The Business of Happiness

I took the occasion of an evening plane ride from Washington to Miami last month to read a new book by Washington Capitals owner and AOL co-founder Ted Leonsis called The Business of Happiness.   The fact that I was happy to be leaving the remains of Snowmaggedon in Washington for the warm climes of Miami (and spots further south) put me in the right mood.

The book has two parts, the first serving as biography and stage-setting for the second half listing of the “six secrets to extraordinary success in work and life.”  (What’s a popular business book without a list of secrets to success?)  When Candice saw the book on my bedside table she remarked, “He has happy eyes.”  That’s a pretty good summation of this book.  Leonsis looks on the world as a business-tested optimist – not a bad way to approach life.

His story of how he ended up at Georgetown University and then used the years in college to figure out his life’s calling is worth the price of the book for anyone with high school children thinking about college.  (I have two in that category.  Having just come off the spring break tour of schools I told them both I wanted them to read that portion of the book.)  It’s a love story to the value of higher education, curiosity, a balanced life, hard work, and planning.

That last point is worth exploring.  Leonsis makes the point over and over again that good businesses plan and that people who want to be happy need to be intentional about their goals.  After a near-death experience, Leonsis wrote out a life list and for a quarter of a century has worked through life goals.  The process, he tells you, has made him happy.  He does own a sports franchise (one of the items on his list), but he hasn’t made it into outer space (another life goal).  For those with more modest goals, Leonsis still makes the point that putting thoughts to paper gives one a systematic plan of aspirations.  And it keeps one open to opportunities.

This isn’t the deepest of books, but you can’t follow a Leonsis read without having a smile on your face and there is a lot to like.

More to come…

DJB

The Intersection of Preservation and Sustainability

Portland, Oregon is a city with a well-deserved reputation for livability and sustainable development.   I visited Portland late last week and was reminded again of how much this community can teach other American cities about building an environmental consciousness and offering transportation options that decrease reliance on the automobile.

In touring the city with friends and colleagues, I saw vibrant historic neighborhoods around an active downtown.  But I also learned of  preservation battles that ended with perfectly good buildings being demolished – even though preservation was the sustainable alternative.  Preservationists in Portland often feel left out of the discussions – and the decisions – on questions of livability.  It shouldn’t be that way.

While in Portland, I joined two colleagues in a discussion with Mike Francis, editorial board member at The Oregonian. We talked about the intersection of preservation and sustainability, as well as preservation’s ability to prime the pump for economic development.

In a piece entitled, To Be Sustainable, Use What You Have, Francis makes the case for preservation as a key to economic revitalization, sustainable development, and livability in Portland.  Here’s a section of his editorial on sustainability:

The case for preservation improving sustainability is more intuitive: Of course it’s less wasteful to reuse a building than to tear it apart, cart away the rubble, and import and erect new piles of steel, glass and concrete. That was what so maddening (to me, at least) with the arguments of those who wanted to tear down Memorial Coliseum to erect a “green” baseball stadium. As much as I appreciate the presence of baseball, beer and warm summer evenings, it seemed crazy to demolish a perfectly usable building a couple of miles away from the Beavers’ current home to relocate the team. The only argument in favor seemed to be that nobody had yet figured out how to put the coliseum to use since the Trail Blazers moved next door, so better to tear the place down than re-use it.

As cities across the country look for ways to enact policies that are environmentally sensitive, the intersection of historic preservation and sustainability – as Mike Francis suggests – is a great place to begin.

More to come…

DJB

Welcome to Make-a-Difference Mondays

Welcome to Make-a-Difference Mondays

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The Beauty of the Dutch Antilles

Late last month I had the opportunity to visit two of the islands of the Dutch Antilles – Bonaire and Curacao – as part of a National Trust Gardens of the Caribbean tour.  (These are the B and C islands of the A-B-C Antilles.  We didn’t make it to Aruba.)  This was a new part of the world for me and it was a great experience.

The scene was set with enlightening lectures prior to our arrival by long-time Trust lecturer Paddy Bowes and Williams College professor Michael Lewis, which prepared me for the very arid conditions on the islands (8 variety of cacti on Bonaire), and the Dutch city-planning and architectural influence.  You can see the latter in the photo at the top of the post of one of the most photographed streets in Willemstad.

Our first stop in the Dutch Antilles was the island of Bonaire and the town of Kralendijk.  The landscape and wildlife are the stars here, with clear blue waters and pink flamingos.

Our last day of the tour took us to Willemstad, Curacao’s capital.  There was much to take in:  the Queen Emma Bridge (aka “The Swinging Old Lady) which is a floating pontoon bridge that opens to allow boats to pass into the bay; the Floating Market on the waterfront; the beautiful colonial architecture of the government buildings; and my favorite, the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere complete with a very unusual sand floor.  I was able to take a “This Place Matters” photo there – translated into Dutch!

The tour was wonderful…capped off by being able to spend a week on the beautiful Sea Cloud II.   I made a number of new friends, rekindled a couple of old friendships, and had a chance to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the Caribbean.  A great way to spend a week in February!

More to come…

DJB

VOA Highlights Preservation of Rosenwald Schools

Rosenwald Schools are unique in the American landscape.  Built in the early 20th century to educate African-Americans in the rural south, the 5,000+ schools quickly became  centers of community life as well as educational facilities during the difficult years of segregation.

I wrote a blog post in October of 2008 after reading Mary Hoffschwelle’s insightful book on Rosenwald Schools.  Now Voice of America has featured the Rosenwald Schools story – along with information on the preservation efforts led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with funding from the Lowe’s Charitable Foundation – in a new video on their web site.  Take a look below.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

More to come…

DJB