Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving...from Merida, Mexico

Gaining some distance from my everyday life gives me a chance to have some real perspective on things. This year, I have had a lot to give thanks for and to celebrate.

This year I took two vacations that I’ve wanted to do for many years – the Alaska cruise which I wrote to you about and a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast.  I remember when my mother and father came back from their trip to Amalfi, a million years ago.  My father, who loved to drive, was so excited about the winding, narrow roads there.  His face lit up when he told us about it.  Now I’ve also experienced it and, it’s likely that it’s even crazier now, given there are more cars, more big buses, more motorcycles and scooters and more people walking on the roads that have no sidewalks. The Italians are very aggressive drivers – and very good.  As in most things in life, to survive you just have to do what people do in their own cultures.  “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do.”

As I think about Thanksgiving, I’m going to take the liberty of not only mentioning some things I’m thankful for, but also grateful for – they’re pretty much one in the same, right?

I’m grateful for having my health.  All of us have experienced too, too many people we know and love who, no matter how young or old, have dealt with or are currently dealing with really crummy health matters.  In our wonderful industry we’ve seen too many of our friends and colleagues die way too soon.  Each one is a wake-up call to me.

I’m grateful for having such a wonderful family.  My son Brian, his wife Bridget and their boys, Sean (9) and Gavin (7).  My son Kevin, his wife Marissa and their 7-year old twins, Ben and Edie. 

I’m grateful for having met so many truly nice people in my career – around the world.  

I’m grateful for all the wonderful musicians I’ve shared the stage and studio with – playing rock and blues keyboards, singing, writing songs and now in the process of recording my third ‘album’ – I’m a lucky guy.  Mentioning the new ‘album’ – I’ve been advised that very few people buy CD’s anymore. So, I’m going to sell the songs individually on iTunes.  After they take their cut, 100% of the proceeds will go to Mac Angels Foundation, a Westchester, New York - based organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for individuals, family members and caregivers impacted daily by ALS, by providing the compassion, education and unique resources needed to manage the devastating effects of this disease.​
I know of Mac Angels via my long-time friendship with Paul McEvoy, one of the true gentlemen in the institutional real estate community.  Paul and his wife M.C. were involved in the launch of Mac Angels and Paul currently serves as President of the organization.
I’m grateful for the fact that I have no debt and that my life has become fairly simple – after being complex for many years.
I’m grateful for the working relationship that Felix / Weiner Consulting Group partner Liz Weiner and I have developed.  It’s not easy being in business for yourself and over the past 6 years Liz and I have become a good team and built a respectable business.  Both of us are grateful for the clients and people we’ve worked with and especially those that have hired us more than once J
I’m grateful for the mentors, supporters and really, really good friends I’ve had in my life and my career. I had started listing them but was concerned I’d overlook someone so better left unlisted…you know who you are – in some cases I wish I had listened to them more.
In closing this piece, I want to share with you something that I learned a few years back that has helped me live a somewhat more peaceful and happier life:
“Whatever you do first thing in the morning you will do all day. Be happy. Smile. Laugh. Be grateful for all that you have.”
With that, I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving – and hopefully long holiday weekend.
P.S. Can you believe that there is only a little over 5 weeks left in 2018!  Boy, how amazingly fast time is flying by.  

Street in Merida

Street in Merida

New Restaurant in Merida

Mayan Ruins, Uxmal, Mexico

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

In memoriam: Dan Fulop (1974-2018)

Dan Fulop, Managing Director at The Related Companies died on September 28.  He was 43. 

I learned about Dan’s passing last night via an email exchange with another industry friend who told me she had recently joined Related.  In congratulating her I asked if she had met Dan yet.  Her reply, “Unfortunately, I haven't. I'm in the field office so I don't see many people outside my immediate team. Also, I only recognize the name because there was a company wide email about his recent passing. I hope I'm not the one to give you the news. Very sad, he was too young”.

Yes, too young and so sad. 

Dan and I met via this column about 15 years ago.  He worked in Related’s HQ in Columbus Circle in New York and I lived right around the corner.  About once a year, at around 5:30pm, we’d meet at Joe G’s Restaurant on 56th Street for a beer and talk about things.  Then he’d go back to the office and work until about 8pm before heading home to his family in New Jersey. 

Dan was one of those guys that you couldn't help be attracted to. His energy was contagious and his passion for his family and his career was powerfully evident.  He knew some things about me and at our first get together I learned that we had some things in common:  Livingston, NJ; Dan graduated from Rutgers University (the same school that my sons Brian and Kevin graduated from) and Jersey City where Dan’s brother Steven is now mayor and the band I played with, ‘Everyone’ was based.  

While the term ‘rising star’ may be over-used, after our first meeting I knew Dan was destined to advance.  Dan was a humble guy.  He did not seek out the spotlight. He just went about his business and got the job done. We connected right away and our conversations were always open and honest. 

From obituaries I found about him: Dan had nearly 25 years of investment experience, including long tenures with investment bank Goldman Sachs, & Co. and mutual fund manager Franklin Templeton. He is a graduate of Rutgers University, speaks five languages, and is proud to be a New York City-born first generation child of parents that immigrated to the United States in 1970. Dan was one of three brothers who learned a strong work ethic in their parents’ Newark deli and rose individually to prominence in their respective fields.

Over the years since he and I first met, Dan was spending more and more time in Asia.  He died while traveling in Vietnam.

I had a restless night last night thinking about Dan.  It’s another of those wake-up calls for us:  you never know.

One of the things that I read every day is a reminder:  Yesterday is gone, tomorrow doesn’t exist, today is all we have. 

Treasure today.  Appreciate all we have.  Don’t forget to tell someone you love that you love them.

My sincerest condolences to Dan’s family and friends.  He was a really good guy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We Could All Use a Little Snail Mail Right Now

I read this in the New York Times recently and shared it with my family.  Their response They liked it so much that I wanted to share it with you.

I love the last line of the essay!

What the world needs now? Handwritten cards and letters.

Hand written notes and cards may carry more weight with their
recipients than their electronic counterparts, but research shows
they make us feel good too.

By Susan Shain

Oct. 8, 2018

Oprah Winfrey. Richard Branson. George H.W. Bush. Taylor Swift.

Besides fame and success, what do all of these people have in common?
Something surprisingly unglamorous and gloriously analog: a love of 
physical cards and letters. Of notes that need a lick and a stamp 
instead of a click and a swoosh.

Over the past decade, the number of first-class mail items sent through
the Postal Service has dropped by more than 50 percent. Not counting
holiday cards and invitations, the average American household receives
just 10 pieces of personal mail per year. Nearly half of British children, 
according to one survey, have never sent a handwritten letter.

In an age of torrential email, incessant group texts  and lackadaisical 
Facebook birthday posts, snail mail has become quaint, almost vintage.
But that doesn’t mean its days are over. As a recent CityLab story 
pointed out, we can save snailmail — if we want to.

David Sedaris, the best-selling author and humorist, is known for writing
letters to his fans, his boyfriend and everyone he works with on book 
tours. He will also send a thank-you note if you have him over for dinner.
“I just feel like it’s classy to do it with real mail,” he said.
“It’s too easy to do it on email. And it also doesn’t mean as much.” 
Not to mention, he added, “It’s nice to be thought of as classy.”

Whether it’s to say thank you, hi or I’m sorry — or to send a Q-tip
attached to a sheet of paper, as Mr. Sedaris’s pen pal, the late comedian Phyllis Diller, once did — here’s why it’s time to bring snail mail back. 

Writing by hand feels good. When we write by hand, 
we retain
information better and may even boost our creativity. Plus, because we
do it so rarely these days, it can be a welcome respite from typing.

“It’s more fun,” said Margaret Shepherd, a professional calligrapher
and author of “The Art of the Handwritten Note.” “It is such a delight
to see that ink go on that beautiful paper — to pick out a stamp,
to slow down and realize you thanked or consoled somebody in the
best way possible.”

The warm fuzzies that accompany writing are more than anecdotal.
In one study, Steven Toepfer, an associate professor of human
development and family studies at Kent State University at Salem,
asked participants to compose three “letters of gratitude” over the
span of a month.

They could write to anyone, as long as the content was positive.
With each letter, the writers experienced higher levels of happiness
and life satisfaction, and lower levels of depressive symptoms.

Mr. Toepfer said we all have a base of gratitude inside us, 
which can lead to positive psychological effects. “But we have to tap
into it — and use it — to get its benefits,” he explained.
“I think writing letters does that.” Handwritten notes spread love.

If you want to show you care, snail mail is an effective method.
Think about the last time you received a hand-addressed missive —
didn’t it make you smile?

Saeideh Heshmati, assistant professor of positive psychology at 
Claremont Graduate University, recently researched what makes people
"feel loved." She found that “small gestures in everyday life,” like people supporting you without expecting anything back or showing compassion during
tough times, were what participants most agreed upon as “loving.”

Since cards require more effort than email, Ms. Heshmati said recipients
will likely “feel more loved because you took the time to do that for
them.” She added, “It’s the care that comes with it that signals the love.”
Snail mail is, well, slow (and unique).

Whereas emails are something to rush through on the way to 
Inbox Zero, cards and letters are something to cherish; to set on a desk,
to stick to a fridge, to bind into a book for future generations.

In the digital age, we are “assaulted by a barrage of information —
much of it having little or no importance,” Florence Isaacs wrote in her
book “Just a Note to Say.” “Yet personal words on paper often are
saved in a shoe box, becoming a memory to be revisited through
the years.”

For proof, look to Letters of Note, a popular site that offers an intimate
window into history and the characters who shaped it. While there may
someday be an “Emails of Note,” it wouldn’t impart the same romance.
After all, the swirl of the letters, the smudges of ink and the pastiche of 
paper are what brings us into each writer’s world.

You don’t have to be a writer or an artist to send meaningful notes.

Because of snail mail’s novelty, what you say — and what it looks like — 
often matters less than the act itself.

“My husband sends handwritten notes scratched out with a pencil, 
and people just sit up and sing,” said Ms. Shepherd, the calligrapher.
“They’re so happy to get something in the mail, even if it doesn’t have
lot of production value.”

If you find yourself struggling to find the appropriate words, 
she recommended keeping it simple and writing as though you are
talking to your recipient. If you don’t know whom to write, start with the
children in your life or reach out to deserving strangers through initiatives
like More Love Letters or Operation Gratitude.

When one of Mr. Sedaris’s friends comes out with a new book or play,
he sends a card with specific details like: “I loved it on Page 38 when you
did this.” “I just realize how much it means when somebody 
goes into details,” he said. “I know it makes me feel good, 
and it’s not that hard. … A little effort is all it takes.”

Getting started is easier than you think.  Mr. Sedaris is right: 
Although snail mail requires more work than its digital kin,
it’s still not hard.

Avoid the agony of scouring last-minute, overpriced $5 cards in the 
drugstore by purchasing a set of blank cards to keep at home. Craft fairs
and farmers’ markets usually have lovely handmade ones, and 
even the dollar store sells passable sets. If you have a favorite artist or
illustrator, they may have an Esty or Gumroad shop where you can buy
their work printed on blank cards.

Then grab a book of stamps and a nice pen and toss it all into a shoe box.
Now you’re ready for snail mail — with minimal hassle.
(You can even batch cards at the beginning of each month by scanning
your calendar for upcoming birthdays and celebrations.)

The next time you’re tempted to send a congratulatory email or a digital
birthday message, try a card instead. If you’re looking for an event to
kick you off, consider making this holiday season the one where you 
offer friends a chance to get on a holiday card list — no strings or
reciprocation attached (if that’s O.K. with you) — and send a personal
note to each loved one who signs up.

“There’s something permanently charming about getting an envelope
in the mail,” said Ms. Shepherd. 

“It’s as if somebody gift wrapped their words for you.”

                                                                               Recent sunset in Asheville, NC 

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