Blog Post # 349 – His Name Was Srinu

Last week, a white man, identified by authorities as Adam Purinton, walked into a crowded bar in a suburb of Kansas City.

According to witnesses, the man said “get out of my country.”

He pulled out his gun.

The white American allegedly then shot two natives of India.

One was injured, the other died.

The shooter ended the violent assault by shooting a white American man who tried to intervene.

Later, Purinton showed up at an Applebee’s for drinks.

He reportedly told witnesses that he needed a place to hide because he had “killed a couple of Middle Eastern men.”

The dead man’s name was Srinivas Kuchibhotla.

People who loved him called him Srinu.

He was 32 years old.

Srinu worked at Garmin, the company that makes map and tracking software.

He graduated from the University of Texas in El Paso in 2007 with a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Srinu was married and was making his way in America.

His wife, Sunayana Dumala, later said that the shooter “has taken a life, a very lovable soul, from everyone.”

Sunayana had reportedly been feeling uncomfortable with a lot of the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from Washington DC and had even asked her husband prior to the killing whether they “belonged” in America.

After his death, she asked for government officials to explain how senseless murders like this could be prevented.

Srinu’s name might sound unfamiliar to American ears.

His skin color might not have been white.

He may have had an accent.

His religion may not have been Christian.

Presumably, he was not a U.S. citizen, but was probably on his path there.

Most importantly, Srinu was a human being.

Someone with dreams, aspirations, goals and a life.

Just his one and only life.

Many questions need to be asked about this senseless murder.

Possible connections made.

Did the hateful lies and anti-immigrant rhetoric of our President contribute to this?

Did blind racism contributed to this?

It seems that the idea that this country somehow belonged to Adam Purinton and not to Srinu contributed to this.

Perhaps the ease of obtaining handguns in this country contributed to this.

Tie these things together and maybe this is what you get.

Can we draw a clear line from this senseless murder to the dangerous rhetoric of the alt-right, Steve Bannon and their hero, Donald Trump?

Perhaps.

Doesn’t take much to see how the hate spewed on Fox News might have had such an effect on those susceptible to hate.

But we will have to wait until the investigation and the alleged terrorist killer’s trial to know these things for sure.

We can only imagine how Fox News would have reacted if it was a brown immigrant who walked into a bar and shot three people in Kansas City.

But of course, in America, white people can’t be considered terrorists.

It has been a tough week in Missouri when it comes to race and hate.

On the other side of the state, those under the spell of hate knocked down over 100 headstones in a historically Jewish cemetery.

Hate.  Hate.  Hate.

But in a beautiful show of solidarity, people of every faith and background showed up later in the week to help clean up the cemetery and to pray for those who lived there.

All of that is little consolation to Srinu’s family.

For unlike a gravestone which can be repaired and set aright, there’s no way to take the bullets out of Srinu.

His body is headed back to India.

For his own private burial.

Rest in peace.

 

Blog Post # 348 – Dream, Baby, Dream

The lovers, the dreamers and me.

We need more love.

We need more dreaming.

Less hate.

Less bitterness.

Dream, baby, dream.

How far can you go?

How much can you get accomplished in your life?

What if there were no limits?

Dream big.

And then build bigger dreams atop your already big dreams.

No fear.

Spend more time thinking, less doing.

Create a vision.

Get off the sideline.

And go for it.

We need you at your best.

At your biggest.

Small you does nobody any good.

If the people around you don’t support you, find new people to hang out with.

Grow, improve, strive and reach.

If you want to be a winner, you need to try harder.

Work harder.

Get stronger.

Get smarter.

We know you can do it.

We are rooting for you.

What, for God’s sake, are you waiting for?

Blog Post # 347 – The Corner Fix

At the in-house Irish pub at the Westin Waterfront in Boston, they have a problem.

The kitchen is located at the end of the bar.

If a server is coming from the bar area into the kitchen to pick up some food, they have to turn a hard left to make it into the kitchen.

Conversely, if another server is carrying a large tray of food, they have to turn sharply to the right in order to make the corner.

The team has devised a workaround to this traffic dilemma.

Apparently, if you work as a server at the Westin Waterfront in-house Irish pub, you yell “CORNER” as you come around said corner.

A straightforward solution that probably works most of the time.

But it leads to many questions.

What was the architect thinking when he or she designed this tricky corner?

How often does the “CORNER” solution work?

Do spectacular collisions still occur at the Corner?

Those questions about the patchwork solution for the Corner problem are interesting.

But since a recent foray into studying systems and improvements for my business, we can take this thought process to a whole nother level.

What blind spots do we have in our business?

Have we developed workarounds for said blind spots?

Do they work all of the time?

When they don’t, are the collisions spectacular?

Sometimes, the tendency is to develop workarounds instead of simply fixing the underlying problem.

The quick and easy fix instead of the long-term solution.

Over time, though, the easy workaround creates more work than the time it would take to fix a problem once and for all.

For today, let us search for and root out our blind spots.

Let us keep an open ear for people yelling “CORNER” at us – with their actions or complaints or workarounds.

Keep ourselves open to trying to find a better way.

Let’s do it.

Blog Post # 346 – No Joy In Mudville

When I was a boy, the only sport that I enjoyed playing was baseball.

My dad tells the story that when I played soccer, all of the other boys were asking to go into the game.

I kept asking when could I head back to the bench.

Too much running.

Baseball has a rhythm, a flow and the potential for something amazing to happen with each crack of the bat.

Also, you could take a break in between plays and innings.

During grade school, our coaches were mostly dads called into service.

But I remember in eighth grade, my friend Paul’s older brother Steve and his pal Mitch somehow became our coaches.

I think Steve was a Marine.

But if he was not, I remember he was built like one.

Mitch and Steve liked to make us run hills.

And laps around the bases.

Lots of running.

I didn’t like this easier.

They yelled a lot.

I think I was scared of Mitch and Steve.

This is one way to coach (see Bobby Knight).

Fast forward to me as the adult.

Me as the coach.

Funny that the perennial right fielder became his sons’ baseball coach.

I started coaching when Ismail was 4 and in t-ball.

This will be the first year in over a decade that I will be without a team to coach.

Hard to believe.

The start of this season will be bittersweet for sure.

Watching from the stands is just not the same.

Most of my coaching was in the Webster Groves Baseball Softball League.

The League is organized by its tireless booster, my buddy, Jerry Pinkner.

Under Jerry’s leadership, the League has expanded exponentially.

Anyway, no more dusty tennis shoes, mini-blowups with teenage umpires, turning off the field lights at Memorial after a long doubleheader or frozen yogurt after the games.

When I was coaching, I thought about nothing else.

No work worries, nothing.

I will miss it tremendously.

The boys and I have toyed with the idea of putting a softball team together for Noor Noor and for us to be the coaches.

We will see.

For now, I will enjoy this break.

And be glad that my players were not scared of me like I was scared of Mitch and Steve.

I think we worked hard to build them up and bring out their best.

I certainly hope so.

In the end, I will miss all of it.

Terribly.

Blog Post # 345 – What Are You Avoiding?

I’m so mad.

My buddy Tyson Mutrux and I have a podcast.

It is called Maximum Lawyer.

The show is devoted to running a law practice effectively and wisely.

We have a lot of fun.

We drop a new episode once a week.

But in the show we just recorded, which will drop next week, Tyson called me out.

I was talking about how I find myself doing more and more busy work.

Work that other people in the office do as well or better than me.

Work that I don’t need to be doing.

Tyson called me out.

He kindly asked me, “Jimmy, what important work are you avoiding doing?”

Ouch.

That call out has stuck with me since we recorded on Monday.

Fact is, I can and should delegate and automate a fair amount of the things that need to get done around our office.

Things are very busy and my inclination is to dive right in and get lots of smaller tasks done.

To put the big picture stuff to the side and to just stay busy.

But as a business owner, that is not the best use of my time.

I hadn’t thought of my busy work as avoidance.

However, I believe Tyson might be onto something.

So this week I am raising self-awareness around this issue of work that I do not need to be doing.

And latching onto the higher level work that I should be focused upon.

So let me ask you, “what important work are you avoiding doing?”

Blog Post # 344 – Facebook Is Not Too Political

People complain that Facebook has become too political.

To them, I say, “you should see Twitter!”

I understand the sentiment of longing for a “simpler” time in social media.

But we do not live in simpler times.

For better or worse, Facebook is our electronic town square.

We share stories, information, and news.

The fact that things have skewed more political lately is entirely proper.

We can certainly enjoy cat videos, baseball news and hearing success stories of our friends’ children.

Plenty of value in that.

But there also is great value in getting untold stories out there.

Yesterday, I shared a Facebook post about an elderly white gentleman who threatened to terrorize a mosque. Yet, he is not being charged with terrorism.

I thought everyone that I knew already had heard about this guy.

Turns out to not be the case.

I am glad that I shared it.

Last month, three young ladies decided on a Thursday night to hold a rally downtown in support of immigrants on the following Saturday, i.e., less than 48 hours later.

They didn’t have to buy radio time to advertise the rally.

No news stations covered the rally ahead of time.

Yet, 250 people showed up to this peaceful rally and march.

All through creating an event on Facebook.

Social media is a tool.

As with all tools, Facebook can be used for good, productive things or for completely wasting time.

I understand the sentiment of wanting to fill Facebook with fun, happy things.

But we need this tool and we should use it as much as we can to bring about change.

Or not.

Now, who has the best Onion article to share?

Blog Post # 343 – Too Soon

Heard an interesting statistic recently.

Whether it is true or not, it is an interesting thought experiment.

The notion is that by the time that we graduate from high school, if we go away for college, we have already spent 80% of the time with our parents that we will for our entire life.

This, of course, assumes that everyone lives a normal lifespan.

Which, statistically speaking, is a pretty big assumption.

Puts things in a bit of different perspective.

Next year, our eldest son Ismail will be a sophomore in high school.

Yusuf, a freshman.

So the two of them will be 3 and 4 years away from being mostly done spending time with us.

Hard to fathom.

Under normal circumstances, though, we will probably live in the same house as our children for the first 18 years of their life.

And then, unless they return home later, they are on their own.

An 18-year ramp to help them launch their lives.

Time marches on.

The kids grow into adults.

The end of that launching period is certainly on the horizon.

How did it get here so quickly?

It seems like Ismail and Yusuf were just little guys running around in their little person clothes, watching the Wiggles and singing along with Farmer Jason.

Man, it goes by fast.

Lesson here: make the most of every moment.

Even when they drive us crazy.

One of my favorite books that Ismail and I used to read together were from the Curious George series.

In one of the stories, George and the Man in the Yellow Hat were invited to a Halloween Party at their neighbor’s house, Mrs. Gray.

At the end of the story, George had to leave, having made a big mess at the party.

There was a line at the end – “too soon it was time to say goodbye.”

Too soon.

For sure.

Blog Post # 342 – No Greater Teacher

Our daughter Noor heard the “N-word” recently.

One of her fellow seven-year-olds called another seven-year-old girl the N-word in the school bathroom.

Noor asked what the N-word meant.

She asked her 11-year old brother, Ibrahim, and I what it meant.

Ibrahim got upset and said, “oh, Noor, that is a terrible word. You cannot ever use it.”

Noor got scared.

Noor likes to follow the rules.

I told her that it is a word that is hateful, mean and meant to really make African American people feel horrible.

Interestingly, Noor asked us about this on the same day that we were all going to see Hidden Figures at the movie theater.

Such an amazing film.

Those of us fighting for the civil rights of immigrants and the oppressed have no greater teacher than the struggles of African Americans.

In today’s world of identity politics, some folks tend to play the victim card.

To argue that they have it worse than anyone else.

The fact is, no group has a lock on hardship.

But Native Americans and African Americans have experienced such degrees of degradation, inequality, and oppression that what we deal with now in 2017 pales in comparison.

No matter what group we fight for.

The keys to bringing about change in 2017 can be found in the successes of the changes that African Americans brought about in the United States in the 1950s.

Political change.

Legislative change.

Changing of hearts and minds.

This post can in no way do justice to the injustice experienced by African Americans.

But movies like Roots, Selma, Hidden Figures, 12 Years a Slave and To Kill A Mockingbird help modern day children and adults to see the struggles that went on before us.

When I watched the movie yesterday, I kept getting pissed at the separate but “equal” approach to life in 1960s America.

Separate bathrooms, coffee machines and places on the bus.

So infuriating.

Black people had to put up with so much BS.

And this was 100 years after slavery ended.

When the movie was over, we all discussed our favorite lines.

But until this morning, I forgot what my favorite scene of the movie was.

The film’s protagonist explains (and I’m paraphrasing here) that there are many ways to help bring about progress.

Her amazing brain helped us send a man into orbit, but she was continuously thwarted in achieving a full seat at the table because she was a woman and because she was black.

It is a remarkable film. When it ended, the entire theater (mostly white people) cheered.

We can all help improve the lot of our fellow Americans.

We simply have to have the will and the willingness to say no.

To take a stand.

And to fight.

Blog Post # 341 – Top of Your Game

 

 

All-star.

Professional.

Top of our game.

What does it take to be the best?

Do we really want to put in the work to be the best?

Or do we settle for “close enough?”

The amount of work it takes to be pretty good is about half of what it takes to reach the summit.

To be the # 1 in our field.

The last few steps to the top of the mountain are the hardest.

Yes, we know our stuff.

Yes, we do a good job.

But to claim the mantle of the best takes a whole lot more.

The best baker.

The best mother.

The best mathematician.

To reach this highest ground, we have to grind.

We have to work.

We must perfect our craft.

It also takes a tremendous amount of incredible focus.

Eschewing things that do not help us get to where we want to be.

Saying no a whole lot more often.

So that we can say yes to success.

The ultimate success.

For today, let us envision being the best.

Visualize what is going to take to get there.

And get started.

Blog Post # 340 – Clank

I grew up on the best street ever.

Arch Terrace.

One day, I will write a novel about it.

The street was filled with some of the greatest characters.

Our Catholic grade school and parish church were at one end of the Terrace, our house towards the other end.

We would walk down Arch Terrace a couple of times a day – to school, to church, to the school parking lot where all of our fun took place.

The neighbors on Arch Terrace were as close as people can be.

Nobody had a big yard and everyone’s house was very close to the house beside it.

To say that everyone was up in everyone else’s business would be quite an understatement.

It was an idyllic, special, special place.

One of the houses that we would pass on the way to school and church was the Wagners.

My friend and classmate Chris Wagner lived there.

Chris’s mom and dad were dear friends of my parents and we were over there all the time.

Nina was the mom. Clarence was the dad. But no one called him Clarence.

He was Clank.

Clank and my dad were good friends.

They traded tools back and forth often and helped each other out on their crazy projects.

My dad would be building a deck for someone on the street and he would need a special tool.

He would send me over to the Wagners and Clank would tell me to just go ahead and take whatever my dad needed.

I remember that Clank and Nina hosted my dad’s surprise 40th birthday party.

That would have been 36 years ago.

A lifetime ago.

A different life. A different time.

One Christmas, the Hackings and the Wagners were the last ones to take their Christmas tree lights down.

Either my dad or Clank suggested that we have a contest to see whose lights would last the longest.

No replacement of any bulbs was allowed.

If all your lights burned out, you lost.

If you forgot to turn the lights on, you lost.

Chris and I were usually in charge of turning the lights on each night.

Clank and dad made sure that we did.

The Post-Dispatch put Chris and I on the front page of the newspaper.

Voice of America radio carried the story and the Wagners’ relatives in Germany heard about it.

My dad and Clank eventually stopped the contest after a year and a half because President Carter asked Americans to conserve energy.

Clank Wagner would give you the shirt off his back and ask if you needed another one.

We all loved Clank and Nina.

Dear, dear friends to my parents.

Mr. Wagner passed away suddenly this week.

He went to bed and did not wake up.

Clank and Nina raised 2 wonderful sons and 2 amazing daughters – Annie, Joe, Chris and Nina.

Special people, one and all.

Godspeed, Clank. You were truly loved.