life

#Foodie Review: Grace (Chicago)

Clearly I love food. Anyone that follows my blog or my tweets on Twitter understand this more than most. I love to eat, I love to dine out, and I love to experience new cuisines and restaurants. I have a low tolerance for bad food and no tolerance for bad service. Of course I can’t write a blog for every restaurant that I visit. So I’ve decided to do a series of comparison reviews. In some, the connection will be obvious. In others, perhaps less so. In the first of the series, I set out to find two restaurants that were of similar quality in food, decor, value, and service albeit different cuisines. In this case, also looking for strikingly different levels of activity and, likely, different levels of competition and long-term success. For the first pairing, I chose two upscale restaurants.

Today I focus on the first of the upscale restaurants, Grace, one of the West Loop’s premier dining establishments. As a comparison, I dined at Acadia and will subsequently do a full review of that South Loop spot.

A tale of two city restaurants … Grace and Acadia

Part 1: Grace

Grace
652 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661

Summary: Recommended / Special occasions only.

This is one of the restaurants I have wanted to visit since moving back to Chicago. Everyone has heard of Chef Duffy’s fascinating and tragic history and rise to where he is now. You kind of want this place to thrive. But, this is Chicago, so backstory or not, the food and service must be stellar. And I was impressed. The food was spectacular. It was showy without being too over the top (I don’t really want a pillow on my plate). And I left more satisfied than when I dined at Alinea, albeit less so than L20 or Everest.

FOOD: 5

Very interesting presentations of each course. We all had the menu with meat and lots of it. We loved the heirloom tomato dish with a delicious whirl of sauce.  There was an amazing oyster dish that my friend Sherry thought was superb.  An artichoke dish could have been skipped but the meat dishes were amazing, including both lamb and beef. Wine pairings were good but not great, and I have yet to find a wine guy as good as Dan Pilkey, formerly of Ria. It is perhaps because of him that I find so many not up to par. (Let’s be clear here, I am not an expert and they certainly know more than I do, but the good ones bring you along with them and the wines fit perfectly with the meal.)

When I dine at these showy places, I often worry that the emphasis will be so much on presentation and flare that the food will be bad. Or, that the temperature will be off. That was not the case at Grace, and all of the dishes came out at good temp and high quality.

SERVICE: 4

Service was exceptional and well coordinated, albeit a bit practiced and “obvious”. My friend summarized service as “quite good but a little bumpy given the prices.  Could have been more precise.” I agree. At Les Nomades, service is amazing and the servers are there when you need them and almost invisible when you don’t. Here, and maybe this is more due to newness of the restaurant, the service seemed too much like they practiced and wanted to get it right like a routine. I kind of want them to seem a bit more like they are simply happy to serve us.  Overall, I think service was great. Nothing we needed was ever held back, transitions were smooth, and timing was on point. If I felt they were happy to be hosting us, I would have felt a tad better.

One note: The sommelier, as I mentioned above, was good but not the best. IMHO, she needs to learn to be less intrusive and a bit more nuanced in her interactions with the diners.

DECOR: 5

This is a beautiful, understated, classy establishment. I love the open and airy kitchen with bright woods and colorful spices on display. It’s fun to watch the activity in the kitchen without being overwhelmed by it as can be the case in some restaurants (I sat sweltering in front of the kitchen of Little Goat recently.) The room is small and thus not many patrons. You can have a conversation without screaming or worrying that your neighbor hears every word. Everything is tastefully presented.

VALUE: 3

This is a very very very expensive place. And I knew that of course before dining. It is in line with most places of this style and caliber but I still feel it is pricier than it needs to be. One caveat is that it has been a few years since I dined at Alinea and thus cannot vouch for whether that place and others have also gone up significantly. But, you get what you pay for and Grace is an experience more than a meal.

OVERALL: 4

Grace is a great addition to the West Loop culinary scene and its nice to have another high-end restaurant over there versus in the Gold Coast / River North area. Grace is ideal for a very special date, not business in my opinion. More for celebrating a milestone birthday or anniversary. Given the prices, this clearly could not be a regular dining spot for most people and I personally would not see myself returning anytime soon given the tremendous number of other choices in Chicago, many of them significantly less pricey. That said, the chef’s story, the great food and tasteful decor, and the strong level of service make this highly worth trying if you are a foodie.

Stay tuned for review of Acadia in part 2 of this tale of two city restaurants.

More on the chef >> http://graphics.chicagotribune.com/grace/

Chef Curtis Duffy

Chef Curtis Duffy and Adam Stanley

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

For more reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.

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My Soapbox: Life is an echo

Karma

When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, yes, this is how I ought to feel.
Harold Kushner

Life is an echo.

Christmas is often the best time to see the true character of people. You see the good and the bad. You see those who find great joy in giving to family, to friends, and to those in need. You see those that seem to take joy mostly in receiving from family and friends. You see those that love unconditionally and show that love through physical and verbal manifestations of caring. And you see those that truly don’t seem to have an ounce of caring inside. Yes, the negative of Christmas is that sometimes it brings out the very worst in people or at least makes the bad that’s already inside much clearer. It highlights the negative like the bright lights on Michigan Ave in Chicago highlight the stores or the shiny garland and ornaments highlight Christmas trees.

Today, my soapbox message is a simple one and it is a message that has been delivered through centuries and ages. From spiritual leaders and deities, to actors, comedians, and politicians; and everyone in between. It is this: Doing good feels good. Loving feels good. Giving feels good. Supporting feels good. Commiserating feels good. Forgiving feels good. And, even better, in addition to feeling good you have the additional benefit that people return all of the above right back to you. Yes, absolutely true and proven time and time again is the Golden Rule that one does unto others as he or she wants done unto him; Do good. Feel good. Receive good.

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This is the time to forgive. This is the time to perform a random act of kindness. This is the time to love. This is the time to understand and ask questions. To listen. It is not the time to hold grudges or seek revenge. It is not the time to be angry or jealous. It is not the time to fight over material things or hurt feelings.
I’m posting on #karma today on my facebook page, LinkedIn, Instagram, and twitter. If you follow me on all, you will see several thought provoking images. Confucius, Jesus Christ, Buddha and several other great thinkers and spiritual leaders all seemed to believe that what goes around comes around and it is better to do good thing to do ill.

Thanks for reading another soapbox rant. Smile. What are your thoughts on karma or The Golden Rule? Have you experienced personally or through someone else the results of bad Karma? Seen someone blessed beyond imagining after doing good and giving sacrificially? Share below please. I would love to hear what you think.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

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Leadership

Life Lessons (Guest Blog by Robert Acton)

Guest Blog

Connections Life Lessons: Leaders Share Their Stories

One of the greatest aspects of my career, education, and life in general has been meeting people. I love meeting people and getting to know their stories, what makes them tick and how they handle life challenges. I have met several leaders over the years and I want to give voice to their stories. Thus, I have asked a few of them to share their stories as part of my Connections blog. I will not set a schedule but will share these when I receive them. I hope that by sharing their stories, you get to know a great leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.

This guest blog is from someone I have become friends with personally after years of working together professionally. Rob Acton was Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid when he recruited me to join their Board of Directors. While he has moved on to other great things, I continue to serve on the Board. More importantly, we have become good friends. Rob is smart, passionate, and a true leader already. Yet, he is willing to learn from others, as well as from his personal successes and failures. With all the great things behind him, I expect even gather things ahead and am honored to share his thoughts on good leaders.

If you would like to guest blog as part of this series, please contact me via twitter, LinkedIn, or by posting a comment on this blog.

Be Well. Lead On. 

Adam

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leadership-definition

In the Presence of Great Leaders
Robert B. Acton
Executive Director – Taproot Foundation New York

I am inspired by great leaders. They are rare. There is no objective measure for great leadership, no certificate or title, but when you’re in the presence of one, you know it.

The handful of great leaders I’ve interacted with have a set of characteristics in common:

1. They are obsessively passionate about the mission they are leading. Their commitment to its success is unwavering.

2. They inspire people by telling great stories. Their scope of knowledge is both deep and wide, but they really connect when they tell stories.

3. They are both confident and humble. Their confidence engenders loyalty to their cause. Their humility engenders loyalty to them.

4. They are wise. They have experienced a lot of learning over the years and know how to synthesize and apply it to new and changing circumstances and environments. They make good judgment calls.

5. They invest heavily in others. Without anything to gain, they carve out quality time for high potential people who can learn from them.

6. They experience life with unfettered enthusiasm, even joy. Each day is an adventure. A day without a hill to take is a day wasted. They live life with the accelerator pressed to the floor, every day.

7. They are easily moved. They laugh and they cry.

8. They are guided by deep-seeded values. They know they can’t fake it and wouldn’t want to anyhow. Their core is firmly in tact.

9. They love people. Actually, they are obsessed with people. They are usually the last to leave a room if there are interesting people to meet and conversations to be had. They always make time that they don’t have for people.

10. They have a masterful base of knowledge. They know their area of expertise, of course, but that’s the easy part. More impressively, they know three important things about your area of expertise, as well.

A few such leaders I’ve been privileged to know well: Charles Middleton. Tony Campolo. Sylvia Reynolds. Laura Truax.

Some I’ve observed briefly, or from afar: Tim King. Sterling Speirn. Bill Clinton. Ken Chanault. Cathy Trower.

My aspiration is less about reaching a particular job and more about “becoming” — learning more and more how to be reflective of these truly great leaders.

That’s what year 45 will be about.
Leadership

About the Author:

 

Rob Acton

Rob Acton

As New York City’s Executive Director, Rob Acton sets the strategic direction for Taproot Foundation and the pro bono movement in America’s most populous city. He is known for belting out Broadway show tunes at the photocopier and trying to measure everything. Prior to joining Taproot, Rob spent over 20 years leading nonprofits, working in direct services and engaging in policy efforts designed to bring opportunity, justice, fair-treatment and second chances to residents of Brooklyn, Harlem, Chicago and Jackson, Mich. Most recently, Rob served for seven years as Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), overseeing the delivery of free legal representation to more than 22,000 low-income clients. During his tenure, CGLA expanded ten fold the number of clients served and tripled the agency’s annual budget. In May 2008, CGLA received the prestigious Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence. Rob’s roots in NYC run deep having worked at a number of nonprofits including Legal Outreach, Inc. and the Brooklyn Juvenile Rights Division of Legal Aid Society. He has served on a number of nonprofit boards and has taught graduate level nonprofit leadership at DePaul Law School and North Park University. He earned his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Spring Arbor University. Rob calls New York City home and his favorite root vegetable is the sweet potato, especially in the form of pie.

Life Lessons (Guest Blog by Marquis Parker)

Guest Blog

Connections Life Lessons: Leaders Share Their Stories

One of the greatest aspects of my career, education, and life in general has been meeting people. I love meeting people and getting to know their stories, what makes them tick and how they handle life challenges. I have met several leaders over the years and I want to give voice to their stories. Thus, I have asked a few of them to share their stories as part of my Connections blog. I will not set a schedule but will share these when I receive them. I hope that by sharing their stories, you get to know a great leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.

This guest blog is from someone who has already made tremendous strides in his professional career, having a successful stint at McKinsey and Company and years of Aon experience under his belt. Marquis Parker, an energetic, ambitious, and confident young leader, also has degrees from prestigious universities including Princeton and Stanford. With all the great things behind him, i expect even gather things ahead and am honored to post an excerpt from his blog “Amazing what one can learn in 10 years”. Since this is just an excerpt of a very well written blog, I encourage you to read and comment on the entire blog here.

If you would like to guest blog as part of this series, please contact me via twitter, LinkedIn, or by posting a comment on this blog.

Be Well. Lead On. 

Adam

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——————–

Amazing what one can learn in 10 years

Marquis Parker (excerpts selected by Adam L. Stanley)
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I originally started this blog to share my story as an MBA applicant, but, over the years, it morphed into something totally different. For the past few years, I’ve used this blog as a forum to answer questions from my readers as a way to share the learnings that I’ve acquired from stumbling through my education and career without having been taught the “right way” to do it all; I figure that I’ve already endured the bumps and bruises, so I should use that to keep others from having to do the same.

Below, I’ve provided my top 10 life lessons learned from my last 10 years of educational, professional, and real life experiences. Many of these items are somewhat basic in nature, but all of them were true revelations for me when they hit me and have helped me become the man that I am today.

1. Be thankful for what you’ve got

My advice here is that, no matter how dissatisfied you may be with your current situation (e.g., job, career path, financial standing), just remember that someone else could have it worse. If you hate your job, think about all of the folks who would kill to have any job at all. If you’d say that you’re not advancing quickly enough in your career, make sure to appreciate that you have a career at all…many recent grads would give anything to trade places with you and have a chance to start their careers. Lots of people complain about their homes, cars, clothes, possessions, etc., but I’d bet that they don’t think others who have lost everything or are barely hanging on in the aftermath of the economic crisis. It’s real out in these streets.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard and fight for what you really want…We all deserve the right to do that. That said, I would strongly encourage you to be thankful for what you have in the present when trying to build for the future. Keeping the proper perspective will be very helpful in truly appreciating advancements once you get them.

2. “Be ruthless with your time”

This is a holdover from my 2006 list of lessons after graduating from Stanford GSB. I took the quote from one of my favorite GSB professors, Jim Ellis, from a list of tips that he gave in our final ‘Managing Growing Enterprises’ session.

You’d be surprised at how quickly your time can be taken up by others and, next thing you know, you won’t be left with any for things that YOU need to prioritize, like getting your work done, spending time with the people who matter to you, and, most importantly, sleep/health. It took me a while before I realized that this had happened to me again, but, when I did, I made changes to follow Prof. Ellis’s advice and start being ruthless with my time. I started budgeting in time to hit the gym, spend more time with my peoples, run around out in the streets, and sometimes simply do nothing productive at all (which was a major change for me). It was GREAT and had a huge impact on my overall stress level.

If you take only one thing away from this list, I hope it is this point… It’s great to want to give of yourself to help everyone, do everything, and have impact everywhere, but, sometimes, you just need to focus on you and what you need. Time is a resource that is non-renewable. Make sure that you focus on being ruthless when it comes to yours.

3. Find an anchor for your confidence

I’m a firm believer that honing in on a few things that make a person distinctive/interesting/great is a bulletproof way to not only develop one’s confidence, but also to maintain it, even in the face of struggles or failure.

4. Optimize on building meaningful relationships, both personal and professional

Some may think that ‘connections‘ and ‘relationships‘ are the same, but I see them as separate ideas, with the latter being much more valuable.

Here’s how I think about it:
Connection: Being linked to a person in some manner, but not necessarily in a “deep” way; Similar to “having met” someone versus “knowing” that person; Can be established without having actually met or even spoken to a person; Connections can be established for any number of reasons, including being alumni of the same (or peer) academic institution, having worked for the same company, similar industry/functional/career interest, and mutual connections

Relationship: [Instead of defining this myself, I’ll rely on the one from Wikipedia] Strong, deep, or close association/acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring. This association may be based on inference, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment; The distinction here is that the parties involved have put in work to move past simply being connected and toward really getting to know each other; Relationships provide a foundation for ongoing engagement and mutual benefit for both people

5. Treat your network like it has value…because it does!!!

This item ties directly into the previous one. Once one has developed a set of meaningful relationships, he/she will have the foundation for a diverse and potentially productive network, which would include friends, colleagues, associates, and acquaintances. These connections could lead to job opportunities, introductions to notable people, help/support in some kind of initiative, or any other of a long list of benefits. Due to what’s at stake, It is crucial to be thoughtful about how you manage and leverage your network because destroying/damaging it is much easier than developing it in the first place.

I’ve either experienced or heard of many instances where people have been unwise in interactions with folks in their networks, often resulting in permanent changes in how they are seen by those connections. Actions like flaking on scheduled phone calls, showing up late to meetings, not being prepared to have a meaningful discussion, being overly informal, taking a long time to respond to communications, and not following through on commitments can end up having lasting effects. In many of these cases, the person may not even realize that he/she did something improper, but, once the damage is done, it likely can’t be undone.

6. “Know when to hold ‘em…know when to fold ‘em”

Life is basically a series of gambles on a bunch of factors, like education, relationships, career, and health. Winning at the game of life requires getting enough wins in these individual gambles, whether it’s by being dealt a strong hand, using the right strategy, or blind luck. In other words, you should aim to handle those “gambles” in the best way possible in order to end up with the best overall result.

Anyone who plays poker knows that, in some games, you can end up with cards so good that you want to immediately raise your bet. In other games, your cards might be so iffy that the best move is to fold and get out of the hand. In the series of “gambles” that make up life, it is sometimes best to “lay down your cards” and exit a given situation.

7. Be open to accepting feedback AND be willing to give it

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feedback is defined as “helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.“…in other words, feedback is supposed to be seen as a good thing. If asked, most people would probably describe themselves as feedback-seeking and then go on list the many benefits associated with it. But, in reality, when comments that aren’t necessarily glowing come their way, a lot of people are quick change their tunes. Having lived and worked in a few feedback-heavy environments, I have quite a few thoughts on the topic.

8. Recognize that it’s OK to have a chip on your shoulder as long as it serves as motivation to achieve more

I’ll start by acknowledging that many people will disagree with this item and may see me as spreading a negative message, likely due to the negative connotation of having a chip on one’s shoulder. Some assume that it is an indicator of a person being quick to argue or to see someone else as doing him/her wrong (whether justified or not). I choose to view it differently.

I understand that some people with chips on their shoulders end up bringing negativity with them wherever they go, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. What about the instances where a person uses it as a push to aim higher than he/she would have otherwise? Or, what about it being a way for someone to motivate him-/herself to overcome perceived roadblocks on the road to success? I’d argue that this can be a win if done productively.

9. Don’t be afraid to go for the “Hail Mary“

Some you may have heard of the term Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which is a similar concept, but what I’m referring to here is different. If something is a goal, the implication is that one has thought about it thoroughly beforehand and *hopefully* develops a methodical plan to achieve it. With the Hail Mary, I’m talking about making an attempt to do something that seems so far away from being possible that it wouldn’t even qualify as a valid goal. It’s like taking the idea of a “stretch goal” and stretching it so far that it sort of doesn’t even make sense. Feel me?

10. Remember that everyone deserves a chance to win

From what I’ve seen, one of the biggest factors in achieving success is simply having a legitimate chance to do so. There is a school of thought that says anyone can find an opportunity if he/she is willing to work hard, sacrifice, be flexible, etc. in order to make it happen. For many in our society, that school of thought is just plain wrong and, sadly, that’s just the way of the world. I believe that it is up to those of us who have found some measure of success to recognize this fact and do what we can to help these folks get their shot.

Looking back over the above list, I can’t help but be amazed at how much life experience can teach a person over time. It isn’t always easy to see those lessons as positives instead of setbacks, but time has a way of providing the right kind of perspective.

Of course, many items in my list seem basic to many of you, but, for a guy who didn’t really get these things until his late 20s and the first half of his 30s, they were literally life-changing. Also, folks tend to assume that it’s been an easy road for me because of what I’ve accomplished, but that couldn’t be further from reality. So, it’s refreshing to think back and realize what hard work, sacrifice, and the hustle has made possible for a scraggly little dude from the country (VA represent!).

About the Author:
Marquis Parker is a business leader, coach, advisor, mentor, and award-winning blogger on topics of MBA student life and admissions, careers, and business concepts. He has experience in formulating strategies and analyzing mission critical issues for companies ranging from government and public sector entities to global private sector organizations. Throughout his career, he has acquired a broad set of educational and career experiences grounded in Business Operations, Strategy, Technology, Private Equity, and Education. In addition, Marquis has served as an advisor and/or Board member to several small businesses and non-profit organizations, including InstaSafe, McRae’s Foods, The Friends of Sinai Children’s Hospital, and Higher Praise Ministries.

Currently, Marquis is a Vice President of Strategic Projects for the U.S. division of Aon Affinity, which specializes in developing, marketing, and administering customized insurance programs and specialty market solutions for affinity organizations and their members or affiliates. Also, for the remainder of 2013, he is serving a secondary role as a Vice President of Global Operations for Aon Broking, which integrates the insurance broking infrastructure of Aon Risk Solutions across its retail, wholesale, and specialty businesses in 120 countries. Since joining Aon plc, a $12B provider of risk management, reinsurance, and human capital advisory services, in 2010, he has held leadership roles in strategy and business operations in 3 of its 4 operating business units, including a stint as a Vice President on the “special projects” team for Aon’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Update on my Travel Goal

***Updated June 13, 2013 from blog post of June 2012***
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Most of you know of my goal to visit, live or work in at least 50 countries before I turn 50. When I set the goal I remember thinking how far away I was to both 50s!! Now, not so much!! I thought I would post my list and provide an update. I’ve also posted my targets for hitting the remaining countries!

VISITED THUS FAR:
South Africa
Botswana
Zimbabwe
Egypt
Morocco

Italy (Holiday June 2013 really enhanced experience of this country)
Spain
France
Hungary
Czech Republic

United Kingdom (England, Scotland)
Ireland
Switzerland
Germany
Netherlands

Turks and Caicos
Virgin Islands – st john, st thomas
Bahamas
Mauritius
United States

Denmark
Belgium
Austria
Holy See (Vatican City)
Canada

Costa Rica
Puerto Rico
Mexico
Brazil
Argentina

Singapore
Hong Kong
Japan
India
Thailand

Australia
New Zealand
Portugal
Poland
Greece

Turkey

Total: 41 as of June 2013

Removed due to short length of visit:
Namibia (1999)
Zambia (1999)
United Arab Emirates (Dubai 2012)

Target 2013/14:
Romania
Croatia
Israel

Dream finish:
Fiji
Kenya
Nigeria
Ghana
Bali
Tanzania
Madagascar

I still won’t advertise my age but at least you know how many countries. Let me know where you think I should try to go next. Do you agree with my dream countries?

I love meeting people, learning about different cultures and, of course, eating food at great restaurants around the world. Happy to share this part of my life with you.

In global citizenship,
Adam

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Contemplating a dream in 2013

I couldn’t imagine a more fitting tribute to the legacy and life of Martin Luther King Jr than the second term inauguration of President Barack Obama on the day Americans celebrate his birthday. So in honour of the day, I thought I would share a few of my favorite MLK quotes and what they have meant to me personally.President ObamaMLK

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For me, this has meant taking on challenges that are nasty, gnarly, and complex. It is easy to be calm and composed when things are going well, my daily challenge is to keep the positivity and fresh perspective even when it seems the cards are all stacked against me.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a leader of large organisations, I have found several people that spend weeks, months, years! trying to get to an agreement on direction and strategy. And nothing gets done. This quote inspires me to try to balance democracy with action. Getting things done by gathering opinion quickly and getting to a decision, then driving support for the decision.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If I had a dollar for every person that smiled in my face then stabbed me in the back … well France would take 75% of it in taxes….. Also, we all know those types that beat us up when things are bad and forget to make any comments when things are good. Finally, there are some people that despite the best intentions just screw up. For all of the above, my philosophy is based on MLK’s principles (borrowed, of course, from the teachings in the Bible): Forgive! Forgive! Forgive! I frankly don’t have the time or energy to hold grudges. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that means I can be walked over. I do act and take decisions based on the grievances. I simply move on immediately thereafter.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

See above! And, also my previous blogs on who to love. Life is simply too short to do anything less than love unconditionally.

That’s my short list and there are many many more quotes from this great yet flawed man. I learn much from him and from others and look forward to gleaning from the texts of today’s leaders for examples, both good and bad, of being a leader in this changing world.

For today, I say congratulations to President Barack Obama and to his family. May the next four years bring you the sense of accomplishment you desire but also the peace and love that comes with family, friends, and a sense that you have not compromised your values.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswhartonAdam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

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For more information on life, work, and death of Martin Luther King Jr, here are a few web sources:
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkivebeentothemountaintop.htm
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/king_martin_luther.shtml

Lesism – by Les Floyd: With Friends Like These…

Currently my favorite blog post ever…. So many people need to see this one.

Lesism – by Les Floyd: With Friends Like These….

Favorite Excerpts:

… we accept such sustained criticism and destructive negativity from ourselves – truly the one person in the world who is always with us, and who we should be able to rely on at all times.

The storage device in your head is not you – it just records what you’ve done, where you’ve been, who you’ve met and what you’ve seen – and when it mocks, insults or criticises you, it only does so because it’s not working as it should.

My soapbox: Who do you Love?

“Each relationship between two persons is absolutely unique. That is why you cannot love two people the same. It simply is not possible. You love each person differently because of who they are and the uniqueness that they draw out of you.” ― William P. Young, The Shack

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Do you have friends that seem great at tearing you down but never seem to build you up? Even worse, are you such a friend? I will admit there are a couple of people in my life that I am convinced accept me solely because of my corporate success or other temporal aspects of being. I sometimes get the sense that if I were homeless, had children out of wedlock, were exceptionally unattractive based on their criteria, or otherwise against their standards for who to love and appreciate, I would be a side thought. So, I spent the weekend thinking about who I love and who deserves to be loved. The answer is: EVERYONE AND NOONE. If we used the standard of truly deserving to be loved, perfectly living God-fearing saints, there would be ZERO people that should be loved. However, if we assume that everyone is flawed, don’t we all at least equally deserve love?

So, who do you love? Here is my list.

unresponsive, overdramatic
Predictable, blond
Grumpy,
determined
Passionate, judgmental, introverted
angry, short
restless
distracted
Hindu
Bald, chubby
complicated, idealistic, dissatisfied, anxious
Brunette, nosy, knowledgeable
trustworthy
polite, picky
cheerful, beautiful
observant
Fit
insecure, doubtful, tall
cheeky, single
grateful
Nervous, handsome
Fashionable
encouraging
simple, Buddhist
dependent, rude
awkward, Christian
naïve, divorced
Obese, plain, scruffy
self-conscious
pessimistic, Latino,
hot!
incompetent, conservative
inflexible, straight, Chinese
cowardly
Unkempt
Stupid, bitchy, liberal
Widowed, vulgar
selfish, unhappy
cynical, gay, married
needy, feminine
Kind, frumpy
Hairy, suave, healthy
Irrational
Sexy
childish, passive
calculating
Lesbian
fussy, camp
quixotic, Caucasian
Irritating, nice, sweet, helpful
understanding
sympathetic
smart, black
friendly
Vegan
indecisive, redhead
anal, diplomatic, sentimental
Addicted
Organized
Fat
dependable, long hair
Masculine, tolerant
modest, short
romantic
reflective, clean
Meat and potatoes only
confident
TOTAL ASSHOLE
Bipolar
logical
Australian, British, Kiwi
sensible
engaging
cute, aware
Self-righteous
dedicated
loving, queeny
impatient, stubborn, critical
talkative
reciprocating, meticulous, short hair
Tall, naughty
patient
loyal, compassionate
forgiving
admiring, silly, faithful, caring
considerate, skinny
apologetic
Dirty
Flawed

I’m sure I’ve missed some traits or groups but I think you get the picture. Imagine if everyone person to whom you showed love resulted in another person loving you? The person you dismiss because of their speaking style, their clothing, their job or lack thereof, their race or religion …. May just be the person that changes your life one day. And perhaps, by showing love to that one stranger, you just might change theirs.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 (TNIV)

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” Mitch Albom

“Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either.” Erich Fromm

Love BIG. Lead on.
Best,
Adam

Adam L. Stanley

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
Or at http://www.alswharton.com/in

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill

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Finding Balance in Life

Decide what truly matters to you and LIVE

Do YOU have balance? Do you live to work or work so that you may LIVE? That’s an interesting question for many, and several people that THINK they have balance may be surprised by what they hear when close friends and family members are asked. I was such a neglectful friend and still am sometimes. I now commit to and strive to find balance between all of the things that should matter to me. Not simply work. Perhaps the best quote on balance came from James Patterson in his book “Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas”.

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day, you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.

Glass BallAnd once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have beginnings of balance in your life.”

James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas

Ball #1: Family

I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich. ~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, “Identity Crisis,” M*A*S*H

I do most of my writing, reading, and remote working in my library at home. I have comfortable brown leather chairs, an HP Touchsmart PC, and am surrounding by hundreds of books I have read over the years, dozens of magazines and lots of photos of the people in my life that matter most. My family means the world to me, and I would do just about anything for them. Yet, as many corporate folks tend to do, I have found myself in utter neglect of them from time to time. Travelling for work, staying up at all hours on my PC yet not picking up the phone to call, and being only semi-present when I am actually with them are just some of the ways I have risked damaging this “ball”.

The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to. ~Dodie Smith

Have you neglected those people most strongly in your corner, your family? I reaffirm today my commitment to family, and to always remind those that work for or with me that “family comes first”.

Ball #2: Health

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” Spanish Proverb

And how!! It took gaining 20 pounds, seeing my blood pressure steadily rise, and waking up a few too many times with unexplained headaches, body aches, or other manner of ailments to realize I had to slow down.

“So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.”A. J. Reb Materi

I worked so many hours, traveled, stared at my PC, responded to BlackBerry messages and texts, and was basically connected to work 20 hours a day at least. And I was slowly reducing my lifespan. Period. This summer, for the first time since I was 15, I took a sabbatical of sorts.

I became a Vegan. Yep. Cold turkey, I stopped eating meat, dairy, and anything that did not come from the ground. I posted tons of food photos of my daily meals (Flikr followers can see them) and enjoyed feeling better than I had for years. I became the foursquare “Mayor” of my gym, believe it or not, and targeted averaging 7-8 hours of sleep per night instead of 4-5. And I lost about 15 pounds, almost all of them “fat pounds”.

My change was somewhat drastic and I will admit, cooking three meals a day is not easy when working full-time. But, imagine if you do a little bit every day to better manage your health. Try not to get to the point where you have a medical emergency. Will you pledge to proactively write YOUR health story?

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

Ball #3: Friends

A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway. — Fr. Jerome Cummings

I often think of all of the amazing things my parents taught me over the years. How to be a responsible man, work hard, and respect people. They taught me how to build things and fend for myself. And they taught me the types of people I should avoid because they were bad influences or trouble makers. In many ways, they helped me get better at finding friends. Strangely, what they could not really teach me, and it takes years to get good at, was actually BEING a friend. When you find someone who is good at being a friend, you’ve really been blessed.

Friends
Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure. — Jewish Saying

My friends know me, not just corporate me, religious me, or party me. They know all of me. My true friends know the good and the bad and they accept all of it (not necessarily liking all of it, but loving me all the same). At the end of a tough day at work, a call or text from a friend that simply says “Thinking of you and hoping you are being good to YOU” means the world.

In my blog post on Thoughts on Relationships from The Shack, I noted that life is full of relationship and the more you embrace people for both who they are and what they uniquely bring to you (and you to them), the richer you will be. THAT is what friends do for you. True friends. Each relationship is uniquely different, and like investments, the more you put into these relationships, the more you can get from them.

Do YOUR friends know how much they mean to you? Commit to calling more even though FaceBook is more convenient. Send a personal note to let someone know what they mean to you. Keep this ball strong, beautiful and intact. When at the end of the road, you may not finish everything you set out to finish career wise, but you’ll only regret the times you missed with friends.

Ball #4: Integrity

“If everyone were clothed with integrity, if every heart were just, frank, kindly, the other virtues would be well-nigh useless.” — Moliere [Jean Baptiste Poquelin] Tartuffe, V, i (1622-1673)

My reputation is incredibly important to me and whether people think me brilliant or not does not matter as much as whether they think I have integrity. I want people to trust me. And because of this, in everything I do, I strive to take the high road, opting for integrity over any element of success that might otherwise come my way. Always knowing that “Trust is like an eraser, it gets smaller and smaller after every mistake.”

“Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasionTrust move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.” — Benjamin Franklin

At the end of the day, I love pushing hard to be successful in my career. And I am proud of my career accomplishments to date. As I continue to grow, I am learning about balance and finding that truly I can be even more successful. I am certain now that I truly understand the lesson of the five balls, now I must ensure I live and learn from the lesson.

So, I ask you, do you in fact “have beginnings of balance in your life”? Or are you still trying so hard to keep that rubber ball of work bouncing that you shatter the relationships you have while damaging your health and integrity? FIND BALANCE TODAY!

Be well! Lead On.

Adam

Originally published November 2011.

Adam L. Stanley
Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
Or at http://www.alswharton.com/in

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill
remorse - water over the bridge

What if there is no “anymore”?

Guest Blog

Life Lessons: Thoughts from my Mentors

Especially fond of you I received a lot of positive feedback on my recent blog about finding balance in life. Much of my thinking comes from years of finding my way through corporate challenge after challenge while watching friends change, loved ones die, and loyalties betray. But I learned most of my life lessons from several mentors, starting with my parents and going through to several partners at Deloitte, an old boss at ABN AMRO, and a few other leaders. Below are two lessons from my Dad, one written and sent to me and my sister quite a while back. The second one was written for his wife but shared with others in the family as a reminder that we can’t let differences of opinion, arguments, politics, or other societal factors separate us from those we love. I wanted to share these lessons with you. Both really hit on the importance of finding balance before its too late.

Be well! Lead On.
Adam
Adam L. Stanley

What if there is no “anymore”?

One day a woman’s husband died, and on that clear, cold morning, in the warmth of their bedroom, the wife was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t “anymore”.

No more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat, no more “just one minute.”

Sometimes, what we care about the most gets all used up and goes away, never to return before we can say “good-bye”, say “I love you.”

So while we have it, it’s best we love it, care for it, fix it when it’s broken and heal it when it’s sick. This is true for marriage…..And old cars… And children with bad report cards, and dogs with bad hips, and aging parents and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.

Some things we keep — like a best friend who moved away or a sister-in-law after divorce. There are just some things that make us happy, no matter what.

Life is important, like people we know who are special.. And so, we keep them close!

For Julia – An Instant Away

What if… the joy of morning love, the strength of sleepy cuddling a whispered prayer, and the over-concern he said was care…

What if… the pretty eyes, the sensuous looks, the dinners and meals,
and the sometimey fights to express how she feels…

What if the normal routine of life was shattered…
Love of life is torn and battered,
When words not spoken are ripped away,
Kisses not given, are thrown away.

What if all you have, is what we had…

You know it will happen in an instant some day,
And maybe it’s only an instant away.

What if, the apology is never given… the thought never shared.
The heart never opened, they doubted that you cared.
The curt replies, the sullen looks, imagined wrongs recorded as in books.
Sarcasm pronounced, judgment denounced,
actions studied, and criticism levied…

When the one you wouldn’t miss, becomes the one you can never kiss.
When stored anger is reduced, to a heart rending ache.
When knowledge of missed opportunities sweeps through your mind.
And in every room, new evidence of love you find.

But all you have left, is what we had…

You know it will happen in an instant some day,
And maybe it’s only an instant away.

All our trials, our struggles,our hopes and our joy;
Weight loss, job promotions, concerns for that boy.
Parental pressure, eternal release…

And all one of us will have, is what we had.
Will those memories be enough?

You know it will happen in an instant some day,
And maybe it’s only an instant away.

Thank you GOD, for letting me laugh again..but please may I never forget that I once cried.

Michael A. Stanley
Grand Prairie, TX

If you would like to guest blog or chat about your life lessons, please contact me via twitter or by posting a comment on this blog. Thanks, Adam

Adam at Sunset

Find your balance NOW!

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Me and Dad

Me and Dad