To Tip or Not to Tip...

December 18th, 2014
By

Ah, yes... Christmas, that time of year when I internally debate who deserves a tip or not. It started with the Christmas tree. Are you supposed to tip them for trimming the trunk and carrying it to your car? I left that dilemma to my wife while I charged $125 to my credit card. She felt it wasn't necessary since we were already paying a fair amount for a tree we'd be disposing of next month. Yet I felt a twinge of guilt when I heard the workers walk by, muttering something I can only surmise was related to my wife stiffing them. She was surprised when I told her about their grumbling. "They seemed really nice and cheerful when they loaded the tree!" she noted. Um, yeah -- because they were expecting a tip!

In past years I've tipped our mailman -- I mean postal worker person -- who was a woman. She earned it because she would hand deliver packages to our door instead of jamming them in the mail box like other post office workers often do, and we got our mail reasonably early each day. After she retired, our postal service has gone from so-so to terrible. Many days we don't get mail until after 6 PM. One of the workers apparently is dyslexic and keeps giving us mail for another address that is similar but on a different street. Another hasn't figured out that we live in a duplex townhouse, and gives us our neighbor's mail when a cursory glance at the name would  make it obvious that it should go to 801A, not 801. Sigh. No tip for you this year, tardy mail persons!

Another conundrum: Do you tip someone on top of their usual tip, such as the newspaper delivery person? Each month, I add a tip to my Star-Advertiser bill. In past years, I'd stick an envelope in the mailbox addressed to the "Newspaper Delivery Person" and include a small tip with a Christmas card thanking them for their service. Whereas our good mail lady always acknowledged tips with handwritten thank you cards after each Christmas had passed, our newspaper person never bothered with any such expression of gratitude. So, if you never hear a word from the person you tipped, is there any point in continuing the thankless charade?

Since we're on the topic, I never liked the "suggested" tipping structure for services based on price. It doesn't seem fair that wait staff at less expensive restaurants should get lower tips simply because that place doesn't charge exorbitant prices for food, even if they work just as hard or harder than the servers at the fancier places. Then you have the discounted bills courtesy of Groupon and Hot Deals offers, which prompt users to tip on the "full price"... which these days is probably inflated to offset the discount these restaurants are giving left and right to keep bringing in customers. Basically, the discount equals what I normally tip anyway: 15 to 20 percent.

Speaking of Groupon and Hot Deals, I had the unhappy experience of finding out that two restaurants I bought discount vouchers for had closed without warning: first, there was Mimasuya Italiano on Kapiolani. After I called to make reservations and learned they were shutting down indefinitely, I notified Hot Deals and they promptly credited the refund to my account. Then this past weekend, we heard from a server at the Fat Greek in Kailua (another Groupon deal) that The Grove was closed. We drove by on Sunday night and saw it was indeed shut down.

But Groupon didn't respond to my repeated requests for a refund. It was two days before a Groupon customer service person sent me an email, asking for details on The Grove -- even though everything he requested was already in my first two requests for a refund, and on their own Groupon! Sheesh. Suffice it to say, I'm no longer a fan of Groupon and my tip to others is be wary of buying too many discounted offers for businesses that may not be around in a few months.

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To see examples of superior local companies that won't be going out of business any time soon, check out this month's Career Changers TV show. You can find daily viewing times of our special Christmas episode by visiting www. CareerChangers.TV or watch segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Have a great weekend!

 

Success and Happiness

December 4th, 2014
By

TT and Surf Santa

PROGRAM ALERT: The new December episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., Dec. 4 at 7:30 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012. You can find daily viewing times on www.CareerChangers.TV and watch segments from past or current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Plus, we have some gift suggestions from our sponsors that would make great stocking stuffers!

For our Christmas show, I got to interview Martin & MacArthur CEO Michael Tam and Pictures Plus/Plus Interiors CEO Kent Untermann, as well as magician/professional Santa Mike Ching (pictured above with CCTV host Theresa Tilley at M&M's Ward location). We also did an update on Mermaid Kariel's latest spin-off venture -- custom made mermaid tails. Turns out there is a big demand for functional tails from aspiring professional mermaids, who are willing to pay upwards of $3-5K to shake their waterproof money-makers in pools or aquariums all over the world!

What they have in common is they're successful at what they do, and you really get the sense that these are people who are genuinely happy with their occupational choices. Yet each has had to overcome challenges, difficult business climates at times -- recessions, 9/11, changing social norms or personal tastes -- and evolve to stay in the game. Where they find their individual motivation and strength varies, but they all exhibit the same characteristics: discipline, perseverance, and a a clear vision of their long range goals. For instance, Kent cites lessons he learned as a football player at UH as a major reason he was able to weather ups and downs in growing Pictures Plus into Plus Interiors. And he's not shy about commenting on the current state of the UH athletic department in the piece we did on him (click here).

However, as a former football player and ultra-competitive person myself, I know it can be hard to be "happy" when you're driven to win in sports or business for that matter. If you're not number one in what you do, every loss seems like a nagging reminder of mistakes made or personal shortcomings... the dreaded could'a/would'a/should'a self-talk that pervades your daily life. So what is the key to being successful and being happy at the same time?

A recent scientific study I read says happiness is exceeding expectations. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. The more you expect, the harder it is to be happy. That seems like such a no-brainer you wonder why they even bothered to do research on it. But when you think about the current perception of UH sports, for example, it makes perfect sense. We've seen what UH teams and athletes are capable of doing, and our expectations have grown. I remember going to my first football game at Aloha Stadium in 1986, not long after I moved here from New York City, and the Bows were playing Big Ten powerhouse Michigan. To this day, I will never forget hearing that "RAIN... BOWS!" call and response chant filling a stadium of over 40,000 fans as Dick Tomey's underdogs stood toe-to-toe with Michigan for three quarters before finally succumbing late in the game. They lost, but no one expected them to be even close -- so it felt like winning.

Kent had graduated by then, so he wasn't on the field for that battle. Still, he remembers the feeling from his own UH football days and he believes we shouldn't lower our expectations by dropping sports or going to a lower division. And that's the paradox of life I think... on one hand, unless we strive for achieving more than others expect of us, most of us won't be happy just settling for what we know we're capable of doing. On the other hand, it hurts like hell when you reach for the stars and fall flat on your face.

As a writer, I'm constantly torn between wanting to be successful, i.e. sell screenplays that become big movie hits, and staying true to my artistic aims of producing original work that is at least different than the usual cookie-cutter formula movies making money at the multi-plexes these days. So to keep myself sane, every month I write two quotations at the top of my desk calendar: "Write with no attachment to outcome" and a zen saying, "When you cease expecting, you have all things."

Anyway, check out the new Career Changers TV show this month! Hopefully, watching it will exceed your expectations.

 

Kailua Labyrinth Restored

November 13th, 2014
By

Kailua labyrinth group

 

Folks who jog, bike or walk their dogs on the levee next to Kawainui Marsh (along with scofflaws that ride motorcycles back there) may recall the mysterious gravel and dirt labyrinth pattern that appeared in a turnaround area for maintenance vehicles back in 2001 after 9/11. I live right next to the marsh, so when my wife and I first saw it we were enchanted and wondered who was behind it. I had a vague idea that it was associated with meditation practices, but that's all I knew. Over time, the forces of nature and human interactions caused the pattern to erode, then disappear except for a faint outline of the concentric circles.

It was gone, but not entirely forgotten when I joined Cynthia Yamasaki's monthly leadership walk after meeting her at the Honolulu Small Business Fair. She was one of the featured speakers (click here for the video on that event) and we did a segment on her as well. You can see her profile on the Career Changers TV YouTube Channel by clicking here. I was so impressed with her background and energy, I suggested to my wife that she connect with Cynthia since Isabel was looking to expand her professional network (i.e., thinking of making a career change). When we found out Cynthia's "Leaders Who Walk the Talk" was practically in our backyard on the second Saturday of each month, we decided to tag along. And we're glad we did.

Each time we've met fascinating people with varied backgrounds. These seemingly random introductions often led to discoveries of mutual friends and experiences... such as the origins of the labyrinth, which was the spot where we ended the walk to reflect on the theme we were discussing that day. While we were looking down at the weeds, someone said, "We should fix this up." Except none of us knew what it was supposed to look like -- how many circles, where the turns were supposed to be, etc.

I remembered seeing an article about it years ago in the old Honolulu Advertiser, so I did a quick Google search and found this link. I forwarded it to Cynthia, who put it out to her network of friends. Next thing you know, one of the women on the walk -- Lisa Jacobs of Better Way Divorce (interesting concept!) -- recognized a name: Beth Davidaan. Lisa put Beth in touch with Cynthia, and we all met at the marsh last Saturday to restore the labyrinth.

As we yanked up weeds and raked the stones back into place, Beth and Chandra Peters (program coordinator at Punahou's Luke Center) explained what the significance of the design is and put it into historical context for us. Many people, myself included, mistakenly think of a labyrinth as being the same as a maze. In fact, they're completely different in intent and form. A maze is meant to confuse you with many dead ends and turns that lead nowhere. A labyrinth though, has just one path to the center, allowing you to focus on the steps you take toward your goal. Mazes can be stressful -- did you see the news stories about people getting lost in giant Halloween mazes and calling 911 in a state of panic? But walking the circles of a labyrinth creates a state of calmness. It can also be an emotional experience.

It's funny how life's twists and turns often bring you back to the same starting or end points. That morning it had been raining in Kailua, and being the natural worrywart that I am, emailed Cynthia with a weather report, thinking we'd have to postpone our plans to fix the labyrinth. She replied cheerfully that rain or shine, they were going to proceed as scheduled, and added: "I made brownies too!" That's the difference between men and women. Men would argue about logistics and the weather conditions for doing a project like this. Women make brownies, then hope for the best. As it happened, the rain made it easier to pull weeds and kept the dust down. The sun eventually came out, and when we were finished, I walked around the circles... I thought about the people I've met in the past four years of doing my Career Changers TV show, and how our lives have intersected. We've become friends and business associates. We've shared professional aspirations and personal dreams.

And because one person simply said, "Let's fix this thing," we came together to create something special. Time and events will wear away the labyrinth again. But someone else will come along and be inspired to take up where we left off. It gave me hope. Plus, the brownies were delicious.

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Reminder: Despite forecasts of rain, it seems every time Waimea Valley schedules a big weekend event, Mother Nature cooperates and blesses them with good weather on the North Shore. So if you're looking for a fun family event -- cheap too! -- check out their Makahiki Festival on Sat., Nov. 15! Here's a video preview we did for them.

North Shore News

November 6th, 2014
By

As Makahiki Festivalyou'll see on the November episode of Career Changers TV, which premieres Thursday night at 7:30 PM on Channel 12/high def 1012, Waimea Valley is adding a new twist to the start of Makahiki season: for the first time in years, they'll be hosting the Ke 'Alohi Hula competition -- unique because men and women compete against each other. There will also be Native Hawaiian games, crafts, entertainment and food. Plus, it's just $5 per adult and $2.50 per child!

Here's a short video we did with Richard Pezzulo, Executive Director of Waimea Valley. While we were there, we also got to sample the delicious food at their recently reopened Proud Peacock Restaurant. Click here for that video. They're open Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 9 PM (happy hour 4-6 PM, $5 pupu menu and $2 off drinks) and have a great Sunday Brunch deal: just $25.95 from 10 AM until 2 PM for a sumptuous buffet that includes prime rib and omelet stations, fresh baked pastries, and a beautiful setting. You can walk off the extra calories with a hike to the waterfall and restored hale!

Every time we do a shoot at Waimea Valley, there's something new happening. On our latest visit, we saw major progress on their hale restoration project, which we reported on earlier this year in this segment. Back then, they had just completed restoration of the amphitheater with the help of many volunteers. That same amphitheater will now be used for the Ke 'Alohi Hula competition next Saturday.

All of these improvements and increased emphasis on Hawaiian culture have not gone unnoticed by national and international media. I've seen articles popping up in major travel publications, and just yesterday saw a new show on the Esquire TV channel (Oceanic Cable 550/high def 1550) called The Getaway that featured Waimea Valley and the Haleiwa Farmers' Market, which takes place in their pavilion every Thursday afternoon. The guest celebrity for that episode was  Jack McBrayer, the actor who played NBC page Kenneth Parcell on 30 Rock.

As it happens, I heard about The Getaway filming on the North Shore from Fred DeAngelo, the chef/owner of Ola Restaurant at Turtle Bay, when we were shooting a new segment about Mermaid Kariel this past weekend. More on that in a future post. Fred and his wife, Cheryl, were featured on the Food Network's Chef Wanted show last year. Three chefs competed for the top job. I asked Fred how that worked out. Turns out the winner left after six months because his wife got rock fever. However, the restaurant is doing better than ever and we'll be filming a segment on them in the future too. In fact, there's lots more going on at Turtle Bay -- such as sustainability/environmental projects -- which I also heard about during our Waimea Valley shoot from Bonnie and Mark Howland of WHALE Environmental Services, who made a cameo in our Proud Peacock segment. They were at the park to discuss a renewable energy project that sounds really interesting... I'll be following up on that too!

The next airing of The Getaway North Shore episode will be this Sun., Nov. 9 at 10 AM, 6 PM and 9 PM (either 550 or 1550 -- check your onscreen guide). Ola didn't get much screen time due to all the other places and things they wound up showing, but had they been there while we were filming Mermaid Kariel's new Ola show (story-telling and lunch with the kids on the first Saturday of the month) I bet they would have used that footage. As part of her show, Fred himself carries Kariel to and from the ocean!Fred and Cheryl DeAngelo

That's Fred and Cheryl DeAngelo above, with Mermaid Kariel and the kids in background. BTW, Fred says locals are more than welcome to bring their children to the show and have lunch at Ola. Parking is free at Turtle Bay too. So if you're looking for an excuse to go to the North Shore, between Waimea Valley and Ola, you've got plenty of reasons to make the drive!

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For daily viewing times of my Career Changers TV show, visit our website. You can also see video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel, now at over 700,000 views. If you're a local business that wants to advertise or be featured in an advertorial spot, send me an email! Hmm... seems like a number of our show sponsors have been getting noticed by national media on travel shows, the Food Network and HGTV (H20/Seabreeze had their jet pack on Hawaii Life last week). Coincidence?

Depressing Times: UH Sports, Politics

November 4th, 2014
By

PROGRAM ALERT: The new November episode of my Career Changers TV show will premiere on Thurs., Nov. 6 on Oceanic channel 12/high def 1012 (a.k.a. OC16). You'll hear about an unusual interactive walking tour in Waikiki called Saving Paradise that just started, plus we have an interesting profile of Jordan and Sonya Seng, the couple behind Seed Restaurant and Bluewater Mission in Palama Settlement. For daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV or check out video segments posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel -- now at over 700,000 views worldwide!

I know this blog is supposed to be about career-related stuff, but both sports and politics are now big business when you get right down to it. And business stinks. It's getting harder and harder not to be cynical about either when each day you hear about the enormous waste of money being spent to win games or elections. Then you see the dismal returns on our collective investments -- tax dollars, donations, ticket purchases -- which would ordinarily result in people being fired for inept management in the real business world... instead, those people are walking away with hefty paychecks for NOT working or doing the jobs they were hired to do. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Which is how I feel today about the elections and the UH football and men's basketball programs. On the former, yes, I voted by mail -- and I don't understand why everyone doesn't take advantage of it. Even if you feel uninspired by the choices, we still should at least attempt to show that votes can't be bought via 30-second commercials. Honestly, does anyone actually rely on those advertisements to choose who they want to represent them? If so, democracy is as dead as the mindless zombies who respond to negative ads.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case in the national elections. Remember how bad things were just six years ago before Obama took office? Yeah. Record unemployment. The stock market on the verge of collapse. Serious talk about the next Great Depression. Wars raging in the Middle East with no end in sight. A country in fear after 9/11 exposed how unprepared we were under Bush for terrorist attacks. There has been an enormous turn-around since Obama won: unemployment way down, stock market way up, most of our military forces back home, no major terrorist attacks on his watch. And millions of Americans finally have health insurance thanks to Obamacare, which even "red" states have now embraced, albeit under their own disguised names for the same program. For all that, Obama and the Democrats are still portrayed as weak "socialists" and will probably lose control of both the House and Senate due to public perception or indifference... or just downright hate by Republicans and whites who can't accept a black president.

With sports though, fans usually vote with their wallets based on actual team performance measured in wins and losses. On that basis alone, it's hard to argue that Coach Norm Chow's tenure has been anything but a sorry failure. By any standard, he hasn't achieved his own goals or those set by the UH administration. Unlike the stock market, the UH sports budget situation is going from bad to worse. His brand of run-and-punt football isn't drawing more fans to games, and is obviously turning off the few remaining season ticket holders. When he or anyone else implies it's not his coaching scheme or play-calling that is at fault, and losses were because of "mistakes" by players or lack of talent... well, whose responsibility is that?

Star-Advertiser sports writer Dave Reardon pointed out that UH fans could raise money to buy out Chow through crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter, which has worked for people I know who were launching new businesses or making film projects. However, the similar grassroots effort of "We Get 'Em" (click here for link) has only raised $21,100 thus far. I think the reason is the same as why people vote the way they do (or don't vote). Passion, i.e. hate or anger, is more powerful than logic or reason. People are more likely to vote AGAINST something -- like Chow continuing as head coach -- than to show their lukewarm support in a positive way, such as hoping the money will be used to improve UH sports facilities. "We Get 'Em" might have raised a lot more money had they called their site, "Fire Chow Now!"

The last straw for me though was what happened in the Aloha Stadium parking lot when we were trying to leave the Utah State mess behind us. By the middle of the third quarter, a large number of fans were already leaving because they had no faith in Chow's offense scoring 21 points to come back and win it. But whoever manages the parking lot, did what they always do and kept certain exits blocked off until the "official" end of the game! This happens at Gate 4 all the time. They open the far lanes from the Upper Halawa lots closest to the stadium, while keeping the gate down on the Lower Halawa lot -- which is where we park because it's closer to the Kahuapaani St. exit that takes us to H3.

So cars were streaming out from the upper lot, and cars exiting the lower lot were being told by parking lot staff to use the Salt Lake Blvd. exit, which is going in the opposite direction! To get back to Kahuapaani and the H3 ramp, cars had to cross Salt Lake Blvd. -- which is dangerous when it's busy -- or drive around the stadium. Mind you, this was on a night with the lowest number of attendees all year. There was no traffic to manage! It was the same idiocy coming into the stadium. They had closed one of the entrance lanes at Gate 4, which meant that cars going into the lower lot were getting backed up every time a driver stopped to ask questions about where they wanted to park or didn't want to go into that lot... and this happens every game. So why did they close one of the middle lanes? To save money? There were parking lot staff standing around with nothing to do!

Here's a suggestion for Aloha Stadium: make your top people go through the same experience your paying customers go through on game day, from entering the stadium to trying to leave. As I told my wife after that experience, I'm done. If Chow is back next season, I'm not. And even then, I'm not sure it's worth the hassle when the stadium won't even let you out of the lot when the game is well out of reach. Bottom line: it's over when the fans say it's over -- not the stadium management, coach or UH administration.