Thank You

“But Thanksgiving is over,” you say. Indeed it is.

What better time to express one’s gratitude than in the early December lull between holidays?

If you’d asked me a day ago, I would have told you 2018 was a sh*tshow. But this afternoon, I spent just 15 minutes writing out my accomplishments during the year and it turns out that the majority of the sh*t happened in someone else’s show. So I’m grateful for the 953 days of my old writing streak, and the five days of my new one. I’m grateful for the smart, creative people who’ve chosen to work with me. And I’m grateful for the beautiful writing I’ve had the good fortune to read.

In no particular order:

  • The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Shrill by Lindy West
  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  • Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins
  • Okay Fine Whatever by Courtenay Hameister
  • Just the Funny Parts by Nell Scovell
  • Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles
  • Also—not a book but certainly as well-written as any on this list—Rachel Maddow’s podcast Bagman

Watch for the Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill, coming to a Broadway stage near you. I saw it in Cambridge and really liked it, despite knowing next to nothing about Ms. Morissette’s music.

And I’m grateful to have seen The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, in his Broadway engagement. The densely evocative language of the spoken bits elevated it far above the average “here’s a story about a song/now here’s the song” show. I don’t know why that surprised me, since Springsteen has built his career as much on his poetry as on his music. I splurged on a ticket as a birthday present for myself and it may be the best present I’ve ever received.

I’m also truly thankful for the millions of people across the U.S. who got out and voted this fall; and for the hundreds of thousands who worked for their candidates, knocking on doors, making phone calls, sending postcards or texts. And I’m grateful for the Parkland kids (we’ll have to stop calling them that soon) who turned anguish into action so effectively. Although I wish they hadn’t gone through the anguish—and I’m sure they do too.

Finally, thanks to everyone who creates, even for only 15 minutes a day. Your work may not change the world (or, who knows? it may), but it can change the way you view the world. So, er, “write on.”

Of baseball and business (diversity edition)

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Monte Irvin just died. Never heard of him? He not only helped the New York Giants get to two World Series, he also mentored one of their up-and-coming players, an outfielder you may recall named Willie Mays. But Mr. Irvin played for nearly a dozen years before joining the Giants. Before that, he had been relegated to the “Negro Leagues.”

A couple of decades ago, I had a client named Irvin. He happened to be an African American and I knew he’d been raised in the same town as Monte Irvin, so I asked if they were related. Yes, indeed. He was surprised I recognized the name, but I’m a big baseball fan. So the elder Mr. Irvin made a guest appearance in a speech I wrote for his nephew. Here’s an excerpt; you can read more of it on my website:

Cultures change slowly. Let me remind you that nearly 50 years after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, there’s still not a single African American running a baseball team. And African American executives have been in the financial industry a lot shorter time than that.

My uncle was a major league baseball player—he played in the old Negro Leagues and later for the New York Giants. He could tell you that lots of African American players got hit by pitches—“accidentally,” of course—after the leagues were integrated. But it happened a lot less when a team had an African American pitcher on the mound.

It works the same way in the business world. The progress we make against racism in the workplace has a direct relationship to the positions that African Americans play on the team. As more African Americans take leadership positions and sit on Boards of Directors, more companies will stop throwing pitches at their African American employees.

Yes, it’s an old speech: the corporate world doesn’t throw pitches at its diverse employees anymore, not so blatantly. And it recognizes many forms of diversity, including LGBT people. But when it comes to leadership roles, are diverse professional relegated to the “farm team” longer than the majority folks in the pipeline? For some organizations, in some industries, the answer may still be yes.

Major League Baseball signed Mr. Irvin at the ripe old age of 30; the man considered perhaps the greatest pitcher in the Negro Leagues, Satchel Paige, was 42 when he joined the majors. Mr. Paige pitched for nearly a dozen more years, but his best games were far behind him. So much talent, consigned to relative obscurity. And how many more potential baseball stars aged out of the game before the Major Leagues opened their doors to players of color?

There’s a lesson there, and not just for baseball fans. Talent deserves to shine. And it’s not an unlimited resource—businesses can’t afford to waste the talents of their people, no matter who they are. We’ve made progress since I wrote that speech. But I can’t help wondering how many Monte Irvins and Satchel Paiges the business world has lost: how many talented women and people of color never got the opportunities they deserved, the opportunities to shine—and to lead.