Lately I’ve noticed at the end of some days, or after a long weekend, that I don’t feel like I accomplished anything. Do you ever get that feeling?

In the past, I’ve been pretty diligent about making a “things to do” list for work. But lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten a bit lazy. I used to start my week by writing a list of my biggest projects or important meetings to accomplish for the week, crossing items off my list as I complete them, and adding more as the week goes on. I number my list, as I love to see a long list of things to do and get great pleasure in crossing things off. It actually gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

And, over the years, I’ve used this same technique in my personal life, making “things to do” lists each Saturday morning to make sure I don’t forget any of those errands and projects I need to complete on the weekend. But after this past weekend, I had to ask myself, why do I feel so draggy? I’ve stopped making my weekend list and keep forgetting to do things, like pick up my prescription at the pharmacy.

Why is this happening to me?

Well, as it turns out, I am not the only one experiencing this. In this Forbes article my feelings were confirmed that the pandemic has created a new kind of burnout. As I read this article about the ebb and flow of peoples’ motivation and productivity during the last 18 months—including leaders and executives like myself—I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The yo-yo effect of good news followed by bad news has worn me down. And being worn down has caused me not to follow my standard practice of making a list of things to do, and it has also caused me to be more tired than usual each evening. I have noticed that I am looking toward the bedroom closer to 8:30 p.m. each evening and getting at least 8 hours of sleep is the norm now.

And even my daily practice of exercise, whether it is a long run at the beach, rowing, or taking a class on the Peloton, has lost some of its appeal.

But frankly, reading that others are experiencing this made me feel better. It’s not just me.

Once I recognized that I have an issue and labeled it (burnout), I suddenly feel like I can overcome it.

How about you?  Have you been struggling with work-life balance? By the way, it is now referred to as work-life engagement. There is no magic formula, or percentage that makes our work lives and personal lives perfectly balanced. It changes daily, weekly and sometimes based on our age or stage in life.

We thrive and are at our best when we have a sense of engagement in both our professional and personal lives. And for me, having a balance of busy time and free time in both areas of my life makes me a happier person.

At work, I’ve started the practice of limiting my meetings. When I look at my daily outlook calendar, I make sure my meetings are not stacked. Having at least 30 minutes between meetings, and not having too many pre-scheduled meetings allows me thinking and breathing time. In fact, at my company I’ve encouraged my management team to un-invite themselves to all meetings which they don’t feel will be productive or could be handled by an email memo.

In my personal life, I’ve resurrected making my “things to do” list so things get done vs. lingering as “oh, I forgot to do that” items. I’ve also started to schedule fun things on the calendar in advance, so I am not just hanging out or vegging over the weekend. I’m adding exercise time to my daily “things to do list,” as I know that the endorphins I get from exercise lift my spirit and give me more energy.

Are you in denial about how you are feeling? Do you find yourself a little crabbier with your family or co-workers? Do you end some days saying to yourself “I don’t feel like I accomplished anything today” and feel like you have been in a fog?

Maybe it’s time to hit the reset button. Is it time for a day off, a short vacation, or some quiet time? Is it time to make a list of everything you want to do, whether that includes projects at home or work, or is it time to plan a vacation or call your best friend?

I hope you’re like me. Once you think about the issue, you can make a list, take time to think about it, and make a decision to do something different. All this actually reminds me of one of my favorite books:  The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. And while you’re at it, check out her newest book, which was just published this week: The High 5 Habit.

You can do it!

Karen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think all of us remember the horrific news on January 26, 2020—when famed NBA star Kobe Bryant’s helicopter went down with him, his daughter and seven other friends, all of whom perished.

But what I wasn’t aware of was what a great thought leader he had developed into.

As we age, we get smarter. We mature, we learn and we evolve. Kobe was 41 when he died, but many say he had the wisdom of someone much older.

Just this week, I was completing another audio book (# 70 so far this year) titled Make Your Next Shot Your Best Shot by famed sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella. This book is about the secret to playing great golf. I now have about 14 months of playing golf weekly under my belt, so when this book popped up on my suggested reading list, I thought the timing was perfect.

What I’ve learned from the book is that golf is a mental game. It’s a game of attitude (much more so than just a physical game). And as I was nearing the end of the book this morning on my drive to work, Rotella read through Kobe’s 10 rules:

I believe that Kobe’s 10 rules apply not just to basketball, or sports, but to every part of our lives.

Think about it!

Karen

How have you been feeling the last week or so? Maybe you felt lost, sick, confused, or angry (I actually felt a bit off on Sunday and couldn’t figure out why). Did you have to deal with lost or delayed shipments, broken appliances or did your internet crash? How about the fact that Facebook went down a few days ago, inexplicably?

After the Facebook crash, my immediate thought was, “Mercury is in retrograde.” In case you aren’t aware, several times a year, as you gaze up into the sky, the planet Mercury will look as if it is moving backwards. That is called “retrograde.” In my family, we actually mark the calendar when this is going to happen, as “fair warning.”  We even have a family group text and compare notes when stuff starts to go wrong.

Last week, my partner Jack sent us this text:

“Mercury. I’m now a believer. When will it go away? I’m near losing it.

Printer. Failed.

Phone.  Failed.

Computer. Failed.

Credit Card. Failed. WTF???”

Well, according to famed astrologer Gahl Sasson, not only was Mercury retro starting September 27, but a few other planets and such joined in: Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Chiron and Minerva are also retrograding right now. “This is heavy on our bodies, minds and souls. So take it easy, lots of misunderstandings and issues in relationships and anything in your life that serves as your mirror.” Thankfully, these periods only last about three weeks, and Mercury will move out of retrograde on October 17.

I even found an article on CNN Underscored (online) sharing advice on “Everything you need to keep calm this Mercury retrograde.” You can read the entire article here.

Since Mercury is the planet of communication, anything to do with communication or electronics is always a bit “off” during the retrograde. So, I guess it should not be a surprise that my new assistant Johnny lost his phone on a hike this past weekend (both electronics and communication)?

Please feel free to do your own research, but here is a partial list of what not to do during Mercury retrograde. Don’t:

Thankfully, this is the third and final time for Mercury to go retrograde in 2021. We get a break from October 17 until the next retrograde period starting January 14–February 3, 2022.  For more information on the goings on in 2022, check out this article.

I realize that some people do not believe in astrology or horoscopes and have no idea what sign they are (I am a Libra, thank you very much), and that all this is crazy talk. However, now that you are aware of Mercury, you may want to pay attention to what happens in your life during these mercury retrograde periods. It’s a little nuts!

Karen

If I said the name Warren Buffett to you, I’m 100% positive that you would know that Buffett is the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and currently is in the Top 6 richest people in the world (current net worth of more than $100 billion).

But if I mentioned the name Charlie Munger, chances are you might not recognize his name. However, he is the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, and Warren Buffett considers Munger his closest partner and right-hand man.

Both Warren and Charlie grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and although they went their separate ways after leaving their hometown, they eventually reconnected and the rest, as they say, is legendary history.

Several years ago I was invited to the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting, which is held the first Saturday of May each year at the Omaha convention center. I am not a shareholder, but I am connected with an agricultural business colleague who holds a two-day roundtable the day before, and with the attendance comes admittance to the Annual Shareholders Meeting. It was an exhilarating experience both times I’ve attended.

Berkshire Hathaway owns many companies, including See’s Candies, Geico auto insurance, NetJets, Benjamin Moore & Co. paints, Duracell and Fruit of the Loom (for a complete list of subsidiaries, click Here). Unlike many investment firms, Berkshire Hathaway likes to invest and hold. (By the way, during the annual meeting, the basement of the Omaha convention center is like a mini-convention where all of the Berkshire Hathaway companies have booths set up selling their products. Many of them have annual meeting dates and images on their items. When I was there, I bought running shoes and socks with Charlie’s and Warren’s images on each pair!)

Because I have attended two of their annual meetings, when The Tao of Charlie Munger appeared on my Audible suggested book list, I downloaded it. At 1.6X speed, the book was a mere 2.5 hours. It has more than 130 great quotes from Charlie with commentary explaining his investment philosophy. And with my curiosity aroused after I finished it, I then decided to download a book about Warren Buffet, titled Warren Buffett’s Ground Rules.  I figured if two ordinary guys from Omaha, Nebraska, could create one of the most long-term successful stocks—currently trading at $423,706 per share (the most expensive publicly traded stock)—there probably were a few things I could glean from reading about them.

Anything you want to know about Berkshire Hathaway and Buffett and Munger is easily accessible with a simple Google search. There are people in both camps—those who love and admire them, and those who criticize them. What I learned from their two books was the importance of integrity in business; I admired greatly Warren’s transparent communication to his shareholders in his annual letter to them (which he personally writes). That idea confirms what I have been doing for years—having open dialogue with all employees monthly or quarterly, updating them on how our company is doing.

I also learned that neither of these gentlemen lead flashy lives. Buffett still lives in Omaha, and when I was visiting my cousins who live there too, they were very nonchalant about how they regularly run into Buffett in the neighborhood. He does not live in a big mansion nor does he drive a fancy car.

Munger made Pasadena, California, his home and I had the great fortune of meeting him in person two years ago. As it turns out, we have mutual friends, and to make a long story short, I ended up spending July 4, 2019, on Charlie Munger’s boat!

Talk about humble and engaging, it was such a delight to meet Charlie two years ago. He was born on January 1, 1924, and maintains all his dry wit and humor and is now 97. When I met him (he was 95), I worked hard to think of something original to say when we were introduced. So, I decided to tell him that we had something in common. You see, during the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Warren and Charlie sit at a long table up on a stage, in the Omaha convention center filled to the brim with 40,000 shareholders, taking unscripted questions from the audience for the better part of four hours. While they sit there answering questions, they sip on their Diet Coke (they own a chunk of the Coca-Cola Company) and Charlie munches on his favorite See’s candy: Peanut Brittle. And that’s my favorite See’s candy too!

Unlike other billionaires, neither seem self-absorbed and they both seem to shun publicity. They are just “regular guys.” Well, as regular as you can be with a net worth in the billions!

I admit, I learned a lot by reading about the “Oracle of Omaha” and his sidekick. My biggest business takeaway from reading about them was the importance of having a long view of business. With publicly traded companies, most CEOs are driven for short-term predictable performance, which they report in their quarterly earnings. They worry about the share price quarter to quarter. Buffett made it clear that he only invests in businesses he understands well (which, he explained, is why he skipped investing in dotcoms). He takes the highs and lows of his investing performance the same way all shareholders do. He does not take a large salary for himself. I wonder what would happen if more company CEOs took the long view.

Karen and Charlie Munger
Me and Charlie Munger

 

Karen and Warren Buffett
Me and Warren Buffett

Karen

 

Owls are such interesting animals. When I did a little research, I found out that owls represent wisdom, knowledge, change, transformation, intuitive development, and they are associated with trusting the mystery. They are tied to the spiritual symbolism of death, which brings about new beginnings with a higher understanding and evolved perspective. Owls can show up when you are being asked to listen to your intuition.

Funny thing is, my youngest daughter Sophia (whose name means “wisdom”) has always loved owls. When we went to Auckland, New Zealand, together three years ago, we found owl statues all over the city.

 

(My daughter Sophia posing with some of the owl statues we found in our visit to Auckland, NZ)

However, this is not the kind of owl I want to talk about. I want to talk about The Meeting Owl. 

In the last 18 months, our staff has become used to meeting via Zoom, when we were all working from our home offices. Now many of us are in hybrid mode. During a group meeting, some of the team may be in the office, while others may be remote in separate locations. (Frankly, it has gotten a little weird to continue having meetings via Zoom when all but one person is in the office.)

Enter, “The Meeting Owl.”

I was introduced to the Meeting Owl by a professional speaker who experienced the technology firsthand when speaking to a small group. Some of the attendees were in a room together and others were remote. The Meeting Owl sits in the center of your meeting table and offers much better sound quality than a laptop, plus it offers the benefit of multiple camera images captured from around the room. The guest speaker said it was great to be able to see everyone individually while he was presenting!

So, picture this: I am holding a team meeting in my corporate office conference room and five of us are sitting around the table. Three of our team members are remote from their local home offices. We want to share a PowerPoint presentation or spreadsheets to have a discussion during our meeting. Before, we would all have had to be at our desk on Zoom – meaning we missed the dynamics of sitting around a conference room table together.

Now with the Owl, we see all the remote people on the screen, and each remote person sees individual images of those of us sitting around the conference room table. When we speak, the owl naturally zooms into the image of the speaker and projects it separately on the share screen. And the sound quality is fantastic!

So, if you are experiencing Zoom fatigue with your team meetings and have a hybrid work environment,  check out the Owl. It’s a brilliant invention!

Karen

If you follow me at all on social media, then you know that my life partner, Jack Daly, has had a few health challenges lately. And those health challenges have allowed us to see firsthand, up close and personal, the effect of a doctor’s bedside manner.

While we were in Miami a few weeks ago, Jack started to have terrible, wrenching pain in his lower back. So bad that he could not lay down to sleep. So, at 4:00am in the morning, he woke me up and asked me to take him to the emergency room in Miami. Fortunately, Mercy Hospital was only a couple of miles away and when we arrived, there were only two or three other patients in the emergency room. I commented to the nurses that it seemed so quiet – all they did was smile and said it was quite a contrast to months before at the peak of COVID.

Dr. Salinas was the doctor on duty. After monitoring Jack, and assessing his pain, they ended up having to give him morphine. They did a CAT scan, to rule out a kidney stone. Just as we thought Jack was going to get discharged, Dr. Salinas walked back into the room and said, “I am concerned and saw something that doesn’t look right, and I want to run another test. If you were a member of my family, this is what I would do.”  I was stunned. And then Jack commented, “That makes perfect sense to me since it is in alignment with what you have written on the wall!” Jack was referring to their mission statement which was posted on the wall of each patient room:

Our Patient Promise: We are committed to excellence always in every action, every patient, every time. We treat you like you are family.

It’s one thing to have a mission statement, but it’s another to embrace it. And Dr. Salinas’ personal care and concern that morning was amazing to watch. Admittedly, because it was a quiet morning in the E.R., we probably got a bit more attention, but it was refreshing to experience a doctor who was not rushed and demonstrated genuine care and concern.

(By the way, Jack’s back is fine.  All three doctors he saw in the following weeks said he was probably exercising too much! Jack is a 15-time Ironman and is preparing to run Marathon #100 in Athens, Greece this December, so there is no stopping his training schedule).

Jack’s current health challenge is the recurrence of Melanoma (skin cancer). Last year he had a growth removed from the top of his head and has been all clear since then. But about 6 weeks ago he found a lump on his neck. So back to the cancer surgeon and lots of tests. The melanoma has NOT spread and was completely contained in his lymph node. So he was referred to an Oncologist who would be treating him with the miracle drug, Keytruda, for a year.

I decided to go with Jack to his first appointment with the Oncologist, as I had many questions. Of course, the waiting two weeks for the appointment was quite stressful for both of us.

As we waited in the patient room, a person with a white coat came in. She seemed quite shy, kept her eyes down, and never made eye contact with us. She did not introduce herself, but did mention she was there to do a pre-exam before the Oncologist came in. Frankly, her introverted manner did not give us a lot of confidence. That’s when I noticed that she wasn’t Dr. Valerin (the Oncologist we were there to see). Turns out she was a resident who was doing her residency under Dr. Valerin’s direction. The resident left the room as quickly and quietly as she entered.

A few minutes later Dr. Valerin came in. She greeted Jack, shook his hand, made eye contact, and smiled. She was positive, energetic and emphasized the positivity of the treatment plan. She let Jack know that she had collaborated with Jack’s surgeon just a few minutes earlier and explained in detail what the treatment plan was. Due to Jack’s busy travel schedule, I watched the two of them negotiate the frequency of his treatments. She was flexible (moving the infusion treatments from every 3 weeks, to every 6 weeks), but realistically detailed potential side effects.

And then she asked if we had any questions. Of course, I had about a dozen questions, which she patiently answered. Just before she was getting ready to leave the room, I had to comment.

I said, “Dr. Valerin, your approach was so different from the doctor that came in earlier. I’m so glad you are the one treating Jack.”  She said, “Well, that was a resident and I would love your feedback as we train doctor’s here, and the only way we can make them world-class doctors is to give them feedback.” So, Jack and I shared our observations and she was most appreciative.

And that’s when I realized – we had witnessed the difference a doctors’ bedside manner can make. Dr. Salinas and Dr. Valerin both took a personal interest in their patient, made eye contact, and conversed with Jack so the assessment and treatment plan were well explained. I watched how Jack relaxed and had 100% confidence in his treatment plan, partially due to the way the doctor approached him.

Have you noticed this when you visit a doctor, go to the emergency room or have a procedure? When the doctor and nursing team take a personal interest in your well-being, and communicate openly and thoroughly, how you instantly feel better and your blood pressure goes down? Perhaps medical schools all over will start teaching classes on interpersonal communication and a link will be discovered linking kindness and care with faster recovery.

And that made me reflect on how I interact and how my team here at Frieda’s interacts with others. For example, one of our employees had a recurring payroll issue this week. As I watched the emails go back and forth, I decided to go talk with the employee in person. I looked her straight in the eye, apologized for the issues she was experiencing, and assured her it would be resolved. But I did ask her for her patience….and trust. She looked me back directly in the eye and said, “I trust you.”

And how about with customers and business associates? Do we sometimes avoid the big objections and concerns vs. acknowledging them directly? Are we so concerned with hearing ourselves talk, or defending our position, that we don’t really listen for the real pain point? I think if more of us paid attention to our own “bedside” manner, that we would have better working relationships, faster solutions, and less stress.

By the way, in case you are wondering, after Jack’s first infusion of Keytruda, we joked that it must be like kryptonite! It seems that Jack is back to his “superman” self and has started training for his upcoming three marathons. Dr. Valerin could not find the lump on his neck. We figure his positive attitude is already curing him.

Yes, a doctor’s bedside manner can make a difference!

Karen

Three years ago, I was attending a board meeting of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. I have been a member of this board for more than 20 years and have enjoyed having input on the kind of published research that is done at the university on the challenges facing California agriculture. The meeting was at U.C. Davis, which meant I flew from Long Beach to Sacramento for the day to attend the meeting. As per usual, about 15 of us (a mix of businesspeople, university staff and researchers) sat around a large conference table reviewing research and brainstorming.

As we went around the table introducing ourselves, I noticed a young female student seated three chairs from me. When she introduced herself, I quickly logged on to LinkedIn to find out more about her background. Like many students, her name on LinkedIn (Alexandra) was not the name she used regularly (Allie), so during the break I took the opportunity to mention that she should update her LinkedIn profile so people could easily find her. That’s when I found out that Allie was graduating that year with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. Her home was in Southern California and she did not yet have a post-graduation job or internship scheduled for the summer.

Allie was impressive as she presented to our group, so I immediately texted my sister Jackie that I thought I’d found the operations summer intern we were looking for! Of course Allie didn’t know any of this, but during our lunch break, I cozied up to her at the table and asked her if she would like to visit our offices when she went home after graduation.

To make a long story short, even though I was on vacation when she came to visit, Allie came for a tour of Frieda’s. My sister offered her an internship for the summer and Allie accepted. When the three-month internship was completed, we offered Allie a full-time position at Frieda’s as our Product Growth Coordinator in the Planning Department.

Fast forward from 2018 to 2021, Allie is now an Associate Produce Buyer for us, married to her college sweetheart last month, and they spent two weeks vacationing in Costa Rica. When she got back from her honeymoon and was back at work, the first thing she did was send me an email suggesting a book to add to my reading list. Apparently one of her friends gifted her the book “Brave, Not Perfect” by Reshma Saujani, founder of the organization, Girls Who Code.

Allie told me that she read the book during her trip and wanted to get my impressions.

I finished the book earlier this week, as always listening to it via Audible. It was especially meaningful as Reshma, the author, narrated the book herself. I came to work today and asked Allie about how she was introduced to the book and what her impressions of it were. We had a fantastic conversation about the challenges many young women face in their careers and personal lives — trying to be the “perfect” version of themselves. What I got from the book was great advice about why it’s OK to be brave, OK to fail, OK to mope around after failure, plus the importance of picking yourself up and moving forward. None of us is perfect and there is no need to be perfect. It’s all a journey, our own personal journey.

So, thank you, Allie, for being brave enough to give me a book recommendation. Thank you for being open to doing an internship at Frieda’s in operations after receiving the Most Outstanding Senior Award when you graduated. I’m sure there were many companies standing in line to offer you a job.

We are all so proud of Allie, as this past year, she participated in an industry apprenticeship program (sponsored by the local Fresh Produce & Floral Council), doing the entire 12-month program virtually due to the pandemic. It was not a surprise that Allie was selected by the other 11 members of her apprenticeship cohort to be the graduation speaker, making all of us proud during their virtual graduation.

Allie proudly holding her FPFC Award
Allie with FPFC Award in Recognition of her successful completion of the 2020 Apprentice Program

 

Allie and her husband Danny in Costa Rica, Playa de Guinoes

And many thanks to her U.C. Davis college mentor, Dr. Dan Sumner (a world-renowned agricultural economist), who whispered to me at that 2018 board meeting: “She is the best student project manager I’ve ever had! You should snap her up!”

Have a great 4th of July holiday weekend — celebrating our freedom and independence!

Karen

Sometimes we have news . . . bad news . . . that we want to keep a secret. You know what I mean—we don’t want to share bad or sad news with others because it would make us feel like a burden to them.

Has that ever happened to you? Maybe you lost your job, maybe you ended a relationship, or had a health issue and you kept it to yourself.

I know this has happened to me multiple times in my life. Something bad is going on in my personal life and I feel like it would be a burden to share, or maybe I think it’s not important to others, so I don’t tell anyone. Worse yet, I worry that I would give the impression of being a failure, or fear that people will judge me for not being perfect, so I keep things to myself.

Someone told me many years ago: When you keep bad news to yourself, it weighs heavily on YOU and only you … it causes internal stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, etc. But, if you speak it out loud by telling others, then you have “shared” the bad news, so it is not resting only on your shoulders.

That has been a conversation I have had with myself many times in my life. I had something on my mind, or a situation came up, and I felt the best strategy was to keep it to myself. I figured I could solve it by myself, if I thought about it long enough. But oftentimes it would turn into a downward spiral of worry and anxiety. And remember, I didn’t want to be a burden.

Soon I would reflect back on the above advice I received … and I would eventually decide to talk about it with someone else. For me, there are a few people I can turn to—first and foremost is my family. As you know, my sister Jackie and I are business partners, and we see each other every day at work. So she is the most accessible person to me. We are quite different in personality and work styles, so I have found her perspective to be balanced, positive and supportive. Never judgmental. Of course, when my mother Frieda was alive, I would often turn to her. Being able to tell your mother things always seems to be comforting. Additionally, I am lucky that my two daughters and I are so close, and even though I am technically their parent, now that they are adults, they are two of my closest friends and confidants. And then there is my partner, Jack, and my close posse of girlfriends.

What about you?

Are you keeping something a secret? Are you hoping the issue will “go away” if you ignore it? Are you afraid to share the news with friends or family because you don’t want to be a burden, or because you don’t think it’s important to others?

It’s okay to admit that you’re holding back. But consider this: by telling a friend, a family member, or even a therapist your problem, you are allowing others to help and support you, and you have the opportunity for a different perspective or solution to the issue.

It’s hard to get help without asking for it. Oftentimes it takes a little extra vulnerability. But our friends and family cannot help us unless we are willing to share our thoughts and our deepest fears.

Personally, I can say that this is one of life’s most important lessons. Allow others to support you.

Karen

Do you remember when you were first learning to print or write as a youngster and your parents made you handwrite thank-you notes? I sure do. Especially after my bat mitzvah (at age 13), I recall having to handwrite dozens of thank-you notes, mostly to my parents’ friends, who had generously gifted something to me. Then when there was a wedding shower, and baby showers, there seemed like hundreds of thank-you notes to write.

Especially when I was in my teens, it felt as if it was a burden to write the notes, and I recall going through the motions of writing the same message: “Dear Person, Thank you for the lovely gift you gave me. I will use it.”

When my two daughters were growing up, I taught them that showing sincere gratitude by writing thank-you notes in a timely fashion was proper etiquette. They humored me by writing them, and oftentimes I sat with them while they wrote the notes, as a means of showing support for the tedious task.

Fast forward to now. I am the gift giver. Seems like all my family’s and friends’ kids are having lifecycle events—showers, weddings and babies. It’s easy to know what to give as a gift, as there are now multiple websites to facilitate registering for what you want.

In a time when sending a gift is a “click” away, it is rare that you go in person to make a purchase, wrap the gift yourself, and hand-deliver it to the recipient and get to see the look on their face when they open the gift. So, I have found that those handwritten thank-you notes have more meaning to me.

In fact, I admit I get a little edgy when I don’t receive a thank-you note in a timely manner. During the last year, I have noticed that a few of the people I have sent gifts to either took an extraordinary amount of time to send a thank-you note, or didn’t send one at all. When I noticed myself getting uptight about not getting a note, I really had to ask myself—was receiving acknowledgement really that important? I realized that since I could not give the gift in person, I actually wondered if they got it. Once I knew it was received, then I found myself wondering about the person’s manners.

Were they taught, like my kids were, that writing thank-you notes was expected? Did they ever think of what it was like from the perspective of the gift giver to wonder if their gift was received and/or appreciated?

That’s when I decided just to let those feelings go. I desire to be that person that gives a gift because it makes ME feel good, and because I want to “make someone’s day” with a special, useful or wanted gift. I am not giving a gift with the expectation of getting a thank-you note.

That has made it much more fun for me to gift to people.

On the flip side, I have decided that one of the “gifts” I can give, is to write notes to family and friends. Many times these notes or cards are unexpected. They are not for any reason, other than to show my personal gratitude to someone. That act of putting in writing my feelings about someone—and then mailing it—has actually started to give me joy! (One of my favorite occasions to do this is for Mother’s Day, when I send cards to many of my family and friends who are moms.)

Have you ever thought about the effect you have on someone when you write them a personal note, sometimes for no reason at all? It actually can make someone’s day.

And in case you’re wondering what inspired this blogpost … although I was not invited to the very small wedding of one of my friend’s daughters, I decided to send a wedding gift. The gift (some of their dishes and glassware) was on backorder, so they received a constant stream of packages from me over a two-week period. Each time an item shipped, I received notification, so I knew they were receiving it. But I never received a written thank-you note.

That was until this past weekend. I was at a birthday celebration for my friend and her daughter came up to me right away. She gave me a huge hug and thanked me profusely for the stream of dishes and glasses I had sent, and she admitted that her thank-you note was way overdue. But it had been mailed just the day before. When the thank-you note arrived on Monday, it made me chuckle and smile. Her note said, “It seems I have perfected the art of procrastination … in writing this thank-you note!”

Is there a thank-you note you have been meaning to write? Make someone’s day and write it now!

Karen

This week I decided it was time to check out the new Amazon Fresh store that had opened near our offices in Southern California. For some of us, the fact that Amazon has opened about a dozen free-standing retail grocery stores in the U.S. is perplexing. First they bought Whole Foods. We all figured that was their retail expansion strategy. Then they closed the Whole Foods small store format “365” stores, but now Amazon Fresh stores are popping up. The resemblance is clear.

After my visit, I decided that Amazon’s move made a little more sense. It boils down to logistics. I visited my store at 12:30 p.m.—the normal lunch hour in our area. There were almost no customers in the store, but there were dozens of Amazon Fresh employees pushing baskets around the store pulling orders for Amazon online shoppers who have placed orders. Some customers pick up their orders on site, as there were dozens of numbered parking spots outside the store. Others will have them delivered to their home.

It feels like Amazon Fresh 2.0. By having their own retail stores (instead of developing a network of large warehouses/distribution centers), they are using the retail outlets as their “warehouses,” which can do double duty as a grocery store if a shopper so desires. It’s a much smaller investment to build these.

Like other retailers who are “testing the waters” with their unique format (Fresh and Easy, Lidl, Aldi, Haggen, etc.) they have some bugs to work out on the product mix. Buying and selling perishable items like produce is definitely an art. If you over-order, you will throw product away causing financial losses. If you under-order, you disappoint your customers when you cut their orders and the lifetime value of that shopper may decline.

But there is something very positive about Amazon Fresh opening stores, and that is that they are reducing their carbon footprint when it comes to corrugated packaging material. You know what I mean—you order something on Amazon, or maybe you order five things on Amazon, and they all come in separate boxes. And some of those boxes are tremendously oversized. What you may not realize is that the incredible appetite Amazon has created for “ordering online” has created a paper and packaging shortage like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes.

Companies who manufacture corrugated boxes are working overtime. They cannot keep up with demand. The number of forests being cut down is skyrocketing, and I suspect the impact on the environment is NOT a net positive. True, we may not drive ourselves to the grocery store as often, using less fossil fuel. But, I don’t think we can recycle as much cardboard as we are all using when we order on Amazon. How do I know it is out of control? Well, I cannot dispose of all my “recycling” each week on trash day due to the overfilled bin.

So, that’s why I think it is better, as a consumer, to shop locally. It may take a full hour to make a list, drive to the store, do your grocery shopping, drive home and put everything away, but I feel better about spending an hour doing my own shopping, smelling the produce and enjoying the bright and vibrant colors as I hand-select my own food, vs. gaze outside my front door to stacks and stacks of cardboard boxes.

If you’re a parent of a toddler and think it’s a hassle to go grocery shopping with them, how about turning the shopping trip into a teachable moment? Let your kid’s help you pick out your food. Teach them what to look for when picking a banana or berries. What a great opportunity to prepare young ones for life on their own! Plus, it gives you quality time with them while you shop.

I may be old-school by doing my grocery shopping in person. I know my 31-year-old daughter Alex says she doesn’t remember the last time she went into a grocery store to shop. She orders everything online. And you probably know people just like her.

So, next time you are trying to figure out if you should go to the store or order online, think about that overfilled recycling bin at your house. There is a price for all of us to pay—for our planet to pay—when we produce waste.

I know for me, I will be figuring out ways to make my shopping experiences enjoyable, vs drudgery.

I would love to know what you think! Please share your thoughts with me.

Karen

I never thought I would be spending both my Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching the PGA Championship, but last weekend after my other social events we watched the end of the tournament. In case you aren’t a golf fanatic—it was a total upset!

(If golf isn’t really of interest to you, please keep reading, because this blog is not about golf. It’s about aging (which we are all doing), winning (which we all want to do in some fashion) and being open-minded to new approaches.)

So, here’s the background:

Phil Michelson, age 50, won the PGA Championship last weekend. Golf championships are usually four-day events, and this particular tournament was played on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, SC. I’ve been to Kiawah and the only thing I remember is alligators. They are everywhere. And as I was watching TV on Saturday, play had to stop while a young alligator sauntered across one of the greens! Besides alligators, it is known for being one of the most difficult golf courses in the U.S.

Add in the fact that 50-year-old golfers rarely—if ever—win golf tournaments (it’s usually the twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings that are winning). Younger golfers typically are in better shape, have more stamina, and are better scoring golfers.

And while I don’t personally think 50 is old, there is NO WAY that 50-year-old Phil Michelson was predicted to win. But, by the end of day 3 (Saturday), he was ahead by a few strokes.

How did he win?

Let me share with you what Phil looks like now (on the left) and what he used to look like a few years ago (on the right). The change is remarkable.

Image of Phil Michaelson's Physic Before and After Comparison
(Image Left) Phil on Sunday May 23, 2021 (Image Right) Phil pictured a few years

For most of his career, Phil was pudgy. Plus, he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2010, which was a devastating blow to his career. I remember hearing about his diagnosis and thinking, “Well, that’s a painful disease and probably a career-limiting event.”

Fast forward to Sunday, May 23, 2021, when he rocked the golf world. Just google “Phil Michelson Diet” and you’ll find out one of the secrets to his win. In fact, his win was so remarkable, that you can read about it in multiple places; golf.com, foxnews.com or forbes.com to name a few.

The secret to his success?

And of course, as with any professional athlete, he has multiple coaches and practices daily.

But more than anything, Phil showed me—and the rest of the world—that you could turn back the hands of time by being willing to change your habits. You could conquer a devastating auto-immune condition by changing your diet. You could actually give up ALL food for short periods of time to allow your system to rest. My anecdotal research has shown that intermittent fasting can help with many conditions (pre-diabetes, weight loss and more). And of course, as an elite athlete, the discipline of practicing, utilizing coaches to improve your performance and—more than anything—having a winning mental mindset can change your destiny.

So maybe you’re not a golfer. But you probably have a few extra pounds and some aches and pains. And there is probably some part of your life in which you want to improve your performance.

Maybe it’s time to hit the reset button. Maybe it’s time to get a coach. Maybe it’s time to evaluate your diet. Perhaps it’s time to find a way to improve your concentration and focus.

Who knows? Maybe Phil’s special coffee mixture will work for you:

Phil Mickelson’s “special coffee blend” ingredients

No surprise that Phil has already launched this coffee as a product line, Coffee For Wellness!

So, whether you decide to try meditation, hire a coach to help your performance or start intermittent fasting, I hope you know that age doesn’t matter! At any age, we can have a winning attitude!

Enjoy and stay healthy!

Karen

Let me start by saying that I do not consider myself an “outdoorsy” person. I’ve never been camping and have no desire to do so. A weeklong visit to New York City, with visits to museums, plays, restaurants is my cup of tea.

But with all the travel restrictions due to COVID, we were hard pressed to figure out a vacation destination that would give us a break from the rat race of work, working from home, etc.

Solution: Fly to Las Vegas, rent a car and spend seven solid days driving and visiting national parks in Utah.

Now this may sound like a normal occurrence for many people, but I didn’t even know that there were five national parks in Utah, nor would I have recognized their names.

But that is how we spent the last week.

We stayed in folksy, rustic hotels. Signs like this did stir a bit of nervousness in me … but I survived.

We wore our exercise clothes and running shoes every day and ended each day covered in red dust and sweat.

We biked and hiked through Zion National Park. We spent hours hiking our way up Scout’s Lookout Trail with dozens of switchbacks along two mountains.

In Bryce Canyon National Park, we hiked down the Queen’s Garden Trail where we got to see the hoodoos up close.

As we were hiking back up, we witnessed a medical emergency being handled when a large, male hiker had a hypoglycemic episode. We all applauded when the EMTs had him strapped in and were able to transport him back up to the waiting ambulance.

In Capitol Reef National Park, we hiked for miles deep into a canyon to explore Zebra Slot Canyon.

By the way, it was the only national park that you could enter for free and there were nearly zero other people.

In Canyonlands National Park, we explored the Mesa Arch. It reminded me of a scaled down Grand Canyon, so taking a few minutes to sit on the edge of a cliff and take it all in, was a perfect pause moment.

In Arches National Park, we were amazed by the beauty of all the arches and rows of “fins.” It, by far, was the most beautiful national park we visited. It was so fantastic that we went back a second day late in afternoon (when most people were gone) and went exploring and arch hunting! Thank goodness for the cairns (small stacks of big flat rocks that the park rangers put out to mark the path, which can be hard to follow on just sandstone rock/cliffs). Sometimes it felt like we were on an Amazing Race hunt … we had no idea where we were headed, we just kept our eyes out for cairns to guide us.

Being the city girl that I am, my biggest worry was:  because of the heat, we had to drink a lot of water. A LOT of water. Well, what goes in, must come out. Coincidentally, my dear friend, Eileen Benjamin, entrepreneur and owner of SKORZIE.com (a website for discounted ladies golf and tennis attire), gifted me a P-style device, to assist me in the wild. Ladies, if you take long walks, hikes or play golf…….this is a life saver!

 

P-styles come in all colors!

 

This was the first vacation I have been on where I did not get bored.  Every day was a new field trip into the wild….and I found myself jonesing for a new trail or canyon to explore.

If you’re looking for a vacation destination this summer or fall, when it is cooler, and want a change of pace – a national park is a destination that I highly recommend.

Karen

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

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