The Red Hat Society

There are some bumps in life that feel big–which is true–and then there are those bumps that we make much larger than we should. Studies have generally shown that once you get past the age of 50, your attitude, expectations and other attributes tend to improve. Translation: you’re happier about life because you recognize how far you’ve come. It’s often said that finding happiness and jettisoning the bad stuff can be made easier with help from family and friends.

Generally speaking—and regardless of gender—those 50 and older who say they have a “good, satisfying life” remain physically and mentally active, make a commitment to stay healthy, keep close contact with family and friends, and champion a strong, positive attitude. Enter the Red Hat Society.

Before “social media” became a common term, the RHS was already well into collective connectiveness. Like the innumerable groups we see on LinkedIn, such as  the social media marketing group and various others, there’s a roster of common interests and attributes for like-minded professionals. But even before any of this was created, we are first and foremost social beings that need social interaction. For the RHS, there are 3 attributes: you must be at least 50 years of age, a woman and have a joie de vivre.

It’s one thing to read about groups or societies that enrich your own life, but it can’t compare to being in the thick of things. Case in point: the RHS lunch gathering in the Round Table Room of the Algonquin Hotel. One of several chapters in the Tri-State area, these bon vivants gathered to reconnect, to discover new connections, but above all, to have some fun.

I heard conversations that can be filed under “status” with sub-folders, one each for the kids, the spouse/significant other, the job, the vacation, and more. While I’m certain there were sad discussions within the constant din, much of what I heard involved a good amount of chuckling and laughing. And it was contagious. I got a kick being an accidental listener and observer.

How do you define—and use—your “15-Minutes”?

Sometime in the future, we’ll have 15-minutes of fame. Attributed to Pop Artist, Andy Warhol.


Fifteen: __seconds is a quarter of a minute; __minutes is a quarter of an hour; __miles is 24 kilometers; __kilometers is 9 miles. I think the most “famous” of 15s is the one attributed to Warhol. He may not have actually phrased it, but it’s certainly part of his cultural brand.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame is also a music project created by composer-producer, Robert Voisey. That, in and of itself, is a fascinating enterprise.

Sir Richard Branson defines his 15-minutes as “me time,” time he finds in each day exclusively for himself in order to reconnect, re-energize, refocus, etc.

What can you do with 15-minutes all to yourself?  Some suggestions:

  • Write: in a journal [or start one]; a letter [to yourself, to someone that means the world to you, to someone who can influence positive changes, e.g.]; 15 words that bring a smile to your face
  • Learn and/or try: a new language [or improve on one that you last used in school or college]; to play an instrument; the practice of Yoga, meditation or Tai Chi; something, anything that you’ve wanted to explore, but it’s just out of your comfort zone
  • Turn your electronics off: and go outside and listen, engage your other senses of smell, touch, taste and sight

Reward yourself with a good thought, whatever that might be, and dwell on its possibilities…


Totalitarian Sentiments


Creating confluence, understanding & compromise 101. Photo: C. Centeno

We have met the enemy and they are us.  Circa 1960s: Walt Kelly from his comic strip, Pogo, in reference to the US involvement in Vietnam. The phrase is a variation from Naval Commander Oliver Hazard Perry whom, in the late 1790s said, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”

Our sociological positions on culture, tolerance, honest communication, integrity, decorum and humility have fallen to new lows. Some of us—in particular those with the loudest and most obstinate of postures and voices—have created as well as promoted an intractable reality that has altered our ability and willingness to freely express our thoughts and feelings across many subjects.

Fueled by emotion, group think, individual perceptions and more, it’s become de rigueur to put someone down [shouting, shaming, name calling, e.g.] just to make a point. What concerns me is while someone can possibly make a point, the counterpoint is summarily dismissed. Its dismissal is total, a product of a scorched earth mentality that leaves no room for perspective, for critical thinking and even a chance, however small, to understand the meaning of the counterpoint let alone the person or persons expressing the counterpoint.

We not only agree to disagree, but we do so in disagreeable fashion. We create diatribe instead of discussion, insults in lieu of perspectives, bombast as proper elocution.

I leave you to ponder on William Faulkner:

“I believe that humankind will not merely endure: we will prevail. We are immortal, not because we alone among creatures have an inexhaustible voice, but because we possess a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

In the First Person

Hancock Shaker Village recently held the first of 4 dinners involving noted thinkers and authors.  The Food for Thought program involves a monthly dinner May thru August, and invites folks to “feed your mind, body and soul…with an illuminating author.” The first dinner quickly sold out as 76 signed on to chat and dine with former Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick. Within an ambiance shaped by the Shakers [who established this Village in the 1700s] the evening proved intimate, friendly, and grounded. In light of our current political climate, I suppose anything could’ve happened regarding a discussion of Mr. Patrick’s life politique; politics has been a lightning rod of recent times, as we all know, attracting more negativity to the point of consternation and frustration.

That wasn’t the case here. Instead, I was reminded of the importance, indeed the significance, of seeing things in person and to hear experiences in the first person.  We are so immersed, so much more involved with our digital devices that I think we’ve lost touch on how to converse with verve, clarity, honesty, expression, sensitivity, empathy, integrity, patience, consideration, reciprocity and more.  It’s a sad state of affairs and while this is a gross generalization, therein lies a truism in my previous sentence: many of us spend too much precious time eyeball-to-eyeball, hand-to-hand with a keyboard, a touch screen and/or ear buds.

In this setting, we conversed with Mr. Patrick and listened to what he had to say. He was genuine and unpretentious in his greetings with old friends and in acknowledging the company of new faces. In a space that consisted of movers and shakers and critical thinkers from the Berkshires and beyond, it would’ve been all too easy to spot someone posturing. No, we all possessed a quality common to each in that room regardless of social or professional standing. We were–and still are–sentient beings, vessels filled with doubts about freedom of speech, decorum, political bipartisanship, populism, nationalism, etcetera ad nauseum.

Yes, having access to commentary and perspective through YouTube, Vimeo, Aeon, TED Talks and others is timely, convenient and important, but I, personally, feel that being there, of  being part of the gathering, is a different experience from those encountered online. When you’re surrounded by the event, you are indeed, part of the event. Many things become visceral and palpable, vulnerable and accessible, sensuous and profound. And while many communications can be paused or saved or added-to-my-view list, I’m reminded that with such gatherings, Life has no pause or rewind buttons. You are in the moment, beguiling a terrific gathering albeit brief.



“My Better Self”

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The wife-husband duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley are the indie pop group, Tennis. The music and lyrics to “My Better Self” is a heart-felt, rhythmic poem about several things, not the least being how we struggle with words to bring clarity to how and what we feel. This is my favorite stanza, which also happens to be the bridge of the song:

If I don’t use words
Then each sound goes unheard
Utterly senseless without nouns and verbs
But symbols suggest they are fit to possess
A purposely function
That cannot be met

Copyright-All Rights Reserved, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley


Demographic Segmentation & Marketing

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I learned early on in my career that market segmentation is but one level of segmentation. I think of the process as one of differentiation. Demographic segmentation requires specificity in a cultural subset. In other words, you don’t place spanish-speaking people as solely spaniards any more than those speaking french as frenchmen.

The subset is of material importance. Spanish-speaking people come from many places other than Spain, ergo the same for french-speaking people living elsewhere than France. Think Puerto Rico, Mexico, Columbia, Dominican Republic for the former and Quebec, Monaco, Ivory Coast and Belgium for the latter.

There has been a tremendous amount of buzz regarding LGBT civil rights. Ireland is the first country that recognizes same-sex marriage after its citizens voted it so just this past May. Caitlyn Jenner is a household name and we’re likely to hear a lot more about the former Bruce Jenner’s transgender journey.

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So, what does this have to do with marketing? For me, plenty.

First and foremost, we’re dealing with a community of people. Many countries treat LGBT people like criminals. In no uncertain terms, being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender puts you on death row in several countries. So, tell me where’s the real crime taking place?

I recently attended a screening at the 28th Annual Outfilm CT Film Festival held on the beautiful campus of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. From May 9th to June 6th, controversy, art, education, tolerance, intolerance, inclusion, love, forgiveness, the banal and the beautiful were expressed across a variety of films, short and of feature length. The films I watched provided a temporal take on LGBT concerns as well as the eternal qualities of love, acceptance and foregiveness.

There’s also the economic take that cannot be ignored. LGBT folks are contributors and consumers. Some hold high-level positions in business [Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, e.g.] Yes, the human costs are invaluable, however the economic costs can be calculated. If you need more information, this recent article from The Atlantic can shed more light on the value of the LGBT economy.

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How important is the LGBT community? Here’s the short list of corporate sponsors of the Outfilm CT Film Festival: Pratty & Whitney; CIGNA; The Hartford; AARP; Aetna; Baccardi; Barefoot Wines, among others…like the firm I work with.

In addition to other key designations and credentials, Michael Matty, the President of St. Germain Investment Management, holds the following: Accredited Domestic Partner Advisor [ADPA]. While segmentation is important in marketing analysis, inclusion holds its own relevance as well.

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As much as I do like shooting digital, I admit a soft spot for all things analog. My roots are in film photography so that has something to do with all of this fascination for the old. I hope film never goes away; wishful thinking, but such is the march of technology. For now, wherever I can find film—some reasonably priced—then I’ll fetch a couple of rolls or so. Outdated film is fair game as they produce a different feel altogether. I think we get too hung up on histograms and color balance so much so that we dampen our feelings for what photography can bring to us.

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With winter’s short days, I get pulled into the boldness of both light and shadow. And when the weather is just uncooperative—really windy, extremely cold, etc.—I’ll get involved with film, a light meter, a medium format camera and sometimes a tripod. 

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Selfies and Brand Perception

Categorically speaking, the selfie is one of the top elements populating sites today. Somewhere in our digital world, popular media has put the spotlight on this ubiqituous “self portrait.” As much as I like coming across a selfie here and there, my preferences for this form of actualization is more personal if not deliberately planned. Not to say that a selfie cannot be personal for the sender or subject. Certainly to each his/her own; I’m in the minority as I don’t send or post selfies unless they’re for family. I suppose people who make selfies and photo bombs part of their daily life think nothing more of them. Thus, I can appreciate the spontaneity and the fun aspect of creating and sending them.

If selfies are genuine windows to our inner selves, then I’d think common sense should prevail. A selfie taken with pals in front of a questionable location will not play well. One example is the selfie of a twenty- or thirty-something doing same, with a brown bear in the background. If I recall, the location was in Alaska at a place popular with tourists and brown bears. The bear was just 30 or 50 yards [27 to 45 meters] away. That’s too close for an apex predator that can reach speeds of up to 35 mph [56 kph] in 100 yards [90 meters]. Safety considerations aside, think in terms of centers of influence [COF] who happen to catch a glimpse of the image.That being the case, the question then becomes:

What does a selfie say about you?

All that you consistently do and say is part of your brand. Variations to such, well, that’s another posting altogether, expecially variations that put you on an orbit other than the one you and others know you’re on.

If selfies are self-portraits and thus a physical extension of one’s personna, then I can surmise that one individual is the champion of such image making: Rembrandt van Rijn [1606-1669]

courtesy: The National Museum of Stockholm
courtesy: The National Museum of Stockholm

Not only was Rembrandt a Dutch master, he was a creative genius. His “selfies” had much to say about the genius he possessed. He imbued the intangible [his sense of purpose, his focus, his sophistication, e.g.] alongside the tangible [his style of attire, its texture and color; his facial expression, his eyes and hands, e.g.]

courtesy: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
courtesy: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Yes, I’m certain there are other artists who can stand alongside Rembrandt, but he owns the niche.

courtesy: Frick Collection
courtesy: Frick Collection

With age, his selfies contain more detail and texture. There is a quiet confidence—almost regal in tone—that radiates off the canvas. In all of these portraits shown here, the subject is both an aristocrat and an artist, the benefactor and the painter, the model and the creator.

Bequest of Benjamin Altman

There are other artists who have done self-portraits, that we know, but none have the power of Rembrandt’s canvases. Noted photographer Richard Avedon mentioned that he loved doing portraits because the face is a landscape that tells a story. Just as Rembrandt’s portraits offer something about his brand, so can yours, in this case, the selfie.

But be warned about where you send/post your selfies. You might forget what went where; while others will remember exactly where to retrieve them.

Training to be happy, or, Does your bank account size matter?

In the November 10th issue of the Wall Street Journal was an article, Can Money Buy Happiness? I’m referencing the print edition though as most would know, you can find the article online [I’ve linked it in the first sentence]. The article doesn’t offer any real surprises; I found no epiphanies in the story. I did however, analyze my own sense of personal happiness. Perhaps because of my age, I’m seeing a closer link to happiness through the relationships I have as opposed to wanting for things I don’t have.

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So, what then, can I proffer in the guise of enlightenment? Here’s my short list:

  • What you have in your bank account is important, but the greater question is, what do you intend to do with it? I won’t disagree that having a lot of expendable money can be very nice, but money, like things, has an emphemeral quality.
  • Personal happiness must start with yourself. Self-evident, but I think we underestimate our own value, or own physical and emotional net-worth. In our age of “Reality TV,” celebrity adulation and toxic levels of narcissism , comparisons are inevitable. Other folks appear to be happier than me. Remember that apperances can be deceiving.
  • Training yourself to be happy [for me] starts and ends with a blessing. I think of so many who really cannot count on what I have: my health, my mobility, the use of all my senses, a roof over my head, 3 meals a day [often more], my friends, my family, a good sense of the person that I am or have come to be.
  • The accumulation of possessions will inevitably either go static or possess its owners, even both. If you pursue material things, by the time you get to your nth handbag, pair of shoes, latest digital device, fancy watch, or what have you, all the other prior possessions of similar ilk will spend more time dormant, even forgotten, in boxes within a drawer among other things also delegated to second [or third, fourth], place.

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Whenever I get caught up in comparisons, or wanting to get something to increase my happiness, I think of this guy. We all should be more childlike; all too often, we’re just plain childish. Life should be, can be, much simplier and thus happier.