Golden Years of your Life – Why they are AWESOME!

My Winter with the N.U.T.S (aka: Snowbirds)

Before I enlighten you with tales of intrigue, sensitivity,
unconditional love and warmth, I should remind you that these
emotions may not be found in this story. When one has the
opportunity to work anywhere the sun rises and an internet
connection is in the air, the natural inclination is to move from
the snow to the sun. Add in a beach and you have quite the deal.
When I migrated from the tundra of Minnesota and to record, one
of the coldest winters in decades to the cool and refreshing sands
of Myrtle Beach, the last thing I expected was to be adopted by
the League of Northern Snowbirds

What is a snowbird? It would seem appropriate at this time to
define the term before delving deep into their rituals and habits.
It is a phenomenon that has transpired for hundreds and perhaps
thousands of years. When the warm moist air begins to become
cool and crisp, one or a small group of rather insightful birds
realizes that they can sit on branches, poop and eat in much
warmer temperatures and more importantly they can fly for free.
So thus begins the winter migration to the warmth of the South.
Down Tobacco Road they flew to the sands of Myrtle Beach.
Low and behold, humans do this as well. Without the fortunate
ability to fly they must utilize the great emancipation known as
the Cadillac or Buick for the more frugal minded.

Some of these stories may intrigue you and perhaps some may
even frighten you, but rest assured they are true. Growing up just
outside of New York, you were either a Mets fan or a Yankees
fan, Jets fan or a Giants fan but no matter how deep the inter city
hatred got, we all had one common goal, we hated New
England. Little did I know that Middle Atlantic residents and
New England residents could cohabitate in the same area let
alone the same building. When I first heard the Boston and
Rhode Island area accents like the aftertaste of Clam Chowder
that won’t go away, it was clear I had to do something. I was
taught that New Englanders talked funny and looked even
funnier. Thus Faye and Jerry proved me right but more on them
in a bit.

This group didn’t regionalize themselves to just the Northeast but
members of the Canadian regime, Michigan and the Great State
of Alaska found their way to the Blue Water Resort and Villas,
Myrtle Beach’s home away from home or my little piece of
heaven in the confusion of the South.

Early on I was able to maintain a level of anonymity. I hid
behind my computer and observed patterns of behavior that
would leave me baffled for sometime. The puzzle table, like
vultures to a cadaver left me shaking my head in awe and
wondering if I was in a clinical asylum. Each day a new puzzle
would appear. Couples would come downstairs and work on it,
husbands escaping from their wives or via versa would spend
time working on the puzzle until it was done. Then like a true
Olympic celebration, an honorary photo was taken and then it
was gone; replaced quickly by a new puzzle. Some would spend
hours and some would take solace in finding two puzzle pieces.
Others would pass the time late at night when they couldn’t sleep
as I would see Clarence many a night working late under dim
lighting or early in the morning before their beach walk, but even
until the last of the snowbirds vacated, there would be a puzzle.
While the asylum was fresh in my head, I had my first interaction
with Brownie and Marge, two of the wonderful citizens of Lake
George. As I sat one morning hidden behind the shelter of my
computer, the wonderfully cute couple made their way to the
back door of the resort (my thoughts were that they were going
for a beach walk), but stopped. Then they turned around and
walked away. Nothing strange about that; they must have
changed their mind. Several minutes later, they appeared
walking to the back door, stopping and turning around once
again. Thus, the clinical asylum theory is back on the table. It
took several days to realize that they were exercising together.

It didn’t take more than a few days before this energetic group
befriended me and made me their mascot. Not in the dress up
like an oversized animal mascot but more like a punching bag.
With mascot title came mascot duties. For a young professional
adult that meant Bingo, Wii Bowling and Shuffleboard and a
rather confusing lesson in Cribbage. Weekly rituals that would
become my inauguration into the Fellowship of the Snowbirds.
Rusty and Barbara missed their true calling in life: Event
Coordinators to the White House. Every birthday, every
anniversary, every pot luck dinner, every weekly meeting, every
Super Bowl Party (ok there was one), every Wii Bowling night
and every farewell had Russ and Barb behind the scenes planning
every details with precision accuracy. Yet the hardest thing they
had to do all winter other than say goodbye was to compile their
1000 pictures portfolio to a video scrapbook of only 250.

Before I get into any detail on the individual personalities that
made my journey to the heart of the south so memorable, one
must not forget the constant that was here prior to the snowbirds
and will remain long after; Marcus. Marcus was one bad joke
short of a recall but given my history of being so poor with
names, he was easy to remember. Marcus has the heart of a
teddy bear or is that the body. Anyway, he was part of the
maintenance team but clearly the one that stood out and took that
extra step for us. I won’t end my discussion on Marcus without
sharing the news that he just recently learned that he will be a
father for the first time.

Ray and Joanne, a couple with subtle wit and charm, never
missed an event or a good joke to email to the rest of the group.
Yes, they would really sit across from each other and email
jokes. Ray awakened me to a game that has not seen the light of
day in my life since I was ten or even younger. That game was
shuffleboard. After the first few rounds or games I was
comfortable with it but not my first choice of a major sporting
events; but over time I learned to not only enjoy it but appreciate
it not for the game itself but the company I shared it with.

Bill and Colleen. The Ying and Yang couple. While Bill
maintained a calm and collected personality, Colleen was crazy.
This woman would bowl a strike and act like she was on ESPN
winning the PBA title. Of course, she never relinquished the
opportunity to tell me that I ate all the time. I didn’t. I drank a
great deal of coffee, but not to be mistaken with constant eating.

Fred and Harriet, our illustrious Mutt and Jeff, Abbott and
Costello, Andre the Giant and Mini Me. I think you see where
this is going. They were physically different in height and
stature but the way they cared about each other, especially when
Harriet was sick showed how much they meant to each other.

Willy and Hedy just made you laugh. Willy had a knack for kite
flying. More than just a hobby, it was a passion that brought him
and the beach together in a way that I didn’t see with others. He
become one with the skies and the ocean and shared his passion
with many passing observers. Hedy was in control and on top of
her game until the night of the mighty margarita pitchers. As we
will always remember her famous line (prior to her passing out at
Bingo), “They taste just like lemonade”

Bob and Jan and Lori were all in some way related, yet I am still
trying to figure it out but they were never without a smile or a
little peer pressure to put my work aside and enjoy the sun. A
key fact you won’t see in the back of the sports section is that
Lori at age 91 shot a 53 in the front nine in Conway. I even
thought about playing her but thought again.
Maureen and David approved of me right away. This was
important, one because I didn’t know I was being tested, but two
they were the only ones to share my floor. Believe me; I
wouldn’t share my floor with anyone.

Gerry and Connie the resident tour guide and photographer.
Gerry had the state of the art camera and Connie would keep a
room entertained and make sure everyone knew everyone by the
end of a conversation.

Marie played sarcasm and charm like a concerto in Carnegie
Hall. She would embrace a room, share a story and be gone
before you realized what time it was. Marie is always on the go
but always stopped to enjoy the company of her friends. Marie
has been part of this community for 28 years and hasn’t missed a
beat. She could be alone or with many but always smiling and
maintaining her Irish pride. One could not forget the thoughtful
gesture of 10 boxes of post Christmas Candy Canes she gave to
me on my birthday. Of course leaving the receipt in the bag that
showed she paid ten cents a box lost some of the sentiment, but
her heart was always in the right place.

Bernie was the quiet observer. He never missed an opportunity
to share the spectator sport of puzzle mind games or cribbage and
in the most opportune moment, with a smile or a gesture, you
knew what he was thinking or feeling. He was able to convey his
sentiment with silent prominence.

Let us not forget Bob and Carolyn who graciously invited me
into their second home, taking a break from the winters of Alaska
to offer me a home cooked meal, insight into the group and more
college basketball knowledge than I could fathom two people
having. Of course their romantic courtship began at referee
school. Just don’t watch a game with them because it becomes
less about the game and more about the efficiency of the
infraction calls.

Jean and Karey are a little different, not in the mental state but
that they live in the Carolina’s and own a unit in our little Blue
Water Heaven. Karey always carried around his wind up radio (I
don’t understand, but it works) listening to Rush Limbaugh. I
never had the heart to tell him how much I hated Rush. Jean
would be steady working hard on her computer. I don’t know
what she did until she needed me for tech support but she helped
me fulfill a little dream of mine. Ok, I really whined about it
until she said yes. I got to call my first and only game of bingo
on the final bingo night of the season. After my game I got a
standing ovation, not for how good I was but that I was done. I
can’t ever forget bingo. My first time I won a car and $10.00 for
gas money. Don’t be silly, not a real car. Did we have our
moments: Marie and Faye drunk on champagne, Jean calling
games drunk and getting numbers and letters wrong, the vinegar
that no one would take, beautiful hand made gifts, Russ making
weird sound effects with each call, and Jerry not even knowing
he won and he was sober. For two hours each week of number
and letter calling, this group made it fun.

Faye and Jerry really understood the importance of family. They
watched what I ate, how late I was working and even brought me
food so I wouldn’t dwindle away. They provided me with my
independence but put an extra hand forward if I needed the
feeling of support.

The months went quickly and not without hardship that forced
many to band together and share in the reality of life and the
pains of death. Mike celebrated the ripe young age of 88 while
he was down here, but with the knowledge of cancer making a
home in his body. Ed, a simple and very talented artist shared
his work that he has been doing for 50 years, but unfortunately
had to leave early due to some heart issues and while in route
home hospitalized. Carolyn and Helen could only stay a short
while due to breast cancer. As an outsider looking in, their outer
strength was amazing. They were always up and energetic and
never let on that anything bothered them. I admired that.
The common theme was togetherness. Every evening at seven in
the evening, whether there was an event or not, the group found
their way to the lobby to engage in conversation ranging from
childhood to politics. This group never lacked a topic nor was
there ever a lull in the conversation. It was fascinating how
everyone belonged, especially me. I wasn’t treated any different.
I was harassed just like everyone else. They found value in life
that I don’t even think I am close to finding. It was this feeling of
family that ultimately created a safe haven. Not everyone was
healthy or without pain but we all looked and played the part of
the healthy family. Not because we had to, but because the
greatest medicine is the world is a common sense of love that
each shared for each other. I was told a few weeks ago by Hedy
“You will never forget us for the rest of your life”. She was
right. They brought sanity to an insane world or was that the
other way around. They made me belong when I didn’t know a
soul.

What is a lifetime but a concept far from the reaches of my
mental state until now: Bob and Geri have been married since
1960, Ray and Joanna since 1969 and Jerry and Faye and Bill
and Colleen since 1957 respectively. Minors in the playground
of lifelong love. Paul and Annie Marie shared 61 years together
this March, with Ray and Terry to follow in May with 61 of their
own. Dave and Maureen have 59 wonderful years of memories,
but at the top of the cake is Brownie and Marge who in August
will turn back the clock of time to reflect on 67 years of beautiful
bliss.

As each member departed, a ritual ensued involving a Friday
night meeting without invitations or advertising but a common
place to share memories, exchange gifts and reflect on true
reasons each person returns to this place. With a hug and
laughter, we retreated to our rooms knowing a few less people
would be there in the morning.

Every day is a journey of discovery. Delving into a new culture
and environment without so much as a parachute has been my
signature for many years. Myrtle Beach is a very unique cultural
blend of generational differences that is a testament to the
direction our society is turning. We live in a modern age of
greed and irresponsibility and ignorance, but we can’t forget that
we were built on the foundation of caring, sensitivity and
companionship. I was able to experience both, being in the
crosswinds of multi-generational living habits. The community
of Blue Water wasn’t a church group, a single town or even a
single country but a melting pot of flavors with a common goal, a
temporary escape from the burdens of a northern winter. Along
with their clothes and personal belongings, they brought with
them years of life experiences rich in passion and success. The
optimism they share for each other was so prevalent each and
every day. Life is not about being young but feeling young.
Happiness is a mental state that no level of physical aging can
ever take away. This common bond of happiness spilled over to
me for the few months I was able to be part of this journey.
I will meet new people and have new experiences as I continue to
follow my path. Some will be good and some will not, but it is
the memorable ones you need to hold onto very closely. Maybe
that is the single greatest lesson I will take away with me as I
begin my journey back north. Only time has written the words
that I will follow.

There are very few absolute conclusions one can draw from life.
For instance, you can never determine where you will find your
friends or what you will have in common but the only certainty is
that when you find them, you need to hold on. I was fortunate. I
picked a random place in a random city to call home for a few
months and was able to meet some of the most amazing people I
have ever had the opportunity to spend time with. Was it the
games, the war stories, the recipes, the dinners, the parties, the
drinking, the puzzles, the long conversations, the free food and
wine or the rides to the airport? It was the unselfish way they
took a complete stranger and let him into their world. After I
returned from a visit north, my desk had a single red rose and a
sign that said “Welcome Back Mark. We Missed You. Love the
N.U.T.S”

What more can I say. I’m a NUT now.

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Dear Recruiter, Are you connecting with your candidates?

Recruiting is a specialty art. It is not as simple as providing full life cycle support. The key elements of a successful recruiter include:

Marketing
Research/Investigation
Project Management
Public Relations
Negotiation
Client Relationship Building
Legal
Technical

Yes, all of these skill sets are critical to an effective and long term career in recruiting / talent acquisition. This blog is not about what soft and technical skills are required to be a recruiter. If that were the case, I would take a job description off of Monster or Careerbuilder. I would like to talk about how to establish a positive relationship with your candidates.

I know, all candidates are different. They come from different cultures, social background, financial status, career level, industry focus and leadership level. But the bottom line is every candidate has the same attribute, they are human. Am I saying that if you begin a relationship with a new college graduate it is the same as developing a connection with a CFO? No, but what I am saying is that every human interaction is built on finding common ground, trust, compassion and the willingness to accept each other’s position and attempt to come up with the best means of finding a win/win on both ends.

That being said, how do I establish, maintain and grow a relationship with a candidate that will provide the candidate with an excellent client experience? Simple; plant the seed, feed the ground and the seed with water and nutrients, spend time with the young blossoming bud and celebrate its victory as it spreads its beautiful colors and provides oxygen to is surroundings.

Now how do we translate that series of metaphors into a working knowledge piece?

Here are some key things to remember when you begin a new relationship with a potential candidate:

1. Learn about the background of the candidate and determine if there are common elements which can help to establish rapport. What are his/her hobbies? Where did they go to school? Who did they work for and are there networking contacts you have in common? Do they like sports and if so, what teams? Stepping into an initial conversation with a common ice breaker can help relieve the tension of a presumed interview setting and allow for candid and flowing conversation.

2. Remember that we are all human and all desire the same pursuit of happiness, family, health and balance. Whether you are talking to someone that made half a million last year or someone that made thirty thousand, we all have the same goals. Some are driven by work life balance, financial or challenge of work, but we all want to belong to something that we believe in and that is grounded in stability. Don’t change who you are as a recruiter if you are talking to someone at a higher professional level or lower. Be yourself and use the same comfort tactics you would use with any candidate. In the end, the candidate will admire you and be open to sharing more information.

3. Research and understand the role you are looking to fill. In a high volume work setting with a diverse set of roles on your work bench, the expectation is that you will not know all the day to day duties of a role or the software/hardware components necessary to perform the duties of the role but there are some elements that a candidate would like to know in initial interaction. What is the culture of the team? What are the challenges facing the role? What professional background will be most successful? What are the growth opportunities and training? What are the expectations of successful performer? Having a working knowledge of the role prior to client interface with provide you with a level of respect that will set you apart from you colleagues.

4. Don’t be afraid to open up a little. If an opportunity presents itself to share insight into your own life and experiences with the organization, let your guard down and show the candidate that we are a company built on relationships and family values.

5. Sharpen your marketing skills. Know what your company does well and shout out how proud you are to be a part of the organization. Share in the wins, awards, financial options, growth opportunities, open communicative culture, training, volunteer work and all the great things that your company does and offers. Sell, sell, sell. You are trying to purchase a commodity and in order to do that, you have to convince that commodity that they want to be part of this. Taking the big step to a new role is in fact a very big step. You need to guide them to the door and in a way, open it up as well.

These are a few little insider hints on how to get an edge, when you pursue top talent and want to close the deal.

Happy Hunting!

Tips for providing great customer service

We often hear the golden rule of customer service: “The customer is always right.”
Let’s take a few moments to look past that core value of customer service and take it one step deeper.

There are several keys to ensuring a successful and positive interaction with a consumer. Customer service, whether it is a call center, cashier, information assistant or an executive, is the interaction and relationship between a consumer and a vendor. In it’s simplest terms, a vendor is selling a product or service in exchange for a monetary or non-monetary payment.

How does one measure a successful customer service experience?

1. Return/repeat utilization by the consumer
2. Sale/Transaction
3. Positive feedback on the product/service or company
4. Referrals

All are correct measures.

To ensure the most rewarding experience for the consumer, we would like to provide a few helpful tips to assist anyone in a customer service capacity maximize the chances of success.

1. Set realistic expectations. Making promises that have little or no chance at being met can set a false sense of hope for a consumer and ultimately, if not met, can leave a negative feeling, the potential of a lost sale/transaction or the loss of future business due to the potential for negative feedback to be shared by others in their network. By setting goals that are achievable, there is a chance of meeting most needs or coming in ahead of those needs.

2. Follow up. This is critical. If a commitment is made to follow up on an issue or request, set the time frame for response and ensure you do respond. Often a promise of a call or email will be made and for many reasons, it never occurs forcing the consumer to do the follow up. This can create the impression that in a long term relationship with this vendor, they may not a reliable resource.

3. Don’t take it personally. Not all interactions will be positive. Some consumers walk into an interface with expectations of being let down or in need of resolutions due to a commitment not being met. Understand, it is not personal and not meant to harm you, but as a messenger of the product/service, you do hold responsibility for assisting in the resolution of the issue.

4. Keep everything in perspective. Every consumer interaction has a story behind it. Some are dealing with life situations which forces them to struggle or deal with tragedy. Understand that each relationship you begin with a consumer is either a one time or continuing relationship but understandably it is to provide a product or service only. The need to bring tempers or excessive vocalization is never necessary as we do not know the complete story and in most cases, never will.

5. Approach all consumers with a positive demeanor. When the sun shines, we smile. When the clouds are dark, we frown. Our surroundings affect our emotions. If you bring a smile and positive attitude from the first instant of communication, the likelihood of a very engaging exchange is increased.

6. Approach each interaction as a new relationship. Most interactions are one time only events and in some fortunate instances, where trust and confidence are developed, they are recurring. Approach each one as if you are making a new contact at a party of networking event. Make strong eye or vocal contact, listen, provide strong and sensible knowledge and assist in a swift transaction or resolution.

The hope is that these tips will provide a little insight that could differentiate a good customer service individual from a great one.

Bullhorn Reach – The Future of Social Recruiting

“Social Recruiting – Social recruiting is when companies and recruiters use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and and other social media sites to source and recruit candidates for employment.”

You can always count on About.com for the most simplistic definition for everything in life. Thanks to CEO Stewie Griffin and CFO Elmo, we now know the true essence of this popular catch phrase. Now that we know what it is, who is successfully utilizing it to align strong vendor/corporate partnerships?

Every successful or moderately successful organization is utilizing any and all cost effective tools to get the “word” out on career opportunities. That means opening the door to Craigslist, Backpage, Ning, Indeed, Jobvite, TwitRes, Tweetmyjobs, Job Angels, Oodle, etc., etc. Now that we have all these avenues to get the word out, how on Earth can we do a 40-hour work week when we have to post on all these platforms. Help!!!

Is there a strong automation and talent networking tool that can effectively link the giants of the social networking world with the needs of talent acquisition to not only to post opportunities and recycle the outreach, but also develop an algorithm that can use our own talent networks to identify key talent?

Drum roll, please… Ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 Award for Best Social Recruiting Platform is…Bullhorn Reach (http://www.bullhornreach.com/)!

The philosophy of Bullhorn Reach is simple: take the bull by the horns and make it possible.

Says Bullhorn CEO and founder Art Papas, “Our aim at Bullhorn Reach is to make it easy and simple for recruiters to unlock the power of social media. Finding and recruiting talent is hard enough, without the extra challenge of learning how to use a whole new set of tools. We help recruiters harness social media to market their open jobs, monitor their contacts, and nurture their relationships — with no training and minimal effort.”

The fundamental goal of a social networking tool — whether it’s to connect with others, develop talent communities, recruit, build a brand or develop a business strategy — is to identify your target audience and create the most efficient and user-friendly tool on the market. Bullhorn has created a talent acquisition/recruitment tool that integrates with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (currently also syndicates to a handful of job board aggregators such as SimpleHired, and in negotiation with Indeed.com) to market career opportunities, identify potential candidate flow in your networks, and provide analytics to evaluate your success points. Utilizing an attractive visual interface and non-technical, user-friendly platform, Bullhorn understands its core client base and has developed an approach that appeals to the recruitment community.

The key elements of the Bullhorn Reach social recruiting platform are:

A tool that broadcasts open job listings to your social networks and job board aggregators, automatically re-posting until the listing is closed;

A metrics/analytics dashboard for monitoring performance levels of the postings;

An algorithm that matches potential candidates from your personal social networks to your open job listings;
Another algorithm that calls out behavioral patterns of people in your networks who may be looking for jobs (i.e., tells you about passive job seekers in your networks before they flip);

A tool for sharing content that attaches a branded bar to all of the content that you share, while simultaneously promoting your open job;

A referral tool (currently in private beta) to both leverage employees’ social networks while helping unlock your employer brand through tapping your employees’ collective voice;

And a reward/recognition program to allow your corporate recruiting team to monitor and share referral performances.

As a recruiter, you want to post a job and sit back while candidates flood the gates to apply for the roles; then, the assessment process is ready to begin. Unfortunately, social media and population growth has created a boundless, virtual world, where our attention span is very limited. What Bullhorn Reach has allowed its users to do, is post career opportunities and then relax while the application does the rest.

Through a scheduler whose pace is determined by the user, jobs are reposted through the three core networks to maximize exposure. The analytics provide data on the frequency, seeded channels and exposure of your open job listings. And, it provides real-time updates on any communications sent by potential candidates.

For most organizations, the most successful pool of talent is found through employee referrals. Who better to understand the culture, infrastructure, and operations of your company than its associates. Carrying this forward, Bullhorn feels that your networks are the best source for talent. As the domino effect clearly dictates, once a role is shared with a network, the probability of it being shared out further is much stronger because you are gaining assistance from people you know and trust.

Upon logging into Bullhorn Reach, you are provided with Radar updates on people in your network who exhibit recruiting-relevant behavior, including promotions, job changes, title changes and other information that allows you to keep in contact with your online contacts, even as your networks continue to grow. The most unique feature of Reach Radar, however, is an algorithm that calls out “potential movers” — that is, individuals who may be moving jobs. They are identified by relevant changes in their behavior (for example, increased activity in profile changes, connections and/or recommendations). The take-away: you, as a recruiter, can jump on a potential mover before they have identified a new opportunity.

As Bullhorn develops Reach’s paid features (it’s currently free), companies will be able further brand open job listings and provide more company-specific information to give potential candidates a better understanding not only of the roles but also the companies.

In the continuing evolution of recruiting, the key is to stay ahead of the competition, find cost effective means to attract top talent at the lowest possible cost, and develop and maintain strong talent communities for future pipeline needs. One thing is clear about recruitment, it never stops.

Organizations will continue to fight for the top industry talent, and recruiters will need to wear a variety of hats to show their detective, business development, sales and marketing skills. Bullhorn Reach may have set the standard for the marriage between social media and recruitment. With a solid development and sales team who are focused on the needs of the company and its talent acquisition teams, Bullhorn Reach is ready to take your hand and guide you through the tunnel to the future of recruitment.

Being the Only Male at a Bachelorette Party – Lessons Learned

One of the top trending items on Twitter at this moment is #thingsthatdontmakesense, and in many circles of social party arrangements, this one does not either. I was the solo male at a downtown Saturday night bachelorette party of thirteen. Did the intent of my night start out that way, by no means. I live downtown and with one of my closest friends organizing the event, an invite came my way to join them for dinner and with a few block walk as the only obstacle, I accepted.

I can handle a joke and believe in the authenticity of the event so I wore the penis name tag and pink hair thingy for a while. I would tell you what specifically it was, but I just don’t know. This comment may come out a few more times before this story ends. The server was not particularly amazing on this evening, but on a Saturday night with thirteen people and some arriving late, I think he did rather well. Yet in the eyes of thirteen very anxious women on the verge of a drunken night of mayhem, he was the worst server ever to step foot on this earth.

After a mediocre meal, a few complaints to management and shots for the ladies, we moved on. The next bar was on my way home so, why not. So was the third. After that, trouble began to brew. The groups began to form unions and separation would ensue. In any major city, different people with have their own favorite places so naturally, that was a challenge. Without a limo, wandering feet will cause some potential issues. Thirteen people and four different venues later smart phones became everyone’s friend.

Now I had an obligation to stay. I was sober, I lived downtown and I may be one of the only chances to get everyone home safe. Between shots and texts, the next few hours were very convoluted. One girl got left behind alone. Another had things stolen from her wallet but another girl. Of course there were a few confessions and a few sick victims from the night.

During the course of those eight hours, I observed some very eye-opening events/behaviors:

1. If you ever have doubts about getting married, bachelorette parties could very well convince you against going through with that life time commitment. Three of four women at the table had some seriously negative things to say about their significant other and one even pondered an affair that night. In the street, I saw five bachelorettes all dressed up and not one smile among them. There could be other factors for those frowns, but I wasn’t ready to get in their path and ask.

2. Even in a group of girls, they still go to the restroom in pairs or groups. Whether they were talking about others in their party or just needed the company, I will never know. Yes, I did ask and no they wouldn’t tell me.

3. Women in groups do not like competition. If there are more attractive girls in the group, they will do everything they can to minimize their visibility.

4. Bachelorette parties mean “tramp it out”. Wear your most obnoxious high heels, find that evening dress or short skirt you haven’t worn in years and shout “This is my night”. It turns out the party is not just for the bride-to-be, but for all the girls single or married. For the married ones, it is an excuse to go out and find your sense of value and attractiveness again from strange men and for the single girls, the belief that “now it is my turn to score a man”. For even a few in the group, it is a chance at a one night stand. Even girls want a little meaningless intimacy from a hot stranger.

5. A strip club is not always a requirement, but sex toys and props are. That is an official rule. There must be many and very over the top. I cannot be certain, but the penis straw is quite a popular one.

6. I cannot say this for certain but in the male code of “what happens here, stays here” doesn’t seem the case with woman. I got the feeling that night and even a few days later that stories were shared and shared often.

7. Screaming is an absolute requirement. It must be done every time a person passes, at every bar entrance, when any shot is done, when someone falls, pukes, hiccups or in a nutshell…All Night Long.

8. Group safety is not a big concern by the end of the night. Though we started with a large group, only a few remained in tact and the feeling from those remaining was “oh well”. There was a general feeling that since they went their own way, they can find their own way home. Not what I would have expected.

By the end of the evening, I felt that I played a critical role in ensuring the safety of the core group, including the bride-to-be. One of the surprising elements was that I did not become a punching bag or pun of jokes during the night. I was a welcome addition. There were a few thoughts that I may have been gay because I was there, but I feel that if a guy wants to jump in and help celebrate the release of another single girl, most girls would be open to that.

This was an experience I was for the most part glad to be a part of. If asked whether I would participate again, my answer would be simple…No.

There are some very distinct reasons why men and women are different and when those differences grow in numbers, it is best to distance yourself from the opposite gender.

To the Bride-to-be, Cheers and good luck. To the bachelorette’s personal assistant, thank you for the invite into my own Cosmo article.

Justin Bieber isn’t the only hero…Are you a HERO!! (Video Blog)

Every day each one of us has the opportunity for heroism. I am not talking about the type of heroism that makes the five o’clock news or the one that history books are written about. I am referring to the ability to touch and influence another life with positive energy and strong moral support. We all desire to feel a sense of belonging and to feel valued.

Believe it or not, the smallest gestures can make a difference in another life. Not just a small difference but a life changing one. Look within yourself today and determine what you have done to be a positive role model to another life.

We are all capable of being remarkable and to pass that energy and passion onto others. Be a hero today!

Songbook – The Soundtrack of My Life

For centuries, music has filled our ears with laughter and tears. It has provided the back drop for events that have shaped and transpired over the course of world history. Without a soundtrack, the sheer impact would be lost and so music provides the essence of drama, romance and comedy. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the soundtrack of my life. These songs, some commercially popular and some not played a critical role in the chapters of my life and continue to reflect in my memories. I think each of us have our own soundtrack and hopefully we can all sit back soon and think about the songs that are part of your soundtrack of life.

Cum on Feel the Noize – Quiet Riot

The quintessential 80’s metal song. Suggestive lyrics, asylum feel of pure mayhem and the true rock and roll lifestyle of women, drugs and heavy heart pounding music. None of that meant anything to me with I was nine years old. I grew up surrounded by music, specifically the sounds of folk, lyrically pop, and culturally aware music of the 60’s and 70’s. Having older siblings contributed in large part. When I came upon my first 45 RPM records, I had my first sense of ownership in this thing called music. I had a piece of the action. I didn’t care what it was or what it was worth but to me they were priceless. My first 45 RPM single was Quiet Riot’s Cum On Feel the Noize. It was loud, it was rebellious, it was apparently even sexual, but I loved it because it was mine. I was officially a record collector. I now belonged to the family. I may not have that pile of vinyl anymore or that record player that sat on the gossip table in the upstairs living room, but I will always remember the moment, I was inaugurated into the family as a music lover.

Tears are Not Enough – Northern Lights / Bryan Adams

England had Band-Aid (Do They Know It’s Christmas) and the United States had USA for Africa (We are the World) and the world, thanks to Bob Geldof had Live-Aid. July, 1985 was a day that brought the entire world together, not through Facebook or Twitter but though televisions and radio stations around the globe sharing the message of love to raise money and awareness to global poverty. This was a day, not without violence or death (that would be impossible) but a day of world unity. As the day, came near, we all had our favorite artists or songs we looked forward to. How could you not with the thought of The Police, Genesis, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Hall & Oates, Queen and so so many more taking the stage. This was the day that Generation X would forever remember as its Woodstock. Yet even better than Woodstock, it took place on two continents.

Going into this lifetime event of music, culture and charity there were a few songs that I truly looked forward to hearing performed live and the one high on the list was “Tears are Not Enough”. I am not sure why. Maybe because it was Canada’s version of “We are the World” and England’s “Do They Know Its Christmas” and thus the underdog or the fact that not many really knew the song. During the 18 hour broadcast, there was a 4 minute lost of transmission and that was during Bryan Adams rendition of this song. The audio could be heard but no video. I was heartbroken and forever remind of Live Aid by that song and that moment of broadcast blackout.

Away from the Sun – Three Doors Down

My mother passed away in 2002 and without too much detail it was a very difficult adjustment for me. Very few things put my life in perspective during the next year and a half but one song provided me with a constant reminder of the sorrow and gave me a vocal shoulder to lean on. The unlikely artist was Three Doors Down and the song “Away from the Sun”. With such poignant lyrics and heart moving instrumental, each time I heard the song, it brought all the memories rushing back. When I saw them perform the song live at the Minnesota State Fair, it may have been one of the most internalized emotional moments of my life.

What a Feeling – Irene Cara

There was a generation gap between my two eldest siblings and my brother and I and thus always a different look on life. My oldest brother and sister were almost another set of parents whom I admired and looked up to. My eldest was a top dog at a movie theater when I was a child or at least to me he was and one evening he took me up to the projection booth to see how all the magic worked. I was in awe. The film projectors everywhere, lights shining bright and conversations shooting from every window. Movie magic and I was behind the scenes. He decided to show me the view from the top. He lifted his younger brother up to the viewing window next to the project and then before I could say “Yippy Skippy” he pulled me back down before I could ever get a peak of the film. That moment, of all moments was the sex scene in Flashdance. Had he not been quick to the draw, it may have opened up many more questions at this young and impressionable age. When I hear the Irene Cara song gleeming from the radio, I cannot helped but be reminded of the moment my brother showed me the inner workings of Hollywood or at least the projection room of an AMC Theater.

Theme to Fraggle Rock – Dennis Lee and Philip Balsam

Nothing summed up my childhood like baseball, wiffle ball, swimming, scavenger hunts, The Game of Life and Fraggle Rock. Every Monday at 7:30 PM on HBO was a new episode of Fraggle Rock. Never missed it. Typically it interrupted my weekly neighborhood baseball game at the corner field, but no worries, I left, watched my 25 minutes of singing, dancing and zany antics and then returned before they could sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the 7th inning stretch. There are some shows the forever are a part of your life and this one will always remain.

Shaddup You Face – Joe Dolce

This one is a little more difficult to explain because it involved mischievous behavior and to some degree, theft. My brother had quite an extensive collection of vinyl. Such a collection that the thought of rummaging through his room was like going into a candy store and not being able to eat anything. During an extended trip to the west coast, my other brother and I found our way into the Narnia of Vinyl. We took one album out to listen and promptly returned it as a few spins on the record player. Several weeks later he returned and within 24 hours, he knew that that album had been moved. We put it back where it was. How could he have known! He had thousands! The mystery was never solved but our life of crime ended that day. At least in his room.

The Way it Is – Bruce Hornsby and the Range

I have been to an abundance of live concerts from Radiohead to Billy Ray Cyrus but you never forget your first. It is like your first love. It is never great and many times awkward, but always a special part of your life. My first concert was with my two brothers at Alumni Hall on the campus of St. Johns University. Being a big fan of the St. Johns Redmen Basketball team, it made my night just to walk into the halls where basketball magic was made. On this night, I saw Bruce Hornsby and the Range perform all of their hits and even a verse of “You Can’t Touch This”. It was a night of brotherhood, a trip to the illustrious island of Manhattan and a night where I lost my live music virginity. Unless you count temple.

Love Comes Walking in – Van Halen

I had my first crush in third grade. Jennifer. Never kissed. Never held hands. Never even told her, but yet we are Facebook friends. My how times have changed. The summer after third grade, the whole family went to California on a trip for the ages. From San Francisco to San Diego and everything in between. With my Walkman keeping me company in the back seat, I repeatedly played “Love Comes Walking In” over and over and over again. It is hard to imagine a fantasy when you are 8 or 9, but I had a visual of her in that nightgown as Sammy Hager belted the line. With all the memories of that trip including seeing Alan Hunter and the MTV van, I was always hold that song as the ambassador to my first crush.

This is the Time – Billy Joel

I think many will connect this song with high school graduation. Whether the song was just released or twenty years later, Billy Joel created an anthem for embracing a moment in time. He wrote about life changes and holding on to events that brought love and happiness. This is a song about moving forward but not letting go of behind. It is about savoring critical life changes with ambition and subtly. Most important it is about taking chances. During Project Graduation as we swam, laughed, and shared stories, we all knew the night would end and many of us would be going on to bigger and better things. We didn’t need a song to bring an emotional outburst, but we got it. We got Billy Joel to take us into the night and guide us to our future as we said goodbye to the memories of childhood.

Misty – Johnny Mathis

My mother knew Johnny Mathis in Brooklyn. Friends and malt buddies. She always had a respect for him as a man and musician. Maybe a little soft and overly romantic for my tastes, but still a man that transcended time and used his beautiful voice and amazing songwriting skills to charm several generations of music lovers. Since childhood and until my last breath, there are many things that will remind me of my mother, but this song most of all will have the stamp of her spirit following me if I hear it out loud. Not to rule out the importance and connection I make between the Bee Gees and my mother. Johnny Mathis is still the top.

Think of Laura – Christopher Cross

Though admitting it may shed some light on the disturbing nature of my childhood, my mother used her mystery sense of persuasion to get me to watch General Hospital. For those that believe in the romantic power of Romeo and Juliet or Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or any Nick Sparks book, the ultimate couple was Luke and Laura. You couldn’t discuss the world of soap operas or even celebrity on screen couples without the names Luke and Laura coming up. During one of the many adventures on screen, Laura disappeared and was presumed dead for many years. Christopher Cross lend his songwriting skills to “Think of Laura”, a song that would become the anthem of Luke and Laura and most importantly Luke’s unconditional love for Laura. Though may songs were debuted on General Hospital and many singers including Jack Wagner and Rick Springfield, this song will always be mother and son sharing in the continuous adventures of Luke and Laura.

To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before – Julio Iglesias

My father loves AM radio. He lives for talk shows and the news. I believe he has owned tapes and CD’s (not many) but rarely ever played them. Unless of course it was in the privacy of his car as he commuted to and from work. Strangely, excluding the war songs that he still continues to sing whenever I am around, he has a love for Anne Murray and Julio Iglesias. I don’t quite understand myself where his musical tastes lie. Julio and my father are a pair in my world. Maybe it is the hopeless romantic in him or a passion for the Latin spirit. Either way, the music of Julio Iglesias is a part of my continued connection and bond with my father.

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLaughlin

For those of you that know me, I am a bit of a writer though I would never call myself one. Edward Burns did a little low budget film for about $25,000 on several maxed out credit cards call “The Brothers McMullan” This song by Sarah McLaughlin was a featured song, whose popularity took years to develop, but was close to my heart from the start. The importance of this movie and song is the reason I am writing this blog right now. After that movie, whose main character is a writer, I decided to attach a pen to my hand write. Five screenplays, twelve songs, four journals, two books and a blog later, I can trace my literary beginnings to this low budget movie about three Irish brothers in New York. It is strange how the simplest things can change your life forever.

Angel – Aerosmith

My first relationship was the only time I ever had a couple song and I have Aerosmith to thank. I suppose I have Heather to thank as well. “Angel” and Heather helped me become a man. Enough said.

Seasons of Love – Johnathan Larson

I cannot say enough about how important “Rent” has been in my life. I have seen the show eight times which does not even give me amateur Rent Head status, but one that has deeply affected how I view life, friendships and love. From the very beginning to the last musical note, this emotional roller coaster of a musical, which was born out of tragedy, has given me a reason to believe in the power of life even when I have hit my darkest moments. The other thing that made this show so important is that I was able to share almost every performance with one of my best friends in the world, Sonni who has given me so much to be thankful for.

Without a Trace – Soul Asylum

Whether the band name was Catbutt or Celebrated London Biscuits they were OUR college band. Hearing “Pain Lies by the Riverside” and “Without a Trace” more times than I can remember was the music that accompanied my college friendships and experiences. They weren’t the best band at Rutgers or the worst, but every time they played, it brought the gang together. Rutgers and all other colleges will have bands now and in the future but for us, we have a Soul Asylum cover and a lot of amazing memories.

All You Need is Love – Lynden David Hall (Love Actually Cover)

Summer, 2004 was the European Vacation! (Not the Griswolds) Sonni and Mark, five countries, 3600 miles, a near accident with a cow, angels on bikes, backpackers, Tuscany, The Vatican, Jazz in the Piazza, fresh pasta, the market, and a lifetime of memories. We packed everything. Ok, Sonni packed 150 pounds of luggage and I did about a third of that. We had it all planned except entertainment. We had a computer but only three DVD’s. We watched Love Actually quite a bit as well as Finding Nemo . One of the special things about Love Actually and all Richard Curtis movies is that you feel a connection with his characters and their pursuit of true and unconditional love. Every time I heard this cover of the Beatles or the Beach Boys play, I remember the late nights watching this with Sonni in Italy, Paris, Amsterdam and Venice.

Can’t We Try – Dan Hill

Raquel and I were spiritual soul mates in college. We didn’t date, but we were always by each others side. We had an unspoken support system whether we were next door or a hundred miles apart. It is a bond that cannot properly be put into words or explained over wine, but one that neither of us could have made it through college without. We had hiatus for a number of years and fortunately found our way back to each other. Through the years, we had some rough road to overcome but in our stubbornness we found wisdom. It was in that wisdom that we realized we were meant to forever be a part of each other’s lives. She introduced me to Dan Hill and his ability to reach into your heart and express true deep feelings.

Honorable Mention – Oh Sherrie – Steve Perry

The first song to ever debut at #1 on the VH1 Top 20 Countdown. This was the days when MTV and VH1 spent most of their broadcasting hours showing videos!