‘We Are The Champions’ by songwriter Freddie Mercury

On Sunday evening or Monday morning, depending where you were in the world, the US Women’s National Soccer Team defeated the women representing Japan 5-2 in the final of the Women’s World Cup in Vancouver, Canada.

At the end of the game, midfielder Carli Lloyd, who scored three goals in the first sixteen minutes of the final, commented on the victory.

“It’s been a long journey, my career. I’ve had a lot of people believe in me, in my corner, from day one,” said the midfielder, who turns 33 on July 16. “I’ve dedicated my whole life to this. Everything else comes second. But I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.”

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported on New York mayor, Bill de Blasio’s decision to recognize the women’s team:

“New York City will hold a ticker-tape parade on Friday for the United States women’s national soccer team, breaking with decades of precedent to bestow a rare honor upon a group that competes outside the metropolitan area.”

The Friday poem this week, on the day of the ticker tape parade, is the lyrics written by Freddie Mercury in 1977 and recorded by Queen. This one is for the members of the team, their families and coaches. And for all the young women and young men who have been inspired by the hard work, dedication and resilience of the US Women’s National Team.

We Are The Champions

I’ve paid my dues
Time after time
I’ve done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I’ve made a few
I’ve had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I’ve come through

And we mean to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions – my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting
Till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions of the World

I’ve taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it
I thank you all
But it’s been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before
The whole human race
And I ain’t gonna lose

And we mean to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions – my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting
Till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions of the World

We are the champions – my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting
Till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions

Songwriter: Freddie Mercury, 1977

The week@work – Nail salon workers, Sally Mann, sacrifices of the successful and Dan Abromowitz shares his potential job list

The dominant story of work this week was told in a two part series for The New York Times, ‘Unvarnished‘, by reporter, Sarah Maslin Nir, “examining the working conditions and potential health risks endured by nail salon workers”.

“Once an indulgence reserved for special occasions, manicures have become a grooming staple for women across the economic spectrum. There are now more than 17,000 nail salons in the United States, according to census data. The number of salons in New York City alone has more than tripled over a decade and a half to nearly 2,000 in 2012.

But largely overlooked is the rampant exploitation of those who toil in the industry. The New York Times interviewed more than 150 nail salon workers and owners, in four languages, and found that a vast majority of workers are paid below minimum wage; sometimes they are not even paid. Workers endure all manner of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment for minor transgressions, constant video monitoring by owners, even physical abuse. Employers are rarely punished for labor and other violations.”

The series received an immediate response from the New York governor.

“Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered emergency measures on Sunday to combat the wage theft and health hazards faced by the thousands of people who work in New York State’s nail salon industry.

Effective immediately, he said in a statement, a new, multiagency task force will conduct salon-by-salon investigations, institute new rules that salons must follow to protect manicurists from the potentially dangerous chemicals found in nail products, and begin a six-language education campaign to inform them of their rights.”

In a follow-up report for The New Yorker, James Surowiecki examined ‘The Economics of New York’s Low Nail-Salon Prices’.

“…one of the most surprising, and economically telling, facts in the piece is also among the most mundane: namely, that the price of a manicure hasn’t budged much, if at all, in the past two decades.”

“What the nail-salon owners have done…is to pay their workers much less than a market wage. Maslin Nir’s nuanced account of who nail-salon workers are and how they live helps explain just how the nail salons are doing this: they hire workers who have fewer choices for employment because of language barriers, immigration status, and so on. These workers also have less bargaining power, and many are presumably leery of using the legal system to gain redress, which gives nail-salon owners the freedom to violate minimum-pay and overtime laws with little fear of being punished. The result is that these salons can stay profitable and still keep offering their customers the same low prices for decades. From this perspective, the cheap manicures New Yorkers have been getting have come, quite literally, at the expense of nail-salon workers.”

These articles, letters to the editor, media follow-up combined with good old fashioned customer guilt, will hopefully continue a conversation to improve the working conditions of these folks whose day is spent making others feel beautiful.

In other news this week@work:

Charlie Rose interviewed photographer Sally Mann. In an exchange taped for the CBS Morning News they shared their mutual concept of work: “In the end it’s love and work. Work to find your place so you can stand and leave your mark.”

Lifehack, a productivity and lifestyle blog reported on the ‘8 Things Successful People Sacrifice for Their Success’: “time, stability, personal life, sleep, health, quiet times, sanity and immediate desires.” 

Writer and comedian Dan Abromowitz shared a list of ‘Jobs I’d Be Well Suited For’ in The New Yorker, “As part of my current job hunt, I conducted a thorough inventory of my unique skills. From that, I’ve generated a list of professions at which I believe I’d excel. Please contact me if you are recruiting for any of these positions.” 

A sampling: “History Channel alien expert, Lobbyist, if that meant what it sounds like it means, Night watchman at Sleepy’s & Night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, provided that “Night at the Museum” is true, but lower-key than that.”

We are now in the ‘high season’ of university commencements. NPR has collected ‘The Best Commencement Speeches Ever’ from their archive. “We’ve hand-picked over 300 addresses going back to 1774. Search by name, school, date or theme, and see our blog n.pr/ed for more.”

‘Success’ a poem by Bessie Anderson Stanley

The Friday poem this week is ‘Success’ by Bessie Anderson Stanley. Written in 1905, it was the prize winning submission for an essay contest answering the question, ‘What constitutes success?’. Often misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Louis Stevenson, researchers have confirmed that Ms. Stanley is the original author. The poem appears on her headstone in the Lincoln, Kansas cemetery.

The definition of success is a personal signature, linked to an individual’s value system. Consider your definition as you read ‘Success’.


He has achieved success

who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

Bessie Anderson Stanley 1904

Do you deserve the extra cookie? Leadership lessons from Michael Lewis’ Commencement Address

‘Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie’ was the title of the 2012 Princeton University commencement speech delivered by alumnus Michael Lewis. His message: “recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation.”

Michael Lewis graduated from Princeton with a degree in art history believing he “was of no possible economic value to the outside world”.

The experience of writing his senior thesis introduced him to the possibility of building a career on his talent for words. With no experience and little encouragement from his thesis professor:

“I did what everyone does who has no idea what to do with themselves: I went to graduate school. I wrote at nights, without much effect, mainly because I hadn’t the first clue what I should write about.”

And one night he makes a connection at dinner and ends up working as a derivatives expert at the financial firm, Salomon Brothers. Two years later he realizes he has found something to write about.

“I didn’t need to think about it. I knew what intellectual passion felt like — because I’d felt it here, at Princeton — and I wanted to feel it again. I was 26 years old. Had I waited until I was 36, I would never have done it. I would have forgotten the feeling.”

Imagine, reader with the perfect resume and highly regarded credentials, that the luck of a seating arrangement could lead you to a position that allows you, in time, to connect the dots back to your passion.

“People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either.”

But accidents do happen and the best you can do is consistently put yourself in front of the oncoming ‘career possibilities’ truck.

And now, about the cookies. The leadership lesson is humility, and Mr. Lewis illustrates with a story of a ‘teamwork’ exercise.

Two Cal researchers recruited students for an experiment.

“…they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.”

We probably cannot remember our commencement speaker or their message. That’s why each year at this time we should reflect on the words we missed, now that we have the context of experience to help us understand.

There are no straight lines along a career path. Michael Lewis is a highly regarded, bestselling author who has written stories of Wall Street and baseball. The lessons he shared that spring day:

Don’t put too much distance between you and your passion, because you may forget the feeling.

Be Humble. Don’t eat the last cookie. You may sit at the head of the table and truly believe you deserve the extra cookie, “But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.” 

The Saturday Read – Dominique Browning – ‘Slow Love, How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas & Found Happiness’

At a time when the economy is improving, ‘disruption’ still causes businesses to fail and people lose their jobs. At our most confident pinnacle of success, we feel the shadow of ‘the next best thing’ that will replace the work we love. And yet, we typically ignore the signs that work is going away.

This week’s ‘Saturday Read’ is ‘Slow Love, How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas and Found Happiness’ by Dominique Browning. It’s a meditation on success and what happens when work goes away.

Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Miranda Seymour provides the background for the narrative:

“In November 2007, House & Garden was abruptly closed down and its offices efficiently eviscerated, emptied of everything except the computers and some expensive bolts of fabric that management proved keen to retain. The change from busy, productive work space to security-guarded vacancy took just four days. The editor in chief of Architectural Digest, the tumbled magazine’s fiercest competitor within the Condé Nast empire, rubbed salt in the wound by publicly announcing that she intended to blacklist from her own pages all previous supporters of the fallen rival. “I felt,” Browning recalls, “as if I had walked into ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales.’ ” 

The story of ‘Slow Love’ is about what happened after Ms. Browning lost her job. Prior to the memoir’s release in 2010, she wrote ‘Losing It’ for The New York Times Magazine.

“Work had become the scaffolding of my life. It was what I counted on. It held up the floor of my moods, kept the facade intact. I always worried that if I didn’t have work, I would sink into abject torpor.”

“I have always had a job. I have always supported myself. Everything I own I purchased with money that I earned. I worked hard. For the 35 years I’ve been an adult, I have had an office to go to and a time to show up there. I’ve always had a place to be, existential gravitas intended. Without work, who was I? I do not mean that my title defined me. What did define me was the simple act of working. The loss of my job triggered a cascade of self-doubt and depression. I felt like a failure. Not that the magazine had failed — that I had.”

How many of us are supported by the scaffolding of work? Are there termites chewing at the foundation?

Ms. Browning’s progress of triumph over adversity in a process she calls slow love, knowing what you’ve got before it’s gone.

“At the start of this journey, all I could think about was loss: lost work; my children who had left home; my house slipping from grasp; my parents slipping into their last years. Lost love, on top of it all, because I was finally forced to confront the failure of a relationship that had preoccupied me for seven years. Attachment, abandonment, misery – I was plagued, until, mysteriously, something in my brain shifted into a new gear, and I was no longer experiencing all the changes I was going through as the loss of everything I loved. Instead, I began feeling the value of change…and experience, events – yes, some of them calamitous – that have unexpectedly come to enhance the quality of my days.”

Visit Dominique Browning’s blog, ‘slow,love life’, to view her work today.

Poetry in Music – ‘Fly’ – Maddie Marlow, Taylor Dye & Tiffany Vartanyan

There’s another country music awards show this weekend. The duo of Maddie and Tae challenged the traditional role of women in country lyrics with their debut single, ‘Girl in a Country Song’. Their second release, ‘Fly’ describes their road to success, leaving Texas for Nashville at 17. In an interview for the CBS Morning News, they described ‘Fly’ as “an uplifting song that encourages people to hold on through the tough times.”

And their approach to songwriting: “For us, it’s mainly about just getting to tell our stories. And if we can release a song that’s true to us and our fans relate and then maybe it doesn’t get high on the charts, that’s really not important to us. And as long as we get to say what we want to say and we’re very passionate about it, that’s all that matters.”

This ‘Friday Poem In Music’ is for all of you trying to tell your stories.


Baby blue staring in the window pane
Just counting drops of rain
Wondering if she’s got the guts to take it
Running down her dreams in a dirty dress,
Now her heart’s a mess
Praying she will find a way to make it

So keep on climbing, though the ground might shake
Just keep on reaching though the limb might break
We’ve come this far, don’t you be scared now
‘Cause you can learn to fly on the way down

Searching for a sign in the night even like a lonely string of lights
That’ll burn just long enough for you to see it
The road’s been long and lonely and you feel like giving up
There’s more to this than just the breath you’re breathing

So keep on climbing, though the ground might shake
Just keep on reaching though the limb might break
We’ve come this far, don’t you be scared now
‘Cause you can learn to fly on the way down

On the way down

You won’t forget the heavy steps it took to let it go
Close your eyes, count to ten, hold your breath and fly

Keep on climbing, though the ground might shake
Just keep on reaching though the limb might break
We’ve come this far, don’t you be scared now
‘Cause you can learn to fly on the way down


Maddie Marlow, Taylor Dye, Tiffany Vartanyan

An important question to ask in an interview

The interview is coming to an end, all has been going well and then they ask: Do you have any questions for me? There are a number of questions you may ask at this point. The key is to ask a question that will help you figure out if this is a place where you will succeed. My question is a bit of a ‘turnabout is fair play’: Can you describe a time you failed and how did the organization respond?

Every survey I have ever read lists who you will work for as the most important determinant in accepting a position. And your immediate supervisor will be key to your decision to stay. It’s not money. It’s not the nature of the work. It’s the relationship.

Why the question about failure? An interviewer will ask you some version of the question to determine how you deal with setbacks. It’s just as important for you to understand how they deal with failure. You don’t want to work for someone who was valedictorian of their high school graduating class, and who has since progressed in their career by managing not to fail. It will limit your freedom to take risks and you may be micromanaged to the point where your hair catches fire.

The opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview gives you the chance to have the conversation about the potential for professional growth and success.

As the economy improves, there is opportunity for mobility at all levels. There is always the possibility that your boss may move on within a few months of your arrival. And it may be that the opportunity for advancement is the component that attracts you to the position. You may want to work for the person who is moving on in six months.

Can you make an impact during his/her tenure? What happened to the last person who held the position?

Many candidates miss the opportunity to have this conversation about success and failure with a potential employer. Often time is limited at the end of the interview. Be prepared with the questions that will help you differentiate this offer from the others. And take a chance to ask about failure and its’ consequences.