Category: Business

Tackling the Future One Leap at a Time

“Sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff and trust in yourself,” my late husband Tim Robinson lectured me when  I balked at a career opportunity because it seemed such a leap of faith.   Tim had blazed an incredible career in journalism by never questioning his talent – and it took him forward in amazing, ground-breaking ways.  I call it “living life ahead of the curve.”

I recently joined a BNI (Business Networking International) chapter in Michigan and we are constantly asked to share our business goals.  Mine is to continue those leaps of faith in my life to find the new paths that will keep me energized and productive.

I’ve admired  the amazing pioneers I’ve met in many fields on my own journey.  That includes those in journalism, publishing, public relations and food coops (I was on the first Board of the amazing Flatbush Food Coop).  During my time in Silicon Valley, I admired the internet entrepreneurs I met  during the dotcom boom. I also have known so many talented women entrepreneurs throughout the years from my involvement in Women in Communications and Women in Business in California, and the National Association of Women Business Owners in both California and New York.  They all shared a passion for their chosen work and a fearlessness in taking on challenges.  Continue reading

The Cure for Entrepreneurial Burnout – Try the Sleep Revolution

Arianna Huffington,the high-energy founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, knows all about entrepreneurial burnout.  Until recently, she was famous for carrying four cell phones, and jumping into waiting cars for up to 17 appointments each day on her global business trips.  Now she is hoping to become famous as a guru on the health crisis being caused by such non-stop ambition.  As she warns, “we are in the midst of a sleep-deprivation crisis.”  Her new book is The Sleep Revolution, inspired by her own professional meltdown, which culminated with her collapse, breaking a cheek bone on her desk as she fell down.  She was later diagnosed with sleep deprivation and burnout.

During a recent CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria, Huffington now declares that everything in your life gets better if you just get enough sleep – your health, creativity and capacity to lead all get better, and you are less stressed.  In fact, she cites that earlier civilizations revered  the power of dreams so much, they had sleep temples to ensure the population was rested and creative. Huffington decided to study history to find out how we started devaluing sleep and found that it traced back to the first industrial revolution, when workers started being treated like machines.  She added that it escalated with the 2nd industrial revolution with Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb.  And now the 3rd industrial revolution is digital, making us all addicts to our devices, as she puts it. Continue reading

Study shows Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans

I grew up in a working class family in a vibrant neighborhood in northeast Detroit .  I took it for granted  that my parents would live long, healthy lives, since my grandparents on both sides—maternal and paternal– lived well into their 80s–and one grandfather lived to be 94.  They were farmers and lived in the country, in upstate Michigan and Canada.

Yet a headline recently in the New York Times made me very sad. “Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds”.   The study’s results were were reported in early November by two Princeton economists who analyzed health and mortality data from the Centers for disease Control and Prevention and from other sources.  According to the article, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse, alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids. The economists concluded that taken together, suicides, drugs and alcohol explained the overall increase in deaths. The effect was largely confined to people with a high school education or less. In that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.

I remember my parents again.  My dad was forced to go to work after 8th grade but was a self-educated man who loved to read history books at night and took my brothers and I to see Shakespearean dramas.  He not only made it to retirement from his trade job at Chrysler’s but got to enjoy several years of retirement in Florida before he died at 71. I was shocked – that was much too young – but at least it wasn’t middle age. My mother, who retired from the assembly line at GM, lived until 81. No, they didn’t live as long as their parents, but they also didn’t collapse at 45. Something is very wrong today in the working class and as a nation we should be very concerned about this group — as we expect America to hold opportunity for all.  I grew up in a family that felt the working class life was a noble and healthy one, even as they encouraged us to get college educations.  Clearly something is now wrong.  And clearly the study shows it is only affecting white Americans so severely. Is this the legacy of the de-industrialization of America?  Are there even more Americans than before who feel shut out of the economy and discouraged?  The entire article can be read at this link:   http://www.nytimes.com/2www15/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html?_r=1

Chrysler Super Bowl Ads go from “Made in Detroit” to Global Impact

Since I returned to my hometown Detroit area a few years ago, I’ve fallen in love with the Chrysler 200, first introduced to me by my brother Bill, who retired from Chrysler Engineering, the second generation to work there after my Dad.  So it made me especially proud that Chrysler brightened the Super Bowl each year with a spectacular ad that saluted my hometown and featured super stars Eminem, Clint Eastwood and Bob Dylan.

This year’s Super Bowl reflected the company’s transition into a global firm, FCA – and the ads for Fiat, Chrysler and Dodge took on an international theme, instead of the Detroit pride emphasis of the past.

Still, the quality and audience appeal was clearly still there.  In particular, the 60 second Fiat video ad drew overwhelming crowd approval and laughter as it followed the journey of a Viagra-like blue pill accidentally thrown out of a bedroom window on its flight throughout an Italian landscape.  When it finally lands in the gas tank of a Fiat 500, the red car is transformed into the new 500X crossover.  In an NBC analysis, it was rated one of the top ads because the audience loved the sexy inuendos portrayed in such a funny and classy way.

A second 60 second ad, “Wisdom” was another short video that starred 11 centenarians thoughtfully giving advice for living life to the fullest before sinister laughter and burning rubber in a 2015 Dodge Challenger.

The finale for Fiat Chrysler was a scenic, 90-second spot for the  Jeep Renegade – and,  according to the Detroit News,  the automaker used this ad to make Jeep a significant international brand by  taking viewers on a world-wide journey through lyrics of “This Land Is Your Land”sung by Marc Scibilia — spanning the globe to locations across the U.S., Italy, Brazil, China, Spain, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.  Data provided by the music discovery app Shazam showed that the Nashville singer-songwriter’s version of Woody Guthrie’s  classic anthem was the top  searched musical moment of the game, outside of the half-time show.

According to a statement from Fiat Chrysler Chief Marketin g Officer Olivier Francios, “FCA US always strives to do something different, something unexpected yet with a purpose, for the largest television audience of the year and this year’s Super Bowl videos are no exception.”  While I had been hoping for another spectacular salute to my hometown, I also like to think that Detroit after the bankruptcy will take on the new cosmopolitan and international tone set by FCA – my hometown, for sure, deserves to laugh and celebrate its very real global impact.

Groundhog Day Redux in Michigan

When the classic comedy movie Groundhog Day came out in 1993 with Bill Murray, I never thought I’d ever develop a relationship with Michigan groundhogs.  In fact, I was very happy to think of groundhogs (also known as woodchucks) as a Pennsylvania phenomenon celebrated for seeing their shadows (or not) once a year.

Yet for the second year, I’ve had to trap a creature that has a cute face and persistent need to dig in my yard and chew on my deck wood.  Oh, and peer into my window at odd times defiantly. I mention this experience because it introduced me not only to the critters, but to the local company that captures them here, Critter Removal http://www.critterremoval.com.  They are actually called in by my condo association when needed.

I met Roger, the owner, after he captured two possums and thought they were the villains this year.  I had to alert him that the digging continued and he came out the following morning to explore the mystery with me.

Ah, ha, he announced as he pointed to the bite marks on my deck railing.  “That is the work of a woodchuck,” he announced.  “Let’s also look around a bit more,”  he then added, taking me for a walk around the yard, finally pointing to a trail in the grass that led to the fence and voila – another matching hole underneath to the other side.  “That’s how our culprit is getting in.  And that’s where I’ll catch him,” he announced.

And sure enough, just a few hours later I had a text with a photo of my groundhog in a cage.  Despite my thrill to see an end to the destruction of my yard, I was happy to know that Mr. Groundhog would be taken to a wildlife preserve.  And happy that Roger had a family business with his three sons and a website that educates  their clients on the wildlife impacting their lives and the company’s belief in humane treatment of little furry critters.  I’m hoping this is the end of my Groundhog Day repeat.  But if not, at least it is a repeating script with a happy ending for everyone.

Riding on the Woodward Line in 2016

Mass transit was so simple during the years I lived in New York City. There were great options – express buses, subways, even cars, if you liked traffic jams.   It was less simple in Los Angeles when I moved there in 1989 with my late husband, Tim Robinson.   You had to love traffic jams, before there weren’t  any real options for most commuters. The Los Angeles government was finally committing to a network of metro rail lines that would eventually include both subways and elevated trains and would connect the downtown with Long Beach, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena and other communities  Yet the public was skeptical it would ever happen.  When I started graduate school at USC Annenberg, I quickly got a study assignment to work with the LA transportation department and write a research paper about the value of such a mass transit line.  And yes, key parts of it were eventually finished to ease the clogged freeways.  A small step compared to New York’s extensive subway system, but a  good start.

Now that I’ve just recently returned to my roots in the Detroit metropolitan area (again from New York), the Free Press recently reported that crucial state funding has come through for a proposed Woodward Avenue streetcar line that would be completed by late 2016, a vital mass transit link between the booming downtown business district and the city’s New Center area, the cultural hub, three miles away.  Now that I’m  driving regularly to the New Center area,  I’ve learned how inadequate mass transportation is in the Motor City and the value of such a new line.

According to the Detroit Free Press, “…Backers of M-1 Rail predict that the three-mile line along Woodward will prove so popular that additional lines known as bus rapid transit will be added to grow into a metropolitan-wide system.”  Columnist John Gallaher wrote a column earlier this year about all the health benefits that will result in cities that move to mass transit. As a former Brooklynite who misses the option to hop on the subway, all I can add is hallelujah!  You can read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_Rail_%28Los_Angeles_County%29  and at http://www.freep.com/article/20140325/BUSINESS06/303250138/M-1-Rail-Finney