Call if it Hurts

By Lloyd Graff

Today I have doctoring on my mind. I’ve spent the last 10 days in the throes of worry, tests, doctor visits and more tests. I came out the other side with a good diagnosis, but exhausted by the process. And I think of how much worse it would have been without my wife Risa accompanying me for every visit and comforting me throughout the experience.

I also have had capable and caring doctors who explained everything in depth at the University of Chicago hospital.

Still it was an ordeal.

It started with seeing blood in my urine. Not a little, but enough to mess up a bathroom. I figured I burst a blood vessel and it would self heal that day.

Unfortunately, it did not stop and I contemplated a trip to the emergency room or worse. I think I am like most guys, I’m a health denier, often believing everything works out okay and the body heals itself and all is well with the world — except when it doesn’t. As Risa all too frequently points out to me, I almost denied my way into the death penalty in the run-up to my heart attack in 2008.

In this case the bleeding persisted and I emailed my primary care physician to ask what I should do. My doctor is an extremely thoughtful and caring physician and he called me back within an hour of the email on a Saturday.

We discussed the symptoms. I told him I thought it was a ruptured blood vessel and he told me the odds of that were remote. He mentioned infection and bladder cancer as the likely possibilities.

He quickly arranged a CAT scan, cystoscope and a visit with a top urologist at the hospital.

The bleeding did stop after 38 hours. In my next conversation with my doctor he told me that the urologist had told him that with my history of radiation therapy for prostate cancer eight years ago the cure for the cancer may have weakened the walls of some blood vessels which could quite possibly have resulted in the bleeding.

Ultimately, the CAT scan and the scope validated the urologist’s theory.

I discussed the process of fear, reporting, theorizing and diagnosis with my primary doctor on Tuesday. I told him candidly that I felt he dismissed what I told him about what I believed was going on and worried me unnecessarily. I brought up another situation which I thought was trivial, but he and my wife did not. I ended up wearing a heart monitor looking for an irregular heartbeat for two weeks, which I thought was ridiculous, and I was proved correct in that case, too.

My doctor was not annoyed by my questioning comment. He told me that the last four cases he had seen with blood in the urine were all confirmed as bladder cancer.

I shuddered.

Then he explained to me the burden that doctors carry. They know too much. Their job is to err on the side of caution. And they also know that patients get scared and the emotional trauma is significant. They also know there are times when they should not bring up the worst case.

He says he has made it a rule not to tell his family what could be wrong with them because it terrifies them. It’s quite a burden, if one is a caring doctor.

In the midst of this latest medical scare, Risa and I talked to her brother, John, who is an oncologist in Charlotte. I could tell he was parsing his words as we discussed my symptoms, not wanting me to worry more than I already was. He was encouraging about the notion of a blood vessel rupture caused by the 8-year-old radiation therapy.

Being a doctor is a tough life. I empathize with their dilemma about what to tell a patient, yet I also know that the patient sometimes knows more than they do about their own body.

Question: How do you feel about your medical care?

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Son Rises

By Lloyd Graff

I get to do this blog today partly because my son Noah is traveling and will not get a chance to edit my writing like he generally does.

I have the very fortunate opportunity to work with my adult son, Noah, in both the machine tool business and Today’s Machining World. I know “family business” may be passé to many people, an artifact of a simpler time when trades were passed on and farms stayed in the family because people felt tied to the land. But for a lucky few, father and child not only get along well enough to coexist in a business, the combination works to make the enterprise better.

Noah came into business reluctantly, with modest expectations. He saw himself as a self-taught filmmaker after college and living in Italy. I offered him an opportunity to work as a poorly paid member of a struggling print magazine that started out as Screw Machine World and morphed into Today’s Machining World. This connected with his artistic leanings and avoided conflict with my brother Jim who seemed to resent Noah’s mere presence in the vicinity of Graff-Pinkert.

This is the sticky and stinky part of most family businesses. Sometimes, one family member will just never accept the child of another family member. Noah made overtures to Jim, but nothing worked, even though Noah spent most of his time on the magazine side.

The longer Noah was around the machinery business, the more it started to make sense to him and even become fun, and the more the mutual resentment between him and Jim grew into hostility.

After my heart attack in 2008, Jim and his wife felt I was not going to be able to pull my weight in the machinery business and they would run it, but when I was fully able to participate it became apparent that our partnership would eventually end.

Meanwhile, Noah became more and more productive on the machine tool side and as my partner in TMW. I saw Noah maturing into a creative business person who was becoming a dealer who really got the nuttiness of the used machine tool treasure hunt every day, and was actually beginning to love it like I did.

The Obama years were pretty tough on American manufacturing and our business, but Noah made it fun most days and he was humble enough to learn some of the technical details that Rex Magagnotti was always willing to teach him.

Noah has begun to do almost all of the foreign travel, which has become crucial to becoming a global player in the business. This has been a great boon for him and the business, because my various physical maladies restrict my business travel and he absolutely loves the excitement of traveling to virtually every continent to extend our reach and our brand.

For me, watching his growth over the last dozen years has been an incredible gift. With all the surgeries and physical challenges I have had over this period, and the breakup with Jim, I highly doubt the company would still be in business or if I would even be doing this blog without him.

For me, Noah is probably the most interesting and fun person around, and definitely one of the most caring.

And now I get to the stage in my career that I have the chance to learn from him. He has a new idea to try out on me almost every day.

It is certainly a gift and I do not take it for granted.

Question: What has been your experience with family in business?

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10 Stupid Ideas

By Noah Graff

Generating new ideas is one of the most important things in my life. I need to create to grow as a person and hopefully have a significant impact on the world. But the creative process is often really hard. It’s essential to get new ideas on paper, but it’s difficult to force the ideas out of my head onto the page.

I read a blog some time ago by Seth Godin called “Talker’s Block.” The point of the blog is that unlike writer’s block which tortures almost everyone, few people get “talker’s block.” If we have something to say on a subject we can usually get it out of our mouths in a coherent way; we don’t get stuck like we do in front of a computer or holding a pen to paper. Most people are great at talking because they do it constantly, as opposed to writing, which they practice less often.

One of these Today’s Machining World blogs unfortunately often takes me three to four hours to write. I know it’s possible to improve my writing speed, and I know there are tons of interesting ideas my brain could spit out. I just need to practice.

Noah’s Idea Notebook

For the last month every weekday morning before leaving for work I have been devoting 15 minutes to creative writing. Doing it in the morning is crucial. Studies show that the first few hours of the day the brain is at its most powerful and creative. I’m not necessarily writing a screenplay or a blog in these sessions. I’m writing down miscellaneous ideas. I turn on my iPhone’s timer with a firm limit of 15 minutes. The time limit is a positive because too much time to think can make me second guess my ideas—they will disintegrate before they reach the page. Also, come on—it’s 15 minutes. We waste so much time during the day on stupid stuff, there is no excuse for not giving up 15 minutes for what could be the most interesting and important activity you do that day.

I try to write down 10 ideas in a session. Maybe they are new ideas or maybe they are ideas fleshing out previous ideas I have already come up with. My ideas can be about anything—inventions, new types of businesses, movie ideas, scientific experiments. Sometimes I think of ideas on how to improve Graff-Pinkert or Today’s Machining World.

One powerful exercise I use to inspire ideas when I am having trouble is to try to think of 10 STUPID ideas. Sometimes the stupid ideas turn out to be the best because they are the most original and interesting. Sometimes by trying to think of a stupid idea my brain’s resistance reflex causes it to come up with “not-stupid” ideas. Also, if you can actually think of 10 stupid ideas, likely a few of them will be funny. That has value.

If still nothing is coming to me, I just allow whatever is on my mind to trickle out onto the paper, and I get a nice stream of consciousness diary entry.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite morning ideas below. Some may be stupid, and some I’m convinced are brilliant. But at least they are down on paper for the world to see.

1. A Website to help average people understand the laws of the U.S. government in a straightforward way.

2. A podcast in which Lloyd and I interview machining company owners or managers.

3. An experiment to see if my political views would change by reading only Breitbart News for an entire week (no other types of fake news).

4. One of my favorites: A baseball managing strategy for substituting bullpen pitchers. It consists of the following. A pitcher throws to a batter and gets two strikes, but then in the middle of the at-bat the manager brings in a new pitcher with a totally different throwing style from the previous one. Perhaps he substitutes a righty for a lefty or subs for a flame thrower with a guy who tops out at 80. It would totally knock the batter off balance! I’ve only seen a mid at-bat substitution because of an injury or if the pitcher is in trouble. Managers need to think outside of the old baseball code. I think this idea could change the world.

Question 1: What is your stupid or brilliant idea today?

Question 2: What is the stupidest or most brilliant invention you’ve ever seen?

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$100 Grand to Start

By Lloyd Graff

I have been into the topic of entrepreneurship lately. I see it as the creative driver of the American economy, but I’ve been struck by the lack of comments from readers on previous blogs on the subject.

Maybe entrepreneurs are too busy with their young or potential businesses to be reading Swarfblog, or perhaps the machining community, which is the bulk of our audience, is too beaten down by what they have seen in recent years to want to tackle a startup.

I did meet two business starters at Weekend With the Pros, a conference for machinery dealers held last weekend in Detroit. One fellow was on his third business and had used Kickstarter to launch a leather goods startup. The other guy had started his own CNC repair firm. I think we are now in a particularly fertile period to begin a manufacturing business.

I’m surprised to have discovered several facilities and groups where potential startup people can learn machining and find access to mentoring and potential investors in the Chicago area such as Workshop 88 and Make-It-Here. I’ve also found an active community in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. I have to believe there is activity like this all over the country. Companies like Tormach and Pocket NC make good inexpensive CNC machines that startups can afford for prototyping and experimentation. There are also many good affordable machines for additive manufacturing.

Esben Østergaard, Universal Robots Founder at IMTS.

The equipment is available, and knowledge is being volunteered in many locations. I believe demand is always there for people who can solve a problem in the marketplace. Perhaps the classic current example is Universal Robots, whose founders in Denmark saw the problem and opportunity clearly. Companies desperately needed an inexpensive, easily programmable robotic arm in their factories. After literally living on crackers in a borrowed workplace, the founders built a viable prototype that won them seed money to produce a salable product. Within a few years they sold the company for $285 million to Teradyne, an American tech firm.

In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, a long piece discussed the importance of Facebook in propelling fledgling businesses to stardom. The focus was on Hubble, a three-year-old startup out of New York City, that markets lower cost contact lenses. Facebook’s uncanny ability to target potential Hubble buyers using its vast data network has enabled Hubble’s founders to build a business valued at $210 million. The 20-something guys who started it show us that fortunes still can be made if you solve a problem and get to market quickly. In Chicago, childhood friends Peter Rahal and Jarad Smith are selling their protein bar company RXBAR to Kellogg for $600 million. They started the company in 2013, rolling oatmeal nuts and sweet goo in Rahal’s parents’ basement at night and selling the bars in local gyms during the day.

Kellogg is willing to pay $600 million for the still small company because they desperately want to crack the healthy natural protein bar market that caters to young health-conscious buyers.

Many entrepreneurs fail or languish, but the ambitious, tenacious, persistent person who can provide a product that solves a problem still can find success.

Question: If someone offered you $100,000 to start a business what would you do?

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Love the Tank

By Lloyd Graff

Over the last few weeks I have become addicted to the TV show Shark Tank. What is it that fascinates me so thoroughly that I will switch out of even a thrilling World Series game to tune into one of the mini dramas?

I love the energy of the fresh entrepreneurs. Often, they are working out of their homes, perfecting a recipe or constructing what they think is the best back scratcher ever designed.

Usually the products are made for consumers. Rarely do I see an industrial product or a sophisticated service. The show is for the masses so most of the products are relatable to by an unsophisticated audience. The products are often unique but to me the fascinating parts of the show are the backstories of the applicants seeking financial backing and the questions by the Sharks. The brilliance of the show to me is the thoughtful interrogation of the new business owners, and ultimately the competition of the Sharks to get in on a deal.

I always learn something by watching the show. I’m not starting a new business at the moment, but the rigor of the Sharks forces me to consider my current business practices. I always subconsciously ask myself whether my businesses would merit investment by one of the Sharks or Sharkettes.

They always ask about trends. “Is business up and down or are you growing, quarter after quarter, year after year,” they want to know. Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful, the tough guy you love to hate, grills the contestants in an arrogant way pushing them to come clean about their business history. “You don’t have a business, you have a hobby,” he often says derisively to folks who haven’t made significant progress over the course of their enterprise. He is harsh, but he is usually accurate. He’ll then often say, “you’re wasting our time,” dismissively.

The women, usually Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoron are much kinder but are no soft touch. Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, tends to make his mind up very quickly. If he decides a business cannot “scale” meaning grow quickly into a big business he’s “out” immediately.

Cuban often asks very early on about the cost of production and selling price. I always find these questions instructive. If the selling price is not at least four times the cost of making the product he has no interest. This is a far cry from the machining world and industrial distribution models I normally see, but the production world has minimal advertising and marketing expense generally. Neverless, I have learned from the Sharks to build my business in the high margin world the Sharks would fund. Banks tend to think like the Sharks. There is no glory in working thin. Google and Facebook live in the 90% profit margin world. Every business person should try to move their business into that territory.

A commodity business will never be bankable in the Shark Tank.

I attended a business get together of machinery dealers over the past weekend. I queried many of the attendees with the Shark Tank in mind. It was a group of sharp guys (virtually no women) but only one of those I talked to would have had a prayer with the Sharks. No plan, wildly fluctuating profit margins.

You want to know the one guy the Sharks would have backed? Sorry, he doesn’t need the money anyway.

Question: Do you or your children want to start a business?

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Living and Dying With…

By Noah Graff

Why did I devote the previous two weeks to watching the Chicago Cubs during the playoffs?

Sure—athletic feats are impressive and entertaining to watch. But why do I ecstatically jump up and down when my home team gets a big hit or strikes out an opposing batter?

Why do I hurt when we strike out, when we make an error, when we lose? And why do I use the first person plural when referring to the Chicago Cubs?

I don’t know any of the players personally, though our electrician Julio is friendly with fellow Dominican reliever Pedro Strop. Virtually none of the Cubs players grew up in Chicago. But I am a member of the Cubs religion. I was raised in a Cubs household. So what affects the Cubs players affects me as well as my family. During Cubs playoff games we have an active group text between my dad, my sister Sarah and brother-in-law Scott living in California. If you look up and down our text thread you will see plenty of color commentary filled with passionate “Yeses!,” superstitious animal emojis (usually sent by me) and questioning if “things are going to be ok.”

Why do I have such emotional investment in the games? Why do my dopamine levels rise when the action on the field takes place? When the Cubs win, why does everything just seem right with the world? When they lose why do I feel empty?

Cubs fan watching a game at Sluggers in Chicago.

My conclusion is that a sporting event is live theatre. The Cubs were the protagonists and the Dodgers were the antagonists. But the protagonists were not just the Cubs players, they were the Cubs fans as well.

Theatre starts with an exposition. “The 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs were playing the Dodgers in game four of the NLCS playoff series trying to reach the 2017 World Series. (Indulge me as I try to hold onto the one highlight of the series). Cubs hurler Jake Arrieta was pitching against the Dodgers’ Alex Wood. It was a ‘win or go home’ elimination contest for the Cubs.”

The plot built until the climax when the Cubs’ Wade Davis stopped the final charge with a 6-out save! We won, and all was well. Sports competitions are dramas (often a tragedies). But unlike in a traditional drama on a stage, the athletes are the characters and they are REAL —not actors! The resolution (probably) does not cause someone to die, but the story is live and real.

The 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and Astros will be another great drama. But I am not a protagonist in this series like I was when my Cubs were playing. Some other lucky protagonists will live and die, on and off the field.

Question: Do you prefer watching sports on TV or live at the stadium?

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It’s Life

By Lloyd Graff

All this death is killing me.

The list of people with cancer who I care about keeps growing by the day. A friend from high school who was organizing my class reunion was hit by pneumonia and died in a week. Three hurricanes, an earthquake, the Las Vegas massacre, then the wildfires in California incinerating whole neighborhoods. It stinks, all that death out there.

I just “celebrated” (endured) the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur where Jews spend the day fasting and considering who will live and who will die this year. More consideration of death. I hate it.

Maybe my close call with death nine years ago with my heart attack has sharpened my consciousness of the temporariness of life.

This morbid thinking does cut both ways. It can make you feel miserable and totally stuck or it can free you up because you so desperately want to take advantage of the today you have.

My wife is into saving money these days because she is fearful of all of the awful things that could befall her if she lives a long time. After my brush with death, correctly or not, I don’t figure I’ll have to worry about that so much.

For me, the fear of dementia is more of an everyday worry, unlike the longterm fear of death. I’m starting to hear of high school classmates who have spouses with it. It just seems so devastating and heartbreaking to have to endure the condition with a loved one.

What is the antidote to these depressing feelings? For me, it is work, writing, exercise and love. Creating, giving of myself—I don’t know if it pushes off the inevitable, but it sure is more fun than constantly contemplating my own death or somebody else’s who I love or care about.

As I am writing this piece, I keep circling back to the importance of my work to me as a vehicle for creativity. The element of chance in assessing the value of flawed aging pieces of machinery provides riskiness every day, but when there is no risk there is little reward. Risk carries the companion of validation and fun. Arguing about a deal with Noah and my associate, Rex, keeps my juices flowing. Being wrong in business means I lose money. It’s not life and death. It’s just life.

Question: Would you rather die at age 80 knowing you would be in perfect health until then, or potentially live longer with no health guarantees?

George on Death, Seinfeld

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Buildability

By Lloyd Graff

I love to watch the Shark Tank reruns on CNBC. The stories of committed entrepreneurs putting it all on the line in orchestrated mini-dramas in front of the “Sharks” is really quite absorbing.

But the one thing I never see on the program is the entrepreneurial manufacturer looking for the backing to buy a Haas Mini Mill or Okuma lathe to start his business. In our machinery business we virtually never see a young man or woman buying a used machine to make fittings for Parker Hannifin or John Deere.

I asked Bryan Harvey of Thompson Auctioneers if he sees many young entrepreneurs buying their first machines at his sales and he said it is “extremely rare” except perhaps for the folks in Bangkok or Bangalore, India, who follow their sales assiduously on BidSpotter.

Is the fledgling entrepreneur in manufacturing now an artifact in America? Maybe not.

I called Matt Hertel who started Pocket NC, a $4,000 5-axis CNC mill builder in Bozeman, Montana, and he gave me a different picture.

Pocket NC

Matt and his wife, Michelle, started production on the machine in 2015 after moving back to Bozeman from Seattle. They raised their startup money not on Shark Tank, but through the novel Kickstarter approach online. They had already built several prototypes of the mill, and Michelle had blogged extensively about the market and buildability of a $4,000 5-axis mill to prepare a community for the ultimate Kickstarter campaign.

The Hertel’s had tried conventional money raising forays, doing a dog and pony show on video for the private equity titan Blackstone Group. He was told that it was probably the worst received pitch of the year.

But Kickstarter loved them. They raised $350,000, which was to be paid off in product produced. Each $4,000 contributor to Kickstarter was repaid with a 5-axis mill.

Matt Hertel told me that the most successful Kickstarter event of all time may have been for potato salad. An entrepreneur with a $10 minimum contribution raised $70,000, which he paid off in a giant potato salad bash.

In its first three years in business Pocket NC has been quite successful and has sold little mills to a wide assortment of bigger companies and tiny startups. One just went to Europe to a guy who is making a bicycle washing machine.

I posed my question about an apparent dearth of machining startups to Matt, and his feeling was that I was looking in all the wrong places.

Matt believes the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, even in the Millennial world, but you need a community, whether it be online via Kickstarter or in coffee shops or incubators in Bozeman. Matt says that in his Montana home there is a community of folks eager to help anybody with an idea and the guts and skill to try to bring it to fruition. You cannot create a milieu like that artificially with government funding and Big Brother hovering. A grant from Google or IBM to jumpstart an incubator in Chicago or Cleveland unfortunately will not work. The community needs to grow organically like it has in Bozeman. Could it happen in Detroit or Cincinnati? Maybe, but I do not see it happening yet. But with precision manufacturing as strong as it is today we may begin to see it. As the Baby Boomers hang it up and old businesses dissolve, there will be opportunities for startups where we have not seen any for the last decade.

If potato salad can do it …

Question: Is it a good time to start a business in the United States?

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Cycle Time

By Lloyd Graff

The stats from the PMPA (Precision Machined Parts Association) for August confirmed what I’ve been feeling for the past year. Business is really strong for machined parts manufacturers.

It goes pretty much across the board. Automotive, aerospace, medical, even oil and gas and appliance are doing nicely. So is my machinery business that sells to the folks in this section of the manufacturing arena.

This presents a new challenge for me. For almost the last 15 years I have been pushing uphill with only a few respites mixed in. The business trend has been mostly negative for American metalworking companies. The migration of work to China has been a devastating trend. Low-cost Chinese manufacturers have pulled in the generic work and gained competitive advantage with big American firms which are building most of their product in China.

China has not been the only killer for my business. Demographic trends have hurt. The workforce has aged and manufacturers have been unable to replenish a skilled group of baby boomers who are retiring or dying off. For some, the path of least resistance has been to sell or liquidate their businesses. Others have transitioned to CNC Swiss, CNC lathes and CNC mills, leaving long run work to the Chinese. My long successful family business of selling multi-spindle cam operated machines, refurbished to add value, suffered. Market forces killed me. It got bad enough that I even began to think of quitting the game.

In 2015 and 2016, Graff-Pinkert was forced to make the changes that led to a dramatic shift in business. We trimmed people and got more efficient. Noah and Rex Magagnotti, my longtime associate, started traveling more – a lot more – all over the world. We looked for more opportunities in brokering the sale of entire machining companies and buying CNC multi-spindles. We also made new alliances with European dealers.

Then there was the election of Donald Trump in 2016. I’m not a big Trump fan, but almost immediately after the election our machinery business changed for the better. Though Trump has done nothing radical to help business, the signals of shifts in EPA policy and a more aggressive trade stance toward China and Mexico seem to have changed the mood in our customer base. Auto and aerospace had been doing well going into 2017 and have continued to prosper, though the firearms business has faltered because people now don’t have to fear Obama or Clinton abolishing the Second Amendment.

This preamble brings me to my current happy problem. I am so used to doing business in a period of pain and strain that I am at a loss to figure out how to play things in a period of prosperity. Should it be full speed ahead to take advantage of the upswing in business or consolidate, pay off debt, cash in, and count the chips because bad times will come again.

This is not idle speculation on my part. The strength of business is pushing me to expand my workforce, when for many years I have been reducing it.

Should I gamble on buying more inventory or turn inventory (machinery and accessories) into cash when prices are firm? Should I sell off the crap, take losses for tax reasons, or hold on to sell it for higher future value?

At 72 years old should I grow the business or hunker down for the next crisis that hits?

My Uncle Aaron Pinkert used to say to me that his father told him “the dollar is round. Sometimes you are up, sometimes down, but it is always moving along.” I have often remembered that saying, especially when things have been bad. Sometimes it is harder to accept when business is good. Are we still rolling up?

Question: Is the current economic upturn in manufacturing here for a while or a mirage?

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What Happened Today?

By Lloyd Graff

My day inches by. I was busy but a little scatterbrained. I know I had a dozen conversations, but by the end of the day it’s hard to remember who they were with. It is a dot on the calendar of life. Did I waste it?

I feel a certain degree of desperation about frittering a day away. I am very aware of the finiteness of my being, but I have found a way to experience my day in a generally positive way. Write about it.

I have a chunky black sketch book with creamy blank smooth pages. My pen is my luxury, a “Sakura Pigma Sensei” felt tip that I buy by the dozen at Walmart, but a Sharpie works too. I write fast and fat, chronicling my day.

I don’t write just about my work day. I record recollections of conversations, interesting stuff I’ve heard or read, emotions, feelings of gratitude or disgust. The scattered ups and downs of a day.

I find that I cannot do this writing late at night because I am too exhausted, but at 4:00 or 5:00 P.M. writing about my day revives me. I almost always discover something really good that happened that I had long since forgotten during the hurly burly of trying to run a business.

Try it. You will be happier for the effort. I bet you didn’t waste your day.

*********

My brother-in-law Maury Minerbi, a wonderful guy, died last week after a heroic two-year battle with cancer. We can learn things from terrible events if we listen. My sister, Susan, Maury’s wife, told me how much she valued my frequent calls, wanting information about her husband.

The phone calls were really hard to make for me because I feared the worst and didn’t want to hear it. Most of the calls were made because my wife, Risa, picked up the phone and I listened in. But at least we connected, which was what Sue absolutely yearned for. It was not as hard for her to talk as it was for me to make the call. But I learned that you have to call, even when you rationalize to yourself that the other person probably doesn’t want to talk to you. Give them the opportunity to hang up.

Sue, thank you for teaching me to always summon the courage to call, even if I have no idea what to say.

Question: What is the most interesting thing you learned yesterday or today?

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