Minding my own business, trying to finish my pizza, when two teenage boys come up to the table. I know what it’s about, and I know my pizza is about to get very cold.
“Sir, do you follow the Patriots?” one asks?
I let out a sigh, which probably sounded more like a grunt, and the same thought comes back again. “This is that Belichick thing, and I’m pretty damned sick of it.”
So, I find a way to put my thoughts into words.
“This is that Belichick thing,” I say, “and I’m pretty damned sick of it.”
“You aren’t him?”
No, but I’ve been getting that a lot lately. It started about a year ago, when a guy on the elevator in my building asked me if anyone had ever told me how much I look like Bill Belichick.
I said no, for two important reasons. First, no one had ever said it and, second, I had no idea who Bill Belichick is. So I looked him up on that internet thing and it turns out he’s the general manager of the New England Patriots, who apparently play in Boston and count Giselle Bundchen among their most ardent fans. Who knew?
So he tells me I’m a dead ringer and he wants to take a picture with me to send to his friend in Boston, as a prank. I demurred, but he asked me again on the next three or five elevator rides when I saw him. Eventually, he gave up and found some other innocent soul to torment.
I thought that was the end of it, just one of those things, until I’m at the phone store and one of the other customers comes up with a question. “Has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like Bill Belichick?”
This time I’m prepared. “Oh, you mean the general manager of the New England Patriots, who play in Boston and count Giselle Bundchen among their most ardent fans? Why, yes, this resemblance has been mentioned before.”
And so it goes over the past year until I’m trying to finish my pizza and telling a couple of teenagers that, no, I am not Bill Belichick and, no, I will not be taking a picture with them to prank their friends. I’m not sure why people think this would be a hoot, but apparently it’s a common thought among the paparazzi in training.
After my first encounter with a BB fan, I checked out his photo online and it probably goes without saying that I was very disappointed. While I think of myself as young and dashing with a chiseled jaw, piercing blue eyes and cheekbones to die for, my alleged doppelganger looks like a standard-issue old guy.
Even worse, he’s a standard-issue old guy who is even older than I am. So, when people tell me I don’t look my age, they really mean I look much older. Insult, meet Injury.
I’ve learned a lot about Mr. Belichick over the past year, and not just from the internet. First, it appears that he isn’t very popular. With all the people who have confused me with our leading Patriot, nobody has offered to buy me a drink, or dinner, or suggested a ride on their private jet. Hell, nobody has even hope I have a nice day. On the other hand, nobody has hit me, either, so he is clearly not the most disliked guy in football, or on my elevator.
Equally insightful, nobody has come up to me to demand the $20 he owes them or to repay his $20, either. Clearly, he is fastidious in his financial habits, neither a borrower nor a lender being. Now you know all there is to know about the man, courtesy of my investigative skills.
Of course, there is an upside to being confused with someone famous, including the opportunity to scam $millions from the gullible masses. I can make some chump change by charging teenagers $5 for a selfie, even if it’s just to prank their friends, but the real money comes from endorsements. Not that I am admitting to any felonies here, but watch for next month’s rollout of the new Bill Belichick Grill, the Belichick Diet and, my/his greatest invention for people of a certain age…the Belichick walk-in tub. (Happy to split the endorsement fees, Bill, just in case you’re wondering.)
While I am a bit weary of being interrupted in the middle of my pizza, I must admit that the situation is absolutely much worse for him. It can’t be very pleasant for a guy to be minding his own business, eating his Boston scrod or Boston baked beans or Boston cream pie or whatever, when some yutz mistakes him for me.
“Hey, Dad Writes guy, where the hell is that $20 you owe me?”
“Hey, Dad Writes guy, why did you block my, um, selfies, on your Facebook page?”
“Hey, Dad Writes guy, I swore I’d beat the crap out of you next time we met and now I’m gonna make good on my promise.”
Sorry about that, Bill. It was all a funny misunderstanding and I’ll take care of it very soon. Meanwhile, it might be best to keep a bunch of linebackers around at all times, just in case.
Also, has anyone mentioned how much better looking you’re getting as you age?
It's only a matter of time before I get sued for all of my BB endorsement deals, and then the hilarity will be nonstop. Catch every minute by clicking here to subscribe to our weekly updates. Or you can click here instead. Totally your call.
Over lunch one day, a friend and I were discussing the challenges of leading people to the best decisions. He suggested that one way I am limited in that area is that I am too much a contrarian. In one group that we belong to, people anticipate that I will be the one to rain on their parades with challenging questions or comments. When I meet those expectations, my comments get discounted and my influence disappears.
He’s right about the impact of my actions, and I’ve seen this situation play out more often than I would like to admit. In fact, I know one guy who believes I am always wrong, because he believes I am always opposing the wisdom of the crowd. As a result, he becomes even more certain that he is correct if I say I disagree with his view. In his world, my accuracy is two steps lower than a stopped clock.
What if he’s wrong, though? What if the wisdom of the crowd isn’t always wise? What if the emperor is really a flasher?
Often, when people get together to make a decision, some ideas will gather momentum and others won’t. It’s not necessarily the value of the idea that drives that momentum, though. Sometimes, it’s espoused by a forceful individual, or it’s a view shared by two people in quick succession and the group dynamic flows from there. Once enough attaboys are issued, the idea becomes a truth destined to be chiseled in stone.
That’s where I join the conversation. I’m looking for the missing guest, the thing that should be considered and isn’t on the table. I’m trying to anticipate the unintended consequences of today’s big idea. I’m looking at how the ultimate audience is going to respond when the committee issues its report.
In fact, most of the time, I’m trying to figure out how to make the idea work in the real world. And then, I open my big “contrarian” mouth.
How many customers do we have to acquire in order to make any money on this? What’s to stop Amazon from simply offering the same service and putting us out of business? What if Uncle Ernie decides to invest the money in a boys’ boarding school?
By the time I chime in, however, the train has left the station, that ship has sailed, and the chicken has crossed the road. My question becomes the final evidence that this is the best idea ever. “We all believed it was a great idea and then, even better, Rosenbaum didn’t like it. Pure gold!!!”
Time for some introspection. If I’m trying to help a person reach a better conclusion, but my approach often leads to a suboptimal decision, shouldn’t I change my tactics? Perhaps I should be more active in the chorus of attaboys when someone makes an inane comment like, “let’s break the mold,” or “we dare to be different.” Should I be more manipulative in the pursuit of a greater good, or is that one of those slippery slopes they talk about in law school?
So, thanks to my friend for giving me something to consider in terms of the way I’m perceived. I’m working on it. Meanwhile, I keep thinking about the guy who has concluded that my disagreement is proof of his brilliance. There’s a great prank in here, somewhere.
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What a drag it is getting old, or at least that’s what Mick and Keith were telling us back when they were 23-year-olds who could have sex without purple pills or back braces. Whippersnappers!! What did they know?
In fact, getting old is a pretty terrific experience if you have the right perspective on the whole thing. Yes, it can be a bit disconcerting to realize that the only person ogling you is the Grim Reaper, but there are also daily highlights, if you know where to look. For instance….
There’s so much more to get excited about as we age, but I’ve just had a senior moment and I can’t recall the details. As soon as I find my glasses, I’ll look for the, um, look for the, um, where am I?
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You can tell a question is very, very old when it’s based on the idea of mailing a letter. Bear with me, though, because this quiz from the Pleistocene Epoch has an important lesson that you don’t want to miss. (Okay, I don’t want you to miss it, but why quibble?)
As this quiz begins, you want to mail a letter. The closest post office is a mile away and you drive there at 30 miles per hour. How fast do you have to drive back in order to average 60 miles per hour?
Don’t bother grabbing your calculator, because I’ll give you the answer: You can’t do it. If you drove to the post office at 30 miles an hour, you used up two minutes. And if you wanted to average 60 miles an hour for the whole trip, you would need two minutes. By the time you get there, you’re already too late.
Life is like that. Whether we’re saving for retirement, planning a business strategy or leaving the house to meet friends, the clock is ticking. Too often, we start on a journey that we cannot finish, relying on hope or kismet or time travel for our ultimate success. That means we’re just wasting our time on a project that’s doomed to failure, when we could be investing our energies in a more promising direction.
Frequently, when I’m working with a start-up company, the management team will dismiss the limits of time, but that can be a fatal error. One company I advised had adopted a strategy that wouldn’t pay off until several quarters after they ran out of money, which meant it wouldn’t pay off at all. In another case, the business founder had started so many initiatives that she needed a 27-hour day to get the job done, but only if she didn’t eat, sleep or shower.
We make the same mistake in our personal lives. We don’t start saving for retirement until we need to save 120% of our income to make it work. We plan to travel the world someday, but wait until we lack the stamina to make the journey. We start a hundred hobbies, but we never block out enough time to master any of them.
And let’s not forget the little matter of relationships. So often, we are caught up in something that’s toxic, a situation that cannot be fixed without investing more time and energy than we will ever have…if it can be fixed at all. Still, somehow, we pursue a goal we will never achieve, draining our lives of more productive and enjoyable endeavors.
Nobody makes their final departure with a clean desk. In fact, nobody should make that kind of exit, because a healthy mess and a large to-do list can be indicators of a life well lived. Still, it’s much better to leave a long to-do list of items we enjoy, not a queue of boulders we’re damned to roll up the hill.
Time is the original scarce resource, but we treat it like a bottomless pool. The only way to make more of it, at least in practice, is to cut the non-starters and the never-wills from our to-do lists. Today might be a good day to start.
How many impossible tasks can you remove from your to-do list, now that you know the secrets to time management? And how much time have you freed up to subscribe to our weekly posts by clicking here? Oodles. Win win.
We absolutely need a new word to replace “friend.” Several words, actually. Maybe hundreds. Somehow, we have about 500 words that refer to coitus and 275 for breasts and about 950 for men’s, um, lower brains, but we use the same term for a person we would die for as we apply to a bot on Facebook.
This is crazy. Every so often someone comes up with a modifier like friends with benefits, or bff, but mostly we use the word “friend” as a generic reference to any humanoid we have ever met, even if we know them only on social media. Or own them, as in “man’s best friend.”
I’ve always been very demanding of the word, which has led me to suggest that some people are acquaintances and not friends, but that always sounds like I’m rejecting them. And, based on my social skills, I’m not exactly in a position to reject anyone.
Still, it seems like there should be different terms to describe different types of relationships. Does anyone have a really good word that describes someone…
…you’ve known for a long time, but see seldom, and yet it’s always like you’re just picking up on an ongoing conversation every time you get together?
…you’ve known for a long time and see all the time, but you can never seem to get past the weather and traffic before running out of things to talk about?
…you know from work, or the neighborhood, and you’re okay with them on a short elevator ride, but you could not survive lunch with them?
…you knew in high school, or college, and you have nothing you can talk about other than “remember that time back in school?”
…you know only through connections on Facebook or LinkedIn or some other site that refers to everyone as friends, even though you have never met them IRL and they might actually be a Russian troll or, worse, a blogger?
…who is a parent of your kids’ friends, so you socialize with them a little bit while the kids are at Little League or the school play, but you don’t spend time together otherwise?
The list grows as I slice and dice the weird relationships I’ve established over the years and try to figure out what to call them. Perhaps I should refer to them as “friend-ish” or “future friends” instead. “Future friends” sounds much more hopeful and it would give them something to strive for, but only if they earn it. Of course, if they knew I was waiting for them to earn it, they might decide it’s not worth the effort…and they’d be correct.
Maybe my definitions are too strict and I should simply adopt the standard of calling everyone a friend unless they are actually convicted of trying to kill me. Maybe it’s time I make the switch from my Damon and Pithias standard to a less demanding Damon and Affleck.
That might be the safest course, since specificity is a double-edged sword. What if I think someone is a friend I would die for and she thinks I am good for a short elevator ride? What if I consider some guy a great pal and he thinks I should be a third-level contact on LinkedIn? If we used more specific words, those differences would be revealed and somebody—probably I—would end up in tears.
Hmmmm. I think I am beginning to understand why we can have nearly 3,000 synonyms for “drunk” and only one for people we have met. Maybe it’s much better this way.
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On the way back to the airport, I had to pull over to the side of the road and cry for a while.
Jerry was dying. There was no doubt and there was no cure. I had flown to California to visit with him one last time, to let him know he had tipped the scales for the positive in this world, and that he would be missed. Through his contributions to my life, and to many others, he had earned this visit several times over.
Jerry had been a client for many years, and then he became a mentor and a friend. I hadn’t done any work with him or his company for years, and he had left the company as well, but this was a rare instance in which “business friend” is not an oxymoron. He always had an instructive story about business, about life and values, and he passed along a few jokes that I could claim as my own. He was a mensch.
On the night of our last visit, we acknowledged the obvious in about two minutes and then spent the rest of our time the way we always did, sharing stories and jokes and commiserating about the state of the world. All things considered, it was a very enjoyable evening. For obvious reasons, I didn’t want that evening to end, because that night’s goodbye would almost certainly be the last.
I’ve had many “last visits” since then; they become more frequent as you and your friends get older. Sometimes, you don’t know it’s your last visit when you have it, because nobody is aware of the fuse that’s burning. In those cases, you look back and wonder if you said the right things, if you left on good enough terms.
Often, though, you do know the reality when you come to visit, and you know you’re fulfilling an important mission. You’re letting somebody know they made a difference, they were appreciated, and they will be remembered as a positive force in the world.
My last visit with Jerry was relatively easy. He was alert and energetic, with few telltale signs of the traitors within his body. Other visits are much more challenging, such as those times you’re sitting with a friend who has lost her personhood while a machine sustains the metrics of existence. All we can offer is a gift of normalcy, an episode of the life they had, and still have, if we can ignore the demands of their impatient companion.
Every so often, you go to a really great funeral. The guest of honor lived a long and productive life, all the guests knew and loved him, and the family is comforted by a constant stream of stories from a life well lived. It’s sad, as it must be, but it’s also joyous in a way, marking the completion of an honorable, meaningful journey.
Funerals are for the survivors, though, not the deceased. Last visits are for the guest of honor, a chance to celebrate their life in the present tense, to offer whatever solace can be delivered through a promise to remember. It isn’t really much, but sometimes it’s all we can give.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.