The Shameful Hubris of the New England Patriots

I’ve been a New Englander and a Patriots fan for almost 40 years (no old-age comments please). I supported the team through SpyGate and DeflateGate. I’ve embraced the “In Bill We Trust” concept through the trades of Vince Wilfork, Jamie Collins, and many others. I questioned why the Pats would choose to not re-sign quality players like Chris Long and L. Blount but figured management knew more than I did. I’ve now reached a point where I’m a skeptical – and somewhat embarrassed – Pats fan.

It started with the trade of Jimmy G, the heir apparent to Brady. He sure looked like a franchise QB in his limited playing time and would serve as a seamless transition from Brady. With the trade of Jacoby Brissett, it seemed clear that the Pats were all-in with Jimmy G – until they weren’t. They traded him for nothing and watched him lead the 49ers to five straight wins. But maybe that was a one-off mistake. Not!

Belichick’s benching of Malcomb Butler is incomprehensible. To me it was indicative of Belichick’s deep-seated belief that he possesses superhuman powers. Even worse, it exposes him as a fraud. Why a fraud? Because he always touts that the team comes first. His mantra is “Do Your Job,” yet he failed to do his own job on Sunday. Only an idiot would believe that benching Butler was an attempt to put the best players on the field. I noticed that Butler was crying during the national anthem, and I thought it was a sweet moment in which he was thinking about a departed loved one or giving thanks for all the good things he’s enjoyed because of football. No. He was crying because he’d just been told he wouldn’t be playing – even though he’d played 97% of snaps during the regular season and playoffs. He was devastated – as would anyone who had the rug unceremoniously pulled out from under them. It was a mean and hurtful action on the part of Belichick – one that hurt the team. No one can be certain that the Pats would have won if Butler had played – but the odds are that they would have.

But that’s not all. I’m getting sick of Tom Brady and his TB-12 branding campaign, his $200 “rejuvenating” pajamas, and the scam artist he’s hooked up with to sell supplements and meal plans that only the rich and famous can afford.

And here’s what I see as the final straw: Josh McDaniels’ decision to back off from accepting the Colts head coach position – after accepting it and allowing the Colts to schedule a press conference. I understand why he chose to stay with Pats as Belichick’s eventual successor – but why jerk around Indy for so long? They now have to start from scratch in their search for a coach. It appears that Josh shares Belichick’s center-of-the-universe syndrome – do what you want when you want and screw anyone who disagrees.

I wish I could say that I’ll never root for the Pats again, but I’m a big fan of Amendola, Lewis, J. White, C. Hogan, P. Chung, and other players. What I can say is that I now fully understand the legion of Patriots haters. They are easy to hate – and becoming easier by the minute.

What Kittens Taught Me About Prejudice


I’m a dog person. I’ve loved dogs since I was a child and am currently the proud owner of two beautiful and sweet yellow Labs.

I’ve also believed that there are “dog people” and “cat people” and never the twain shall meet. I was taught to be fearful of cats and their “sneaky” ways at an early age and never actually interacted with a cat until grad school. I was visiting a classmate’s house and he and his wife had a cat with a litter of kittens. I was in kitten heaven playing with them for hours until my face and neck broke out into hives, my eyes started itching and tearing, and my throat tightened. My love affair with felines ended as quickly as it began.

Over the next several decades I came into regular contact with the cats belonging to friends and family – and always left with itchiness and tearing. I was so allergic to cats that I once agreed to stop by a friend’s house while they were away to check on their cat’s food and water supply – and when the crazy cat escaped his designated room, I had to chase him around the house holding a towel so I could pick him up without skin-to-fur contact. I figured I’d never experience a long-term relationship with a cat. Not that it bothered me at all. I still harbored negative views on their disposition and core character.

But then a funny thing happened. At the ripe old age of 66, it appeared that my allergic reaction to cats disappeared alongside boundless energy, flexibility, and the ability to eat as much as I want whenever I want.

So, four days ago I became the proud owner of two kittens: Boris and Natashya. (Boris is featured in the accompanying video.) I was a bundle of nerves as we brought them home. I worried that my allergies would return. I wondered if they would turn out to be wickedly sneaky co-conspirators focused on my demise. And I was concerned that in my heart of hearts I was truly a dog-person who could never fully embrace a non-dog.

All those worries were for naught. This brother-sister duo captured my heart from the first moment I held them against my chest and heard them purr with contentment. They love exploring their new home, learning how to navigate stairs, and playing with boundless enthusiasm. They make me smile and laugh out loud.

I learned that the sneakiness I was taught to fear was nothing but an innocent curiosity about the world. Had my allergy persisted I would never have realized that fact. I would have kept cats and kittens at arm’s length. I would have continued to dis them as grossly inferior to dogs.

I like to think I’m not prejudiced. I espouse no bias based on race, gender, sexuality, age, religion, etc. But I have to wonder whether I have implicit biases – akin to the sneakiness of cats – that do serve to keep people who are different from me at arm’s length.

It’s not an easy question, but it’s one I will ponder – and I’d ask you to do the same.

Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

We’ve all heard this expression hundreds of times. So many times that it’s become a cliché. But that doesn’t diminish the statement’s inherent truth.

Every single day is an opportunity to make the most of every day thereafter. We cannot change the past no matter how difficult or painful. Nor should we try. Our past experiences helped create who we are today. They’ve helped shape our worldview, values, and core character. They will always be with us, but they are also yesterday’s news. Today and tomorrow are what truly matter.

Life is short. Too freakin’ short. And we never know when it will end.

Someone much wiser than me said, “Today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.” Please join me in embracing this gift and wholeheartedly embracing the fact that today is indeed the first day of the rest of your life.

Trump Loyalty & Seinfeld Nudity: The Good & the Bad

There’s a classic Seinfeld episode where Jerry complains to George that his girlfriend likes to walk around the apartment naked. While George thinks that sounds heaven-sent, Jerry explains the difference between good-naked and bad-naked. A naked woman in bed is good-naked. A naked woman sneezing or struggling to open a jar lid is bad-naked.

A similar dichotomy has taken stage in full view in Trump’s executive office. The president clearly values loyalty above experience and expertise. As a result, he has surrounded himself with loyalists like Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Jeff Sessions, and many more.

There is nothing inherently wrong with loyalty. Indeed, loyalty is a much coveted trait in politics, business, and personal relationships. But loyalty must be accompanied and moderated by honesty. Without the ability to be honest (i.e., to disagree and criticize when necessary), loyalists turn into sycophants. They become detrimental rather than advantageous resources.

I’ve long been an advocate of playing the role of the devil’s advocate. I’ve written about it in several books and have discussed it in every class I’ve taught. To my mind, the most valuable contribution a loyalist can make is to pose the questions that no one else can or will ask. The vast majority of decisions would be strengthened – or decimated – simply by tossing a monkey wrench into the mix. Asking why, what-if, how-and-when, what-about, and a million other variations of the let’s-take-a-step-back-and-reconsider our options and alternatives is critical to success in every endeavor.

Devil’s advocacy is a technique that requires a level of confidence and spiritual courage that is rarely found in an administration that celebrates obsequiousness, revels in affirmation, embraces the superficial, values bluster over decorum, and disvalues intellectual curiosity in any form.

What we are experiencing today via The Donald and his fawning entourage is bad-loyalty at its worst and most damaging. As Trump would say: it’s BIGLY SAD.

Rand Paul Is Right: Replace Obamacare with Group Insurance for All

The GOP is back at it. Their DOA replacement for the Affordable Care Act is being spiffed up with even more egregious attacks on low-income and chronically ill Americans. But there is hope from one of their own: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Sen. Paul would disagree, but he has become the loudest and most credible voice endorsing universal health care – albeit under a different name. On his website and in multiple interviews, Sen. Paul advocates the establishment of nontraditional groups called Independent Health Pools (IHPs) “in order to allow individuals to pool together for the purposes of purchasing insurance…These can include…entities formed strictly for establishing an IHP.” In essence, Sen. Paul believes any American who wants to buy group medical insurance should be able to do so.

If enacted, IHPs could eliminate the most absurd peculiarity of the American healthcare system: employer-supplied medical insurance. Employer involvement with healthcare began during World War II as a way for corporations to skirt federal wage controls. Health insurance was a valuable perk that attracted job candidates while allowing employers to comply with the letter of the law. Plus, because companies could deduct the cost of the benefit as a business expense, the bottom line effect was negligible.

Employer-provided medical insurance is still widely popular. It covers the large-majority of non-elderly middle- and upper-class Americans and is rarely criticized from either side of the aisle. That’s the good news. The bad news is employer involvement with medical insurance represents ground zero in the battle to fix our dysfunctional American healthcare system. It’s the primary reason displaced workers can’t afford private insurance and why individuals with pre-existing conditions can’t find insurance companies willing to offer coverage.

My personal experience provides a textbook example. I left the corporate world in 2007 to start a business. I was covered under COBRA for about a year after leaving my former company. During that time I was billed for the same amount the company paid when I was an employee: about $17,000 per year for our family of four. When COBRA ended, we had to buy private insurance with an annual premium of $25,000 for less coverage, higher co-pays, and astronomical deductibles. We were the exact same family of four, but our out-of-pocket expenses more than doubled because I was no longer a member of a “group” and no longer qualified for group insurance rates.

Group medical insurance is a highly competitive business. Industry giants like Aetna, Cigna, and Humana bid aggressively for corporate accounts. The larger the company, the more competitive the bidding and the lower the premium. The IBMs and Walmarts of the world pay lower premiums for better coverage than their smaller competitors or mom-and-pop suppliers. That’s fine for big-company employees until they leave for a start-up or niche company. Assuming the new employer contributes the same amount as the former (typically 72% of the total premium) the employee will likely see an increase in paycheck deductions and a reduction in coverage benefits. That’s insane by any definition of the word.

That’s why I love Sen. Paul’s IHP proposal. If fully implemented, every American would come together in a true melting pot of quality healthcare services and delivery. Every working American covered by an employer-sponsored plan would receive a pay raise equal in value to their firm’s contribution towards medical insurance. The company would still be able to deduct the extra wages so there’d be no effect on corporate profits, and the employee would have the means to pay the premium negotiated by his IHP.

The more cynical observer might point out that this approach does not address the cost of health insurance which remains beyond the means of minimum-wage workers, the unemployed, and the disabled. As a nation of historically compassionate leaders, the federal government could increase the withholding tax for Medicare by a percentage or two in order to help provide or subsidize coverage for the less fortunate.

The key thing to remember is that this proposed system is nothing like the socialist abomination known as single-payer or universal health care. The Independent Health Pools epitomize the individualistic character of our nation. For the sake of efficiency, I’d personally recommend combining all the IHPs into a single entity. We could call this IHP “The United Citizens of America.” Membership would be automatic for every U.S. citizen, begin at birth, and end at death. It’s an idea whose time has come, and I’m sure Sen. Paul would agree.

“This Is Us” Is Me – And Maybe You Too

Meeting my brother for the first time.

The hit television show This Is Us is a poignant family drama. It’s been an especially emotional experience for me as I’ve watched Randall discover and build a relationship with his newly discovered birth father, William. At the same time, Randall’s relationship with his adopted mother Rebecca deteriorates as he struggles with the knowledge that she purposely excluded William from his life. My story is quite similar.

My father, Paul Spizuco, died when I was 18 months old. I never saw a picture of him until I was in my mid-twenties (and only because my dear Uncle Julie had kept some photos for me). For a long time my youthful mind assumed Paul must have been a bad guy because no one ever talked about him. In my late twenties my grandmother told me Paul was actually fun and generous and I was a lot like him. In my mid-thirties, I learned from a cousin that Paul had been a widower when he married my mother and had three daughters from his first marriage. My mother confirmed that but, when I asked why I had no contact with them, she said they wanted nothing to do with me after their father’s death. I had no reason to disbelieve her. Over the ensuing years, I made some minor attempts to find my half-sisters but with no success.

About ten years ago, I learned that my mother had been the one that purposely cut me off from my paternal family. That’s when I, like Randall, became focused on finding my birth-father’s family. One weekend in 2010, a childhood friend and his wife were visiting and we talked about my quest. They’d had success tracking down their own family trees on and within two hours, I learned Paul’s deceased wife’s name and when she died. Most importantly I learned that I had two half-sisters and a half-brother. I contacted the woman who had posted the information and introduced myself. Long story short, the next day my 80-year-old brother, Paul Jr., called and we spoke for an hour. He was twenty years older than me and had been in the Marines when our father died. The next day I spoke to the daughter of my youngest half-sister, who told me her mom had always talked about me and her dying wish was to see me one more time. She had died ten months earlier. My older half-sister had died much earlier in life. Each of my half-siblings had large families and I became a “half-uncle” to about twenty nieces and nephews.

Paul Jr. died in 2014. I knew him for less than four years, but I cherish those years and I know our relationship meant a lot to him as well. My most vivid memory was a summer reunion party with all of Paul’s kids and their kids. My daughter accompanied me as we met all these blood relatives we didn’t even know existed. On the way back, she said, “That’s your family.” She explained that they all had the same kind of goofy humor that I’ve never outgrown, and we looked and sounded alike. Even after my brother’s death, I’ve remained in touch with his family and will be attending the wedding of my nephew’s son in July.

That’s the good part of the story. The bad part is that I lived sixty years without knowing any of these wonderful people. And just like Randall, the experience has profoundly affected my memories of my mother. In last week’s episode, Rebecca admitted her mistake. She acknowledged that she’d been selfish in keeping Randall away from William. My own mother never made that admission even when given multiple opportunities to explain the whys and wherefores of her actions.

It’s too late for me to make amends with my mother, and the heartache I feel seems too immense to ever fully overcome. As my eyes welled when William died, I had an overwhelming urge to share my story publicly for the first time. It became clear to me that we humans possess an innate tendency to tell lies in the name of “protecting” ourselves or others. We’re all selfish at times and we’re amazingly proficient at rationalizing our words and actions regardless of how painful and callous they might be.

The moral of the story is that it’s never too late to right a wrong and tell the truth about falsehoods (regardless of how well-intentioned). The longer we wait the more the issue festers. When the lie is finally revealed – and it almost always is – the damage can be irreparable. So if you do need to make amends, I urge you to do it now. Yes, it will be hard; but it will get harder every day you delay. And it will get exponentially harder every single day for the person you deluded to deal with the truth and the lie’s aftermath.

Mindfulness, Photography & Creativity

I’m writing this from the balcony of my hotel in Florence. The accompanying picture is my view. I just returned from the Bargello museum and its small but impressive collection of sculpture, carvings, metalwork, and frescoes. I took a few pictures and then forced myself to stop. Part of it was certainly the realization that a photo can’t possibly do justice to the real thing; but the main reason was that the process of taking pictures was separating me from the experience. It removed me from power of the artist’s creation. It removed me from the moment. I was focused on creating a memory rather than living it.

I talk a lot about mindfulness in my classes, and it’s a constant theme throughout 20/20 Mind Sight.  So I shudder to become a person who advises, “Do what I say, not what I do.” After I post this piece, I’m going to head out for lunch and leave my camera behind. Perhaps it’s my pea-size brain that’s to blame. Maybe I truly can’t do two things at once. Or maybe I’d just rather do one thing well – experience Florence, its food, sights, and people in all its glory – than compromise the moment by taking quintessential touristy pictures. Or maybe – and this is probably closer to the truth – I’ve realized that what really inspires me creatively is beauty in the flesh.

In my case picture-taking impedes the inspirational juices. Is there something in your hands or life today that impedes your inspirational juices? If so, lock it in the safe and continue your journey through life.


Here I Go Again

My literary agent once said I was my own worst enemy – I had too many interests, wrote on too many topics and in too many genres to build a loyal readership.

It’s hard to argue with that. My first book was a young adult novel followed by three humor books. Then I wrote a marketing book and an investing book. Next up were several novels ranging from satire to chick-lit to paranormal. My newest book, co-authored with Jillian Vorce, grew out of a class I teach at BC and focuses on encouraging personal reflection and increasing self-knowledge.

So what literary path have I chosen to pursue next? Obviously something I’ve never done before: a thriller.

It’s been said that most artists – painters, musicians, sculptors, writers, actors, etc. – possess some sort of character flaw bordering on mental illness. That’s probably an overstatement (I hope) but I do believe there’s truth in the fact (not of the “alternative fact” variety) that we tend to see the world from a slightly different (askew?) perspective.

In my case, I think the “disorder” stems from the fact that I’ve never written simply to make money. I write the kind of stuff I enjoy reading. If that means I’ll never reach the stature or earnings of a John Grisham, I’m okay with it.

As I’m writing this, however, I’m reminded that I once did purposely write to make money. And I succeeded. It was back in the early 1980’s and I was spending a week on the Cape. My YA novel had been published and I was selling articles and essays to a bunch of magazines and newspapers – but not making very much money. So I sat back and asked myself a simple question: “What sells?” The answer was equally simple: “Sex!” So, within a week I had written captions for a cartoon book called How To Tell If It Was Good. The book was published by Ivory Tower Press and sold over 200,000 copies.

The moral of the story? Perhaps, unlike white mice, I don’t learn. Perhaps I can’t truly synthesize life lessons – even those that slap me upside the head. Who knows? Maybe the urge to write something strictly for money will strike again. Until then, await my foray into the thriller market – and wish me luck in battling my obvious disorder.

Begin at the End: What You & IBM Have in Common

The best advice I ever got in my career was that I needed to begin at the end. I needed to visualize my legacy. Most people associate a legacy with the transfer of worldly possessions from one generation to the next. So it’s not a great leap to realize that each of us also create personal and professional legacies related to our character, core values, and social impact. The key is to define that legacy – determine exactly who you want to be (not what you want to be), what you want to accomplish, and then focus all your time and energy on making it a reality.

This concept of a visualized legacy is focused on defining and achieving goals. And it gets to the heart of true self-awareness. Visualization is usually associated with athletes – particularly peak performers. Baseball players picture themselves hitting a home run, sprinters see themselves bursting over the finish line ahead of the pack, and gymnasts see themselves performing a perfect routine and sticking the landing to a standing ovation. The process works the same for the rest of us mortals. Architects visualize their design, fully constructed, with people walking through the doors and gliding up the escalators. Attorneys see themselves in the courtroom with the judge and jury hanging on their every word. And marketers of every stripe see their efforts ringing the cash register.

Like all things, visualization does not come easy. It requires practice. Visualization is far different than simply saying “I think I can, I think I can.” It involves images rather than words and narration. And the more vivid the image – the more detailed and nuanced – the more impact it will have on your success.

A Lesson From The Greatest Visualizer Of All-Time

Thomas Watson, Sr. became general manager of the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR) in 1914. At the time, CTR was a manufacturer of automatic meat slicers, weighing scales, and punched card equipment. The company had fewer than 400 employees; but Watson had big plans for the small company and, in 1924, he renamed it International Business Machines.

Watson’s description of his thought processes and game plan for the company is far too powerful to paraphrase. So here, in Watson’s own words, is the secret of his personal and professional success:

IBM is what it is today for three special reasons. The first reason is that, at the very beginning, I had a very clear picture of what the company would look like when it was finally done. You might say I had a model in my mind of what it would look like when the dream – my vision – was in place.

The second reason was that once I had that picture, I then asked myself how a company which looked like that would have to act. I then created a picture of how IBM would act when it was finally done.

The third reason IBM has been so successful was that once I had a picture of how IBM would look like when the dream was in place and how such a company would have to act, I then realized that, unless we began to act that way from the very beginning, we would never get there.

In other words, I realized that for IBM to become a great company it would have to act like a great company long before it ever became one.

From the very outset, IBM was fashioned after the template of my vision. And each and every day we attempted to model the company after that template. At the end of each day, we asked ourselves how well we did, and discovered the disparity between where we were and where we had committed ourselves to be, and, at the start of the following day, set out to make up for the difference.

Every day at IBM was a day devoted to business development, not doing business.

We didn’t do business at IBM, we built one.

What’s Your Vision?

Thomas Watson, Sr. didn’t invent the concept of visualization but he embraced it with a fervor that should be an inspiration to us all. Interestingly, it would be very easy to reword Watson’s quote and replace “IBM” with your own name. To wit:

Thirty years from now, I will have achieved all that I am capable of for three special reasons. The first reason is that, starting today, I have a very clear picture of what a successful career will look and feel like when I retire.

The second reason is that now that I have that picture, I can ask myself how a successful career like that would have to be built. I can then create a picture of how I would have to act and interact to achieve that goal.

The third reason I will have been so successful is that once I had a picture of what my career would look like when the dream was in place and how I would have to act, I realized that, unless I began to act that way from this day forward, I would never get there.

In other words, I realize today that for me to become a great __________ (writer, physician, teacher, etc.) I would have to act like a great _____________ long before I ever became one.

From the very outset, my career was fashioned after the template of my vision. And each and every day I attempted to model myself after that template. At the end of each day, I would ask myself how well I had done, and discovered the disparity between where I was and where I had committed myself to be, and, at the start of the following day, I set out to make up for the difference.

Thomas Watson, like Richard Branson and Elon Musk, realized that life is short. And he realized that the sooner he articulated his vision the more time he would have to achieve it. The same truth applies to every single one of us.

(This article is adapted from the author’s books 20/20 Mind Sight and Marketing for Rainmakers.)