Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

My dad is constantly reading, and it’s rare to find him without a book in hand. He will pass many of his books onto me. One book was from a series called The Elenium by David Eddings. The central character was named Sir Sparhawk. He was a trained warrior who was intimidating in his metal armor, sitting astride his war stallion. 

Sparhawk had a habit of greeting everyone he met with the phrase, Hello Neighbor. I liked this habit and adopted it into my lexicon. Sometimes, substituting neighbor for friend or brother. 

Growing up in Southern California, our public access television channel, PBS, aired one of my favorite shows, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers was a war veteran, and like his friend, Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan), they decided to focus on peace instead of war. They appeared as guests on each other’s television shows.

Mr. Rogers’ classic catchphrase was, Won’t you be my neighbor? 

What does it mean to be a neighbor? Webster’s dictionary defines a neighbor as “a person, animal, or thing located near another person, animal, or thing.”

I moved to my current neighborhood about 10 years ago. I feel blessed to be here. I moved into my place in November. If you know me, you already know that I have a tradition of hosting a Thanksgiving Leftovers Party on the Friday after Thanksgiving for my friends & family.

This was the perfect way to welcome my friends to my new home. About 2 hours into the party, my neighbor, Manny, came over to talk about the music level. I asked if it was too loud. He said it wasn’t loud enough and asked if it was okay for him to bring over his big speakers. I liked him instantly.!

The house adjacent to mine was vacant for the first 3 years I lived there. When a for sale sign was posted in front of the house, I was curious who would be moving in. My neighbor Tom is a spry fellow, so full of energy and stories. I love listening to the tales he tells of adventure-filled his life.

One day as I was loading up my car in preparation for an evening event for, The Burrito Project, Tom asked if I needed any help. I invited him to join me, and now he’s a permanent fixture at all our Burrito Project events. 

Tom has a few decades on me but has the energy of someone half MY age. He is usually the one inviting me out for late-night visits to the local karaoke bar. I love this guy. His wife is delightful too. She will knock on my door and bring me a tasty vegetarian meal. I guess they’re doing the neighborly thing and taking care of the single guy next door. 

During the Covid-19 quarantines and curfews, people were losing their jobs. Getting to the store was tricky for those who still had jobs. My neighbors Manny and his wife, Carol, saw a need and went into action. They created a food bank for the neighborhood to ensure everyone had enough food. There is an apartment near our homes, and Many & Carol created food boxes with fresh produce and food staples to make sure everyone living near us was taken care of. As I write this, they have been doing this for over 3 months now.

Even though I’m not really into sports (except for poker), I have helped host the neighborhood Superbowl party. This is a great kickoff for the New Year when all the neighbors get together and enjoy laughter, camaraderie, food, and libations.

I was already grateful to have fantastic neighbors. During Covid-19 in 2020, I have been even more touched by the compassion and generosity of the people who live in my neighborhood. While I was focused on a work project yesterday, Tom asked for my grocery list because he was headed to the grocery store. I am truly blessed!

For some people, a neighbor might be someone who lives near them. For me, a neighbor is someone who is FAMILY! We care for each other; we look after each other, host parties for each other, do favors for each other, and serve our community together.

I have a penchant for sweaters & canvas shoes. I think Mr. Rogers had a bigger influence on me than I realized. I will sign off with a quote from my wardrobe role model. “The greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” Fred Rodgers, thank you for the quote, your life’s work, and your amazing wardrobe.



Done Is Better Than Perfect

This has been an exciting week for me! It’s the 2nd week of the new year and I’m still (mostly) on point with my 2019 goals and intentions. I’ve read and made my bed daily. I’ve hiked Inspiration Point twice and I’ll probably go again this weekend. My daily steps need some help, but I did log in 24,000+ steps yesterday while swing dancing at Lindy Groove in Pasadena, CA.

I have been voraciously consuming the podcasts from Side Hustle School and I ONLY have 582 more to go until I listen to all the past episodes. Today, while listening to episode 588, Chris Guillebeau mentioned a quote which electrified me. The quote was: “Done, is Better Than Perfect.” A quick google search and the quote has been attributed to, Sheryl Sandberg.

Done, is better than perfect, really resonated with me. As a perfectionist there are many times I find myself frozen when I’m so close to completing my goal or project. Ever since I was a child, I would have a paralyzing fear of not doing my work perfectly. This has been an issue for me my whole life, but when I heard the quote today, I suddenly felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

Currently, I have about 20-25 work projects which need to be completed this month and I was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of time I would need to complete everything perfectly. When I applied the quote to my work, I suddenly realized I could still do Grade A work without the pressure of making it Grade A+ work.

I do amazing work! I’m really good at what I do. That’s not just an idle boast. Because of my perfectionist upbringing, I have really honed my skills over the years. One thing I am very aware of though, is that the time needed to bring a project from great to perfect can be an additional 30-35% of additional time.

Many times, I would look at the competing work in my industry and I was baffled at the projects which would pass inspection. If you compared my projects to similar projects done by someone else, you can definitely see the difference. When my “competition” was getting hired for more work than I was, I was profoundly, perplexed. I questioned one of my long time clients about why I wasn’t being hired as often. He said, “because all I need is a quick sketch, and you’re trying to create a photorealistic oil painting worthy of a classical master.”

In my effort to, “just get it done,” I’m happy to say that I had an idea for a “Side Hustle with my buddy Frank. We were talking about it last year, and I decided to just make things happen. I stayed up late one night and built a prototype for our website with some sample products I thought we could market. Now, to select a handful of products we will actually be selling on our website.

It feels good to have it DONE. Well, in reality, the website is nowhere near perfection, but it’s created and just needs to be refined over the next year. Normally, I would have wanted it to be be perfect before I let it go live. I know I am a work in progress, but I see the value in getting the job done instead of getting the job done PERFECTLY!

Best of luck to getting your work DONE this year. I’m excited to work on www.FrankAndAlan.com this month and to completing at least 15 of my other projects over the next 2 weeks.



Leaders Are Readers

I think I first heard the phrase, “Leaders are Readers” when I was a teenager. I didn’t think much about it, except that I liked that the phrase rhymed.

I loved to read so it wasn’t much of a stretch to read more books, but maybe just an encouragement to read different types of books. Summer was my favorite time of year because with my extra time, I could bury my nose in all my favorite summer reads and maybe add a few new ones after finishing my favorites. I always had a copy of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with me on summer vacations and I loved to peruse the libraries of the cabins we stayed in or the shelves of books whenever and whenever I would see them.

Libraries were fascinating to me. The ability to travel in time or to far flung places just by cracking open a book. Both my parents would take me to the public library as a child. I loved the smell of books, the rows and rows of tall domino like shelves stuffed with all sizes of books and periodicals, and the reverent quietness which most people had at the library. The hushed whispers and the rustle of turning pages felt like church to me.

My Uncle Jimmy loved to read too and I remember how excited he was to share his growing library of books on tape. He lived 12+ hours away from me and he listened to lots and lots of books while driving. I thought listening to books was interesting, but I loved the tactile connection I had to the pages when I was reading a book. Years passed and soon my friends started using a Kindle (or other electronic device) to read. I still loved reading with a physical book in my hand, so I never adopted the new technology.

As I started working more and more, I found I had less and less time to read. I read several books a week as a kid and now I was lucky to squeeze in a few books a year. I was driving a lot more for work and as much as I resisted it, I started listening to Audio Books. To be honest it felt like I was cheating, and I often felt like I should go read the physical book later when I had the chance, but those chances were hard to find. I finally embraced this NEW way of “reading” and I’ve been excited to add more book titles to my audio book list.

I recently discovered that I could get audiobooks from my local library and depending on the app I used, I could borrow up to 15 books a month for FREE! Audiobooks easily led me to various podcasts (which took me years to finally adopt) and now I’m a voracious listener. It’s standard for me to have an audiobook or podcast on and I usually only pause it when I’m writing or if I have company.

I heard a lecture by, Jim Kwik, the brain and learning expert, and he said leaders  and CEOs read 4 to 6 books a month. At the time that I heard that I was reading 4 to 6 books a year if I was lucky. He broke down the time needed to read an average book and for most books, 45 minutes a day of reading will do the trick. With an average reading speed of 200 words per minute and the average book containing 64,000 words, with less than an hour a day of reading I knew I could get back on track to reading a book a week.

There are so many skills I need to learn and improve on. If I’m to be a better leader for The Burrito Project and in my other businesses, I know I need to expand my thinking, mindset and knowledge. Books are magical! I can read a book in a week which is filled with lifelong knowledge and insight from an authority in their field. These life lessons and professional tips can be learned from a successful person who is willing to share their mishaps and gems of truth. Books can be a timesaver because the knowledge of a lifetime is condensed into a book which can be read in days. I’m great at making mistakes, but reading is a way to learn from other people’s mistakes and hopefully save myself some grief.

Last week, 5 new business books arrived in the mail. I’ve already finished one of the books and I started on the 2nd book this morning. On this Star Wars Day, I’m reaffirming my commitment to reading, expanding my consciousness and learning the skills I need to become a better human being, businessman, entrepreneur, speaker and leader in my community.

May the 4th be with you!