Memo for the Record

So often in life we are drawn to the short-cut, the easier path.  Note-taking is a perfect example.  We start in the classroom as students.  What to write down, what not to write down.  I recall a Studies Skills class in elementary school.  Not much else in that regard.

My wife teaches middle school, where they teach Cornell Notes.  THAT is a great approach. I use my own variance of that approach when I take notes at work.  I’ve got binders of work notes stacked on shelves at home.   Candidly speaking, I LOVE notes.

Overall, for important decisions, instructions, ideas, insights, it’s a good idea to write things down.  In cases of managing affairs in your work life, or business affairs of your personal life, this discipline is resonates with additional importance.

The importance of writing things down can be found in the Memo for the Record.  Used in the military and government work especially, the Memo for the Record allow the author to document decisions conveyed through conversation, but must be retained for future reference.

Here’s a great example.  It confirms the Kill Order given to proceed with the operation against Osama Bin Laden when CIA believed they had found him in Pakistan.  The author is then CIA Director Leon Panetta.  One can easily understand the importance of writing things down in this instance.


Memo for the Record_KillOrder_OBL_29apr2011

It reads:

“Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the president had made the decision with regard to AC1. The decision is to proceed with the assault. The timing, operational decision making, and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the president. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the president for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get Bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 AM.”

As the old proverb goes, “The palest ink is better than the strongest memory.”  Bottom Line, WRITE IT DOWN.  You’ll be glad you did.


Right NOW.


What are you doing RIGHT NOW?   The big question comes next:

Are you HAPPY?

The swirl of life, the expected and unexpected, and all matters therein.  We get worked up and wound up and whirling about.  Want some examples…?  There are SO many, after all…only the specifics vary, in the end.

Things like trimming the bushes, coping with the Algebra test you didn’t prepare for, a new romance that has you sideways, a nagging conflict, difficulty with a project at work, the death of a parent, not enough money in your wallet, helping your sick kid, unexpected, crappy weather, a flat tire, an achy knee, the dog vomiting in the living room, the birth of a child…and any of ten million of ten billion other activities and instances and distractions that one might be engaged in…

But what REALLY matters is what you’re doing RIGHT NOW.  That’s all we’ve got. That’s all any of us have.  Because that is what’s real.  Living deeply in the moment is critical to not only productivity and sanity, but HAPPINESS.

On the commute into work today I listened to part of a little gem by Tim Ferriss.   It was a short podcast episode featuring none other than a reading from one of the letters by Seneca the Younger, written some 2,000 years ago.  In part the reading shares, “Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather usual, for a man who has lived long to have lived too little.”   

In other words, focus on the present, and make the most of it.  Whatever it is.  CURRENTLY.

From this Seneca passage my mind presents lyrical ideas, as it often does, from favorite musicians and words that I’ve held onto over the years. It was no different as I sped down Highway 101 this morning.    In this case, the lyrics were from the rock band Van Halen, during the Hagar era: “The more things you get, the more you want, Just trade in one for another.  Workin’ so hard to make it easy, Whoa, got to turn Come on, turn this thing around.”

We tend to spend a lot of time trying to get more of whatever it is we want — time, money, sex, food, leisure, toys, title, TIME — rather than focusing on where we are at the moment, and…wait for it…making the most of it.  Of THIS moment.

Planning and striving and setting goals and thinking strategically are all well and good. But in the end, NOW is what you’ve got, so give it your utmost attention.  You’ll be more productive, and HAPPIER, as a result.  Take it from Seneca the Younger.  And Van Halen.

right now music.gif




Charly Adler: There’s Always Another Classroom

I heard from an old friend last week who I’ve never actually met in person.  It gave me such a boost, I wanted to share the experience.

About three years ago I wrote a profile piece for Humaneity Magazine.  The piece was about Charly Adler, a life-long educator and provocateur.  I had a couple Skype interview sessions with him, and wrote the article from there.

I really enjoyed talking to Charly, so I’ve kept in touch, sending a couple emails to say “Hello” since that article came out. Charly’s been nice enough to send a friendly note back each time.  Got the latest one today.  He’s still deeply involved in starting new schools under the mantra of Organized Curiosity.  This effort is not limited to schools in the U.S. either;  Europe and the Middle East also provide fertile, welcome ground.  Apparently he made nine trips over the pond last year.

I found a quote attributed to Charly that read, “I believe that education can be defined as ‘organized curiosity.’ I just would like to see an evolution of a more tolerant and curious society.”  That sounds like Charly.

So, here’s the feature article.  Charly Adler is still on the move, making a positive difference in kids’ lives.  Glad that’s the case, and glad he stays in touch from a couple interviews with a guy he’s never actually met.

Originally published December 2012 in Humaneity Magazine, Issue #12

There’s always another classroom — An education provocateur makes a difference by helping others learn

What do Israel, Palestine and Providence, Rhode Island (US) have in common? All have provided Charly Adler , 56, the opportunity to learn, teach and inspire young people to help themselves and make the world a better place.

Originally from the US, Adler has traveled to more than 40 countries in his lifetime, so he knows something about the world around him. Having lived and worked outside the US for 14 years, engaging in various endeavors, in the places just mentioned as well as some others, this self-proclaimed “project junky” is still pursuing the next best chapter in his fascinating life. Why? So as to seek and give inspiration to and from the youth.

You might call him a socially-minded, education provocateur. Because throughout his life, Adler has made a difference by helping others learn. That’s his motivation. Indeed, if you talk to Adler, it won’t take long to see the energy he draws from, and gives back, when connecting with young people, in whom he sees endless possibilities. There is a lot of humor as well. As Charly puts it, “It’s all about finding a way to trigger curiosity, to empower kids, and hopefully to inspire them to ‘do some good’, ya know?”

Adler believes in offering students a path so they can take ownership of their education; bridge the socio-economic divides they face; experience creative, in-depth learning; and develop the skills they need to be successful in the world. Not limited to traditional western/American educational philosophies, Adler seeks environments that align and build on the educational ideas he has worked with and developed throughout his life as an educator.

His background

The son of immigrants from Israel, Adler grew up in a Jewish-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. “Like any good first-generation Jew, I was expected to become a doctor or lawyer. When I graduated I enrolled at the State University of New York Binghamton, which was basically the Ivy League for immigrants at the time.”

Adler’s college studies likely formed his approach as an educator later in life. He studied European history, focusing on the period from 1880 to 1940, following an inter-disciplinary curriculum that included art, literature and architecture. He began     connecting the dots, getting excited about the content, and going deeper into the “why” and the “do” – inspired and eager to learn.

Rather than go to medical or law school after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979, Adler found himself taking the road less traveled – what was meant to be a six-month stay in “mysterious Paris” on a scholarship became four years of wandering and working odd jobs in several European countries.

He spent time as a soldier in Gaza in Israel, and even worked on Arab-Israeli relations for none other than Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem for several decades. All these experiences shaped Adler – his beliefs about people, young, old and in-between; and his fresh approach to problem solving and all the associated possibilities of folks trying new things, keeping an open mind, and staying engaged in the world around him.

He was also involved in Operation Moses in northern Israel, which helps bring Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan to escape persecution. Helping bridge the gap for immigrants, one of Adler’s projects was to help establish and run a cultural center in the area.

The children

During his time in Israel, Alder began working with children, which is perhaps how his enthusiasm and focus on young people was born. Hired as a grant writer for the Jerusalem Foundation, he never actually had the chance to write even one proposal. Soon after coming onboard, Mayor Kollek sent Adler to a meeting on Jewish-Palestinian relations.  As Adler explained, “At that meeting, I got on so well with my Palestinian counterpart during that meeting and a couple follow-ups, that they asked me to work on community-relations with Palestinians instead.”

Meant to establish and strengthen relations between the ethnic groups in Jerusalem, these projects often involved Jewish and Palestinian children. “We did treasure hunts and art projects with the kids, and other activities. The idea was to build, a common ground for the kids,” said Adler – in effect, building bridges and friendships between Arabs and Jews.

For Adler, “education is ‘organized curiosity’.” As he puts it, “It’s harder to hate people  you’re interested in, people you’re curious about, those you believe you can learn something from.” Offering great insight into what makes him tick, these simple concepts are the foundation of his philosophy on education.

Shortly after finishing his Masters in Education in 1998, Adler signed on as an advisor at the original Met School ( Providence, Rhode Island. This school would serve as a proving ground for education innovators, Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor. Together these two educators created school environments much different from what teens in America have been used to: No chalkboards, textbooks, or lectures. Instead the schools are guided by the basic principle that children learn best by doing meaningful work that engages them.

Adler was part of the team that produced the world’s first graduates of the Met School, which operated (and still does!) on the fundamentals of students taking personal responsibility, more parent involvement and individualised curricula. This tremendous success would spur Adler forward as an education innovator himself.

Considering Adler’s core beliefs about learning and his experience at the Met, it’s no surprise that he spent much of his education career in Big Picture Learning (BPL), the non-profit company that Littky and Washor founded to start the first Met school.

At BPL, he’s held various roles: As advisor, principal and senior education consultant over a 12-year period. During this time, Adler helped transform schools into places where “authentic and relevant learning happens”, as he puts it, “so the kids flush the victim mentality, and so they have a stake and a sense of personal responsibility in their education.” It’s all about empowering students with knowledge so that they can make a better future for themselves.

His next step

Most recently in April of this year, Adler accepted the position as principal at the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India. The school represents in many ways the Indian equivalent of BPL, focusing on students in a different way, empowering them and teaching them to be responsible for their learning. Unfortunately, due to visa issues, that assignment came to a sudden end. He returned to the US in September, the quest for his next opportunity as an educator underway.

As Adler continues down his professional path and into his third decade as an educator, he remains excited about the possibilities and is energized by the challenges that lie ahead. For him, the learning will continue, as will inspiring young people to not only improve their knowledge and understanding but to also gain experience, follow their passions, share their enthusiasm.  “I want them to do more than learn, that’s fine, but you’ve got to share what you learn, you’ve got to do good.” No doubt students around Charly Adler will.

GOOD Friday

The old Negro spiritual  about the crucifixion includes the phrase, “…sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…”.  For a lot of years I would take the afternoon off to go to church for several hours on Good Friday, to reflect, pray, and participate in the service.

These days my life is a lot more complicated, and discretionary time is at a premium.  The demands of three little kids and two aging parents means that today, though I’ve got the whole day off, I’ll be attending to bills, taxes, laundry, and other chores rather than sitting in a pew this afternoon.

However, the busy day won’t stop me from pausing this afternoon to reflect about what happened some two thousand years ago, when the Jewish leadership in occupied Israel convinced their Roman overlords to kill a lowly carpenter by hanging him on a cross for speaking out to much, teaching revolutionary ideas, somehow representing God.

The busy day didn’t stop me from looking at the homeless guy I saw in the park while I was walking the dogs this morning, and thinking,  “What can I do to help that guy, or someone else like him?”

The busy day won’t stop me from thinking about the fundamental teachings that Jesus brought to the world.  Not really new ideas, but certainly applied in new ways.  Love one another. Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  Help those in need.  Consider your place in the world humbly, and be filled with gratitude.

For me the Easter Triduum boils down to the teachings that Jesus gave us, the extreme measures he took to make those teachings real, and the hope that we can find in the darkest hour.  It’s that hope we should live with, and share with others, every single day.  It’s that love we should nurture within ourselves, and give witness to everyone around us:  friends, family, children, strangers, co-workers, parents.

On this day remember what it means to give of yourself completely, without concern for reward or outcome, save knowing you’ve given all you have to make life better for those you love, those around you.  And when you realize you’ve done so, when you pause to reflect on your efforts, it might just cause you to tremble a little, in awe of love you feel as a result.  And that’s why they call this Friday GOOD.


Friday Faves, Issue #33

Friday is here again, and that means it’s time for little more GOOD in the form of the Friday Faves, a quick rundown of cool stuff gathered for the week.  Just for?  YOU! Enjoy.

Destination of the WeekLuanda, Angola is the capital city and commercial hub in the southwest African nation, on the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s also been ranked the “priciest city to live in in the world.”

Quote of the Week:  “The cost of freedom is very high, but Americans have always paid it. One path we shall never choose? The path of surrender, or submission.”  -John F. Kennedy

Band of the Week:  Another solo artist, the lovely, talented, and funny Adele.  My kids LOVE singing “Hello” in the car. No wonder.  Great tune!

Meal of the Week:  That magical, spicy, easy-to-make dish that hails from the Cajun country – Jambalaya! Tons of variations…here’s one to try.

Website of the Week:  This site is pretty new, and pretty AWESOME.  Podcast, portal for purchasing cool stuff to make you healthier and happier — ya gotta WORK, but it’s worth it, and the motivation is right HERE ~


REMINDER:   Your comments are always welcome.  Love to hear what you have to say, GOOD or otherwise.  If you fancy twitter, you can follow more of the muse there. My handle is @jhludlum ~

Enjoy the weekend!

Remembering Andy Grove

When Intel was well on the rise and Andy Grove was the commodore of the fleet so dominant in the seas of the micro-processor sector, I was a young sales guy trying to win business from the likes of Intel and all their neighbors in Silicon Valley.

At the time I remember reading a lot about various leaders of the companies and industries in the valley.  I looked for ways to hone my sales strategy and pitch to prospective companies’ own business objectives.

I found this article about Andy Grove somewhere along the way and liked it so much, I saved it.  In hearing about his passing today, I post this piece in remembrance of a great thinker and leader in American business.

I attended an Intel annual meeting several years back, after Grove had stepped down as CEO.  He was in the audience though, and I remember him looking relaxed, in a black leather jacket, crew-neck and khaki’s.  He chuckled and waved when the then CEO made reference to Grove sitting in the audience.

So here’s to you, Andy Grove.  As the hashtag goes around twitter currently #RIPAndyGrove ~

“A Cubicle Suits Him Just Fine” [original article written by “unknown author” c.1996]

As Intel has grown, Grove’s office has shrunk. It used to be that an executive’s climb up the corporate ladder was accompanied by a series of moves to ever-larger (and plusher) offices — culminating in the final move into a mahogany-paneled corner office from which the CEO ruled over his business empire.

But often, shielded by a phalanx of administrative assistants, the CEO had only a foggy idea of what was really going on at lower levels of the organization. That’s
definitely not the case with Andy Grove.

Not only does he take a vital interest in what’s happening throughout Intel’s far-flung realm, but he disdains the mahogany-row syndrome.

His office is remarkably compact. In fact, it’s not an “office” at all, but a partitioned-off cubicle crammed in among similar-sized cubicles on the fifth floor of the Robert N. Noyce building, which serves as Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara.

Pam Pollace, who works closely with Grove as vice president-worldwide press relations, occupies an adjacent cubicle. Pointing out that increased staff hiring has

forced the company to squeeze more cubicles into a finite space, Pollace finds it humorously ironic that, as the size of Intel’s manufacturing facilities and corporate revenues have increased dramatically, Grove’s office has grown smaller and smaller because of the “compression” effect. (He does, however, have a window
with a nice view — his only evident “status symbol.”)

Asked whether the tiny quarters are adequate for his needs as CEO, Grove replies, “Absolutely. . . . I need a conference room for private meetings, but most of the
time I can read, work at my computer, or have phone conversations very nicely in my office — even if Pam often does overhear me.”

Breaking into a chuckle, he adds, “Earlier today, I was having a meeting in my office and everyone was talking about [Pam’s] role — and she pipes up on the other side of the partition and answers the question we were discussing. I have to be cognizant of things like that, but I’ve been living in cubicles since 1978 — and it hasn’t hurt a whole lot.”

Significantly, the open-office environment symbolizes one of Intel’s great strengths — a culture that encourages open and honest communication.

Senior Vice President Ron Whittier observes that Grove fosters open communication by encouraging staffers and others to say what’s on their minds. “People here
aren’t afraid to speak up and debate with Andy,” he notes. As a result, Grove is able to keep in touch with what is really happening throughout the 62,000-employee
company, which has a dozen wafer-fabrication facilities and other manufacturing operations around the globe.

E-mail, which he finds to be much more efficient than the telephone, also keeps him in touch. He estimates that he receives 250 to 300 e-mail messages a week. “As a
practical matter,” he says, “my phone is not nearly as important as it used to be.”

Moreover, e-mail has eased the burden of correspondence. “Back about 20 years ago,” Grove says, “if I went on a week’s vacation, when I came back, it took me about 10 hours to catch up with the regular mail. Now, the paperwork is almost nothing. “When I think about how I used to use correspondence, I would use the margins of memos — and scribble a few lines and send them back. And that is what e-mail does.

When someone writes to you, you respond back with a few lines or a paragraph. It goes back and forth, but it is very brief. . . . And a big difference is [the time element].  If you stick a letter in the mail, it takes a day or two to get to Arizona or wherever. There is no immediacy. But an e-mail transaction usually takes place within hours.”

E-mail, a byproduct of the information revolution that Intel helped to foster, has also reconfigured intra-company communications. “I no longer get internal [paper]
mail or internal phone calls,” Grove says. “If you want to reach somebody, you very quickly discover that the most effective way of doing that is through e-mail.

“If somebody phones while you’re out of the office — and you try to return the call — you ping-pong back and forth so many times that you forget why you called in the first place.”

That comment is proof that Andy Grove understands the real value that Intel helps to deliver to the business world. In fact, if he didn’t use e-mail, it would be a bit like the chairman of General Motors driving to work in a Toyota.

But, obviously, the culture at Intel is radically different from that at GM. And it is reflected in a variety of metrics — including the high-tech firm’s impressive stock-market performance in recent years. And, yes, even the dimensions of the CEO’s office.



Three hundred and thirty three.

That’s about how many calories I had in the little plate of food I ate for dinner with the family last night.  So I wasn’t successful in my “no food” fast day, but I was close (see yesterday’s post).  A couple bites of chicken, and some pancit my in-laws left with us from the weekend.  Also a spoonful of potato salad.

My decision to mini-dine was based on the circumstance of the moment.  We were trying to get our three little kids to the table to eat their dinner, and with them facing the usual distractions, I thought, “If I eat a little, maybe that will help them.”

It really didn’t do much…they still wandered around while my wife and I ate our dinner.  But the thought was pretty sound, I think.  Damn the complete fast, and let’s try to help the bigger cause.

One lesson I took from the experience is, parenting and family factors will frequently play into things — indeed SHOULD play into things — and we parents need to be flexible to adjust, modify our plan, do what’s necessary, and then keep going forward.  That’s life.  That’s parenting.

I also reminded myself that I’ll take the UP side of the experience from the fast — 333 calories (or there about) isn’t much — and try again soon for a complete fast.

Meanwhile, I’ll hope for a more successful dinner hour tonight, and take the partial victory of the partial fast, and call it GOOD.



For about the last year or so I’ve followed the 5:2 Diet.

This diet basically has you eating “normally” five days out of the week, but two days a week, limiting your eating to 600 calories (if you’re a man) for the “fast days”.

Beyond the 5:2 Diet, I did a 21-day cleanse/purification in February.  But the last couple of days I’ve fallen off a bit with my consumption.  And I’ve also found myself in a funk I need to shake loose.

So today I’m taking this fast day a step further, and not going to eat anything.  Drink a lot of water, yes.  But in effort to reset my “system” and my attitude, I’m on the fast today.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to shake things up  a bit.  I find this is particularly useful if you find you’re not quite feeling yourself normal, a little off kilter, etc.  Fasting can be a good way to do this, since you leave yourself with more time for other things (since you’re not eating) , and it heightens your senses and self-awareness.

Stay tuned for the results.

Oh yes, and if you’re interested in learning more about the 5:2 Diet, a good resource can be found here.



Friday Faves, Issue #32

Happy World Sleep Day! Hopefully these tidbits won’t put you to sleep, but will give you sweet dreams when you do fall into slumber, maybe a little earlier tonight.

Destination of the Week: Chelmsford. Where, you ask?  Essex, of course.  Not enough?  Never is.  Here.

Quote of the Week: “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” -James Joyce

Band of the Week:  Great example of 80’s rock n’ roll…lots of leather, big, stringy hair, and thick guitar licks.  Dokken. Here’s one of their hits.

Meal of the Week:  Steak!  The “perfect supplement”, according to Jocko Willink. Half in jest, but clear on motivation.  Don’t hate red meat. All things in moderation probably applies here. Grass-fed. A piece about a big as the palm of your hand. GOOD.

Website of the Week:  Want to open your mind? Open your body to GOOD mobility, #worthit


REMINDER:   Your comments are always welcome.  Love to hear what you have to say, GOOD or otherwise.  If you fancy twitter, you can follow more of the muse there. My handle is @jhludlum ~

Enjoy the weekend!

Off Your Butt. UP. Go!


In May I’ll hit the one-year mark since I started tracking my sleep and day-time movement/activity in a formal manner.  How?  I’ll tell you.

Don’t remember how I found Jawbone UP, but one of their devices (the UP Move) is the one I have.  I bought one last spring, and have been tracking myself since then.  In keeping with the project, I’ve thought increasingly about how to integrate being “active” into my every day.

At it’s most basic level, it’s clear to me that if I’m going to be as healthy as I can be, I’ve got to remember the fundamental importance of MOVEMENT — in increasing amounts, and frequently. Not just daily but many times EACH day.  It’s about getting UP, staying active throughout the day.

Part of the motivation was from my not being very active since my wife and I started having kids five years back.  We had run a handful of half-marathons, my running had progressed nicely, and then BOOM:  kid #1 arrived.  A MASSIVE blessing for sure (as is #2 and #3 we added over the next three years).  But my running all but stopped.  I got hurt. Then it stopped completely.

So MOVEMENT.  MOTION.  MOBILITY.  For me, it’s about feeling better physically.  And mentally.  About the body.  How it feels, how it works for you.  One of the keys?  No surprise really:  Work to get to and stay around your ideal body weight.  Make your body (and mind) stronger.  Two main factors are at play here:  Good Diet, and Good Activity Level. Regularly.  Every day.

What does that effect?  For one thing, “metabolism”. Your own.  Revving it up. Get it going.  Using the energy you’re consuming.  Get the body doing more of what is suppose to be doing.  Performing well, propelling you forward. Want a little science?  Here.

What else?  Being active gets the blood flowing, gets that heart rate up a bit. Get’s the body warm, and loose, and operating more efficiently and effectly.  A bi-product? You burn more calories.  What’s the result?   At least for me (but I think research backs this up), I feel more ENERGIZED.  And my body physically feels better.  My joints, my back, my whole physical self feels healthier.

There are a few catchy phrases that come to mind to spur motivation.

Here’s one:  “Motion is Lotion.”  I heard a therapist say that once.  Love it.  So true.

Here’s another:  “Move It or Lose It.” Lose your mobility, lose your skill, lose your independence, lose your…mind.  After all, we’re built for MOVEMENT.

USE your body as it was intended. Reference back to our evolutionary ancestors.  200,000 years of motion, activity, chasing, finding our food.  We’ve come a long way since then.  And NOT to our advantage.  Want the Cliff Notes?  Here.

All this is even more important as we get older.  We’ve got to keep trying, keep after it, keep being open to new stuff to stay active as long as possible.

Here’s one more phrase, maybe not so catchy, but direct and to the point:

“Off Your Butt.” GO.  Being more active will result in more happiness.  That’s the best reason to get UP and move. NOW.  You’ll be glad you did.