On French Cuffs and Meeting the King of Norway

I’ve always had a bit of fashion sense. It started as a child watching my father don his bright red Italian ski sweater while shoveling snow in our suburban New York driveway.

And while watching my sister slide on her silk elbow-length gloves for prom (that pop bought in Milan…he was a Pan Am pilot whose main routes were London, Paris and Rome).

For sure, my eye for sartorial style mostly came from my sisters and pop. Mom and my brother Hal, on the other hand, must have viewed clothing – and those oh-so important accessories that can pull any outfit together — as mere utility. You wore stuff because you just needed to. Fashion was never about making a statement – about who you are, or rather who you wished to be.

I suppose our family could afford to buy upscale clothes, but we seldom did. Yet, pop occasionally schooled us in the rudiments of style by returning home from trips abroad with some seriously cool and classy and exotic things – an Hermès scarf from Harrod’s, a paisley tie from Carnaby Steet, an aquamarine ring from Rio — that gave us an eye for beautiful things.

On an entirely different plane mom instilled in us the notion we were not rich – which we were certainly not – by insisting most everything be purchased or negotiated at sale prices. I recall several times she took me to the local Goodwill to buy ice skates, an overcoat and snow boots.

Being a preteen in a tony New York suburb,  I remember sheepishly shuffling around the Goodwill storefront with my head bowed and sweaty hands in my pockets, slinking over my shoulder to make certain none of my friends saw me stepping inside.

But as time and experience and financial hardship seasoned me as an adult, I began to see shopping differently — buying clothes and belts and shoes and glasses in a whole new light.

I’m not gonna lie. I love shopping. No, I love a good deal. No, I love negotiating a great deal. As long as everybody wins when walking away.

Whether it’s houses (we’ve only ever bought foreclosures) or cars (never less than 50k miles) or computer accessories (direct from china). As a lifelong bargain hunter, especially for shoes and clothes, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. I’ll bet you’ve learned the same…

#1 Quality need not be expensive

Most of the stuff in my closet, shoe rack and jewelry box is filled with items I paid less than half the retail price for: hefty combed cotton Kirkland Signature t-shirts, briefs from wish.com, monk strap shoes and leather sneakers from Nordstrom Rack.

And there’s my 13 vintage sport coats and dress raincoats from Value Village and Goodwill. Average market price at high end mens clothing store: $600. My cost: $40 (not including the first and only dry cleaning)

I’m up to seven watches now, though only 4 work. Average purchase price: $50. Market value average per similar looking luxury brand watch: $1,000.

Would I ever buy a Rolex Submariner for $6,000?

I already have two.

One I paid $90 for in a backroom on New York’s Canal Street. The other is an Invicta. Both are as accurate as the real McCoy.

#2 You don’t always have to get a killer deal

I have a side hustle that often requires being outdoors. I’m in Seattle. That means rain.

As such, I recently needed to buy a pair of waterproof boots. My daughter who lives in Anchorage said I should get XtraTuffs, which are as common around marinas, fishing boats and dog sleds in the PNW as flip-flops in Newport Beach or Birkenstocks in Boulder.

The best deal I found online was $90. I later discovered an off-brand for $50 with comparable quality. But frankly the brown and beige vibe seemed heinously unattractive … anti-fashion even. So I did more research and found killer rubber boots — Grundens, the choice of many a professional seamen. Only not boring brown and beige, but olive green and a pop of that signature Grudens orange. I got them only modestly discounted at Whistle Workwear. Halfway in the middle between the XtraTuffs and the offbrand boots– a $70 purchase that made me happy as a clam, plus dry feet and my style bumped up a notch (what’s not to love about a splash of blaze orange in the right places?).

# 3 Spend a lot to get a lot

When my daughter graduated from PLU with distinction I was so stoked to go to the graduation ceremony held at …. wait for it … the infamous Tacoma Dome! It was cool enough that Annie was being extra honored for her extra hard work, but what was more exciting to my alter-ego-driven brain (pls don’t tell her) was the notion of a chance meeting with the guest of honor in attendance … the King of Norway!

With two months advance notice my scheming brain went turbo. I went online and found the most upscale yet approachable custom shirt maker in the Seattle area. I booked an appointment, the following day met a hunky model guy dressed to the teeth at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel.

In an hour we had picked out the stunning white Egyptian cotton fabric from a massive sample book, chose collar style, buttons, and finally took painstaking measurements in a dozen places from the waist up.

Then I rode my ebike back to the ferry terminal and booked it back home … only to find my wife greeting me suspiciously at the front door with the dreaded question …”You were gone for most of the day. Where’ve you been?”

Out of respect for her — and our marriage — I will spare you the details. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, nor were my explanations even remotely accurate, or christian. But we recovered, albeit with a tad of eroded trust.

#4 Tell your wife

About ALL your non-essential purchases, whether driven by practicality, vanity, mania, impulse, whatever. Better yet, get buy-in before the big spend, not after. I could write a book about all my misdeeds in this area, but you get the idea. Talk before you buy…in most cases it’s not your money, but both of yours.

#5 Sometimes you just need to feel like a king

There are precious few times when we feel like we’re on top of the world, or need to climb there. I felt it when my daughter was graduating. I was so proud of her. But the idea actually meeting face to face with the guest of honor, the King of Norway. Seriously? I had a better chance of having dinner with the Pope who was halfway around the world than getting within shouting distance of even his entourage.

How much did I pay for that handmade shirt? One hundred fifty dollars.

How much was it really worth…to me?

A thousand dollars.

Why? Because it made me feel like a king for a royal celebration of my daughter’s incredible achievement. And because I’ve since worn it a half dozen times in boardrooms when the stakes were extremelhy high. And I wore it with courage and confidence.

I don’t advocate spending ridiculous amounts of money on stuff you don’t need. But sometimes you just need to play the part, to own the space … at a wedding, a pitch, a speech, a special once a decade dinner.

Because you’re worth it, and so is your distinguished audience — of one or a thousand.

(Taken from the TrailMasters – Style blog)

Style video >>> https://youtu.be/yzG_3UJ-LvU

The Two Most Important Days Of Your Life

It’s May 3rd, barely sunrise. It’s foggy and gray, a forshadow of LA’s infamous June gloom. You’re on PCH approaching Point Dume and Topanga Canyon state park. Suddely your phone vibrates a text ping on your lap. You quickly glance down to see who’s texting you.

In a nanosecond your world changes. Your eyes dart back up at the windshield and are blinded by the headlights of a box truck hauling refrigerated food to a nearby grocery store. Time freezes. You stare at the twisted metal surrounding your neck, shards of glass suspended in midair like shiny snowflakes in the dark.

In that next instant — floating in death’s doorway — you behold an eternity of memories in vibrant colors…family members, friends, nieghbors, homes you’ve lived in, neighborhoods you played in, schools you attended, customers you served, employers you worked for, many friends, a few enemies.

And then comes the judgement. Not from God. From your inner being, whispering these deafening words…

“This was your life. You can’t have it back. Each thought, action, event…they’re all etched in stone, cemented in eternity and the memories of all who knew you, loved you, avoided you.

“Is this how you wanted to be remembered? Are you proud of what you became, the choices you made, the character you demonstrated by actions you thought no one would see?”

Thankfully, this scenario isn’t real.

But it could be. If nothing else it begs the question…

“What do you want to do with your life that’s honorable? How do you want to be remembered?”

Today you’re staring at a mostly blank 2021 calendar you’ll soon fill up with stuff to do, people to meet, places to go, things to buy, etc.

If it could talk, what will it say at the end of the year, about your priorities and your determination to meet whatever goals you’re still formulating in your head right now. (Also, your checkbook — what will that reveal about your 2021 priorities?)

One of my literary heroes, Mark Twain, penned one of the most profound quotes I’ve ever read.

It’s this…

“The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Why?

Why were you born? Why do act the way you do? Why do you sometimes miss the mark?

These are questions I’ll explore in my next post, Part 2 of “The Two Most Important Days Of Your Life.”

I hope you’ll join me for that. I plan to finish it in the next few days.

Written by Phil Herzog for TrailMasters, a new social network for men of adventure

On Big Game Hunting And Deal Making

Me with young 4 x 4 Rocky Mountain Elk rack bagged near the Cimarron River / Montrose Colorado

In my previous post I told the story of my exploits in the woodlands of upstate New York with my best friend and hunting-fishing-trapping partner Dale. As I explained, he gave me an Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of outdoor knowledge in my formative years as a woodsman.

Those scouting and hunting expeditions back then gave me the foundation for successful hunts to this day. As such, I’ve made it my mission to keep getting better—better at hunting, studying nuance, body language and the art of closing.

Here are 10 things I apply to nearly every target I’ve studied, stalked and closed–be it fish, foul, man or beast.

  1. Research thoroughly—If you don’t intimately know your target–what’s important to them and how they behave–you’ll never get close enough for a shot, nor even a glimpse.
  2. Be properly armed—Match the right firepower with your target. Too much and you’ll have carnage. Too little and it’ll slip away.
  3. Get comfortable—Whether standing, sitting or stalking make sure you’re physically and mentally comfortable. Pee before you climb a tree. Wear proper clothing. In a boardroom that means dress like your audience, test your presentation technology, practice your pitch, that sort of thing.
  4. Plan your shot in advance—Know where the idea kill zone is. Shoot for the heart. Always. But if there are bean counters in the room go for a head shot.
  5. Plan the second shot –Always be thinking of closing and what happens after the initial close. Think in advance of how your target will react, then be ready for round two.
  6. Don’t call attention to yourself— Stay low and stealthy–whitetail can spot and smell you literally a mile away. So can potential deal-makers who quickly become deal-breakers if you’re annoying or exhibit flashy behavior. For many hunters the North American whitetail is a more prized trophy animal than the majestic Rocky Mountain Elk. Why? Because they’re smarter and sportier. It’s like comparing a salmon to a steelhead. (I’d fish for steelhead any day over salmon for the same reason.)
  7. Be quiet—Everybody talks too much. It applies equally to people in boardrooms and game trails. Silence is golden in most cases. Take your turn to speak—to shoot—only when the time is right.
  8. Watch for movement—Body language of a deer or elk can tell you everything about what it’s going to do. So can the body language of deal-maker in a boardroom.
  9. Choose the ideal shot—Wait for it. I can’t stress this enough. You’ll know when the time is right. When it comes, aim and fire with 100% confidence. With the deal pitch, there’s incredible power in brevity.
  10. Wait–After your kill shot, don’t move. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open and see what happens. Don’t impulsively chase after your game just because they’re suddenly startled or hyper-react. Pause in completely silence, then cautiously backtrack or follow the trail of blood. If necessary, sneak up again and fire for the close.

Of all the misdeeds of the average hunter—or deal-maker—the one most are guilty of is talking too much. It’s the reason I mostly hunt alone. Most guys want to talk and hang out. You don’t do that when you hunt. You hunt in silence when you hunt, at least on the game trail or in the blind. Hold your tongue. Save the chatter for the ride home in the jeep or on horseback.

There’s a saying that goes something like “Even a fool sounds smart when he keeps his mouth shut.” That’s so true–in the woods, boardroom and even the bedroom.

My friend/social media buddy Charlie Peacock, one of Nashville’s most  distinguished singer/songwriter/producer triple-threats, says it so well in his Mississippi Delta root- inspired tune Death Trap >>> https://youtu.be/igrDTWzQb4A. The tune’s takeaway is simple and applies to wherever the winds of promise and opportunity might lead you, personally or professionally:

“If a man can’t hold his tongue…he’ll be walking into a death trap.”

The other ancient saying that relates to this notion of being quiet and measuring your words with the right timing is this: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver”

I know precious little about heaven, almost nothing. But if there are streets of gold is some say, there may also be golden apples hanging from silver trees in the boundless orchards of heaven. That would be a good thing. Because where there are lush apple trees there are usually deer. And where there are deer, and you just happen to be carrying a rifle, then, if you’re a hunting enthusiast like me you’ll know you’re in heaven.

SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at phil.herzog@smoothstonepartners.com.

When Your Inner Voice Says “Let’s Roll”

Miracle surgeries performed aboard the Mercy Ship transform thousands of West Africans

Everyone has “ahh-haa” moments in their career

Those times of profound revelation. Times where you approach that rare intersection of fate and providence, face into the winds of promise, then whisper “I’m taking the narrow road. Heck yeah it’s dangerous but I’ll always have regrets if I don’t try.” That’s happened to me on more than one occasion.

In my early adult years it happened when I pulled myself away from friends and family immediately after college. I said a tearful goodbye to the comfortable yet stagnant pace of Upstate New York’s rust belt and headed West to stake my claim of fame and fortune in the buckle of innovation and creativity–Southern California. After setting down roots in Redondo Beach I never looked back.

A few years later I left a lucrative commercial sales career to serve under the mentorship of Freeman Gosden, Jr and Bob Hemmings, two of modern direct market’s most accomplished pioneers. My curious intuition told me direct mail would soon become the forerunner of digital interactive marketing. My hunch paid off.

My biggest headfirst dive into the dark unknown, however, was enlisting in the service of Mercy Ships, the faith-based fleet of hospital ships that is redefining volunteerism and the modern short-term missions movement on a global scale.

Working with children in a remote village outside Dakkar, Senegal.

At the time it seemed like a mistake. During most of my eight years with Mercy Ships my family and professional friends kept bashing me with words like…“That’s just a dumb idea. Why would you ditch a promising career path to work for free for a religious order?”

What they didn’t know (nor did I at the time) was that there’s no such thing as a “promising” career path. I learned–and keep learning–that weird stuff happens to you. And by you. Neither did they understand I never worked a day of those eight years for free. What I got in return for my service was international travel and a million dollar education in global fundraising and public relations of the highest order–worth more than an MBA at Cornell and an unlimited travel pass at ClubMed. And a cool extended family on every continent.

Yes I was a volunteer. Yes our income was often cobbled together–month to month…hand to mouth–by sacrificial donations from friends, family, churches and businesses. But I discovered almost daily that you can never out-give the God who put you on this earth. That’s certainly been my story.

Fundraising in port cities around the nation with Mercy Ships founder and CEO Don Stephens

After helping to build a global fundraising, public relations and recruiting infrastructure (much of it still remains) I made yet another big move. This time heeding the call of the wild to one of the most ruggedly beautiful, pristine corners of the globe–the North Kitsap Peninsula, west of Seattle’s Puget Sound.

Ironically, I’ve discovered my eight years with Mercy Ships were not the end of my missionary exploits. Rather, that season of life was preparation for an equally important and altruistic mission: helping businesses protect their most important assets with robust commercial security services (my day job with ADT Commercial Division); and, helping sports and entertainment professionals prosper through innovative, cost-effective marketing strategies that bond their brands to customers and fans for life.

We all have stories of standing at a crossroads. More will confront us in the future. Will we ignore that still, small inner voice that says “This is the way, it’s hard and risky but you can’t afford not to try it?”

Before you answer, consider the mountain of data collected from interviews with senior citizens who were asked “What would you do differently if you could live your life over?” Nearly all of them said the same thing. “I would take more risks.”

So, the question…Are you approaching a crossroads?

Here are a few things I’ve learned from some of the seismic changes I’ve made in my life, and particularly my career.

  1. Listen to that inner voice. You won’t hear it very well if you don’t pay attention to its soft whisper. Get away for a half-day, frequently if necessary. By yourself. Take a few pieces of paper or notebook and a pen, get into a comfortable quiet place and listen patiently. Pray. Listen to music. Then start taking notes. Do whatever will surface your subtle inclinations from deep within.
  2. Talk to trusted peers. Share your hopes and dreams with them, but only those people you can trust to support and love you unconditionally–and give you tough love in return if your ideas are too off the wall.
  3. Do the research. Get busy learning about the opportunity that awaits. Keep in mind we’re talking mostly about career changes here, but it can also apply to hobbies, volunteer work, a sabbatical, travel, etc.
  4. Get your affairs in order. That especially includes your finances. Far too many folks approach big life changes without the financial resources to carry them through the transition period. On the other hand, financial shortages can often be the very catalyst to get you in motion.
  5. Think long-term. Remember that life is an unending journey. Over a lifetime of risky career experiments I’ve learned that there are no mistakes if you follow the voice and will of God. In the same way I’ve learned you can never out-give God, I’ve also learned that all things work together for good if you love your Creator and are trying to follow the path carefully set before you.
  6. Enjoy the ride. When you jump into the deep, fast moving current of opportunity, savor the exhilarating experience of trusting your faith when conventional wisdom runs counter. It won’t always be a smooth ride–sometime it’ll be anything but. But in the end you can look back and say “I did it.”

Phil Herzog is a senior consultant for ADT’s Commercial Division and moonlights as a sports and entertainment marketing executive as CEO of SmoothStone Partners.com. Reach him at phil.herzog@smoothstonepartners.com.

Taming the Black Dog of the Northwest

Scare crow and a yellow moon. Pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town. King Harvest has surely come (The Band)

A cool wind is blowing, smooth and soft this morning in the Pacific Northwest. Brown, yellow, red, and orange leaves have blanketed my front yard. Glancing through my bedroom window I awaken to a dark fog. But it’s peaceful. Suddenly, I realize it’s here – my favorite season — filled with the hope and promise of “glad tidings of comfort and joy”–gatherings with family and friends, fires in the fireplace and gobs of rich, buttery food.

But for those of us living here in the Northwest, a feint shadow crouches patiently in the corner of our minds. It’s a dark invasive spirit that will soon fill the air, daring to press against anyone without ample courage or fortitude to buffet its cold, biting headwinds – the menacing double threat of depression and anxiety.

In the mental health profession this illness of chronic depression (often accompanied by cycles of anxiety) is referred to as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Winston Churchill called his depressive episodes the “Black Dog,” a gnawing predator that nipped at his ankles for most of his adult life. One famous journalist calls it “living in a cold, heavy rain-drenched suit.”

Whatever the medical community calls it — no matter how pervasive among populations of Seattle, Poulsbo, or Pittsburgh — it’s a menace that will threaten many of us this season, more likely around mid-December when the pressures, commitments and expectations of Christmas reach their peak.

My family doctor in Poulsbo – with whom I visit every 6 months to personally keep the Black Dog at bay — calls depression our society’s most pressing pandemic. He tells me that “70% of his patients suffer from one of these illnesses – or both at any given time.” Another doctor friend from Seattle confirms that “No fewer than 50% of Pacific Northwest adults are (or will be) on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

But rather than dispense dire warnings of personal meltdowns, suicidal ideation or crippling isolation, I’ve got good news – news about the ways we can not only cope with the onslaught of seasonal, chronic or clinical depression – but stand tall while leaning into its most blusterous mental headwinds. And to be an advocate and encourager for our loved ones who may soon be prime targets of these invading spirits.

In the next few weeks I’m going to share a range of tips and tools to optimize your mental health. Think of it as a modest insurance policy to help you experience a bright and cheery holiday season.

I won’t spend time educating or spewing pop psychology sound bytes or advice on medication, diet or exercise (even though they’re important for emotional wellness), or even share proven behavioral therapy practices. Those tools, I believe, are best offered by licensed professionals.

Rather, my tips and tools are intended to be simple and sensible, understandable, and relatively easy to apply, one at a time – which can offer the glimmer of hope to get your mojo back.

“50% of Pacific Northwest adults will be on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

Before we start, please know this — that my audience is you – a fellow sojourner seeking a personal path of mental and emotional wholeness in our confused, frenzied culture. But the audience is also me, so I’m writing to remind myself of the proven ways I’ve used these tips to help me be my best during Seattle’s doldrums winter — so that my inner man can exercise good, wholesome judgement and behavior that’ll bless my family, friends, and colleagues.

Easy Success To Start Your Day

Make Your Bed – In the words of my friend Tim Ferriss, when you ‘win the morning, you win the day.’ Making your bed makes you an instant success — first thing. It’s a small task but has more emotional benefits than you can imagine. If you doubt the value of making your bed in the morning, watch this 2-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgzLzbd-zT4

Make A Plan – Failing to plan your day is planning to fail your day. Take out a piece of paper, write a list of 5 or so things you’d like to accomplish today. Then rank them by priority or chronological order. If you spend more than 60 seconds on the list and prioritizing, it’s too much time. My list is always super simple, especially when I’m in a funk: some phone calls and emails, walk the dog, a meeting, preparing dinner, whatever. These small things may not seem like a big deal to accomplish, but when you’re in the clutches of a deep depression finishing even the most rudimentary task — like dusting your bedroom — seems akin to painting the next Mona Lisa.

Meditate – Connect with your Higher Power, whomever that is, in whatever way works for you. He/she is the One who will give you the strength, courage and mindfulness to make it through at least to the noon hour. Personally, my daily routine starts with 5 or 10 minutes of Bible reading (or similar spiritual content) followed by a few short minutes of prayer. Sometimes, when I have extra time, I’ll listen to soft classical music on King.FM or stream tunes from my favorite solo pianists Ed Kerr, Paul Cardall or David Lantz.

Remember the hilarious movie “What About Bob” that was so popular in the early 90s? In the movie Richard Dreyfuss’s character (a famous therapist) wrote a book called “Baby Steps.” Well, like the movie’s plot line, the concept of “baby steps” to begin your journey to emotional wellness is no laughing matter. To win the day you must begin engaging in simple, easy-repeat rituals. Baby steps. Once accomplished — first thing in the morning — you can tackle more arduous chores and responsibilities later in the day.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more simple tips to tame depression including short daily walks, ongoing contact with your ESP (Emotional Support Partner) and doing a simple but profoundly fulfilling task…for a loved one.

I’ll leave you with a link to some great chill music I listened to this morning to start my day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0KulDJ09To

*Lead sentence phrase is taken from the poem “Christmas Eve”

This is the first blog post of Skipping Stones–The Personal Blog of Phil Herzog