Monthly Archives: October 2015

MUSINGS FROM DONNY CONN

My good friend from way back in college was a musician/entertainer who became a stand-up comic and then rose to fame and fortune as a professional speaker/humorist for conventions.  One of his recordings with the Playmates was a million-dollar bestseller called Beep-Beep, the story of a Cadillac and a Nash Rambler.

He would sit on his deck overlooking the Mediterranean—oh, pardon me, it’s the Pacific but it sure feels like you were on the Mediterranean—and pass along entertaining tidbits.

Subject:  A Delicate Corporate Matter

All of the 10 members of the Board of Directors of the company were called into the chairman’s office, one by one, until only Bob, the junior member, was left sitting outside.

Finally it was his turn to be summoned.  He entered the office to find the chairman and the 10 other directors seated around a table.  He was invited to join them, which he did.

As soon as he had sat down, the chairman turned to Bob, looking him squarely in the eye, and with a stern voice, asked, “Have you ever had sex with Mrs. Foyt, my secretary?”

“Oh, no sir, positively not!” Bob replied.  “Are you absolutely sure?” asked the chairman.

“Honest, I’ve never been close enough to even touch her!”  “You’d swear to that?”  “Yes, I swear I’ve never had sex with Mrs. Foyt anytime, anywhere.”

“Good, then you can fire her.”

Five Ways to Start a Fight

  1. My wife and I were watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire while we were in bed.

I turned to her and said, ”Do you want to have sex?”  “No,” she answered.

I then said, “Is that your final answer?”

She didn’t even look at me this time, simply saying, “Yes.”  So I said, “Then I’d like to phone a friend.”

And that’s when the fight started.

  1. One year, I decided to buy my mother-in-law a cemetery plot as a Christmas gift.

The next year, I didn’t buy her a gift.  When she asked me why, I replied, “Well, you still haven’t used the gift I bought you last year!”

And that’s how the fight started.

  1. When our lawn mower broke and wouldn’t run, my wife kept hinting to me that I should get it fixed. But, somehow I always had something else to take care of first; the shed, the boat, making beer…always something more important to me.  Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point.

When I arrived home one day, I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of sewing scissors.  I watched silently for a short time and then went into the house.  I was gone only a minute, and when I came out again I handed her a toothbrush.  I said, “When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the driveway.”

The doctors say I will walk again, but I will always have a limp.

  1. After retiring, I went to the Social Security office to apply for Social Security.

The woman behind the counter asked me for my driver’s license to verify my age.  I looked in my pockets and realized I had left my wallet at home.  I told the woman I was very sorry, but I would have to go home and come back later.

The woman said, “Unbutton your shirt.”  So I opened my shirt, revealing my curly silver hair.

She said, “That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me” and processed my Social Security application.

When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the Social Security office.  She said, “You should have dropped your pants.  You might have got disability too.”

And then the fight started!

  1. I rear-ended a car this morning…the start of a REALLY bad day!

The driver got out of the other car, and he was a dwarf!  He looked up at me and said, “I am NOT happy!”  So I said, “Well, which one ARE you then?”

That’s how the fight started!

*  *  *

Dan was a single guy, living at home with his father and working in the family business.  When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed to find a wife with whom to share his fortune.

One evening, at an investment meeting, he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  Her natural beauty took his breath away.

“I may look just like an ordinary guy,” he said to her, “but in just a few years, my father will die and I will inherit $200 million.”

Impressed, the woman asked for his business card and three days later, she became his stepmother.

Women are so much better at financial planning than men.

ArtSchwartzSig

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Blog

REFORMING OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

For years now, our antiquated, inefficient public school system has been losing its preeminent global position in K-12 education.  America is falling behind, way behind.

Here’s one example:

A recent survey of 15-year-old students in 34 countries showed that American students ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics.  And only eight of the 34 nations surveyed have lower high school graduation rates than the United States.

And here’s another:

In 2013, only 42% of America’s fourth graders were deemed proficient in reading and just 35% were proficient in math.  Scores were worse for eighth graders…and low-income, black, and Latino kids scored still worse.

Even as the measurable “outputs” of American public education consistently lag behind other countries, the cost burden per student of American public education consistently increases, putting enormous strain on stretched local and state finances.

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (FFEC), which was created in 1996 by the late Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and his wife Rose, an equally distinguished economist, had a better idea.

They believe the key to positive change in education rests with empowering students’ parents, not the government.  Specifically, FFEC believes parents should have the primary power and authority over their children’s education, which includes both the power to pick any school they deem best and the control over the type and quality of school they pick.

Ultimately, the power of parents should trump the desire, no matter how well-intentioned, for common standards, especially when those standards are determined by either state or federal education experts, or government bureaucrats.

The key to FFEC’s idea is, instead of requiring tax dollars and students follow a single path to public schools, we separate government’s funding of schooling from government’s administration of schooling.  Instead, the funds earmarked for education and generated by the taxes we all pay should be directed by parents to the schools of their choice.

You see, government does some things pretty well, like collecting taxes.  But government is not good at providing the diversity of educational opportunities and choice that a nation as big as the United States needs in order to compete in the 21st century.  That’s because government’s administration of education follows a top-down, one-size-fits-all model in which students and schools are all treated exactly the same way.

And the government monopoly on directing where public funds set aside for education can go serves as an enormous, even crippling barrier to unleashing American creativity and ingenuity in education.  In America, we don’t let the government tell us where to buy our groceries…so why should we accept the government telling us where to send our children to school?

Here’s how Milton Friedman diagnosed the flaw behind our current education system:

“It is only the tyranny of the status quo that leads us to take it for granted that in schooling, government monopoly is the best way for government to achieve its objective.”  Common Core is only the latest, but may well be one of the worst, example of “the tyranny of the status quo” that Friedman described.

“Common Core is being imposed on American families despite the fact that it is a new program, with no track record.  And, there is a large and growing grassroots and parent movement to reject Common Core altogether.

“Although Common Core supporters like President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan say the Common Core standards have been voluntarily accepted by the states, that simply is not true…states were practically bribed to accept Common Core as a requirement to participate in the Obama administration’s ‘Race to the Top’ program and get a share of the program’s $4.35 billion in taxpayer funds.”

People are realizing that Common Core, just like “No Child Left Behind,” will take our nation further down the road to the creation of bureaucratically imposed educational standards that will inevitably lead to putting even more power into the hands of state and federal bureaucrats and potentially a “lowest common denomination” national curriculum.

Contrary to its proclaimed goal of creating a “floor” for educational achievement, Common Core could actually impose a ceiling on educational excellence for the vast majority of American students who are enrolled in public schools…and that is no way to improve education!

In time, this nationalization of standards and its push to “learn to the test” could mean that American kids register even lower on international assessment surveys and put our nation even further behind other developed nations in creating a competitive and prosperous workforce.

Milton Friedman described his solutions this way:

“A far more effective and equitable way for government to finance education is to finance students, not schools.  Assign a specified sum of money to each child and let him or her and his or her parents choose the school they believe best, perhaps a government school, perhaps a private school…That would provide real competition for all schools, competition powered by the ultimate beneficiaries of the program, the nation’s children.”

In 1996, when the FFEC went to work, there were a total of six school choice program in the U.S.  Not one was a statewide program.  Today, there are a total of 55 different school choice programs available to families in 27 states and the District of Columbia, providing educational opportunities to more than 10 million eligible American students.

The momentum behind school choice today is simply stunning, as just since April this year three new states—Arkansas, Nevada and Tennessee—have enacted their first school choice programs!

As befits a movement dedicated to freedom, there are a wide variety of school choice programs now on the books in America.  Today, choice programs range from broadly available vouchers to Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs), to tax-credit scholarships, to vouchers tailored to help low-income families and families with special needs children.

The goal is…universal school choice.

That means that all American families, regardless of income, should have access to the public funds set aside for their kids’ education to direct as they see fit.  But we should welcome all choice initiatives that empower parents over the government monopoly that forces education dollars into government (public) schools.  As school choice programs expand, we are beginning to see the concrete proof that choice works!

School choice programs increased low-income students’ likelihood of graduating from high school—from 70% to 91%–most of whom were students of color.  Students who were able to use a school choice program were 31% more likely to go to college than students who didn’t win a random lottery to participate in a program.

In Washington, D.C., 85% of the students who participated in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships program (which is restricted to low-income families) graduated from high school in 2012…while only 58% of students in the D.C. public school system did.

I know we’re afraid some parents as well as some school boards will make the wrong choices…but it can’t be much worse than what we have now.

Time to throw out the status quo!

ArtSchwartzSig

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog

A LIFE FULFILLED

One evening recently I got into a conversation with an old college friend about all the guys we knew.  We remembered those who were no longer with us and speculated about those who seemed to have had successful and/or fulfilling lives.

In the course of this exchange I said something to the effect of personally not having satisfied my own ambitions; of not having achieved all I thought I was capable of.

Over the next few days I kept thinking about what I had said and wondered why I had said it.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt it was a somewhat hasty and inaccurate conclusion.

Maybe making questionable comments is the key to thinking things through more clearly and arriving at a more reasoned conclusion.  I believe that was certainly true in this case.

The facts of my career were I built a successful business out of creative ingenuity where there were no other real models like it to follow.  It started when I convinced my then employer, Electrical Industries Association, in a six-month series of discussions to allow me to continue managing their activities as an independent management firm.

We divided the budget up to arrive at my management fee.  I inherited the four other employees, and how that all worked out is the subject for another blog.  So now we were off and running, and over the next 25 years we acquired the management of several other trade associations, started a regional trade publication, and produced/managed several trade and consumer shows.

Although out initial thrust was as an association management firm, because we were located in Los Angeles it became apparent that our ability to attract enough substantial association clients would be limited.  The California state associations were primarily located up north in Sacramento and San Francisco and the national associations were almost all back east in Washington, D.C., Chicago or New York.

The latter group was skeptical of a relationship with someone who had a two or three hour time difference; and to be honest, they were right.  It was a handicap.  So, the answer to me was to diversify and bring under our umbrella a number of added clients we could service in different ways to achieve added growth.

At the same time, we expanded the use of the title client to include ourselves, i.e., projects we could finance and produce on our own.  That was how I built what I humorously called “the smallest conglomerate in the world.”

All told, I had an interesting and multifaceted work life, which has led to a very comfortable retirement.

We employed and supported as many as 30 people at one point, until I decided I was becoming an administrator and didn’t have time to participate in our projects.  Not happy with that situation, I scaled back to about 20 people with a few less projects and found that more satisfying.

It wasn’t all easy and there were many ups and downs.  Being a pioneer by starting a new type of diversified business was a bit of a struggle.  At times I felt I was in a continuous fight.  Added to this feeling was a suspicion on the part of some prospects that there was something wrong or immoral about a profit-making entity trying to serve a non-profit organization.

So now back to the statement I made about not achieving my ambitions.  On further reflection, I should have said “We built a very capable team of people who, had we been located more geographically closer to where the major prospects were, we could have been bigger and served many more accounts.  We weren’t; however, all-in-all, we did quite well with what we had.

I short, I am very satisfied with what we created and accomplished, while at the same time felt we had greater unfulfilled capabilities.

Thanks for listening!

ArtSchwartzSig

1 Comment

Filed under Blog

LIVE BETTER…SLEEP BETTER

This blog is adapted from an article written by Santa Monica-based personal trainer and life coach Tanner Martty as part of his 12-week group fitness program.

Stay consistent with the steps you need to take to live better.

  • Drink at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces of water each day
  • Eat a green salad with a variety of raw veggies and fruit
  • Move with intention for 45 minutes at least 4 days/week and move continuously for at least 15 minutes on the other days
  • Do at least 30 minutes of release/mobility work a week. Consider adopting my rule of thumb:  10 minutes of release work for every hour of physical activity and every 4 hours sitting behind a desk.
  • Read all the labels on food you eat and eliminate vegetable oils and processed foods
  • Introduce more healthy fats like coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil, avocado, Omega 3 oil and organic meat

NOTE:  “Release work” is releasing the knots and tensions in muscles that can lead to aches, pains and injuries.  Foam rolling is a great way to “release.”

We began this journey with the intention to be more compassionate to ourselves, so don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t achieved perfection.  Perfection has never been the goal.

This journey is about becoming aware of a holistic approach, placing your intentions and integrating them into your life long enough to develop sensitivity to how they make you feel.

There are going to be times in this journey when life gets in the way.  When that happens, your job is to respond with equanimity rather than to react negatively.  Responding is being adaptable.  It’s going with the flow.  It’s like water that extinguishes the flames of the fire.  Reacting focuses on the made-up story you create about “why this is happening to me.”  It blames people and circumstances.  It makes comparisons and adds fuel to the fire.

Of course, there are also going to be many times throughout this journey when you’ll be resistant to the habits I’m asking you to integrate.  When that happens, push through the resistance and remind yourself that everything good for you lies on the other side of the resistance.

“How do I know the difference between life getting in the way and my own resistance?”

If you are relieved the circumstances of the day have kept you from staying consistent, then you’re probably resisting the process.

Optimize Your Sleep Chamber

A perfect diet and a consistently daily movement training routine are all for naught if you have poor sleep.  Making some small changes to your sleeping environment (aka: the bedroom) can have a dramatic effect on the quality of your sleep.

The task this week is to optimize your sleep chamber by going through the following checklist:

  • Install blackout curtains to make your room as dark as possible and to help dampen the sound from the street. A very dark and quiet bedroom is optimal for falling into REM sleep.  A sleep mask works well in lieu of blackout curtains.
  • Cool temperature is best (67-70 degrees). If you don’t have A/C, you may consider investing in quiet fans.
  • Remove/fix/replace anything that makes unnecessary noise.
  • Remove any EMG devices from your room, or at the very least unplug them all when you sleep. Electromagnetic devices like your television, phone, laptop, and even alarm clock radio emit waves that can interfere with your brain waves, keeping you from falling into the most restful sleep state.  Anything you have to have (phone alarm) should be moved across the room as far from your head and heart as possible.
  • No work in the bedroom! Your bedroom should be a safe and relaxing place for rest and sex, so don’t bring stress into that environment.  Working in bed sends a conflicting message to your body.  Having a work desk in your room is even worse.

Nighttime Routine

Establishing a nighttime routine that lends itself to a peaceful mind and restful sleep is the goal.  Research shows that looking at flashing lights like the kind from computer screens, smartphones, and televisions stimulate the brain in a way that may interrupt restful sleep.  The effects are exacerbated if whatever you’re engaged in is stressful, like work emails.

Try a 30-45 minute decompression period before going to bed.  During that time, make a commitment to shut down the laptop, put down the phone, turn off the TV and, most importantly, disconnect from work.  Turn down the lights to create a relaxing atmosphere.  Candlelight is optimal and you may enjoy some relaxing music while you prepare for bed.  This whole process is about taking some time for you.  We get so wound up in our day that we sometimes forget to give ourselves the time to unwind.  We’re so used to having everything we want instantly at the tips of our fingers that we start expecting the same out of our bodies.

Lacking in Minerals

Aside from mentally and emotionally winding down, there are several biological reasons that cause poor sleep and restlessness.  All the possibilities are too numerous to cover here, but mineral deficiency, specifically magnesium, is one of the most common reasons.  Magnesium is a mineral that is one of the catalysts for the chemical reaction that relaxes our nervous system, muscles and fascia.  Low magnesium levels can lead to chronic muscle tension, muscle cramping, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, trouble falling asleep and a host of other nervous disorders.

Some of the foods we’ve already recommended, like dark leafy greens and avocados, are very high in magnesium.  Certain nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and pumpkin seeds are also high in magnesium.  Just a half cup of pumpkin seeds, for example, would give you almost 100% of the recommended daily requirement of magnesium.  Brazil nuts are a particularly good choice because they’re also very high in selenium, which is another trace mineral that most people are low in.  Selenium regulates optimal hormonal function and is the catalyst that allows other important micronutrients from foods you eat to be absorbed.

TIPGuys!  Research shows that eating as few as 3brazil nuts can raise natural testosterone levels.  Look out ladies!

Drinking mineral water is a way to kill two birds with one stone.  You’re getting minerals while you get hydrated.  Gerolsteiner is our personal favorite because of its high mineral content and natural carbonation.  One serving has 100mg of magnesium, 345mg of calcium, 1800mg of bicarbonate and 35mg of potassium, in addition to other minerals.

If you’re low in a certain micronutrient, like magnesium, it takes your body a certain amount of time to build up the levels in the blood, even if you start eating foods that are high in that nutrient.

This is even more pronounced for trace minerals.  That’s when supplementation becomes very helpful.  Try a serving of 300-600mg of magnesium mixed in water 30 minutes before bed.  Natural Calm is a great choice that you can find at Whole Foods and
Trader Joe’s.

Don’t allow all the great work you’ve been doing to be undone by poor sleeping habits.  Initiate these sleep routines and you’ll be amazed at how great you feel each morning and how productive and healthy you feel throughout the day.

Rest is as close to a magic pill as you can find.

Tanner.Martty@gmail.com

ArtSchwartzSig

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog