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Showing posts from April, 2015

A Sex Talk For Jewish Girls

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There is a Jewish saying to the effect that "the generations get worse over time," meaning that people were better/holier in the olden days.

I don't know if that is true - having watched the episode on Game of Thrones last night where they threw a young maiden to the dogs, literally - but they did have more perspective. For sure they had a more holistic view of things than we do today.

In that sense, my late grandmother, Muriel Garfinkel (may she rest in peace) is my "guiding angel." Whenever I have a question, I imagine her giving me advice in that smart, loving way she did.


"Dossy baby," she would say, "remember that a girl always needs to hang out a shingle." -- by this she meant that all women should know how to be financially self-supporting."Dossy baby, let me tell you, don't be a schmuck." -- by this she meant, don't let a man walk all over you."Dossy baby, remember that I love you." -- by this she meant that …

To Build Brand Equity, Develop Your Team

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At the end of the day a good brand continuously builds its own equity - that is, a price differential between itself and its competitors - by doing three things well. They can be summarized by the following imperatives:
1. "Choose Me": Help the customer make a decision quickly.
2. "Be Me": Provide the customer with a sense of identity.
3. "Join Us": Create a like-minded group of people rallied around a meaningful cause.
The urgency behind these "commands" flows from a brand creator and their team working together to accomplish three goals:
1. Communicating: Explicitly or implicitly setting forth a unique value proposition that has value to a specific target audience.
2. Consistently delivering: Actually providing the real (functional) and/or perceived (emotional) value they promise.
3. Continuously moving: Symbolically and actually "living," moving about in the world and representing themselves to their audience/s.
But brand teams can't re…

Dissolving Workplace Dysfunction

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I have a dear friend, colleague and mentor who spent her whole life in the government and was sidelined for almost as many years.

The "funny" thing is, she's a genius. And whenever they had a problem, they'd come to her.

"That's alright," she used to say, "I keep everything in Outlook."

And she would reach in to one of her folders from five years back and retrieve exactly the thing they wanted to know about right now. 

"I told them a long time ago this would come back to bite them," she used to say. "But of course and as usual, they never wanted to hear."

My friend is still around and I've urged her to write a book about her professional travels. I want her to tell you about the time they stuck an adult toy in the cubby of a high-ranking female executive, during that era (is it over?) when women were very rarely seen in the high ranks.

I want her to tell you about the boss, a woman (surely conscious of her stature), who "…

Why I Care (A Short Meditation)

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I can't believe I'm getting so old.

My eyes, when they are not retouched by an Instagram filter, have wrinkles at the edges. I have, as they say, "a furrow on my brow." And when I leave the hair salon the grays come three weeks after coloring.

Around me the people are dropping like flies. Sometimes literally. People we know from childhood - dead from cancer. People we know only vaguely - dead from a heart attack suffered on the tennis court while on vacation.

Little symptoms here and there, nothing serious, maybe serious. Warnings from the doctor: Take care of yourself now, before problems progress from a whimper to a shout.

"And so are the Days of Our Lives."

The clock is ticking and it's time to start giving back, big time. Help other people and share what I can. 

I don't know what day will be my last.


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All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my agency or the federal government. Photo by John Watson via Flickr.

Film Review: "Above and Beyond" (Producer: Nancy Spielberg - Director: Roberta Grossman)

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On May 14, 1948 (5 Iyar on the Hebrew calendar), one day before the State of Israel was officially founded, its founder and first prime minister David Ben-Gurion read publicly its Declaration of Independence. Jews around the world commemorate this holiday of freedom every year on a holiday we call Yom Ha'atzmaut (literally, "day of independence).
I did not grow up a Zionist. My father's parents (may they rest in peace; z"l), survived Auschwitz and a Romanian labor camp and their focus was on survival and recovery - not discussions of horrendous memories (in fact such conversations were taboo) nor any dreams of a State, if they had them. We remain closely connected with the Satmar Hasidic community and they are strongly anti-Zionist as well; they believe that the act of retaking Israel and its existence as a secular state is against G-d's will.
As a child I remember being captivated by the works of Chaim Potok, especially The Chosen, which captures this conflict wel…

A hypocrite in synagogue

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It's become a weekly ritual for Saturday mornings. I walk with my older daughter and talk. She waits outside Starbucks while I go in to get a coffee. Then we walk some more, and part ways.

She has her synagogue, and I have mine.

This week we talked about morality. (When don't we?) I told her, "You have a halachic mind."

("Halacha" means "the system of Jewish law"; "halachic" means "in accordance with the Jewish legal framework.")

She does; she has a holy soul; she sees things in terms of black and white, you're either adhering to the Law or you aren't.

My thoughts were somewhat turbulent. "Here's what I can't understand. If there is only good and bad, how can there be two moralities?"

"I don't understand," my daughter said.

"Imagine a boy sexually molested in yeshiva," I started off. "He gets addicted to drugs, he totally rejects religion, he eats pig, he's not religious at al…

To Communicate Effectively, Begin With The Customer's Frame Of Reference

Two speakers, two topics, a different city than my own and a completely different type of culture than I have grown used to.

But their ideas were durable and resonant. They applied to my job, my program, my world.

More than that: The program I represent effectively answers some of the questions they raised. It offers a method of closing gaps in the system, gaps that they dwelled upon at length.

I found myself talking, not a lot but some. Explaining the connections between me and this place, this time.

And as I talked, I realized that the language I had available to me was applicable to my own frame of reference, that is to say - the world of science, the culture of Washington.

But these were people not of my world. I needed to get through to them.

And so I listened to the words that THEY used, and thought: There is a piece missing here. I'm doing things backwards.

Rather than explaining my world in my words, I need to explain their world to them using my frame of reference.

It was like so…

The Top 10 Mistakes DC Women Make When It Comes To Fashion

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Yes, that's me with my astounding "Washington, DC" neon-handwritten wallet bag. And headphones.
I make no pretense to be stylish as I age. Frankly it's getting worse every year. But if I've become somewhat slovenly, maybe even a bit of a shlep, I am pointing the finger straight at this policy-oriented city in which I've lived and worked pretty much my entire career.
And not to pick on the women, but really - we can do better than this! We can. 
They are laughing at us up in New York.
Here are our top 10 fashion sins of late. I freely admit to most of them. May we repent and be forgiven:
1. Yoga pants outside yoga class, where your physical fitness level does not justify the exposure.
2. Pumps with a skinny heels. Yes, I'm talking to the ladies who get off the train at Pentagon City.
3. Sweatjackets, because you've given up.
4. Infinity scarves on women younger than 70.
5. Leopard leopard everywhere and not a drop to drink.
6. Sandals and no pedicure. Sandals an…

Marketing A Conference - The Pitch That Worked

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I've been to a lot of conferences over the years, as a speaker and as an attendee. I know a lot of people who go to them, I've talked about them as a "thing" (i.e. are they worthwhile or not) and I've been the subject of many marketing pitches to either cover them or attend.

To begin with, there are two schools of thought when it comes to conferences generally.  Some people love them, and see all sorts of opportunity lurking nearby, what with all the networking and all. Others think they are a waste of time, suitable mainly for people who don't have jobs or who are trying to change out the lousy one they've got. Let's zero in on those who "love" them or at least are open to attending. Because when you market a thing, you want to "go with the flow" (as Wayne Dyer would say) rather than fight the river. The latter gets you very little in return, versus leveraging a natural source of energy means you expend less effort and gain exponenti…

Some books that really helped me understand branding

This is in response to a question on Quora. There are a lot more. Brand Warfare by David D'AlessandroBrand Hijack by Alex WipperfurthBrand Simple by Allen AdamsonThe Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine and Christopher LockeNext: Trends for the Near Future by Marian SalzmanPositioning: The Battle For Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack TroutEating The Big Fish by Adam MorganWhat would you add?
___ All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my agency or the federal government as a whole.

Design Is How We Interact With The World

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We crave to be in a pizza place.

We hunger for THAT BAG.


We like people who know what bubble tea is.


We fall in love with our first car.
Design is how we know where we are, who we are, and who we want to be with.
Design is personal, but it is a unit of social currency as well.
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All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. No endorsement expressed or implied. Photos by me.

5 Ways To Unravel A Sexist System

This weekend in synagogue an elderly gentleman introduced himself to my husband. 
After a lengthy discussion about their respective careers, after talking about his daughter who is apparently highly sought-after by potential employers in a technical field, after asking my younger daughter where she planned to go to college and what she planned to study, he turned to me. 
"Do you cook or do you microwave?" he asked, very sincerely and with a kindly smile.
How do you dismantle a sexist system so complex and multifaceted, within which some women enjoy far greater equality than others, within which some great strides have taken place, one so interwoven with racism and classism that the knot seems almost inextricable?
And how do you define a "feminist movement" now, anyway? I for one don't want to be leading that synagogue service; it's quite fine by me that the role has been left to the men. But at the same time, I know there are women who do want to lead a service…

If You Want To Succeed, Get Hungry

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"There's a line of other people who want your husband," someone once said to me. "If you want to stay married, keep that in mind." On the just-ended season of HBO's Girls (Season 4), Hannah leaves her boyfriend Adam in Manhattan. A fancy job as well, writing words for a magazine that blur eradicate the line between journalism and marketing.  Hannah is not just a writer by trade. She is claimed by writing. It owns her. She cannot do anything but write, real writing. She cannot think except about what her next piece will be. She cannot stop until her work is better, better, better. Hannah leaves Adam, whom she loves. She's been accepted to the renowned graduate program for creative writers, the Iowa Writer's Workshop.  Anyone who writes and cares about writing at all can recognize this expression on Hannah's face. It is Hannah, but it is really Lena Dunham and the show exemplifies her. As a college lecturer I can tell which students are really hungry t…

Life, Through An Instagram Filter

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What if I told you I got these beautiful roses at a countryside shop in Paris?
That my love ran off to gather the handful, bucket and all.
Stuffed them in the back of the car we'd rented for our second honeymoon. 
Splayed them forth upon the grass to decorate our weekend picnic. On that shining, gorgeous spring day.
* * * 
And now it's Monday in the cold, harsh clear light filtered through a suburban Maryland window. 
As I am forced to admit these are dollar-store creations, plastic in a plastic case, made up substantially, to look like something more and better than they are.
My roses are filtered, once and twice and again. And I look at the photo and tell myself the story that I want to tell you. 
Repeat, repeat, repeat it again. Convincing myself that the steady drumbeat of a lie -- or should we say an altered representation of the truth -- will give them the glamour that they lack when viewed as real things. In their unfiltered properties and context.
Who is to say what is real and…