Worth the Risk

She spoke cautiously in half starts and elongated “Sooo…s”, not a good prologue to a “we need to talk,” conversation. Till now our exchanges had been fluid, effortless. Suddenly, it seemed like she was a hedging a bet…one she hadn’t even placed yet.

My intuition told me she was on the fence and ready to run, not from me or us or the friendship we’d embarked on only days before. No. It was like she was running from a ghost. Nothing new I suppose. We all have parts of our pasts chasing us around. But this didn’t seem like her sin. It felt like she was holding it for someone else, deep inside some dank public storage unit where a mafia slug might stash some stolen stereos.

I checked the lock – asked the girl. There were sins all right, mostly his. An STD acquired from an unfaithful ex. Not the big one, but the kind that lingered. It forced a conversation and ultimately, a decision. I was never that brave, never that selfless, and frankly never that in love to put myself in harms way. And so I made the logical choice and watched her walk.

A wave of relief washed over me as the door snapped shut. She could have lied. She could have rolled the dice with my welfare and spared herself the awkwardness of it all. But she couldn’t. She was better than him by far. Lucky me. Only me.

I realized then that as an honest woman, she’d never again know the spontaneity of passion. There could be kisses, but only kisses. Then of course the clumsy pause, followed by doubts, insecurities, and frustrations on both sides until the inevitable conversation came.

Some would judge. Some would pity. And some like me would rage silently against being wooed by a woman his personal quirks would never let him have. My loss to be sure for someday someone would love her not despite the mistake she made in trusting a cheat, but because of it. He’d see a heart that would never leave, never lie, and never give him an ounce of doubt. That, for him, would be worth the risk.

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A Walk Along the Rhine

There are two challenges associated with international business travel: trying to stay awake and trying to go to sleep. During a battle with the former I found myself walking the streets of Basel, Switzerland.

The Rhine River splits the city. One side holds a metropolis complete with upscale bars, trendy restaurants, and a slew of social clubs – if by social one means blackened windows, tired red lights, and a sprinkle of enthusiastic hostesses lining the storefronts looking for prey. The other is a historic district filled with cobblestone paths leading to tree-lined churches and grass-covered schoolyards.

I choose the latter in part because it was quiet, but also because I felt as if I was moving toward something instead of simply ambling about. I walked for nearly two hours, passed churches and museums, down park-lined paths, and along the river’s edge. The weather cooperated – warm enough to comfort, but cool enough to lift my spirit and my gaze. Stars, free of competitive skyscrapers, arrested my attention then turned it lose.

I stopped for a while in a deserted park. The absence of people and linguistic wherewithal afforded me the luxury of introspection. Thought shifted to my grandfather and what he might have discovered during his treks through foreign lands. The circumstances were different for sure and that saddened me. Backpacking and patrolling are two distinct experiences and I wondered if he ever longed for more peaceful travels. The way he told it, they were. Though I’m sure there was far more to his war than stealing chickens and playing tricks on his fellow GIs. I always admired how he selflessly shielded us from what I imagine was an ugly truth.

My brother and I have this recurring wish to have a beer with our father and his. We’d ask “Kid Polo,” our great uncle and WWI veteran to join of course. It’s a wish after all – you might as well go big. And nothing could be more soul stirring than seeing a trio of lost men through the eyes of adulthood.

It’s not to be of course. And yet as I walked back to my hotel I felt the presence of a certain soldier – not as the grandfather I knew, but as the boy he was. He seemed strong, playful, and so full of kindness and life that nearly asked him to drop the rifle and join my much easier, much more self-indulgent life path. I pictured him laughing at the request. “Honor,” he’d say and then shrug away the chuckle.

I wanted more time. I suppose you always do once it’s gone, but we soon reached the Mercure Hotel and my bed and his war were calling. I tried to watch him leave, but space and time are hard to see through, even when you squint. And so I simply hoped: that his path be easy, that his load be light, and that someday he’d know for certain how much we loved him for walking that road.

Before turning in I stopped at the deserted hotel bar and ordered a local brew. Alas, with jetlag closing in, I left the beer and the thought unfinished. I headed to bed feeling both disappointed and a lucky bastard. I’m not sure why.

ESL Fun and Frustration

“Okay class, today we are going to learn about plurals. Let’s say you have a dog, a cat, or even a penguin – that’s singular. When you make them plural you have dogs, cats, and penguins. Got it?”

“Yes. Just add an “s”. That makes sense. So, if I wanted I could have a bunch of gooses?”

“No, that would be geese.”


“Well…. um, because the word ends in an ‘e’.”

“Ah, okay. If it ends in an ‘e’ you change the middle letters to ‘e’ instead of an adding an ‘s.’ Strange, but all right. So a bunch of moose would be meese, right?”

“No, um you see a moose, just stays moose even when they are plural.”

“But why?”

“Well, it’s…ah… because they’re big. That’s it. Moose don’t move.”

“Ah…. okay so then a mouse would change to meese?”

“Nope, that’s mice.”

“Why mice?”

“Well, it’s a smaller animal.”

“That’s ridiculous. What kind of crazy language is this?”

“It’s not my fault. I blame the Brits.”

“Fine. Let’s just stick with the basics. Dog, cat, penguin becomes dogs, cats, and penguins??


“So a sheep becomes sheeps?”


“Why the heck not?”

“Just doesn’t.”

“So what happens to it then?”

“Sheep IS the plural. If you want only one it becomes shep…. just one ‘e’.”


“No not really. But give it time. Merriam-Webster isn’t exactly prudish. Words sneak between her pages faster high school hands slide under sweaters on prom night.”

“This is giving me a headache.”

“There, their, they’re. Everything will be fine.”

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Punch Your Weight

   She had the look of someone who had been around the block a few times and wouldn’t mind another trip if the right guy came along. For a second Tommy managed to convince himself that he could be the one, but his optimism quickly subsided.

   Stilettos. Cigarette. A small wrist tattoo stealing a second of screen time with each effortless exhale. He was an accountant for Christ’s sake. Still, he smiled despite himself. It’s amazing what the right look from the wrong woman can do.

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woman-presenterShe walks likes she means it. Not hurried. Purposeful – with measured, deliberate strides that announce her arrival long before she actually does.

She’s armed. Briefcase. Smartphone. But mostly with what you can’t see. Ivy league wit. Patience. Character you can’t fake.

You can almost picture the conference room and the business end of her laser pointer gliding effortlessly about the figures.

A surgeon in a skirt suit. Successful. Driven. Lonely. The projections are accurate, but they don’t look good.

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Stupid On Steroids

BoxerYou’re a coward. Don’t worry. Most are. I raise my hands and you’ll crap your pants.

I’m not judging. Sure, I’ll fight the man. Eat every bit of sweat-covered leather his muted jackhammer jab can offer. Journeymen do that. Taste the hook they haven’t the skill to see coming.

That’s life. Things happen, mostly bad and you adjust. The trouble is, even when you roll with the punches, you’re still getting hit. Sometimes brave is just stupid on steroids.

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Johnny’s Girl

The other day a bunch of the guys were at Pete’s place playing poker. It was Thursday. The same Thursday we’ve been having since we started high school last year. Well, that is until Johnny decided to shift the conversation from basketball to babes. Yes, it seemed that subject had been coming up an awful lot recently, and so while Tommy shuffled the cards more than they actually needed, we all took turns describing the perfect woman.

Now, there is nothing quite as horny as a dateless sixteen-year-old, so naturally most of the conversation concerned itself with the proper formation of the T and A. God, we laughed like maniacs; that is, until Johnny’s turn rolled around.

He had a way of telling stories. You know, kinda like the way Orson Wells had a way. Real special. The way and the stories. So when he got quiet, we got quiet and watched him as he closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. The silence stood for a moment. Then he dropped the bomb.

“She likes to hold hands and walk in the park. She prefers moonlight to sunshine, but she’s brighter than either one. She loves to cuddle and when she whispers in your ear, the whole world just disappears. She has a little brown puppy named Brewster who, for some reason, I can never imagine growing older.

“Her tears are honest and often, but with eyes like hers, she rarely cries alone. When she’s mad, you’ll know it; either by the wrinkles above her nose or her shoe in the air. But when she laughs, well, then there’s nothing wrong with the world.

“She likes to put her feet up on the coffee table and was never too fond of men who like yogurt. And although she doesn’t care for Billy Joel, she puts up with my obsession.

“She’s seen these eyes, so she knows my soul. And she understands when I curl into a ball and lock my doors. Oh yeah, she loves me and I love her.”

Our eyes were closed and we were silent. Thinking. Planning. Dreaming a wiser dream. That son-of-a-bitch, he made us all grow up a little.

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Strategic Planning Unleashed is Released

StrategicPlanningUnleashedWebsiteCoverHey everyone.  I’m excited that my new book: Strategic Planning Unleashed is ready for release.  I co-authored this one with Ronald Recardo, Managing Partner of The Catalyst Consulting Group.  It was a bit of a departure from my prior non-fiction projects and light years away from fiction works, but an excellent opportunity to work with one of the innovators in the field.  I hope it help companies large and small make the most of their planning process.  Here’s a brief synopsis.

Strategic Planning Unleashed

Despite its importance, few companies have cracked the code on strategic planning. Meetings occur, white boards are filled, and then somehow, magic happens – a binder appears, supposedly summarizing the decisions agreed to by the leadership team. Unfortunately, that is where the magic ends. The strategic plan is rarely used and left to languish on a credenza till next year.

Most strategic planning books focus on theoretical frameworks or rely on an approach endorsed by a single “ideal company”. Generic models and classroom-inspired case studies rarely hold up to the rigors of the real world. And though it’s true that some companies have obtained success in strategic planning, there is no guarantee that their approach will work for your organization – there is no sliver bullet!

Written by seasoned practitioners who have applied the tools in over 200 client companies, Strategic Planning Unleashed provides a practical, comprehensive playbook for each phase of the process; Environmental Assessment, Internal Capabilities Assessment, Strategy Development, and Strategy Deployment.

The methodology is scalable to different sized organizations and includes many strategic planning tools that are not in the public domain.

Regardless of your company’s size, complexity, offering portfolio, or geographic scope, Strategic Planning Unleashed will help your organization analyze its external environment, reach consensus on your sources of competitive advantage, identify a business strategy, and execute it seamlessly.