0 comments on “Bucket List”

Bucket List

When was the last time you looked at your bucket list? A bucket list should hold us accountable for the things we want to do in life. It should be a source of excitement, providing us with one more reason to wake up in the morning. My bucket list consists primarily of new places and new experiences, ten of which I highly recommend.

10. En route to Machu Picchu, this is one of the camp sites along the Inca Trail. The elevation is approximately 12,000 feet, which is just high enough to reach out and touch the clouds. IMG_5977

9. Lopburi, Thailand has been overtaken by monkeys, most of whom have formed two gangs. Each gang occupies a temple on opposing sides of the street. When the monkeys are not swinging from telephone lines and climbing atop vehicles stopped at red lights, you’ll likely find many catching a short nap in the shade. img_2026

8. The Terracotta Army in Xian, China was discovered in 1974 when local farmers were supposedly digging a well. The sculptures were buried around 210-209 BCE. Each warrior is mesmerizing, as no two faces are alike, and while some are missing parts of their body, they do not break rank. They stand, and they appear prepared to move forward. img_2454

7.  The Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt is considered the second largest ancient religious site in the world (the first is Angkor Wat). Pictured here is a glimpse of Hypostyle Hall, home to 134 massive columns carved with mesmerizing hieroglyphs. IMG_7333

6. The Tunnels of Cu Chi in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam comprise an immense tunnel network that took approximately 25 years to build. The tunnels were used extensively by the Viet Cong guerillas, but they were also home to many Vietnamese. People lived in these secret tunnels. Travelers, escorted by a guide, can now crawl through the tunnels. (Just try not to get stuck in one of the many tight bends, like I did. It made for quite a scare). cu chi

5.  This is what sunrise on the Great Wall of China looked like on a cold morning in February, 2004. I was able to get onto the wall at 3 a.m. and hike to Simatai (the highest part of the Great Wall). I hiked only a few miles by head torch, the help of a few friends, and a bit of luck. Current measurements put the length of the Great Wall at over 13,000 miles. light blues - Copy

4.  If you like lavenders and purples and blues, every sunset in Koh Samui, Thailand will call to you. img_1046

3.  The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon, Portugal rests stoically on the edge of the Tagus River, celebrating 33 figures for their role in the Age of Exploration. Padrao dos Descobrimentos

2.  In Palermo, Sicily, an evening stroll after eating handmade pasta and drinking local red wine is precisely what’s necessary so you can do it again tomorrow. img_1683

1.  Just as some nations protect rain forests, Dubai, UAE protects its ever-decreasing deserts. Sand-boarding, as Michelle is doing below, is a thrilling way to see the majestic sand dunes that once characterized the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf. Sandboarding

What’s on your bucket list? What have you crossed off recently? And what are you looking forward to?

0 comments on “Core Values”

Core Values

With exception to sashimi, the one time I’ve eaten part of an animal in its most unadulterated post-mortem state was when I ate a goat’s heart in Rajasthan, India.

I was in the desert, confronted by miles of yellow sand and an occasional weed jutting up from the ground like two outstretched arms after a long slumber. It was dusk.

A goat had just been killed by two of the Bedouins with whom I’d been traveling. One held the goat down while the other cut its throat. They proceeded to dismantle the animal. This was all done on a small blanket, on the sun-colored sand, wind blowing just enough to remind you it’s there.

The strips of meat that were pulled from the body would soon see a flame and then become the main ingredient in a stew. But the heart, which had been beating 30 minutes ago, was special. It was a prize. And as their guest, it was offered to me.

I held it in my right hand. It was warm. Uncooked. Its viscous blood coating the sides of my fingers. I didn’t want to eat it. Oh how I wish it could’ve sat in coconut milk and spices, like the cow brain I tried in Jakarta . . . or have been deep fried like the water snake I ate in Shanghai.

Instead, there it was. Undressed. In my hand. I gripped it like I was trying to assess its weight, almost like a pitcher holding a rosin bag as he stands on the mound, trying to figure out what to throw next.

I was not steady. Thick blood rivulets plopped from the heart and onto the sand canvas beneath me, looking like a yellow and crimson Jackson Pollock.

I held it up to my mouth. At that angle, the blood began to creep past the meaty part of my palm and onto my wrist. As it greeted my forearm, it was time to make a decision. Go big or go home. I opened my mouth and thrust the heart deep into me, like I would a jelly donut. My jaws clenched. The thick warm blood—the taste of mercury—shot through my mouth and coated my throat. Then my teeth, instinctively, sawed back and forth through the ventricles. I didn’t know the inside of a heart was so tough, so I cut with my teeth and pulled with my hand until the heart broke free. With a full-body Popeye-esque thrust, I tipped my head back to jerk the heart down my throat and into a place I could soon forget.

Then, with blood smeared about my face, I offered the heart, now an oblong crescent shape, to my Bedouin hosts.

They accepted, greedily devouring what remained.


When I consider why I took a bite of the goat heart (as opposed to handing it back to my hosts), the answer is clear: respect. I’d rather endure gag-reflexes and gastronomic fears than be disrespectful to people who’d been good to me, for respect is one of my core values. Make sure that your company’s core values are consistent with your own. If accountability is one of your company’s core values, then you’d do well to hold yourself accountable not only at work but also at home. Leadership is not a part-time job.

0 comments on “Don’t Go There”

Don’t Go There

Honduras. It shares borders with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. “It has one of the highest murder rates in the world,” according to the US Department of State. “Criminals, acting both individually and in gangs, in and around certain areas of Tegucigalpa . . . engage in murder, extortion, and other violent crimes.”

This isn’t about fake news. It’s about characterizing an entire country based on the actions of a few. In the world of fallacies, we might call this a Hasty Generalization.

I booked my flight.

The goal was not to put myself in harm’s way. The goal was to simply get on the ground for four days in Honduras to see if the characterization of this nation was reasonable.

I landed at Toncontin International Airport, approximately 6 miles from Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. My first stop was Riviera, a restaurant that’s been making yucca con chicharron (fried pork belly or fried pork rinds over cabbage and yucca) for 70 years.

Honduras 1

It was delicious.

I checked into the Hyatt Place in Tegucigalpa, all the while conscious of confirmation bias, knowing that I mustn’t simply search for information that confirms my preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. This was hard, as my first impressions of Tegucigalpa (and the surrounding areas) were favorable.

For four days, I traveled around Tegucigalpa. I felt safe. Secure. The Honduran people are like many of us, just trying to enjoy a better life.

This is a recurring theme in my travels. Had I trusted the news, I’d never have gone to Colombia 11 years ago, or Croatia, or Cambodia. At this rate, I should probably book flights to North Korea and the Congo.

The takeaway is this: when you hear people speaking categorically about a person, a business, or a country, know that their credibility should be questioned. Rarely can something be entirely bad. And sometimes the only way to prove it is to conduct your own research.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, New York City . . . they each have dodgy areas. And so does Honduras. There are murderers, drug-dealers, and folks bent on extortion. But to suggest that something is entirely bad based on the actions of a few is unreasonable.

0 comments on “Be Uncompromising”

Be Uncompromising

Many Americans are familiar with the story of Henry Ford and his drive to produce the V-8. As the story goes, “When Henry Ford decided to produce his famous V-8 motor, he chose to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block, and instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine. The design was placed on paper, but the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.”

Ford’s reply was simple: “Produce it anyway.”

A story that some may be less familiar with is the story of the Burj Al Arab. I’ve been there twice, and each time I’ve marveled at the achievement it represents. The Burj Al Arab is the iconic structure standing approximately 1,000 feet off the coast of Dubai, UAE.

burj al arab

Completed in 1999, the Burj al Arab was the tallest hotel in the world for several years. However, when the vision for this self-proclaimed 7-star hotel was conceived, the ruler of Dubai was told it was impossible.

It was to be a hotel that looked like the sail on a yacht, and it should appear to float atop an island. In the words of the guide who showed us around the property, “The lead architect was perplexed. He said, ‘I cannot create land. An island is not possible.’”

The ruler of Dubai simply replied: “You build it. Or I’ll find somebody who can.”

burj3

Sure enough, just as Ford’s engineers found a way to build the impossible V-8, the architect (along with an army of engineers) found a way to construct an artificial island that could support a hotel consisting of 70,000 cubic meters of concrete and 9,000 tons of steel.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on compromise, but it seems to work best when people are trying to avoid conflict or when they have shared goals. If you fancy yourself a dreamer, a visionary, or an entrepreneur, consider the cost of compromise. Sometimes it is essential to be uncompromising.

0 comments on “Prepared to Pivot”

Prepared to Pivot

It was a simple plan. Fly to Malaysia, get collected by a family-friend, and drive to her place in George Town.

But there was a problem. When I landed at the airport in Penang, my friend was not there. It was 11:30 p.m., and I was curbside. Had it been less humid, I still would’ve been sweating.

An hour passed. Most of the passengers from my flight had already gone. There was an announcement over the Airport’s P.A.: “The airport will be closing in 30 minutes.”

Already, I’d noted fewer taxis. And while I didn’t know much about the airport, I knew that it was approximately 30 minutes away from the capital, George Town. I knew little of Penang (and Malaysia in general), and I hadn’t any way to contact my friend. What was at first curious started to become concerning, especially as I heard the announcement: “The airport is now closed.”

Moments ago passengers were exiting baggage claim, greeting loved ones, and securing transportation. Now I could hear moths banging against light fixtures. But there was one taxi remaining. Two German tourists were loading their gear into the trunk. I dug deep to resurrect my three years of high school German. “Entschuldigung, entschuldigung,” I said. “Sprechen sie Englisch?”

Fortunately, they spoke some English. They agreed to let me share a taxi with them to George Town. Upon arrival, since I hadn’t a place to stay, and since it was now almost 1:00 a.m., and since the local hotels were fully-booked for Chinese New Year, my new German friends agreed to let me share their hotel room as well.

Upon waking, I learned that the hotelier spoke little English and that the hotel was without Internet. I hit the streets, and over the next three hours I determined that most of the local businesses (including Internet cafes) were closed because of Chinese New Year, and they would remain closed for the next few days.

I pivoted.

Pivoting requires one to move decisively after gathering as much information as possible. I listed over a dozen options (ending my holiday was not one of them). The most viable was to take a bus to Thailand. So I did. And 9 hours later I was enjoying a can of Singha on the beach in Phuket.

The takeaway is this: I had a plan. (I planned to see Malaysia. I planned to stay with my friend.) Tenacity is important, but we mustn’t try to force a round peg into a square hole. In travel, just as in life and in business, assess whether you are advancing an agenda or forcing it. If it’s the latter, be prepared to pivot.

0 comments on “Start a Tradition”

Start a Tradition

In 2003, I enjoyed New Year’s Eve at a surf camp in Fiji.

While I’m still a horrible surfer, I inadvertently established a tradition that has brought me great pleasure: beginning the New Year in a new country.

It began in Nadi, Fiji. I was solo. Just me and a rag-tag collection of would-be travelers. As the hours to the New Year drew close, two Fijians scaled a palm tree, grabbed a few coconuts, mixed the coconut water with rum—and voila—it was party time!

The following year brought Edinburgh—along with heaps of Scots in kilts, toting their homemade whiskey for warmth. I was on Princes street, flanked by the old world and the new. (On one side was a medieval castle. On the other, a Baby Gap).

By the time I met Michelle, I was several countries into an established tradition, one that she could now be part of.

And with Portugal, Dubai, Buenos Aires, Sicily, La Paz, Barcelona, Tokyo, Singapore, and Maldives now under our belts, people rarely ask us what we’re doing for New Year’s. Instead, anyone who knows us simply begins with “So where are you two going this year?”

Indeed, traditions abound. Some develop accidentally. I have four friends from college, and we’ve managed to make one trek to Las Vegas every year (with rare exception) for the last 23 years. The question isn’t, “When will we see each other?” The question is “Which month will we be going to Vegas this year?”

Some traditions are cultural. My wife’s family gathers at the cemetery every year to clean their ancestors’ grave sites . . . to pay respect to those who are no longer with us, to honor them by making sure they are not forgotten.

Some traditions are religious. I was raised a Buddhist. Each year my parents would take my brother and me to the Vista Buddhist Temple’s Obon Festival. I’d marvel at the muscular Japanese men, wielding wooden mallets at mounds of rice resting atop a wood block. They’d pound the rice until it became pasty and began to resemble what would become mochi. (When my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told her I wanted to be one of those guys . . . the guys who swing the wooden hammers.)

People enjoy traditions for all sorts of reasons: to celebrate child birth (the Red Egg and Ginger party comes to mind), to celebrate love (via Valentine’s Day or anniversaries), or to honor those who’ve served (Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day).

Many of our traditions have been passed down from one generation to the next. We grow up looking forward to these traditions, planning for them, knowing they are good for us, knowing they make us better.

What’s of note, though, is that you may certainly create your own traditions. I know some triathletes who do a birthday swim every year: 100 x 100 yards. That’s 10,000 yards (not a big deal for a swimmer, but it’s a fairly sizable swim set for most triathletes).

Every year my dad—a competitive and talented cyclist—rides twice his age. I remember accompanying him on his birthday ride when he turned 58. We’d gotten to mile 57, and I was thinking, “Okay. It’s almost time to turn around. And then only 58 miles to go.” But my dad, always eager to push himself, said we should ride a few more miles before turning around, just in case our route wasn’t measured correctly. I figure we rode at least 120 miles that day. (Last year my dad turned 70, which means he rode 140 miles . . . if not more . . . on a hot day in August.)

While habits are performed daily, or weekly, or monthly, traditions are different. They are over-arching annual goals that our habits help advance. A well-chosen tradition should make you better.

Consider creating a tradition this year. You’ll be glad you did.