Category Archives: Sharing Wisdom

Incarnations and Generations

One of the funnest parts of being around for a long time is the opportunity to work with a second generation of families I’ve known during my career. This has happened to me several times now, and it’s amazing how cool it is, and how gratifying. I’ve advised sons, daughters, nephews, and even a grandchild.  Last night the magic happened again.

I have an abiding interest in health care, which has been a large part of my marketing and consulting practice. I am also the widow of a physician.

Through that interest, I came in contact with a man named Lucas Felt, the co-founder of a startup called The Medical Memory, which provides HIPAA-compliant video recordings of patient-provider visits. His co-founder Robert Porter, MD, a neurosurgeon with world-famous Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix,  developed the product after his own father was diagnosed with cancer.

Dr. Porter experienced the challenges and frustrations of having to rely on family members to accurately recite complex information about his father’s condition and treatment. The experience had a profound effect on his approach to patient communication in his own practice.

I’ve been informally advising Lucas because I want to see the company succeed. And this may be its year: Medicare does not pay for hospital readmissions anymore, and patients must understand their discharge instructions and comply with them so they don’t have to go back to the hospital. It is in the doctors’ and the hospitals’ best interest to get the patient to comply. And when patients are at a doctor visit, they don’t often remember what is said to them, because they are ill and nervous. The Medical Memory, a video that can be replayed, is a solution for that.

So that’s the entrepreneurship side of the story. The interesting part is that one night last year at Hillstone while having advisory red wine, I found out that I had known Lucas Felt’s mother, who had been an editor at the Arizona Republic when I was in my previous incarnation as a “PR maven.” Both Lucas and I were amused when we discovered that, but we let it drop.

Last night we had another session of advisory drinks, and I realized my knowledge of the workings of the Arizona legislature with respect to health care might be useful to him. We made a preliminary plan for me to time travel back to the days when I lobbied the legislature on behalf of health companies, and then Lucas got a text message.

It turned out that his wife and his mother were in the dining room at Hillstone! We ran into the dining room and Susan Felt and I had a joyous reunion and made plans to see each other again.

That’s part of the joy of spending a long career in the same city. I might have made more money somewhere else, but I feel like I’ve had a bigger impact in Arizona, and at the end of the day, isn’t it all about making yourself useful and helping people? I think it is.


Where Are All the Grandparents?

storks-movie-2016-trailer-posterI took two of my grandchildren to see “Storks” over the weekend, because it was dad’s ( my son’s) turn to have them, but dad was working. The kids are two and five, and while the five-year-old watched the movie in between requests for popcorn and candy (unfulfilled), the two-year-old took the opportunity to wander around the theatre and jump over seats and up and down stairs.

I tell you this only so you know I might have some of the plot details of this movie wrong. But I’m not reviewing it — just telling you what it reveals about the culture we live in, especially in the US. The movie was okay; both Parker and I could watch it, and that’s all a kid movie has to offer. It moved quickly, was visually appealing, and I could identify with it.

The two parents in “Storks” work in real estate. They work at home, and they sit at computers facing each other, answering phones and typing all day. They never talk to their child, who lives a rich inner life without them because he has to. This child apparently has no friends and doesn’t go anywhere for a social life. His parents are so busy working all day and all night, that they don’t have time. He reminds them repeatedly that in a flash his childhood will be over and he will be gone, but mostly they don’t listen.

No wonder he decides he wants a little brother and asks the Storks to bring him one. But when he tells his parents he has asked, they inform him that storks no longer deliver babies.

And indeed they don’t. In this movie, the storks have pivoted to delivering packages for the on-demand economy, and they’ve been reduced to the status of drones. Their factory is automated, and they have enterprise politics and a leader far removed from what the storks actually find fulfilling (which was delivering babies).

The plot is extremely complicated here, and I was running around the theatre, so I lost the thread of how we get to the happy ending, but after about an hour of near-misses and gentle conflicts between good and evil, the good wins out (PG rating) and a baby sister gets delivered to the little boy who wanted a brother. I do know that the child coerces the father up on the roof to adapt the chimney for a stork and that the father rediscovers his own childhood in manual work. The mother also gets converted, although more slowly.

And the parents learn that it is fulfilling to actually interact with their child.

There are no grandparents in “Storks.” There is no community until the end. And it’s a representation of the best of our current condition. Actually, more often than not, the family doesn’t even have two parents who work too hard to pay attention. Just one. And the grandparents live in another city or another country. A majority of my own grandchildren and step-grandchildren are not in Arizona.

What’s the solution? “Adopt” some grandkids to give your life extra meaning. I was happy to spend that afternoon seeing “Storks,” and I learned something about our culture.



9/11: Reflections

I remember exactly where I was fifteen years ago when the first plane hit the tower. My team and I were at Jim Garvey’s company, IIS, which at the time was at the height of its dot-com bubbliciousness. We were about to start a meeting, and someone hadn’t arrived yet, and someone else turned the TV on. We were all stunned. Clearly this would not be a day to have a marketing meeting. And yet we didn’t leave immediately. I think we didn’t know what the hell to do, and it took about half an hour for things to sink in so completely that we realized a meeting would be out of the question.

But I, anyway, didn’t realize how deep an impression 9/11 would leave on America. So deep that on this day of remembrance fifteen years later, my friend Kyle Lawson, a former journalist, would feel compelled to write that he “grew old too late,” because he never wanted to live to see this.

His words, better than mine, for this day when both aging and ageism seem like trivial subjects to discuss:

I grew old too late. I was sitting in the newsroom at the Arizona Republic when the first images flashed on the television monitors. The tower. The Pentagon. The second tower. I never wanted to see a day like that. I never wanted to feel my innocence crumble.

Nothing has been the same since.

The falling glass of the towers drove a shard into America’s heart.
We have become a nation so enmeshed in the desire for revenge, the hatred of the “other,” that we are are in danger of forgetting the words of our Pledge, “liberty and justice for all.”

Somehow, I can’t believe the innocents of 9/11 died for that.

Fifteen years from that horrific day, we face an unpredictable future. We are confronted by political corruption and corporate avarice and enemies within and without. We are pitted skin color against skin color, religious belief against religious belief, political ideology against political ideology.

We seek to legislate a morality that we do not practice. We rebel against change and fear we are being left behind in the chase for the American dream. We worry that our children and grandchildren will stand hostage to tyranny.

Yet, at its heart, unchronicled by the media or the political campaigns, there is an America that has not lost faith in the words of its pledge, that weeps at injustice, that dreams of equality and opportunity, that believes a nation can be moral and still be strong.

In times of natural disaster and personal loss, that nation lifts its hand to help the helpless. It shares in the grief, it rejoices in the happiness. It follows that elusive hope.

The words of the Stone Lady still echo in its heart, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” The Declaration of Independence still resonates. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We walk a tightrope, but we have been there before and come through.

On this day of reflection, I pray not only for the dead but the living. Every action we take will resonate long after we are gone.

Let us keep our eyes on the dream.

I hope I can do that. More than once in recent history I have gone out to dinner with my friend Fred, and he has said, “we’re lucky we’re old, Francine. Our children and their children will live in a much more difficult world.” I don’t want to believe that. Any of it.

Lonely? Get a Dog or Two

“Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness,” screamed the NY Times headline over the weekend. An epidemic indeed. And yet the only people mentioned in the epidemic are the elderly, consigned to a life of birthdays without parties and days without talking to another soul. Indeed, if the article is to be believed, the elderly will also die alone.

Give me a break. Everybody dies alone.

I grant you that I will probably never call the Silver Hotline mentioned in the story just to speak to another human being, but neither will most older people I know. In fact, the loneliest people I know are  young people, recently relocated to new cities, new jobs, new relationships, and first-time life experiences. Without dates, spouses, significant others, pets, or children, young people can be much more lonely than the elderly.

This is not to say older people are not lonely. But since I’ve had five marriages, producing five stepchildren and two birth children, and fostered three children who have themselves produced five grandchildren, I now find myself in the position of being a woman with too many grandchildren to count reliably, and not all that much “alone time.”

But even if you weren’t promiscuous with your affections in your youth, there are many available solutions for loneliness, and I believe that loneliness, like boredom, comes from within.

Once again, I draw upon my own solutions:

1) I rescue dogs, and that makes it important to get up in the morning and take them to a park to walk them. Other people with dogs are also in the park, and we’re a multi-generational group, defined more by the ages and breeds of our dogs than anything else. It’s incredible fun, and incredible bonding. Now we all go out to dinner.

2)Once a week, I take Pilates. I march my body out of the house to a studio in my neighborhood and groan along with ten other men and women laying on their Reformers hoping for the elusive Pilates body. We laugh at almost anything.

3)Three times a week I take yoga: each time at a different studio. Enter still more people who share my affinity for this 5000-year-old humbling practice. Yes, some of them are pretzels without arthritis, but I do it with my eyes closed.

4)And then I volunteer: I mentor young entrepreneurs, and lead a couple of entrepreneurship groups, where I’m mostly working with people thirty or forty years younger on problems that know no age limits.

5) I go to bars. Well, it’s not quite like that. I go out to eat at restaurants where you can eat at the bar, and I prefer to eat at the bar. I simply place my latest tech toy on the bar –Apple Watch, Google Glass, whatever — and wait for people to ask me about it.

5)Last, but not least, I spend inordinate amounts of time talking to strangers and acquaintances in far-flung places on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I also answer the occasional LinkedIn email.

Oops, I forgot to mention travel. Sometimes I actually meet the people I’ve already “met” on social media.

Bottom line: there’s no excuse for loneliness. It falls to the individual to involve herself (and the majority of elderly are women, because my husband told me the men had the good sense to die first) in things that are fun, fulfilling, and even educational. I wish researchers would quit studying things with existing remedies and redouble their efforts on the difficult problems.


Arianna Huffington and the Killer App

Last week’s news that Arianna Huffington was leaving The Huffington Post stunned the publishing world, although I knew for a long time it was coming. Why? Because I’ve been following Arianna since the 90s, and I know that she re-invents herself as often as I do. And when I started doing a miniscule amount of research for this post, I realized I had missed a few reinventions that happened before I started following her.

She was born in Greece, but left there for the UK at age 16. She worked for the BBC. She appeared in a play. In the 70s she — if you can believe it — wrote a book against the Women’s Liberation movement called “The Female Woman.” She then went on to become perhaps the most liberated woman of my generation.

She left the love of her life because he didn’t want to have children, and in the 1980s wrote books about Maria Callas and Picasso. She married Michael Huffington, who was a conservative Republican, and became a conservative pundit, for which she even won an award (“Politically Incorrect”). That was the 90s.

But then she became a Democrat, and soon after that she founded the Huffington Post. I met her at a lunch in Phoenix one day, and she gave me a log-in. I admired her so much that, like many more important writers, I wrote for her without pay. I kept on doing it until she took the company public and sold it and none of the writers profited. Many rebelled, feeling used. I didn’t, but I didn’t feel it was the same place.

Along the way I am sure Arianna has learned some lessons. One of the most notable was about the value of sleep: she collapsed from exhaustion not too long ago.  Now she’s 66, and she’s starting a new company called Thrive. She is once again re-inventing herself, using her core communication skills, to teach people what she has learned.

I get it. She’s accumulated wisdom on the way to where she is now. She wants to share it. There’s a part of your life where you feel it’s time to give back. That doesn’t have to be with money, or even volunteer time. It can simply be your wisdom, and you can do it in a discussion with your children.

And for those young people who think wisdom no longer exists in a society changing so rapidly, I leave you with this: certain things happy in every era. Love, marriage, heartbreak, illness, loss, death, financial struggles. When it comes to those, wisdom is the killer app.