Nearly three years ago I started writing the Monday Morning Mojo. I did so at the request of some of my staff in Asia, who I wrote to every other Monday in a letter titled, The Monday Morning Mail, largely about the business of public relations, life, random thoughts and more. In 2021 I renamed my missives the Monday Morning Mojo, with a focus on things that inspire me amid the drumbeat of worrying news in the world. Fortunately, there is a lot of content out there related to positive forces, and I have used this platform to offer a broader platform to bring those to light.
Reflecting on the Beginning of the Monday Morning Mojo
The very first Monday Morning Mojo was penned in early March 2021, a period when I just started my third life. By definition, a “third life” is the time of a person’s life when they decide how to use their time, when, in some circumstances, a person has left a corporate career for a gig of their own. In many respects that defines where I am in my life right now. I am enjoying more of a variety of things: teaching, consulting, reading, writing, spending time with family and friends, and pursuing other things I have not done before. I found I enjoy yoga, although after three years I still cannot touch my toes! I suck at playing any musical instrument, although I enjoy listening to all genres of music. I love comedy yet have been reminded by my family I am the only person who laughs at my own jokes.
While the Monday Morning Mojo has a few, very few, regular readers, I enjoy sitting down and contemplating the world around me, and sharing random thoughts that offer hope. I appreciate all of you who occasionally read this and share your views. Shout out to my wife and kids, who learn a little more about me when I write this; my sister Dana, and friend, Dan Krassenstein, who serve as my copy editors; my aunt Ricia Scharf, Joyce Beach, a former neighbor and a current author, and George Smith, a friend from China, who comment often; and, my friends Christian Olsen, a life coach, and Mirsad Midzic, Borat’s twin, who politely heckle me.
This is all to explain that these bi-monthly blogposts have become a great diversion for me, as I consume news of the day, week and month that scratch the wounds of events that raise anxiety levels. Unfortunately, these events are increasing, and there is no shortage of things that make you wonder. (Author’s note: In 2024, I will need to turn off the news more regularly given this is an election year in the US, and the media is filled with analyzing how crazy and unfit one candidate is over the other).
Reflecting On “Pay It Forward” Moments
On March 1, 2021, in the first issue of the Monday Morning Mojo, I wrote about a guy randomly helping me pay for a cup of coffee in Hawaii, because I only had cash and the coffee shop only accepted plastic. He encouraged me to “pay it forward”. Well fast forward to nearly three years later and my daughter, Jackie, described a very similar experience she had last week. She was reminded of doing such random acts of kindness by a restaurant in Southern California and decided to do something on her own. She was in line at a coffee shop in LA, and paid for coffee of the lady behind her. The lady was so moved, she did it for the person behind her. And after a short while, she came up to Jackie and said, “Hey, it is still going.” Buying a stranger a cup of coffee is no big deal, but the dopamine rush one gets from seeing how one act of kindness can serve as a catalyst for others, makes it all worthwhile.
Reflection on the Topic of “Surface Area of Luck”
I was reminded this week of a topic I discuss with my kids all of the time, “Surface Area of Luck”. A former colleague wrote that a person I introduced to her ended up helping her team win a new client. On the topic of “Surface Area of Luck”, I first heard of this from a podcast I listened to featuring Jim Collins, the famous author and business consultant. “Surface Area of Luck”, or your chance of being lucky, is equivalent to the action you take towards your passion, multiplied by the number of people you effectively communicate your passion and activities to.
Put simply: Luck = (Passionate) Doing x (Effective) Telling.
I explained this concept more in a May 2021 MMM.
Reflection on a Great Sports Organization and its Leader
I had written before about the quarterback from Michigan, JJ McCarthy, and the happy face symbol he draws on his hand before each game. Well, exactly last week today, JJ McCarthy led my all-time favorite sports team to a national collegiate football championship in Houston, Texas. I have such great memories of watching football games in the Michigan Stadium, The Big House, and it is where I had my first job, working for my brother and his friend selling picnic baskets in exchange for a ticket and a bagel. I remember fondly going to games with my dad and running into people from our neighborhood. The community of Michigan fans is one I cherish, and it is certainly a happy place for me, and I know many of my friends.
According to a Sports Illustrated article, “If you’re a Michigan Football fan, you’ve likely seen the smiley face that quarterback JJ McCarthy draws on his hand prior to each game. While the message behind the smiley face has grown over the course of time, it started with as a very simple – yet extremely impactful – message from a young fan.
As the story goes, JJ McCarthy was signing autographs for fans after a tough loss during his high school playing days. Yes, even back then JJ McCarthy was popular enough to be signing autographs. JJ was approached by a young girl who asked him to sign a newspaper, when she asked him why he looked so upset – almost like he wasn’t having fun out there. JJ told the young fan that he didn’t play well and that he was unhappy with losing the game.
The young girl explained to JJ that he should be having fun while he’s playing football. After all, football is a game and games are supposed to be fun…right? She then took the Sharpie marker that JJ was using to sign autographs and drew a smiley face on his hand as a reminder to always have fun.
From that moment on, JJ has drawn the smiley face on his hand before every single football game he’s played – including every game at the University of Michigan.”
Respect For The Modesty of Great Leaders
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the respect I have for people like Nick Saban, Bill Belicheck and Pete Carroll, all long-time popular football coaches, who have impacted lots of lives. The one thing I appreciate about these coaches is their relative modesty amid success, and their focus on their jobs at hand, rather than using their fame for self-promotion. I never observed any of that with these leaders.
Respect for the late Maxine Kronick
On the topic of respect, this weekend marked seven years since my mom passed away. She instilled many wonderful values in me and my siblings, among them was respect for people of all walks of life. We miss you mom.
Respect for My Great Friend and Former Colleague, Li Hong
One of the greatest friendships I have made in my nearly four decades of work in public relations has been meeting and working with Li Hong. Li Hong was my partner in setting up Ogilvy Public Relations in China, and he is a prime reason why we have been so successful over the years. This weekend Li Hong (seated right) hosted my son, Samuel, for dinner in Beijing along with the famous Beijing University Professor, Fu Jun. Thank you, Li Hong, for all you do and have done!
Respect for the late Martin Luther King
Finally, today, in the United States, is a national holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, marking the day Martin Luther King was born. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister, activist, and political philosopher who was one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement in the United States from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Many argue he was the center of the civil rights movement, and he was a most inspiring speaker, whose influence is very much felt today in the United States. Here’s a clip from his famous “I Have A Dream Speech” for those less familiar with his impact.
Thanks all for tuning in. Wishing you the very best for the week and 2024.