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When I set out in 1998 to make a midcareer change, Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule was still a decade away from being published in his book Outliers. Perhaps if I’d known what was required to acquire the skills to write well I never would have walked away from the comfortable corporate lifestyle.

I’d always fancied myself an artist, but never had the courage to pursue it. I ended up in the music business. Working with artists, I thought I understood their challenges. But until you put yourself on the line, you don’t have any idea what it’s really like to be that exposed.

Many people are drawn to the idea of the writing life—fishing with Castro, running with the bulls in Pamplona, hanging out like Hemingway in Key West drinking until dawn. I too was drawn to this idea, but I soon discovered writing is damn hard. No doubt Hemingway was gifted, but clearly, he also worked his ass off.

To be frank, I had no clue what it took to be a writer and I wandered down many dead ends. And yet not a single step was wasted. Each one ultimately brought me to this very moment.… Read the rest


Study This!

I had no idea that Connecticut’s urban public school systems rank dead last in the country. The state’s performance is masked due to the many excellent schools in our mostly white suburban towns.

I may have the opportunity to help an educational reform group and so I’m doing research to get up to speed. There are many common misconceptions. Perhaps the worst of the lot: kids from bad neighborhoods can’t be expected to learn the way kids in towns like Westport do because their home life is messed up.

A variation of this myth: Teachers can’t be expected to deliver results when kids don’t get support at home.

Several Charter Schools in the inner city are proving both of these views wrong.

I visited one in Bridgeport and witnessed a remarkable environment for learning. Recent test scores outperformed neighboring Fairfield.

Contrary to what some believe, Charter schools do not skim the cream of a bad neighborhood, a lottery system determines students. These high performing urban kids face the same family and economic challenges that their public school counterparts do—the performance difference is due to the system, the teachers, the culture.

Another common misconception: Charter Schools are for-profit organizations. In Connecticut, … Read the rest


Trash talking does nobody any good this election

The day after the Arab protests and attacks at the US Embassies I overheard several guys in the locker room at my gym complaining about Obama’s weak response to the attacks.

“Those Arabs only listen to strength; you can’t apologize, talk or reason with them, they only respond to might.”

I know better than to talk politics or religion in such settings, but it was difficult to hold my tongue, these guys were spewing emotional feelings based on spurious facts.

Each day since the attacks we have learned new information about them. This is one reason why in election years, it’s considered bad form for candidates to publicly question a president’s response—rarely are all the facts available to the public.

But that hadn’t stopped Romney from commenting, or these guys in the locker room.

I couldn’t hold myself back. “Obama has been much more hawkish than many of his supporters wanted,” I said. “His foreign policy is so strong, Republicans didn’t even mention the war at their convention.”

One of the guys shook his head dismissively. “Obama wouldn’t even have gotten elected if he wasn’t a black man.”

The other guys said, “He’s not that smart.”

Then his buddy added, … Read the rest


First Year Little League Coaches are Saints

 

 

Inspired by the incredible play of those kids in the Little League World Series, I was reminded of earlier this year watching my girl friend’s eight year old play ball for the first time. I wrote this piece for the Good Men Project. Here’s the link:

http://goodmenproject.com/families/the-good-life-every-kid-a-winner/Read the rest