with the same discipline and focus that they do in planning their work day, get the most done and feel the most personal satisfaction.

It’s so easy during this time of “work from home” to let the hours of the day ebb and flow, and all of the sudden another day has passed. Try some of these hacks and see how much more accomplished and positive you feel at end of each day!

Karen

Like you, I find myself feeling a bit anxious about the roller coaster of the stock market, the constant emails and the CNN Alerts I receive about the latest COVID-19 warning, plus the ever-present worry of “Will I run out of toilet paper?”

I don’t think I will run out of toilet paper, but I’ve decided I am only going to worry about things that are within my control. Once I decided that, it made things feel more, well, controllable.

So, I wanted to share some ideas with you to help you take advantage of all the time we will have on our hands, since we can’t go to bars, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, concerts, meetings or parties.

  1. Take up daily meditation. I personally spend 20 minutes every morning listening to an app on my phone. The essential focus is on remaining calm by being in a quiet place and sitting with your eyes closed. I use deep breathing to lower my heart rate, clear my mind and create a sense of calm. I meditate first thing when I get up in the morning. What a great way to start the day.
  2. Every day, clean a room, a drawer, a cabinet or desk. This past weekend, we tackled the cabinets under the sink in our bathroom. It’s kind of cathartic to pull everything out, wipe down the cabinet, throw out everything expired or duplicates, and then rearrange in clear plastic bins/shoe boxes. It’s so much easier to find everything! And it gives you a small dose of personal satisfaction for accomplishing something when you can see immediate results.
  3. Set aside an hour each day and take a brisk walk or bike ride. Exercising is important during times of stress, and since your gym is closed, you should be careful that you don’t stop exercising all together. If you miss the free weights and TR-X straps at the gym, try using cans or water bottles as weights and order a Stretchable strap from Amazon to do your own homemade TR-X workout.
  4. Sleep at least 7.5-8 hours a night. The single biggest thing you can do to deal with stress, make better decisions, feel good about yourself and not be snappy with your family is to get a good night’s sleep! I personally have been following the practice of having a set bedtime and wake time, and it has made the sleep routine so much easier.
  5. Catch up on reading. Both at home and at work, I have a stack of magazines that I need to read. One a day is plenty … and it’s a great opportunity to learn something new without the commitment of reading a whole book.
  6. Experiment with cooking. I always find the chefs on The Food Network fascinating to watch. I especially like the show “Chopped.” Why not take a few unusual ingredients from your pantry or refrigerator and figure out a new recipe to make? You can go to epicurous.com or my latest favorite source www.food52.com and enter the ingredients you want to use or the type of dish you want to make and voila! Is your grocery store out of apples, oranges and bananas? This is a great time to buy a whole jackfruit and learn how to break it down and freeze it. Better yet, use it to make an excellent chili. Big batch cooking will help you stock the freezer with something fresh to enjoy later on.
  7. It’s spring … how about gardening? Time to pull weeds, till the soil and plant some flowers or vegetable plants in your front or back yard. Touching the earth (albeit with gardening gloves on) can be grounding. And, again, by planting flowers in your yard, it will give you something to smile about when you go outside or arrive home.
  8. Organize your emails. I don’t know about you, but I have too many emails in my inbox and other folders. But I’m afraid to really delete them, in case I might need some info. Why not allocate some time during the week to organize your emails? I know in the last few days I have discovered emails I never responded to or found a few that needed action.
  9. Help others who are quarantined. Do you have friends or family who cannot go to the grocery store, get their prescriptions picked up or just need an errand run? My assistant Tricia shared with me this morning what she was able to do for her mother, who is elderly, including calling her doctor’s office and getting her prescriptions changed to “deliver by mail on auto-fill.” It reduced anxiety and worry for her mother, and I’m sure gave Tricia a feeling of satisfaction by helping her mom. Who can you help?
  10. Call a friend or family member. (Or hand write a letter.) In this age of texting, Instagram and Facebook, we’ve lost the art of old-fashioned personal communication. I personally enjoy penning a note to a friend to thank them and during my commute to and from work each day, I used the time to connect with friends and family by phone. Since I am now working from home for the next couple of weeks, I plan to make time to phone a friend each day, to stay connected.

I hope these ideas inspire you to look at the bright side of this new era we are living in. And I welcome your ideas for filling in all this free time we now have on our hands.

Karen

The term “spring cleaning” always makes me think about the weather changing from the cold, winterish, chilly days to the warmer spring weather—something about the windows getting opened, the house getting filled with fresh air—means it’s time to clean out your closets, drawers, etc.

Well, spring does not officially start until next week on Thursday, March 19. (Did you know that the date of spring changes based on the vernal equinox, which can be March 19, 20 or 21? This year it’s March 19.) But, in my humble opinion, it’s not too soon to start organizing yourself to do some “spring” cleaning. And, yes, I think you need to do spring cleaning in an organized fashion.

Last week, I actually sold my residence of more than 17 years and moved. When Mayra, CEO of the moving company, came to give me a quote a few weeks ago (it was awesome to learn that I was dealing with a woman-owned business!), she said in her bold, direct fashion: You need to purge your stuff. Go through your clothes, your kitchen, your books. You have way too much stuff!

Mayra was right, of course. Even though I had purged my stuff about four-and-a-half years ago (you can read my blog about how I was inspired by reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up  – the book changed my life!) I apparently had accumulated a few too many more things. 🙂

So, I just resurrected my inner Marie Kondo, and started going through each part of my house:

The kitchen—I went through my pantry and looked at code dates and tossed things out of code. I then took all my snack items to work (which removed temptation for me in my new home!). I had stopped purchasing anything nonperishable about a month ago to minimize the amount of food I would have to pack.

My closet—I didn’t do a complete Marie Kondo (also referred to as the konmarie method) and take everything out of my closets and drawers and ask myself if each piece made me happy before deciding to keep or donate. What I did ask myself as I went through every piece of hanging clothing and everything in my drawers: “When was the last time I wore this?  Do I feel good in it?” That helped me give away at least 50–60 pieces of hanging clothing and four or five bags of clothes and shoes. Oh yeah—then I went to my hall closet and found another 10 coats and jackets I could donate to a shelter. Sometimes we forget that we have clothes in many places around our house.

My office— Everyone has a junk drawer, right? You know, the drawer you just throw random stuff into? Well, I feel like my desk was completely made up of “junk drawers.” I had old tax paperwork, useless receipts, plus office supplies galore. Just to shock myself into doing something radical, I actually DID dump the contents of all of the drawers onto the middle of my home office. It really forced me to purge heavily.

I remember a consultant many years ago telling me that it was hard to stay focused on your work if your work area that you looked at was a mess. At work I have taken that very seriously and work hard to leave my desk perfectly neat and straightened when I leave work each evening. That way when I come to work in the morning, I have a clean slate. Well at home, I had trinkets everywhere! Thank goodness I was moving, so I had to decide—keep or toss. (Or re-gift! I know it’s difficult when a close friend or child gives you a gift or photo. You feel obligated to keep it in sight.)

I always say “thank you” when someone gives me one of those gifts. But if it’s not something I really want, like or can use—chances are I put it directly in my “donation pile” at home. You know … I am sharing the wealth.

So, think about it. Look at your work area right now while you are reading this. Is your desk cluttered with mail, papers, trinkets and statues? Do you coincidentally find it hard to concentrate and get things done? Think: Clear space, clear mind. Seriously, it is amazing how much more productive you feel when your work area has been decluttered.

As I write this, and am looking at my desk at work, I realize that I have some work to do! A few too many photos, statues, and gobs of unnecessary paper and notebooks. Seriously, I need to take my own advice!

I guess it really IS time to get ready for spring cleaning!

Karen

I probably wouldn’t have thought a lot about Women’s History Month (March) or Women’s History Day (March 8), except that Whole Foods Markets nationwide are featuring some of their women-owned suppliers in many of their stores/departments during the month. And you can guess who is featured in produce … yep—Frieda’s Specialty Produce!

It all started with the person who is head of produce buying for Whole Foods calling me about 4 months ago. He mentioned that he pitched the idea of including Frieda’s to the higher ups in his company as they were brainstorming their “Women Makers” campaign. It sounded awesome, but I didn’t expect it to be a super big deal. I passed the info along to our sales rep in charge of Whole Foods and forgot about it.

Last week, while I was at an industry trade show, all of a sudden I started getting an unusual amount of text messages and emails. Turns out that Whole Foods had just sent an eblast/newsletter to their gazillion subscribers announcing their Women Makers’ Promotion…check it out here: Women Makers: Female Firsts.

Of course it is exciting to see my eldest daughter Alex as the face of Frieda’s plastered across more than 500 Whole Food Markets in the U.S.A. What’s even more exciting is to see the enthusiasm and beauty of the produce displays built with our products including Yellow Dragon Fruit, Jackfruit and Mandarinquat .  From what I can tell (by the reorders from the stores), the fruits and veggies are flying off the shelves!

So I decided to do a deeper dive into the origins of Women’s History Day.

The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on February 28, 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. The International Women’s Day (IWD) date was moved to March 8 in 1913. The day aimed to help nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women. It also focused on helping women gain full and equal participation in global development. And, just an FYI, International Men’s Day is celebrated on November 19 each year.

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year—1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 (on March 8) is: I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights #eachforequal. The theme is aligned with UN Women’s new multi-generational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. You can find out more here.

I was curious to find out if there was a special color or symbol associated with International Women’s Day. Before I consulted Dr. Google, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be an amazing coincidence if it was the same color that my company—a women-owned company—uses (hint: purple)? No surprise here … as we all know there is no such thing as a coincidence.

Purple is the internationally recognized color to symbolize women, while the combination of the colors green, purple and white is meant to represent women’s equality, according to the IWD website. Purple, or the combination of those three colors, may be displayed to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Although International Women’s Day started as a protest against working conditions for garment workers, today companies like Whole Foods and many other large organizations are using it to promote women, to highlight the role women play in their organizations and to recognize women’s contributions to the world. Even Costco listed a book in their monthly magazine about the role of women: The Girls of Atomic City, the untold story of the women who helped win World War II by Denise Kiernan. I just started reading it today and I can tell it is a page-turner.

As we look back to 1909 and forward past the year 2020, you might wonder what work is being done to measure the role of women and the journey to a 50/50 ratio of women to men serving on corporate boards of directors. Check out the work being done by 2020 Women on Boards.

So, as the weekend approaches, I challenge you to put on your favorite purple shirt, think about the role of women in your life and consider who you might inspire to make this world a more equitable and peaceful place for everyone. Men and women. Old and young. Rich and poor.

I personally will be thinking about my favorite female role model—my mother Frieda Rapoport Caplan, whose favorite color was purple. I will also be thinking about my father, Al Caplan, who always was one of the biggest advocates I knew for gender equality.

I am very proud of my family roots.

Karen

We all deal with the passing of a loved one differently. For me, writing has always been cathartic. But when my 96-year-old mother, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, The Queen of Kiwi, passed away on Saturday morning, January 18, I had to take a pause from writing. But, without question, I knew what I would title this post when I had the inner strength to write it:  “A Life Well Lived.”

Within hours of an email announcement to our family and close friends of her passing, the Los Angeles Times posted an amazing obituary (LA Times Frieda Caplan) written by our friend, Gustavo Arellano.  Typical of my mom, when a first lunch meeting was set up with Gustavo many years ago, they became fast friends. They shared political beliefs, a love of food and were instantly connected. Gustavo’s email undoubtedly was in my mom’s outlook contacts … thus he heard right away.

In the weeks following her passing, it was kind of incredible to watch the press coverage. I always felt like my mom was truly an icon, and newsworthy, so it was gratifying to see that the The Washington Post (The Washington Post Frieda Caplan), The New York Times (The New York Times Frieda Caplan), The Wall Street Journal (The Wall Street Journal Frieda Caplan), and the Orange County Register (The OC Register Frieda Caplan) all felt the same way. Segments aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered” (NPR Frieda Caplan) and KNX Radio .

And how about the CBS Sunday morning segment that was filmed last November and was never shown? Once the producers of the segment got word of Mom’s passing, they immediately found a way to make sure it aired as a tribute on Sunday January 19. It was as if the universe had planned it that way (CBS Sunday Morning Remembering Frieda Caplan).

I started working with my mom on October 3, 1977, right after I graduated from college. So, basically, I spent almost every single day for 42 years working alongside my mom.

But it was outside of business, the time we spent going to conventions and trade shows, that my Mom and I developed an extra special relationship, because we both belonged to the Trusteeship, part of the International Women’s Forum (whose goal is “to link prominent women leaders from diverse fields and industries in Southern California to engage and connect”). For more than 30 years, I would drive both of us to attend events almost monthly. On our drives to these events in Los Angeles, we had a chance to recap our day at work. At the forum’s dinner we rarely sat next to each other so we could meet other people. So, on our drive home, we would talk about who we sat with and what we thought of the program.

I was always a bit jealous of my mom’s conversations, as she seemed to sit next to the MOST interesting women. I finally realized that it wasn’t that mom sat next to more interesting women. It was because she asked the best questions. She was so interested in the other person and finding out what was special about them that she extracted incredible information from each person. And because she was a voracious reader, she was always up on current events.

During our conversations on those drives home, I recall thinking, “I want to be more like her.” I want to be more interested in other people, I want to ask the best questions, I want to make other people feel like they are the most important person in the room. What I also noticed during those evening dinners we attended was that when mom was away from work, and surrounded by all these amazing women, she actually glowed. In fact, I swear that her wrinkles disappeared.

This past Saturday, we had a Celebration of Life for my mom. More than 1,000 people attended from all over the country. Family, growers, customers, employees, former employees, friends, politicians … all had become friends of Frieda. We had 15 speakers and two emcees. Afterward, we shared a veggie-centric lunch, featuring some of the discoveries made possible by The Queen of Kiwi.

We live streamed the program for those who could not attend; it’s available:  here.

Many will think that my mom’s legacy would be the more than 200 fruits and vegetables that she is credited with introducing to American consumers: sugar snap peas, purple potatoes, habanero chiles, shallots, fresh ginger, spaghetti squash, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs and hothouse cucumbers, to name a few. And, of course, her most famous: kiwifruit and brown mushrooms!

But I think my mom’s legacy is really her passion about being an active citizen. On the printed program we distributed, we quoted from a speech she gave when she received her Honorary PhD from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 2014:

“Never bad-mouth others, always listen to the whole story. Be a voice in your community. Be politically active, vote, speak up.”

My mom was not just my business partner. My mentor. My biggest promoter. She had become my confidant and best friend. I will miss our afternoon conversations when I called her from my car. I will miss her grilling me on my client or grower meetings or asking me probing questions about a conference I attended.

I will miss how we laughed about my mistakes, and her deep, deep caring about my personal happiness. I am especially glad she knew and approved of the love of my life.

She was the kindest, happiest person I ever knew. And now, in hindsight, I find myself doing the same things that she did in business—questioning the status quo—which years ago I found annoying. Now I find what she did daring and brilliant.

Yes, I want to be more like her.

Karen

Some people may think that kindness is overrated. I’ve been pondering this over the past week based on a couple of recent experiences.

You know how it feels when the service is slow in a restaurant and you want to show your frustration to your server (when in fact it may have nothing to do with the server—perhaps the kitchen is short staffed or they got deluged with orders). Or maybe you’re just mad about something or someone has let you down. 

I get those feelings sometimes, especially when I am in traffic and I get frustrated at the pace that others are changing lanes, etc. Being kind isn’t always a natural reaction.

But during the last week, I had the most curious experiences. Two different people commented “thank you for being kind” to me after we were interacting during a time of frustration. Let me explain.

Experience #1: I get my prescription glasses at a special shop in Santa Monica about 40 miles from my home. I know it may seem a bit crazy to select new frames at a shop so far from my house, but I have found that not only are the designs unique, but the quality of my prescription and the fit are superb. So, you can imagine my frustration on Saturday when I went to pick up both my new regular specs and sunglasses and found that both frames were wrong. I was a bit put out that they had confirmed to me that both pairs were ready, so after lunch with a friend, I strolled into the shop completely prepared to walk out with my new, super cool-looking glasses. Wrong! It turned out that the person who had written up the order had written down an incorrect color for both frames. That person was not in the shop on the day I returned to try on each pair. However, the person who was helping me was extremely apologetic. She kept saying over and over again how sorry she was, and that she knew how much of an inconvenience it was for me. She and her colleague spent about 20 minutes helping me reselect the correct colors and rewriting the order. They offered to ship my new glasses to me so I would not have to drive up to Santa Monica again.

I guess her kindness and empathetic way of handling the situation caused me to dial down any frustration I had. I found myself being a lot more patient than usual. And after we completed the paperwork, and I thanked them, the clerk said to me, “Thank you for being kind.” (Wow—that really made me feel good that she perceived I was kind, instead of frustrated and impatient!)

Experience #2: I have been doing a remodeling project at my mom’s house for the past year. It felt like it a never-ending project with lots of hiccups, delays and issues. In the middle of our project, the construction company was sold, so I had to deal with new owners and a variety of workers. But the original project supervisor, Eddie, was a really nice guy. He would go the extra mile when there was an issue in my mom’s living area, and would respond quickly and always said “hello” to her when he arrived. He’s from Israel, and in 2018 I invited him and his daughter to our family Hanukkah dinner, as I thought they would enjoy the tradition celebration.

But after the company was sold in June, he was let go and I had to work with another supervisor. Just last week, we finally got the project completed, but there was still a lockbox (with a house key) at my mom’s house, and no matter who I called, no one seemed to have the code to remove it. And then I remembered Eddie. 

So yesterday I texted him and asked if he could help. I also asked how he was doing and how his daughter was doing. His reply was, “It was my lockbox, I’ll come remove it tomorrow. It was a pleasure meeting you, your family and your amazing mom. Thank you for being so kind to me.”

There was that phrase again: “Thank you for being kind.” 

What I’ve learned is that it really doesn’t take much time to inquire about someone personally and ask how they are doing before we jump into business or the agenda at hand. But many times we are in such a rush or are feeling such pressure, that we tend to skip that step. 

How would it make you feel, if after an interaction with someone where you had to solve a problem or deal with a real issue, they commented to you, “Thank you for being kind”? Or, if you’re at work and have to deal with tough situations, how would you feel if the feedback you heard was, “She is tough and firm, and pretty demanding, but she handles things in a kind way.” If I was applying for a position at a company and asked about the company values and culture, and heard that even tough situations are handled with kindness, it would make me want to work there.

It doesn’t take a lot to show kindness. It could be a smile. It could be a kind word. It could mean taking a few extra moments to make sure there are no misunderstandings and to thank the person.

In this day of rush-rush-rush, I think taking a moment and showing kindness to others is well worth it.

Karen

 

 

For the last week or so, I have read many articles in favor of and against the practice of new years’ resolutions. As you can imagine, many people make it an annual practice of declaring resolutions to: lose weight, exercise more, be nicer to their kids/spouses, get up earlier, etc. If you visit your local gym anytime during the next month or two, you will find it more crowded than ever … filled with all those folks who made resolutions. But those crowds usually die down quickly as the year progresses.

Frankly, over the years, I have vacillated between making resolutions, declaring my own personal theme for the year and—as a third option—doing nothing.

The whole process can be a bit self-defeating and discouraging because the resolutions seem to go by the wayside quickly.

So, this year I am trying something different. I am going to follow the practices of a long-time business consultant:

  1. During the last month, I have written out some goals for the year in the following areas:  physical/health, family, travel, personal and professional. Many of these items I already do and want to continue. Others are goals that are new or a stretch for me.
  2. I develop a list of measures for the goals. For example: under family, I want to spend “alone” time once a month with each of my daughters. For physical/health, I plan to do four cardio workouts a week and two strength training workouts. Each of these is easy to track.
  3. I purchased a monthly planner notebook that allows me to record my activities on a daily basis. I carry it with me to/from work each day.
  4. Most importantly, I have an accountability partner. My partner and I started discussing our goals at Thanksgiving and we each modified our own goals over the last month. We sat down on New Years’ Eve and reviewed each other’s goals for 2020. Because there are opportunities to do many of our goals together, we were able to adjust and modify our respective goals so they are in alignment.

I’ll bet you have a friend who wants to attend yoga a couple times a week with you, or a family member who also wants to see you regularly at family dinners. Or how about a close friend who wants to develop better habits in all the same areas that you do, but your specific goals are different? For me, having the monthly calendar where I can keep track of things gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can see in one place what I have done and that I have done what I said I wanted to do.

Having an accountability partner can actually make the process more fun! As long as you have a healthy relationship, not one that is too competitive or judgmental, sharing your goals and doing periodic check-ins is a gentle way to keep you focused and more disciplined.

My partner has been using this system of setting goals and tracking them for many years. He tells me that the real key is to have an accountability partner or partners (he actually calls them his “personal board of directors”). He shares his goals with them at the beginning of the year and checks in with them once a quarter to report his progress, and he asks them to challenge him when needed.

Just last night he gently asked me if I had been recording my goals on my monthly planning calendar (I admitted that I hadn’t been), and I pulled out my calendar and we walked through recording the last few days. I felt encouraged and supported about changing my habits and a sense of accomplishment that I had worked out the number of times I had committed to.

Well, this new habit applies to me in my personal life with my personal goals. But I can see the spillover effect into professional life as well.

As an example, if you work in a company, I’m sure they have a company business plan. And each department has its own plan, which rolls up into and supports the company business plan.

As a member of a department, you would have your own goals or an annual plan that you would discuss weekly or monthly with your manager. This personal/professional plan would support your department’s plan.

Remember a few months ago I blogged about “How you do anything is how you do everything”? Why not use the insights and good habits from your work and apply them to your personal life and vice versa?

And if you think I’m a little crazy to take my personal goal-setting to this level, then I must remind you of a saying I’ve often heard, “What gets measured, gets done.”

Try it!

And Happy New Year!

Karen

 

One of my favorite times of the year is during the end-of-the-year holidays, when my mailbox is not completely filled with junk mail. (Well, I still get a fair amount of junk mail, catalogues, etc.) But, I receive holiday cards from my friends and family near and far.

Over the years, especially since I started sending cards myself—including photos of my daughters and me and a one-page newsy family update—my evenings have become even happier as I open dozens of envelopes and then hang the cards and photos in my entrance. It has become a wonderful way to update my circle of family and friends (and a few close business colleagues) about the happenings in my family. I personally address each card. (I do get help with stuffing and stamping the envelopes, but I take great joy in hand-addressing the cards—no pre-printed labels or auto labeling from a company.) For perspective, this year I ordered 600 cards to send out.

When people question my sanity in spending my time hand-addressing that many cards, I always tell them, it gives me a moment to reflect on my relationship with each person, and I actually feel I put “love” all over the envelope when I address it. So, I address 50 or 100 each evening and they eventually get mailed. (Then I wait for the emails and comments from people when they are surprised and delighted.)

But at my office, it’s a whole other story. We stopped sending out company holiday cards many years ago because we knew our clients would get so many other cards that we wouldn’t stand out. And frankly, it seemed to be a waste of paper and postage. I mean, a corporate holiday card would be meaningless to clients. So impersonal. We would much rather call a client or send a short email or text to send a business colleague a holiday wish.

However, there are still people who we do business with who think sending a holiday card is a good use of their resources. It’s a free world, but I kind of think some companies may be on auto-pilot and maybe no one has given much thought to the whole process.

Mostly the reason I say all this is that we receive holiday cards from other companies with preprinted address labels. Preprinted company names on the inside of the card. And pre-printed postage. Every year when I get these cards, I just shake my head. I ask myself—what are they trying to accomplish?

It is so old-school to send preprinted holiday cards like this. Admittedly, we do receive an occasional card with a photo of the sales team from a company. But unfortunately they usually don’t have each person identified, so it’s impossible to know who’s who. What’s the point?

Think about it: the cost of paper, cost of printing, cost of postage, labor cost. Could you put those resources and time to better use somewhere else?

My bet is that most companies relegate this decision to someone who isn’t responsible for the bottom line or who isn’t involved in customer relations. That’s too bad.

It tells me a lot about a company, their decision making and their priorities when I receive a completely preprinted impersonal holiday card. It makes me wonder if I want to do business with them, and how much attention they will pay to my business.

Think about it. If you work at a company that sends out preprinted cards … perhaps you could make a suggestion on a better way to thank clients at the holidays!

Karen

I don’t recall where I read it, but it was a recent interview with a business thought leader. When asked, “What is the one thing you would change about Americans?” she said it makes her crazy that we say “sorry.”

At first I didn’t get what she meant. And then I started noticing how often “sorry” is said. 

You might bump into someone or walk around them and say “sorry.” Back in the old days, we might’ve said “excuse me” or “pardon me.” In Spanish you would say “con permiso” (with permission may I pass?). But now we’ve become an apologetic society that says “sorry”—not even I’m sorry—for almost everything. If you think I’m crazy, spend the next few days noticing how often you say it or people say it to you.

It’s actually not a very sincere thing to say, because, frankly, much of the time we’re not sorry. We just want people to move. Or we want something. One of the most ridiculous ways it is used happens when you are ordering food at a restaurant or asking for assistance at a store. We consumers start our conversation with an apology. Next time, instead of saying “sorry” think about saying, “Thank you for your help. I would like …”or “Excuse me, I’m looking for some assistance.”

I will say, it may be difficult to make the change to remove the word “sorry” from your vocabulary. First you have to notice it. And then you have to make a very real, conscious effort to not use the word. I’ve tried, and it’s hard.

But I think it’s worth it—because starting a conversation or interaction with “sorry” doesn’t seem very positive, polite or engaging. It’s kind of lazy. So, my challenge to myself—and to you—is to avoid using that word. Unless of course you ARE sorry, and then you should say “I am sorry.”

Since we’re considering phrases that really don’t make sense, also think about the phrase “no problem.” 

You go to a restaurant, to a store or interact with a friend and you ask for something, and their answer is “no problem.” If you think about it, it’s not a really sincere response. It’s actually kind of negative, as you are using two words that are not positive: “no” and “problem.”

This is another one of those phrases that we Americans have created. By giving an answer of “no problem,” we imply that the person’s request is easy to solve or resolve. To me it’s kind of a trite, insincere answer.

Because, frankly, most of the time they don’t resolve my issue. It’s like a brush off.

A friend recently pointed out the phrase “no problem” to me, and I immediately reacted by telling him that I never or rarely say that. Boy was I wrong.

Because I am trying hard NOT to say either phrase (my own personal experiment in human behavior), I catch myself daily, and sometimes multiple times a day, saying “no problem.” As I catch myself, I take a breath and smoothly insert the phrase, “my pleasure” or “that would be my pleasure” or “I am happy to help.”

But it takes discipline. 

And why am I doing this? Because I think there is an opportunity for me to be more thoughtful. More engaging. More sincere. To stand out.

Now, when someone makes a request to me, instead of saying “no problem” I say, “my pleasure.” It sounds kinder just reading it, don’t you think?

Come to think about it, this kind of reminds me of when we used to say another over-used phrase, “Have a nice day!” 

Think about it!

Karen

Every once in awhile you come across a small book that has a big message. That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago.

My mom Frieda and I are both voracious readers, and oftentimes we give recommendations to each other when we find a jewel. I was visiting her, and she handed me this small blue book with the title Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. 

The cover touts the book as an International Bestseller, yet I had never heard of it. Mom said, “The message is very interesting.” And if my mom, who is 96 years old, says a book on the secret to a long and happy life is interesting, then I figured it was worth a read. It felt like Yoda was talking to me.

The authors, two practicing therapists—one from Barcelona and one from Japan—who had read each other’s work but had never met, were put in touch by a mutual acquaintance. They spoke about trends in Western psychology and specifically logotherapy, which helps people find their purpose in life.

The opening page features this quote: “Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.” —Japanese proverb

And that is the essence of the 185-page book. The chapters are simple and short, with titles like: “Ikigai: The art of staying young while growing old;” “Antiaging Secrets: Little things that add up to a long and happy life;” and “Find Flow: How to turn work and free time into spaces for growth.” There are chapters about “gentle movements”—exercises that promote health and long life (such as yoga, tai chi and qigong) and the “Ikigai Diet” highlighting the Okinawa purple sweet potato-based “miracle diet”—the way the residents of Okinawa eat that gives them the largest population of centenarians in the world!

In essence, we all have our own life’s purpose, our personal ikigai. The book is filled with suggestions on how to make space in your mind and your heart to help you find your purpose. “There is no perfect strategy to connecting with your ikigai. But what they learned from the Okinawans is that we should not worry too much about finding it.”

The book concludes with the 10 rules of ikigai:

  1. Stay active; don’t retire. Do things you love.
  2. Take it slow.
  3. Don’t fill your stomach. Less is more when it comes to eating for a long life.
  4. Surround yourself with good friends.
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday. Exercise releases hormones that make us feel happy.
  6. Smile.
  7. Reconnect with nature.
  8. Give thanks.
  9. Live in the moment. Stop regretting the past and fearing the future.
  10. Follow your ikigai. There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end.

As we enter that holiday season which seems to be about giving thanks and sharing love, it is a perfect time to start reflecting on what truly makes you happy.  Physically, mentally, socially, professionally.

After reading the book, I was able to pause and reflect on the importance of loving your life, those who you spend time with and what you want your legacy to be.

This book would be an excellent gift to share with someone you love. I know many professional coaches who buy them by the dozen and give them to their clients! Why not share the book with your friends and loved ones?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Karen

(Spoiler alert: This blog has some very interesting information especially for men, people who like men, and men’s bodies. Read on.)

Last weekend, before a night on the town in Las Vegas with three girlfriends, we went to dinner. My friend Betsy told me how she picked the restaurant we went to. She knows I am vegan, so she reviewed all the top restaurants in the city (she’s a foodie) and evaluated who had the best vegan menu. I had no idea that restaurants in Las Vegas have separate vegan menus. But Sinatra Restaurant (Sinatra Dinner Menu) at the Encore had fabulous vegan options. I later learned that famous owner—Steve Wynn—is vegan, so he makes sure all his properties offer plant- based options.

As we sat down to dinner, Betsy said to me, “Have you see the movie ‘The Game Changers?’” I had not, and I found out it is a documentary released within the last month that highlights the facts and benefits about living a plant-based lifestyle. It uses testimonials from some of the highest performing athletes in the world (who, by the way, are—surprise, surprise— vegan!). Think tennis goddess Serena Williams, bodybuilder and lifter Arnold Schwarzenegger, runner Morgan Mitchell, Tennessee Titan football star Derrick Morgan, ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, and cycling champ Dotsie Bausch, to name a few.  Watch the trailer here:

It’s interesting that when you choose a plant-based diet, the very first thing you are asked by curious friends and acquaintances is “so where do you get your protein?” I’ve experienced this scenario myself multiple times. I calmly share that I get enough protein from the fruits, veggies and nuts I eat and that I have tons of energy. Most people roll their eyes at me, and I can practically see their thought-bubble that says “that just can’t be true!” But I believe this fact, especially after watching some of the most fit and competitive athletes in the world share their stories about how their recovery times are faster, how they have less inflammation, they sleep better, they win more competitions and set new performance records. I will never have another worry when asked about my protein intake.

The movie “The Game Changers” was quite clever; it’s based on the premise that the biggest contingent of meat eaters (think steak) is probably men. So, many of the examples and case studies in the film feature men.

A portion of the film shows an experiment they did with three male college athletes during which they fed them a meal with meat and the next day a meal that was only plant-based. The experiment took place as a sleep study, during which time they measured the size and frequency of the erections the men got while they slept. (Size and frequency was measurably better when they ate a plant-based meal)

They also experimented with members of the NY1 Fire Department (whose drop in cholesterol and high blood pressure was dramatic with a plant-based diet) and certain members of the Tennessee Titans football team. You can likely guess the results: The Tennessee Titans developed a remarkable record of winning after almost a dozen members of the team changed to a plant-based diet. Find more info here: The Game Changers Movie Core-Principles.

Of course, in the movie most of the people featured are 100% vegan … but when Arnold Schwarzenegger was on screen, he proclaimed that starting with one meal a day or one meatless day a week works well as a start. That was one of the best points of the film—sharing data about performance and health, but not in a preachy way. We all have to make decisions that feel right to us. And we all will move at our own pace.

So, if you are interested in having less inflammation and pain in your body, having more energy, improving your physical performance and endurance, looking younger, feeling less bloated after you eat, helping the planet by reducing waste and pollution caused by animal ranching, then I encourage you to watch the documentary “The Game Changers”. It’s available on Netflix … and is less than 2 hours long.

If nothing else, you might want to watch the scene in the movie with the three college guys and their “sleep study.”

Karen

Does your place of work host visitors? Do you feel like every time a group is coming to visit that you give a different tour of your offices or facility? Or do you offer a standardized experience? Often it depends on who is giving the tour.

My company is housed in an 80,000 square foot produce distribution center, including 20,000 square feet of offices, and we get visitors often—either customers or suppliers or friends in the industry. This week we are gearing up for the largest annual U.S. produce trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center (not far from our offices). Since we are the geographically closest produce warehouse, we have more than a dozen visitors and tours scheduled.

As a company, we have always put a lot of effort into planning and organizing special events. In fact, we consider all “visitors” a special event. From experience we know that the effort we put in ahead of time to plan visits and engage all the right players in our company will pay off in terms of a positive visitor experience.

Here’s how we do it. Several weeks before any visit, we have a planning meeting where the host (whomever has invited the visitor) meets with a team and reviews the plan. We hammer out things like arrival time, whether they get a warehouse tour (or not), whether they get an office tour (or not), who they will meet with and what kind of refreshments we want to serve them. Do they get a level 1, level 2 or level 3 tour? What gift do they get when they leave? (We know everyone is a consumer of our product, and we want them to leave with a memory they can refer back to when they get home).

Our number one goal is to treat every visitor to our facility like a visitor to our home. We put their name on the marquee when they enter the lobby, so they immediately feel welcome. (Most of our visitors ask to have their photo taken in front of the marquee—they get excited to see their name in lights!)

Our meeting room is always prepped with refreshments, notepads and paper. Sometimes our meetings are at one of the two community tables we have in our offices; we meet there so visitors can feel the vibe of the company and are not closed in by a conference room with a door.

Another best practice we have—that truly falls in line with our company culture—is that everyone in the office gets introduced by name to all visitors. It makes our team members feel important, and it allows our visitors to see that we are truly a family and everyone is valued.

We have checklists, we send out company announcements the day we’re welcoming people, and it’s like “all hands on deck” to greet our visitors.

How does that pay off?

Visitors get a fabulous tour experience. Almost every single person who visits Frieda’s comments that “everyone who works at Frieda’s seems so happy!” They walk away with a feeling that they are important and that we value our business relationship with them (and we DO!). In fact, one of our best practices is that we want either my sister Jackie or me personally to say hello to every visitor. Nothing says “family business” with hands-on management more than a “hello” from one of the owners.

But the benefit has been that our team members feel more engaged. More valued. More important. They oftentimes get to meet our biggest clients and our most important growers. It works especially well when a grower visits and we take them into accounting and can say, “Patricia and Millie are the ones who make sure your bills get paid quickly.” Both the grower and our staff are happy to put a name with a face.

So, if you have visitors to your facility or business, perhaps you should consider standardizing your process for giving tours while still conveying that personal touch. I have a consultant who always says, “Systems and Processes: there shouldn’t be 10 or 100 ways to do something. There should be one way—your way. The best way.”

It may take a little more time up front, but what I’ve learned over the years is that the more time we invest before an event in the planning and getting alignment with our team, the better the performance and user experience. This applies not only to tours. It’s true for any project or event.

Karen

I was reading through a business book and saw this quote: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It caught my eye. And, perhaps because I’ve focused on being extra self-reflective during the last week, I have given this a lot of thought.

Some people say that they have a public or business persona and that they are completely different in their personal lives. You know what I mean—they say they are super-organized, driven and type A in their business life, but at home they claim they are super-chill. I actually don’t think that’s possible.

I consider myself and my habits when stating this. After much self-reflection, I’ve realized that the habits I have for living are quite the same in the professional realm and my personal life. For example, it is no secret that I tend to make decisions quickly, based on my gut. I don’t often enough spend time gathering a lot of data—it’s like in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. In fact, I have to work very hard to remind myself to ask questions, gather data and look for any contrary concerns. This applies to both my personal AND professional life. After having some bad personal experiences, through trial and error, I now push myself to pause and not move so quickly.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

The same applies to my work life—I have found myself coming to quick conclusions and later realizing that I should have paused, asked more questions, slowed down and looked for the opposing view.

I consider myself a pretty hard-working, competitive, goal-oriented person, yet I have had limited success in achieving my personal fitness goals. So, this quote of “How you do anything is how you do everything” made me ask myself, “Why have I not lost the weight I say I want to lose? Why have I not increased my cardio fitness and the strength that I strive for?”

That’s when I realized that I lose interest and lack discipline. After all, when it comes to personal fitness, it is quite obvious that consistency and discipline are imperative when you have fitness goals. So what would it take for me to achieve these personal, physical goals?

From my business background, I know that best practices would involve writing down my goals, breaking them down into specifics. I’d need to: List actions I would have to take on a daily and weekly basis to achieve my goals. Record my activities daily and then recap them periodically to chart my progress. Focus on high-performance activities (HPAs) vs. just activities (i.e., going through the motions).

But I realized something else was missing.

Who will I be accountable to? Obviously being accountable to myself has not allowed me to achieve my fitness goals so, for me, I think it’s best to have accountability to others. Maybe I need a small group of trusted advisors or “coaches” who I agree to report my progress and results to—and who will give me honest feedback. (And who won’t buy into to my excuses!)

As I thought about this different approach for myself in my personal fitness arena, I couldn’t help but reflect back onto my business life and what best practices could be used there.

Do I have my business goals written down? Have I broken those big goals down into smaller objectives and activities with desired measurable results? Am I tracking these goals and making course corrections if I am not on track to achieve them?

Who will I be accountable to about these goals? Or, if I don’t achieve my goals, what actions will I take to change the results? Will I adjust my goals, or will I be honest and take a look at my own leadership or my team’s capabilities?

How will I celebrate when I achieve my goals? Will I be disciplined enough to set new, higher goals and objectives?

How I do anything is how I do everything.

What about this mantra speaks to you? How do you feel about your personal goals? Do you apply the same best practices from business in your personal life? Do you have written goals that stretch you? Or do you just show up and do what you’re told, and you’re satisfied with the status quo?

Think about it. I sure do. As I craft my updated personal and business plan for 2019 and 2020, I will report back to you on how it’s working.

I hope you will consider doing the same.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Karen

 

Most people know that Sunday night, Sept. 29 at sundown, marked the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The holiday is called Rosh Hashanah (translated means “head” of the year). Jews all over the world go to synagogue and say the same exact prayers. Whether in California or France, Australia or Brazil, we all have the same rituals.

One of the traditions of all religious services is that the spiritual leader (in this case the rabbi) gives a sermon. I think that is universal, no matter your religion.

So, Sunday evening as I sat in temple next to my sister Jackie, I listened intently to what our rabbi talked about.

Her message was about “appreciating the good, the wonder, and the beauty of what we have.” Of course this makes sense, because it is the New Year. New Year, new opportunities. New Year, new resolutions. New Year, new reflections. Her message was a “glass half full” message. It made me smile, as I thought about how easy it is to look at the negatives, the problems, the challenges you have. What if, instead, we looked at and focused on the positive?

Once Rosh Hashanah is over there is 10-day period of time, referred to as the Days of Awe, until the next Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur, the Day  of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year. It is a day that many Jews around the world fast (don’t eat or drink) from dawn until dusk, to remind us of those who have suffered before us.

The Days of Awe are a very special time to me. The Jewish tradition suggests that if there are any people in your life that you have had disagreements or challenges with, or there are unresolved issues, that you reach out and talk with those people, and speak the truth and offer forgiveness. So, as I sat in temple on Sunday evening, I thought about who in my life do I want to develop a richer relationship with, or want to resolve conflicts or misunderstandings? Or who do I want to have a deeper connection with? I made my mental notes and during the next week I intentionally plan to have conversations or spend time with those people.

I recall in past years that I reached out to various people (not all of them are Jewish) and it gave me a deep sense of satisfaction.

Do you have any people in your life, or who used to be in your life, that you feel you may have a nagging issue with? Or perhaps there has been a misunderstanding that you really wish was resolved. Maybe you just want to feel closer and spend time with someone. Whether you are Jewish or not, why not make a mental note of those people and send them a text, email or call them this week? Your conversation can be short or long. It can be, “I was thinking of you and wanted to say hi” or it can be an hour-long phone conversation.

Finally, my last ritual of the Jewish New Year period will be on Wednesday, Oct. 9, as the sun goes down and Yom Kippur ends. As I leave temple, I will enjoy some apples slices dipped in honey or honeycomb to symbolize the sweetness of the New Year. And then I will go to a friend’s house to “break the fast” with other Jewish friends and family.

Even if you are not Jewish, perhaps you can enjoy some of the traditions of the New Year. Be grateful for the positive people and things you have in your life. Make amends with those with whom you’ve had disagreements or misunderstandings. Don’t overeat and then break bread with family and friends to renew your bonds.

Happy New Year (L’Shana Tovah)!

Karen

P.S.  In case you didn’t see this, our entire family was ecstatic on Rosh Hashanah, as The Washington Post ran this feature story on my mother Frieda and our entire family. [Read it here…]

 

Photo Credit: Sean DuFrene/Photographer

 

 

Everyone has a different perception of the perfect vacation.

There is the “stay-cation,” where you stay at home and either do household errands or visit places nearby. (I wish I had taken a single stay-cation in my life, but I cram all my household errands in on the weekends or after work and rarely visit local venues—except when out- of-town visitors want to go to Disneyland.)

Then there’s the “Go to a place and exhaust yourself by sightseeing from dawn to dusk” vacation. This is awesome when you are traveling to a faraway foreign country or an amazing city like Paris. After paying a hefty price for a plane ticket and lodging, it almost seems irresponsible to not see everything you can. Since these can be once-in-a-lifetime trips, I completely understand the compulsion to fill up every day with excursions.

Just this morning I got a text from a friend who’s traveling in Europe for five weeks—with an itinerary including a dozen cities and five countries. When I asked her how it was going, her final line was telling: “Next time, I would pick 2 areas and stay put.”

That’s what I’ve discovered about destination trips. Instead of doing the seven-cities-in-eight-days kind of trip, I’ve found it far more satisfying to go to a single city or region and go deep into its culture, food and people. That’s what I did last October on my trip to Tuscany/the Chianti region of Italy about 40 minutes outside Florence. I was able to learn about the food, walk the countryside, explore multiple museums, churches and villages and really understand the synergy between olive oil and wine and why Chianti Classico is now one of my all-time favorite wines.

So, next time you are planning a trip—either foreign or domestic—consider spending more time in fewer places. It’s not a competition of how many places you can visit on a single trip.

Finally, there is the “completely relaxing” vacation. And that’s what I am on right now. I am at the end of a full week on the island of Maui. I have been coming to Maui for more than 30 years. Sometimes with friends, sometimes with family. This time I am here with my two adult daughters, Alex (29) and Sophia (25).

We chuckle about our ideal vacation in Hawaii, as many people expect us to fill up our days with parasailing, snorkeling, hiking, bike rides up the Haleakala volcano, plus lots of Mai Tai’s and hours in the sun. Over the years, we have done most of those things. But after a few bad sunburns and our annual visit to the dermatologist, we don’t spend much time in the sun. My daughters have different tastes in what they like to spend their time on, so each day they drive the agenda. Usually, I take an early morning three-mile walk and come home to one or both of them making a healthy breakfast. It is literally the only time all year that all three of us sit down to eat a meal together, alone.

Mornings are spent reading, playing games and relaxing. In the afternoons, we might spend time cooling off in the pool, more reading, maybe some shopping and then we end at a local favorite restaurant. Rinse and repeat for six more days.

Why is this the perfect vacation? Because, as a parent, I get to spend quality time with my daughters. And they get to spend quality time with each other. We don’t bring spouses or boyfriends. We get to have random discussions. We laugh at various memories we have had over the years. Without fail, one of us says something super funny, which becomes the repeated theme of the trip. We get to unwind from the rat race of life back home, and because we are 2,500 miles away, we cannot easily slip back into our normal pace. If we’re tempted to go “full speed ahead,” we are reminded daily of the Hawaiian pace of life, presented to us by people like the server at our favorite coffee shop, Bad Ass Coffee, where the same woman has been serving us for 19 years.

Alex, Me and Sophia on our last day in Maui

I have been meditating daily first thing in the morning, for more than two years. Yet, every single day on this trip I have forgotten to meditate. My daughter Sophia told me, “Mommy, maybe it’s because you are so relaxed here, it’s like you don’t need to formally meditate.” Interesting.

So, as you are looking at your calendar for 2020, consider allocating some of your vacation time for recharging and clearing your mind. Maybe do some writing, read some books, or take naps.

I promise you, it will make dealing with the pace of your regular life much easier. Who knows, you may get clarity on things you need to change about your life, when you get back home.

Ommm.

Karen

Did you know there is a National Women’s Hall of Fame? It is in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in the middle of the Finger Lakes region—a rustic, agricultural area. I had no idea!

So, when my friend Eileen told me she was attending the bi-annual Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony last weekend and invited me to come along, I jumped at the chance.

Seneca Falls is a teeny, tiny town of less than 9,000 people about 45 minutes from Rochester. For the first time, all the celebratory weekend events including the induction ceremony were slated to take place at a venue in Waterloo, NY, a 10-minute drive from Seneca Falls. A friend told me that Seneca Falls’ setting inspired the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and the town actually celebrates it every year. It is quaint, to say the least.

As it turns out, there were 11 women being inducted in this cohort. Well-known women like Jane Fonda (actress, entrepreneur, activist), Angela Davis (activist and professor), Gloria Allred (attorney and pioneer for women’s and minority rights), Diane von Furstenberg (fashion designer who invented and made famous the “wrap dress”), and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Plus retired Air Force Colonel Nicole Malachowski (first woman pilot for the “Thunderbirds” Air Demonstration Squadron). You can see the entire list here.

National Women’s Hall of Fame Program

There were many amazing moments during the weekend. During the luncheon on Saturday, I had a chance to chat with journalist Gloria Steinem. I met her about five years ago at another event; it’s hard to believe that she is now 85. She has the energy of someone 30 years younger, and it was fun to tell her what I learned from reading her book “My Life on the Road.” (I learned the term “listening circles,” which I now use at my company.)

Gloria Steinem, Me & Gloria Allred (A Gloria Sandwich!)

When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor entered the luncheon venue, there was an impromptu standing ovation. It was kind of surreal to realize I was sitting 10 feet from a Supreme Court Justice who radiated such humbleness and authenticity.

The induction ceremony was in the theater that afternoon, and the two-and-a-half-hour event just flew by, as each inductee was introduced by a previous inductee. Each of their five-minute acceptance speeches was unique and from a different point of view. When inductee Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal got up, it blew my mind to learn that it was her pioneering work as a molecular biologist that prompted the discovery that the HIV virus causes AIDS. Dang it – she is the one who discovered the HIV virus! I had actually run into her in the elevator earlier that morning and asked what she was doing currently. She told me she was enjoying ballroom dancing during her retirement in San Diego. From molecular biologist to ballroom dancer! Quite a journey.

On Sunday, Eileen and I made our way to the actual Women’s Hall of Fame. Frankly, it was small and underwhelming.

National Women’s Hall of Fame Building

We learned from the Board president that morning in a few months the Hall of Fame was moving to the former Seneca Falls Mill, a huge brick building on the river. It would be a larger facility and allow more opportunities for interactive digital exhibits, etc.

But, I was still perplexed as to why the National Women’s Hall of Fame had come to be in Seneca Falls.

Finally, it was when we went to the nearby visitors’ center, we learned the American Women’s Rights Movement began with a meeting of both men and women reformers in Seneca Falls in 1848. Out of that first convention came a historic document, the “Declaration of Sentiments,” which demanded equal social status and legal rights for women, including the right to vote. So, Seneca Falls is the home of women’s suffrage! And it’s hard to believe that just 99 years ago (in 1920), women earned the right to vote in the U.S. and the 19th amendment was ratified.

And 50 years ago, a group of Seneca Falls residents decided to create a way to honor great American women and raised money to establish the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

So, the next time you are thinking of taking a road trip through some beautiful countryside in the Northeast, I encourage you to stop in Seneca Falls. The roads are modern, the towns are quaint. And the inspiration is amazing!

Is there someone you work with that is a bit aggravating? Maybe they always disagree with you or point out the weaknesses in your idea. Or maybe it’s not at work—maybe it’s at home or in a volunteer organization.

I think we’ve all had an experience like this—it kind of takes the wind out of your sail.

That was my story on a project I’ve been working on. No matter what idea I had, or what suggestion I made, I had my small cadre of naysayers. As I prepared for meetings on this project, I found myself in a full-blown anxiety attack, as I was dreading the project meetings and the constant barrage of challenges.

After that first anxiety attack, which caused me to be short of breath, sleepless, etc. I decided there had to be another way to deal with this.

The first thing I did was call a friend. I knew I could call this friend and have her “talk me off the ledge.” By virtue of talking about my frustrations and fears, it caused me to naturally calm down and not be so tense.

The second thing I did was over-prepare for my project meetings. I would try to anticipate all the questions the naysayers would have and either send them the information in advance, or have the answers at my fingertips in our meetings. The funny thing was, after over-preparing for my meetings and sending out the detailed project updates in advance, there were no unexpected questions or negative comments! The meetings were less tense, and I was less anxious.

And finally, I did something unexpected. I regularly complimented and acknowledged my naysayers during my project meetings: “That is such a fantastic suggestion!” or “Thanks so much for bringing that up.”  And it seemed as if by acknowledging them and sincerely complimenting them in a public forum (our project meeting), they didn’t feel the need to point out any weaknesses in my ideas in a disruptive way.

So, think about your personal situation. It could be at home or at work. If you find yourself getting tense just thinking about an upcoming interaction with someone, try this approach:

  1. Over prepare. If your spouse is going to tell you that there is no way you can afford a vacation or other expenditure, pull together a personal expense recap and show them how you can afford it. Instead of being caught off guard with their comments, start your conversation with: “I bet you think we cannot afford to go on a vacation to Hawaii, so I put together this recap, so you can see how I think we can make it work!”
  2. Rehearse what you are going to say in advance. I have found it is so much easier the second or third time you say something, so why not practice in front of a mirror or by calling a friend? I have practiced many a presentation in the car as I drive to and from events. By the time I am giving my presentation in person, I feel comfortable and natural because I have already practiced multiple times.
  3. Compliment the person you are talking to. “I really appreciate that you look at situations differently than me. That’s why we make such a great team.” That one line alone, if said sincerely, makes people stand up tall and feel good about you.

Next time you are dreading a meeting or a conversation, try this approach. I think you’ll breathe easier. And you’ll probably have more success. I know I have.

Karen

I’ve never considered myself a particularly athletic person, but I pride myself on working out multiple times a week, alternating between cardio and strength training. Over 20 years ago, I worked with a trainer and ran my first and second 5K, and a few years ago I told my daughters Alex and Sophia what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day—go on a hike together. So off we went into Crystal Cove State Park and hiked for two hours. I remember how hot it got, even in the early morning, and how much my legs hurt and how wobbly they were for the next few days.

So, when I was invited to go on a hike this past weekend with a few friends, I was up to the challenge. I mean, how hard could it be? In retrospect, I guess I should have asked more questions.

Turns out we were going to hike the famous “Potato Chip Rock” in Ramona, Calif., in Northern San Diego County. The two-mile hike straight up a mountain (with a few switchbacks, here and there) wouldn’t have been so bad, if it hadn’t been 91 degrees that day. And because we lollygagged around that morning, we didn’t even arrive at the trail until 2:00 p.m. That’s when 91 degrees feels like 101 degrees!

Jack, me, Kevin and Van at the start of the hike.

It took 90 minutes for us to hike two miles to the top. We walked in pairs, and it really helped that we stopped multiple times in the shade to catch our breath.

However, there was no way I was prepared for what would happen at the top of that mountain.

When we arrived at the top, it took my breath away. That was because, in order to get to the actual potato chip rock (it is called that because it looks like you are standing on a thin potato chip-shaped formation), you have to climb a 12-foot tall rock and then jump about 5 feet across a deep crevice. At that point, your friends stand about 30 feet away from you and take your photo.

I crawled up on top of the huge boulder, but no matter how much my friend Jack coaxed me and told me he would be there to catch my arm, etc., I simply could not do it. All I could do was envision myself losing my footing and falling. So, after many minutes of trying to visualize myself jumping across the huge crevice, and multiple people coming up to offer assistance to me, I finally told him that I could not do it. I was literally near tears.

That was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. To hike that far and not be able to go the last 10 feet for that amazing photo opportunity was a bit defeating.

But actually, after three hours on the mountain, I learned a few life lessons from the experience:

  1. It really helps to have a coach and a support team when you are doing something difficult or new. Even though Jack is a marathon runner and triathlete and could have gone much faster on his own, he stayed with me the whole time, coaching and encouraging me. Sometimes the thing that gets us through a super difficult task is a friend, mentor or coworker who gives an authentic pep talk. They are completely supportive and not competitive.
  2. You don’t have to keep up with everyone else’s pace when you are trying something new. The couple we hiked with was significantly younger than me. If I had compared my pace with theirs, I would have felt like a failure. Instead, I realized that my fitness level, experience and age meant I needed to take the hike at my own pace. How often do you judge your performance against someone else’s when it is probably better to judge your performance against your own progress?
  3. Sometimes you just cannot do it and have to turn back before you complete a task. I made it 99% of the way and decided to turn back. Sometimes that is the bravest thing to do—to admit when you physically cannot do what everyone else has done.

All in all, I feel like the hike was a success. Even though I did not get my photo taken on top of Potato Chip Rock, we found another photo op on top of a nearby giant boulder. I was out in nature for three hours with good friends and no cell service. Lots of pauses in the conversation and time to observe nature. No texting, no phone calls. Just nature.

So next time you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, think about what your options are, and that they may not be what everyone else thinks they are.

Karen

Have you ever gotten a call or email from a friend offering to introduce you to one of THEIR friends who is coming to your city? Or how about when you are traveling to another city on vacation and a friend says their relative lives there … hinting that you should meet up with them?

As I look back over the last year, I realize this has happened to me multiple times. Initially I was a bit put off with the offers. I mean, would it be fun for me to meet someone’s sister while I am on vacation?

But, I’d like to share what happened to me on some recent trips:

  1. Last October I was heading to Florence, Italy, for a 2-week culinary vacation through Tuscany. As usual, as I was departing Los Angeles International Airport I posted on Facebook that I was headed to Florence, Italy. One of my dear produce industry friends sent me a message that her younger sister lived in Florence. At first I had no interest, but then thought, “What the heck?  Kathryn is super fun, so her sister Sarah would probably be a great person to meet up with!” Sara and I ended up meeting for dinner my last night there, and we had a fabulous conversation. I learned what it was like being an American living and working in Italy with an Italian husband and son. New friend made = check!

    Me and Sara.
  2. In March, I was attending the UC Davis Agribusiness Executive Seminar in Newport Beach, Calif., and as I was reviewing the registration list, I noticed there was someone attending from Spain. Spain? That seemed odd to me since we were in California, so when I ran into him at a reception, I struck up a conversation. It turns out he lives in Barcelona! Coincidentally, I was headed to Barcelona on vacation the next month! So, just before I left on my trip, I emailed Pablo and he offered to pick me up on Sunday for lunch. As it turns out, he and his wife Sonia took me to the most amazing museum I have ever been to: La Pedrera (also known as Casa Milá), featuring the amazing work of Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi. We then went to the seaside town of Sitges, where we had a relaxing, beautiful lunch. Two new friends made = check!

    Pablo, me and Sonia.
  3. And just last week I received an unsolicited email from two women from Miami, Fla., who were vacationing in Newport Beach. They happen to belong to the same international professional women’s group that I do, and they were interested in meeting some Southern California members while they were in town. None of our other members was available, so I offered to meet them for lunch. After all, I knew from personal experience how nice it was to have a “local” show you around while in an unfamiliar city! We discovered that we know several of the same people, and one of the women is on the board of a public supermarket chain in Canada … so we actually had a business connection! We had a completely delightful conversation and meal, and we’re planning to meet up again in November. Two more new friends made = check!

    Claudia, me and Julie.

So, the next time you receive an offer or suggestion to meet up with a stranger, I encourage you to consider taking the chance. Who knows, you might make a new friend!

Karen

 

Let me start by saying that I have no near-term plan to retire. But I would like to share what my 96-year-old mother thinks about retirement.

Most of you have heard of my mom, Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan. And that up until 2019, my mom was coming into our office four days a week (she cut back a few years ago from five days a week).

It was only in late December that she chose to work from home because the trek up our two flights of stairs had gotten to be a bit much for her. But believe me, she is still on her computer from her home office, monitoring the important activities of “her baby,” Frieda’s Specialty Produce, the company she founded in 1962.

I have to be honest that at times during my career, I have been annoyed with my mom’s continuing interest in every detail of the business. She closely monitored the Accounts Receivables, sometimes volunteering to call overdue customers to ask for our money (she always got a quick response). She frequently would send emails to some of our sales reps when they made a big sale or her email might ask why a client hadn’t purchased in a few weeks. I’d be thinking, “Mom, can’t you let it go?”

And then I had the opportunity to hear Dan Buettner, the National Geographic Fellow and author of “The Blue Zones,” last month at a produce conference. It’s the second time I’ve heard Dan and for some reason, this time one part of his message really resonated with me.

When sharing the details of the five or six communities around the world where a high concentration of people live past 100 years of age, one characteristic stood out. It wasn’t their primarily plant-based diet, not their sleeping patterns of seven to eight hours a night or the involvement in a spiritual practice or religion. It wasn’t the natural amounts of exercise they get or their close-knit community of friends.

It was that they had a purpose. A reason to get up in the morning!

And it was when he was talking about having that purpose, that raison d’etre, that I realized why my mom is so vibrant. So relevant. So alive! It’s because she is still connected with, interested in and passionate about our business.

As we celebrated her 96th birthday last Saturday, she peppered my daughters, Alex and Sophia, and me with questions about work, our clients and our growers. I realized that perhaps retirement may not be the best solution for everyone. I have read many articles that talk about people who retired and then got ill or passed away shortly after they stopped working. I’ve even had close friends who this has happened to. One of my friends recommends if you are considering retiring that you have a plan for a slow transition from your current work life to something else (a hobby, volunteer work or a Chapter 2 or 3 in your life).

As for me, as long as my mom is calling me daily asking for a recap of “what great thing happened at work today,” I plan to be working passionately.

How about you? Have you thought about what you would do if you weren’t working? Would you have a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning?

Karen

P.S. If you want to send Frieda a Happy Birthday message, please click here.

Mom and me, on her birthday this past weekend.

This is not a blog about shopping. This is a blog about removing roadblocks.

This past weekend, I needed to restock on a few things, so I headed to my local mall. Even though I went into Nordstrom only to purchase their special liquid laundry soap, I couldn’t resist taking a stroll around the store. And as you might have guessed, that little stroll ended up with me finding a few things to try on.

I have been a Nordstrom shopper since the company opened its first stores in southern California over 30 years ago. I know that in order to get access to a dressing room, you need to find a sales associate, as the dressing rooms are locked. Only the sales associates have the keys.

So, you can imagine my shock when the sales associate told me that the dressing room doors were all open, so pick whichever room I wanted!

When I went to purchase my items at the cash register, I asked the cashier, “So, when did Nordstrom unlock the dressing room doors?”

She told me that they got a new store manager about four months ago (the previous manager went on maternity leave), and the first thing the new manager did was tell the sales associates to unlock the dressing room doors.

Even though the locking practice had come into being to reduce theft, it also helped engage the salespeople with shoppers by personally escorting them to the dressing rooms. The new manager realized that it actually had become a huge inconvenience for shoppers. It interfered with their ease of shopping. And I’m guessing, she realized that it was not sending a positive message in alignment with the Nordstrom brand.

So, I asked the obvious question of the cashier, “Did theft go up after you unlocked the doors?” She told me she had not heard anything more about it, so she assumed it had not.

That made me wonder: How many “locked dressing room doors” do you have in your business? If you have an automated voicemail for your business, do you start your message with, “To speak with someone immediately, press “0” for operator,” then proceed with the directory of names? Or do you force callers to go through the directory by entering the first three letters of the person’s first or last name?

On your website, do you feature your best selling items on your home page? Or do you force customers to search through your entire website to find what they’re looking for?

When you have a visitor to your building, do you immediately offer them water or directions to the restroom? Or do you wait for them to ask?

When you give new employees your company handbook, do you give them a cheat sheet of the FAQs (such as company holidays, benefits info and payroll info)? Or do you hand them the 100-page handbook and say, “Good luck! Everything is in here.”

How many roadblocks do we naturally put up in our businesses? And if we replaced them with something easier and more convenient, would we have a better result?

If you want to “unlock the doors” in your company, know that most of them are super easy to change. The challenge may be that they are habits, with unknown origins, e.g., “We’ve always done it that way.”

It took only a bit of adjustment at our company to change our company voicemail, website, visitor-welcoming process and employee handbook.

What should you change?

Karen

I’m guessing I am not the only person who gets a hard knot in their lower neck-shoulder region. It feels so tense. Last week while I was out of town at a produce conference, it got really bad. It was like I couldn’t even turn my head without feeling the strain of my tight muscles. Does that ever happen to you?

My first angle of attack was to take an Advil and go to bed early.

I did sleep well, but unfortunately that knot in my neck was still there the next morning.

Second strategy was to get a neck massage on Monday afternoon. It felt better for a short while, but that knot returned.

So, yesterday when I went to work out with my strength coach, Yas, I let him know about my sore shoulder muscles. He looked at me and commented, “So, you sit on your **s all day at a desk, right? Typing on your computer.” And he held out his forearms and imitated my daily position, which included having my shoulders tensed up. “Yep, you’re right,” I answered.

And that’s when it dawned on me.

Why am I not using my stand-up desk?

A few years ago, a couple of our employees mentioned to me that they heard having a stand-up desk helps reduce lower back pain and shoulder tension, and actually stimulates better productivity. So we did a beta test with those two employees by purchasing units that would retrofit our current cubicles for less than $300 each. We did nothing more than give them the stand-up desks with comfort mats to go under their feet. And we waited to see what happened.

Guess what? As other employees noticed, they, too, asked for stand-up units, and everyone personally commented on how much better they felt physically during the day. It’s as if the cobwebs get cleaned out when you stand up and work. And they all have less low-back tension and it creates more energy in the office.

So this morning I came into work, and after our entire floor did stretching at 9 a.m. as part of our newly launched employee well-being program, I raised my stand-up desk. Sure enough, my shoulders felt less tense. My legs and lower back felt better. And as I looked around my office, I saw four other co-workers had raised their desks too.

Does your company offer this option? More and more companies offer these ergonomically friendly stand-up desks. But there are still some that don’t; they must not be aware that it’s an easy $300 retrofit for an existing desk. And that $300 investment is a good hedge against increased absenteeism and injury.

So if your neck and shoulders are usually tight during the work day, you might want to arrange to get a stand-up unit. It will make a world of difference.

Karen

As you may recall, I changed to a vegan lifestyle on December 31, 2018, for many reasons. Primarily it was for health reasons. I had done a lot of research during the previous year, reading books such as “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. Although that book has a title that sounds less than positive, it actually gives you hope in each chapter about how no to die from specific diseases, such as lung cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, etc.

What I never told anyone was that a week after I chose a completely plant-based diet, I went for my annual checkup and stress test at the cardiologist. Like many CEOs, because of the stress of my job, I proactively choose to get a checkup each year, versus waiting for something to happen.

So after my annual exam, my doctor and I sat down in his office. He told me, “You have to do something. Your cholesterol has gotten really high and I am starting to see a blockage in your left ventricle. That means the left side of your heart is having to work harder.” He asked me, “Do you want my help?” And my answer was “Yes. As long as it does not involve medication. And by the way, I just went vegan last week.” He took a deep breath, thought for a minute, and then proceeded to give me his “prescription.”

  1. Start intermittent fasting (the science was showing this was very effective, he said). That meant only coffee and water in the morning, not eating anything until noon. Eat super light for lunch and as little as possible for dinner. Really cut back on food consumption. No grains, breads, sugar, etc.
  2. Do cardio every single day; a minimum of 30 minutes a day and up to 75 minutes a day.
  3. Return in six months for a follow-up exam.

It took me a week or so to wrap my head around intermittent fasting. But I figured I would try it. Once I started skipping breakfast in the morning, I found I was not hungry in the morning. It was like eating caused me to want to eat more. So the longer I waited to eat, the less I was hungry. And if I started to get hungry, I would drink a lot of water. So one to two cups of black coffee in the morning have been the start of my day for the last six months.

I admit that during the first five months, I did cardio almost every single day. But as I started traveling, it got harder. But I joined a new gym in January that is super upscale, by the beach and very clean, with all new equipment. That has made a huge difference for me. I am now working out and doing cardio four to six days a week.

And of course, I have been 100% vegan since January 1. As hard as that may sound, it has actually been very easy (I like to say it is totally in the mind). I have traveled to Germany and Spain, plus New York and Houston. I’ve never had a hard time finding something to eat, no matter if I am at a steak house or a vegetarian restaurant, which I found in Barcelona. It was actually very fun and touching when I was in southern Spain visiting some grower friends; all three guys I was with chose to have a veggie lunch with me.

So, here are the results of my vegan-cardio-intermittent fasting lifestyle for the last six months. I went to see my doctor last week and had a complete blood panel done.

When my doctor walked in after seeing the results of my blood tests, he sat down beside me and said with a big smile on his face, “What did you do since I saw you? Your results are remarkable!”

I told him that I did everything he told me to. Plus I was 100% vegan (turns out, he is also vegan which was refreshing for me to learn). He then asked me how I felt.

I told him there were many things I had noticed since going vegan.

I want to share them with you now:

  1. I am sleeping so much better. My sleep is more solid and I feel so much more rested, even when I don’t get my seven and a half to eight hours a night.
  2. I lost about 10 pounds in the first three months. I’m sure it was from eating less food, and no grains or breads. I have more to lose, but I know that “calories in” are the biggest factor in weight loss. Since I work out with a strength trainer, I’m guessing some of that fat has turned into muscle.
  3. My mind is clearer. This is a big one. As I was reflecting on the first six months of the year with my business coach last week, I commented on how much clearer my mind seems. I’m not foggy anymore. Previously I had a slower start in the morning and it would take a few hours to get going. Now, I feel on my game the minute I get to work. And everything seems crystal clear to me.
  4. This one is kind of personal, but I noticed I’m not perspiring as much. Of course when I work out I sweat a lot, but I’ve noticed that when I am at work I don’t sweat as much. I do think that is due to my system being clear of animal products.
  5. My thinning hair is growing back. Many of us find our hair thins as we get older. A dear friend of mine had commented on my hair thinning in the front a few years ago. It was a very personal comment she made, but that’s one of the things I love about her. Well, when I went to my hair stylist last week, we both noticed that my hair was getting thicker in all the right places.

And finally, I have to share an article that my darling mother, Frieda, gave to me last night. It’s from The Week Magazine and entitled “Red meat could shorten your life.” She said that this article is so important she wants to share it with everyone she knows. I made a dozen copies for her to share with all her friends.

I probably never told you that when I went vegan six months ago, my mom joined me! Yes, that’s right, my 95-year-old mother, Frieda, is now also vegan. And I think that is quite a testimonial as she tells me every day how much better and lighter she feels!

So, I hope you will take some time to consider whether eating fewer animal products, and more fruits and veggies, might be an easy choice for you to make. You don’t have to be as dramatic as I’ve been by going 100% vegan. In fact, another friend, also a doctor, recently decided to be “Vegan Before 6” each day. It’s all about choice, and it’s really all about making our lives better and longer.

To your good health!

Karen

 

Even before the two earthquakes we experienced in Southern California last week, I had planned to blog about earthquakes. If you don’t live in California, but somewhere else that has other natural events like tornadoes, hurricanes, fires or flash floods, I know you’ve had similarly scary experiences. But I’d bet you’ve never had the opportunity to listen to the world’s expert on your particular natural disaster-causing event, right?

Well, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Lucy Jones (aka “The Earthquake Lady”) last month at the Natural History Museum. You see, one of my good friends, Lori Bettison-Varga, is the president of the museum. She invited me to one of its First Friday events. I checked my calendar and was kind of excited to drive to downtown LA after a long week, and sip a little wine in the museum’s outdoor garden.

At about 7, they started ushering us into a dark, auditorium-like room. As I looked around, I realized that we were in the Dinosaur Wing, as life-sized dioramas featuring various dinosaurs covered every wall in the huge hall.

As we sat down, I glanced at the program and noticed that famed LA Times reporter Patt Morrison would be interviewing “The Earthquake Lady.” I’m like, “Oh, this is just GREAT.” (Not really.) Frankly, like most Southern Californians, whenever there’s an earthquake, my heart starts racing and I get a little panicked. The last thing I wanted to be doing on a Friday evening was listening to a couple of people talk about earthquakes. But I was seated between Lori and her husband, Bob, so there was no escaping. Did I mention that Lori and Bob are geologists?

So, I decided to enjoy the lecture.

And frankly, I was surprised—I was surprised at how calm Lucy was. She is a seismologist and the public voice for earthquake science and earthquake safety in California. You can read tons about her right here.

What I loved most about her presentation was what I learned. Simple, basic things that I had never thought of:

  1. Many of us buy extra water to have on hand in case of an emergency. When asked how much water you should have, Lucy answered, “No matter how much you have, you should probably buy more.”(I went out and bought a lot more water.)
  2. She said the reason we will want more water is that if we have a huge earthquake, there is a good chance that the large, clay, underground pipes that carry water to our homes will crack. And if so, it could take a long time to repair them. So, it’s possible we will not have access to water for a while.
  3. The other pipes that are underground, which could crack during an earthquake, carry our sewage. Picture that. Cracked sewage pipes underground. Enough said.
  4. And finally, if the power goes out, ATMs will not work. Lucy said that most people don’t think about what it would be like without cash or access to cash. She suggested going to the bank, taking out some cash, and stashing it in a safe, secure place in your home. (I went to the bank and now have many $20 bills stashed away at home.)

After hearing Lucy talk, I felt more informed about earthquakes, what causes them and how the earth works. When you are informed, you react more calmly.

And that’s what happened as I was sitting on the floor taking off my shoes on Friday night, when we had that 7.1 earthquake about 8:20 p.m. Instead of my usual run for a doorway (Lucy said that is a fallacy; it is not a safer place to be in an earthquake), I stayed seated on the ground. That’s where Lucy said to be, away from windows, and near something you can crawl under for protection. She said many people break bones or get injured because they are running during an earthquake and they fall down because of the jarring movements.

Lucy took questions from the audience: Does fracking cause earthquakes? Do earthquakes cause tsunamis? She was very clear that there is no such thing as earthquake weather and earthquakes do not only happen in the early morning, which was demonstrated perfectly on Friday evening.

So, I hope that you get a little extra cash next time you are at the ATM and stash some extra water and non-perishable food in case of an emergency. Oh, by the way, Lucy said you should be sure that stored food and water are in an easy-to-access place, where they aren’t likely to be hidden in case of an earthquake.

Thank you, Lucy, for making earthquakes more manageable.

Karen

 

Like anyone who exercises regularly, or walks or runs a lot, I am in the habit of getting new workout shoes every four to five months. I work out about five or six days a week. Most days I spend time on the treadmill. So, I have learned to keep an eye on how my shoes are wearing.

But six months ago, I started working with a strength coach (he hates being referred to as a “trainer”). Twice a week, I meet him at my gym for an hour of weight lifting and strength conditioning. A few months ago, Yas (that’s his name) mentioned to me that I need to get thinner-soled trainers. In case you didn’t know, in England, they call workout shoes “trainers”; many Americans call them “tennis shoes.” Yas is from England, so in his distinct and sometimes difficult-to-understand British accent, he finally convinced me to get new trainers, based on his recommendation.

Yas had noticed during my exercise sessions that I was a bit unstable on my feet. He told me that the cushiony soles of my Adidas, Nikes and Brooks shoes are all thick and that can make my ankles a bit weak and wobbly. Interestingly, in speaking to friends, they, like me, thought it was good to have these thickly soled shoes. Something about the cushion being good for you. The cushion might feel good, but it raises your center of gravity enough that we compensate by wobbling.

So Yas sent me a link to a shoe brand called Merrell. I believe Merrell is best known for hiking shoes. But Yas recommended the Vapor Glove model for me. These shoes have very little padding. The toe box is broad and they have serious arch support. I actually feel more like I am walking barefoot. My feet are definitely closer to the ground.

 

Yas also told me to walk barefooted at home as it activate the muscles in my feet and will train them to work harder at stabilizing me.

So, two weeks ago, I wore my new Merrell Vapor Glove shoes to my workout. I could not believe the difference in my stability. He has me do some rather complicated strength-building exercises for my hamstrings and the improvement in the number of reps I was able to do and how much stronger I felt was palpable.

As we get older, we are concerned about building muscle mass and bone strength. The last thing we want to happen is to lose our footing, fall down and hit our knee (which I did twice last year) or break a bone (thank goodness that has not happened to me). I never knew that there were other styles of workout shoes that actually HELPED create more stability when I exercise or walk.

If you have experienced any of the wobbling or instability when you run, walk or exercise, I suggest you try this style of shoe. And don’t forget to walk barefoot every day. Who knew this could help with balance?

Karen

 

Although I’ve never had serious or ongoing insomnia, there are definitely nights when I have a hard time going to sleep. Or I wake up at 1 or 2 a.m. and cannot go back to sleep. I have many friends who complain about the same thing.

So, when two of my coworkers got some insights on getting better sleep, I was very interested.

They had gone to see a healer. I don’t know what kind of healer, but I am guessing it was someone spiritual, homeopathic or something along those lines. Anyway, I was fascinated about what they shared with me.

As they were finishing their session, the healer turned to one of my coworkers and asked, “So, do you have problems sleeping?” She was caught off guard because she had not mentioned anything to him about her constant restlessness at night. She often complained that it was hard for her to get a good, solid night’s sleep.

He then asked her, “Do you have any crystals or books in your bedroom?” She nodded yes and pointed to the necklace that her boyfriend gave her. It contains a crystal. She never takes it off. Plus, her bedroom is filled with many full bookshelves and she has several crystals hanging on her walls and sitting on her nightstand.

The healer suggested she remove all crystals and books from her bedroom. He told her that the energy of the crystals and the words in the books were interrupting her sleep.

She wasn’t quite sure about all of this, but went home and removed all the crystals and books anyway. That very first night, she had one of the best, uninterrupted, full night of sleep she’d had in a long time. Later that week, she forgot to take off her crystal necklace, and guess what? She did not sleep very well that night.

As she told me all this, I found it interesting. Not very scientific, but interesting.

So, just for the heck of it, when I got home that night, I removed all the crystals from my bedroom, took the books off my nightstand and moved them into another room. Then I went to bed.

Seriously, I had one of the best night’s sleep! And I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that my sleep has continued to be more restful. I am also able to fall asleep quickly. Of course, when I go to bed with a lot on my mind from work, I occasionally wake up super early, but I figure that is my subconscious telling me to get to work early that day. I actually embrace that when it happens and don’t stay in bed. I get up and read, write or do work.

After I had experienced this crystal- and book-free sleep, I mentioned it to a couple friends who have insomnia issues. One friend is a recent widow and good, restful sleep has been a real issue. I suggested she try this new technique: Remove all crystals, books and photos of her spouse and family from her bedroom to see if her sleep would get better. I added the photos to the list, as it made sense to me that having your former spouse or family members staring at you all night might be equally disruptive to sleep.

I haven’t heard back from her yet, but I am hopeful that these changes help her.

If you have challenges with poor quality sleep and you’ve tried all the other normal suggestions (no coffee after noon, keeping your room cold, not using any devices an hour before you go to sleep), perhaps you might want to clear a few things from your bedroom.

I would love to hear if this allows you to have more restful sleep.

Sleep well!

Karen

Last week, I got to spend an hour touring one of the most dynamic and regenerative organic walnut farms in California. It’s in Winters, California, just outside Sacramento.

I was in the area for a meeting at the University of California, Davis, and my dear friend Craig McNamara invited me to come by to see his organic walnut ranch and Center for Land-Based Learning, his pet project and legacy.

I literally had 45 minutes to spend with him, as I had a flight to catch that evening. So as soon as I arrived at the ranch, we jumped into an all-electric ATV and did the fastest tour I’ve ever had of a farm.

If the name McNamara sounds familiar to you, it’s because Craig is the son of the late Robert S. McNamara, the eighth U.S. secretary of defense, who served from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He played a major role in escalating the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.

I had recently learned of that personal connection, so in the most diplomatic way I could, I asked Craig about his dad (whose name is inextricably associated with that war) and how Craig ended up as a farmer in Winters, since he grew up in Washington, D.C. You can read more about Craig and his dad in this article.

Craig shared with me that due to his father’s connection to the war and the personal burden Craig felt, he dropped out of Stanford University in protest and fled the country. He rode a motorcycle 6,000 miles to Colombia, then hitchhiked another 6,000 miles to Tierra del Fuego (the southernmost point on the continent). He ended up living on the land of peasant farmers in Mexico, Ecuador and Chile, and worked side by side with them, growing food. Craig realized working on the land was helping him heal. He returned to UC Davis and earned a degree in Plant and Soil Science. He met the love of his life and now wife, Julie, and they bought a small farm in Winters.

When they bought the farm, the best part was a cute house, which they still live in. But the ground was in terrible condition. During his time working with farmers in South America, he had learned to cultivate the land organically and applied that to his new business. He eventually created three enterprises.

First is Sierra Orchards, at 450 acres, producing mostly organic walnuts and olives for olive oil.

Second is the Center for Land-Based Learning, Craig’s passion project. Its mission is to inspire, educate and cultivate future generations of farmers, agricultural leaders and natural resources stewards. The center trains more than 2,000 people annually on sustainable farming practices, so they can go back to their communities and farm.

And third is the creation of the California Farm Academy (CFA) that trains 24 beginners each year, preparing them to be the next generation of California farmers. Graduates of CFA share incubator plots on 15 acres of Craig’s land, selling their produce to restaurants across the Bay Area and Sacramento. They are also part of the Farm to Table movement and have started many urban farms.

Craig proudly standing in front of the 15 acre incubator farm.

 

After the tour, Craig took me into his small office to give me a couple of bottles of his special olive oil. I spotted a photo of Craig and his dad, Secretary McNamara. With permission, I snapped this photo.

Craig and his dad Robert McNamara.

While driving to the Sacramento airport, weaving through the countryside on a one-lane road, I just couldn’t turn on the radio. I had too many thoughts going through my mind about the burdens Craig carried regarding his father’s legacy. And how Craig was able to move past those to become a farmer and entrepreneur. Interestingly, he leveraged his own leadership skills to get appointed to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture (he served for 17 years, the last seven as president). That means he was a key advisor to California’s governor and secretary of agriculture.

My final thought as I arrived at the airport was of Putah Creek flowing through his farm. Craig and I, in his ATV, roughed it through a few fields, so that he could show me the work he and his crew had done to restore Putah Creek. It’s a tributary of the Sacramento River. The 85-mile creek has its headwaters in the Mayacamas Mountains, a part of the Coast Ranges, and flows east through two dams, including a section on Craig’s farm. He showed me how, over many years, they were able to install large boulders and create an aerated section of the creek, which is now home to thousands of salmon that swim upstream each season.

The circle of life is so amazing to me. In 45 minutes, Craig shared the most intimate details of his life with me, and how he finally healed his wounds from memories of his father’s life by becoming a farmer. An organic farmer and teacher. And yet, part of Craig’s legacy will be that he served in our own state government, as a leader and influencer for generations to come.

It’s interesting how even when we resist being like our parents and want to follow our own path, we eventually find that our parents were perfect for us. It was our parents’ choices and actions that helped make us who we are today.

 

Karen

The restored Putah Creek on Craig’s farm.

My discovery about the celery juice phenomenon started about two months ago, when I was vacationing in Barcelona, Spain. I took a day trip to visit some grower friends in Murcia, Spain. As we were walking their celery field, my host said, “Can you believe that celery market? We got a call from a U.S. celery grower friend of ours this morning commenting on how crazy the celery market has gotten.” (Translation: The prices and demand for celery are both very high.)

I didn’t give it a second thought.

Then, about two weeks ago, I happened to pick up a copy of the Long Beach Business Journal and read an interview of the CEO of a local company. I was so inspired by his comments that I wrote him a personal note. A few days later, I received an email from him, thanking me for sending him the article. He closed his email by saying, “Frieda’s looks like a great operation and given the boom in wellness awareness, should be well positioned for growth. Drinking my 20 oz. of celery juice as I type this…”

Half–joking, I just had to write back and ask, “I wonder what’s up with the celery juice trend, anyway?”

My new pen pal, David, wrote back: “It has a lot to do with the awareness of Anthony William – Medical Medium…”

So I googled the Medical Medium, saw he wrote a book on Celery Juicing, but ultimately after a few minutes, I turned back to my work.

And then, last Thursday, I was up in Salinas attending the retirement party for an industry friend and I ran into one of the U.S. largest vegetable growers, David Gill. David looked fantastic! I mean, his eyes were clear, his skin looked great, and he actually looked younger. So, I ask him, “What are you doing these days? You look great.”

You aren’t going to believe what he told me: “I’ve been drinking 16 oz. of celery juice every morning for the last 6 weeks!” Seriously? I asked him what inspired him to do that. He said, “Well, I am a large celery grower, and someone told me about the health benefits of celery juice, so I figured I should try it. After all, I know where to get fresh celery!”

So I literally came home this weekend and went online to do my research. I ordered a copy of his book Medical Medium Celery Juice.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, it arrived on Sunday morning, and I quickly thumbed through the first few chapters of the book. The more I read, the more I thought: drinking 16 oz. of celery juice first thing every morning can’t be bad. So off I went to buy a juicer and a few large heads of organic celery.

In concept, Anthony William professes that drinking 16 oz. of freshly juiced celery each morning, on an empty stomach, acts a bit like a detox. He tells you not to have anything else to eat or drink for 30 minutes (so my morning coffee just has to wait).

Of course, in his book, he lists a variety of conditions that the celery juice will help minimize.

So, if you’re wondering why there seems to be a shortage of celery bunches at your favorite grocery store, part of the reason is because juicing-obsessed consumers nationwide are literally buying up everything they can get! Plus, grower David Gill did disclose that there have been some growing and weather challenges with celery, which has also limited supplies. It’s a bit of a perfect storm of celery demand.

If you’re one of those millions of consumers who are drinking celery juice each morning, I’d love to hear from you!

And if you just can’t fathom the flavor of celery juice first thing in the morning, you’ll be amused to know my daughter Sophia texted me this morning, “I don’t know what I expected celery juice to taste like, but it’s gross.”

Yes, I recruited her to join me on my celery juice journey.

Karen

 

Okay, let me start by saying: When you are into healthy eating or at least want to make healthier choices, you are always reading food labels. It’s shocking to see what “stuff” gets put into food to make it taste good. It’s usually excessive sodium, high-fructose corn syrup, and other things I cannot pronounce or spell.

So, when I was at a produce trade show last year and saw this new snack food Peatos, I was intrigued.

 

 

 

And, they were delicious. I thought: Clever! A “healthy” alternative to Cheetos. And that was it. I saw them at my local supermarket and occasionally bought them. And since I went vegan, I have been delighted by their “Fiery Hot” flavor product.

End of story.

Then, I was reviewing the guest list for a CEO Summit I was attending the day before the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 3. There on the list was the name Nick Desai, CEO of Snack It Forward LLC, World Peas Brand, i.e., the creator of Peatos. My favorite snack.

OMG. OMG. OMG.

I put Nick’s name on my short list of people to be sure and meet. And when I got to the meeting, the orange Peatos logo on his white shirt (and the shirts of his two young daughters along with him) made him easy to identify. (We produce people tend to wear our logo shirts everywhere… Shameless promotion.)

Nick and I immediately struck up a conversation at the break.

I asked him how the heck he started the company. He told me he was in the investment banking world and decided it was too stressful, so in 2007 he decided he wanted to get into real business and found the opportunity to buy the company Snack It Forward. We both laughed about it being a tossup of which is more stressful: investment banking or owning your own (food) company.

Fast forward to 2018. Nick got rid of his manufacturing plant and stopped selling the licensed Sunkist trail mixes his company was known for.

Being of Indian descent, and being raised in a vegetarian lifestyle, he was perplexed why American vegetarian snacks weren’t made of pulses (beans, lentils, fava beans, etc.). They are a great source of protein, and he noticed that most snack foods in the U.S. were mostly carbs and fat. So, he developed a pulse-based snack that resembled the craveable Cheetos snack.

We talked about the challenges of attending trade shows, doing sampling, getting co-packers, signing confidentiality agreements with manufacturers, pursuing retail clients, getting that first big sale and then the 24/7 nature of the food business.

We both love it! And because he brought his two daughters with him, we developed a more personal connection about the realities of balancing work/family. I’m guessing his wife was enjoying some downtime back in SoCal.

I was intrigued and full of admiration that Nick was able to transform his life and his company by looking back at his roots. His family is from India, and his wife is vegetarian. He’s a smart business guy, but he wanted a change that was more real to him.

So, thank you, Nick, for taking the plunge into healthier snack foods. I’m grateful that his first retail customer was Kroger, and from what he told me, his line of Peatos is available nationwide in all Kroger stores in the produce department. He also told me that I could purchase Peatos on Amazon… But that’s another story.

#UNJUNKYOURSNACK

 

Karen

 

I bet you have both the Uber and the Lyft apps on your smartphone. And when you go out of town, you might no longer feel like you need to rent a car, because you can just take an Uber from the airport to your hotel. And from your hotel to business meetings, dinner events and more.

And when you are at home, if you are going out after work, or out for a nice dinner, and plan to drink alcoholic beverages, you might no longer worry about one person being the DD, the designated driver. You will just Uber to/from your evening venue. No more worries about getting a DUI.

A few years ago, I wrote about how my 95-year-old mother discovered Go Go Grandparent, an add-on service from Lyft, which allows those without smart phones to call and get the same ride-sharing service. You can read about it here. It’s been a game changer for my mom, because it allows her to have the same freedom to come and go, even though she no longer drives. (If you have parents, grandparents or friends who should not drive, I highly recommend you check this service out.)

And of course, we’ve all heard about Uber Eats, which you can use to get delivery of prepared food.

But this weekend, I learned of yet another new use for Uber/Lyft that is saving companies hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

My sister Jackie told me that during her travels, she has noticed that many hotels no longer have vans that offer airport pickup. Instead, if you have an overnight reservation, the hotel will call you an Uber, which will pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel. Paid for by the hotel! Hotels have found that they not only save the cost of owning and maintaining an airport van, but they no longer have to tie up an employee to drive back and forth in the van. With the labor shortage that many cities experience, they can use that person at the hotel.

And in fact, the same thing is happening at car dealerships. When you drop off your car for service, many dealerships have a van which will deliver you back to your home or office, saving you the cost of renting a car. Here in SoCal, I’ve just learned that some car dealerships are offering an Uber or Lyft ride back to your work. On them!

I even met a business consultant who lives up in West Los Angeles. He proudly told me a few years ago he sold his car. And he now takes an Uber to all of his business meetings. He said, in addition to saving the cost of maintaining and fueling a vehicle, he now can use the travel time between meetings to work, make phone calls, etc. In a place like LA, where traffic comes in many shades of nightmare, the thought of being able to make your travel time productive sounds like heaven to me.

Talking about benefitting from the gig economy?! Next time you are planning an evening out, attending a meeting during peak traffic times or when you’re too exhausted to drive…think about a different way of getting to your destination.

Karen

First, let me start by saying I have not, nor will I ever think about, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long, spans from Mexico to Canada, across two mountain ranges, and yes, there are people who actually walk the entire length of it.

And, I am proud and amazed to share that my nephew, Frankie Wiggins (my sister Jackie’s son) hiked the entire PCT last year. He departed in mid-April and finished his epic 142-day journey on September 15. Frankie has a degree in Mechanical Engineering (from Cal Poly SLO), and I think the analytical and problem-solving skills he learned in college were honed and perfected on the PCT. He planned out, on a day-by-day basis, just how long he would hike each day, where he would get water, how much his pack would weigh during different portions of the trip, plus dozens of more calculations and incredibly detailed items. Think of your most detailed excel spreadsheet or Gantt chart, on steroids.

Fortunately, my sister posted updates periodically on Facebook, so we knew he was alive! Here is a photo of him during the course of the hike.

In case you want to know what it’s like to walk that far, you can do what I did and read the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Chery Strayed. It was coincidental that I read that book in early 2018, right before Frankie started his hike, but it sure made the trials and tribulations of such a long and lonely trek relatable to me. (BTW – the Movie, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon is just a tease. It’s really worth it to read or listen to the entire book. And then you can find out why/how the author changed her last name to Strayed.)

Several times during Frankie’s 142-day epic journey, my sister Jackie and her husband Doug would meet up with Frankie on the trail. Once they joined him to attend a friend’s wedding, but sometimes it was just so Frankie could experience a hot shower and get new shoes. At one point, Doug met up with Frankie in a Northern California town called Downieville, in Sierra County, population 282. It’s basically in the middle of nowhere, but it has a post office that is used by many PCT hikers to send and receive mail and supply boxes.

And, Downieville is the home of The Mountain Messenger, famed as California’s Oldest Weekly Newspaper.

And I have to say, my brother-in-law Doug is obsessed with The Mountain Messenger. So obsessed in fact that he told me that he ordered a one-year subscription for me as my birthday present last October. I smiled and really didn’t know what to say. A newspaper from a town with a population of less than 300 people? Seriously, what would it possibly do for me?

Well, first I got this letter from the Editor and Publisher:

I chuckled out loud. What a great writing style and tongue-in-cheek humor.

Then I got my first paper. It’s usually six pages and a quick read. And surprisingly, I have to admit that I love it! The writers are so humorous and light-hearted, even when they are talking about politics (which they do regularly). They poke fun at everyone, whether it is the sheriff, elected state or county officials, or business owners. This week was about the first day of fishing season—I loved the story and I have never fished!

In this day and age of divisiveness, lack of tolerance and many people taking themselves too seriously, I find the light-hearted nature of this paper is sometimes the highlight of my reading week. And in case you want to see what all the fun is about, a one-year subscription for an out-of-county person is $35.00. You can send money to Mountain Messenger at P.O. Drawer A, Downieville 95936 or call Don at (530) 289-3262 with credit card in hand.

You will enjoy the weekly chuckles.

Karen

I’ve been pretty good about taking all my vitamins and supplements for the past 10 years or so. I started seeing Lisa, a naturopath, about that time and learned which ones I should be taking. Each time I go in for an appointment, Lisa actually does a skin prick to get a blood sample, and then looks at my blood under a microscope. She can tell if I have eaten anything I’m allergic to and can diagnose any energy issues I’m having. It amazes me what she can tell from looking at how healthy my red blood cells look and how many white blood cells are present.

I have to admit, when I went vegan in late December 2018, I kind of fell off the wagon. For some reason, I stopped consistently taking all of my supplements. My eating patterns changed, and I didn’t make it a priority to fit in taking them daily.

So last week, after a whirlwind three weeks of traveling, I contacted Lisa and asked if she could squeeze me in for a visit. I went to her office at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening and frankly, started dozing off in her waiting room.

When I walked in to see her, she took a blood sample and looked at it under the microscope. While she was looking at it, she projected it onto a computer screen so I could see it too. I was shocked. I had never seen my blood look so pathetic. Very few red blood cells, and those that were there were almost transparent. She looked at me and asked, “What is going on?

I admitted that I hadn’t been taking my supplements. She pulled out a piece of paper titled “Signs and Symptoms of B12 Deficiency” and handed it to me.

OMG – I saw a few symptoms that had been plaguing me for a couple of months:  weakness in arms, legs, trunk; forgetfulness, memory loss; shortness of breath. Honestly, I thought what I had been experiencing was due to “getting older.” I never connected the facts that I might have a vitamin deficiency.

So, she gave me a Vitamin B12 shot and B12 patches to wear every other day. She has me taking liquid B12 under my tongue three times a day. Plus a variety of other supplements to restore my energy, balance, etc.

Almost immediately, I started feeling more energetic. I felt stronger when I worked out, started sleeping better and didn’t seem to have that feeling of being at a loss for the right words.

I know some people don’t believe in taking vitamins and supplements. They think they can get everything from what they eat and vitamins are for “tree huggers.” Last year, I heard Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn speak at a conference, and she shared that when she was training for competition, she got her blood tested daily to see what minerals were lacking in her blood, so she could supplement for peak performance.

I don’t know about you, but if it’s good enough for an Olympic athlete, it’s a best practice for me. Taking care of your body to ensure you are at peak performance – by eating the right foods, eating less of bad-for-you foods, getting enough sleep and taking vitamins when needed – seems like a good idea.

I’m fortunate to have an expert naturopath I can rely upon – who supports your wellness? Have you ever thought of having your blood tested to see if you have sufficient levels of Vitamin D, B, etc.? If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms listed above, I recommend looking for a naturopath near you.

You’ll feel better! And you will perform better.

Karen

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know a lot about the difference between 3G, 4G and 5G. I guessed it had something to do with bandwidth (as it relates to how fast my mobile phone works). And I have seen announcements in the press that Verizon (my carrier) launched their 5G network in October 2018.

And then I went to Barcelona, Spain, last week. I went to Barcelona to attend the three-day International Women’s Forum Conference (I am a member). The Friday morning program was entitled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The program description detailed that there would be some discussion on how 5G will improve the capacity and reliability of mobile broadband. And that it is expected to unleash a technological revolution that will transform the way we live and work. Technological revolution. That definitely got my attention.

To step back, nowhere in the materials did it say that the location of the conference, Barcelona, is considered the “smartest city” in the world. In fact, I learned that Spain has more fiber network than the U.K., France, and Italy – combined! What is a smart city? A smart city’s purpose is to make people’s lives better. And to use technology as an enabler for that.

So as I listened to executives from Intel, Dentons, IBM Europe, and GSMA (which is the trade body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide) I was blown away to learn that going from 3G to 5G basically improves the download capability 20,000 times. Yes – that means our data, audio, video, etc., will download 20,000 times faster than when we had 3G.

And why is this important?  Because of the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G will enable us to really be connected. Whether it is the timing of traffic signals when there is an accident or heavy traffic, or enabling autonomous vehicles to talk to each other to avoid collisions, optimize traffic flow, etc. Or allowing you and everyone at your company to simultaneously download a training video or webcast, from personal mobile devices, in the same room.

If you want to know how 5G is really going to change our world, then play this four-minute video. It’s an excellent overview of what we’re in for.

I’m excited about the future, and my head is spinning with ways the IoT will enable us to do things we’ve never even thought of. As my 95-year-old mother likes to say, “Technology is amazing.”

Karen

About 18 months ago, a dear friend of mine suggested I read a book entitled Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. I really had no idea who Brené Brown was, but I felt an instant connection to her since she narrates her books (I listened to the book on Audible).

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston. That’s her day job. But her real calling is that she has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. Her TED talk – “The Power of Vulnerability” – is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world, with more than 35 million views. That is a lot of views!

She talks about shame and vulnerability – not the typical subjects of speeches and presentations. Mostly because no one likes to talk about that. If you haven’t listened to her, I highly suggest you either watch her TED talk or listen to one of her books. Her Texan accent, her speech is punctuated with swear words (her talks are heavily peppered with the word “bullshit”) and her authenticity are contagious. I learned years ago that to use a swear word properly in a speech can actually connect you with your audience.

But Brené’s use of swear words is more than a connection tool, it is the truth, exemplified. Like when she was asked to speak at a Very Big Business Conference, with the limitations of 1) no swearing and 2) no mention of her faith (her personal values are faith and courage). She talked about her thought process on this request, and finally she decided, “This is bullshit.” She is who she is, and she will not give in to anyone who asks her to NOT be her authentic self.

Brené has written five New York Times #1 best-selling books:  The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness and most recently Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

You can probably tell, I am a bit of a fangirl for Brené, so when I learned that she was speaking in Houston at a small private event, my friend Lisa, who lives in Houston, offered to have me sit at her table for the dinner. I booked my ticket to Houston immediately – I was in!

Let me start by saying that I must have mentioned to Lisa at least five times that I wanted to meet Brené personally. I was so determined that Lisa sent me a screenshot of the seating chart for the event, to show me where we were sitting (table #4) and where Brené would be. I wrote a note to Brené on my personal stationary and carried it with me in my purse.

So, it was no surprise that when we arrived at the pre-event reception, I spotted Brené across the room. I don’t think anyone had really seen her yet. So I quickly pulled out my phone, recruited someone I didn’t know to take our photo and moved toward Brené.

I was immediately struck by how she connects with people. She looks directly into your eyes and genuinely smiles. When it was my turn to say hello to Brené, I passed her my note (to open later) and told her that I flew from California just to see her. I also shared that her latest book, Dare to Lead, was so amazing that several months earlier I purchased 10 copies of it to distribute to every member of my leadership team at work.

After our photo was taken, I looked and there were dozens of other people lined up to talk with her.

After the dinner portion of the event, she got up and spoke to this group of 250 people about the Five Barriers to Courage:  Tough Conversations, Fears & Feelings, Stuck in Setbacks, Problem Solving/Action Bias and Inclusivity, Diversity + Equity. And she ended her talk with the Four Skills Sets Needed: Rumbling with Vulnerability, Living into Our Values, Braving Trust and Learning to Rise.

She is such a compelling speaker that even though the dinner ran long and she wasn’t able to start her talk until 9 p.m. – not a single person got up to leave before she finished at 9:45 p.m.

As I rode in the car back to my hotel, two takeaways rolled around in my head.

First, there is no courage without vulnerability. (I decided that it is okay for me to be vulnerable. Even though I feel like I am supposed to have that big red “S” for superwoman on my chest, I think it is better for me to be vulnerable and ask for help when I need it.)

And second, clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. (I asked myself, how many times do I beat around the bush with people and am not direct with my ask or my opinion?) I am really being unkind by being unclear?

This trip to Houston to meet and hear Dr. Brené Brown was a revelation for me.

The name of the event was: Dare to Show Up. It took a little scheduling and a plane flight, but I’m so glad I did dare to show up. I hope YOU will dare to show up when the opportunity presents itself to you.

Karen

Last week, in my ongoing quest for “continuous learning,” I attended the UC Davis Agribusiness Executive Seminar in Newport Beach. I have been attending this biennial year 2.5-day seminar for the last 15 years. It is patterned after the Harvard Business School Agribusiness Seminar and uses case studies on businesses written by professional case study writers. As part of the seminar’s method, the CEO (protagonist) comes to the group to defend his/her business decisions and plan. Attendees at the seminar are sent the case studies in advance. We are expected to read them and be prepared to discuss them and to challenge the protagonists.

We had six case studies this year. One of the most interesting was about Raley’s, the privately owned supermarket-chain based in Sacramento, California. Chairman and Owner Michael Teel and his CEO, Keith Knopf, came to speak with us and “defend” their business position.

While I cannot divulge the details of the case study (we take a pledge of confidentiality), I wanted to share what is public knowledge.

Raley’s currently has about 121 stores, and about five years ago, Michael Teel decided to shift the operating strategy of his company. He decided Raley’s should become a purpose-driven company and wanted to position his company as a trusted advisor to the consumers who shop in his stores.

They call it “The Raley’s Way.” On the company website’s career page, it says: “changing the way the world eats, one plate at a time.”

Michael told us, as he was approaching age 60, he reflected on his life and saw a thread around health and wellness and alternative medicine. He made a connection between the products his supermarkets sell and the (poor) health of consumers. In his mind, the connection was not a positive one. Meaning, he was struck that the sugar and salt-filled foods and the choices his stores offered to shoppers were affecting their health in a negative way. That’s when he made the decision to shift his strategy and to be purpose driven.

Over the last five years, Raley’s has made some very dramatic changes. He removed candy from the checkout lanes and replaced it with healthier snacks. He stopped selling tobacco products in his stores and gave priority display space to the healthiest choices on his stores’ shelves. What you may not know about the supermarket industry is that big companies (we call them CPGs – Consumer Packaged Goods) seem to dictate what is sold in stores, because of the attractive incentives they give to retailers to stock those products. And if products are on the shelves at the store, consumers tend to buy them.

Michael saw that he could offer healthier choices. And that meant, he and his leadership team had to go against the conventional supermarket wisdom. Instead of listening to the recommendation of CPG companies, they started to make decisions based on being a trusted, health-oriented advisor to his shoppers.

Since Raley’s is a for-profit business, so you might ask yourself: Did his decision to change what was sold in his stores pay off? Or was this just a “feel good” move? Well, it was kind of both.

Initially the company sales took a dip. So, Mike and Keith and their management team made some adjustments to their plans, and during the course of the last five years, their company has become more profitable and their market share has grown! When they both got up to speak about their decisions, their company’s performance, the alignment in their management teams and their commitment to changing the way the world eats, the passion and caring was oozing from them.

I know there are other small and medium-sized supermarket chains in America that have made a similar decision to focus on healthy foods and lifestyles. I can’t help but think about regional retailers in the Northwest, like New Seasons, Town and Country and Green Zebra. And of course, chains like Mrs. Gooch’s and Bread & Circus (both purchased by Whole Foods more than 20 years ago) that helped Whole Foods become a national natural retailer.

But what is different about Michael Teel and Raley’s is that this is a third-generation family business with a long legacy of being a middle market retailer – long before Aldi, Costco and Walmart. As the succeeding grandson, Michael quickly figured out that being in the middle is never a good strategy.

To me, it was truly an example of not only putting your money where your mouth is, but showing, real time, that you can do well by doing good.

My hat is off to Michael, Keith and their entire team for making a commitment to being a purpose-driven company and sticking to their commitment. And for helping change the way the world eats, one plate at a time.

Karen

 

I feel like the word “gratitude” has become the latest buzzword. Everyone is using it. And when that happens to a word or phrase, it can dilute its meaning or intention.

For me, showing gratitude means authentically being appreciative. Whether it is saying “thank you,” or writing a thank you note, or even smiling at someone with a twinkle in my eye and a nod to show that I appreciate them, it has to be authentic.

It’s not a go-through-the-motions kind of gratitude. You know what I mean: the mandatory thank you note you write after a job interview or after you receive a gift. It’s deeper than that. And if you are writing a thank you note, your choice of words can make all the difference in the world. Just last week, I attended a produce conference luncheon, during which the speaker surprised us all by giving us blank thank you cards. She instructed us to think of someone in our life that we are grateful for, and to write a thank you note. They then mailed them for us.

That was quite a thinking exercise for me, as I was forced to think hard about someone in my life that I was grateful for (and I didn’t want to choose the ordinary options, i.e., family members). I wrote to a dear friend of mine who has been incredibly supportive of me in a nonprofit we both are involved in. I wonder what her reaction will be when she receives my card. I suspect that it will be a surprise, that it will be appreciated and that she will interpret it as an authentic expression of gratitude.

And that’s what gratitude should be.

And on the other side, we have asking for forgiveness. I think it is even more challenging to admit you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. In my role as CEO of my company and a leader in my industry, for many years I really struggled to admit when I was wrong. And frankly, I was wrong a lot. I wasn’t very comfortable admitting when I was wrong, so I tended to make excuses or gloss over my errors.

But now, I find strength in saying the words, “I was wrong,”  “I made a mistake,”  “I don’t know.”

What if everyone on the planet was willing to admit when they were wrong and asked for forgiveness?  To say, “Darn it, I was wrong,” “I would love to hear how you think that should have been handled” and “I am open to your ideas.” Clearly we can all think of some people in public life who should admit when they are wrong.

But how about at work, or in our home life? Wouldn’t it make it easier if someone who was so passionate about their point of view, took a deep breath and said, “Wow – I was wrong,” “I need your help” or “I’ve never done this before and would appreciate your insight”?

So next time you are bubbling inside with frustration or angst, try asking for forgiveness, showing some gratitude and being open to a different perspective.

Karen

Several years ago, someone asked me if there was anything I would like to change about the produce industry. I didn’t even pause when I answered, “Change the grades and standards of fresh produce.”

Years ago, a system was put in place that basically meant only perfect-looking produce would be sold in supermarkets.

You can see the result by walking into any supermarket produce department. Every apple on display is the same size, looks identical and is blemish-free. The tomatoes are all red and identical in size (unless they are heirloom varieties or yellows). And that applies to almost all fresh produce.

As American consumers, we have come to expect perfect-looking produce because it creates a lot of appetite appeal. After years of conditioning, supermarket buyers believe that consumers will not purchase anything but those perfect-looking fruits and veggies.

Then came talk of sustainability, food waste and hunger. We Americans became almost instantly aware of the fact that, according to the USDA, 30 to 40 percent of all fresh food goes to waste somewhere in the supply chain (between farmers’ fields and consumers’ trash cans or compost piles).

Predictably, a few entrepreneurs started businesses to market the produce that was going to waste—that 30 to 40 percent that was not making it onto consumers’ plates.

Companies like Imperfect ProduceFull HarvestHungry Harvest and Misfits Market sprang up. Produce brokers and marketers launched lines of off-grade products. In France, one supermarket chain, Intermarche, even ran this memorable commercial in 2014 to promote its line.

As per usual, it made great headlines.

Five years later, just this week, I read this headline in our trade papers:

“Grocers Turn Away From ‘Ugly Produce’“

The article goes on to say many supermarkets are ending tests with ugly produce because customers aren’t purchasing the product as frequently as they had hoped. Some retailers reported inconsistent interest on the part of consumers.

Does that make sense? That consumers who are concerned about hunger and eliminating food waste would not flock to supermarkets to buy produce that is a little bit less than perfect in appearance, but has the same taste, flavor and nutritional values?

Obviously, I don’t have all the answers. Many factors could have affected the outcome, such as how attractive the packaging was, what educational tools the supplier offered to inform consumers, where the product was displayed, pricing strategy and supply consistency, just to name a few.

In doing some research for this blog, I uncovered this interview with crop scientist Sarah Taber, entitled “A scientist on the myth of ugly produce and food waste.” If you have time, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read her point of view; she calls bullshit, by the way.

Why do I think ugly and imperfect produce is being taken off the shelves of conventional supermarkets? Ugly produce looks great in highly curated shots on social media, but the far real version found on store shelves just doesn’t have the same appetite appeal. Consumers still shop with their eyes, which means it will take longer than four to five years for this to catch on. A program like this will require the supermarket industry to be patient rather than cater to the instant gratification consumers expect with new programs.

These imperfect produce companies are most likely ahead of their time. Based on my company’s 57 years of experience introducing new fruits and vegetables to American consumers, I know, for a fact, that it takes around 15 to 18 years for a new product to catch on. Think kiwifruit, dragon fruit and even kale. I spoke about the life cycle of new product introductions in my speech at trend conference #BittenLA in 2016.

I believe alternative channels need to be developed for less-than-perfect-looking produce. Why not sell that product to food processors or restaurant suppliers who are going to chop it up anyway? Trying to get conventional supermarkets to retrain their quality control inspectors, produce managers and management on what is acceptable condition is an unlikely recipe. Why not develop relationships with markets that are already selling cheap produce that doesn’t always look perfect? I recognize that it takes extra time to develop relationships with these alternative channels, but they seem the most practical path for getting imperfect product to consumers.

I predict that some companies will pull back from offering ugly produce, creating a dip in the product life cycle, but the desire for developing alternative markets to move less-than-perfect produce will continue. Call me in 10 years and I think you’ll find a whole new supply chain has been created and we have significantly less food waste.

And that’s a goal we can all support.

Karen

 

I think everyone can agree that walking on the treadmill (or using an elliptical trainer or recumbent bicycle) can be boring. After all, you are basically going nowhere. And the view can be pretty mundane, unless you are exercising next to a friend and can talk to each other.

So when my doctor told me I needed to step up my cardio exercise routine to eight days a week, I kind of freaked. I mean, it is so boring. He told me I need to do cardio exercise between 30 and 75 minutes a day.

Fortunately, that evening I was at a dinner party with a few friends. I was lamenting my newest assignment from my doctor. It must have been evident that I was trying to sort things out.

Thank goodness, my longtime friend Sue Parks was at the dinner. She pulled me aside and reminded me that she started the company WalkStyles, which offers integrated wellness programs to busy people who work for corporations.

Sue told me, “Don’t think of your doctor’s edict that you work out every day as a death sentence. Think of ways to make it fun!” I said, “Fun?” She recommended I get my iPad (I found it buried inside my home office desk) and download Netflix. (I have subscribed to Netflix for years, but honestly had never watched anything.)

She said to find a show or two or three that I like, then make my visit to the gym an opportunity to watch one or two shows from my favorite series.

OMG—I think I hit the jackpot with Sue’s suggestion.

I had already found a new, clean, modern gym at the beginning of January. Like many people, I find the fitness chains too crowded and not especially appealing. My new gym, Olympix in Long Beach, is right on the beach, which will be great in the warmer months. A large variety of equipment and plenty of open space sold me on it. Also, everyone working out there is serious, meaning they’re not sitting idly on the equipment texting or reading their emails.

So, the day after my doctor appointment, I took my iPad, along with my new wireless Apple AirPods (that offer incredible sound quality!) to the gym, opened Netflix and started watching shows. So far, I’ve watched “The Office,” “Grace and Frankie,” “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo and “Parks and Recreation.”

Apple AirPods in their case, charging.

Sometimes I literally lose track of time. And even when I have a late night at work (after 6 p.m.), I actually look forward to my 15-minute drive to the gym to hop on the treadmill and watch the next show in my queue.

I never realized how the workout venue, its location and how crowded it is can affect how motivated I am to work out. Picking a brand-new gym, having a purpose (my doctor’s order) and some entertainment have actually made my workouts enjoyable.

And the benefits are showing. I’m sleeping better, losing a little weight and feeling less stress.

I would love to hear what motivates you to get your workout done!

Karen

It used to be if you wanted to get ahead in the corporate world and learn the ropes that you would find a mentor. Some (mostly larger) companies have formal mentoring programs, with detailed roles and responsibilities, programs and processes. You might be in a management training program. Or just new to a company. And if a formal mentoring program was in place, you might be assigned a mentor.

Or you might be a member of an organization where more senior members of your industry offer to mentor you (i.e., help you navigate your way up the corporate ladder).

For myself, when I first started in the produce business working for my mom, there were no formal mentors. My mom, who was my boss, was too busy running her company to formally mentor me. I watched how she handled things and followed suit.

A few years after I joined the company, I was fortunate that one of my clients took a special interest in me. He decided he was going to be my mentor. Dick was an executive with a large retailer and had a huge span of responsibility. In fact, he was one of my biggest clients and we talked every day.

I’m not sure how it happened, but he started to mentor me. I would ask his opinion or advice on certain situations. Sometimes I didn’t even ask for his advice—he would just give it. I feel very fortunate that he was there to help me navigate the produce industry. And over the years, as it turns out, both Dick and I have continued to mentor young people coming up in the business.

As I was sitting at a produce conference in Berlin, Germany, last week, I realized that mentoring has changed. It no longer makes sense to me to have a single mentor. Instead, what you really need is a personal board of directors.

Think about it. Does it make sense to rely on one person to give you advice about your entire career path?

Or is it more logical to think about those areas in which you want to grow and the variety of contacts you have available or need to meet in order to make progress?

For example, in the produce industry, there are so many things to learn. If I were a young person just entering it, I would want to have a “kitchen cabinet” of advisors, friends and mentors to share their expertise and opinions with me. I would not want to meet with them all at once, but I would want to check in with them periodically.

And I wouldn’t ask someone, “Will you be my mentor?” Instead I would say: “I am putting together a personal board of directors to help hold me accountable to my commitments and progress. You have expertise in XX, and I would like to touch base with you periodically to share my goals, ask you questions and get your insights.”

In my own company, I’ve had team members periodically schedule time with me (usually about 20 to 30 minutes) to get insights into ways they can grow professionally. I let them drive the agenda and it’s not usually about their current role. They are looking for suggestions on how they can make a difference, both in their personal and professional lives.

So next time you are thinking about looking for a mentor or being a mentor, try using the phrase “personal board of directors” and see if it changes the conversation.

Karen

It seems like every day when I open up The Wall Street Journal or listen to the news on my drive to work, I hear something about Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell and interest rates. I always take a personal interest in it because I was a director of the Los Angeles branch of the 12th District of the Federal Reserve Bank from 2005 to 2007.

I have written before about how I became a director. It was an amazing time of my life and meeting then-Chairman Alan Greenspan at a cocktail party at the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., is definitely near the top of my incredible experiences list. Greenspan made the words “irrational exuberance” famous.

During that visit, I sat in the office of Ben Bernanke, then a member of the Fed’s board of governors, and asked him about a book I saw on his bookshelf, “The Federal Reserve Bank for Dummies.”

It was during that time that Janet Yellen, Ph.D., was selected as president of the 12th District. I saw her twice during periodic board meetings held in San Francisco. Dr. Yellen was appointed by President Barack Obama in early 2014 to succeed Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, admittedly one of the most powerful and influential positions around.

So, I was very excited to learn that she would be in my area this week, as a speaker at City National Bank’s 2019 Economic & Investment Forum. Of course I wanted to hear all of the speakers at the forum, but I really wanted a chance to say hello in person to Dr. Yellen.

After securing a spot at the event, I had to decide how I was going to meet up with her to have a personal conversation. If you know me at all, you know I am determined. And I was definitely determined to be up close and personal with Janet Yellen.

The first thing I did was to arrive early for the event. I heard they were having more than 500 people in attendance, so I wanted to get a good seat. After getting my name tag, I immediately went inside the conference ballroom. At first it appeared that all the front-row seats had reserved signs on them. But because I went all the way to the front of the room, I was able to locate a partial row that somehow had no reserved signs. I plopped down my purse and scarf to save three seats for my colleagues and me. Right in the front row.

I then went on the hunt for the chairman of City National Bank, who would be introducing Janet Yellen. A longtime banker friend pointed him out to me and I made my way to him. I had not seen Russell Goldsmith for at least eight years since we ran into each other on a plane, but I pretended we were old friends and he played right along. I told him how good it was to see him, reminded him that he and I served on the Federal Reserve Board together and that I had actually corresponded via email with Dr. Yellen a few years ago and wanted to be sure and say hello to her.

Well, Russell was more than helpful and he told me how I could meet her. He told me that as soon as she exited the stage, to jump up and say hello. He pointed to the area directly in front of where I was sitting. Bingo!

So I listened and waited for two hours. I heard City National Bank’s experts in housing, internet research and media research talk about their favorite stocks and recommendations. I listened while Russell masterfully asked Dr. Yellen what she thought about the growing deficit, unemployment, China and the apparent new normal for interest rates. And finally, the event was coming to a close. As Janet smiled, waved and walked off the stage, I jumped up and almost raced up to see her.

It was like we were old friends. She remembered me and my family produce business. I asked about her husband and her son. She told me they were now living in Washington, D.C., and gave me her email address. After we hugged and took a photo together, I turned around to see dozens of people from the audience lined up to meet her. I smiled. She had to keep walking to catch her flight.

Sometimes it takes determination, planning and a laser focus to get what you want. Have you ever felt that way? You really, really, REALLY want something. And even if it seems impossible, you know deep inside that the only way you will get it is if you use focused determination.

Well, I got to see Janet Yellen. I wonder what else I can accomplish with that same determination. And you?

Karen

I remember my dad drinking a lot of coffee when I was growing up. Instant decaf coffee. The brand was Sanka and we always had a large jar of it at home. It was my job to boil the water in the tea kettle and make him a cup of Sanka, whenever he asked. Which was at least a couple of times a day.

That was the 1970s. Fast forward a few decades and coffeehouses like Peet’s and Starbucks popped up, serving espresso-based coffees with fancy names like latte, mocha Frappuccino and Americano that started to dominate the coffee scene. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that instant coffee is back and it has a new name: VIA Instant.

I don’t remember when I discovered VIA Instant was offered by Starbucks, but over the years I’ve become a bit of a coffee snob, so I’d never tried it. Actually, my current favorite coffee is Lavazza Classico medium roast, which I make every morning in my drip coffee maker. Friends and other visitors to my home comment on how flavorful and fresh it tastes.

So you can imagine my surprise when my niece Rachel gifted me a box of VIA Instant French roast coffee packets last week. My first thought was, “Toss it.” Then I said to myself, “What the heck. I could at least try it.” And what I’ve discovered is that it is just strong enough and so fresh-tasting that I am going to make it my newest travel companion on airplane trips. Instead of being disappointed with airplane or hotel coffee, I am going to be asking for a cup of steaming hot water and making my own. Rather than searching for the next fancy Third Wave, indie coffee brew – good, old instant coffee reinvented is my new go to. Sometimes the best ideas can be so simple.

So thank you to whoever reinvented instant coffee. It’s amazing how much more appealing something is with a new brand, a new look and a more modern approach. And to think, it was right under my nose the whole time!

Karen

 

I go to a fair number of conferences where speakers are up on a stage (in front of hundreds or thousands). Over the years, I’ve noticed that the acceptable dress code for speakers has changed.

A few decades ago, male speakers always wore a suit and tie. Female speakers wore a dress or pantsuit. Both were formal in their dress. I suppose this was not only to signal that they were “pros,” but also because most of us attending conferences dressed in business attire. Back in the day, that may have included a suit.

I’ll never forget when I saw leadership guru Simon Sinek speak at a CEO business conference about 10 years ago. He was one of the first speakers I noticed that dressed more informally. In fact, I recall that he was NOT wearing a jacket. He wore jeans with a shirt (sleeves rolled up) and his well-known orange watch (orange is his favorite color).

Then I started noticing a trend at conferences—thought leadership speakers, who were comfortable with themselves, always dressed casually. It became obvious to me that they had nothing to prove to their audiences; they were comfortable in their own skin. So they dressed like they always dress, in their comfort clothes.

So Simon Sinek was part of my inspiration to change the way I dress when I attend conferences or do public speaking. You will almost 100 percent of the time find me in dark jeans. I feel it humanizes me. It makes me more relatable and approachable as a speaker.

Have you ever thought about that? What vibe do you give out with the way you dress? Do you want to be perceived as rigid or flexible? Approachable or aloof? Easy to talk to or set in your ways?

Especially in business, I think it’s an important factor to take into consideration when dressing for a meeting, event or conference.

I’ll never forget the day a few years ago when we had a visit from one of our growers. I had come to work a bit dressed up and my grower relations person gave me a look. I asked, “Should I go home and change into my jeans and boots before our grower arrives?” She nodded. Thankfully I live close to my office and ran home to change. Funny thing—when I was meeting with the grower later that afternoon, he commented to me, “I feel so comfortable with you, Karen. I had a meeting with someone from another company and they looked so uptight in their suit. I don’t feel like they understand me and my business challenges.” Those unsolicited comments just confirmed my theory: how you appear (your clothing and style) can influence a deal or a relationship. It can make you more relatable.

What inspired me to write about this? I was reading a paper (online) and noticed an executive was on stage at a conference talking about future trends and consumers. It didn’t make sense to me that the executive was dressed in a suit and tie. If he was talking about future trends, I think he should have been dressed like Simon Sinek. In jeans and rolled-up shirt sleeves. He would have looked like he was in tune with consumer trends.

So next time you are getting dressed to do public speaking or to attend a conference or event, think about how you want to be perceived. Wearing jeans might just be the right touch. Not to mention the fact that you will be much more comfortable. Who knows, maybe the next trend will be yoga pants that are disguised as dress pants?

Karen

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Well, I don’t. I’ve found that if I make radical lifestyle resolutions on January 1, I get frustrated with my progress and eventually give up on them. I know I’m not alone.

However, I did make a lifestyle decision that coincided with this new year. And that is, I decided to only consume a plant-based diet. No meat, dairy, eggs. Only plants (veggies, fruits and nuts). If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you will recall that I became vegan a few years ago. You can read about it here and here. What started out as an experiment for 30 days, which I chronicled in my blog, was so easy, and I felt so much better, that I continued for a year.

After a year, I slowly added back fish, dairy, eggs and occasionally meat and poultry. But I found that plant-based foods were where I got the most sensory pleasure, like the crunch from vegetables and the smell of the fresh fruits. And I recall how much BETTER I felt physically when I was vegan. All my aches and pains seemed to disappear. And people kept saying my skin looked better and I looked younger. Who can argue with that?!

So, what made me decide to go back to a vegan diet, after a hiatus of over five years? Maybe it was my cardiologist who suggested I become vegetarian a year ago. Or perhaps, I was influenced when I read the book “The Plant Paradox” during the summer.

Frankly, it was two things.

First, my coworker Valerie introduced me to another book “How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease” by Dr. Michael Greger. Dr. Greger shares research and evidence about how not to die from breast and prostate cancer, lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, suicidal depression and more. You can see the table of contents here.

Second, I recall over the years hearing anecdotally that vegans tend not to have the same incidences of diseases, like cancer, as compared to those who eat an omnivore diet. With that loop running in my head, I was clearly open-minded to what Dr. Greger writes about.

So, after watching multiple friends being diagnosed with cancer and other diseases, feeling myself become stiff and achy after long plane flights and sitting too long, I did my research (at my standing desk). It became evident to me that a plant-based diet was the healthiest choice for me. I wanted to feel better over time, not worse.

Honestly, it’s not that hard. I’m not a big animal-rights advocate, but it was easier for me to skip that part of my diet than I thought.

The hardest part was to make the decision. It’s kind of a mental thing. Once you wrap your head around managing your eating choices, then you just have to plan ahead. Believe me, lots of fruits and veggies are always available everywhere. Thank goodness that nuts are a plant-based food. I love my Brazil nuts and walnuts. It also helped that Valerie is still on the same path as I am. We compare notes every few days, and having a buddy to help reinforce your eating choices really makes them stick!

I realize that eating a plant-based diet is not for everyone. Perhaps you want to eat a plant-based diet some days and choose to try #MeatlessMonday or veggie taco Tuesdays (try these turmeric-roasted cauliflower tacos – you won’t miss the meat!).

Or you may read Mark Bittman’s book “VB6: Vegan before 6,” in which he talks about how he changed his lifestyle to eat vegan before 6 p.m. each day, and then a flexitarian diet for dinner. He lost a lot of weight and improved his overall health.

But no matter what, I hope you make a conscious effort to eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies as part of your daily diet. It’s good for your body. Right now my must-haves are crunchy radishes and celery, black beans, mushrooms and spiralized zucchini.

Happy New Year! I will keep you updated on my plant-based journey.

Karen

 

I’ve been an Amazon shopper for many years. At first I really didn’t order anything but books, but when my daughter, Sophia, was in college and told me about the benefits of Amazon Prime, I signed up and started using Amazon more often.

It’s so easy. I might be sitting at home in the evening and feeling lazy, not wanting to drive to a bookstore, supermarket or electronics store. With a couple of clicks, I can order almost anything I want. However, over time, I started to notice a few cracks in the armor.

First of all, when I misplaced the charger for my iPhone a few years ago, my friend Michael surprised me by shipping me a new one via Amazon. I noticed it wasn’t made by Apple, but I thought, “What the heck.” I figured it didn’t really make much of a difference. That was until I tried using the charger in a rental car. My phone didn’t charge and I got a message on the dashboard letting me know my charger wasn’t working properly.

Since then, I’ve made certain to purchase official Apple charging cords. I couldn’t find them on Amazon, so I resorted to going to an Apple store.

Most recently, I purchased my favorite brand of shampoo and conditioner on Amazon. It was so easy to place my order at night on my computer and have it simply arrive at my home a day or two later. I thought: No more errands to run. Amazon will save me so much time.

But then I received the shampoo and conditioner, and started using it. I noticed the viscosity of both had changed. They were kind of runny. I really didn’t think much about it until I went to get my hair cut. I mentioned it to my stylist, who is fully trained in all things hair and a great resource for product recommendations. She pointed out that most brands of hair products have a shelf life. The benefit of purchasing products at a hair salon or beauty supply store is that they get rotated frequently, assuring that the product is fresh. Product does not sit on shelves for months. She said she had recently told many of her clients NOT to purchase hair products on Amazon, as there is no guarantee of their freshness.

So, of course, I purchased fresh product at the salon and used it when I got home. What a difference an expert’s opinion makes.

Have you had this experience with Amazon or any other third-party seller? If the product has some sort of perishability, you really can’t be sure it is fresh unless you purchase it directly from the manufacturer or in person. That’s just one of the reasons I started purchasing many products directly on a manufacturer’s website or at a store.

Who knows, maybe Amazon will start listing shelf-life or guaranteed manufactured dates on their website. But until then, I will be spending a little more time running my errands.

Happy New Year!

Karen

About four years ago after filing for divorce, I started seeing a therapist. Sometimes we need help sorting through big changes in our lives.

One day I was sitting on my therapist’s couch and I was visibly uncomfortable. My jacket didn’t feel right. Lois noticed it right away. She said, “You look uncomfortable. Why don’t you take off your jacket?” So I took off my jacket. Then my high-heeled shoes were uncomfortable. So she suggested I take those off too.

She asked me what was going on. I told her I had a lot on my mind at work and was super busy and preoccupied. Then I randomly made this comment to her, “You know, I always feel like I get more done when I wear my jeans and dress casually at work.” She asked me the obvious next question: “So why don’t you wear your jeans every day to work?”

I told her I just couldn’t. Honestly, I told her that I was the CEO of my company and CEOs don’t wear jeans to work. She, of course, pointed out the obvious examples of Steve Jobs and John Mackey. Then, my next line of defense was that I had a closet full of expensive dress suits, skirts, and high heels, so I would look the part of a CEO. I had to wear them.

She looked me straight in the eye and told me, “I want you to wear jeans to work every day. Period. You must wear jeans to work and dress casually every day until I see you in two weeks.” Yes, ma’am!

So I wore jeans to work every day. I wore jeans to work even when I met with a big client. (Admittedly, I am in the agriculture business, so it’s not a big stretch to wear jeans to a client meeting).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I went back to see Lois two weeks later, I was able to report to her how much more productive I was at work. I felt like a wave of freedom and flexibility had come over me. Not surprisingly, a few months later, I changed the dress code at my company, going from casual summer dress to casual dress all year long. I think everyone at my office was instantly more relaxed and productive.

Then last summer, I went to get my color wardrobe palette done. About every 10 years, I see Jennifer Butler (www.jenniferbutlercolor.com) to make sure the color and style of my clothes are most complementary to my eye color, skin tone, and hair color and texture. As we grow older, our colors become more muted and evolve. During this session, my colorist noticed a slight curl in my hair. She asked me about it and I revealed that I had naturally curly hair but had straightened it for the last 30 years or so. Jennifer suggested that I might want to wear my hair “natural,” i.e., curly, and darken it to my natural color (instead of having it highlighted)—to be more authentic.

I told her I just couldn’t. Honestly, I told her that I was CEO of my company and CEOs don’t have curly hair. I mean, people wouldn’t take me seriously if I let my hair go curly. (I had secretly hated my curly, frizzy hair since I was a child, so when the Brazilian straightening technique came out, I was hooked.) Well, Jennifer pointed out the obvious example of Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal“ who rocks curly hair 24/7.

So I took a couple of deep breaths and decided to see what it felt like when I wore my hair naturally curly. The next day I came into work with my hair curly (some coworkers didn’t recognize me!), and it felt great. I’ve never looked back. I forget about it when I run into a friend or business colleague I haven’t seen in a couple of years. More than one was startled as they didn’t realize it was me. I just fluff my curly hair and say, “Yeah, I went back to my natural hair.”

I am sharing these two stories because I think there are other people out there who are afraid to reveal their real selves. Their authentic selves. There are so many stereotypes of how we should look, how we should act, how we should be. So we develop this habit of being—imposters.

That’s what I felt like. I felt like no one would take me seriously as a CEO if I didn’t look and dress the part. And then I decided to be the real me. The casually dressed, curly-haired me.

And the most interesting thing happened.

Many, many women are now wearing their hair naturally curly. It’s like they were hiding before and now they’ve all appeared at once.

I also noticed that, at many business and social events, people were dressing in jeans, creating a more casual vibe. It’s a lot less stressful.

So, if you ever get that feeling of not being comfortable in your skin (or your dress), I can assure you that no one will judge you as an imposter. It’s much easier to be the real you. So try it!

Karen

I thought I had always taken good care of my teeth. That included going to see my dentist twice a year to check for cavities and have my teeth cleaned by a hygienist.

But a few years ago, after I decided to use Invisalign® to get my once-straight teeth re-straightened, I started to see a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in gums. My periodontist is Oscar Valenzuela. I see Oscar once a year and he takes measurements of the gum line on each of my teeth to determine if I have unusual recession of my gums. I know some recession is normal with age, but I learned that my over-zealous brushing technique actually caused additionally recession.

I remember my first visit to him. “Do you floss your teeth?” I said, “Sometimes.” Then I asked him, “So, how often should I be flossing?” He responded with: “You should only floss your teeth on the days you want to keep them!”

Got it. So I started flossing my teeth every night before I went to bed, right after I brushed my teeth.

That began my love affair with Oscar and his dental hygienist Mylene. After my first time cleaning by Mylene, she told me that she wanted to see me back in three months. Three months? It felt like punishment. She said that plaque builds up quickly and based on what she saw on my teeth, she wanted to see me every three months. I asked her if there was anything else I could do to reduce plaque.

She asked, “Have you ever considered using an electric toothbrush?” (I didn’t tell her that once I had a boyfriend who gave me an electric toothbrush for Hanukkah. When we broke up, I gave away the toothbrush.)

I asked her more about using an electric toothbrush. She said it was more consistent in applying pressure while brushing. Plus, some models have a timer on them, which ensures you brush for a full two minutes (30 seconds on each section of your teeth: upper, lower, inside, and outside). Two minutes of brushing your teeth with a manual toothbrush seems like forever.

So, I went to Costco and bought an electric toothbrush (the brand Mylene suggested, Philips Sonicare). When I started using it, I could not get over the super clean, smooth feeling of my teeth. They felt completely different, as compared to when I was using a regular manual toothbrush. Here are some toothbrush options.

Three months later when I went to see Mylene, she noticed the improvement. Nine months later, when Oscar re-measured the recession on my gums, he told me they had stabilized and improved. Within a year, I had graduated to visiting Mylene every four to five months.

And with all I have been learning about Alzheimer’s, there appears to be some sort of potential link between “plaque” in our teeth and “plaque” in our brains (which is what causes Alzheimer’s). Just today, I learned from my coworker Cindy that in her previous job at Wrigley’s gum, they had done research showing a link between gum health and heart health. Personally, I don’t chew gum for other reasons, but there are gum types which can help reduce plaque.

So, my recommendation is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big smiles!

Karen

As we are now a week from Thanksgiving and finalizing exactly what we are going to cook and feast on for the holiday of thanks (myself included), I can’t help but share what I plan to serve for dessert at my Thanksgiving dinner.

First, a little background.

Obviously, I love vegetables. In fact, for a few Thanksgiving dinners in the last decade, I prepared and served more than 10 (yes, 10) different vegetable dishes. Admittedly, 10 was probably a bit much.

In the last few years, my daughters, Alex and Sophia, have joined me in my cooking adventure. So it’s become quite fun to hang out in the kitchen while preparing dinner. Each year we make a few family favorites—roasted root vegetables and Stokes Purple® sweet potato salad with chipotle dressing always make the list. And I always try a new way to make Brussels sprouts as they are the preferred green veggie at my house.

But dessert has always been a challenge. I’m not a big pumpkin pie fan, and frankly, everyone seems more interested in how many bottles of wine we drink (we line the kitchen counter with empty bottles and do a count at the end of the evening). But this year, my daughter Alex announced to me that she is making dessert.

Stokes Purple® sweet potato pie!

Admittedly, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes are one of the top-selling items at Frieda’s. And as we were developing new recipes for them this year, we noticed that pies were really trending. So our chef said, “Let me give it a try.” She created a colorful and seriously delicious Stokes Purple® sweet potato pie.

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As you can see, it is colorful. And it’s a nice change from the conventional pumpkin pie. So I am happy to share the recipe with you and secretly hope you’ll try it for your family celebration next weekend. I would love to hear how it goes over.

Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato Pie Recipe:

Ingredients

1 9-inch frozen, pre-made pie crust, thawed

Filling:
2 large, baked* Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes (5-6 inches long), peeled and roughly chopped
3/4 cup coconut milk (from 15-ounce can full-fat coconut milk)
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
Seeds from 3-inch piece vanilla bean (or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract)

Topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Seeds from 1-inch piece vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Pecans, whole or crushed

Steps

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pie crust 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in blender container or food processor, blend sweet potatoes, coconut milk, butter, egg, cinnamon, allspice, sea salt, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. If too thick to blend, add 1-2 teaspoons coconut milk.

When crust is done, increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Transfer pie crust to wire rack; carefully pour in filling. Smooth out top with spatula. Put pie back in oven and bake 15 minutes. Then, decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake additional 15 minutes. When done, crust should be barely golden and filling should look set. Remove pie and allow to cool to room temperature on wire rack. Cover and place in refrigerator to cool overnight.

Chill whisk and bowl from stand mixer (or regular bowl and whisk) in freezer at least 10 minutes. Pour heavy whipping cream, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt into chilled bowl and whip on high until peaks form, about a minute. It’s better to under-whip than over-whip! Store whipped cream in refrigerator up to 4 hours.

Before serving, allow pie to come to room temperature. Just before serving, whip topping by hand to make it extra fluffy. Top pie with maple whipped cream and pecans. Slice and serve.

*Note: For extra-creamy sweet potatoes, wrap in foil and bake the night before making pie. Store in refrigerator, still wrapped in foil, and use in recipe as directed.

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Wishing you and your family a holiday filled with gratitude, kindness and generosity. And plenty of leftovers.

Karen

This past Monday evening, my sister, Jackie, and I accompanied our mom, Frieda, to an event hosted by UCI MIND, the UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders.

Attending this event were more than 150 people in the Orange County community—most of whom would definitely be considered “seniors” (that would be over 60 if you attend the movies).

But, first, let me go back almost three years. My mom and I attended a talk at UCI, as part of a professional women’s weekend retreat. I had to attend a meeting during one of the talks. When I returned, my mom told me that she had decided to donate her brain to UCI MIND, when she passes. (Both my parents had decided many years ago to donate their bodies to science after their passing, in hopes they could provide insight into aging, etc.)

I have to admit that I teetered between feeling a bit surprised and not being surprised at all, as my mom has always been philanthropic and community-minded, with a lot of foresight. What she learned at that presentation was that UCI MIND was one of only 30 facilities in the country doing research to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

In addition to looking for funding, UCI MIND was looking for volunteers for a longitudinal study. The team planned to study the brains and capabilities of people who were still alive, track them over time, then study their brains after they died. At that time my mom was 92 years old and in fine shape (both physically, and more important, mentally), so she would be a rare and special candidate for this study.

So, the team from UCI MIND came to our offices in Los Alamitos and disclosed to Mom, with Jackie and me in the room, what was involved. She would have to go in for a battery of tests every year. In addition to the normal cholesterol, blood pressure, EKG, and other tests, she would take a multi-hour test of her cognitive abilities. “Sign me up!” Mom said.

After that initial round of tests, Jackie and I accompanied Mom to UCI to hear the results. Frankly, Jackie and I both looked at each other, questioning how we would do on some of the memory tests. That’s when I learned the importance of getting at least seven and a half to eight hours of sleep a night. The tests explained for Mom what causes her, on occasion, to have trouble remembering names. We also learned that, for people her age, she performed above average in the professional decision-making arena.

Turns out our mom is in excellent health overall. Jackie is her testing buddy, so goes with her for the annual tests. Jackie is also interviewed to share her observations.

At one joint session with the UCI MIND team, I asked if they had done a video or commercial on the program. I mentioned that Mom was excellent on camera and very experienced. I thought her story would be compelling.

A few months ago, they contacted us because they wanted to interview and tape Mom as she explained why she decided to participate in the study for a video presentation. They did the taping the week Mom turned 95.

That’s where we went on Monday—to watch the screening of this testimonial video, which will be part of a call to action for the community.

Leaving A Legacy with UCI MIND: Frieda Caplan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: youtu.be; UCI MIND Website: mind.uci.edu UCI C2C Registry: c2c.uci.edu

In addition to seeing the video for the first time, we heard from Joshua D. Grill, Ph.D., the director of UCI MIND. Dr. Grill was so compelling! When asked how far along they were in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, he compared the research being done to that for HIV/AIDS. He said the first few drugs that were discovered in trials decades ago did not make a significant improvement in the lives of HIV/AIDS patients. But over time, as more drugs were proven in trial, they were able to combine them into cocktails (multiple drugs used together). Now, in 2018, HIV/AIDS have gone from being a death sentence to being medically treatable conditions. Not curable, but people can survive for a long time.

Dr. Grill said Alzheimer’s treatment is moving in the same direction. That’s why they are looking for funding and people to participate in trials.

His expertise is in designing trials and the ethics of trials. He said if the trial’s design is flawed, the results will be flawed and useless.

I couldn’t help but think about how that applies to my business. How many times has someone had a “great idea” at my company and wanted to rush it through? The possible obstacles are not fully considered or we push through a project just to get it off our plate, rather than going through the details and having a cross-functional team to shoot holes in it. We all know how that ends.

So, back to UCI MIND. If anyone in your family has been affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia and they have an interest in possibly supporting or participating in the studies, I hope you will contact UCI MIND.

Our mom, Frieda, has always been a trailblazer in the produce industry. And now she is a trailblazer in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Pretty amazing, I would say!

Karen

 

Last week I wrote about my two-week vacation in Tuscany. What I didn’t mention was that a few days after returning, I left for a 10-day trip to Florida to attend two conferences.

My challenge was reengaging at work without causing frustration for me and my coworkers after almost a month’s absence.

If you work in an office or as part of a team, I’m guessing you have probably experienced this to some degree. You go on vacation and a lot of stuff happens while you’re gone. When you get back, you are either in the dark or feel out of touch and frustrated. And it is probably frustrating for your coworkers, too.

 

So I thought I would share what I did to make my reentry smoother:

  1. I returned to work on a Monday. So the Friday morning before, I sent an email to all my direct reports and asked them to email me by the end of the day a topline recap of what happened while I was gone. I wasn’t looking for a play-by-play, but rather enough information such that when I went into a meeting, I would feel caught up. I read the emails over the weekend.
  2. Sunday evening, I went through my emails (more than 600 of them), sorted by sender, then deleted all newsletters because many newsletters cover the same things from week to week. I deleted at least 50 percent of the rest because they were part of threads or I was copied on them. I’m still not caught up, but I know what’s in there. I got those 600 emails down to about 150 that need some action on my part.
  3. I got two good nights of sleep over the weekend (7.5 to 8 hours a night). I find I feel so much better and am in a better mood when I have enough sleep.
  4. When I got into the office, I made a point of checking in with everyone with whom I work with directly. The investment in a quick 5- to 10-minute conversation, asking, “Anything I need to know about?” and “Anything you need my help with?” brought most issues to the surface.

Spending that much time away from the office (only monitoring my emails, but not being obsessive about them) really cleared my head. I got a lot of sleep while I was gone and I feel as if I emptied all the “trash” from my brain.

Even though it is sometimes hard to disengage and take off time because you have so much work to do, I feel much more productive now that I’m back at work.

Maybe it’s time for you to start planning your next vacation.

Karen

I created my bucket list about 10 years ago. It has over 50 items on it. A lot of travel is on that list.

So, when my longtime friend, Paula Lambert, founder of the Mozzarella Company in Dallas, invited me to join her on a seven-day culinary tour of Tuscany, I had to pause. I asked myself, “What am I waiting for?” I checked my calendar and found that the end of September fit my schedule perfectly. I took a deep breath and mailed her a deposit check. That was almost a year ago.

Because of my busy work life, I didn’t give it a lot of thought until a few weeks before I left. It turned out I would be traveling with eight other people; I would only know my travel guide Paula. I decided to extend my stay in the Florence area to meet up with close friends who would be there. And I found a friend to help me plan what to pack.

My good friend Paula Lambert and me.

After seven days with complete strangers, two days with friends, and five days alone, I reflected on the trip while flying home. One thing I discovered, somewhat unexpectedly, is that it’s not that hard to travel alone. I do it all the time for business. Turns out it was quite fun to be on my own. I could set my own pace and it allowed me to meet some interesting strangers, who are now friends! And although I used to be one of those people who travel at an aggressive pace—you know, like five countries in six days—I now have a new philosophy on travel: Go deep into an area to get to know the people, the food, the environs, and the culture.

My culinary tour group enjoying dinner on our first night.

Here are some of the lessons I learned while in Tuscany:

We did a tasting on our first night of Laudemio Olive Oil of Tuscany.
Raymond Lamothe and his companion Anarita. She was an amazing cook and charming guide!
There are human size Black Roosters throughout the Chianti Region.
Giacomo and Albano (left to right).

It’s been two weeks since I returned, yet the slower pace of Tuscany is still with me. I’ve noticed that I am not so impatient when I am waiting in a supermarket line. I take the L.A. traffic in stride. And when I dine with friends, I am not anxiously awaiting our next course or our check; last night, dinner with three friends lasted four hours.

Although I was ready to come home after two weeks in Tuscany, I am already thinking about my next trip. Perhaps Sicily or Sardinia?

Ciao!

Karen

PS My favorite photo was of this door, during a walking tour of the historic village of Certaldo.

Though I wasn’t able to watch Tiger Woods surprise the whole world by winning his 80th championship in Atlanta, the lessons from his journey have not been lost on me.

Tiger started young, learning to golf at the Cypress, California, golf course, which is only 50 yards from my office building. To say Tiger was a child prodigy would be an understatement.

From a young age, he became an athletic sensation and then he became overconfident, cocky, and eventually hit a brick wall.

I am a firm believer that what’s happening in your life can manifest itself in your body. So, if you’re thinking a lot, you might get a headache. If you are feeling a lot of pressure at work, you might start to have poor posture and “feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

So, I wonder if the troubles that Tiger had in his personal life manifested in his physical maladies.

After reading about his win on Sunday, I surmised these lessons:

  1. When you want to accomplish a goal, the most effective way to achieve it is through laser focus. Professional athletes like Tiger practice every day, at least eight hours a day, and have coaches to advise them (even when they are champions). Practice makes permanent.
  2. Don’t be overly confident to the point of arrogance. Winning easily doesn’t guarantee future success. Don’t assume your current success will continue forever. Being humble is a great attribute.
  3. Your professional success does not mean you automatically will have success in your personal life. It’s imperative to give the same attention to your personal life as you do to your professional life. (Many of us stumble in our personal lives simply because we don’t put the same type of energy and hard work into it.)
  4. Sometimes you must hit rock bottom before things turn around. Really rock bottom. Think of the personal and physical pain that Tiger suffered. Not to mention the public scrutiny and embarrassment. Most of us don’t have our lives played out and examined like Hollywood stars or athletes do. But we can hit rock bottom, just the same.
  5. When a goal or accomplishment is critically important to you, even after you’ve hit rock bottom, go back to No. 1 above.

Whether or not you play golf, have a lucky shirt color, or have had a physical or mental brick wall you’ve come up against, there are always lessons to be learned from other people’s experiences.

I took up golf about 18 months ago and I wrote about it in May and November of last year. I never appreciated that the game was not really played on grass. It is played in your head. And it really makes you think.

Karen

Recently I met Dan Buettner, the New York Times best-selling author and National Geographic writer of “The Blue Zones of Happiness.” I have since become fascinated with his discoveries for living a longer life.

In case you aren’t aware, blue zones are regions of the world where people live much longer than average (usually to over 100). The term first appeared in the November 2015 National Geographic  magazine cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life,” which Dan wrote.  He identified five geographic areas around the world where people live statistically longer: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece); and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. Based on empirical data and firsthand observations, Dan offers an explanation as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives.

I became aware of the “Blue Zones” book when we started marketing and selling our Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes in 2011. We started getting an overwhelming number of emails and phone calls from consumers who were going crazy to find our purple sweet potatoes. They told us that purple sweet potatoes were highlighted in Buettner’s book as the food people in Okinawa ate that helped them to live significantly longer lives.

Well, my dream came true when I met Dan in July. He spoke at the Organic Produce Summit in Monterey, California. I snuck my way into the green room before his presentation to say hello and tell him the impact his book had had on our company.

Then I heard him speak. He started his presentation by asking the audience to answer “yes” or “no” to the following nine questions. At the end, he asked us how many we answered “yes” to:

  1. Do we do some sort of exercise daily? It could be as simple as a neighborhood walk. The world’s longest-lived people are constantly moving. Every trip is an excuse for a walk. For example, taking the stairs vs. the elevator.
  2. Do you have a sense of purpose? Do you live for something beyond work? For example, do you have a purpose for waking up in the morning?
  3. Do you have a way to de-stress? The long-lived people have routines to shed stress. It might be meditation or prayer. Or napping.
  4. Do you eat until you are “almost full?” Okinawans remind themselves to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full.
  5. Is your diet mostly plant-based? Many centenarian diets are mostly plant-based with beans as the cornerstone of the diet and relatively small amounts of meat.
  6. Do you drink wine regularly? People in all blue zones drink alcohol moderately—one to two glasses a day with friends or food. Moderate drinkers tend to outlive non-drinkers.
  7. Who is in your tribe? Social circles support healthy behaviors. Okinawans create groups of five friends (“moais”), who are committed to each other for life. He showed photos of them sitting around a table, catching up with each other nightly.
  8. Do you have a faith? Not only having a faith, but attending a faith-based service four times a month, adds four to 14 years to life expectancy. The choice of denomination doesn’t seem to matter.
  9. How is your family relationship? Centenarians tend to put their families first, investing time and love in them. And they take care of their elders.

As Dan asked us all to raise our hands, many of us commented to each other about how we should rethink or modify some of our current behaviors.

I recalled that earlier this year I had changed my diet to mostly plant-based, using seafood and egg whites as my protein source (no red meat or poultry). I started a daily meditation practice a year ago and added hot yoga to my weekly routine this year. I recently reconnected with many of my close friends and make a concerted effort to allow time for my family every week. (I am quite lucky that I work with both my daughters, who indulge me with a morning hug each day.)

If you are curious about what it would take to modify your lifestyle (diet, exercise, etc.) to live a longer life (of over 100 years), National Geographic just issued a special publication entitled, “Blue Zones: The Science of Living Longer.” Part 1 is information on the five blue zones around the world and what foods and lifestyles are enjoyed there. Part 2 is how to create your own blue zones. Part 3 is about cooking in the blue zone with recipes and shopping lists. I purchased my items at my local grocery store.

I don’t know about you, but every year around my birthday, I think about my own mortality. This also makes me reflect on the lifestyle changes my parents made as they got older, and, for my mom, as she continues to get older. When I was young, like most people, I was more reckless and felt immortal.

Now I’m mindful of the choices I make and what impact they may have on my mortality: better-for-you food choices; more rest; more exercise; more enjoyment; less stress; smaller meals; sipping red wine; and enjoying long conversations with friends and family.

I plan to continue to make mindful choices to help create my own blue zone. Perhaps you will, too.

Karen

This week, Jewish people around the world are celebrating the new year, Rosh Hashana. It’s a big food holiday, and even bigger for the fruit business, as I learned a few years ago. Most observant Jews, especially in the New York  metro area and other big cities, strive to serve a new fruit on their holiday tables in the new year. It’s actually a biblical tradition.

Think about it. A new fruit? Yes, many of the kosher grocery stores in Brooklyn call us every year, trying to top each other with the selection of exotic fruits they feature during the two weeks before Rosh Hashana. It’s kind of fun. Two years ago, even the Wall Street Journal wrote about this phenomenon.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/IkRmJHTOVsI]

So, while most of us might think about serving peaches, grapes, berries, apples, or watermelon for a fruit dessert, observant Jews are looking for persimmons, dragon fruit, feijoas (aka pineapple guavas), and starfruit. And if they really want to go all out, they might share a jackfruit with the whole family—a jackfruit party!

For virtually all Jewish holidays, food is at the heart of the celebration. For Hanukkah, we serve fried foods like latkes (fried potato pancakes) and fried jelly donuts. For Passover, freshly grated horseradish is a must-have for the traditional Seder dinner.

But in just a week is the one holiday when we don’t eat. As a matter of fact, we fast from sundown the night before until sundown the next day, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On Yom Kippur, you literally atone for your sins. I am not always good at fasting for Yom Kippur, but when I do, it allows me to be reminded of those who have suffered without food or other conveniences.

What I find most interesting about this time of year is the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. That 10-day period is one of prayer, self-examination, and repentance. We make amends with anyone with whom we have a disagreement. During this time, I consciously reach out to friends I may have had issues with. Maybe a family member that made me mad. Or have dinner with a long-lost friend. Sometimes I choose to email or text them to reach out. And just touching base is all it takes.

Even if you aren’t Jewish, have you tried reaching out to people you no longer talk to?

Wouldn’t it be kind to consciously think about those you don’t have the best relationships with and just reach out? Say hi. Meet for a glass of wine. Or have a phone conversation. Tell them something you like about them or what made you think of them.

So, on Sunday night for Rosh Hashana, I went to temple for the first time in a while. It was good to see so many old friends. The service is short, with many beautiful songs sung, the same songs that are sung at every Jewish synagogue around the world celebrating Rosh Hashana.

And when the service was over, as we exited, large platters of sliced apples with bowls of honey greeted us. Apples and honey. Did you know that is a tradition, too? Yes, for Jews whose families came from Eastern Europe, dipping a slice of apple in honey expresses hope for a sweet and fruitful year.

And I think all of us want that. A sweet and fruitful year.

So, to all my Jewish and non-Jewish friends, I wish you a l’shana tova (a good year) or l’shana tova u’metukah (a good and sweet year).

Karen

Last week was our August National Sales Meeting. A couple of times a year, we bring in our outside sales team together with our inside sales team, buying team, marketing team, and finance and management teams to share ideas and learn new things. We also do some fun things in the evening. One night, we went bowling—randomly selecting the teams so everyone had a chance to get to know employees from other departments.

During the three days, we had various presentations from clients and industry experts. We always ask for suggestions for topics to cover and training ideas. One of the members of the sales team suggested the topic of “growth mindset.”

What’s that? I really had never heard of it, so I started to do some research.

Essentially, having a growth mindset means that, with learning and dedication, you can be or do anything. In a growth mindset, “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point,” according to Carol Dweck of Mindsetonline.com. “This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset.

The old adage “You can’t teach the old dog a new trick” is what sums up the fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that they cannot change, that “their basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits,” says Dweck.

You can imagine that having a growth mindset would be key to growing in one’s career and growing professionally in a company like ours, where one of our core values is “Staying Curious.”

Our guest speaker started the day by asking our team: What do you think is a growth mindset? We went around the room and people shouted out their ideas:

When asked if attitude, skills, and knowledge were required to be successful within these qualities, our group said, almost 100 percent of the above qualities required a good attitude.

And that’s when I realized how brilliant my coworker was when she suggested the topic.

If everyone at our company realized it was within their own control to achieve their goals, with simply a change in attitude, or by having a growth mindset, the sky would be the limit.

Of course, we have heard sayings like “Attitude is everything” or “Visualize the glass as half-full.” But it came alive for me and everyone in our training room that day as our speaker took us through several group exercises. Who are the most successful people in their careers? Those with a positive attitude, a can-do attitude.

So, instead of talking about having a “positive attitude,” I’m going to start saying, “Great job of having a growth mindset!”

Love of learning and resilience can really create a mind shift. And sometimes, that’s what we all need.

Karen

A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend, and she said to me, “I sure hope all these good deeds I am doing come back to me in good karma in the future.”

I was kind of puzzled by that comment because I think it’s important to be authentic when you do good deeds, not because you hope you will get something for doing them.

That is the essence of being authentic: Doing good because it’s the right thing to do.

Have you ever done that? You see someone who would benefit from your help, whether it is helping them unload their grocery cart at the checkout (because that giant bottle of water looks a bit too heavy for them to lift themselves), or giving some money or food to a homeless person. Have you helped a fellow businessperson connect with someone you know who could help them without getting anything out of it?

 

Have you had the chance to do a good deed lately? Or, were you in too much of a rush, working through your things to do or running errands?

I have found in this dog-eat-dog world, where everything seems to happen at warp speed, that there is even more satisfaction when you do something nice for someone with no expectation of recognition or reward.

It’s refreshing to think about others instead of yourself for a while.

So, when you are feeling stressed or rushed, why not take a deep breath, and do something good for someone else, even a complete stranger. You could be the person who makes their day a little bit better. And you may get that warm fuzzy feeling in your heart.

It’s called “kindness.” And I think we need a lot more of it this world.

Karen

With all my travels and running my business, I’ve tried a lot of things when it comes to physical relaxation. (And it seems I’m not the only one.)

Of course, I get massages. In fact, I used to ask my masseuse, Aaron, to text me on the first of every month to remind me to schedule a two-hour deep tissue massage. With long flights, walking through airports and standing in security lines, different hotel beds and pillows, a massage sometimes makes all the difference in the world for my stiff muscles.

I’ve also tried craniosacral therapy, which involves applying gentle pressure and manipulation to the joints in the skull, spine, and parts of the pelvis. From “Your Inner Physician and You,” I learned how proper alignment of the spine can help create a more relaxed and centered self. In fact, when a good friend of mine was having headaches and tension, I recommended she go to my CST therapist, Katja, for some relief. My friend now sees her on a regular basis. She said, “Even though I didn’t feel bad per se, I feel so much better after the therapy.”

When I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago, I tried Reiki (pronounced RAY-kee). Reiki is a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body, and restore physical and emotional well-being. I like to say that my Reiki practitioner “moves the energy” in my body, focusing on whichever of my seven chakras needs attention. Sherrel rarely touches me, but I always find myself going into an almost meditative state during our hour-long session. I get up feeling mellow, calm, and centered.

And of course, almost a year ago, I started meditating daily. The 20-minute guided meditation each morning really grounds me for the day. As I have heard from other meditation practitioners, when you meditate regularly, you experience the ability to listen better, to be more present, and to find an inner peace.

OK, readers, if I haven’t lost you by now and you’re not thinking I’ve gone cuckoo with all this “woo-woo” stuff, I’d like to share my latest discovery with you.

Rolfing.

A few weeks ago, my good friends Mark and Vicky introduced me to Christopher, their Rolfing practitioner, whom they have been seeing for over 10 years. Rolfing is a form of deep tissue massage that helps realign your muscles to improve movements and posture to relieve aches and pains, and creates an overall sense of well-being.

So, this past Monday, I went for my first session. Christopher asked me if anything was bothering me that day. I told him my left ankle seemed out of sorts. He worked on the muscles all over the left side of my body. My forearm. My calf. My rib cage (which was apparently out of alignment). I wore a sports bra and yoga shorts so he could see my breathing and my muscles. He did a little work on my right side, but said it is part of Rolfing to do small areas at a time, so the body can adjust.

Christopher told me that many people describe Rolfing as body muscle sculpting. Through soft tissue manipulation and movement education, Rolfers affect body posture and structure over the long term. Unlike massage, which often focuses on relaxation and relief of muscle discomfort, Rolfing is aimed at improving body alignment and function.

The results: I find myself standing straighter and taller. Breathing seems easier. All the tension is gone in my shoulders and neck. And of course, my ankle does not hurt.

The only limitation after the Rolfing treatment is no weightlifting for 24 hours. I’ve scheduled my next appointment for next Monday. I’m looking forward to another session of getting in alignment.

If you travel a lot like me and want to get rid of the aches and pains, you’ll do whatever it takes to feel well. I hope you’ll give these alternative therapies a shot. You might find just the right touch and come out feeling amazing.

Karen

I don’t know about you, but for me there sure seems to be a lot to worry about these days.

To start with, I worry about getting through my things-to-do list, preparing for my upcoming meetings, if I’m getting enough sleep, and if am I doing enough for the people on my team. On a larger scale, I worry about global warming, politics, and the Supreme Court. All of these can be a bit stressful and, at times, overwhelming.

That’s one of the reasons I enjoy listening to audio books while I drive. I’ve written before about how Audible has become my best friend and how I love to read, or rather, listen to, autobiographical, self-improvement, and business books, and occasionally a novel. Listening to audio books transports me to a different place even on my short 15-minute commute home each day.

So my friend Tristan asked me if I had read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I admitted that I had heard of Eckhart Tolle, but I had not yet read the book. (In 2008, a New York Times writer called him “the most popular spiritual author in the United States.” So, there you go.)

“Whatever book you are reading right now, put it down. You have to read “The Power of Now” right now! It is incredible,” she said.

On to Audible I went. Eckhart actually narrates the book himself, and that’s always a special treat when the authors do their own reading, to hear all of the personality and memories through their voices!

Eckhart opens the book by telling his personal story of his struggle with depression until the age of 29 when he had a spiritual awakening. Born in Germany, Eckhart is a spiritual teacher living in Canada. He is not identified with any particular religion, but he has been influenced by a wide range of spiritual works.

After his personal story, the book is a Q&A between the publisher and Eckhart. I think the idea is that the questions which are asked are the same questions you might ask yourself.

I have to admit, Eckhart has an interesting voice and style. I had to turn up the volume in my car, since he speaks so quietly, with a mild accent. I replayed some of what he read many times as it was so thought-provoking for me.

So, I wanted to share one line that really got my attention:

“Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.”

I played that over a few times.

Source: Flickr @ I Woz Ere

Think about it. Everything happens in the now. So why worry about the past or the future? Stay in the now, and enjoy the moment. It takes away a lot of the stress.

For example, this morning, instead of stressing about my to-do list as I walked up to the office, I slowed down to notice how beautiful the morning was and that we had new plants added to our water-wise landscaping. I felt much calmer. Or when I started to get anxious about not hearing back from a contact, I refocused on what I was working on, rather than worry about getting a response as it is literally not up to me. I had almost forgotten about my earlier concern when I got that response back.

We all really should stop and smell the roses. We’ll all be a lot less stressed if we do.

Karen

Two days ago, I got a text from my sister, Jackie, who runs our company operations.

“We started the day with a major water leak in the men’s bathroom; we ended the day with a pipe breaking in the other side of the office. I checked, and I should have known, Mercury goes retrograde tomorrow.”

Mercury retrograde began July 26 and will end on August 19.

For longtime readers of this blog, you know all about my experiences with Mercury in retrograde in 2014 and 2017. Long story short, because of its orbit around the Sun is faster than ours, three or four times a year the planet appears to move backwards in the sky for about three weeks. According to astrology, Mercury is the planet of technology, equipment and communications, and when it goes into retrograde, everything seems to go out of whack.

Have you been experiencing any odd happenings within the last few days? Computers not working? Things breaking around the house? Poor communication between you and co-workers or your spouse? Contract negotiations not going well? That could be because Mercury is doing a moonwalk.

Jackie and I try to mark on our calendars when Mercury is going retrograde. During those times, we avoid computer upgrades and installing equipment, and are extra careful with communication. We have come to expect flight delays, dropped calls and miscommunication. We have learned to be more patient and forgiving when people around us are short-tempered during the following few weeks.

But what’s unique about this particular session of Mercury in retrograde is that Mars is also in retrograde! Mars is the planet of energy, action and desire. It went retrograde on June 26 and it will continue through August 27. Thankfully, it only goes retrograde about once every two years.

Now when Mars goes into retrograde, your plans may go a little haywire or your romantic life is unsatisfying and you feel like you can’t get anything done. Any time any planet goes retrograde, you might ask yourself, “How much is this going to mess up my life?” Well, with both Mars and Mercury in retrograde, the answer is “moderately to intensely.”

If you are curious at all about how the cosmic vibes affect you, I’d encourage you to see how these two retrogrades are affecting your astrological sign at the moment. And if you think the whole thing is hooey, that’s ok too. I’m not going to disagree with you while Mercury and Mars are in retrograde.

During this period of great tension all over the planet, perhaps it’s a good time to take deep breaths before reacting. To anything.

Oh, and my text back to my sister was:

“No surprises there. And Mom had a water leak at her house today too! Things happen in threes, right?”

Karen

Ever wonder what it takes to launch an app? Or what the inspiration is for someone’s idea for an app?

Well, I got to hear firsthand how it all happened when I was attending my sister Jackie’s birthday party last month.

I was seated next to Conrad, a friend of Jackie’s from Texas, and he enthusiastically told me about an app he launched just three days earlier. It’s called Wait Check.

The Inspiration

Conrad and his girlfriend went to their favorite nightclub in Austin, hungry and ready to boogie. But the club was at capacity, and they had to stand in line, 30 people deep. They would only let people in as people left. In his low blood sugar state of hunger, he fantasized about an app that would have allowed him to check with people already at the club or in line to see how long the wait was.

His girlfriend responded, “Great Idea! Now just pitch it to someone you know personally, trust with your idea, and who has the entrepreneurial skills to make it materialize!”

The Trusted Partner

Conrad knew immediately whom to ask: his friend Javier, a local successful businessperson. Javier was on board as he related to the frustration of waiting at restaurants and saw how an app would be the simple solution. They agreed that to meet the market’s need the app should focus on restaurant wait times, but include nightclubs’ too. It would be real-time and exclusively customer crowdsourced. It would be like “WAZE for GRAZE.” Let’s outsmart restaurant traffic together!

This is what Javier shared with me about his thought process:

“When Conrad approached me with the original idea, I thought it had some merit. But I thought that app would only be useful for the segment of people who regularly go to clubs. If we expanded the app to focus on restaurants, we would have a much broader audience. And if we could send those people a push notification once they entered a restaurant, we could prompt them to share wait times with other users.

“So I did some research to see if there were any other restaurant wait time apps on the market, and there were some but none that worked very well. Most of the existing apps are subscription-based and require member restaurants to enter wait times. The primary problem with that model is that very few restaurants participate and the information is not always accurate or in real time. None of them crowdsource for the actual wait time. So for various reasons, people really don’t seem to be using those apps. If we could also design a simple user interface and an app that was easy to use, we thought we might have a winner.”

Search for Developer

Javier set up meetings with three different app development companies in Austin.

App Company No. 1 had a lot of impressive terminologies and a slick presentation, but with a ridiculous price tag that would have to be doubled for each Apple and Android platform.

App Company No. 2 was super exciting because the owner/developer really listened to their concept and even added to it by suggesting estimated wait times based on existing Google datasets. Also, the developer loved the idea so much he said he was interested in developing the app for a stake in the business!

App Company No. 3 was full of vague, opaque explanations with nothing concrete to back up claims.

Surprise! They chose the second company.

Concept to Beta

Conrad got the idea in June 2017 and spoke to Javier within the week. After selecting the developer, they were able to do beta testing in March 2018 and did a soft launch on June 6, 2018—just last month!

My Takeaways

Of course, I’ve downloaded the app and started using it! But I’ve learned so much more than just finding out about a nifty app:

  1. Your original idea may not end up being your final idea, as it is important to brainstorm with others to figure out what the real need is and how big the market is.
  2. The idea person (right-brained) should not be afraid to partner up with someone with business experience (left-brained). Someone who runs a business probably knows the ins and outs of contracts, negotiations, and strategy, a complement to the idea person.
  3. It takes a while to go from idea to launch. It’s always better to take time to beta test (even if the idea isn’t technology-based) and work out the bugs. That’s why so many companies do “pilot tests” or market research. When you think you have a fantastic idea and want to launch it right away so you don’t miss the opportunity, a year can seem like a long time. Over 90 percent of new products fail, so testing is useful.

I want to say, “And the rest is history,” but we’re not quite there yet! I know Conrad and Javier are doing marketing and figuring out ways to monetize their app. They would love your feedback. Feel free to reach out to them at info@waitcheck.com.

Karen

Ask for what you want: That’s one of my favorite pieces of business advice. In fact, I use it often when I give speeches or mentor people. It actually applies to your business life and to your personal life.

Just last week, I was on the phone with a colleague who works at a local university. We were brainstorming ideas to get younger alumnae involved in the dean’s advisory council. So I suggested that we ask for what we want.

In the quarterly university magazine, why not run an ad?

Are you an alumnae? Are you under 50? Is your area of interest agriculture, fashion, or architecture? The Dean’s Advisory Council would love to talk with you about joining us.

My colleague’s comment was: Wow, I never thought of asking directly for what we want.

How many times when you deal with a vendor or a customer (or in your personal life, with your significant other) do you hope they’ve taken that “mind-reading” class? I mean, you know what you want, but you hesitate to ask directly for it. Or actually, you never even think of asking directly for it.

I’ve used this piece of advice so many times that it’s not unusual for me to get an email from someone that starts with: “I know you believe in asking for what you want…”

And if you’re on the other side of this conversation, it’s kind of refreshing to have someone ask you directly for what they want, instead of wondering where the conversation is going.

Another approach I often use is: “It never hurts to ask.” This is a great one to use when you want to try something new.

For example, in business, perhaps you are thinking about asking for a price increase, free samples, or a special discount. The last time I used this was when I was at a local running store. It advertised a 15 percent discount on shoes. After I selected a pair to buy, I happened to comment on the Garmin watch the sales rep was wearing. It turned out it had the features I was looking for. He told me the price.

And then, I asked for what I wanted: “So, do I get the same 15 percent discount that I am getting on the shoes?” He told me “no,” the discount didn’t apply to that.

And then I asked, “Well, do you think I can get the friends and family discount?”

Well, guess what? He gave me a 10 percent discount!

If you think this doesn’t apply to you or would never work, I’d also like to remind you about the time I asked my friend about going to the Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders’ meeting, which I did get to attend. And when I asked another friend about becoming a director of the Federal Reserve Bank, which I did become in 2005.

Remember, not only should you ask for what you want, but you should be mindful that it never hurts to ask!

Now, you all know about my bucket list item of meeting Nike founder Phil Knight

Karen

I think we all know that when we pull an all-nighter or don’t get sufficient sleep (fewer than five hours), our performance and decision making the next day are not up to par. Some of us walk around feeling tired pretty much all the time, while saying, “I can sleep when I’m dead.” Well, lack of sleep is more harmful to your health than the day-to-day results.

Three years ago, I learned about the link between getting enough sleep and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease during a meeting at the University of California, Irvine. The presentation highlighted the work being done at UCI MIND: Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders.

UCI Mind is doing research which involves testing and monitoring people of all ages to see how their memory changes over time. This extensive research maps the participants’ brains and brain functions.

In one of the presentations, a doctor who is doing the primary research told us it is important that people get at least seven and a half to eight hours of sleep each night. Why that number? That is the amount of time it takes for the human brain to “clean out” amyloid plaques. In lay terms, amyloid plaques are goopy stuff in the crevices of our brains. When we go to sleep, our bodies naturally clean out all the goopy stuff, effectively clearing the toxins from our brains. And that takes about seven and a half to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. If we do not get enough sleep to complete the “cleansing cycle,” then the goopy toxin remains. And it is that buildup of amyloid plaques that causes the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Click to read more about how our brains “self-clean” during sleep every night.

 So you can imagine what I did immediately after I listened to that doctor.

Yep, I decided to begin monitoring my sleep. I started going to sleep earlier each night. Early enough that it allowed me to set my alarm for eight hours after I went to bed.

It was an adjustment. No more late nights watching television. I put on my orange sleep glasses, do my reading, and get a good night’s sleep. I moved many of my early morning meetings back an hour or two, so I could complete my sleep cycle.

And you know what happened? I started feeling better, sharper when I first woke up, and I had more consistent energy all day long.

When I was younger, it was always fun to brag about how I burned the candle at both ends. I would stay up late and get up early. Sometimes I would exist on three to four hours of sleep. If you’re one of those people who almost wears as a badge of honor how little sleep you can function on, I would encourage you to read this.

It is doubtful that adequate sleep will eliminate the chance of memory issues. There are many other factors like genetics and inflammation in your body. (I will share some insights on this in a future post.) But the number of hours of sleep you get is 100 percent within your control. I encourage you to start monitoring your sleep. Go to bed earlier and feel better.

Good night!

Karen

I attend a lot of events each year. Big events. Small events. Events in an auditorium. Events in a classroom setting. Events with a keynote during a meal. And I’ve seen a lot of masters of ceremonies, moderators, panelists, and speakers. All with different speaking styles and public-speaking skills.

Nothing drives me crazier than speakers who are ill-prepared. And I don’t mean just scrambling to get their speech together at the last minute. I’m talking about people who know they have to give a speech and yet do not put in the work to learn anything about public speaking.

You know the signs. Mumbling. Speaking softly. Monotonous. Rushing through things. A lot of “ums.” Reading the notes instead of speaking. Not making eye contact with the audience. Using jargon not familiar to the audience.

Not doing your homework about your audience, not practicing beforehand, or just plain ol’ not learning how to publicly speak before your speech: To me that is an ill-prepared speaker.

I would like to offer what I’ve learned over the years, as both a trained speaker and a member of the audience, on how to get the most bang for your buck at your next speaking opportunity.

What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen Caplan - Bitten LA
Me speaking at Bitten LA conference

Nail down the time

Pro tip: It’s never “as long as you want,” even if that’s what they tell you. Ask the organizer differently: “What’s the optimum amount of time? Five minutes? Fifteen minutes? How long did your best speaker ever talk?”

Know your audience

Get clear on your topic and who the audience will be. Are they C-level executives? What is their job function: buying, selling, HR? Is it a mixed group? Maybe you’re there to speak as a sponsor of the event. If you talk about your new product, does that even apply to your audience? Is anyone present the decision maker on buying your product?

Practice, practice, practice!

First, outline what you are going to talk about, then fill in the blanks. Time yourself while saying it out loud, preferably in front of a mirror, multiple times. If you are given 15 minutes, don’t ramble on for 20 minutes. Edit your remarks until you are a little under your time limit.

You can use your notes while you practice. I type out every single one of my speeches, no matter how short it may be. I use at least a 14-point type, triple spaced, and I number the pages. These steps make it much easier to rehearse and give my speech. When you have that down, practice in front of a few people and get their feedback.

Slow down, pause, and breathe

Speak more slowly than your normal speed. You may think you’re not going that fast, but in public speaking, you probably are. Slow it down so your audience can absorb what you are talking about.

Also, pauses are not a bad thing. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence. Take a beat at the end of sentences and breathe. Not only does it calm your nerves, but it gives the audience a moment to catch up and pay attention as well.

Don’t skip the sound check

Get to the venue early to do sound and technical checks before guests start arriving. That’s when you stand at the podium you are going to be presenting from and adjust the microphone so you can be heard. Get the host or a coworker to stand in the back of the room to verify that you are loud and clear. If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, make sure you run through every slide.

Smile and stick to your script

Give the presentation or remarks that you rehearsed. Don’t ad lib! You got this.

Take a few deep breaths before you begin, find someone in the audience to make eye contact with, and smile. Smiling at your audience will make the audience smile back at you, and you can connect with them that much more.

Follow these steps, and you’ll get compliments on your presentation, and reduce the number of people texting or reading their emails during it!

I didn’t make up all these pointers on my own. Early in my career, I met the late Judith Learner, a former newscaster from Milwaukee and a professional speaking coach. I hired her to work with me for over a year. She videotaped me multiple times while giving presentations and I had to watch myself during the playback. Nothing breaks you of bad habits—flipping your hair, adjusting your shoulders, filling the silence with “ums”—better than seeing yourself on camera! Plus, I had a professional right there pointing out every one of my flaws and opportunities to be more polished.

I used to get so nervous before I gave a speech. Now, I actually look forward to it, thanks to Judith for having been a great teacher and mentor.

I hope that my pointers can help you the way Judith helped me. I’d love to hear whether these suggestions help you with your next speech. Good luck!

Karen

So, the first question is: Who needs business cards? The second is: When should you carry your business cards with you?

The answers are: everyone and everywhere.

Two groups of people look at me cross-eyed when I say this—students and the recently retired. So I have a few recommendations for both.

Students: If you are looking for a job or an internship, how is your potential employer going to get your contact information so they can offer you a job if you don’t have a business card? They are not going to write it down. And they may not want you to text it to them as that would mean giving you their cell phone number.

Recently retired: It cracks me up when I ask you for your business card, and you look at me like I’m crazy, and say, “But I‘m retired. I don’t need a business card.” How are people going to reach you? We don’t have your personal cell phone number or email address because we’ve only used your work contact info, even though we’ve become personal friends.

Both of you: Order yourself a stack of business cards. Vista Print has business cards for just $10. You can also pop by your local office supply store or even Costco. (Students: If you want something with more creative flare, try Moo.)

Make sure the font is easy to read. Include your cell phone number and email address. Students don’t need to include a mailing address, but the recently retired should.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Business cards

And both groups need to have a respectable Gmail address like firstname.lastname@gmail.com or something that matches your professional personal brand. You can have that email address forwarded to your current, not so professional, email address if you don’t want to give up your old accounts. (Students: Definitely let go of your SoccerSux@hotmail.com or QTPie1994@CableProvider.com type of email addresses.)

Another email address option is a forwarding address offered by your college. Many offer one free so you can put yournamehere@alumni.yourcollege.com on your card with pride.

And, yes, take your business cards everywhere.

I cannot tell you how many times in the last month I have been at a social event, or even a work event, and I’ve met someone I want to be in touch with. You wouldn’t believe how often I’ve heard: “Oh, crap. I don’t have my business cards on me!” So I give them my card and they promise to send me their contact information, which they do about 50 percent of the time.

Just imagine: You are at a social event and you meet someone who would be a great contact for your next career move, for your business network, or who could support a charity that you love. And, oops, you don’t have any business cards on you. How disappointed would you be to miss that connection?

I always have at least three to four business cards in my wallet and in just about every bag I use—even a tiny evening clutch. Keep a few in your cell phone case. Leave some in your car. These cards have never failed to come in handy. You never know when you will meet someone interesting!

Next time you are getting ready to leave your house for anything, even a grocery run, check your wallet for business cards. You will thank me later.

Karen

About four years ago, I stopped watching the nightly news.

It seemed like no matter what channel I turned on, the only news was about the floods, the fires, the murders, corruption, and bad behaviors. It was just so depressing.

And the news magazines and papers I used to pick up at airports when I traveled weren’t much better.

While still keeping up with daily news briefs, I started reading more books, listening to most of them on Audible, and I still subscribe to a few magazines that keep me current on innovation and thought leadership.

Once in a while, on a whim, I pick up a few new magazines during my travels. They provide a bit of balance to my “always reading work publications” credo. This time around, I ended up subscribing to O, The Oprah Magazine.

The June issue arrived with the headline, “Are you ready for some good news?” I was intrigued enough to turn the pages.

The opening paragraph really got my attention because it felt like the author was in my head.

“If you’re feeling like the world is tilting on its axis, like the center cannot hold, like this country is hell-bound in the proverbial handbasket, you’re not alone.

But is it possible that reports of our impending doom have been greatly exaggerated? Why, yes it is!

In the interest of helping you sleep better tonight, we’re about to debunk a few of your most urgent worries…and give you…hope.”

Some of the issues explored in the multi-page article:

Yep, that pretty much sums up many of the things on my mind, and on the minds of many people. But to my delight and surprise, the information I read shed a positive and hopeful light on every one of those subjects.

What would happen if more networks, newspapers, and publications spent more time talking about how we can fix things, or make positive change, vs. fearmongering, or telling us about all the terrible things going on?

If they don’t or won’t change, then we have to find publications or media that will do that, and stop supporting the ones that won’t.

If you want to read about and hear good news, you can find it, but you may have to look in new places.

And that’s the positive change I chose to make. Many others have as well, which is probably why so many people are sharing positive messages on social media.

Positive messages make us feel good. They make us do good. And they promote more kindness in the world.

Let’s do more of that.

Karen

Like everyone in America, I was deeply shocked, saddened, and devastated last Friday to hear the news that there was yet another shooting at a school. This time in Santa Fe, Texas, where 10 students were gunned down and 13 more were injured.

The news took the wind out of me. I don’t know about you, but I felt helpless.

Two days later, with the shooting still fresh in my mind, I attended the annual Women Against Gun Violence luncheon, just as I have for almost 20 years. Founded by my friend Ann Reiss Lane, a former commissioner of the Los Angeles Police Department, WAGV was celebrating its 25th anniversary at this event.

As she tells it, Ann was inspired to start WAGV while serving as a police commissioner after she received a call from feminist Betty Friedan, asking, “What are YOU going to do about the NRA’s campaign to sell guns to women?”

In response to Betty’s call, Ann and a few of her L.A. friends gathered acquaintances, family members and others for a three-day conference to examine the sale of guns to women, and so much more. They ended up starting WAGV to reduce gun violence in Southern California.

These luncheons are always filled with surprises and inspiration. I remember the WAGV luncheon I attended when then L.A. Police Chief Bernard Parks got up to tell the story that every time someone was killed in Los Angeles while he was chief, he got a personal phone call. One morning his phone rang. He told us what it was like to learn that a very young girl had been shot and killed. That young girl was his granddaughter.

At this year’s luncheon, I was surprised to see a 9-year-old girl go up to the stage with her father.

Her name is Madison Rude.

Madison takes the stage

Madison told the story of when she and her dad, Steven, were at Barnes & Noble bookstore a few months ago. Passing by the magazine rack, she noticed more than 20 magazines promoting guns, photos of guns, guns sales, etc. She asked her dad why Barnes & Noble was selling gun-oriented magazines and displaying them at eye level where young children could see and pick them up. He didn’t have an answer.

A slide from Madison’s presentation

So they discussed it, and when they got home, Madison wrote a letter to the CEO of Barnes & Noble asking him to move the magazines. And then she waited. She never got a response. She actually called and emailed his office multiple times over the next few weeks, but never heard anything back.

But when they went back to that very same Barnes & Noble several weeks later, Madison noticed that almost all of the gun-oriented magazines had been moved to another display area out of the sight of young children. She asked the manager why the magazines were moved. The manager didn’t know.

At this point in the presentation, Madison told the audience that there were postcards at each of our tables pre-addressed to Demos Parneros, CEO of Barnes & Noble. She encouraged each of us to take one, sign our name, and mail it to Mr. Parneros.

When Madison got up in front of over 360 people at the WAGV luncheon, I was inspired and moved beyond measure. I realized instead of being scared and doing nothing, she took action and spoke up.

I think that’s called being an activist.

I’m sure that everyone in the audience that day was thinking the same thing I was. The same thing they thought when they saw Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, speak at a rally following the senseless shooting at her high school.

These young people will speak up and fearlessly confront the most difficult issue with courage and conviction.

Watch out world. They’re coming to change everything.

Karen

Madison and Steven

Three weeks ago, my youngest daughter, Sophia, and I took a trip to New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia. I had a conference in Melbourne to attend May 2 to 4, so to maximize that long distance, I added about 10 days of holiday time to the trip. And it was her birthday, so it was the perfect birthday gift.

Kia Ora, Auckland!

(Kia ora means “hello” in Māori.)

We only had five days in New Zealand. The last time I was in Auckland was in 1991. The country was in a deep recession, and Auckland was quite a sleepy town. My, how times have changed! Auckland is now quite crowded, yet still very clean, and it seemed as if there was construction everywhere.

Also everywhere were these big owls! “The Big Hoot” campaign is a street art and fundraising project for New Zealand’s Child Cancer Foundation. Custom-painted owl sculptures are installed all over the city, telling unique and meaningful stories from the New Zealand community. At the end of this month, they will be displayed together one last time before being auctioned off to raise funds for the foundation.

By the way, the owl happens to be Sophia’s favorite animal!

After two days in the city, we were off to explore the north island. The most fun we had was our day trip to Hobbiton. If you are a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit” books and movies, then you will recognize these photos. This is the set where Lord of the Rings was filmed, about two hours southwest of Auckland. It was a rainy day, which made the place even more magical.

G’Day, Melbourne!

Only a four-hour puddle jump from Auckland, we landed in Melbourne, Australia. We quickly learned why Melbourne has been voted “The Most Livable City in the World” for seven straight years. The city is extremely walkable. The people are incredibly friendly. And it is refreshing that there is no tipping (gratuity), so good service is the norm!

We did a few tourist things like visit the botanical gardens and take the hop on-hop off bus around town. But my favorite thing was trying to decipher what people were saying to me.

An Australian accent is one thing, but Aussie slang is a whole other language!

After our afternoon meeting, our hostess said, “It’s time to frock up!” Frock up? Apparently, that means dress up. And then, when they were referring to other parts of the country, I heard “Tassie,” which is short for Tasmania, and “Brissie” for Brisbane.

When I got home, I did some research because I’d heard so many new words! Here are some of my favorites:

So, listen, mate. Sophia and I had a bloody good time Down Under. Our days were chockers and we didn’t get bitten by any mozzies. We were quite stuffed by the end of our 12-day trip, and I didn’t have a chance to crack onto any blokes.

Good on ya, mate!

Karen …& Koala

Karen's Blog - Karen Caplan - Melbourne - Koala

 

In my job, I travel often. Mostly cross-country, for a few days at a time. Adjusting to the time change from West Coast to East Coast is not usually a big deal. I can get by with a little less sleep and a lot more coffee during my trip.

However, when I travel out of the country, I am always a bit stressed about how I am going to adjust when I arrive at my destination, so that I’m fully functional. And then of course, I have the same concern when I return home.

A few months ago, I realized that I was going to travel to South Africa and Dubai in mid-March, then head to New Zealand and Australia in late April. On previous trips, Advil PM was my friend, and I took a pill when I boarded my flight to ensure a good, restful trip. I oftentimes took one each night I was gone to be sure I slept.

However, I’ve read lately about the negative effects of Advil/ibuprofen (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID) and decided I was no longer going to take them. So, what was I going to do instead, since both these trips were certainly going to challenge my ability to adjust quickly to a 9-hour and a 19-hour time change?

I had heard that many people take melatonin to assist them in adjusting to time changes when traveling. Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body’s pineal gland. It helps your body know when to sleep and wake up. I had taken melatonin capsules before, but they never worked for me.

But I was determined to use a natural method to assist me with my sleep management. So, off to the natural food store I went. Sitting right next to the capsules were melatonin drops. I remembered hearing that when you let drops sit under your tongue, the body absorbs the active ingredient more quickly.

So, I bought a small bottle of melatonin drops. Then I remembered my orange-tinted, blue-light blocking glasses. One of the ways to wind down at the end of the day is to wear the glasses for about an hour before bedtime. When I’ve done that, I’ve found myself getting drowsy rather quickly.

So, that’s what I packed on my first trip to South Africa. And they worked like magic. When I was ready to sleep, I put a few droppers worth of melatonin under my tongue, put on my orange-tinted glasses for about 30 minutes, and I quickly fell asleep. On my flight, I actually slept for seven hours! Each night during my stay in Capetown, I followed the same routine and I slept great the entire trip. I returned from Melbourne, Australia, this past Sunday morning feeling fully rested as I used the same routine during that trip too.

In case you’re wondering if this might work for you, I shared my routine with my co-worker Allen before he left on a business trip to Thailand. I checked with him when he returned and he was thrilled with what a difference it made in allowing him to sleep during his flights and adjust to the time change.

With so many of us exploring our bucket list by traveling around the world, I encourage you to order some orange-tinted glasses and get a bottle of melatonin drops. They will make your travels so much more enjoyable.

Bon voyage!

Karen

About four months ago, I received an email from my daughter Alex:

The son of a friend of a friend is a third-year medical student who has a one month rotation at our local Los Alamitos Hospital. Do you know of a place where he could rent a room for a month?

As I pondered the email, I thought to myself—I live by myself in a multi-bedroom home. I’ve had interns stay with me before. Should I open up my home to a complete stranger?

After all, if my child were a third-year medical student and needed a place to stay, I would think it was awesome if a friendly family offered a rent-free home to stay in.

It took me just a few minutes to decide to offer that Nathan stay at my house.

We texted a couple of times and spoke for a few minutes the weekend before he moved in. Up until that point, I had never met him in person.

What a nice guy, and what an awesome experience for both of us!

Nathan

Nathan is 25 years old and studying to be a doctor of osteopathic medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. In their third year, medical students do month-long rotations at various hospitals to experience a variety of medical fields. His first rotation while living with me was in internal medicine. He actually ended up staying another month to complete his next rotation in surgery.

I haven’t lived with anyone for a few years, so it was interesting to get up in the morning and have someone join me for coffee and breakfast.

The best part is when we meet at home in the evening and talk through our day. I find his stories about various patients interesting. During his current rotation, his descriptions of surgeries he’s witnessed intrigue me.

During the last two months, we’ve also talked about how important bedside manner is. And how you talk to a family after someone passes away (fortunately, he is quite empathetic). And how frustrating it is to work with a doctor who is ridiculously impatient and demanding.

Nathan will be moving out this weekend; I think we are both a little sad. He is paying for his entire medical education himself, so he has expressed immense gratitude for his stay at my house gratis. For me, it was a gift to spend time with a young person at the very beginning of his career, and to be reminded of the fun of having a housemate for a short period of time. (I still appreciate my solitude, which I use to breathe deeply and decompress from my daily toil.)

If you ever have the chance to host a student for a few weeks, I highly encourage it. In addition to helping them by providing a safe, clean, friendly place to stay, it is a way for you to step outside your normal schedule and circle of friends.

In August, I will be hosting up to four students for a week, while the International Maccabi Youth Games are held in Orange County! I’m excited to have the energy of students in my home again.

Karen

In the summer after my sophomore year in college, I was working on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market for my mom. Early one morning, this guy came by with a group of Japanese visitors. He told me that he had a tour set up of the market, but the tour guide never showed up. So, he decided to direct the tour himself! When he came to our stall, I didn’t know who he was, so I tried to sell him some kiwifruit!

It turns out that guy, David, was a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, in the Agricultural and Resource Economics department. That was the same college I was attending in the same major.

That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between David and me. When he graduated from UCD, it was I who drove him to the train station so he could ride the train across the country to catch a ship in New York and sail across the Atlantic to England for his post-graduation trip through Europe.

David ended up moving to Seal Beach, California, a few miles from where my parents lived, and we would occasionally have dinner together. Then he started an insurance agency and over time, he became our company’s insurance broker.

When he got married, I was at his wedding. (His wife’s name is Karen, so I would always be known as “the other Karen.”)

As we had children, our families spent Memorial Day together each year. And whenever David came to my office for our annual insurance renewal, we always went to the local Original Fish Company restaurant, often discussing politics. He was the only person I ever openly talked politics with.

A little over two years ago, David called to let me know he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Ever the optimist, he told me his prognosis was good. Over the months, we checked in via phone or email for updates on his treatment.

Eight months after his diagnosis, he was ecstatic that he and his youngest son were able to attend my daughter Alex’s wedding. It seems like David was always at our family’s life-cycle events, bat mitzvahs, a wedding, fundraising dinners, birthday parties, and more.

About 10 days ago, David and I spoke on the phone. He told me “he was running out of runway” and we reminisced about our fun conversations over the years. I could tell he was in a lot of pain. When we hung up, I had tears streaming down my cheeks, as I knew that was our last conversation. And this past Saturday evening, I received a message from his family that he had passed away at age 65.

I have never experienced the death of a close friend before. So many of us will experience this more and more, so I wanted to share a few of my revelations and learnings:

I know each person reading this will experience the passing of a dear loved one in the future. We all experience death in our own way. My memories are filled with happy thoughts of our first meeting back on the Los Angeles Produce Market and our silly conversations over the years. Although tears may be running down my cheeks, my heart is happy knowing that I made the time to have that last conversation and nothing was left unsaid.

As a Jewish saying goes, may his memory be a blessing.

Karen

Last week, I had the great fortune to travel to Capetown, South Africa. I was invited to speak about marketing fresh citrus in the United States to Summer Citrus from South Africa, a collaborative of a large group of South African citrus growers, along with importers, government agencies, and a few retailers.

My total in-flight time was 24 hours, plus an eight-hour layover in Dubai. With South Africa being nine hours ahead of California and my long journey in mind, I decided to arrive a few days early to adjust to the time change and do a little sightseeing.

I went to South Africa to educate a room full of enthusiastic growers about the U.S. market. What I didn’t expect was that I would in turn be educated in so many ways about this wonderful, beautiful country. I don’t know why I waited so many years to go to South Africa!

Worth the Wait

Although South Africa always seemed like a galaxy away, I prepared myself for the long flight. With in-flight movies and a few long naps, the trip did not feel as long as I had feared. Capetown alone is worth the trip. The city is beautiful, and people are super friendly and welcoming. With 40 percent unemployment, tourism is a big part of the economy.

Capetown reminds me of the San Francisco Bay area. The most dramatic sight to see is Table Mountain, a flat-top mountain, which looks over the city.

Karen's Blog - Table Mountain - Capetown - South Africa
Table Mountain

Robben Island

Capetown also has Robben Island, where people used to be incarcerated; it’s similar to San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island. The most well-known prisoner there was Nelson Mandela. I highly recommend taking the ferry ride and the two-hour tour.

Karen's blog - Robben Island Prison Tour
Our guide Derrick

The prison tours are conducted by former prisoners. Our guide was Derrick, arrested at age 18 and released when he was 23. He is now 51. His personal story and the stories he shared of what it was like to be imprisoned there were chilling. This visit was a life-changing experience for me.

Hop on an Adventure

Getting around Capetown is easy with both the City Sightseeing bus and the MyCiti bus that you can hop on and off. It’s a great way to see a city and get the full perspective with the audio tour in your own language. I was traveling alone, so I was free to get off at any point and just explore. Got some great photos as I toured the city.

Karen's Blog - Capetown - South Africa

And There’s Wine!

South Africa is well-known for its wine and I did get a chance to visit a winery in the wine region, Franschhoek. Sadly, due to an oversupply of wine production, many wineries are having a difficult time, so some have now opened restaurants on their premises to attract visitors. I was able to enjoy an amazing lunch at Maison Estate.

Karen's Blog - Franschhoek - Maison Estate - South Africa
My beautiful dessert at Maison Estate

Six hours were not enough time to enjoy Franschhoek! I would definitely recommend a day or two for that region.

Karen's Blog - Franschhoek - Maison Estate - South Africa
What a view at Maison Estate in Franschhoek region.

On my return trip home, I was able to spend about 24 hours in Dubai. That was an experience! The airport is state of the art and the city is immaculate. The world’s tallest building is the Burj Khalifa there. At night, the way it lit up looked like Paris meets New York City!

Of course, I had to visit the wholesale produce market while in Dubai. Surprisingly, it felt familiar, though I had never been to Dubai or this market before. As we walked through it both at noon and then again at 6 p.m. (it operates almost 24 hours a day), my colleague kept warning me about the forklifts, pallet jacks, and loose produce on the floor. I told him, “Hey, I grew up on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. This feels like I am back home!”

 

My final meeting of the day was also at the produce market, upstairs in a well-lit office. As I looked around the room. I realized there were two Jordanians, one Englishman, and an Indian who lives in Thailand. And then there’s me, a Jewish woman from California. Yes, this feels exactly like the melting pot of Southern California.

Karen's blog - Dubai

As much as I loved my 12 days in South Africa and Dubai, it sure felt good to climb into my own bed at home in Southern California. But I have to be honest: I’m already thinking about my next trip to South Africa. Perhaps a safari?

Karen

I’ve always had a fear of hot yoga.

Over the years, I’ve had friends tell me how amazing it is to do yoga in a room with a temperature over 100 degrees. I’m pretty sure my fear came from hearing that the instructor locks the door and you cannot leave during class, even if you are overheating.

At least that’s what I recall hearing.

Actually hot yoga, sometimes known as “Bikram yoga,” isn’t only about the temperature; it’s also about humidity. In some practices, it is an attempt to duplicate India’s climate―in a controlled environment―to induce copious sweating during 26 poses.

A few weeks ago, my daughters, Sophia and Alex, took a hot yoga class together. Afterward they told me how great it was. As you know by now, I’m a tad bit competitive. So when Sophia offered to take me to a hot yoga class, I said, “of course, I’d love to” with complete confidence. I did not share my previous fears with her.

In 2017, one of my goals was to take yoga. I took a dozen or so classes, so I know what the moves are. I figured hot yoga wouldn’t be much different, just in a significantly warmer room.

As it turns out, the room is between 97 and 101 degrees, depending on the time of day and the number of people in the class. Warm, moist air is pumped into the room, encouraging you to sweat. A lot. When the room got too stuffy, the instructor did open the door briefly to let in a cool breeze from the hallway. The heat simply encourages your muscles to warm up more quickly and adds to your flexibility.

The fact is hot yoga was not as awful as I thought it would be.

Admittedly, I did get a little lightheaded during my first class. I’ve now taken three classes. And I am hooked!

I learned a lot from my hot yoga experience.

First, my expectation of the experience was not quite accurate. How often do we exaggerate something in our heads, which causes us not to experience it?

Second, I leveraged my competitive nature to force myself to try something I had avoided for decades.

And finally, that which I feared became something I like.

Are there things in your life that you have been afraid of, but once you put your toe in the water and tried them out, you found that you enjoyed?

Hot yoga is definitely on that list for me.

Thanks to my daughters, I pushed through my fear and now experience it with joy and pleasure.

Think about those things in your life that you fear. Perhaps it’s being alone or being in a relationship. Maybe it’s applying for a position that you don’t think you’re qualified for or changing careers. It even could be talking with someone or stopping an ongoing conversation. Is there someone in your life that pushes your buttons―in a good way―who might help you?

Maybe it’s time to confront your fear. I did, and I am happy I did.

Karen

On Tuesday evening, I found myself trekking into Westwood, 37 miles away from my house, through the infamous Southern California traffic, to attend a roundtable at UCLA. It was hosted by the deans of the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Was sitting in traffic for an hour and a half worth it? Absolutely.

Judy Olian, Ph.D., is dean of UCLA Anderson School, and Willow Bay is the dean of the USC Annenberg School. Even with their well-known crosstown rivalry, they came together for a noble cause: a roundtable discussion about the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.

Twenty of my fellow businesswomen from Southern California and I sat around a giant conference table and listened to other great women share their stories.

To put things in perspective, Suzy is 30, Kelsey is 32, and Jane is 59.

From left to right: Judy Olian, Willow Bay, Suzy Ryoo, Jane Wurwand, and Kelsey Doorey.

Kelsey and Jane talked about the challenge of explaining their business model and securing investors. Most investors are male, so getting them to understand a business that serves women almost exclusively is a challenge. Suzy educated us on what she looks for when investing, what a “cap table” is, and why she asks how many women are in one.

As I sat at the table, I watched the other 20 women take in the “new world of business talk.” Most of the women sitting with me were older than Jane. Cap tables, VCs, e-commerce marketing, deal sheets, and pitches were not in their lexicon when they started their careers. But they could see right in front of them that the exciting world of business and the world in general are changing. And both are decidedly more female.

I believe it was coincidental that this roundtable was held in March, which is National Women’s Month. And today, March 8, is International Women’s Day.

All I can say is that I was incredibly inspired to hear firsthand from women who are fearless, have a vision for success, and are paying it forward to create the new economy. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, a mother, father, son, or daughter. We need people with fresh ideas, who are disruptive, create jobs, and help ensure the innovative and responsive business environment which will keep the U.S. growing and thriving.

It’s exciting and it’s time.

Karen

This past weekend, I participated in my second “Race on the Base,” a community event here in Los Alamitos—where I grew up and where Frieda’s is based.

The event on the Joint Forces Training Base is well known for its reverse triathlon race, 5K walk/run, and 10K run. Organizers added an evening fun run for kids on the night before a couple of years ago. Triathlon competitors run and ride their bikes on the actual airfield and swim in the Aquatics Training Center.

Karen Caplan Oakley Boren Matt Hubbard - Race on the Base 2018
Me and my coworkers Oakley and Matt after the 5K Walk/Run

When I was in Stockholm, Sweden, in May for an international women’s conference, I was pleasantly surprised when a former Olympic athlete noticed “Los Alamitos” on my name badge. She asked, “You’re from Los Alamitos? I’ve trained there at the Base!” Up until then, I didn’t know the women’s national water polo team trains right here at the aquatics center!

One of the best photos I took on Saturday morning before I started my 5K, was of the sky, of all things. They say it never rains in Southern California. But in Los Alamitos, if often rains parachutes! And what a sight.

The Base sits on more than 1,300 acres and employs more than 850 full-time people and more than 6,000 National Guard and Reserve troops. It was formerly operated as the Naval Air Station, which also includes the Los Alamitos Army Airfield. Not a lot of people know that when Air Force One lands in Southern California, it will oftentimes land in our backyard! Even the Blue Angels have been hosted here for air shows.

Some of my local farmer friends grow strawberries and cauliflower on the Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach, just a few miles down the road. (They lease the prime agricultural land from the government.) They often talk about the helicopters and fighter jets going in and out of the Base as the Army reservists and National Guard units train.

Many of the people who live in our community are employed at the Base. At lunchtime, it’s not unusual to see men and women in military uniforms in our local restaurants, and we all know they are reservists or active duty, serving our country.

A couple of times a year, the Base opens to the community. One is for a Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular before which you can set up your picnic on the fields, then watch a professional fireworks show. And the other, of course, is Race on the Base. These events really bring us all together: residents, businesses, and the military.

I always diligently talk about our Base with visitors. Can you tell that I’m very proud of my community?

Karen

This past weekend, I attended TEDxRiceU, an independently organized TED event at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

If you’re not aware, TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit started in 1984 and devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. Smaller, local events have sprung up all over the country as the TED organization shares its name and guidelines so others can put on TED-type talks, each of which is called a “TEDx.”

Why did I go to TEDxRiceU?

My friend Lisa Helfman was one of the speakers. Lisa’s day job is as the director of real estate for a large Texas-based grocery chain. Like many of us, she is also a mom (of two young boys, ages 9 and 12) and is constantly balancing the demands of her career and her home life. But her talk was about Brighter Bites, the nonprofit she founded, and how it’s gone national.

Lisa and Dr. Shreela Sharma, co-founder of Brighter Bites

Lisa told the captive audience that before starting Brighter Bites, her body was completely out of balance despite her healthy and happy appearance. She was throwing up daily from stress headaches, eating bad food, and drinking so much Diet Dr. Pepper that she convinced her firm to add it to the soda fountain offering.

So she joined a co-op to add more fruits and vegetables to her diet. As she started to eat more fresh produce, her kids did as well. And she did start to feel better and less stressed. One day, at a birthday party, her son said, “Mom, do I have to eat that cake? It’s too sweet. Do they have grapes or blueberries?” True story!

That conversation with her son inspired her to start Brighter Bites in Houston in 2012.

The mission is to create communities of health through fresh food. As a nonprofit, the company delivers fruit and vegetables into families’ hands through their kids’ schools, while teaching them how to choose and use a different kind of fast food. Brighter Bites now receives funding to serve families and schools not only in Houston but also in Dallas, Austin, New York City, Washington DC, and Southwest Florida.

That was indeed a great story. But that’s not the whole story.

Lisa’s TEDx message was titled “The Virtuous Cycle of Caring.” She spoke about how by caring for herself, it inspired her to care for others. And caring for others, telling her story every chance she gets, and listening to the stories of the beneficiaries of Brighter Bites caused her to feel better physically and mentally. Lisa was actually caring for herself more, as a result of caring for others.

You would think that because it was her story, one she is incredibly passionate about and knows intimately, she could easily do an extemporaneous 18-minute talk from a few bullet points on an index card.

Wrong.

You see, Lisa had set a personal goal for herself three years ago to be invited to do a TED talk.  She dreamed about it. She talked about it. It was on her goal list. Then, without her knowledge, Lisa’s staff submitted an application and nominated her to give the TED talk!

When Lisa was invited in November by Rice University to give one of only seven TEDx talks at the event, she got very serious about it.

First, Lisa brainstormed with her management team and board of directors at Brighter Bites on the right story to tell. Should it be about how her personal journey inspired her to start a nonprofit? How almost every single person she told her idea to connected her to potential sponsors, donors, and supporters? How she was introduced to one of the country’s leading epidemiologists who does research on how food consumption can change behavior and health, and ultimately help control and reduce the country’s obesity epidemic?

Then Lisa worked with her marketing agency to put together her slides and hired a speech coach to work on her delivery. She practiced multiple times a day for weeks, making small tweaks as she went to perfect the talk.

You may think that her preparation was overkill, but that’s because you don’t know Lisa like I do.

Have you ever felt like you practiced too much for a presentation to a client or for a speech? I doubt it. Most of us wish we had more time to practice! We especially wish we had a co-worker or colleague who would sit in front of us and critique our message, our style, and our slides.

I can tell you after watching Lisa’s delivery on Saturday afternoon that her preparation paid off. People queued up afterward to tell her how inspiring she was!

Not only has Lisa done a great job of taking care of herself and her children, and recognizing that she could leverage her passion to start a nonprofit that would benefit other families, but her intense professional approach to her once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a great first impression has helped spread her story across the U.S.

Lisa at TEDxRiceU. I’m so proud of my friend!

I admire Lisa for creating her own Virtuous Circle of Caring through Brighter Bites. And I’ve been inspired by her willingness to “date TED exclusively for six weeks” so she could be the most memorable and polished presenter.

We should all be a little more like Lisa.

Karen

P.S. TEDxRiceU recorded all the presentations and they will be made available on Facebook within a few weeks.

A few months ago, I shared my latest obsession with Audible, which offers an alternative to reading paper books. Essentially, it’s the most recent version of “books on tape.”

I have loved reading since I was a child. In fact, my first paid job was as a page in my local library! But as my life got busier and the time available to actually read (without falling asleep) diminished, I was ecstatic to be introduced to Audible as a way to use those long commutes up and down the Southern California freeways in a positive way.

But what to “read?” I am not a great fan of mysteries, and I did not want to listen only to motivational messages and self-help books. So I asked my friends for their recommendations and started paying attention to book reviews.

To be honest, biographies and autobiographies have always been my favorite kinds of books. To get inside the head of someone I admire or to learn about their lives from the inside out has always intrigued me.

I have listened to 15 books since I first subscribed to Audible last September, and I have found that when authors narrate their books, it’s as if you are truly inside their heads. The way they read their books, the inflection of their voices, and how they pause make the book feel like you are one-on-one with the authors.

So, let me tell you about my two latest findings.

First, spaceships. Or rather, the International Space Station. I was flipping through my Costco magazine a few months ago when I noticed that an autobiography of an astronaut was featured: “Endurance” by Scott Kelly.

Scott literally “talks” about his life’s journey, bouncing between the past and the present in alternating chapters. For example, as a boy, he was not the best student. But after reading “The Right Stuff” during college, he became determined to become an astronaut. Of course, he talks about his 340 days aboard the International Space Station—and his twin brother, Mark Kelly (whose wife, politician Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in Arizona in 2011), who is also an astronaut.

Scott’s book is captivating and eye-opening. He shares his innermost thoughts and feelings about his marriage, his kids, his family, NASA, Russian cosmonauts, you name it. Scott tells it like it is, complete with swear words!

And now, tennis shoes.

I haven’t always listened to my mother, but like me, she is a voracious reader. A few months ago, she said, “Karen, you MUST read ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. It is the best book I have ever read!”

I thought, really mom? The best book ever? I think you’re exaggerating. But she kept saying it. Since I had run out of books to listen to, I thought, what the heck, let’s give it a go.

The introduction was read by Knight, but the rest of the book was read by two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz. And boy, he sounds almost as if he has become Phil!

For me, this book had everything going for it. It was an autobiography. It was about a business person. There were plenty of challenges, inspiration, and conflict, plus many business lessons. It was a love story. And sadly, at the end, when Phil writes about losing his oldest son during a diving incident, there was extreme sadness and raw emotion.

What did I enjoy most about Phil’s story? He was passionate about running (he ran track in college), then he took that passion and turned it into a business idea—distributing running shoes manufactured in Japan. No matter what obstacle he faced—lack of money, need for personnel, challenging and lying competition, creating a new market that hadn’t existed before—he ignored them. (Gee, doesn’t that sound like somebody we know?)

Coincidentally, Phil turns 80 next week; he is ranked by Forbes as the 28th richest person in the world. He is humble and passionate. His willingness to share his story was probably cathartic in some ways, but for me, it was truly inspirational.

By the way, “Shoe Dog” may be the best book I have ever read. You were right, Mom.

Karen

P.S. Meeting Phil in person is now on my Bucket List!

A few weeks ago, I was in Hawaii on vacation. One of my great pleasures on the islands is tasting all the tropical fruits grown there. Although I sell tropical fruits for a living, the truth is that nothing tastes like a ripe fruit, right off the tree.

So, after a lunch in Hilo, we decided to walk through the local farmers market on the main street through town. In California, when I go to a farmers market, I see lots of strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruit, and avocados. In Hilo that day, I saw mounds of starfruit, guavas, lychees, chayote, rambutans, and, alas, one of my favorites, mangosteens.

Mangosteen in Hawaii

I have such fond memories of mangosteens. When I was in high school, my mom imported the first mangosteens from British Honduras, now called Belize. I remember taking some samples of the dark purple, hard-shelled fruit to school; everyone looked at me like I was crazy as I showed them how to “squeeze” the hard shell and the amazing white flesh appeared. It was like a soft, tender fruit salad. After that first imported shipment, the USDA announced that the fruit could no longer be imported due to agricultural restrictions; many tropical fruits pose a threat to California agriculture as they are hosts to damaging pests.

Currently the only fresh mangosteens we get on a consistent basis are from Thailand and they have to be irradiated due to agricultural restrictions. Just recently we have been able to import them from Mexico.

But nothing rivals my memories of eating my first mangosteen back in high school. That was until my recent day in Hilo.

As we waited for our plane to arrive to take us to Maui, we tore through the bag of mangosteens. As you can see, we made a bit of a mess. A yummy mess!

Mangosteen in Hawaii

And in case you’re wondering about the medicinal qualities of mangosteens (aka the Queen of Fruits), it is the outside shell that is used for its possible curative properties. The shell is dried and ground up to use as a supplement. Personally, I am satisfied with just the amazing flavor.

Next time you are in Hawaii, I encourage you to buy a dozen or so fruits. You will be surprised at how sweet and refreshing they are. But don’t try to bring any home to the mainland as there are strict penalties for smuggling fresh produce to the mainland U.S.!

I guess I’ll just have to go back to Hawaii soon for my mangosteen fix!

Aloha,

Karen

I’m sure I am not the only person who feels like her email inbox is being flooded daily with an overwhelming number of solicitation, informational, and junk emails, interspersed with important email communications from clients, suppliers, friends, etc.

And let’s add in there all the newsletters and media sources that feel like they need to keep us up-to-date on the latest “breaking news” multiple times a day.

For me, it’s over 200 emails a day.

Which is probably why “sort by sender” and “delete” are my two most used functions in Outlook.

Sometimes there is information I want to know about. But honestly, I don’t have time to read every single email I receive. And I just hate leaving items in my inbox, in the hope that I will go back and read them, because as my inbox continues to fill up, I ultimately, eventually delete all those “really wanted to read, but didn’t have time” emails.

Enter: Paper newsletters and magazines.

Or rather, “RE-enter.”

Remember when magazines, newspapers, and newsletters were the way we got all of our information? This was before the internet and emails, before Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. We read the daily paper newspaper from our community or region. We subscribed to magazines like Time, People, and Sunset.

And then, as the digital world expanded, the end of the paper-based news economy was predicted. There would be no newspapers and magazines would disappear.

That kind of happened for a while. But now, it seems to me that “everything old is new again.”

With the digital flooding in my inbox, I now look forward to the real paper magazines, newspapers, and newsletters I receive. I can read them at my own pace, whether on a long flight, at the nail salon, or on a leisurely Sunday morning with a cup of coffee.

And I don’t think I’m alone. In my own (produce) industry, I’ve noticed that while I continue to receive dozens of emailed breaking news items daily, it is the paper monthly magazines that get my attention the most. The glossy, color periodicals that arrive on my desk are the ones that I am able to thumb through when I am on hold. If an article is interesting and I want to share it―I rip it out and route it to my colleagues.

So, if you do any kind of communication for your business, social club, or church, I’m not sure you should have a 100-percent digital strategy. Perhaps you should consider the old-fashioned way of keeping people in the loop and send a paper newsletter. You might be surprised at how many of your customers, friends, and colleagues find it refreshing.

Comic from Poofytoo.com

Who would have thought that paper would ever be a challenge to digital? I’m sure other surprises are coming too.

Karen

On the last day of my week’s vacation on Maui, as I was getting ready for my morning walk, the Emergency Alert went off on my phone at 8:05.

I glanced at the message, and heard the echo of the alarm going off on every cell phone of the hundreds of people, attending a medical trade show, who were in the same outdoor lobby area as me.

It became surreal when I read the words, “Ballistic Missile Threat” and “this is not a drill.”
Almost immediately, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter, Alex, calling me from our hotel room on the ninth floor. “What do I do, Mom?”

“Get your clothes on and take the stairs next to the elevator and I will be standing at the bottom of the stairwell.”

The only thing that went through my mind at that moment was September 11, 2001. What did the people who survived do if they were in the Twin Towers? (They immediately made their way to ground floor of the building.)

She was down the stairs and next to me in what seemed to be seconds.

I’m sure you’ve seen the posts on Twitter, Facebook, and in the news. Actually, we both were checking Twitter constantly to get some sense if this was really happening.

We were with hundreds of people on the bottom floor of a very large hotel. There was no screaming, no rushing, no panic. We saw young moms and dads holding their infants tight, with bottles and diapers in tow. We saw people struggling to get their pants on, as many rushed out of their hotel rooms with their clothes in hand. We did see people crying and many people calling their families and loved ones. The hotel staff directed us into ballrooms, which were large and “safe” (still not sure what that means). Everyone stayed amazingly calm.

So, what do you do when you learn that a ballistic missile is headed toward you? As it turns out, not a whole heck of a lot.

It’s not like you can go to higher ground, like when there is a tsunami warning. And none of us was aware of any shelter-type areas in the hotel (although I figured the stairwell would be the safest and most secure).

It was over in about 20 minutes when the hotel staff announced that they had checked with the Maui Police Department and there was no missile threat. About 15 to 20 minutes after that, we got an Emergency Alert text telling us there was no missile threat and it was a false alarm. Those first 20 minutes flew by. Our hearts were pounding.

But most interesting was what I observed after the “all clear” sign was given.

All the business people went back to work. Our hotel was the home base for a medical trade show, so everyone went back to their booths.

I took a walk along the beach path and walked by four or five hotel pools, which normally would be surrounded with people sitting on beach chairs. There was no one at first. Then, within 45 minutes, all the chairs were filled. I overheard parents talking to their young children, saying things like, “it was OK to be scared.”

I also noticed for the rest of the day that there was an air of calmness, civility, and patience. I realize that I was in Hawaii, where everything is usually calmer than on the mainland, but even the tourists were nicer.

It’s like what happens at Christmastime…everyone is just nicer to one another. All of us strangers had faced a seemingly dire situation together that morning; it had bonded all of us on the island. So everywhere we went, people were nicer, patient, and considerate.

When Alex and I were driving to the airport, we debriefed on our morning. These are the things we discussed:

What I learned? Life is short. Do the things you want. Tell the people you love and care about that you love and care about them.

And, yes, I do plan to return to Maui later this year. No threat of a ballistic missile is going to keep me away from the beautiful skies, the warm beaches and ocean breezes, and the amazing food.

Aloha,

Karen

Alex and me on our way to Maui

As I am writing this, I am aboard a flight from Houston, Texas, back to Orange County, California. My first business trip of the year started on January 2 and took me to Ohio, where the temperature each morning was 4 degrees. Thankfully, my gloves and thick winter coat kept me insulated from the freezing cold.

Sometimes, the dramatic change in the weather from one place to the next when you are traveling on business can affect your attitude. You know what I mean—you can be a little testy, grouchy, and not a lot of fun to be around.

Can you imagine what it must be like for flight attendants—especially during this first week of the year when non-business travelers are making their way back from their holiday vacations, and students are headed back to college, and one of the worst storms of the decade is blasting the Midwest and East Coast?

So, as I made my connection in Houston and boarded my flight home to Orange County, I did what I always do when I board the plane and said hello to the flight attendant. I could tell she wasn’t having a great day. Many flights had been canceled. When I jokingly asked about getting coffee, she let me know right away that she hadn’t even set up the galley yet.

Based on her response, I wasn’t expecting a lot on this flight home.

As the flight attendant came down the aisle shortly after the flight took off, I asked for her name.

“Althea,” she said.

“That’s a beautiful name!”

She then asked for my name, which kind of surprised me.

About 30 minutes into the flight, I was startled out of my reading when someone said, “Karen, did you say you wanted some coffee?” I mean, who knew my name on this flight?

It was Althea.

“You caught me off guard, Althea!” She giggled, and she had that smile on her face for the rest of the flight.

We connected just by knowing each other’s names. And that is all it took to change someone’s attitude.

How often do you sense that someone you are interacting with is having a bad day? Like a server at the restaurant, a checker at the grocery store, the person parking your car, or even a complete stranger in line ahead of you who is grouchy or grumpy. Do you check them off as being rude and act grouchy right back at them?

The next time you encounter those people, I would encourage you to stop for a moment and perform a small act of kindness. I’m not talking about things as dramatic or expensive as those “SoCal Helpful Honda People,” springing acts of kindness across the region from giving away free pumpkins for Halloween to helping a military member get home for the holidays. (They talked about some of these acts on their radio spot. I think it’s a brilliant marketing campaign!) I’m talking about just simply treating everyone as a person. Look them in the eye, smile, say, “have a great day,” and mean it. Find out their name. Pay them a sincere compliment or thank them for their service.

These days, there are a lot of angry, grouchy people out there. People who are having a bad day for a variety of reasons—and it’s not just the weather. I do know that being kind and making a personal connection with a complete stranger can be a game changer for them and for me.

The Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” So, why don’t we start the new year with being kind, and making it our New Year’s resolution? Smile at everyone you see even if you don’t know them. Ask strangers their names and make them feel important.

Oh, and Althea did get me some coffee after all!

Karen

I don’t know about you, but this year just flew by for me. Thankfully, the great thing about being a blogger is I can recall most of the things that were on my mind this year as I wrote them all down!

Looking Back

It has been gratifying to see people’s reaction and responses to my posts here. And when I repost on LinkedIn, I get a real-time sense whether what I am writing about is relevant.

To Hug or Not to Hug” is my most read and shared post of 2017. Soon after that post, the big Hollywood misconduct story broke, and people who discovered my post later were surprised that I would write about that in this climate. When I wrote it, I wanted to talk about how important personal, and sometimes physical, connection has become in this age of impersonal communication technology. Interesting turn of events, isn’t it?

Another interesting and controversial topic I wrote about last year is The Unexpected Question About Cannabis. It’s the hottest California crop right now and a very timely subject to discuss because it’s going to be legal in California in just a few days.

Even more polarizing was my recent post about Non-GMO Madness. It’s good to understand different points of view and get all the information we need to make an informed decision.

The next popular post was Lessons from Billionaire Stewart Resnick. My key takeaway from Stewart is that you have to spend time on things you don’t like in order to do the things you really love. It is clear that this message resonates with many of you.

It also became clear to me that we are all getting bored with our fitness routines when I posted Why I Quit My Gym. Just so you know, I’m still changing things up as I go.

I’m also thrilled that I got to share one of my all-time favorite books with you. I hope The Five-Second Rule That Changes Everything is also now one that you follow.

Looking Forward

As we reflect on the past year and give some thought to what we want to do in 2018, I am happy to share what I’m thinking for the new year:

Spend time with my top 5 people. As my dear friend Jack Daly advised, think about the top three to five people (besides your family members) who you spend the most time with. Are they “upping your game, adding to your life?” Or does hanging out with them feel like an obligation? I’ve decided to only spend time with people who are positive, add to my life, and I truly enjoy. No more obligations!

See the country…and the world. I already have trips planned this year to visit the Grand Canyon, Maui, South Africa, Australia, Panama, and Italy. There is no time like the present to work on that bucket list!

Golf more. I have been enjoying golf since I picked up the clubs earlier this year, so I want to do more of that. And the best part is being outdoors and being with friends.

Hug! You already know that I’m a hugger. And I will keep hugging people when I see them!

Allocate some private time for myself every day. Whether it is first thing each morning when I meditate or when I journal at the end of the day, making quiet time for me is an important part of work/life balance.

Source: Woodbourne Designs LLC on Etsy

Happy New Year, and may 2018 be the best ever!

Karen

I noticed a dramatic decrease in the number of holiday cards I received at work this year. This could be due to people trying to be more mindful of the environment by using less paper, trying to save money, realizing that sending out cards en masse for business may be out of date, or all of the above.

Whatever the reason is, I’m happy fewer cards are sent. Let me tell you why.

In business, I do not understand sending a holiday card to a supposedly important client, when there is nothing personal about the card. You know what I mean.

The inside of the card is pre-printed with the sending company’s name or logo, which may or may not include the names of the owners or the employee who sent it. And don’t get me started on adding digital signatures!

Although mail-merged, printed address labels are obviously impersonal, I can understand the efficiency of that method. But digital signatures?

If I’m an important client of a company, how important do I feel if I get a pre-printed card that looks like it was ordered from a card company from 20 years ago with a digital signature and no personal message? Not at all, that’s how I feel.

There is no personal relationship here with this card someone picked out of a catalog from a greeting card company they’ve been buying from for years. Nobody stopped to ask, “Does this still make sense to send these cards?”

Going with digital cards doesn’t make it much better either. A “happy holidays” email blasted out to a mass email list may have a clever image of the staff or product, but it doesn’t have a personal note from whoever is sending it. Just what I need for the holidays, another impersonal email taking up space in my inbox.

These days, people want a personal connection. In today’s world, where we can be overwhelmed and deluged with mass emails and robo-calls, it’s nice to receive a personal message, especially during the holidays.

Everyone should make their own decision on whether they want to invest the time and money to send out holiday cards. My only request is to think about what message you are sending with your holiday greeting choices.

For me, it has always been that personal touch. For business, I send my contacts personalized emails, one person at a time. If it’s a close relationship, I text them and sometimes we end up chatting on the phone after.

As for my personal greeting cards, I’m old-fashioned. I hand-address my holiday cards. Yes, I could have printed labels, but it’s important to me personally to address them myself because as I address them, I think about each person and send my loving thoughts to them. It’s an intention I make with each and every card I send.

If you do decide to send out a holiday card or email, consider adding a special touch to your greeting by making a donation to a charity in honor of your friends and colleagues. It could be to their favorite charities or a cause of your choice that you know they’d support.

Keep it real this holiday season!

Karen

Non-GMO vodka? Really?

When I saw this ad, I realized it’s finally time to blog about GMOs. I have been putting off writing this post for many years because GMOs are a controversial subject. And that is mostly because many people do not know the facts about GMOs. So I will share some of what I know and what I’ve learned so far, in hopes that you will be more enlightened to make your own decision about them.

First of all, what is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) when it comes to crops? GMOAnswers says this:

Genetic engineering, also referred to as biotechnology, allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait found in nature and transfer it from one plant or organism to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. Some examples of desirable traits commonly transferred include resistance to insects and disease, and tolerance to herbicides that allows farmers to better control weeds.

Clearly, GMO is a scientific term, stating exactly what it is—a genetically modified organism. I’m sure a roomful of scientists didn’t think that one day the term GMO would be used when referring to consumer goods, especially food.

The words “genetically modified organism” sound scary from the get-go. So it does not surprise me that most people react negatively to the term, even if they don’t know what GMO stands for. (“Something that has to do with genetics?” is what I usually hear.)

Furthermore, it didn’t help that in the earlier days of GMO science, there were stories going around about scientists putting the genes from fish into vegetables, causing concern for people who have fish allergies. Some of those stories are still going around today.

Here are some facts about GMOs.

Currently only 10 crops in the U.S. have been genetically engineered (using precise plant breeding) and are commercially available. They are corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, one papaya (the rainbow variety from Hawaii), some squash, one potato (less-browning), and one apple (non-browning Arctic variety). Some of these items only have one cultivar, like the Arctic apple, which was created using genetic engineering, meaning that the rest of the varieties were not genetically modified.

What bothers me most about the term GMO is that an entire industry has sprung up around the frenzy, such as the Non-GMO Project, which claims to verify products for being non-GMO even when, in fact, those products don’t include any of the 10 crops listed.

A prime example is the vodka shown above in the ad. While some vodka is distilled from potatoes, Ketel One is made with wheat. Oh, excuse me, it’s “non-GMO grain.” Since wheat is already a non-GMO crop, this really isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the company decided to jump on the non-GMO bandwagon and make a claim that makes the consumer wonder about other brands of vodka.

I personally don’t think that’s right.

Even though our media seems to thrive on scaring viewers, or inciting worry and filling people with doubt, I get mildly annoyed when I see “Non-GMO Verified” on foods that are simply outside of that category.

Now, the website GMOAnswers I cited from earlier is supported by many seed companies that fund research in seed production, which may include genetically engineered products. I also know that there are many forms of breeding, of which genetically engineered is just one. There are old technologies like natural breeding, and some very new technologies like gene editing with CRISPR/Cas9.

I know that the technological advances being made in food production and agriculture can help us grow more food to eradicate hunger on the planet, producing plants that are disease-resistant or drought-tolerant, or plants that can thrive on over-salinized soil or that contains additional nutrients. For example, Golden Rice is genetically-modified to contain beta-carotene to fight vitamin A deficiency in south and southeast Asia. And with the way that the Cavendish bananas we know and love are suffering from a catastrophically devastating disease, GMO may be the only way to save the world’s crop.

In contrast, there is an ever-growing movement toward nutrient-dense foods, dealing with mineral depletion in our diet, and more organic food production, which is wonderful and affordable for first-world countries that have plenty of disposable income.

So, what can you do? Educate yourself. Know that just because you read it on the Internet does not make it the truth. In doing research for this post, I found websites that had clearly incorrect information on them, information that was written with a hidden agenda to promote their products, their brands, and their lifestyle.

Next time you see “Non-GMO Verified” on a product package, I hope you will see if the product is one of the 10 crops listed above.

Also, by definition, anything that is USDA-certified Organic cannot use GMO crops.

Disclaimer: I am not unilaterally for or against GMOs. I am in favor of knowing all the facts from both sides of the conversation and forming one’s own opinion. Eyes wide open.

Karen

I’m a coffee drinker. Actually, in some ways I am a bit of a coffee snob. At home, I’ve switched from my beloved Peet’s coffee (which I have brewed every morning for at least 15 years) to my new favorite, Lavazza Classico medium roast. It’s not quite as strong as Peet’s, yet very rich-bodied.

But occasionally, especially in the evenings, I like to have a cup of tea. Especially when I am cold.

I’m pretty boring with the tea—Lipton’s black tea and hot water.

But last week, while visiting a tea-drinking friend, I was introduced to a much more sophisticated form of the home tea experience.

Enter the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker.

You can watch a four-minute YouTube video about how the One-Touch Tea Maker works.

Here is a quick recap of what I learned about tea: Different types of tea (black, green, or herbal) require different temperatures of water and lengths of time for steeping. Who knew?

 

As someone whose tea experimentation has revolved around ordering Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea when I am out and only drinking Lipton’s when I’m home, I was intrigued with what is known as “The Art of Tea.” I never considered that different tea types might have optimal flavor when brewed at difference temperatures. Or that steeping time would have such a tremendous effect.

But then again, I am a coffee drinker. I do understand the difference between Robusta and Arabica coffee beans and that you grind them differently depending on whether you have a drip coffee maker, French press, or pour-over cone.

I actually do have a Nespresso machine, a large French press, and my tried-and-true Capresso coffee maker, all sitting on my kitchen counter. And an electric kettle that I bought last year for making my evening tea.

But now, after watching the One-Touch Tea Maker, with its basket being slowly lowered into perfectly heated water, I can see how tea drinkers would enjoy their own specialty tea-brewing accessory to make their tea experience as enjoyable as my early morning coffee-brewing ritual.

So, if you have a close friend or loved one who just loves tea, you may want to splurge and get them a One-Touch for Hanukkah or Christmas. Or maybe for yourself!

Happy tea drinking!

Karen

One of my goals this year has been to see if I like playing golf. (I wrote about this in an earlier blog.)

I found an instructor, bought a set of clubs, and have been periodically going to the driving range to practice. For some reason, I had it in my head that I needed to keep practicing for a while, before I should head out to play actual golf on a golf course.

And then my instructor had to take a break from teaching, and I got busy with other things. So it’s been a couple of months since I’ve hit the ball. But last weekend, I went to visit friends in Prescott, Arizona, and when they heard I had taken up golf, they arranged for us to play a round.

Needless to say I was a little nervous. In addition to the fact that I hadn’t hit a ball for two months, I also had never played a full round of golf before. Thankfully my friends were easy going, and we didn’t have to keep score.

At the end of the afternoon, as we were heading off to the last hole, I realized I had gained a few insights:

  1. It’s a good idea to take a practice swing before hitting the ball. It loosens you up and helps set the pace for your next swing (the real one). This is the same as other parts of your life, sales, for example; it’s always a good idea to practice your sales pitch before your actual presentation to get the right pace.
  2. Don’t wait too long between your practice swing and the actual swing – if you stand there too long, you will tense up, concentrating and thinking so hard. The same thing can happen in sales. If you are concentrating too hard to make a sale, or give a sales pitch, you can cause tension in yourself. It’s better to breathe deeply, relax, and do a quick run through before your presentation. Then, with the same rhythm, speak to your actual client.
  3. If you only practice (like go to the driving range) and never jump in and play (a round of golf), you won’t fully appreciate the entire golf experience. In sales, I would equate this to the person who spends an enormous amount of time preparing for a sales presentation, tweaking every slide, considering every possibility that will come up in the conversation, rather than using the information she has and enjoying the sales conversation.

In life, and in sales, just like in golf, there are hills and valleys in the conversation, sand traps, fast greens, and trees in the way. But the key is to use all the clubs you have in your bag, admit when you’ve lost a ball, enjoy the scenery, and at the end of the day, be grateful, not frustrated with the experience.

Thanks to my friends David and Paula Lund for so many life lessons on the golf course.

Happy golfing and Happy Thanksgiving!

Karen

My friends David and Paula
My high school friend, Paula and me

I attend a lot of events. Many are for business, like the one I attended in San Francisco earlier this week—#BrandStorm. About 200, mostly strangers, gathered in a giant ballroom listening to interesting speakers and then moving to meal functions and breakout sessions over two days.

Just before the second day’s morning session, many people were taking their seats around the room, arranging themselves at the round tables for 10. And I noticed something. I immediately put my things down, grabbed my coffee, and started moving around the room, saying hello to a few industry friends and familiar faces. If I didn’t know someone at a table, I smiled, and then introduced myself and asked them to do the same.

But what I noticed was that no one was doing the same thing. No one.

Flickr_Gauthier DELECROIX
PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr/Gauthier Delecroix

I realize I am an extrovert, and a morning person, so this kind of thing is kind of in my genes. But it really struck me that not a single other person in a room of about 200 was introducing themselves. Everyone seemed to be checking their email or looking over the program. And this was a marketing conference, so it would make sense that people would be introducing themselves and getting to know others. And that’s when it hit me. “Networking” has almost become a bad word.

It used to mean a way you meet new people, but now it’s become work. Like, it takes a lot of effort and you may have to try really hard. It may not seem natural or authentic. You may appear to be working the room.

My blog post last week, “To Hug or Not to Hug,” received almost 8,000 views on LinkedIn alone, more than three times as many as most of my blogs. I sense that the message of physical touch really resonated with people.

The lack of networking at #BrandStorm and the reaction to that blog have made me realize that in this day of email overload, the need to be available 24/7, and our apparent inability to “unplug,” people really do want connection. Physical connection. Personal connection. Emotional connection. We crave them all.

So, I’ve decided that instead of using the word “networking” and having that visual image of working the room, we should call it “connecting.” Connecting makes you feel differently. It’s not work. It’s personal. It’s satisfying. It’s sincere.

As we move into the holidays and attend many social events, keep in mind that you will be able to connect with people. And hopefully that will bring a smile to your face!

Karen

Flickr_GreentechMedia
PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr/Greentech Media

Have you noticed that it is not entirely unusual for people in business to hug each other when saying hello or goodbye? Back in the day, when we had a business meeting, we were all very formal, and shook hands before and after meetings. We would never think of hugging someone we do business with. Hugs were reserved for family members and very close friends.

But I’ve noticed that it has become OK to hug people in business and I think it says a lot about what’s going on in the world today.

I think all of us need a hug every once in a while. In this time of being Facebook “friends” or LinkedIn “connections,” it’s hard to know who is really your friend and who is just a connection (formerly referred to as an acquaintance). With so many people in business working remotely or from their home offices, it’s hard to feel connected to your work colleagues. And if you travel a lot, or just have a long commute, it’s equally as hard to feel connected to your family.

So what do you do?

One of my coworkers, Oakley, used to ride a commuter bus to work in downtown Los Angeles. Five days a week, she rode on the bus with the same group of strangers. Over the years, they got to know each other. Now, many years later, they have all changed jobs multiple times. And they have an annual reunion dinner because they became actual friends! Their bond? Riding the bus together, first as strangers.

For me, I’ve noticed some unintended consequences of connecting with industry work colleagues via Facebook. As I see photos of their family vacations, life cycle events, or personal challenges (like running a marathon), I feel more connected to them. Now when I see them at an industry event, I know quite a bit about them (based on their posts) and suddenly there is a personal connection. Instead of shaking their hands, I find myself hugging them and asking about their family, their new child or grandchild, or home. It’s amazing how connected you feel when people open up and share what’s going on in their personal lives.

Flickr/Kashmut
Photo Credit: Flickr/Kashmut

I still do shake hands with new business colleagues or acquaintances. But after a nice meal together, I find myself saying goodbye with a hug, more often than with a handshake. And I’ve noticed the same thing happening with both women and men. I see a lot of guys do that “chest bump” hug that doesn’t look entirely sincere, but provides the same affectionate bonding.

How do you feel about this? Do you find yourself only shaking hands with people you meet, or have you found the same thing going on? That a hug is more satisfying? It provides a different kind of connection, one we all need.

So, in this day of pervasive working remotely, commuting two to three hours a day, or finding your closest friends are your Facebook friends, I give you permission to hug people, instead of just shaking their hands.

I think you will find, like I have, that the personal, tactile connection is deeply satisfying and grounding. And helps you get through the day.

Hugs,

Karen

Last Saturday evening I was invited to a gratitude party for L.A. Compost. “Gratitude Party.” What a great way to thank your supporters in a non-pretentious way. And the price of entry? Make a donation of an amount you feel comfortable with to support L.A. Compost!

Getting there was a bit of a driving adventure as it was located in a warehouse/gallery in a small neighborhood near Dodger Stadium (Go, Dodgers!). Even though it was only about 20 miles from my house, it took an hour to get there, weaving through the neighborhoods of South Central L.A. It actually wasn’t too far from Chinatown and DTLA (downtown LA), and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market where I worked after college.

The founder of L.A. Compost, Michael Martinez, greeted the small group of 80 people shortly after I arrived. His story was so inspiring. Originally from Los Angeles, he ended up as a Teach for America school teacher in Miami-Dade, Florida. During his time as a teacher, Michael was astounded that the young people he worked with didn’t know where their food came from. He helped the students, their families, and the community create communal gardens at the school. He remembers the kids getting so excited to see broccoli and other vegetables growing that they actually fought over who would get to eat the food!

Me with Michael of L.A. Compost

When he relocated back to Los Angeles, and with the passion that obviously percolated while working for Teach for America, he decided he wanted to make a difference here in SoCal. So he founded L.A. Compost, a nonprofit that began by working with four schools to lead students in composting waste from cafeteria kitchens. Michael also oversees compost and garden hubs at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, where he runs school and community workshops.

L.A. Compost has grown and now helps set up composting hubs around the greater Los Angeles area.

The gallery where the event was held was filled with various pop-up displays demonstrating how composting works and highlighting a few other organizations. Two of the pop-ups really caught my eye.

Imperfect Produce offers home delivery of misshapen fresh fruits and vegetables that would normally not make its way to consumers. Its business model is, essentially, to seize the rejects! Imperfect Produce, an actual company, and other organizations are finding ways to reduce the amount of wasted food by making it “sexy” to be ugly, misshapen, and dimply. (Conventional supermarkets and club stores typically insist on consistently sized and pristine-looking produce, and will reject it for blemishes or marks that really have no effect on the eating quality.)

Next to Imperfect Produce was a pop-up for L.A. Kitchen, which was started in 2015 by Robert Egger (who also started the famous DC Central Kitchen). Robert created a teaching kitchen, reclamation center for wasted food, and feeding facility for low-income senior citizens all rolled into one. It’s really brilliant. Gather up the food that would normally go to waste and give it to the hungry.

What was so interesting about these two organizations is that they explained to me how they find themselves working together. If Imperfect Produce has fruits and vegetables it does not get orders for, it is donated it to L.A. Kitchen, which then processes the fresh produce into food and meals for the hungry. And if L.A. Kitchen has excess fresh produce, it oftentimes allows Imperfect Produce to market it.

If you’re reading my blog, chances are you have never known hunger. However, whether you know it or not, you probably live in a city or county that does have extreme hunger. Many times it is camouflaged. People are ashamed to say they are hungry. Through my work with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, I have learned that even in my own county thousands of people (many of them young children, entire families, and seniors) experience food insecurity every week.

Many of us do what we can to help alleviate hunger. We provide canned food during a food drive or we write checks to food banks and other organizations who provide food to the hungry. We may volunteer at a food kitchen during the year or during the holidays.

But how many of us will make it our personal mission, our career or avocation, to find solutions to help feed the hungry? To educate people on how they can personally make a difference? To literally walk the talk?

I say that Michael Martinez is a pretty amazing guy to find such a holistic way to create and promote healthier lifestyles. He has partnered with existing organizations (like Imperfect Produce, L.A. Kitchen, and others) and continues to use his training as a teacher to educate young people on how to make healthy choices and create a healthier planet.

Like many, I recycle at my home and in our office. I’ve thought about composting at my house, but was talked out of it by friends who said, “It can be smelly.” After attending Michael’s gratitude party, I think I need to do further investigation into composting. Perhaps that will help me with my next big project: a home garden!

Karen

In May, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. It was exciting to watch and listen to the Oracles of Omaha (Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger) answer questions about their investment decisions.

But even more exciting and intellectually stimulating was what I experienced the day before when I attended an invitation-only meeting of global business leaders. There were about 100 of us in the hotel meeting room and during the course of the day, a variety of participants got up and talked about trends, leadership, their life’s journey, and more. They came from all over the world: Oman, Australia, California, Iowa, and Switzerland, to name a few.

At the end of the day, our host and facilitator stood in front of the room and asked people to share their main observations: takeaways and “aha”s.

Meditation was on the top of the list.

Yes, meditation had been mentioned by many of the leaders and CEOs in our group. Honestly, I was quite surprised to learn that so many of the world’s business leaders practice meditation. Common threads in their comments were that it was a way to create calm in the day, to give them time to get centered, and to get rid of distractions, and it helped create some inner peace.

After I traveled home from Omaha, I kept thinking in the back of my head—I really want to learn to meditate.

A few months ago, one of my personal advisors suggested I take at least 10 minutes every day to sit still and be quiet. Like many of us in business, I feel like I am constantly on the hamster wheel of life and the only time I stop is when I roll into bed at night. Go-go-go. That’s what it’s always felt like. It was nearly impossible for me to think about sitting still for 10 minutes and not doing anything. But I did try it. I was inconsistent, but I started to do it on the weekends when I was home alone. And sometimes when I got home at night, I would make a conscious effort to sit quietly in a dark area of my house and do nothing. It felt weird at first, but then it got better.

Then, about a month ago, a friend of mine told me she had started meditating. And I said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to meditate.” She said she uses an app on her phone and she shared it with me (there was a free trial).

So, I downloaded the app, got up a little earlier the next morning and listened to the guided meditation (for 20 minutes total). What I liked about this guided meditation is that Oprah gives a 1- to 2-minute overview, then Deepak Chopra shares a 2- to 3-minute insight. Then he gives you a specific mantra and peaceful music plays for 13 to 14 minutes as you repeat the mantra to yourself.

And then I would start my day.

So, I’ve been meditating for four weeks and this is what I’ve learned:

  1. I actually look forward to my meditation time. I used to be rush-rush-rush in the morning, but now I take my time. The meditation actually sets my intention for the day.
  2. I’ve noticed that I feel more calm and clear at work. More focused. Not so distracted.
  3. I am sleeping better at night.

A couple of days last weekend, I had the time to meditate a second time in the afternoon. I re-listened to the same meditation as in the morning. I felt energized and clearer. I found myself getting excited just thinking about meditating a second time on the same day.

In casual conversation with two male acquaintances over the last few weeks, both told me they had been thinking about meditating as well. I shared the link above and both of them, business executives, are trying it out.

Many Fortune 500 CEOs use this mindfulness practice: Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Ford, and Arianna Huffington, to name just a few. Harvard Business Review published this article about the trend in 2015.

Many meditation apps are available. Check out headspace.com and calm.com for starters. If you’re wondering if meditation is for you, just think about it. And if you already meditate, I would love to hear from you.

Namaste,
Karen

October 5 was National Kale Day! Woo-hoo!

Last year, I wrote about National Kale Day and about how it started. And how it seemed that everywhere you turned, you would see kale being featured as the new “it” food. It’s an ingredient in salads at fast casual restaurants like McDonald’s and Chic-Fil-A. And all sorts of snack companies, like Brad’s Kale Chips, have popped up.

I attended an industry luncheon this week where kale was a featured ingredient in the salad. Honestly, a salad made with just chopped kale, diced beets, and feta cheese left me a little cold (and hungry). I found it unappealing. And I’m in the industry!

I’m guessing that many consumers are feeling the same way when food companies take a popular food and try to insert it into their menus every way possible.

What was appealing about kale in the first place? It was the dense nutrient content (vitamin A and fiber), plus the natural healing properties of cruciferous-type vegetables. But no one really wanted to EAT kale—because it’s so fibrous and chewy—so they juiced it.

And I think that’s what started the “kale craze.”

Photo: Flickr/Noelle

My first real exposure to the health benefits of kale was when I watched this TEDx talk by Dr. Terry Wahls at TEDx Iowa City 2011. The talk is entitled, “Minding your Mitochondria.” In a nutshell, Dr. Wahls was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2007. She quickly declined, began taking doctor-prescribed medicine, and did chemo, but she declined further to the point that she was wheelchair-bound and could barely move on her own. Thankfully, due to her curiosity and her research training, she found a different way to treat her MS. In fact, if you take the 18 minutes to watch to her TEDx talk, you will see the role that kale (and other nutrient-rich greens, berries, vegetables, plus grass-fed meats) played in her almost 100 percent recovery.

Yes, you read that correctly—her almost 100 percent recovery.

If you are concerned about food allergies (including dairy and gluten), arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia, dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s, to name a few, then I highly recommend watching this 18-minute, life-changing TEDx talk.

After watching it multiple times, I am more compelled than ever to have a kale-based green drink every day and to increase my consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. For my health and vitality.

So, yes, this week we celebrated National Kale Day! Do yourself and your family a big favor, and have some kale.

Karen

I am a lifelong learner. I love to attend seminars and workshops, and read online content about self-improvement, marketing trends, entrepreneurs, business, food, and all sorts of things. And I’m a magazine reader, but for some reason I had gotten out of the habit of reading books.

Actually, I do have a book on my nightstand, but it’s like a sleeping pill. I start reading with great intent, and within five to seven minutes, my eyelids get heavy and I find myself dozing off.

But it has been frustrating for me because I have always liked to read. Actually, my first job when I was 15 was in our local library; I filed the books back onto the shelves when they were returned by the library patrons. I recall checking out two to three books every week; they all looked so interesting.

I even joined a book club about 10 years ago, but found that most months I wasn’t able to read the entire sleeping pill, I mean book, and eventually I quit the club.

But I still love books!

People have always talked about “books on tape,” but since my commute to work is 4.4 miles, I didn’t think they would work for me.

And then I discovered Audible, an audio subscription service from Amazon. My coworker Hazel had mentioned Audible to me, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around listening to books on my short drive each day.

Then, I was taking a class and my instructor assigned a book for us to read. It was only available on Audible as it is out of print. So I went online, subscribed to Audible, and downloaded the app. I was thrilled that my first book was free, and the monthly subscription is less than $15. You can download one book of your choice each month.

I figured that one book a month was more than plenty and perhaps it might help me read the stack of books I have on my list.

Was I wrong! I didn’t realize exactly how much I do drive, and I went through that first book within a day (it was only an hour long). I then downloaded a fiction book I had missed reading in my book club a few years ago, a Pulitzer Prize winner that everyone had raved about. Even though it was more than 10 hours long, I found myself spending a few extra minutes parked in my garage each day listening to the end of the chapter. Finished that book within a week.

Now, I’m hooked! In the last six weeks, I have listened to five books (some fiction, some self-improvement). Whereas I used to dread those long drives by myself to meetings in downtown L.A. or south Orange County, I find I now look forward to having an hour or more to listen to my books.

Occasionally Audible sends me access to free best sellers and other promotions. As I think back to my treks to the local Barnes & Noble bookstore, I recall my great intentions of reigniting my voracious reading habit, only to have that stack of books on my nightstand grow. I also lost interest in lugging those heavy books on business trips (I fall asleep faster on airplanes than I do at home, so it was a lose-lose proposition for me).

If you love to read, or used to love to read, and the thought of not having a crook in your neck—from looking down at a book or a small screen—is appealing, I encourage you to try Audible (or podcasts or Spotify, and there are others). It changed my life. And it may well change yours!

Karen

Blue Apron. Hello Fresh. Purple Carrot. Plated (as of this week, now owned by Albertson’s). These are just a few of the meal kit companies that have created a new business model.

What is a meal kit? A meal kit is all the fresh ingredients and seasoning you need to make a meal, all measured out exactly to the recipe provided. Everything is in one box, delivered to your door on a schedule of your choosing. Depending on the service, you can choose the menu you want to cook or you can request a surprise menu.

Basically, you are ordering all the ingredients to make a good tasting “gourmet” meal, except you don’t have to go shopping or even leave your home or office. Every single ingredient is individually packaged with the exact amount the recipe calls for, so there is no buying four ounces of fresh dill when you only need one small sprig. Everything is pre-measured, eliminating the risk of over-seasoning your meal or forgetting a spice.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Blue Apron
A Blue Apron meal kit

It sounds kind of fun, right? I think so too, but I have never ordered any of the meal kits because of my busy travel schedule.

Fortunately, a few weeks ago, I ran into Terri Langhans, a high school pal who is also a world class speaker and author. Terri has tried several of the meal kit services, so I asked her about her experiences so far.

My first meal kit wasn’t mine. It was my neighbor’s, and she dropped it off on her way to the airport to attend a family funeral. Inside the big box were three smaller boxes, about the size of skinny shoe boxes, each containing the ingredients for a meal that would serve two people. It was like unpacking a box of birthday presents from Grandma, before Amazon was invented.

“How great is this!?” I thought.

Answer: Very.

For me, a focus group of one, meal kits aren’t about eating healthy, controlling portion size, discovering new recipes or being able to recycle the packaging. It’s all about less stress and more fun around meal planning and preparation.

After a day of dealing with a never-ending To Do list, I doubt that I’m the only one who dreads having to answer the “what’s for dinner?” question. Even when I’m the one asking. What do I have in the fridge? Something from the freezer? Nah, no time to defrost. Are there any leftovers that haven’t grown fur? I don’t want to stop at the store. Isn’t today Meatless Monday? How much is left of that salad bag from Costco? Popcorn’s a vegetable, isn’t it? I guess I better go to the store. Yikes, I need gas. And wine.

I can certainly relate to that!

Open the box. Read the recipe. Follow the directions which have been simplified for even the newest of cooks can follow. For example, the recipe card doesn’t assume you know what sauté means. It would more likely say, “While the vegetables roast, heat a pan on medium heat. Add olive oil (already pre-measured in a packet). When the oil shimmers, add chopped shallots and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Do not let them brown.”

All that detail means that not only does everything come out cooked perfectly, to temperature, but everything comes out at the same time. Again, less stress, more fun.

The next night, I arrived home to find hubby and two of our friends assembled at various “work stations” in our kitchen. They were wielding a spatula, a chef’s knife or parchment paper, according to which section of the two remaining two recipe cards they were assigned. The oven was pre-heating, everything was in its place, including an open bottle of wine.

“Hi, sweetheart!” hubby said, handing me a glass. “We’re having a dinner-making party.”

After the meal, we went online and created two new accounts, ordered our menus and made a date for the next dinner-making party. This time it would be BYOB. As in Bring Your Own Box.

After reading Terri’s comments, I’m seriously planning on ordering a meal kit next time I have a few friends over for dinner. And to make it even more fun, I think I’ll ask them if they want to help cook!

Karen

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It’s an auspicious week.

At sundown on Wednesday, September 20, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, will begin. The celebration of the Jewish New Year is observed for 10 days and will culminate with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, starting at sundown on Friday, September 29, and ending the next day. Right in the middle is the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere on September 22. That is the day that the daylight and night hours are virtually equal.

Several traditions surround the Jewish New Year.

One of my favorites is the tradition to try a new fruit in the new year. That tradition is never more evident than in New York and Los Angeles, where large neighborhoods of Jewish consumers clamor to buy the weirdest and most unusual fruits they can to help bring in the new year. My company, of course, has great fun with this, as we ship huge truckloads of exotic fruits to New York City every year in anticipation of the holiday shopping rush. Last year, the Wall Street Journal even did a story on this, including this video.

This year, some of the top sellers have been:

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Jackfruit
Jackfruit
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Red Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit
Frieda's Specialty Produce_Dragon Fruit
Cactus Pear
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Kumquats
Kumquats
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Kiwano - Horned Melon
Kiwano (Horned Melon)
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Cape Gooseberries
Cape Gooseberries

Another tradition is that those 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time for reflection and forgiveness. I always interpreted it to be the time to reconcile any differences or disagreements and to settle any issues with friends, family, or coworkers. Even if you’re not Jewish, it’s a great time to make peace and settle any issues and make amends.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day of fasting, so Jews around the world choose to take the time from sundown to sundown to be humbled and appreciate all the suffering and sacrifice that our ancestors went through during difficult times. Even if we are not able to fast completely, many of us spend the day at our temples or in a quiet place. My favorite part of the day is the break-the-fast dinner, usually hosted at a friend’s house. We all bring our favorite dishes and break bread together. It’s the perfect way to finish the celebration of the new year—with close family and friends.

Autumnal equinox is a special time as well. It signals the official beginning of fall, when the leaves outside are turning from green to orange and red. We decorate our homes with dried corn and gourds, and the weather cools down. With cooler weather, we start baking squash in the oven and cooking root vegetables for meals, instead of serving spring and summer asparagus, and cold salads.

Even when you walk into your produce department, you’ll see the difference. Produce managers across the country do their fall resets right after Labor Day, building big displays of hard-shelled squash; peaches and nectarines are replaced with even bigger displays of apples and pears.

As you enjoy this time of year, whether you are officially celebrating the Jewish New Year of 5778 or just want an excuse to try some new fruits, it’s a great time to pause, reflect, and set your intentions for a time of prosperity, peace, and friendship.

L ’Shanah Tova (that’s “for a good year” in Hebrew),

Karen

A few months ago, I decided I couldn’t be the only person on the planet who is mystified by these two terms: “Bitcoin” and “Blockchain.” So I started doing some research by asking some of the geeks and nerds I meet to explain them to me in layman’s terms.

I’ll start with Blockchain. I was at an AgTech (agriculture technology) conference two months ago and was chatting with a millennial attendee. Seena Amidi of Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play Tech Center, which is billed as the world’s largest startup accelerator and corporate innovation consultancy, seemed pretty savvy, yet down-to-earth. So I asked him, “Can you explain Blockchain to me—in English?”

Without skipping a beat, he explained it like this:

He said Blockchain is a 100-percent secure way to store information (kind of like encryption, but it connects all pieces of related information). Pieces of information are stored in individual blocks; once entered into the block, it cannot be altered. It is time-stamped and linked to the previous block. It’s almost impossible to hack. Multiple people can add related information in a new block.

I asked him what the applications might be.

He gave me the example of a company like mine, storing the names of vendors and the food safety information associated with each individual vendor. As part of a Blockchain, we can share select parts of the information with customers when needed. For example, we can let them access the food safety information on our suppliers, but they can’t access other, proprietary information that is stored in the Blockchain.

Well, that totally makes sense in the business world. All businesses have many types of information to store. Depending on who they need to share the information with (vendors, customers, the government), using Blockchain could save time and prevent redundancies (having to enter information in multiple places).

For non-business users, a perfect application is a person’s medical records. Multiple doctors can enter information into the Blockchain; it is time-stamped and cannot be altered. The patient can access the information, but it is completely secure. An article in Forbes Magazine earlier this year has an excellent explanation of Blockchain.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Zach Copley

Bitcoin is actually a digital currency. I know it’s hard to imagine a currency that does not have paper bills or coins, and exists only on the Internet. But that is the essence of Bitcoin. And a lot of people think it is worth something and could be a big part of the future. I found some pretty interesting articles about it. Here is one of my favorite articles. The value of Bitcoin is determined by how much people are willing to exchange it for. There are already many businesses around the world that accept Bitcoin, including a Subway restaurant in Pennsylvania!

So, how do you buy, track, store, and spend Bitcoin? Blockchain. When Bitcoin was conceived, a secure way to record the transactions on a “ledger” was needed to eliminate the chance of redundancies or double entries. Thus, Blockchain came into being.

So, now you probably know just about enough about Blockchain and Bitcoin to carry on a conversation at a cocktail party. And just in case you are wondering, the way the Bitcoin system was set up, there can never be more than 21 million bitcoins and the current value of one bitcoin is $4,493.99.

There you go!

Karen

During this past week, I attended two Farm to Table dinners. After reading about Farm to Table dinners and writing about them and never having the opportunity to attend one, it was interesting to attend two in one week. And they were so completely different.

The genesis of Farm to Table dinners is an extension of the popularity of local farmers markets. Consumers love connecting to the growers of their food. It humanizes the eating experience, which is why consumers will pay more money for produce with a shorter shelf life.

It’s about the experience, not the efficiency or convenience.

My first Farm to Table experience was at a fundraiser at Rancho Los Alamitos, a local historic site in Long Beach, to benefit its educational programs. Several ranchos (or homesteads) in and around the Long Beach area of Southern California have been preserved as historical landmarks. Much like the 21 historic California Missions that span the entire coast from Basilica San Diego de Alcala in San Diego all the way up to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, the Ranchos are a big part of the history of the early California settlers. As you can see, it was a beautiful evening in a delightful setting.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Rancho Los Alamitos
Photo: Jennifer Herbig

The chef of the evening was Paul Buchanan of Primal Alchemy, who is completely passionate about discovering local farms and foods and creating masterpieces that his clientele can enjoy. Paul has an impressive resume, having worked in some of the best known kitchens in Southern California: Campanile, Wolfgang Puck, Water Grill, and Pascal’s in Orange County, to name a few. As you can see from the photos of the evening, our dinner was set outside on the grounds of Rancho Los Alamitos, where 300 patrons dined at long, glorious tables, draped with white linens, and decorated with bouquets of fresh herbs and russet potatoes with small flags inserted in them as table signs.

Every course was served family style. And between the salad course and dinner, Russ Parsons, former food editor of the Los Angeles Times (whom we refer to as the “Mayor of Long Beach” as he knows E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E), did a quick interview with Chef Buchanan.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Rancho Los Alamitos
Photo: Jennifer Herbig

The food had amazing flavors and it was dazzling to have all this food come out at perfect temperatures arranged perfectly on platters. The long tables were conducive to easygoing conversations and a leisurely pace. Quite different from a normal dinner at a restaurant where we always seem to complain about the pace of the meal, or lack of it.

My second Farm to Table dinner was held at an outdoor restaurant, The Farmhouse in Corona del Mar. It is a new, on-site restaurant at the famous Southern California landmark, Roger’s Gardens. If you enjoy gardening and landscaping, this is the most inspirational place ever.

The occasion for this dinner was because my friend and favorite Southern California chef, Alan Greeley, recently closed his landmark restaurant, The Golden Truffle. All the local Orange County chefs, who were mostly trained and supported by Alan during the last 30 years, got together to have a “Bon Voyage Celebration.” As a testimonial to Chef Alan’s popularity, an email went out to his patron list and within two days, the dinner for 150 was sold out! In fact I had to pull a few strings and text Alan to get a ticket for myself!

When I arrived on Monday evening, it was a who’s who of the Orange County culinary scene with famous chefs, and food writers and journalists.

Alan Greeley dinner
Photo: OC Weekly

Chef Alan’s friends prepared an incredible four-course meal which was more like eight courses since every course included two dishes! Thai goat curry. Grilled Wagyu beef wrapped in gem lettuce and carrot kimchi. Coos Bay silver point oysters. Watermelon radish carpaccio. Seared ahi tuna. And so much more. Dessert was over the top with three options for everyone.

The menu (front and back) from Chef Alan’s celebration dinner at Farmhouse

Just like the first Farm to Table dinner I attended, white linen tablecloths and family-style seating and serving plates abounded. The simplicity of the décor was magical. The Farmhouse overlooks the entire Roger’s Gardens property, so it felt like we were in a forest.

Vegetable carpaccio
Photo: OC Weekly: Vegetable carpaccio

What I learned most about the Farm to Table experience is that it is all about the food and the farms and ranches it comes from. The location, ambience, and décor all contribute to telling the story, connecting you to the foods you eat and the people who lovingly produce them.

And it couldn’t get more farm-to-table than dining al fresco with trees as your awning and a cool evening breeze as your soundtrack.

Even though a Farm to Table dinner might have a heftier price tag than a conventional dinner at a restaurant, and it might take a few hours from start to finish, I would encourage you to put the experience on your bucket list. It certainly made me slow my pace and take in the entire experience.

Bon appetit!

KarenSave

It all started when I gave a speech last month to a group of local women entrepreneurs. Whenever I speak to an all-female group, I feel comfortable sharing one of my “secret weapons,” as women seem super-interested and open to it.

And that is my color palette.

I’ve written before about how I have been working with a colorist since the early 1980s. Jennifer Butler’s expertise is in helping people look their best by wearing the colors, patterns, and textures that make that person look their best. In her studio in Los Angeles, she has more than 10,000 color swatches that she uses to select the perfect colors and textures to match a client’s eye color, hair color and texture, and skin tone.

Over the years she has also added the dimensions of personality and energy to her color consultation, which give insight to her clients about their season. (In personal color analysis, people are often assigned a “seasonal” color palette, meaning a particular group of colors related to that season.)

For the last seven years (since I last had my color palette done), I’ve been a “Tawny Spring.”

So, after my speech, I thought it might be a good time to revisit Jennifer to see if there have been any changes to my color palette. That Saturday morning as I was getting ready to drive to her house, I had second thoughts. Maybe there was no reason to see her. I was certain that there really hadn’t been any major changes in my coloring. But I did have a gnawing feeling about the fact that during the past couple of months, each time I went shopping and tried on colors and styles that were on my palette, they no longer felt good to me.

So I walked into Jennifer’s house a few minutes before our consultation. She was just concluding a workshop with other clients, but I saw her when I walked in and smiled at her. I could tell from the look on her face that she didn’t recognize me. Once I said my name, she caught herself and said, “Welcome.” After we chatted for a few minutes, we moved into her studio. That’s when she shocked me.

“Karen, you have become a Summer,” she said. “And actually I did not recognize you―you have changed so much.”

Now that may not sound like a big deal, but when you have been dressing like an energetic, cheerleader-type Spring for a long time, hearing that you are now a “twilight, full of grace” Summer is quite a shock.

For the next three hours, I watched Jennifer select an almost completely different color palette for me. My eyes had darkened. My skin was pinker. She encouraged me to darken my hair back to its original color, so it would complement my skin and eyes.

Here is my former palette, when I was a Spring. You can see that the colors are brighter.

Here is my new, Rose-Bronze Summer palette.

As she selected my new colors, Jennifer noticed a few hairs around my face were a bit curly and asked me about that. That’s when I reminded her that I have naturally curly hair, but have been straightening it and blow-drying it straight for more than 30 years. I told her that when I was a young girl, people made fun of my curly hair; they called me names. There were no happy memories associated with curly hair.

That’s when she made a life-changing comment: “It seems that you are in a period of personal transformation and authenticity. Perhaps you might want to consider wearing your hair natural.” That was a pretty heavy thing to hear. But since my divorce was final seven months ago, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a period of self-reflection. And I could not get the thought out of my head about what it would be like to be the real me. Curly hair and all.

So, I took a deep breath on Monday morning and went to work with my naturally curly hair, dressed in colors from my new palette. People in the office did not recognize me. They asked me what I did to my hair; my answer was “Nothing. This is my natural hair!”

As a matter of fact, since all three of our summer interns have naturally curly hair, we had a Curly Hair Day in the office. It was empowering for all of us as we gathered for our photo!

It’s been more than two weeks now since I decided to be me. The real me. The authentic me.

I’ve had friends comment: “You look fantastic, happy, and like a different person.” Other friends, when they see me, say nothing. (I think they are in shock that I have dared to go natural.) Just this morning, several of my work colleagues commented that I look so happy, thinner (that was a plus!), and more calm, like a totally different person.

Are you asking yourself, “Am I wearing the colors and styles that make me look my best?” Or are you thinking, “I can’t afford to have my colors done. I’ll have to get rid of so many of my clothes.” I encourage you to check out the videos, before-and-after photos, and information on Jennifer’s website.

While it can be scary to buck fashion trends and peer pressure, finding out what your palette is and dressing accordingly can be an amazing thing for your self-esteem, your personal confidence, and for your success in your career and personal life. Being authentic in how you present yourself makes a phenomenal difference.

Left: Me, dressed as a Spring, being someone who I am no longer. Right: Me, dressed as a Summer, my authentic self.

Karen

OK, we’ve all read about the solar eclipse coming up on Monday, August 21. It will be the first time in 26 years that a total solar eclipse has been visible from the United States.

Many people are flocking to Portland, Jackson Hole, and St. Louis to experience the moments of daytime darkness in person. For me, I know I can view it online, and that will suffice.

What’s really on my mind is to share some insight I’ve gotten into why so many people, including some heads of state in particular, are acting so darned weird right now.

Here is the context, thanks to Gahl Sasson of Cosmic Navigator, a good friend of mine:

A lunar eclipse, the most recent of which happened on August 7 in Aquarius, is kind of like an Old Testament version of Valentine’s Day. It’s a great day to spend with friends and lovers. It’s also the time to end a relationship that isn’t working and to say goodbye to a personality trait in yourself that you don’t want anymore. “Overall, since it is an eclipse and lunar, you might feel [overly] sensitive and emotional,” Gahl says. “The werewolf in you might come out, so please be careful with your reactions.”

Mercury is in retrograde until September 5, mainly in Virgo (Read more on my previous blog about Mercury in retrograde). “Right between the eclipses, when the energies are the most intense, the planet of communication and negotiation is going on a vacation,” Gahl says. He warns of unnecessary perfectionism and criticism, and recommends not signing legal documents, making big purchases, or starting important projects.

Monday’s solar eclipse takes place in Leo. Gahl says “something significant” will happen in the U.S. with “long-lasting effects… Most likely it will quicken the fall of political leaders, CEOs, and other powerful leaders. You can say that the biggest economy [on] the planet is going through an open heart surgery.” On the other hand, it’s a good day to start something related to “love, children, happiness, sports, and entertainment,” he says.

This all makes perfect sense to me as I’ve been reading the news of companies replacing their leaders (Wells Fargo Bank, Uber, and Mondelez, for example) and potential changes in countries’ leadership around the world. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

But then, I had a feeling this was coming. I believe that the change in energy in the universe has an enormous effect on everyone. So, if people are acting a bit tense, moody, or it seems like your communication’s been haywire since last week, you can just blame the cosmos!

Karen

P.S. It seems obvious, but  do you really understand the difference between a lunar and a solar eclipse?

In a lunar eclipse, the earth casts a shadow on the moon. At least two lunar eclipses happen every year.

Credit: NASA

In a solar eclipse, the moon casts a shadow on the sun. And of course, even during a solar eclipse, we should never look directly at the sun. Solar eclipses happen once every 18 months.

Credit: NASA

Last month I visited some dear friends on Bainbridge Island in Washington. Each morning, my friend Liliana would make us breakfast. Before breakfast, we would sip our coffee, sitting around in our bathrobes and chat about the day.

But I noticed that before she had her cup of coffee, she sipped on a mug full of something else. I was curious, so I asked her about that practice.

She told me she drinks a cup full of hot bone broth every other day, first thing in the morning.

Bone broth?

Liliana assured me that there are some health benefits to bone broth. So I decided to do some research on my own.

According to this article in Shape magazine, drinking bone broth can help with joint pain; create a healthier gut and stronger bones, hair, and nails; improve sleep; and more.

In researching a little further, I found even more information from one of my favorite spiritual and healing authorities, Louise Hay. Wow―who knew?

It is starting to make sense to me. What’s the classic “bone broth?” Homemade chicken soup. When we get sick with a cold, that’s the classic dish we’re told to consume. Perhaps that’s why some refer to chicken soup as “Jewish penicillin.” Supposedly, sipping on hot chicken soup, the homemade version made by simmering the bones and carcass of a chicken, along with onions, celery, and carrots, will hasten your recovery.

By the way, broth and stock are essentially the same thing. Some describe stock as being more viscous from the collagen that seeps out of the bones during long-term cooking. Bone “broth” has become the trendy name, even though it might actually be closer to a traditional stock.

From healing your gut (something we should all be concerned with), to getting natural collagen to make us look younger, to the rich, satisfying savory flavor that comes from sipping the broth (or enjoying bone marrow spread on toast at a special dinner), I definitely am intrigued with my newest discovery.

It seems as if I learn something new every day!

Karen

I’ve noticed a lot of companies are updating the look of their packaging. Sometimes it’s the sign of a company truly trying to better resonate with consumers.

Driscoll’s old label (left) and new label (right)

Other times, I wonder if they got a new marketing agency that said, “It’s time for a brand refresh,” but it didn’t make a discernible difference.

Or an already successful brand has new features and benefits to highlight.

Angie’s old branding (yellow) and new (purple)

And other times, some old-school brands say, “What the heck, we’re staying with what we have.” Which I respect.

So when I saw the trade ad for Bragg organic dressings and marinades, it caught my attention.

I’ve written about Bragg before, as its apple cider vinegar has become quite the popular ingredient in the latest elixir, a healthy “cocktail.”

And I love Bragg’s products. And they definitely stand out at the grocery store, not because they are attractively packaged with the latest graphics, but rather because they are unique-looking. Distinctive.

And that distinctive look is also authentic.

I did a little digging on the company’s website, which resembles its packaging, and the story of Paul Bragg and his daughter Patricia is filled with passion, conviction, and a genuine concern for health. It was refreshing to read their homey stories and testimonials from ordinary people, peppered with endorsements from Katy Perry, Clint Eastwood, and a few others.

So next time a marketing agency or your new marketing person suggests you need to refresh your brand, redo all your packaging, or more, step back and think about the motivation behind that.

I think the authenticity of your brand is most important, even if you break all the rules with your look, like my friends at Bragg Products. Sometimes, just when you are getting tired of the look of your packaging or your logo, it’s about the time that consumers are starting to recognize it.

Karen

I don’t know about you, but I feel like everyone is throwing around the word “disruption”—it’s the newest buzzword. If you want to get someone’s attention in an interview, mention “disruption” and/or “innovation,” and you’ll definitely get it.

People use the words as if they are interchangeable, meaning the same thing. But they really don’t. They are related in that they are about change, the perception of change, and being open-minded.

What’s an example of “disruption?”

To me, the ones that we can all relate to are the iPad and iPhone, introduced by Apple. When they first came out, they revolutionized the mobile tablet and smartphone industries. I remember when my co-worker Todd was telling me that on his new iPhone he could use his fingers to enlarge an image. I recall thinking, “Why would you need to do that? Who would use that function?” Of course, now I use it all the time, especially with photos.

“Innovation” on the other hand is usually referring to something more incremental. For example, with each iteration of the iPhone, the camera quality has gotten better, you can self-edit, colorize, and etc., right on your iPhone. I would characterize that as innovation versus disruption.

But the real issue at hand is that every single industry is facing a constant stream of innovation. Of interruptions. And of disruptions. As a business owner, I can tell you that it’s kind of hard to keep up.

I know that in my own company, I am attempting to look into the future to provide tools and processes for my teams to help me explore what changes we need to make inside the company, and at what pace. I’ve always believed in the “Ready. Aim. Fire.” approach, as compared to “Ready. Fire. Aim.”

Here is some food for thought:

Speaking of iPhones and disruptive change, a few years ago, I read the biography “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. Although it is well over 500 pages, I found so much inspiration and information while reading that book that I could not put it down. Steve Jobs was so creative and an out-of-the-box thinker. And of course his management style was well-publicized.

A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker do a presentation on “The Lost Interview of Steve Jobs,” which was done in 1995 by Robert X. Cringely for the PBS documentary “Revenge of the Nerds.” Only 10 minutes of the 70-minute interview were used in the film. The original tapes were actually lost in shipping. It was not until 2011 after Jobs died, that the film’s director, Paul Sen, found an old VHS copy of the original unedited interview—in his garage.

I had the opportunity to view a few clips of the interview. Remember that in 1995 the internet was just beginning to be a household word. (I remember that, when my company launched our website in 1996, we were one of the very first in our industry to do so.) I highly recommend watching “The Lost Interview” (you can get it here). It’s a great place to get inspiration for your new innovative idea. You will see a completely different side of Jobs and hear him describe what has now become the omnipresent Amazon, iTunes, and other disruptors.

So back to the phrase, “disruption versus innovation.” I recommend you don’t use those words lightly.

And don’t forget, incremental innovation is oftentimes the most prevalent form of progress.

Karen

Leyla Acaroglu’s “Disruptive Design” e-book
Image from Leyla Acaroglu’s “Disruptive Design” e-book

I am a second generation Angelena, born and raised in Southern California. Even though I have lived here all my life, I discovered a part of L.A. that I never knew was there.

And that is the amazing Metro rapid transit system, based out of Union Station, in downtown L.A. (or, as it is now referred to, “DTLA”).

Even though the most frequent complaint about Southern California is our lack of a rapid transit system, you can see from this diagram that we apparently do have an amazing system. In fact, LA Metro is the third most comprehensive system in the country.

I was intrigued when I received an invitation to attend a Metro Art Tour this past Saturday. Apparently, in addition to six Metro rail lines and almost 100 separate stations, some real artistic treasures are contained inside the actual Metro stations.

So, off I went on Saturday morning to meet a small group at Union Station. For some historical context, the L.A. Union Station was built in 1939 and is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the western United States. It is widely regarded as “the last of the great train stations.” The station’s combination of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne styles makes it one of L.A.’s architectural gems. It has appeared in many films.

"City of Dreams, River of History" mural by Richard Wyatt, 1995, at Union Station
“City of Dreams, River of History” mural by Richard Wyatt, 1995, at Union Station

I’ve been to Union Station many times, mostly for events. But as a passenger, I was impressed with how clean the station is, and at 11 a.m. on a Saturday, just how many Angelenos use it. You can learn about the many well-known artists and the artwork they provided to the station here. If you’re an art student or art lover, you would have a field day walking through the station.

So, our group jumped on the Red Line and headed to Hollywood. After a 15-minutes ride, we got off at Hollywood/Vine (probably the most famous intersection for visitors to Hollywood). As we took the escalators up, we found ourselves staring at the famous Pantages Theatre and an impressive section of sidewalk filled with “Stars.” But it was actually the inside of the station that got my attention.

View of Pantages Theatre from Hollywood/Vine Metro
View of Pantages Theatre from Hollywood/Vine Metro

The walls contained tiles that made it look like a Hollywood stage with big, thick curtains. The large poles were decorated in tiles that made them look like palm trees. The ceilings were covered completely with empty film reels! They even had two movie cameras from another era on display! And of course some of the floor tiles were yellow (reminiscent of the Yellow Brick Road); on the walls were hand-painted tiles of characters from The Wizard of Oz.”

Interior of Hollywood/Vine Metro Station
Good Witch Glinda tile at Hollywood/Vine Metro

At the Vermont and Sunset Station, which is near many major hospitals and the famed Hollywood sign, the décor was enhanced with floor tiles highlighting medical and scientific symbols, and one wall showcased a particular astrological constellation.

“Ecliptic/Illume” installation by Michael Davis at Vermont/Sunset Metro Station

Although our tour was only of those two stations, our guide gave us a brochure that showcases all of the Metro stops. I am already planning to find an excuse to ride the Metro to get from Long Beach to DTLA to Santa Monica sometime soon.

If you happen to find yourself coming to Southern California, Metro Rail Tours are offered on the first Saturday, Sunday, and Thursday of each month.

While you’re parked at Union Station, I recommend that you walk across to Olvera Street, part of the historic district of El Pueblo de Los Angeles. The popular area has many mercados, restaurants, street vendors, and some of the most delicious and authentic Mexican food around.

Now I – and you – know how to bypass most of the traffic in L.A.! Take the Metro and catch an Uber, Lyft, or taxi to your destination.

Karen

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This week, I traveled to Portland, Oregon, because a friend of mine from the East Coast visits Portland each summer to teach a food industry business class at Portland State University. The added benefit to him is he gets to hang out in a super cool area for a couple of months. I usually only get to see him at industry events. Because it’s just a two-hour plane flight, a few weeks ago I proposed that I go up there to have dinner with him and his wife. He suggested I join him as a guest at his business class. So, it was a two-fer.

I didn’t really have any expectations of Portland, especially since I was going to be there for about 24 hours. Was I ever unexpectedly delighted!

The first thing I noticed were the greeters at the airport. These lovely people stood in the corridor as you transitioned between the arrival gates and moved toward the baggage claim. They were saying, “Welcome to Portland!” Obviously if you had a question, you could ask them. I then noticed signage as I exited the terminal: “Portland is rated Best Airport in the USA” since 2013.

As I arrived downtown at my hotel, I felt a little less stressed than usual. Everyone I had encountered seemed so pleasant and happy. And that experience continued throughout my stay.

It was a gorgeous, warm evening, so we dined outside in the courtyard of my hotel. And the next morning, as I drove around the city visiting a few grocery stores (of course I visited grocery stores!), and headed back to the airport, I found myself feeling “chilled out.”

I don’t watch much TV, so I have never seen “Portlandia,” but I am aware that Portland is a mecca of great food places, microbreweries, and lots of amazing wineries. I’ve always heard that Portland is a special place, but I didn’t expect to experience something so special during a 24-hour visit. I noticed a slower pace than L.A. and other cities. Lots of trees and greenery, and many small businesses.

Flickr_DavidWilson
Photo Credit: Flickr/David Wilson

I guess Portland just left me with a happy feeling.

What if every place you traveled to was welcoming and made you feel special…and ultimately happier?

And in the business world, what if the sole purpose of the company you worked for were to make its employees and customers happy? What would have to change? How would you have to change?

My experience in Portland actually reminded me of a recent book I read: “Delivering Happinessby Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com. (Read about my recent visit to its headquarters here.) At the end of the book, Tony writes, “Even though this book will serve as a handbook for future Zappos employees…I wanted to write this book for a different reason: to contribute to a happiness movement to help make the world a better place.”

It’s interesting how your attitude and expectations can affect your experience, whether traveling or working.

Karen

“My hope is that through his book, established businesses will look to change the way they are doing things, and entrepreneurs will be inspired to start new companies with happiness at the core of their business models…and more and more companies will start to apply some of the findings coming out of the research in the science of happiness field to make their business better and their customers and employees happier.” – Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com

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During a recent Agriculture Issues Center meeting at the University of California, Davis, (I serve on the center’s advisory board) I was fascinated with a short presentation about bees by one of the Davis ag researchers. She and her graduate student gave a short synopsis of their work and then asked for questions.

I couldn’t get my hand up fast enough. I asked what I thought was the most obvious question:

“What about colony collapse disorder? You didn’t talk about the bee shortage.”

Their answer was a bit shocking to me: “There is no shortage of bees.”

What? With all the press over the last 10 years, I really couldn’t believe what they were saying. So, after the meeting, I did some research and spoke to the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dr. Daniel A. Sumner. A highly respected researcher and spokesperson, Dan has been quoted numerous times in the Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and dozens of other publications.

Dan started by telling me that he continues to work on this issue because the news media (and even some of the scientists) have gotten the broad supply-and-demand story so mixed up. He told me the number of bees has gone up not down in the past 10 years. The cost of pollination has fallen, while demand has gone way up (with more almond acres). Demand up but price down is a sure sign that supply is now much more available than a decade ago.

I also learned that much of the supply of bees is trucked around the country to move from growing area to growing area, as most of the bee population in the U.S. is used to pollinate crops (with almonds being one of the top users). Very few are used for producing honey. During the short presentation, I learned that many bees start out in North Dakota, are trucked to California for almond pollination season, then are moved to other parts of the state and country, depending on the need for bees.

Here is a chart showing the types of crops that use bees for pollination, with the time of year and pricing.

If you’d like to know a lot more about “bee-conomics,” here is a recent article published by Dr. Sumner and the professor who spoke to us, Dr. Hyunok Lee.

So what did I learn from this experience?

Well first of all, I learned that just because something is reported in the news or is on the internet, it does not make it true. We all know that the news media is oftentimes looking for sensational stories that pull at our hearts or make our stomachs turn. I learned the importance of asking questions and doing more investigating.

I was also reminded of how interconnected and resilient agriculture is. The fact that almonds are one of the fastest growing crops in California is no secret. But all I ever heard was how much water it takes to grow almonds (the drought, water shortages, etc., have been hot news topics for years). But who knew that it takes an average of two hives per mature acre of almonds and there are now almost a million acres of mature almonds in California.

It’s good old supply-and-demand economics (which I studied in college). And that’s where the resilience comes in.

With constant talks of drought, water shortages, urban sprawl, Amazon buying Whole Foods, Walmart buying Jet.com, and McDonald’s relevance in the future, I know for sure that our industry is resilient. Farmers will always produce food. They will always find a way to fill the demand and the fact that we now enjoy a global economy just gives us more opportunities and options.

As for the bees, it was good to know that there is no bee shortage. I wonder what else isn’t true that is reported by the press?

Karen

Last weekend, I attended a cooking class conducted by my favorite longtime local chef, Alan Greeley. Alan is well known in Orange County as the chef-proprietor of The Golden Truffle restaurant in Newport Beach. Earlier this month, he announced that after 37 years, he is closing up shop in August. Turns out he is moving to Sarasota, Florida, to start a new chapter in his life. The local paper did a nice story on Chef Alan and the history of The Golden Truffle. (Alan also helped us develop our favorite recipe for our Stokes Purple Sweet Potato a few years ago.)

The first time I dined at The Golden Truffle, I noticed all the framed photos of Alan with Elton John. I learned that Alan was once invited to make dinner at a local executive’s house. He rented a giant tub, filled it with ice, and created an amazing display of fresh seafood, plus prepared some amazing dishes. Turns out the guest of honor that evening was Sir Elton John, and a lifelong friendship was born. Rumor has it that whenever Elton John is in SoCal, he has Alan deliver some of his famous curried pies, always quite popular with the British.

So, when I received an email that Chef Alan was conducting his last ever Father’s Day Barbecue Cooking Class, I signed up immediately. I got there early, walked straight to the back of the restaurant, and found Alan. After a big hug, all I could say was, “WTF?” (You have to know Alan…the “f” word is one of his favorites. He frequently peppers his conversations with it, so it was quite natural for me to say that.) He let me know that his longtime love, who worked by his side for many years, had moved to Florida, and it just wasn’t as much fun without her. So he’s moving to Florida to be with her.

When the class started, there were about 50 of us there, all longtime restaurant patrons and friends of Alan. We were all poured a lovely glass of Listel Rosé and Alan started talking. He often referenced his favorite barbecue cookbook.

He started the class by explaining the difference between barbecue and grilling. According to Alan (and I took this verbatim from his notes):

Barbecue is a whole day social event. You show up early, light the fire, start drinking, gambling, playing cards, be sure you have a case or two on ice, do more drinking, a little nooky if you can pull it off, take a small nap, shower to wash off the smoke, prep the food, have a fresh drink, and it’s time to eat.

Grilling is a 1-2-3 hour affair. Pour yourself a drink if no one does first (if you invite the right guests, they will pour it for you). Light the grill, add some asparagus, steak, fish, etc. No clean up, no hassle. Eat.

As you can tell, Alan is a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor.

I also learned a lot of helpful hints from him during the hour he spoke to us:

■ He said not to barbecue in linen or cotton clothes because you will never get the smoky smell out of them.

■ The best barbecue is a Weber because you can control the air flow. He said it’s all about air flow (with a Weber, you don’t have air leaks). He said the Big Green Egg is a Weber on steroids.

■ He told us that the reason you need to allow a whole day (and lots of alcohol) when you barbecue is that the key is not to rush it. It takes time. He laughed while recounting some of his friends calling him during a barbecue and complaining to Alan that “the food wasn’t done yet. It didn’t cook fast enough.” Alan says you cannot rush barbecue. It’s all about heat, smoke, and going slow.

■ He talked a bit about cold smoking (Scandinavian style), and how to brine meat or poultry. I learned that while adding salt to veggies (like eggplant) will leach out the liquid, when you brine meat, it actually causes it to absorb liquid, thus making it more tender.

He did tell a few barbecue jokes; here’s the only one that was G-rated:

The definition of Tennessee BBQ: Chase a pig up a hickory tree. Light the tree on fire. Have dinner.

After an hour of sharing his secrets to great barbecue and giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of his custom-built smoker (outside behind the restaurant), we all sat down for a lovely lunch of brisket, pulled pork, barbecued potato salad, smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes with dill, and peach melba for dessert. And lots of Listel Rosé.

I know I have about six more weeks before the restaurant closes and Alan drives across the country. So I’m sure I will be back a few more times to share a glass of wine with him and let him decide what I will have to eat. It was at my first meal at The Golden Truffle over 15 years ago that I experienced not ordering off a menu, letting the chef decide what was best.

If you find yourself in Orange County soon, I highly recommend a meal at The Golden Truffle. Bon appetit!

Karen

Chef Alan Greeley and me

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Like many, I had developed a regular workout routine, which involved going to my local gym, open seven days a week. With that came a regular annual or monthly fee.

The gym also offered classes (which I admit I tried on occasion), including cycling, Zumba, yoga, aerobics, etc. It also has a large variety of weight machines, free weights, racquetball courts, a steam room, etc.

And that worked great for me for many years.

Except when it stopped having an appeal for me. I started to dislike the stinky smell, the old equipment, the marginally motivated people who were in the gym, and honestly, I felt surrounded by staleness. I wanted to try something new―mix it up a bit.

A few years ago, my co-worker Bailey started talking about Orangetheory Fitness, a new workout place she’d found. Classes are one hour long, you wear a heart rate monitor, and your heart rate, along with calories burned, is displayed on multiple computer monitors on the walls. A coach guides you through a combination of high intensity cardio and weight training, while fast paced music plays. It sounded way more fun than trudging into my local gym with that awful smelly sock aroma, surrounded by a mix of other people with mixed agendas for their workout plans.

So I tried it. And, I have to admit, since I’m a pretty social person and am energized by being around younger people, it actually made it more fun for me to work out in this environment. I also found I was getting a much better workout. Plus, everyone there seemed as motivated and energetic as I was.

You may have heard of other exercise options that are now available, such as Peloton, which allows you to have a “private indoor cycling” studio in your home, and connects you to Peloton’s content and user network via Wi-Fi.

Welcome to the new economy and yet another disruptor to an existing business model.

We all know it’s important to have a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise, healthy eating choices, plenty of rest (I now strive for at least seven and a half hours of sleep a night), and reducing stress.

The great thing is that there are many options available for us to create a customized healthy lifestyle. My healthy eating choices can come from the conventional grocery store or I can subscribe to Blue Apron or Purple Carrot and feel like a gourmet cook.

And I can do my exercise in the comfort of my home with a virtual class (Peloton), or take a walk on the beach or on a hiking trail in the local mountains, or step up the intensity at a local fitness venue like Orangetheory. Or if I choose, I can stay with an older business model and join my local gym.

That’s the great thing about the new economy; there are so many options available to us. For everything we do.

For me, I chose to quit my local, conventional gym and try something new. I attend Orangetheory classes three to four times a week, am trying out a local yoga studio, and take an occasional hike in the mountains. And who knows, in a few months, I may want to change it up again. But the great thing for me is that I have broken out of my rut of the same-old, same-old and feel more inspired and energetic.

You may want to consider quitting your gym too!

Karen

P.S. Here is a photo of two of my favorite coaches from Orangetheory, Kristian and Megan.

For years, I have fantasized about learning to golf. But I never had time. So, whenever I attend a produce conference and there is a golf tournament, I always feel a little regret in that I cannot participate. Golf in business is a great way to spend quality time with others, including customers.

So this year, I decided there are a few things I want to do now that I am an empty nester. On top of that list was to see if I like golf.

I was careful to set my intention to find out if I liked golf vs. deciding to absolutely learn it.

So, a couple of months ago, I was at breakfast with a produce friend and I casually mentioned that this year I wanted to see if I liked golf. He immediately told me that we have a mutual friend, who recently retired from the produce industry and is a great golfer. As a sideline, he is teaching golf! He shared his contact information with me.

Shortly afterward, I was on a business trip and had the opportunity to play nine holes with a few colleagues. Turns out, I can hit the ball (apparently, that is not always normal during your first-ever round). And, as luck would have it, one of my co-workers had a brand-new set of golf clubs his wife had never used, and he gladly gifted them to me.

So, I was set. I had a set of clubs. An instructor. All I had to do was buy a golf glove!

I’m not very far into learning golf: I’ve had a couple of lessons and hit about 500 balls at the driving range.

But my biggest learning thus far is that there are many parallels between golf and work:

Golf Clears Your Head 

Golf is time-consuming. It can take 5 to 6 hours for a full round. While some people complain that golf takes too much time, I see these hours as a time to myself to get away from the daily grind. Sometimes you need to step away from your work to clear your head. That “white space” of not thinking about work helps us be more focused when we return to our desks.

Concentrate on the Game

Just like in business, whether you are in sales, finance, operations, or marketing, when you are working you need to not be distracted by non-business things or it affects your performance. You must leave your personal issues at the door. When you are getting ready to hit the ball, you cannot be thinking about anything else but the game at hand.

Get a Grip

Literally! During my first two lessons, my instructor spent a lot of time reiterating how important it is to correctly grip the club. Not too tight. Hands in the correct position. In business, do we have the right tools and are we using them correctly? Or do we take shortcuts? Do we prepare for meetings in the same disciplined manner each time, or do we rush through (because we’ve done it many times before)?

Find a Coach

I knew when I wanted to learn golf that I needed a good teacher. I interviewed a few people, and price was not the deciding factor. I wanted someone with experience, who was patient and had a track record of coaching other players. All great athletes have a coach. Just because they have won or have a lot of experience, that doesn’t stop them from hiring the best coach possible. It should be the same in business. I recently hired a business coach to help me be a better CEO. Having a coach helps (especially if you are open to brutally honest feedback).

Practice Really Does Make Perfect

I guess this is kind of obvious in golf. Practice, practice, practice! But how many of us practice at work? If we are in sales, is the first time we give a presentation in front of the customer? Or do we practice ahead of time? It doesn’t really make sense to practice on the customer, does it?

As I continue my golf journey, I’ve noticed that I get frustrated with my performance sometimes. And it’s usually because I am not concentrating on my game. Or I was not visualizing what I want to happen. Or I got distracted by something around me.

And I sometimes get frustrated at work. It’s usually because I am not concentrating. Or I am not visualizing what I want to happen. Or I get distracted by something around me.

I’ve decided I do like golf. And the lessons I’ve learned are some that I did not expect.

Karen

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen Caplan Golifing
Here is me golfing on a recent business trip.

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Last week I was fortunate to spend time in Stockholm, Sweden. I was attending a global conference of women leaders from around the world.

Although it was not possible to meet all 650 women personally (although I did my best), I did have a chance to interact with many of them. Several sessions updated us on Africa, the United Nations, Populism vs. Nationalism, and much more, but the most interesting session for me was on unicorns.

In addition to being a mythical animal, I learned that the term “unicorn business” refers to start-ups with a value of more than US $1 billion. When Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee coined the term as a label for such corporate creatures in a November 2013 TechCrunch blog post, just 39 of the past decade’s venture capitalist-backed U.S. software start-ups had topped the $1 billion valuation mark. Now, Fortune counts more than 80 start-ups that have been valued at $1 billion or more by VCs.

The unicorn session was a panel made up of four CEOs of start-up organizations in Sweden. So the first discussion item was answering the question: Why are there so many tech start-ups in Sweden?

Sweden is second only to the Silicon Valley with innovation per capita (and more unicorn companies per capita) than any place in the world. The panelists talked about a few factors influencing this phenomenon:

It kind of makes you want to move to Sweden, right? Well, one of the downsides to Sweden is its location: there’s a lot of darkness when it’s not summer (in winter, some days only have six hours of light). This might be one cause of Swedes’ high depression rate.

One of the panelists talked about the Swedish Startup Manifesto she had written with a dozen other entrepreneurs, which was quite intriguing.

So, why did I find this panel so interesting? Because I know that the future of business, of invention, of innovation—or survival—will be due to new thinking. Twenty-five years ago, who would have thought that today’s innovation in the automobile industry would be driverless or electric cars? Or the impact on adjacent industries? Driverless cars will have a significant impact on the auto insurance business; electric cars will affect the oil industry and the power concentrated in OPEC.

In my business, most retailers (who currently control about 50 percent of all food purchases) probably thought the future of food would be to build better, bigger (or smaller) supermarkets. And build more of them.

Enter Amazon. Blue Apron. Farmers markets. Grubhub. Soylent.

Think about it. What are you doing to explore what the future holds? Maybe a trip to Sweden is in your future.

Karen

P.S. Here are some examples of a few of the amazing women who attended the conference in Stockholm:

One of the speakers at our daylong business conference in Omaha last week did not talk about corporations or investments. He talked about high performance, stress management, better eating choices, and getting a good night’s sleep.

Actually, when Andrew Herr got up in front of the room, I thought he resembled Christopher Reeve, aka Superman and Clark Kent.

Little did I know that the results of his research about high performance and stress management could indeed allow people to increase their personal performance to a Superman-like level. You can read about his work in Wired magazine and Ivy Magazine. As you’ll see, he’s a pretty remarkable guy—especially since he is only 33!

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Andrew Herr_Helicase

But what piqued my interest most was his discussion of the blue light effect on our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Andrew said it’s the blue light from the sky (after the sun comes up), which actually causes us to know it’s time to wake up. So when the sun goes down, it is only natural (with the absence of blue light) that we start to think about going to sleep. But since the advent of smart phones and our tendency to check them almost continuously, they may cause difficulty in falling asleep and having a restful night’s sleep.

Enter: Orange-tinted glasses.

Frieda's Specialty Produce -What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Orange Glasses

 

Andrew told our group that these $10 plastic glasses, if worn for a period of time before going to bed, actually block out the blue light (from regular light bulbs in our houses and from our smart phones and computer screens), thus signaling to our brains that it’s time to wind down.

The way he explained it to me was:

“Blue light, which comes from our overhead lights, phones, TVs, etc., tells our body to stay awake. We have special receptors in our eyes that our body uses to tune our circadian rhythm, our day/night clock, and blue light activates these to prevent melatonin production.

“Melatonin is a natural hormone that tells our brain it’s time to go to sleep. It may also have other benefits as an anti-inflammatory compound. So, when you wear the orange glasses, it blocks the blue light. Then your body starts producing melatonin naturally, and you fall asleep more easily and sleep better. Because we start to get drowsy naturally from the melatonin, hopefully this also prevents us from playing on our phones too long and keeping our brains alert and expectant too late, which also can disrupt sleep. So, overall, wearing the orange glasses for 90 minutes (at least 60, or you can wear them for a couple hours also) before you go to sleep should make falling asleep easier and the sleep more restful.”

I did a little research online when I got home and found an article in Popular Science magazine sharing the experiment done by a neuroscientist. I found it fascinating.

So, if you’re one of those people who has a hard time falling asleep at night or you wake up in the morning not feeling very rested, you may want to order a pair of these orange-tinted glasses and try them for yourself. (I found a wide range of orange-tinted glasses on Amazon. Search for “blue blocking glasses.”)

Andrew was kind enough to give me a pair before we left Omaha, and I have been wearing them every night since I got home. Funny thing, I have been waking up before my alarm goes off, feeling very rested each day. Not sure if it’s the effects of the glasses or that my body is so happy to be home, sleeping in my own bed.

If you try them out, be sure to let me know how they work for you!

Karen

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I spent last weekend in Omaha, Nebraska. That is, of course, the home of Berkshire Hathaway, the company that Warren Buffett (and Charlie Munger) are famous for. I am not a shareholder, but was fortunate to be invited to attend its annual shareholders’ meeting, always held in early May.

Advice I often give is: “Ask for what you want.” Well, while attending an agribusiness seminar a few months ago, I overheard a friend of mine talking about attending the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting last year. He mentioned that he was invited to attend by our mutual friend, Ejnar (pronounced eye-nar).

That sounded like something really interesting to do. So, at dinner that evening, I arranged to be seated next to Ejnar. And I asked for what I wanted. I half-jokingly said, “I’d like to come to Omaha.” And he, in all seriousness, said, “You are invited! And bring your daughter Alex.” Ejnar owns a private investment firm, and each year invites about 100 business colleagues to Omaha for a day of business presentations and the following day, they all attend the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting. He encourages people to bring their children, so they can start to learn, at an early age, about investing and business.

So last weekend, Alex and I flew to Omaha and spent the first day with 100 total strangers from the dairy, grain, and indoor farming industries, plus many financial advisors and investors and more. Two people traveled all the way from Oman (in the Middle East), just to join this meeting. And several attendees came from Europe and Australia, too.

On Saturday morning, we were all up at 6, so we could be at the Century Link Arena when the doors opened at 7. We lined up, along with 40,000 shareholders. It was kind of crazy! We were lucky to get seats in the stadium. You can see from this photo that we’re in the “nosebleed” seats.

Frieda's Specialty Produce_BerkshireHathawayMeeting

What is so unique about this annual meeting is that Warren Buffett, age 86 (on the left), and Charlie Munger, age 93, sit on the stage and answer questions from the audience from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with an hour break for lunch). They do not know the questions in advance and the questions are from regular folks.

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(In case you’re wondering, the box of See’s Candies’ peanut brittle is on the table for two reasons: They own See’s Candies and it is Charlie Munger’s favorite, so he munches on it during the entire meeting.)

You can read the transcript of the annual Berkshire Hathaway (B-H) meeting, but these were some of the high points for me:

  1. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young people (under 20) were in the audience. I met a 24-year-old who attended his first B-H meeting when he was 10! It made me realize that it is never too early to start talking about financial investment decisions and business with your children. And when one of the young folks asked Warren and Charlie a question, they were treated with the same seriousness as those asked by older adults.
  2. Warren admitted that he is not a tech guy and that he really missed out on many tech stocks, like Amazon. B-H only invests in companies and industries that they understand. It was pretty amazing to hear their honest and authentic answers about their misses. (I don’t think Warren missed much, as his net worth, over $73 billion, is more than Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s).
  3. They talked about how important culture is in a business they invest in. That’s why they spend so much time studying businesses before they buy an interest. I’ve heard they may only make one new investment a year.
  4. They have a lot of cash on hand (over $90 billion right now). That tells me they are patient, thorough, and in no rush to invest if they don’t feel ready. How many of us could learn from that?
  5. When talking about their investment strategy, Charlie said, “Remember, the first rule of fishing is to fish where the fish are. The second rule of fishing is to never forget the first rule.”
  6. Berkshire Hathaway never misses an opportunity to promote the companies it owns. In the lower level of the arena, a giant trade show displayed products from many B-H companies. You could buy See’s candy (which I did), Fruit of the Loom underwear (with B-H logos), and stickers from Oriental Trading Company, plus get SWAG from Coca-Cola (B-H owns 9.4 percent of the Coca Cola Company, or 400,000,000 shares). No opportunity was missed to highlight their holdings.

Overall, it was a mind-expanding weekend and I hope to be invited back next year. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock are $245,000 per share (they have never done a stock split). I was happy to know they have Class B (non-voting) stock that goes for about $160 per share. I think that’s the only way I’m ever going to be a shareholder.

Karen-Caplan_Warren-Buffett

Here I am at the Coca-Cola booth with “Warren Buffett.”

Karen

P.S. Here are the 9 best Warren Buffett quotes from the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, from Fortune.

I’m a foodie! (Gee, no surprise there.) My exposure to innovative chefs has been mostly from dining at restaurants, watching them on TV (think “Chopped,” “Top Chef,” etc.), and seeing them at food events. So I was excited to learn about two different approaches to getting that awesome chef-food experience.

The first came to me in an unusual way. I was interviewing Darlene, a potential employee, whom we have since hired. As I was reviewing her resume, I noticed she spent most of the last year working for Outstanding in the Field. So I asked her about that.

Darlene told me that Jim Denevan and his food-loving group of friends started out at a vegetable farm near Santa Cruz, California, offering a dinner made with only local ingredients. That was in 1999.

In the last 18 years, Jim’s company and his farm-to-table dinners—always held right on a farm—have expanded so they are now held across North America, and even in France, Argentina, and Japan. Outstanding in the Field puts on 87 events each year and every single farm dinner is sold out in advance!