The Cruise Ship

So imagine you’re on a cruise ship and there’s been major structural damage. The boat is taking on water and the engines are damaged.

So the crew gets together for a few hours to make an emergency plan and then the captain comes to the passengers.

“Folks, we’ve got a plan. We’re going to have to rotate the wait staff and even some passengers to take on extra tasks pumping out the water and maintaining the engine. It will take us a few extra days, but if we all work together we should be able to safely reach our destination.”

Now imagine one of the ladies from first class comes forward to speak for her group. This is her response.

“This is supposed to be a luxury ship. I don’t see why I should have to go without the omelette station for breakfast or the chocolate fountain at night! That’s ridiculous! And if the waiters are only spending half as much time waiting on me, then why are we still paying them full salary?”

Then she sits down and is congratulated by her friends.

That’s the ship I live on right now.

Legal and Binding

I just started a new job, that as a perk provides access to free legal services. Wills and other simple stuff. It’s cool.

So…in the next few weeks, I will be having the following instructions for my funeral made legal and binding.

  1. I will sign a baseball before my death. Everyone who attends my funeral will sign this baseball. It will be given to my son, Jack.
  2. My remains are to be cremated. My son, Alex Nuckols, will select a hiking location where those ashes will be scattered. Alex, Jack, and their families will then take a hike/packing trip to scatter said ashes.
  3. The song “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens was featured in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. It is to be played at my funeral.
  4. Each person who attends my funeral will be given a box of Tropical Dots (my favorite candy). They are to pour the box into my coffin at the viewing, so I am buried in Dots. The people who really love me will remove the green ones from their box.
  5. I am to be buried in a Captain American costume. And not one of those cheap ones either.

 

Toilet Paper and Teamwork

Due to the toilet paper shortage, we have a hodgepodge of brands and varieties. Some are very thin. Some are thick. This has wreaked havoc with our plumbing. My boys are used to ScottTM brand, which is very thin. So when they use thick toilet paper, they use way too much, and they clog the toilet. There has been a lot of plunging and ranting on my part.

So, last week, around midnight, Alex clogged the kitchen toilet. Then, in an attempt to fix it, he flushed a second time and overflowed the entire bathroom.

Now…my boys are 14 and 16. They fight a decent amount. They antagonize each other constantly. They do not voluntarily spend time together. The basement is Jack’s; the living room is Alex’s. They do not encroach on each other’s turf.

However…at that moment, Alex immediately calls for Jack. Jack comes up. The situation is dire. Shani and I are both asleep. There will be hell to pay for Alex if he wakes me up.

Without a word they snap into immediate, coordinated action.

  • Jack went to the basement and got the mop. Together they mopped up the water.
  • Then they got the SwifferTM and wet-swiffed the bathroom floor.
  • Then they took WindexTM and a roll of paper towel, got on their hands and knees, and wiped down the entire room.
  • They put everything away, and without a word Jack returned to the basement and Alex returned to watching Lost on his phone.

I only learned about this yesterday. And I find this extremely encouraging in respect to their relationship as brothers.

Celebrating 20 Years

Shani and I got married 20 years ago today.

We’d been planning to go to Hawaii to celebrate, but last September I lost my job, so we figured we should be more careful with money. We downshifted and decided that when we went to LA in April for my cousin’s wedding, that would be our anniversary celebration. And we’d go out for a romantic dinner on our actual anniversary.

Well, the wedding has since been cancelled. And now we’re not even going to get to go to dinner.

Bummer, right? I should be sad. And I can already imagine the sympathy comments on Facebook. Well…hold that sympathy. Because after 20 years, you learn some things about marriage. And here’s what I’ve learned:

Marriage is not a vacation.

Look, every marriage is great on vacation. The two of you on your own, exploring the sights, a drink at that cute little bar you stumbled on, dinner at 8:30, share desert, sleep in, make love, wander out to find breakfast at 10:15.

And that’s great — my God is it great — but it’s not marriage. Marriage is life the other 50+ weeks of the year. Marriage is negotiating who is going to do the dishes. Marriage is getting into your car and realizing your wife left your tank empty. It’s grocery shopping and budgeting and disciplining kids and watching Youtube videos and trying to get to the gym. All that day-to-day shit, that’s marriage.

And with that said, I will say this.

I love going grocery shopping with Shani.

I love cooking dinner together.

I love putting away the Christmas decorations and getting the kids where they need to go and scheduling out the week. I love having a glass of wine on a Tuesday night and watching The Americans.

I loved washing babies in the sink of our apartment in New York. I loved painting bedrooms and sleeping on an air mattress waiting for our furniture to arrive. I loved reading the same stupid board books over and over to the boys. I loved coming home from work and having the kids chase me around the yard for “first hug”. I loved cooking on a grill for 6 weeks while we redid our kitchen. I’ve loved the budgeting, the arguments, the exhaustion, the laughing, the problem-solving, and yes, I’ve loved the vacation too.

I love waking up at 5 on a Sunday, making coffee, and reading on the couch for two hours while everyone is still asleep.

I love my house and I love the life we’ve built inside it.

So tonight, I will spend my 20th anniversary eating dinner with my wife and our two sons. We are healthy, we are safe, and we are happy. So I will gladly accept your congratulations and good wishes. But expressions of sympathy are neither warranted nor welcome.

Sending my love out to everyone who has been a part of our adventure. It’s been richer and more wonderful and more fun every single year.

Please stay safe. Please stay sane. Please stay inside.

_

Oh, and here are some shots from the wedding.

 

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What Leadership Should Be

My close friend, Hal, is the mayor of a small village in Upstate, NY called Homer. And he just sent the attached letter out to the village. But I’ll call out this section up front:

We are all going through this together. There is no playbook for riding out a global pandemic, but we don’t need one, as long as we keep our focus on one thing and one thing only: Keeping people safe and healthy.

We are committed to being here for you. If you have problems or needs that are not being addressed, I ask that you call the Village of Homer office at XXX-XXXX and tell us your situation and what you need, and we will try and find a solution including assigning a volunteer to help. Residents who are unable to get out to shop for food, need a critical repair made to their home, need an essential errand run, or need your children’s school lunches delivered, please call, and we will do what we can to help.”

And to me, this is perfect. It’s exactly what people need. Call the village — for food, for crisis, for anything you need — and we will try and help you. True to form, I got choked up reading Hal’s message. And felt deep, deep pride.

This shit is getting real. New York State is predicting the peak will hit May 1st. So we may realistically be looking at being locked down in our homes for 2-3 months. That means people are going to lose jobs, run out of food, and face serious peril.

But I read Hal’s letter and it seems clear to me that if we help each other out, we’ll get through this.

So leaders…read Hal’s letter and learn. People are scared, uncertain, and have no idea what source to believe. Hal gives them the real facts. He gives them the detailed information they need for daily life. And he makes it clear that their Village Government is there for them.

VoH Covid Memo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Think Warren Failed

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So our candidate of choice is out, which is a bummer. And there is a lot of speculation as to why Elizabeth Warren’s campaign didn’t succeed. I’d like to throw out my own theory why:

He messaging was terrible.

OK, stay with me; I’ll explain. But before I do, let me start by saying that I’m actually an expert on the subject. I’ve worked in marketing for over 20 years as a creative director, and messaging is my forte.

In fact….I will now present…

BASIC MESSAGING 101
(A lesson for politicians)

Messaging Lesson #1: Use Active Voice

You won’t ever see Walmart say:

Walmart has low prices

Instead they’ll say:

Walmart keeps prices low

See the difference?  In the first example, they are telling customers what they have. In the second, they are telling customers what they are doing. Walmart is active, not passive.

Good messaging always uses active language: Eat Fresh. Just Do It. Think Different. They call you to action. They use active voice.

  Unknown.jpegHow did Trump do?

Make America Great Again.

Drain the swamp.

Lock her up.

Build the wall.

They’re all active. They’re energetic. They call voters to action. They actively declare what Trump is going to do.

Grade: A+

Unknown-1.jpegHow did Hillary do?

Better Together.

It doesn’t inspire me to act. It doesn’t say what the campaign will accomplish. Hell, there isn’t even a verb. It’s beyond passive.

Grade: F

Unknown-2.jpegHow did Warren do?

I’d say she was hit or miss. She had messages like “Persist” and “Dream Big. Fight Hard.” That’s active.

But she had some duds like “Big Structural Change”, which again, doesn’t even have a verb.

Grade: B-

Messaging Lesson #2: Speak to an Unmet Need

What if Nike were to say:

If you want shoes with thick rubber soles, choose Nike

They would go out of business. Why? Because no one is looking at their current shoes and saying, “Boy, do I wish there was a shoe out there with thick rubber soles!” It is not an unmet need.

Instead, Nike knows that everyone wants to be better. Everyone has aspirations to get in better shape. To do a 5K. To join a gym. To win the starting role on the team. So Nike creates messaging that answers that unmet need that is burning in almost everyone.

Just Do It. Choose Nike.

If you want to create a message that people pay attention to, you need a message that speaks to an unmet need.

  Unknown.jpegHow did Trump do?

Trump looked at people, especially in red and purple states, and saw that lots of them felt left behind. They pined for the old America of the 50s. These people felt like the country they loved was slipping away.

And he went to these people with the message:

Make America Great Again.

 

Grade: A+

Unknown-1.jpegHow did Hillary do?

I voted for her. I campaigned for her. I donated to her campaign.

I genuinely do not know what her message was.

By the end, it had basically devolved into: Trump is awful. And when I cast my vote, I wasn’t voting for Hillary. I was voting against Trump.

Grade: F

Unknown-2.jpegHow did Warren do?

I’m going to focus on just one of her messages:

Big Structural Change

What the hell does that mean? It invokes no emotional response whatsoever. I mean, seriously, how many voters are sitting there thinking, “Boy, you know what I really want? I want big structural change?” None.

Grade: F

Actually…she did have some other messages that were stronger than that — but none of them really hit on a burning unmet need that was going to get voters cheering.

Grade: D

Messaging Lesson #3: Repetition and Consistency

What comes to mind when I say “15%”?

Over 80% of people in the US will answer: GEICO. Why? Because they have pounded that message into us for years. 

15 Minutes Could Save You 15% or more

Relentlessly and consistently. They don’t switch it around with other messages. They don’t say it some of the time. They say it again and again and again and again.

If you’re not sick to death of your messaging, you’re doing it wrong.

  Unknown.jpegHow did Trump do?

Did you ever see that doofus without that stupid red MAGA hat?

Grade: A+

Unknown-1.jpegHow did Hillary do?

Stronger Together? I think it was on some of her signs. I might have had an “I’m with her” magnet. She didn’t really say “Stronger Together” in speeches, I don’t think.

Grade: D

Unknown-2.jpegHow did Warren do?

Persist.
Big Structural Change.
Dream Big. Fight Hard.
A Woman’s Place is in the White House.
She’s Got a Plan for That

That’s a lot of messages. Too many. I was on her email list. I sometimes noticed that she sometimes used some of these messages.

I also noticed that her emails were too long.

Grade: D

NOW…Imagine if THIS had been Warren’s message.

You all remember the recession of 2008? Well, in 2006 someone predicted it. Me.

And when the recession hit, I led the effort that stopped that recession from becoming a full blown depression.

Well guess what folks? I see all the signs. Another crash is coming any minute. Businesses are going to go bankrupt. People are going to lose their homes and see their 401Ks disappear. And Trump is pulling all the wrong levers. He’s making it worse. He’s heading for the cliff.

So now…before it’s too late…it’s time to…

STOP THE MADNESS

Scare the hell out of voters that the crash is coming and position herself as the only one who can stop it. That hits on a powerful unmet need, it’s active, and you can pound that message all day no matter what happens.

Coronavirus keeps getting worse and this administration is doing everything wrong. What are we gonna do?

STOP THE MADNESS

You see Trump got in a Twitter war with Kim Kardashian? Is this what our President should be doing? Is this the picture we want to show to the world? What is it time to do?

STOP THE MADNESS

It works for global warming, women’s rights, racism…you name it. It paints everything Trump does as madness (which is easy to do) — and it gives voters a clear way to stop it.

Stop the Madness. Choose Warren.

Who knows if that’s right, but it’s way better than what she had. What she had was messaging that didn’t follow the basics — and I think it was part of why she failed.

I will end by saying this: Elizabeth Warren legitimately inspired my son. And she inspired me too. I think she would make a remarkable President, and I was proud to volunteer for her.

I’ll also say…if Biden wants help with his message, I’m available. Because he could absolutely use some help.

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Derek Jeter and Elizabeth Warren

This Saturday, Alex and I went and did some phone banking for Elizabeth Warren. I posted some images of us on Facebook, and my friend, Hal, made a really insightful comment:

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And I think he’s definitely right. I think Warren is very likely out of it.

Which brings me to Derek Jeter.

One of the things I’ve always admired about Jeter was that every time he hit a routine ground out, he ran full speed to first base. It was a sure out, but still he ran full force. Every single time.

But once in a great while, it wasn’t an out. Once in a great while, the fielder would bobble the throw and that extra second would actually make a difference. It is estimated that Derek Jeter’s hustle earned him an extra single every year. That means Jeter ran like hell for 162 games to get one extra hit in return.

I always, always loved that about Jeter. And I can tell you, in the course of my life, I have outworked a whole lot of people. And my attitude has been complimented in every review I’ve ever received. I’ve won awards, pitches, and promotions – by legging it out to first base every time.

As for Warren…you never know. Maybe the other candidates make some errors. Maybe Super Tuesday delivers a surprise.

 

 

Best Birthday Presents

My birthday was last week; I just got the most amazing presents and I wanted to share.

First, Alex. It needs a little backstory.

Alex often awards me with a “bad daddy” or a “good daddy”. For example, let’s say I don’t let him order desert: “Bad daddy!” If I beat him in a game, refuse to give him money, tell him to go to bed…”Bad daddy.” I get them all the time. One time in the backyard I pegged a rabbit with a nerf football and received a string of about 30 of them.

A “good daddy” is much harder to come by.

So check out this letter.

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Pretty amazing right?

Then yesterday, a package arrived in the mail. And to our surprise, Jack had ordered it.

“Happy birthday!” he said and tossed me the package.

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He bought me Gerritt Cole Yankees shirt (he’s the Yankee’s new $324 million dollar pitcher). But that’s not what’s so special.

See, Jack has a job. He’s doing dishes three nights a week at a local restaurant. He got the job himself and he’s been steadily putting real money into a bank account we opened. He used his bank card to go online and buy the shirt.

And the pride he felt being able to do that all on his own. To be able to buy his father a gift.

Seeing that was pretty stunning.

That’s the real present.

 

 

 

 

Stumping for Warren (How Alex won my vote)

First, some exposition

In 2016…

I did a lot of volunteering for the Hillary campaign. I knocked on doors, made calls, gave money. But in reality, I wasn’t doing it because I was excited about Hillary (I liked her all right). My primary motivation was fear.

So when Trump won, it hit me with a solid sense of despair. And upon reflection, if Hillary had won, I don’t think I would been like “Hell yeah! I’m pumped for the next 4 years!” I think my main emotion would have been relief, and probably some joy at watching Trump crawl back into his golden cave.

All said and done, it was a pretty rotten experience.

But 2018…

Was totally different. In 2018, I followed my mighty activist-maven wife into the service of the Andy Kim congressional campaign in a district near ours. And that was a blast. I don’t think I even knew who he was running against, but I liked Andy Kim, and I loved getting out there trying to take back the House of Congress. And he won.

So here we are, approaching the 2020 election.

First off, I’m doing stuff. No way I’m sitting this out. My feeling – you’re only allowed to have an opinion about politics if you participate in the process. Watching MSNBC and Fox News is not participating in your democracy. Sharing a meme does not make you an activist. If you’re not out there putting in real time and real money, then you deserve whatever elected official you get. In fact, my New Year’s Resolution for 2020 is really get at it for this election.

However, for my own well-being, I didn’t want to go out there with the primary motivation of getting rid of Trump. I wanted to be for someone. I wanted to be excited about the potential of someone being President.

And I liked my options. I liked Harris, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Bullock, Castro…lots of really smart people who I felt like I could get behind. I think of an election as a job opening where I’m the hiring manager. This felt like a lot of highly qualified candidates.

But I hadn’t really made a pick. I guess I was hanging back, ready to really go at it when it became clear who the winner was going to be.

But then I went for a walk with Alex.

Alex is in “Model U.N.” where kids represent different countries and debate political issues. This year their issue is climate change, and quite reasonably, it’s scaring the shit out of the boy as he learns more about it. So we were talking about that.

EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – DAY

ALEX, a 14-year old boy, walks with his father, MIKE.

MIKE
(using his “patronizing dad” voice)

Well, you’re not powerless, Alex. In fact, a big way that you can affect the issue of climate change is to participate in who the next President is.

 

ALEX

Oh, I like Warren.

 

MIKE

I’m glad you are aware of the candidates. Elizabeth Warren is a strong option for sure.

 

ALEX

She has a plan to try and get to 100% renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions by 70%.

 

MIKE

She does?

 

ALEX

I also like her Green Apollo plan where she wants to invest $400 billion dollars over the next ten years into clean energy research – so that will help the economy at the same time.

 

MIKE

Right.

(As he talks, the tone Mike’s voice slowly changes. And as Alex talks, one would swear that his voice takes on a tone that sounds just the slightest bit…patronizing.)

 

ALEX

Plus the Blue New Deal she has for cleaning up the ocean is good too. Not to mention that offshore wind power can make 4 times the amount of energy that our whole grid uses today. Most people don’t know that.

OK, so as Alex went on explaining the finer points of Warren’s policies, a lightbulb went off.

  • How cool would it be to do all this election stuff with Alex?

It was followed by a series of supporting light bulbs.

  • Doing this with Alex would motivate me to do it even more. Like a gym buddy.
  • Alex would be an animal on the phone
  • Bringing in Alex would get me a TON of brownie points with my hyper-activist wife

And that’s how I landed on Warren. Alex.

So the next week, we went to a campaign event in town to make calls to Iowa voters, and I was right: Alex was awesome at it.

Phonebanking is basically getting hung up on 19 out of 20 times. But when people hear a kid on the phone, that’s quite a hook. Hearing Alex read the Warren script in his cute mid-puberty voice – people stayed on the line with him…I guess to be patronizing…but, whatever. He was a force.

We’re in for Warren. We’re actually planning to host an event in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll keep you posted.

Final note: I’m gonna be a little bit of a dick about comments on these posts. Not really into hosting a political snipe fest. However, comments about what a great father I am are always welcome.

It breaks your heart

“It breaks your heart. It was designed to break your heart.”

That’s the opening of Bart Giamatti’s “The Green Fields of the Mind.” It’s an essay about the end of the season that talks about how baseball promises to suspend time, and how every year you believe it can, only to have it betray you.

“You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

God, it’s beautiful. Each night this season there was a game on, and I’d watch a few innings. Each morning I could see the standings and watch the highlights. Each day’s drive was the Baseball Tonight podcast and Talkin’ Yanks. And through it all was Jack. The texts between us were so magic.

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My favorite came in the summer. I was camping in Utah and out of cell range. When I came back to civilization, I got this:

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Going to ballparks started early this season and never slowed down. We started with a trip to Spring Training where Jack and the lady behind the counter badgered me into upgrading to a corvette.

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“I’m sorry. And you’re welcome,” Jack said when I finally caved.

In April we shot down to Baltimore to see the Yankees pummel the Orioles. Jack got Aaron Judge’s autograph before the game, and then for the length of all 9 innings, everything in the world was perfect. The usher let us go down into the field-level seats. Everyone sitting near us was friendly and in a great mood. I could feel the baseball smiling down on me like sunshine.

In July we had our sights set on an overnight flight to finally make it to Wrigley. Shani and Alex were at a dive meet in California, so the timing was perfect. But flights to Chicago were crazy expensive. So we drove instead, orchestrating a 3-day/3-ballpark road trip.

Detroit…The sunset lit the entire sky into an electric yellow glow and Jack stared out at the park the way that only Jack can stare out at a ballpark.

Chicago…Finally we made it to Wrigley and it not only lived up to the hype, it shattered expectations. That park and those people and that game all nestled into the hot, dense streets of the city.

Cleveland…Chomping mustard-smeared bratwurst while we watched the game under the shade of the right field wall.

In Detroit, a 4-time survivor of breast cancer sang the National Anthem. In Chicago, a shrunken WWII vet blared the anthem out on a trumpet. Then in Cleveland, a 12-year-old girl sang the anthem in that pure and clear voice that only 12-year-olds have. And at some point in there, I felt a stir of pride that I haven’t felt in 2+ years.

But the coup de grace came at the end of the season. It was late September, and I figured we were done. Then I got this text…

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From minute one I knew what he wanted, and I knew I’d say yes. Playoff tickets to Yankee Stadium.

I watched ticket prices climb and dip until one morning the exact seats I wanted were $130 each. I hesitated, running late for a meeting with my boss, and decided to buy them as soon as my meeting was over.

I got laid off at that meeting.

Dazed, I staggered back to my office, sat down at my desk, took out my phone, and bought the tickets – full on planning to tell my wife I’d bought them before I got laid off.

The playoff game was a full-throated, red-in-the-face, 4-hour roar – as if we believed we could make the Yankees win with our voices. Every pitch, every swing, every out, every everything we howled with all our might until the struggling Did Gregorious came up with the bases loaded and slapped a home run over the right field wall to put the game out of reach.

From there the Yanks moved on to the unbeatable Astros who we beat in game 1. Then lost the next three in a row. All hope was lost, but the Yanks still won Game 5. Then they spent Game 6 behind by two runs until the 9th inning…the 9th inning…DJ LeMahieu hit a two-run homer to tie the game and Jack and I went ballistic! We woke up the entire house and I got a fat lip against his chin as we jump-hugged.

But just like that, Jose Altuve responded with a walk off home run and just like that it was over. This Yankee team I’d loved more than any team ever before. This team that battled through injuries and picked each other up and were such epic wonderful fun all season…this team that felt magic and charmed and 200% inevitable…

It broke my heart.

I didn’t watch any of the World Series until it went to Game 7, which is holy. Jack and I watched in the basement, often on our phones and not talking much. I think both of us couldn’t help but wondering what it would have been like if the Yankees had been in the game.

Then yesterday the Baseball Tonight podcast ended their season the way they always do, by playing “The Green Fields of the Mind.” And I did what I always do, I listened in the car and cried. Another season was over.

Some concluding thoughts…

  • The job search is going well. I’ve got a freelance assignment through the rest of the year and I have some promising leads that I think will soon turn into actual job offers.
  • Next season will be the last one that Jack and I will experience together. 2020 will be his senior year. 2020 is it.
  • We are plotting games for next season already. Boston with my Aunt Joan. Seattle as part of a family vacation to the Northwest. And I’m sure some Yankees games will get in there.
  • And finally, let there be no mistake about it, if the Yankees win the World Series next year, I am streaking. Immediately. Prepare yourselves now.

So here’s to an amazing season – possibly my favorite ever. And even still, it broke my heart.

Here is the “Green Field of the Mind;” You should listen.