The Best of Television 2020 (12-7)

And now, for something completely different: My list of the top 12 TV shows I watched in 2020.

The pandemic wreaked havoc with a lot of things this year.

I found myself with more free time than I ever. My travel days dropped to 8 from 171 in 2020. The NHL eliminated most of their season, and watching hockey is about 80% of my television viewing.

So those changes resulted in a positive: I watched A LOT of television. And was pleasantly surprised: I can’t ever remember a time when there was so much good TV.

I have one rule when watching: don’t insult my intelligence. Good writing, acting and imaginative plot lines get me every time.

So, out of the 40-50 television series and shows I watched, here are Eric’s 2020 List of the Best in TV. Not all these shows first aired this year; I just watched them in 2020.

Let’s countdown with #12 through #7:

12. Ozark (Netflix)

I’m always prepared to watch anything with Laura Linney in it. She’s the best actress in the world not named Meryl Streep. But I had no idea how good an actor Jason Bateman is or how compelling a series “Ozark” would be.

Ozark follows Bateman (Marty Byrde) as he ‘breaks bad’ and becomes a money launderer. His family must relocate to the Ozarks. Once there, it doesn’t get any better. The Byrde’s become entangled with the Mexican mafia. They make enemies of the local heroin dealers and numerous law enforcement agencies. Soon it’s not just Marty who’s breaking bad.

Since “Breaking Bad” (which I saw for the first time this year), TV’s best characters are those who aren’t simply good, or merely bad. They’re a combination of both, and we find ourselves rooting for them one minute, and against them the next. It’s a fascinating dichotomy. In fact, many of the shows on my list feature similar characters.

Ozark’s writing and jaw-dropping plot twists keep you coming back for more. It’s addictive in the best possible way. You have to keep watching to see what happens next.

It goes without saying that Linney is an actor’s actor. She’s brilliant as Marty’s sneaky smart wife. But the breakout star is Julia Garner. Garner is a tour de force as Ruth Langmore, a street-smart 19-year-old who’s part of a local crime family. Garner has (deservedly) won two Emmys for the role.

I’ve been following this series since it dropped in 2017 and love it, but it’s not a show I’d recommend for everyone. There’s violence, language, incest and graphic sexual scenes. Then my 87-year-old mother told me she’s addicted to Ozark as well. So perhaps anyone can watch Ozark. It may also mean I need to check Mom’s TV watching a bit more carefully.

11. Somebody Feed Phil – Netflix

Could there be anything more wonderful than watching an uneducated foodie explore the world of food? Answer: No.

Phil Rosenthal is a nerd’s nerd. In a previous life, he was the showrunner for Everybody Loves Raymond. In this series, he’s taken a lifelong fascination with food and travel and done something about it.

He explores different cities nationally and internationally. Taking the concept of culture is based on food, he tries everything – from low brow to high end. He’s accompanied on the adventures with friends new and old to show him the ropes.

I’m not quite sure how I’ve come to identify with a 60-year-old Jewish entertainment executive who doesn’t shy from taking the camera into the depths of his travels and food explorations. But I do. He’s incredibly appealing. (It maybe he inspires this nerd). But his unadulterated enthusiasm and curiosity forms is contagious.

I also identify with Phil – he gets as much pleasure from a taco as a 20-course French tasting menu. (I’m also jealous – he gets to travel and eat on someone else’s dime).

And each episode ends with Phil recapping his adventure via Skype with his parents. Sadly, his Mother passed away; we’re now left with his father telling wonderful old jokes. This is a winner whether you love food or not.

10. The Social Dilemma – Netflix

I confess I watched The Social Dilemma under the influence of two martinis. After it ended, I decided to give up my social media accounts forever. But…was it the documentary, or was it the martinis?

I decided to wait until the morning. And then…I deleted all my personal social media accounts after all. It’s that powerful.

The takeaways are nothing new: the internet tracks every keystroke you make, which in turn influences (significantly) the information fed to us. But the messengers are what makes the documentary so powerful: here are the designers and coders telling us how serious the issue is. Instagram knows what you like based on how many seconds you look at a photo.

Social media makes money not on advertising, but the power of knowledge they accumulate by watching and memorizing (forever) every keystroke, every pause, every article you type, watch and read. They turn that over to advertisers who pay premium dollars because of the hyper-targeting such information provides.

Data mining and manipulative technology have paved the way for a truly dystopic future. I know I’m part of it, but I no longer have to worry about Big Brother knowing what I like or not.

9. ZeroZeroZero – Amazon Prime Video

A friend often recommends a show to watch. I pay attention because his recommendations are always great.

So upon his recommendation, I tuned into ZeroZeroZero. And after 15 minutes, I was re-evaluating my opinion of him. But after the first episode ended, all was right in the world.

The series follows every single step of a $60 million shipment of cocaine. It starts from harvest (Mexico), then transportation to Africa, and finally to destination. Along the journey, the series shows the life-or-death impact it makes on each person who touches it. From growers, ship captains, middle-men, traffickers, and dealers.

Filmed in Italy, Mexico, Senegal, Morocco and the U.S., it’s at times harrowing, cringe-inducing and disgusting – but never ever boring. There’s an international cast that – excluding Gabriel Byrne, is virtually unknown but uniformly excellent.

You’d think the drug crime drama genre has been beaten to death, but it hasn’t. ZeroZeroZero is theater on your television. Compelling, gorgeously photographed; it’s everything great television should be.

8. Billions – Showtime

Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades. Sigh.

A confession: For five years, I’ve had a major crush on Wendy Rhoades. Not the actress (Maggie Siff, whom I don’t know). I’m talking about Siff’s character, who is at times femme fatale, strategic advisor, cruel punisher and the greatest performance coach in the world.

Wendy is torn between her husband – an attorney general – and her boss, a hedge fund billionaire. (Mostly) loyal to both, she’s actually the pivotal character in a series full of great characters. In fact, there’s not a vanilla character on the show: virtually all of them could have a series on their own.

Much of the series’ acclaim focuses on the clash of the titans – Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti). Lewis and Giamatti are terrific actors who don’t leave anything on the table. But to me, it’s the secondary characters that are fascinating.  David Costabile as Axe’s consigliere, Condola Rashad as an ambitious prosecutor, and Asia Kate Dillion as a well – a brilliant quant; the first non-binary character ever on TV.

Brian Koppelman cast his show with care – selecting a number of Broadway veterans who understand how to chew up scenery and hold their own on the small screen. I also love the emphasis on billionaire porn – the fabulous lifestyle that serious money begets.

And then there’s the writing. I generally have to watch an episode of Billions twice in order to pick up every subtle aside and obscure reference. Billions doesn’t just respect your intelligence; it forces you as a viewer to raise your game in order to appreciate every nuance.

Note: Billions has been my favorite show for 4 years, and my #1 or #2 best show during that time as well. But this is 2020, and Season #5 as of this writing stopped halfway through. I might revise my ranking up once I see the end of the season.

7. Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates – Netflix

Spoiler alert: we don’t get to find out what’s in Bill Gates’ brain. But in this 3-part documentary we do find out what goes into his brain – a lot of books. Gates carries a tote bag full of books everywhere he goes, and reads 150 pages an hour.

It’s factoids like that which makes Inside Bill’s Brain an entertaining, insightful view of one of the richest (and smartest) people on the planet. It’s told through interviews with the man himself, plus family members and friends. When Melinda Gates found out the series title, she started laughing. Why? “Because it’s chaos! I wouldn’t want to be in that brain. There is so much going on all the time. It’s unbelievable.”

As a leadership strategist, I applaud his annual “think week,” where he goes off to a cabin for a week of solitude, reading and thinking. (Granted, not all of us can afford to do that, but it’s a great practice).

Because he absorbs so much and uses his CPU more effectively than anything else, the series ends up focusing more on what he’s doing now than how he got there. So we see meetings and discussions about the Gates Foundation, his obsessiveness with global sanitation and reinventing the toilet. Yes, it’s a bit graphic, but it’s compelling.

He reads and learns to help solve the world’s problems through his passion: technology. “Any problem, I will look at how technical innovation can help solve that problem,” Gates says. “It’s the one thing I know and the one thing I’m good at. That’s my hammer. And a lot of problems look like nails because I’ve got a hammer.”

Letter to Leaders – The Gratitude Reset

We’re still here.

It’s kind of hard to think about everything we’ve gone through this year, isn’t it?

I was talking with my coach this week. We ended up discussing one of my favorite topics—gratitude. I called this year a “Gratitude Reset”. Meaning the things I was grateful for last year are decidedly not the things I’m grateful for this year.

Right now, I’m grateful for:

* The health of my family; and

* That my wife and I still have jobs.

If you’d asked me that a year ago, those two things were way down on the list—because I took them for granted. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the reminder that the most important things aren’t the big vacation you took, or how much money you made; it’s the basics. It’s a gratitude reset.

We now turn to 2021 with a sense of cautious optimism. Vaccines are due to be administered starting this month. It would appear that a sense of normalcy will begin anew something in the second quarter (if people will just wear their damn masks!) We have a new administration whether you like it or not. Things are changing and will continue to change.

I’ve studied trust as a leadership essential for several years. It’s now truly coming to the forefront as both an essential characteristic of leadership, corporate culture and in every personal and professional relationship we have.

A lot of components go into trust, which will be discussing during our upcoming leadership workshops. But the fundamental question remains: Why do we trust who we trust? Smarter people than I haven’t been able to answer that question. But knowing that we must trust and be trusted is a given to success in all relationships.

So in ending the year, I’d like to combine gratitude and thank the people in my professional life I most trust with gratitude. You all know who you are.

And to each of you, gratitude. I can’t do what I do without you.

Letter to Leaders – November 2020

Anxious much?

I can’t imagine why. After all, we just “kinda sorta” concluded the most dramatic presidential election in history. We’re **still** in the middle of the Pandemic. And let’s face it—we still don’t know when or what post-COVID looks like—for our families, colleagues, friends and work.

In trying to determine what topic to feature in my monthly leadership workshops, I focused on two things that happened to me in October:

My wife and I took a vacation to see Utah’s National Parks. It wasn’t the vacation we’d originally planned, and it involved a lot of driving. 6 days of packing and unpacking. Also, my wife made me hike. (A lot.) But—it was great! The change of scenery was what we needed. No work, no e-mails. Fresh air. When your biggest concern for a week is where to have lunch, it’s a pretty good week.

Then I had a zoom call with a client and her leadership team. The company’s CEO is one of my favorite people and favorite client—and someone whom I admire enormously. But she wasn’t the same as usual. I texted her in the middle of the call to take a day off immediately and to also take a nap.

We believe we’re OK, but we’re not. The first step to conquering stress and anxiety is to put your oxygen mask on first. Resilience begins when we have the energy to be resilient.

Worry about things you can control. TURN OFF the news (what’s going to happen is gonna happen whether you’re watching or not). Read fiction, watch dumb TV shows, get out of the house.

I didn’t realize I needed a change of scenery until I had a change of scenery.

The amount of unused vacation time in employee accounts is at an all-time high. That has to end. Leaders need to lead by example and also make employees take that valuable time. The work will remain, and no one is irreplaceable.

I was developing the theme of “anxiety” for our workshop until I realized it’s not about anxiety—it’s about defeating anxiety.

Take care and be safe – and please click here and enjoy a minute of anxiety-free time.

Why You Should Build – And Nourish – A Network

These are lonely times.

Whether you’re working from home or unable to connect with your friends, we are in a lonely era.

That’s why it’s even more essential to reach out to your network.

At Tanzanite, we refer to your network as “spheres.” These are family members, friends, business acquaintances, mentors, colleagues, and former classmates. They can be people you’ve wanted to meet and admire.

I wish social media – especially LinkedIn – was available when I joined the workforce. (But, not even the fax machine was available back then). LI is a free gift to keep track of the people in our lives.

Even if you think you don’t need a network, build one anyway. What about a teacher from your past that influenced you? Reach out, thank them. They’ll have validation and you’ll have given the gift of gratitude.

Every day, I contact 5 people from my key network, using a tool at Tanzanite we call the “5×5 Communicator.” The 5×5 tracks who we contact and when it’s time to re-connect. The goal is to touch 5 people, 5 days a week. These spheres are important to me – clients, influencers, mentors, referral sources, and distant relatives. Most of them are people I no longer see in person.

Go through your connections on LinkedIn. Who are you missing? Make sure everyone in your ‘network’ is a connection. (A good exercise: take a look at the last 100 e-mails or texts you sent – is each one a LI connection?)

Your network, and your closeness to them will significantly impact your professional life. One person might know someone who can fund a business venture. Or someone knows someone who’s hiring for that job you’ve longed for. Trust me: it’s not who you are, it’s whom you know that determines success.

A bonus in these times? You benefit by connecting with people at a time where everyone welcomes that connection.

That doesn’t mean you should go out and connect with random strangers. That technique doesn’t work. Worse it makes you look foolish, and you’ll never be able to separate those you’ve met from those you haven’t.

But as important as building a network is maintaining a network.

One of my mentors, the late Carl Terzian, was as good a networker there was (and he used a rolodex – well, lots of rolodexes). Carl preached you must nourish your network, otherwise it will wither and die.

So if you’re missing someone, reach out to them. Don’t wait until a birthday or anniversary. Call them just because! it’s Monday. Keep in touch. And remember the value of the connection. It’s good for you, and good for your spheres.


Want the 5×5 Communicator tool to use in your business?   Send me a private message and we’ll send it to you!

Letter to Leaders – September 30, 2020

Tomorrow, the final quarter of the year begins. For lots of people, the year’s end can’t some soon enough. For others, it’s more of “what else can this year throw at us?”

It still seems surreal to me. I mean, it doesn’t feel the same:

  • I’m working, but it doesn’t feel the same.
  • I’m watching sports on TV, but it’s not the same.
  • We’re starting to do more things outside the home, but it doesn’t feel the same.

I guess that’s the point of a post-COVID world. It won’t feel the same, but eventually it will feel more….normal. This epidemic has tested and re-defined resilience like nothing else ever has.

I spoke yesterday to a friend who happens to be a client. His call on a Friday in early March (“I have to lay off all my staff on Monday”) jolted me into the COVID reality. His company revenue dropped 90% from March to July. Now he and his team have developed a plan (with complete buy-in) that expects to double their 2019 revenue in 2021. Now that’s resilience.

What if I told you last year that within six months, the vast majority of businesses would have more employees working from home than in the office? You’d think me crazy, right? Or that we’d all be wearing masks?

Someone I admire, Peter Shankman, says that “there are no more rules.” As a result, there’s never been a better time to try a new idea, move to a new location, or develop a new skill. Or maybe just do what we do better than ever before. It might require a new mindset or a re-focus. But when there are no more norms, opportunities are endless.

So get focused, stay safe, and I’ll see you around.

Book Review – “Edge”

2020-07-05 10.33.24

Yep, I read it at the beach.

One of the old maxims of leadership is “Adversity breeds success.” Indeed, I know very few successful people who have not experienced adversity in their professional or personal lives. (The exception, of course, are those who inherit wealth).

But it’s one thing to say “adversity breeds success” and it’s another to actually turn that adversity into success.

Laura Huang, a professor at Harvard Business School, has taken the concept even further in her new book, Edge:Turning Adversity into Advantage. Hard work, skills and performance doesn’t necessarily mean success. Preconceived perceptions, stereotypes and biases can negatively impact success. Appearance, race, gender or age and experience all impact how people perceive you and thus impact your potential success. But Huang makes the case that many of those biases and perceptions are actually ones we create as barriers.

Thus the focus of her book is spotlighting people who have flipped stereotypes and biases in their favor. And throughout “Edge,” Huang weaves in details of her own life story, encountering her fair share of bias and adversity as an Asian-American woman who ventured into male dominated fields (computer science and engineering) then turned to business and finally, academia.

Mercifully, Professor Huang does not write like a, um, professor. “Edge” is quite good and interesting storytelling, with life lessons and advice built-in as well. (About the only concession she makes to academia is a number of footnotes, but even those are mostly humorous asides). By the end of the book, you feel as though you’ve taken a really cool Masterclass in how to succeed either as a leader or entrepreneur.

Everyone at one point feels they’ve been underestimated, and many people have disadvantages in their lives. The key is turning that item to your advantage. In my professional life, I was stymied years ago as a leadership strategist and trainer by the fact that I did not have a graduate degree. This was self-inflicted; no one told me that is was a disadvantage; it was just a chip on my shoulder. It was when a client told me that my value to him was that I had years of experience actually managing and leading people, both in a corporate setting and then in my own business that I realized I was good enough without that MBA.

I first ‘encountered’ Professor Huang several years ago when she was an Assistant Professor at The Wharton Schoo,l when she participated in a video showing professors reading some rather brutal student feedback in a parody of Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets. (I still show that video in leadership programs to illustrate the need for humility). She then conducted significant research and published a paper on how “gut feel” plays a role when investors make risky decisions.

When you have genuine curiosity about a subject, it pays to follow those from whom you can learn. Years ago, the only way to do this was to attend classes by those academic experts, which also meant investing significant time and money into a business school. (To say nothing about getting accepted at that business school; even 30+ years after graduating, I’m sure my undergraduate GPA would sink me from being accepted at any reputable academic institution).

But now, having intellectual curiosity about management, leadership, entrepreneurship can be rewarded by following (and perhaps even engaging) renowned experts on social media, going online to read their papers, watch their speeches and classes and learning from what they do. Of course it’s not as great as going to Harvard Business School, but not all of us can go there anyway. And the internet provides a way to access those experts not just from one school but from many. Professor Huang is one of 10 people I follow closely – not just from my position as an entrepreneur, but also as someone who’s fortunate to be looked at by some as a person who can help them succeed as a leader and in business.

Edge is Professor Huang’s acronym for success: Enrich, Delight, Guide and Effort. It’s further illustrated by 13 principles, all of which delight me but only one of which I’ll share with you (buy the book!):

It’s not where you’ve been, but where you’re going.

This is deceptively simple. In the corporate world, you might be hired because of where you’ve been (education and experience), but you’ll only move into the leadership ranks based on performance and potential. When people understand where you’re going and how you’re getting there – that’s when they’ll follow.

I can’t think of a more relevant book to read in times like these.

More Reasons To Read “Edge”

  • The author suggests people stop being constrained by your weaknesses or skills you don’t have. (Correct; that chip on your shoulder is almost always of your own making. And I’m writing a book right now that advocates embracing, not hiding your weaknesses)
  • 13 principles for creating an Edge – one at the end of each chapter
  • She takes a shot at the Myers Briggs Personality Test. Good for her.
  • More advice from Professor Huang: “go for directionality – don’t go for absolutes. You know what the ‘right directions’ and ‘wrong directions’ are.” This is critical. There are too many leaders and entrepreneurs who get stuck on perfection or reaching a bright line and are never able to move forward. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Knowing your values and following them will generate success.

Eric Swenson’s Philosophies of Great Leadership

Picture for blog

  1. Think about why and how most people get promoted:
    a. They sell the most widgets; or
    b. They’re the hardest worker; or
    c. They kiss the most ass; or
    d. They’ve been there the longest; or
    e. In government, you even have to pass a written examination to get promoted.

But none of those qualities translates into the ability to effectively lead people.  

2. Leadership can be learned, but that learning must be desired, and it must be ongoing.

3. Before anything else, an effective leader must be able to articulate his/her core values and expectations of themselves, the people they work for and with, and the people who work for them.

4. Understanding and living your values makes every decision you make easier.

[Therefore, who you are is how you lead.]

5. The ability to effectively communicate supersedes any other important leadership tenet.  You can great in every other facet of leadership, but unless you can communicate well, you’re never going to succeed.

6. Hire for what you cannot teach: attitude, aptitude, alignment, and agility.  Emphasize your strengths and hire for your weaknesses.

7. Give credit freely to others.  After 30 years in leadership, I can say without hesitation what goes around comes around.  Maybe not immediately, but ultimately.

8. Treat every person as though you’ll be working for them one day.  It’s happened to me.

9. Always be learning.  In leadership development, there is no end zone.  The workforce is moving too fast for any leader to stay stagnant.  Lack of learning and curiosity will make you irrelevant faster than any other mistake you can make.

10. You can learn just as much from bad bosses as good bosses.  Remember the qualities of the best boss you’ve ever had and make sure you exemplify those qualities every day.

11. A great measure of good leadership is how things run when you’re not there.

12. I find the most effective leaders are crystal clear about their weaknesses.  They have no illusions and are totally transparent about what their weaknesses are.  They then hire to support those weaknesses.

What I’m Thinking When I Interview You

Picture for BlogWHAT AM I THINKING

Years ago, I lost track of how many people I’ve interviewed.  There was a four year period where it was easily over 100 candidates a month (we were a sales division with lots of turnover).

A few years after that, part of my job was to be involved in a 3-manager interviewing panel, where we interviewed about 15-20 people every Thursday. It became mind-numbing for someone like me who resists routines (“If it’s Thursday, it must be…”)

But when I started my own company and interviewed my first candidate for my own, I changed. I was no longer interviewing for my business; I was interviewing for my life  – both present and future. Even though I had a huge experience conducting interviews, it didn’t matter. Interviewing as if your future depends on it changes someone. It certainly changed me.

I now interview hundreds of people each year, mainly for my clients but also for my own business. I’ve interviewed candidates for CEO positions and waiters and bartenders.  I may have seen it all.

But I digress.

My fundamental point is that I know what I’m looking for by the time I’m interviewing you.  While you’re giving me some answers to questions, here’s what I’m thinking about:

  1. I don’t care about your experience or education.  I’ve seen your resume, and it’s likely I, or someone who works for me, did a video or phone screen with you already. So don’t spend time on that. Your resume got you to this point.  Now it’s time for you to make an impression.  After 10,000 interviews, I want you to be memorable.  I have a really low tolerance for boring people.
  2. If I hire you, what gaps will there be? Sorry to be the one to tell you – you’re not going to be perfect at everything I need, so if you join the team, what will the rest of us need to do more of?  And of course, what gaps are you filling? What differences are there between you and the person you’re replacing?
  3. Are you trainable? Experience is overrated. What I’m looking for is someone who I can develop to be the person I need them to be. I want to know if I can develop you, and that you’re willing and able to learn.
  4. Do you have an open mind? If I think you have one way of viewing things, and one way only, you can’t be on a team that demands innovation and adaption to change.
  5. What new ideas/innovations can you bring to my team? “Culture Fit” is,  fortunately, a dying concept.  I want people who can add to my team, not conform to it.
  6. Can you fit on my team without pissing everyone else off? On the other hand, you can’t be so far away from the rest of my team’s values and norms that you’re going to piss everyone off. Are you a team player? Are you answering my questions about your past work/education with “We’s” or “I’s”?
  7. What intangibles do you have that I don’t have? I recently hired a project and innovation manager. Her attributes are technology-driven. She’s a gamer, she has her own 3-D printer, and she knows things that I’ll never know. She’s a perfect fit for what I need in terms of knowledge but also in ways she looks at things.  She has the potential to greatly help me change my view of work.
  8. Are you capable of growing enough to be the person I’ll need 5 years from now? I’m absolutely not hiring for today. I’m hiring for two years from now, or beyond.  I’m in it for the long run (it’s my company, after all). I want people who will comfortably fit in the vision I have for the future.
  9. Do you have a sense of humor? Can you laugh at your mistakes, or take a joke? Working with people who don’t have a sense of humor makes for very long days. And people who take themselves too seriously are never good to be around.
  10. Do you want a job, or do you want a job working at my company? I’m going to ask you a lot of questions about what you know – or don’t – about my business. If you don’t know, it tells me you want a job more than you want to work for me. Bad mistake.

And finally, don’t worry about being nervous.  That’s something I generally overlook; people who are nervous often want the job enough that they don’t want to make a mistake.  If you’re paralyzed with fright, that concerns me.  But if you’re simply nervous, that’s normal.

Good luck, and I can’t wait to interview you someday!

Rabbi David Woznica on Empathy

Picture for Blog

In almost every conversation, at least that I have these days, somewhere along the way I hear the following said: “Look, we just don’t know.” I suspect that sounds familiar.

And with that uncertainty, I want to speak to you about an issue that is dividing our nation. It’s the question of opening up a term that used to be reserved primarily for the dental office:

“Do we open up? How quickly do we open up? How much do we open up?”

Well, the majority of Californians definitely support the shutdown. There are some who feel differently. And there have been public demonstrations expressing anger.

You know the thinking on both sides of the question: The longer we keep businesses closed, the more cautious we are, the fewer people will be exposed and contract COVID-19 and ultimately there will be fewer deaths.

In the other position, people assert that they’re being denied their liberty to walk on the beach or to open a business. It might be the person with a nail salon or who wants to go back to work in a restaurant. They see their savings dwindle, and they fear that things have gone far enough.

I’m not advising a position, but I do want to share two thoughts: 1) that it’s difficult to be fully empathetic; and 2) the importance of not demonizing those with whom we disagree.

So let’s look at empathy. It is said that we’re all in the same boat. Well, I want to suggest that’s not really true. What we are is in the same storm, the storm is the pandemic. It affects everybody.

But there are many different boats. If you have, God forbid, lost a loved one to this disease, or have a loved one who was sick – you’re in one boat.

If you’re a single mother or a single father or you are a parent at home with children, you’re in a different boat.

If you’ve lost your job, or you’re scared that you can’t pay for necessities or you’re in line, waiting for food, that is yet another boat.

We can be somewhat sympathetic to people in different boats. But it’s almost impossible to fully feel what they’re feeling.

I read an account from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin that I think well illustrates this. In the 19th century, there was in a town in Eastern Europe, a long period of freezing weather. And the local Hasidic Rabbi needed to raise money for the poor. So he goes to the home of the town’s richest man, he knocks on the door, the man invites him inside.

The rabbi says, “No. I’m only here for a moment and let’s talk on the doorstep.” He then asked the man about his wife and children. The man felt his own teeth chattering and he, he asked for the Rabbi to come inside. Instead, the Rabbi asked the man about his business. The man is now shivering.

“Rabbi, please come inside and tell me why you’d come into my home,” but the Rabbi stays outside and says, “I’ve come to ask you for 100 rubles to buy wood to give me to heat the houses of the poor.”

And the man says, “If I promise to give it to you, will you come inside?”


“Then I will give you the money right now.” And then he says, “If you knew all along that you want what you were planning to ask me, why didn’t you come in right away and ask?”

And the Rabbi says “If I came in as soon as you opened the door, you would have brought me into a comfortable chair in your living room, you probably would have given me some hot tea, you would have had some, and the fireplace would be warming us. And when I would have asked you for money to heat the houses of the poor, you would have offered me five, maybe 10 rubles. But standing outside, you experienced just for a few minutes the bitterness of the cold the poor are experiencing all the time. I wanted you to be feeling that bitter cold when I asked you for 100 rubles.”

It’s very hard to be truly empathetic, unless you are experiencing that very same hardship.

But it’s important to try to be empathetic for another reason. Because the more empathetic we can be, the more we can put ourselves in another boat, the less likely we are to demonize those with whom we disagree. And that’s very important. People may hold a different perspective than we do. It doesn’t make them selfish. In fact, they’re likely to be just as decent as we are. They’re just in a different boat.

Eric note: Rabbi David Woznica is a member of the Clergy at Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, and I am very lucky to call him a friend. This is excerpted, with permission, from his sermon on June 6, 2020.

You’re Looking For a Candidate That Doesn’t Exist Right Now


Contrary to popular belief, this is a lousy market for employers trying to hire professional services employees. There is very little good or great talent out there. Here are the reasons:

  1. While the unemployment rate is indeed about 14-16%, it’s less than 7% for people with college degrees. When you eliminate the (substantial) number of people included in the 7% figure who are working part-time, you’re looking at a lower number again.
  2. Great employees in the professional services industries have been retained by their firms during the pandemic. The vast majority of people looking for work are the weak employees that their firms didn’t want to retain in the first place.
  3. Further, those great employees are extremely reluctant to switch jobs right now. They now have security where they are, regardless of our happy they are in their jobs. It will take a lot to make them switch in this time of uncertainty.

So to find someone right now means we’re either going to have to completely overpay or give them such a compelling reason they won’t have a choice but to switch jobs.

Or, we’re going to have to settle for someone who’s out of work, and likely because they weren’t that valuable to their employer in the first place.

I’ve talked to a number of recruiters who work in and out of the professional services space who are seeing the same thing.

We’re currently helping clients hire white-collar professionals: three openings at two public accounting firms, one at a law firm, a COO for an insurance broker, a senior property accountant at a property management company, and some other related hires. We’re working with recruiters on most of those hires. There’s no one good out there.

So if you think there’s currently a bunch of fantastic employees out there just dying for a job and can’t wait to work for you, think again.

[Note: this does not apply to our clients in manufacturing, hospitality, warehouse, and related industries – indeed – there are a LOT of great employees looking for work there]

Does this change if unemployment starts to go away or be significantly reduced, or if there is no second stimulus check? Unlikely. It will just increase the number of candidates applying who have been out of work.

If, however, there is a second downturn in the economy, and businesses have to shed good employees to stay viable, that might be the uptick in qualified candidates we need. Professional services firms will then need to decide whether to eliminate positions or rollback salaries.