Anxiety of the Day: What to do with my down time

There are a variety of different sources of my anxiety.  I’m hoping that if I write about them, I’ll be able to get some advice from all of you and maybe eventually work some of them out of my life.  Today’s issue: down time.

Every day I struggle with what I should be doing with my down time. I am absolutely thrilled when I get some— the idea of finishing a boatload of items on my to do list actually speeds up my pulse.  ME TIME? I actually get some time to myself? Woo hoo!  But…what do I do with that time?

I don’t really have any hobbies.  I play some guitar, but I’d call myself a novice blues guitarist at best (emphasis on the novice).  I like auto racing, but I’m not the kind of guy who would watch a replay of a NASCAR or an F1 race. I’m not that committed.  I thought about taking up a hobby and building an amateur race car, but do you know how much that costs?  It ain’t a little.  Besides, my downtime usually consists of an hour or two (or three) in the middle of a weekday, or when I’m between work events in a hotel.  Plus, many of those hobby ideas feel so…superficial.

I feel like I shouldn’t be wasting my time, rather I should be making productive use of my down time. When I’m finished with whatever endeavor I pursue I should feel as though I’ve had fun, but I’ve also had a growth experience. Maybe I should be reading that book about Thomas Jefferson that’s been sitting on my dresser for the past 6 months, or learn that language I’ve always wanted to be able to speak. But those things seem like such an…effort.  Of course, isn’t effort required if I’m gong to have a growth experience?

What usually ends up happening is that I spend so much time wondering about what would be the most productive use of my down time that I completely squander that very down time.  Inevitably, I end up checking Facebook for 15 minutes and spend the rest of my time feeling anxious.


Headphones Review: Beats Studio Wireless Bluetooth

I own a truckload of headphones and earbuds.  I’m not being cliche- I seriously mean that I might own enough gear to fill a truck. I justify this large collection by telling myself that I travel a lot for work, so I’m constantly looking for the perfect gear.  Truth is, I just like headphones. To date I haven’t found the perfect pair and I’ve decided to review some of my collection to explain it all.  Today I’m talking about…..

Beats Studio Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

I don’t understand all of the good reviews for the Beats Studio Wireless Bluetooth headphones. Here’s my take: they are comfortable headphones that sound nice…unless you get near any background noise at all.

When I wear the Beats in a quiet environment, they’re great.  They connect with my iPhone quickly, they charge quickly, and they have a nice long battery life.  Plus, they’re comfortable, and the sound quality is nice. My ears sweat just a drop after wearing them for a decent amount of time, but I think that’s my own issue- my ears constantly sweat when I wear a set of cans.  Sound-wise, they do a good job.  There is the proper emphasis on the bass- not the old-style booming bass that people complained about with the old Beats. They aren’t as crisp on the middle and highs as some other sets I own, but I’m being picky in that regard.  Genuinely, they are a nice sounding pair of headphones.  The problem is that the Beats Wireless noise cancellation is the worst I’ve ever heard.  Ever.

I honestly can’t believe that there isn’t a more forceful backlash about this online.  No matter what the atmosphere, the minute I put the headphones on, they actually increase the ambient noise.  For real.  The ambient noise gets louder.  I’ve worn them in coffee shops, on airplanes, in restaurants, sitting on my couch while the kids listen to the TV, you name it.  In every instance, the background noise was overwhelming. The upside is that they are among the loudest of all the headphones on the market.  That means that you can turn up the volume and drown out much of the ambient noise.  But that’s not how they’re supposed to work.

I would buy the Beats if you are looking for a nice sounding headphone that you’ll only wear in a quiet environment.

PS- I heard that Apple just discounted their line of Beats headphones, which might mean that new products are coming out.

What is Punkpro?


Are you the guy or gal who wears the colorful shoes at work? Maybe you’re the one who always rocks the funky accessories? Are you the person around the office who is known for being respectful, but direct? Perhaps you’re known as an entrepreneur who pushes the envelope, thinks outside of the box or [insert additional metaphor here]. If so, then you’re a Punk Professional.

Punk Professionals are driven, assertive, successful, and are on a constant quest for learning. We thrive on challenging situations, we like to disprove conventional wisdom, and we display our own bold personal style while doing it.

But the drive that characterizes a Punk Professional also has some down side— sometimes we push so hard that we lose sight of what’s important in life. Other times the overwhelming pressure of performing leads us down a dangerous path to addiction or other bad behavior of some kind. And fun often takes a back seat to work. is here to help. helps daring professionals survive and thrive in both their professional and personal lives (is there really a separation any more?) It’s a source of fun, learning, inspiration and growth. It’s a place where we can be inspired with stories of success and learn about new paradigms in business. It’s about gaining a deeper understanding about great music and enjoying interesting aspects of art, sports and travel. As the community expands, we’ll be able to commiserate with our fellow business travelers, trade ideas with other innovative thinkers, and just grow all around. not only helps us grow, but it also helps us remember to savor the beauty in life that sometimes flies by unnoticed. And, maybe most importantly, it provides a healthy escape for bold professionals.

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Why a superstar art dealer gives me hope

wsj-coverWhy a superstar art dealer gives me hope

Larry Gagosian is the most influential art dealer of the past century.  It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that he’s among the most important dealers in history.  This piece in the Wall Street Journal magazine gives great insight into the breadth of his connections.  You’ll read about everyone from Basquiat to Brancusi and from de Kooning to Koons. The name dropping alone makes it worth the read. But what I love most about this article is the hope it provides to every other wanna-be successful entrepreneur. That’s because I had no idea that Gagosian had absolutely no formal education in art or art history.

Gagosian earned his BA in English Literature from UCLA. After a short stint at the William Morris Agency he ended up selling posters on the street in Los Angeles. From there, a bit of business hustling and relationship building ultimately lead him to opening an art gallery.

It may have been chance that lead him to the art world, but it was his drive and moxie that allowed him to flourish within it. Through relentless determination he made key connections in the industry and built a business out of those relationships. He became an expert in the field and an indispensable player in the market despite his lack of formal training in art or art history.

It shows me that you need dedication, determination, and ambition more than you need pedigree or credentials. And that gives me hope for success in any endeavor.


Photo is the Wall Street Journal Magazine Cover, May 2016.  Photo was found on, last checked by the author 5/31.2016.

You’re in DC, you love Modern Art, and you have 2 hours to burn…

…and you’ve never seen the Hirshhorn.  Well then…

The escalator to the basement level in the Hirshhorn
The escalator to the basement level in the Hirshhorn

You’re in DC for business and you’ve got a few hours to burn.  Most likely this isn’t your first visit– maybe you brought the kids here a few years ago or you came into town as a kid yourself with a school trip (either recently or a hundred years ago like me).  You’ve probably already seen the monuments and the standard Smithsonian museums like Air & Space, etc.

If that’s the case, here’s a nice, simple itinerary that will give you a 2-3 hour shot of modern art…at one of my favorite museums in the world, the Hirshhorn.

You’ll have to move sort of quickly, and I realize that that isn’t the best way to take in art.  But if you’ve got limited time, there’s no choice.  If you keep up the pace you can do this in 2 hours.  If you take your time you could stretch it out to three (easy), maybe even 4 depending on how much of the Hirshhorn you want to see.

TIMING TIP: After you’re done, are you heading to Union Station? When you’re done with this short walk you’re going to end up at the Hirshhorn.  That’s a walkable distance to Union Station, but it’s a long walk.  It’s about 1.5 miles from Union Station to the Hirshhorn, which should take you 40 minutes at a regular pace.  Make sure you factor that into your timing if you need to catch an  Amtrak, for instance. There isn’t any super-convenient public transportation from the Hirshhorn to Union Station.  There is a DC Circulator Bus not too far away and the Metro at L’Enfant Plaza, but by the time you get to both and wait for your stop, you might as well walk already. When I go I usually take the long walk back to Union Station— besides, it’s good for you! End of Timing Tip.

Start by grabbing a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on 7th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue.  The store is actually a block off of Pennsylvania, but not really.  Technically, it’s on the corner of 7th and Indiana, but Indiana is almost like a side-road and you can see the Starbucks from Pennsylvania.  I say start with a cup of coffee because (1) I like coffee a whole lot, and (2) there’s a short stroll ahead.

Take your coffee and walk south on 7th Street, into the Mall. It’s only about 2 blocks…plus, you’re not going far — once you get into the Mall, you’ll immediately see the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden on your right.  It’s on the corner of 7th And Pennsylvania, but the entrance is on 7th.  Turn in there and take a walk for 20 minutes or so.

After you’re done, go back out the same entrance (on 7th) and make a right, heading deeper into the Mall, but stay on 7th.  Walk down 7th and cross through the Mall…and take in the scenery.  This is a popular area, so look around and savor the moment. Depending on the time of year there could be people playing ball or jogging– this is a great place to stop and people-watch, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you have some coffee left you could sit on a bench and enjoy it.  Otherwise, keep walking through the Mall to the other end, which is where you’ll find the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. If you want more Sculpture Garden, then walk through the Hirshhorn’s. Personally, this is my favorite Sculpture Garden anywhere.  There are pieces by Henry Moore, Rodin, and Koons. In fact, there’s a shiny Koons work called Kiepenkerl at the entrance to the Gardens on Jefferson Drive.  I did a little research on that work and I wrote a blog post here, if you’re interested.

After you’re done with the Garden, don’t go into the Museum just yet.  First, walk all the way around the Hirshhorn and take in the artwork outside.  One of my favorite sculptures is here- “Needle Tower” By Kenneth Snelson. Do a complete loop around the outside of the building so (1) you don’t miss anything, and (2) you get a good look at the building itself.  It’s a piece of art in-and-of itself.

After you enter the museum you’re on your own.  However, if you’re under a time constraint, I recommend that you go to two places– the 3rd floor and the basement.  For some reason, those two floors always have the most interesting things (according to my taste, that is). From a time perspective, the 3rd floor will take you much longer than the basement. The third floor wraps all the way around the building and also has an inner corridor with sculpture.  The basement is usually a few current exhibitions and is smaller (and quicker to get through).

Remember- if you’re walking back to Union Station to catch a train, you’ll need to give yourself a good 40 minutes for the walk.

How Jeff Koons makes us better professionals

KoonsRecently I was in Washington, DC to give an ethics talk and I had a few hours to kill.  I headed over to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens located in The Mall because I love that place.  While I’ve always found something worth contemplating there, I didn’t think that I would find some serious inspiration from a work by Jeff Koons.

The sculpture I’m talking about is the stainless steel outdoor work called “Kiepenkerl.” It’s a life sized sculpture of a merchant and it was exhibited for the first time at the Sculpture Project in Munster, Germany. I learned about the details of the work from a gallery talk podcast that the Hirshhorn posted online.  It was given by their Director of Public Programs, Milena Kalinovska in May of 2013.

Munster is a town in Germany that has a typical large center square. For years, there was a bronze sculpture of a merchant located in that square set high atop a pedestal (see the photo of the town square below). The statue depicts a typical merchant— a person who goes to the farms, buys what he thinks he could sell, then sells those goods in the town (it’s not hard to figure out why the statue is named “Kiepenkerl” since the word means “traveling merchant”).  Munster was bombed during World War II, but the statue remained intact.  It became a symbol of resiliency and, according to Koons, self-sufficiency and abundance.   Eventually, the war got the best of the statue and it was unfortunately destroyed.  After the war, however, the statue was replaced with another.


Years later, Koons made an exact copy of the sculpture, except that his version was made out of  stainless steel.  For the Sculpture Project in 1987, Koons removed the bronze statue in the town square and replaced it with his stainless steel version.

In the podcast, Ms. Kalinovska attempted to explain Koons’ motivation and she started with a bit of an Art History lesson.  If you meander through the Hirshhorn Sculpture Gardens, you’ll see works in the Modernist style, like those of Calder and Moore.  Those artists put art on a pedestal— one needs to study the work and explore it in order to understand it. Of course, many artists build upon the work of their predecessors, so after Modernism we experienced Pop Art. In those types of work, the artists (like Lichtenstein, whose work in directly across from the Kiepenkerl) reacted to the Modernist artists.  Pop Artists took everyday items and put it in their art.  But subsequent artists took that to another level with the readymade movement.  They used items that are available to us, like a table for instance, and made them the focal point of their work. Marcel Duchamp was one of the first artists who showed that readymade could be art (for those of you not familiar with his repertoire, Duchamp is the guy who presented a urinal as work of art, among other things).

American artists from the 80s, like Koons, created work in the style of the readymade movement but also extended it with a concept called appropriation. That’s the idea of taking something from somewhere else and putting it into a new kind of context.  Those artists felt that art did not have to be above us— that it didn’t need to be placed on a pedestal, out of reach from the common man.  Koons, of course, also brings his own personal feelings about life, art, and society to his work. Koons is concerned with issues of class, and he likes to create work for everyday people. Commerce is a central part of his makeup, and he likes to use simple, but deep symbols.

It seems to me that in Kiepenkerl, Koons was trying to take an iconic figure and make it accessible.  The statue depicts the common man, the average worker.  But instead of bronze, Koons used stainless steel, a substance he called, “the luxurious material of the proletariat.”   By simply changing the material to one that is associated with the common man, he is taking the figure down from it’s pedestal.  Koons took a figure who represented resilience, self-sufficiency, and abundance and brought it to the level of the common man.  By making the figure accessible, he is saying that we are all capable of those lofty attributes.

And therein lies the direction for the Punk Professional.

Far too often we doubt ourselves.  We wonder whether we are good enough, whether we are worthy, or whether we are capable of achieving our goals.  Sometimes when we look at others who have achieved similar goals and we put them on a pedestal.  We see them as somehow different- more capable, better equipped, whatever. The truth is we are no different from anyone else who has achieved success.

Take those other successful professionals off of the pedestal.  Don’t denigrate them, just look them in the eye.  You are on their level. You are resilient and you are self sufficient. The long term success and enduring satisfaction that you seek is not reserved for someone else.  With relentless determination, you could achieve that success as well.  It is accessible to us all.



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I’m not a fancy-shmancy restaurant guy

Fancy Place Setting

I think I’m one of the few people who don’t go crazy over high-class restaurants.

Tonight I was in Washington, DC because  I’m speaking for Georgetown Law tomorrow. I’m staying in the Liaison Hotel on New Jersey Avenue, right down the street from the Capitol Building (for those of you who are wondering why I’m not in Georgetown, it’s because Georgetown Law isn’t located in Georgetown, it’s near the Capitol). It’s raining hard tonight so I decided to go to the restaurant in the hotel, instead of my standard road fare of Subway or Panera. The restaurant in this hotel is “Art and Soul,” owned by the celebrity chef Art Smith (of Oprah and Top Chef fame).

It was okay. That’s it, just okay.

I had roasted fluke over cous cous and Swiss chard, with raisins and pistachios. It sounded awesome on the menu, but it was just average in real life. The fish was bland and there weren’t enough of the raisins and pistachios to give it the Middle Eastern accent that they were going for.  To add insult to injury, it cost me $45 after the tip (which I will obviously not expense out). Dang, that’s a lot more than the $5 Footlong I’m used to.

It wasn’t just the food that was underwhelming. I just don’t get the whole experience. The place was loud and busy. The staff wasn’t so nice. Could it be this particular restaurant, or is that what the fine dining experience is all about?

I guess I’m just a Panera kind of guy. I’m low maintenance and maybe even a little low class. I’m okay with that.

Kids bored at the restaurant? No more!

LCRKeeping your kids entertained while you’re at a restaurant waiting for your food is not easy.  It doesn’t matter what age they are— if they’re young they get restless and if they’re older they get lost in their phones.  However, my wife found an interesting (and portable) game a few years ago and it’s changed our food-waiting experience.  It’s called, “Left, Right, Center.”

LCR is a simple dice game. Each person gets a few chips and you roll the dice.  If you get an L, you give a chip to the person to your left.  If you get an R, the chip goes to the person to your right, and on a C you put a chip into the center pot.  The last person holding any chips wins.  Simple.

What’s beautiful is that it’s fast moving, easy to play, doesn’t make too much noise, and is strangely engaging. Plus, it’s small enough to keep in a purse, pocket, or even leave in the car.

You can buy LCR on Amazon here.

A small pin makes a big statement

I don’t think it takes anything outlandish to make a fashion statement. Lately I’ve been trying to stand out by wearing interesting lapel pins.  Today I wore this motorcycle pin that my wife bought me over the holidays.  Oh, and you don’t need to wear a suit either— today I wore an unstructured blazer from Uniqlo (made out of jersey material) with a short sleeve v-neck t-shirt from Old Navy and Calvin Klein dark blue jeans.