Advertising 101

If you’re going to create a print ad for a retirement community, don’t choose a photo where the man looks just like Bradley Whitford’s creepy, sadistic doctor character in Get Out:

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that out.

School on Saturday

“There’s a myth that learning is for young people. But as the proverb says, ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’ The middle years are great, great learning years. Even the years past the middle years. I took on a new job after my 77th birthday – and I’m still learning. Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes. When you hit a spell of trouble, ask ‘What is it trying to teach me?’ The lessons aren’t always happy ones, but they keep coming.”

John Gardner, a politician and a recipient of the 1964 Presidential Medal of Freedom

I came across this quote in the most recent weekly “3, 2, 1” newsletter from author and entrepreneur James Clear. Every Thursday, he sends out an email with:

  • 3 ideas from him
  • 2 quotes from other folks
  • 1 question/prompt

It’s a quick read and provides plenty of great food for thought. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

(HT to my friend Chris H. for putting the James Clear newsletter on my radar.)

Use your words.

Last night, best-selling author Ann Patchett spoke at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati, in front of a packed house of book nerds. She was engaging, charming, downright funny at times, and her talk was a great peek behind the curtain at a word wizard.

photo from

A couple of things stood out to me:

  1. She referenced several other authors and novels, often showing a slide of a book cover on a screen near her, and every time she did, there was an audible gasp of appreciation from those in the audience who had read the book. “Yes!”… “so good!” It’s great to know that there are folks who still savor the written word in the Instagram/TikTok era.
  2. Through her novels, and her independent bookstore in Nashville, and her interviews with other authors, she’s done more to promote reading than anyone else I know. She’s like a Levar Burton for grown-ups.

BTW, Ann’s list of favorite books is here.

During the Q&A, a young woman in attendance asked “What’s your advice for young writers?” Ann’s reply was that any and all advice she had to offer on that topic was contained in her essay “The Getaway Car” from her book This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. (She wrote the essay because she gets that “what’s your advice for aspiring writers” question a lot… one time a woman even followed her into a public restroom and asked Ann that question while she was in a stall!)

But Ann did offer a few words of advice, and there’s no secret code to be cracked. The formula she mentioned is simple, really:

If you want to be a writer, read a lot, write a lot, don’t spend too much time trying to perfect a particular project, and don’t go into the process thinking about how to sell your work.

Read a lot, and write a lot, for the pure joy of it. Sounds like a winning plan to me!

Ann Patchett’s latest novel, The Dutch House, has spent 20 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.

It’s the least wonderful time of the year

Behold the mighty ping-pong table of misery:

Uncle Sam is ruining my ping-pong skills

Those are my tax documents, semi-organized by type: W-2s in one pile, charitable contributions in another… three piles for 1099s – the MISC ones from my wife’s side hustle and my side hustle, plus DIVs and INTs. Receipts, tax bills and business expenses, oh my!

Each year around this time, I retreat to my subterranean lair to work on our tax returns… and invent new curse words (most are portmanteaus of other curse words). Just me and my good friend TurboTax Deluxe.

Other folks have suggested that I outsource this pain-in-the-butt job. I know quite a few folks who claim they have a mythical tax prepararing wizard who does yeoman’s work for a mere pittance. “I just give [him/her] a shoebox stuffed with documents… and [he/she] only charges me $100!”

But I’ve made a several calls and the price I’m quoted is significantly higher than a single Franklin. Also, my bookkeeping system is only slightly less disorganized than a pee-wee soccer game… I’d probably have to spend more time explaining it than I would just going the DIY route.

It’s the side hustle gigs that really add 27 extra layers of complexity (and when we’re talking about IRS forms, that’s really saying something!). My wife teaches fitness classes, and I do some freelance writing. (Can you believe someone actually pays me for my words? I can’t either! But let’s just keep it our little secret.) For the paltry amounts we both earn in these gigs, we have to fill out dozens more IRS forms. Oh what fun it is to fill out a Schedule C!


Now that three of my kids are working part-time jobs, I file returns for them as well, or at least crunch the numbers to see if they’d get a refund. Oh goody goody… more forms!

So if you don’t see me out and about for the next few weeks, you’ll know why. And if you do see me and I’m miserable, you’ll also know why.


Here’s a very cool article from a very cool website (Women of Cincinnati) about a very cool person (Jackie Roberto) who runs a very cool business (Madison Design Group).

photo from the Madison Design Group website

The article is about how Jackie balances work and family. We’re good friends with Jackie and her husband Phil (he’s the organizer of the “Fool Moon” late night bike rides that I occasionally attend… and he helped clean up this messy WordPress site of mine, too). Our kids went to grade school together, and now are in high school together, so we’ve witnessed their balancing act firsthand, with a ton of admiration.

The interview was conducted by our mutual friend, Judy Zitnik, yet another parent from the grade school gang. The profile is part of a series on Women of Cincinnati:

There is no single definition of an entrepreneur or the obstacles they face. As part of our year-long series sponsored by Main Street Ventures, our community chose 12 of the biggest obstacles female-identifying entrepreneurs face, and we found 12 women who spend their days conquering them. Explore the whole series here.

That’s Jackie on the right (and our mutual friend Judy Zitnik Finn on the left).
Photo by Chelsie Walter

The entire interview is great – please read it. In the interim, here are some money quotes:

Because to be a good creative, you have to have a life. You have to be immersed in life to know how to communicate or to write or to design. You have to be informed in that way to be better at what you do. So we try to make sure that we work really hard, and then we leave. And then you do whatever you want. It’s not work hard; play hard. It’s work hard, and then have your life in whatever way you define it.

As a fellow creative, I wholeheartedly agree with this. Time spent disengaged from work is part of “filling the well” so that you have creative energy when you reengage.

The moment you have the baby, you’re like, “Stay home with the baby or work?” Well, staying home looks a lot easier until you realize it’s actually harder. It’s way harder. You know, I’ve always joked, “Well, clients never wipe their nose on my legs. They never cry. (Or if they do, they never cry in front of me.)” 

Honestly, though, it is way harder to stay at home. I think it is the unsung amazing work for our society. And it has almost always been on women. It’s changing slowly. It’s a noble and important job. But it is still a thankless job. And you know, we know some stay-at-home dads, and I’m sure they feel the same way.

Well said, Jackie!

For me, it’s not really about money or all the outward signs of success. It’s not that I’m immune to all that, but it’s just about living modestly so that I have enough money to have interesting experiences.

Jackie and her husband Phil are all about the interesting experiences. Just salt-of-the-earth, kind, caring human beings raising two wonderful daughters… while also carving out meaningful careers. I’m tempted to say “we should all be so lucky” but really it’s more like “we should all follow their example.”

Two-fer Tuesday. Two for every day.

Seth Godin’s daily blog posts (you can sign up here) are pure magic. They never fail to provoke, challenge and/or inspire. Two recent ones really hit home for me. Here’s Seth’s post from January 25th:

Awareness vs. experience

We are more aware than ever before. More aware of victims of violence, or a natural disaster. More aware of insane wealth or grinding poverty. It gets beamed to us, regularly.

We’re even more often exposed to social hijinks, sports stars or business moguls.

We’re aware that people run a marathon, or fast for a week. That they start a business or meditate every day. They know how to code, or to take pictures.

But there’s a difference between hearing about it and experiencing it.

There’s no excuse for being uninformed. But when it matters, there’s also no good reason for being inexperienced.

There’s often a piece of glass between us and the world as it’s delivered to us. That glass magnifies awareness, but it doesn’t have the same impact as experience does. It can’t.

Our awareness has been stretched wider than ever in history, but often at the cost of taking away a lifetime of experiences.

So true! Let’s repeat that last sentence, shall we?

Our awareness has been stretched wider than ever in history, but often at the cost of taking away a lifetime of experiences.

And now for the Seth Godin double shot, a post from yesterday, Feb. 3rd:

Something’s more interesting than this

And now, that’s always true.

Whatever you’re doing.

No matter who you’re with.

Something, somewhere, is more interesting than this.

And it’s in your pocket.

All the time. As long as the battery lasts.

There’s an alert, a status update, breaking news. There’s a vibration or a text, just waiting. Something. Right now.

Until infinity.

Unless we choose to redefine whatever we’re doing as the thing we’ve chosen to do, right here and right now.

Ignore the distractions and the coming attractions. Don’t take the clickbait. Focus on what YOU want to accomplish, not the dopamine hit that some AI algorithm is pushing.

The Joker gets serious

While most of America was watching Hour 88 of the Super Bowl pregame hypefest, Novak Djokovic was capturing his 17th Grand Slam title in the Land Down Under (which might have to change its nickname to the Land That’s On Fire).

I’m happy for “The Joker”… and not just because he’s my doppelgänger. (OK, he’s 23 years younger, much more athletic and much better looking… but if you squint you might see a slight resemblance.)

Djokovic or Dubbatrubba? You decide! Photo: Getty images

Djokovic’s career has overlapped with the heyday of both Roger Federer (20 Grand Slams) and Rafael Nadal (18) and he probably doesn’t get nearly the acclaim he deserves. Slowly yet steadily, he’s been gaining ground on both in overall titles and Grand Slams. He’s six years younger than Federer, and a year younger than Nadal. Before his career is over, he just might be the all-time leader in Grand Slams.

Photo: Getty Images

Novak also seems like a good dude. After the Australian Open final, he wore a jacket with Kobe Bryant’s initials and NBA numbers on it, and in his victory speech he offered some heartfelt words about what really matters in life.

“This is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together, now more than ever, being with our families, stay close with the people that love you. Of course, we are part of a professional sport. We compete and try our best, but obviously there are more important things in life. It’s important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you.”

Sounds like a winner to me.

Photo: Getty Images

Music: a heavy influence on my life

We have a digital scale in our bathroom.

Each morning when I step onto it, a couple of things happen:

  1. I get depressed that my weight hasn’t gone down since the day before… so depressed that a tear rolls down my cheek, mixing with the Spicy Nacho Dorito dust that’s still around my mouth from yesterday’s late night snack.
  2. I see the brand name of the scale, Tanita, and immediately think of a song that I used to play on 97X when I was a part-time DJ there waaay back in 1988.

Seriously, I can’t NOT think of Tanita Tikaram, who was merely a blip on the modern rock radar more than 30 years ago. That’s just how my brain works – it’s wired for music and minutia, and “Tanita” is the perfect marriage of the two.

“Twist in My Sobriety” was from Tanita’s debut album, released when she was just 19 (say, that reminds me of this song… .

… and co-produced by Rod Argent, formerly of the band Argent (say, that reminds me of this song…

… and down the musical rabbit hole we go!

My scale’s debut album… er, I mean Tanita’s debut album, Ancient Heart, actually did pretty well, making it to #3 in the UK, and #59 in the US (back when people still bought albums), and “Twist in My Sobriety” and another tune “Good Tradition” both cracked the Top 10 singles chart in England.

Of course, there are no second acts in American lives… and they rarely happen for German-born, UK-raised pop/folk singers either.

A quick succession of albums for WEA – The Sweet Keeper (1990), Everybody’s Angel (1991), and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (1992) – did not achieve the same commercial success,[1] with each album selling fewer than the previous one.[citation needed] Her 1992 album Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, which was the first Tikaram fully produced herself, did not chart at all.

After several years away from the music biz, she put out a new album in 2005, then another in 2012, and one in 2016.

Her voice still sounds great. But a huge portion of success in the music industry is out of the artist’s control. And how we define “success” isn’t always the best barometer of a career. If Tanita Tikaram is still writing and recording music that she’s passionate about, that’s great. I just wish she could get royalties for the songs that spin in my head.

Mack’s a class act

Chris Mack left his job as Xavier’s men’s basketball coach a couple of seasons ago, to take over as head coach at Louisville. Many Xavier fans still hold a grudge. I never did, as noted in this blog post of mine.

His tweet a couple of days ago is well worth sharing.

“…how lucky we are to breathe, how lucky we are to have problems, how lucky we are to have one another….”

It’s worth noting that Chris Mack played and was an assistant coach under the tutelage of Skip Prosser, at Xavier and Wake Forest. Skip knew that life was about more than sports (as noted in this blog post).

“Coaching isn’t wins and losses,” Prosser said. “It’s teaching. That’s the reason I got into coaching and the reason I’ve stayed in coaching. I hope that I remain in the business of education.”

Like Kobe Bryant, Skip Prosser left this world too soon, dying of a heart attack in 2007. It’s clear from Chris Mack’s Twitter post that Skip’s life lessons live on.

He used to say, ‘Never delay gratitude.’ That was one of his favorite sayings.

NBA all-star Chris Paul, in this 2017 article

Thanks for sharing, Chris Mack. Thanks for sharing, Skip. Pass it on.

Phone a friend

I’m going to dial that number, just to see who answers. Sure, I’d be happy to chat about access with this friendly fella:

But I’d be more excited if the person who answers is the ORIGINAL “Mr. T” from 1976 TV show Mr. T and Tina:

Yes, that’s Pat Morita, who left his role as Arnold on Happy Days to star in a sitcom created by James Komack, who had a few hits under his belt with The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Chico & The Man and Welcome Back, Kotter.

Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis:

Pat Morita starred as Taro Takahashi, a widowed Japanese inventor who is sent with his family (an uncle and sister-in-law) from Tokyo to set up the Chicago branch of his employer, Moyati Industries. He hires scatterbrained and free-spirited American Tina Kelly (Susan Blanchard) as the live-in governess for his children, Sachi (June Angela) and Aki (Gene Profanato).[3]

Mr. T.’s inventions included underpants with a built-in transistor radio and the “flash in the can”, a coin-operated sunlamp in a restroom.[4]

They had me at “underpants with a built-in transistor radio”…

You might be shocked to discover the show didn’t make it. Even with a great lead-in show:

And a great follow-up show in the lineup.

Not only that, but Mr. T and Tina had a pre-Love Boat Ted Lange in the cast as ” hipster Harvard the Handyman”…

They wound up shooting a mere 9 episodes, and only 5 made it to the air before the plug was pulled.

Plots for the few shows produced focused on Mr T’s inventions and the unintentional Americanisation of the Takahashi children at the hands of Tina, who taught them words and phrases such as “cool,” “the pits,” and “neato,” much to Mr T’s chagrin.

The Japanese-American community complained about the racial stereotyping in the show and the ratings flagged quickly. (Source: )

You can’t blame Pat Morita for leaving Happy Days. The show sounded “neato.”

But it wound up being “the pits.” That’s OK, because somehow Pat managed to rebound from his TV bomb.

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