Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Makers Movement and More

April 1st, 2014

Makers pix

PROGRAM ALERT: The new April episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., April 3 at 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over 200,000 views and is climbing each month. Contact me directly if you're interested in advertising on the show or being a featured sponsor!

Above is a photo of my videographer, Stanford Chang, shooting b-roll of the first-ever Honolulu Mini Maker Faire at Iolani School on March 15. Despite the obsolete spelling of "faire," it has nothing to do with medieval times or making miniature fairy sprites -- although they did make mini-robots and small 3-D printed objects for demo purposes. There were also knitters and do-it-yourself types who work in all types of mediums, from film and virtual reality to woodworking, metal and molded plastic.

So what is the Maker Movement all about? Watch the show or view the segment to find out! We also did a separate piece on the Hawaii Inventors group, and three of the products they had on display at the event. BTW, hats off to Iolani School for hosting the Mini Maker Faire, which was actually spread out over two floors of the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership. What was cool is the faculty and students seem to have a creative flair themselves, as evidenced by their homage to Frank Sinatra... in the elevator of all places!

Sinatra elevator

Above is the back wall of the elevator, which plays Sinatra music and has other visual references to his recording career, courtesy of #iolanihackers. While we were filming, there were a number of students who were working on various high tech projects that weren't a part of the Makers fair. I also saw younger kids who signed up for Makers workshops that taught soldering. So one thing you can say about the Makers Movement -- and Iolani School -- is that they both take an eclectic approach to creativity.


In the same episode, we have a segment about the fun and quirky Hound & Quail shop on Kapiolani. Never visited it before? Actually, it's not that easy since they're only open three hours each week on Monday due to the partners' full-time professions. Mark Pei is a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines. Travis Flazer works for the theater department of Punahou School -- er, "Theatre" I mean... another old-timey English spelling like "Faire." No wonder foreigners think English is confusing. Here's the link to that video.

Anyhow, if you're wondering what the story is behind the name, there really isn't anything specific -- other than their interest in taxidermy, including mounted birds and other animals that had me thinking about Norman Bates in PSYCHO. But Mark and Travis are really nice, intelligent, normal guys... well, just a tad off center, perhaps.


WAIMEA VALLEY NEWS: On Sat., April 5 at 10 AM, they will be officially dedicating the renovated amphitheater to Rudy Mitchell. "Uncle Rudy" has been an integral part of the valley's history and vision, according to Richard Pezzulo, Waimea Valley Executive Director. You can learn more about the restoration of the amphitheater (not "amphitheatre") and other new developments by watching the piece we did back in February (click here).

Small Packages Lead to Big Box Plant

March 10th, 2014

Rengo (medium)

One of the Job Quest job fair stories that didn't make it into this month's Career Changers TV show is posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which has now topped 180,000 total views and averages more than 28,000 views per month. But many of our business-oriented stories fly under the radar and don't get much attention because they don't have a built-in following from social media or they shy away from publicity.

Such was the case with Rengo Packaging. Never heard of them? Neither did I, so when I spotted their booth at Job Quest, I went over to investigate who they were and what type of jobs they were looking to fill. Turns out this was the company that sprung up after Weyerhaeuser closed the Honolulu box plant in 2008... well, actually, there were some important interim steps along the way. First, 13 former Weyerhaeuser employees formed Hawaii Box and Packaging to act as a distributor, but weren't producing the boxes locally. Then in 2011, they were acquired by Rengo, the largest corrugated box manufacturer in Asia. Rengo decided to build a new plant on Oahu that was scheduled to open this month and start making boxes by June 1. Here's the link to the video segment. They are looking to hire 30 to 40 new employees -- no small thing in Hawaii's job market.

The reason I took a personal interest in their story was back in 2008 I was deeply involved in the beach access movement because some residents in Kailua put up a locked gate on a "private" beachside lane that neighbors had been using for years to get to the beach. I met Scott Werny, who was the Surfrider Oahu co-chair at the time, and he helped me organize the statewide Groundhog Day rallies that generated a good deal of media attention for the cause. His day job was being a packaging engineer at Weyerhaeuser -- which fascinated me since you don't often think about what goes into designing something as simple as a box. Yet there's a myriad of factors that a designer has to take into account for each product.

After Scott got word the old W plant was closing shop, he told me about the small group that was going to form their own company to continue as a distributor. But he acknowledged it was risky, and it was no sure thing they would succeed. A few months later, Scott was hit with more unexpected bad news. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Friends rallied to support the young father of two kids, yet he asked us to make donations to the National Parkinson Foundation on his behalf instead of focusing attention on him. That's the kind of person Scott is.

It had been a couple years since I last spoke to him, so I asked Rengo's Operations Manager Glenn Masaki if Scott was still working for them. Yes, he said. Scott is their one and only packaging designer, and his Parkinson's is under control. Later, I caught up with him on the phone and he sounded great. His personal life was in transition again (divorce, moving to a new place) while his professional life is doing well now that Rengo has given them the capital and resources to build their new plant at Campbell Industrial Park with about 4 acres under roof.

So, next time you get a pizza delivered or buy a box of locally-made candy, chances are Scott and his co-workers at Rengo were the folks who are responsible for the packaging. It's a testament to the resilience of hard-working people in Hawaii, who didn't give up when a big company decided to pull up stakes... or when personal challenges confronted them. If you would like to make a donation on Scott's behalf, here's the link to the National Parkinson Foundation site. Progress has been made in treating the disease, but there is still no cure.


For daily viewing times of the new schedule for Career Changers TV, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.


RoboCop Redux

February 19th, 2014

Although I haven't seen the new RoboCop reboot/remake/re-imagining or whatever you want to call the latest incarnation -- or reincarnation, if you will -- I do have a personal connection to the original man-as-machine sci-fi action flick that came out in 1987. Since I frequently mention my failed screenwriting career as the impetus for becoming a local TV show producer, some of you may recall from past blog posts that a co-writer of the first RoboCop took a liking to an early script of mine and tried to get it produced through his contacts in the movie business. This was about 20 years ago, and after months of rewrites, nothing happened with the project.

Well, that's not entirely true -- stuff did happen. I learned a lot about how Hollywood works, and the reality of what it's like to be a screenwriter or producer from the phone calls and Fed Exed script notes I got over the next few months. Back then, writers weren't using email and Skype to communicate. There also wasn't a web-based cottage industry of script scouting services, screenwriting consultants, and dozens of contests that claim they can provide aspiring writers with access to top industry contacts if they win. Back when I banged out my first scripts on an electric typewriter, it was mostly about making personal connections in the business and finding a mentor who could help you get your foot in the door. To a certain degree, that's still true -- writing a great script is crucial, but you have to get it in the right hands. And that takes persistence, creativity or luck.

In my case, it was all three. I had written a dark comedy based on my 1988 stint in rehab for alcoholism, followed by a bizarre punk rock musical comedy about an aging loser who becomes the poster boy for the ultimate lifestyle makeover company... which is really a front for a global entertainment conglomerate that has designs on remaking entire cities and brainwashing residents into buying all their mass media products -- music, movies, TV, merchandise -- from the cradle to the grave. Yeah, like Disney or Comcast. This was around 1994 before merger mania and the internet giants started turning that fanciful notion into reality. Yet I didn't think the co-creator of RoboCop would be seriously interested in my script when I signed up for a University of Hawaii screenwriting workshop given by Michael Miner.

At best, I hoped he would give me professional feedback, which was part of the deal for participants. When each writer got up and pitched their script, he would listen, offer a comment or two on the scripts he had read, and work in some personal anecdotes about his experiences in Hollywood. I have a fear of public speaking and have blanked out in front of groups before, so unlike some of the others who got up and enthusiastically acted out parts of their script, I nervously tried to read a synopsis of the plot. After I finished, a young UH coed with short red hair held her hand up and asked in a bored tone, "Is it supposed to be funny?" Ugh.

But Miner quickly interjected, and told them it was very funny despite my terrible pitch, and tried to retell a scene from it. The other writers just sat there stone-faced. He shrugged and said you had to read it on the page to get it. Later, during a break, he walked over to the little classroom desk I was sitting at and said he liked my screenplay a lot, then added: "We should talk." That turned into a lunch meeting, and a subsequent offer to help me develop (i.e., rewrite) my script and shop it around. One reason he sparked to it was that before he wrote RoboCop, he was a cameraman and had worked on music videos -- my protagonist was a failed punk rocker, who winds up working a dead end job in a Hoboken record store before those became extinct too. He did take the finished rewrite to the president of MTV Films, who passed (they were making movies about singing cockroaches that were geared to their key demographic of 12 to 15-year-old boys) and another movie production company that had ties to the music biz. They passed too.

It was disappointing that the project never got off the ground. However, during that time period I continued writing new stuff that also got attention through big screenwriting contests and other personal referrals... and I've had at least half a dozen scripts get close to being sold or optioned for development, only to fall by the wayside as well. During the past 27 years since the original RoboCop came out, Miner has made a nice living writing a number of projects that weren't produced or got rewritten, but he's never had another movie that has gotten the same critical or popular acclaim of that iconic film. He still writes, has made smaller documentary films, and is an accomplished photographer with gallery showings of his work (some of his beautiful black and white landscapes were taken on the Big Island, in fact). We exchange Christmas cards, and I follow him on Facebook. For the record, he's posted favorable comments about the new take on RoboCop as a reflection of the times we live in now, not the world that existed in 1987.

In hindsight, it's easy to see why he took an interest in my script about recycling and repackaging old TV shows, music and movies for future generations of brain-dead consumers. At its heart, the original RoboCop was a smart satire about privatizing government services such as law enforcement, and mine was a satire about the lack of originality in the entertainment business. The irony is we never foresaw the entertainment powers-that-be taking a classic like his movie and giving it the makeover treatment. For better or worse, I suppose it's better than fading away and being forgotten.

If you've seen the new RoboCop, would love to know you're thoughts on it! Comments are open for now...


Valentines Day is over, but you can still catch our segments about Watanabe Floral in the current Career Changers TV episode! Click here for daily viewing times and the link to our CCTV YouTube Channel. BTW, in the same show there's a segment about what's new at Waimea Valley... FYI, they have begun offering guided hikes by the Hawaiian Hiking Company and off-road expeditions through North Shore EcoTours. Both are great ways to experience the valley in exciting, new ways!

Excellence Personified

January 31st, 2014

PROGRAM ALERT: The new February episode of Career Changers TV starts airing Sat., Feb. 1 at 8:30 PM on OC16 (channels 12 or high def 1012). For Valentines Day, we've got features on Watanabe Floral, what's new at Waimea Valley, plus a segment on tattoo removals for those who want to get rid of inked reminders of love gone bad!

People who read my blog know I like to gripe. But I do so in the naive hope that if enough people complain about stuff that should be fixed or improved, positive things can come out of it. And I'll tell you who gets it -- Mayor Kirk Caldwell. I had a chance to interview him for my Career Changers TV show while we were shooting at the Job Quest Job Fair on Wednesday. (BTW,  came across a couple of really interesting news stories that will be on the March show!)

I've been impressed so far with the job he's done, and he comes across as a likeable politician on TV. Which always makes me suspicious. It's one thing to perform well on camera or say all the right things at photo opps. Yet not every politician or government official has that ability to connect with constituents one-on-one during brief encounters. The first thing the Mayor did was study my business card before he began answering my questions. He tailored his responses to the theme of careers, even working in how he went from law to public service and why he feels being Mayor is the "greatest job in the world."

When I asked how he felt about criticism, he didn't hesitate in his answer. He says the second you begin to push back against negative criticism, you lose the battle because the focus should be on listening to the complaints and doing what you can to address those problems. Of course, you can't satisfy everyone and solve every problem overnight. But he seems genuine in his passion for the work he's doing. Kirk also showed real verbal ju jitsu skills in deflecting my question about his bigger career goals, i.e., whether he intended to run for higher office in the future... say, Governor?

He smiled and said, his only concern right now is being the Mayor and living "in the moment," which he feels is good career advice in general. And he's right. Too often we get caught up looking down the road or thinking ahead instead of doing the best job we can today at this very minute. I was thinking about that last night at the UH men's basketball game against Long Beach State. After coming off two impressive road wins, fans were stoked and getting caught up in scenarios of the 'Bows running the table at home to put them on top of the conference. Problem was they didn't take care of business on the defensive end of the game last night. I also thought the coaches were reluctant to put in other players who might have brought in that attitude they were lacking to make stops and show more hustle on defense.

Sometimes teams -- in business, government, sports -- rely too much on their "star" players, and forget that people in supporting roles can spell the difference between excellence and mediocrity. I was reminded of that again this past weekend. My wife, Isabel, and I had tickets to see Keali'i Reichel perform with the Hawaii Pops Orchestra last Saturday night -- a nice treat from their Executive Director, Donna Bebber, because we ran a segment about Matt Catingub and Hawaii Pops in November  (click here for that video). We had a pre-show dinner at Kincaid's, which smartly lured us back after we dined there during the holidays by giving us a $20 gift card -- no minimum amount, no special hour restrictions. The food has always been good-to-excellent on past visits, and our server was friendly, professional and not pushy or too intrusive.

Unfortunately, when my wife cut into her opakapaka it was undercooked. Everything else on the plate was good, so when she pointed out the underdone fish to the server, he quickly rectified the situation. Since the rest of her food was fine, he simply transferred the opakapaka to another plate and had the cook fix it. Then after dinner he offered us a free desert as compensation for the problem, and again apologized for the kitchen's mistake. It may seem like a small thing, but in other restaurants we've been to, the server would have just grabbed the entire plate and left my wife sitting there twiddling her thumbs while I continued to eat.

Anyhow, when we got to the convention center for the concert, we were listening to the UH basketball game on the radio. They were playing at UC Irvine and had made a terrific comeback to put them in overtime against a team that features a giant center who stands 7 feet 6 inches tall. Most UH fans didn't get to see it though because it was only available on a special Oceanic cable sports package (which we get and recorded to watch later). However, as we entered the convention center parking garage, we lost radio reception. I hurried towards the center interior holding up my iPhone to see if I could get a wireless connection -- and who do I see trying to do the same thing? Jeff Portnoy, the UH basketball radio commentator for home games!

Jeff's significant other was able to get a connection and told us the Bows had won. So my wife and I were very happy going into the Keali'i concert. Later, when we watched the replay on TV, I saw how the UH bench contributed to that victory with timely defensive plays and strategic fouling of the Irving giant center (who bricked his foul shots). That is what it takes to be an excellent team -- you need role players who are ready to do the small things when the starters falter.

As for the Hawaii Pops concert, my wife said it was maybe the best birthday gift I've ever given her. Keali'i was wonderful. Funny, self-effacing, humble, and of course, there's that beautiful voice... and the beautiful spirit he seems to emanate on stage. What made it even more wonderful though was the subtle backing of the orchestra instruments. They were never overbearing or distracting. They played their supporting roles perfectly, as did the musicians and hula performers that make up Keali'i's performing troupe. You had the feeling that each and every one of them was totally focused on their respective role as part of the whole experience.

It was excellence personified that night, from the dinner at Kincaid's, to the Bows' win at Irving, to the Hawaii Pops concert. Who says I only gripe about things?


To see more examples of excellence at work, check out the new Career Changers TV show! For daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV or check out video segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which is now getting over 15,000 views per month. For advertising rates and info, email me at

Posted in Career Changers TV, Inspiration, Motivation | Comments Off

The "D" Word

January 3rd, 2014

HYS photo

It's a new year, and the new Career Changers TV episode premieres Sat., Jan. 4 at 8:30 PM on OC16 (which is now channel 12 or 1012 if you have high def). The common theme that runs through this show -- and all our success stories for the most part -- is a word that rarely gets mentioned, but is often the underlying reason why some achieve their goals and others slide back into old habits or just give up. That word is discipline. For many, it has a negative connotation. You think of being disciplined as a punishment. Or it conjures up images of military-like rigidity and conformity. Yet when one becomes disciplined in the study of arts, sports training, mastery of a craft, what that constant practice and repetition actually does is free your mind and body to be more creative when confronted with challenges because you don't need to think about doing the basic mechanics.

In our January show, we have feature segments on the Hawaii Youth Symphony, an interview with the co-author of "Top Dog - The Science of Winning and Losing," and a piece on Roberta Oaks, a self-taught fashion designer who has a boutique in Chinatown that is doing quite well. In all three stories, it's easy to see how discipline pays off for individuals in their chosen professions. What many parents may not realize is how getting their children involved with music education at an early age can lead to all kinds of side benefits that aren't necessarily related to a potential career in music. The kids we met, and watched in rehearsal and concert performances seemed focused, mature, well-mannered, but were obviously having fun too. Here's the link to the YouTube version (looks and sounds much better on TV though!).

In the "Top Dog" segment, Ashley Merryman shares some fascinating insights into research on competition -- for instance, why kids in rural areas score higher on standardized tests... the difference between how boys and girls learn to play as kids, which carries over into adult life... the way "home field" advantage actually can affect business negotiations and raise requests. What it boils down to largely is whether you perceive a competitive situation as a threat or a challenge. If you see it as a threat, your physiological response is different than when you take it as a challenge you can rise to.

I was thinking about that when I watched Johnny Manziel lead his Texas A&M football team in an incredible comeback win over Duke in the Tuesday night bowl game. It wasn't just what he did on the field though. The cameras showed him on the sideline getting in the face of not just the players on offense when they were down by 21 points in the first half -- he then got into the defense, yelling at them that the game was theirs to "take" after he led them on one touchdown drive. Then he stood on a bench and began exhorting the faithful fans, the vaunted A&M "12th Man." He told his team mates at halftime to forget about the score, and not even look at it. He didn't get negative on them. Heck, I'm no big Aggies fan, and to be honest, based on some off-the-field incidents involving Johnny Football as he's known in Texas, I thought he was kind of a punk. But during this game, I became a believer too -- and a fan of his. Can you teach someone to develop those kind of leadership skills and competitiveness? Not entirely -- some are just born with it. Yet Ashley contends research proves people can get better at dealing with nerves and perform better under pressure if they study the science of competition. (Click here for her story, which is actually Part 2 of the interview we shot at the American Psychological Association conference in Waikiki last year.)

As for our story on Roberta Oaks, she seems very much like a free spirit -- an artist at heart, who turned from photography to fashion on the Mainland before landing in Honolulu and starting her own fashion line of both women's wear and men's shirts (guys, check them out -- very smart, trim look so you need to be in decent shape to wear them). But it became obvious to me that she has a strong work ethic as well, and is very disciplined about how she uses social media and her personal network to promote her business. In fact, she tells me she was designing fashions for wholesale retailers on the Mainland before moving here, so she's had a taste of the big time as well. She also mentions her art work as an influence on her designs, and any artist will tell you it takes discipline to transform a concept to a finished piece no matter what the medium is. You can also see her segment on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now averages over 6,000 views per month.

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