7 More Favorite Quotes

In August of 2008, I shared 7 of my favorite quotes. (link is below)


I love quotes as they often uplift and inspire me. Below are 7 more:

Scars remind us of where we have been. They don't have to dictate where we are going.
--- Author Unknown

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don't want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.

-- Miller Williams

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
--Martin Luther King Jr.

Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.
--Langston Hughes

Let the world wait, while we procrastinate...it's too hot now
There will be time, to wake up-tow the line...but it's not now
--Michael Franks (from the song Dragonfly Summer)

If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It's very important to be aware of them every time they come up.
--Deepak Chopra

Have a Happy Gswede Sunday!

2007 - Swedish youth enjoying the beauty of summer.

Daily Relaxation Tips for A Happier You

While reading an article rarely do I think, "Wow, I would have written on that subject using much of the same tone and language". The article below on staying relaxed falls into that category.

Being relaxed during the course of any given day is difficult for many people. We all have numerous "to do's" on our plates yet many of us rush through the day at breakneck speed while allowing stress to be the dominating factor instead of letting a bit of peace and happiness take hold.

Everyday I witness one of these 3 scenes - 1) the unhappiness in a person's stressful eye 2) The hurried state of a busy executive or young person 3) A child missing out on a comfortable morning because a parent is unfocused and stressed.

Last Friday, a parent was rushing at my son's day-care - one of his children was crying and the other was a bit stressed. This man always seems to be in a hurried state and I suggested to him once (after a nice discussion) that he should consider getting up earlier if he is always behind in the morning. It turns out that he does get up early but the main problem in the household seems to be a lack of relaxation as the parents are getting the children prepared for school. In this situation, it's a lose lose for everyone - the parents rush and the children are being taught that rushing and stress are normal and/or good qualities.

Children test our patience at an extreme level yet is there anything more important than setting a good example for them in terms of handling stress and being a strong parent?

The following article can benefit most of us but it is particularly important for parents as I think you will find a few worthwhile tips to help lessen the daily stress burden. In my opinion, a parent should be calm and comfortable when interacting with a child especially in the morning. The morning hour(s) should be a enjoyable time for a child as it is the start of the day. Don't we all like to begin the day with a dose of sunshine instead of a rainstorm?

I have printed the article titled "How Happy Is... 5 Easy Ways To Stay Relaxed Now!" in its entirety below. You can click on the title to go to link on the Huffington Post. The author is Sophie Keller and her website is http://www.howhappyis.com/

Enjoy the tips. They provided some valuable insight for me.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

How Happy Is... 5 Easy Ways To Stay Relaxed Now!

Relaxing and unwinding is about being in a chilled out state as much as you possibly can through out your day, rather than having to take time out to do it as a reaction from the rest of your day, which you have decided to make stressful. So here are a few ways in which you can stay permanently calm regardless of what you are going through and what is going on around you.

Tip 1: Change Your Language: The every day language that you use will govern whether you see life as exciting or frightening, easy or hard, effortless or worrying. If you go through life as if it's a struggle and you wake up to 'battle a new day' or you think people are 'out to get you', your body is going to be in a heightened stressed state, thinking that it is at war. Perhaps if you take the time to become a bit more conscious of the words that come out of your mouth to describe your experiences then you will be aware of whether you need to start to use words that relax and excite you, rather than those that have you in a state of constant defense.

Tip 2: Let Go Of Tension: Every now and again in the day check in to your body and notice where you are holding tension. Could your shoulders be more relaxed? Could your jaw loosen its grip? Could you perhaps breathe a bit more deeply? If you are aware of where you hold your stress, you can direct your attention to those places in order to let go of it.

Tip 3: Be Present, Now: At the same time that you notice where you are holding tension, take your mind from the past and out of the future and become a bit more present to what is happening around you. Listen to three noises you are hearing right now as you read this and notice three colors that you see in front of you. If you really want to know where you are, then take a look at your feet, as where your feet are, is where you are.

Tip 4: Let It Go:
Let your thoughts and feelings pass in and out of you, because they are always changing. The more you can let go of being attached to them, the better. They are not who you are, you have them. So, if you feel mad, let it go quickly, if you feel anxiety, release it and move on. Remember, that when you react to something that happens, after the incident is over you are reacting to the memory of it, not the actual incident itself. So let it go!

Tip 5: Happiness vs. Achievement: Do not mix up having a sense of achievement of reaching your goals and your ability to be happy and calm regardless of whether you have or haven't. It's important to have goals in life, as it's exciting to work towards reaching them. But be a bit patient and don't let the fact that you might not have reached them yet suspend your ability to be happy and stress-free every day. Be happy, regardless of where you are on your journey, because if you are waiting to reach a goal before you decide to enjoy your life, then you will look back and notice that you have wasted most of it.

That's it for this week. Some of you may have noticed that I disappeared off the Huffington Post for a few months. I have now started to do regular 'howhappyis' television segments on the KTLA morning television show and have completed my website which I would love you to visit at howhappyis.com, where you can read many more articles, watch the KTLA videos, make contact with me, ask any questions and sign up for a monthly newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you. Love Sophie x

A HOT moment on the beach - Southern Sweden in summer 2007

Tiger - Okay, He's Human.....Now Let's Enjoy His Golf

I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.
(http://web.tigerwoods.com/news/article/200912027740572/news/) - Tiger Wood's Website

I suspect you knew something didn't quite make sense in Tiger's world after hearing about a driveway car accident at 2:25am, scratches on the face and his wife holding a golf club. It seems many gave Tiger the benefit of the doubt as they believed that he was a squeaky clean family man. Upon hearing the news, a marital problem was my first thought mainly because Tiger has had (until now) a superior image and maintained a super secretive private life. This bizarre accident seemed out of character for a man who loves his privacy. I'm glad he finally came clean earlier this week with his "transgressions" as it should serve him well in the future with his family, the public and his sponsors.

What is quite scary for his fellow PGA golfers is that his ordeal might make him a better golfer.

The worst kept secret is finally out and now the greatest golfer ever has a few blemishes. It's fascinating how HUGE this story has become and I wanted to address some of the issues that my inner circle has discussed as well as commentary I have read.

Family Man

Tiger Woods never claimed to be a "family man" or "man of values". All he ever talked about was golf and nothing about his private life. He did mention that he was a boring guy although we now know that nothing could be further from the truth. Previously, the perception of Tiger was a good guy who had it all - golfing perfection, beautiful Swedish wife, two kids, money to burn...so most people assumed that because of the perception, the integrity of the man was solid.

We should never forget these wise words - "Never judge a book by its cover".

Tiger cheated on his wife, let down his family and his integrity has taken a severe blow. I have written about him (one link is below) on more than one occasion yet purposely never talked about his family life as I didn't want to give the impression that he was a loyal family guy as how could I or anyone else know. I had hoped that Tiger's integrity was rock solid but having worked in sports and with famous athletes, his admission didn't shock or even surprise me as I have seen the mighty temptations that exist in their world. In no way do I condone his actions although it's important to remember that he never claimed to be anything other than a guy who wanted to be the best golfer that he could be.


Jesper Parnevik

Jesper Parnevik is the Swedish professional golfer who introduced Elin Woods to Tiger. Before Elin met Tiger, she was the nanny for the Parnevik family. Most of Tiger's PGA peers have steered clear of talking about this story - not Jesper.

He said:

I really feel sorry for Elin — since me and my wife were at fault for hooking her up with him," Parnevik said Wednesday on the Golf Channel. "We probably thought he was a better guy than he is. I would probably need to apologize to her and hope she uses a driver next time instead of the 3-iron. "It's a private thing, of course. But when you are the guy he is, the world's best athlete, you should think more before you do stuff. And maybe not 'just do it,' like Nike says."

Jesper's anger is justified although his words could have been more tasteful. My immediate reaction to his comments were twofold:

a) Why didn't Jesper give Elin an education about what she was getting into? He had to know about the secret lives that numerous men in sports (including golf) have. Did he share the potential pitfalls with her? If not, someone should have as going from unknown 21 year old to the wife of the most famous athlete in the world is an extremely tough transition.

b) It's not Jesper's fault (as he claims above) for hooking Elin up with Tiger as all adults are responsible for their behavior and choices in life.

Why Tiger Made the "transgressions" Admission

In my opinion, there is one main reason why Tiger wrote so candidly on his website about his inappropriate behavior - his sponsors. Nike, Gatorade and numerous others pay Tiger approximately 90 million dollars a year and he obviously didn't want them going away. In addition, the sponsors didn't want to lose the worldwide appeal of Brand Tiger and the money he generates for them. They knew what a public relations nightmare it would be if Tiger stayed silent so they probably encouraged him to make a statement.

It's not surprising that all of his major sponsors strongly supported him during this chaotic period. The marketing of Tiger Woods will go on.

On Being a Role Model

Whether they like it or not, Tiger and all other athletes who our youth look up to and admire are role models. In my opinion, the former NBA player Charles Barkley had it wrong when he mentioned that he was not a role model.

The millions of youth who admire Tiger may be confused and/or disappointed about his situation. They will be watching to see if he cleans up his act and becomes the genuine family man that he now seems to want to be.

Even though I am no Tiger Woods (especially my golf game), I consider myself to be a role model to those I mentor or look to me for support/guidance. I take the role of "family man" and "responsible behavior" seriously as do some of my close friends. Temptations are plentiful for everyone from the common man to the rich athlete but it takes a real man to resist those temptations and do the right thing.

Yes, Tiger has lost a few stripes. That is the bad news.

The good news is that he has a new motivation (improving his family life and repairing his image) and that is troubling for the golfers who will soon be competing against him. Tiger always comes to play but when he is motivated, there is something special in his game and he tends to excel at the highest level.

Let's give him a break now as I am tired of the endless media attention and articles.

Here's a quote from the LA Times about Tiger:

Because Woods couldn't be more right. He's not a public official nor a high-minded preacher or cable TV public scold. What he does with his private life should be his own (pardon the pun) affair. Sure, he has zillion-dollar endorsement deals from the likes of Nike, but he earned those deals because he's the greatest golfer of his generation, not because he's a paragon of personal virtue. But in today's wildly intrusive media universe, being a winner isn't enough to protect your privacy.

Everyone will be watching when Tiger plays his first golf tournament early next year. I know I will as he is one of the few athletes I make time to view when he appears on television.

The media attention will be enormous, the public interest will be high and Tiger's motivation will be enormously high. His fellow PGA golfers better be prepared!

I hope he gets his private life back on track especially for the youth who idolize and hold him in high regard. In the interim, I plan to enjoy his golf game and quest to win a record 19 Major Championships.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

3 Swedes enjoying the winter wonderland of a beautiful 2007 snowfall in Stockholm.

My 3 Favorite Mike's

There are many Michael's in this world although the three Mike's that shine brightest in my mind have inspired me musically and in the sport that has been the catalyst for my success, basketball. One has been a "Thriller" for me since the late 1970's while the other has flown in rarefied "Air" since he came to prominence in the early 1980's. The final Mike is less known yet has provided soothing and lyrical eloquence for Gswede throughout the last two decades.

First, imagine this scene:

It's my freshman year in college as a Division 1 basketball student-athlete. I have a free education due to a 4 year scholarship. One weekend I go out with some friends to the local disco in town. Pretty young ladies are everywhere and I am on the dance floor rocking the night away with one of them. The tune playing is Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. At that moment, I felt like I was floating on a cloud! I said to myself, "Ah,......this is the GOOD LIFE". I knew that the night, the rest of year and my final three years would be something special. And were they ever - I soaked up college like a sponge and enjoyed moments that were were absolutely delicious.

Micheal Jackson started it off for me that weekend and his music was ubiquitous during my four years as I vividly remember dancing at parties to "ABC" or other great Jackson 5/Michael tunes. In college, I don't recall an event or party that didn't feature at least one Jackson song.

His greatness is undisputed and I listened to his music frequently throughout the years. "Thriller" is an amazing album although I am partial to his first solo album, "Off the Wall". Also, if you haven't heard his childhood songs (i.e. With a Child's Heart or Ben), I implore you to do so as they are some of his most beautiful.

I doubt the world will ever see another Michael Jackson as he had it all - voice, dancing ability, sensitivity, fierceness, international appeal and work ethic. Unfortunately, he was laughed at during the majority of his adult years. Despite the unbelievable talent and joy he gave to the world, he never had the chance to sit back, relax and enjoy it due to the multitude of off-stage issues - some self inflicted, others perpetuated by the public and media. What a shame. At least now, he can rest in peace after his untimely death and we can focus solely on his memorable music.

Second, "AIR" Jordan otherwise known as Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

I played college basketball during the same period as Michael Jordan (MJ). My Vermont Catamounts competed against some top teams in the 1980's although we never had a chance to play North Carolina (NC), MJ's alma mater. People tend to forget how great MJ was in college. The system at NC was team-oriented and didn't always bode well for individuals to stand out thus many were surprised when they witnessed MJ in his first couple of years as a professional. I wasn't since I remembered his college days.

MJ was unbelievably dominant in his last two years of college. Some of the dazzling moves and dunks that we loved when he was with the Chicago Bulls were in plain sight during his college years if you were a fan of college basketball. Of course no one could have predicted how ferocious, intense and successful he would become after college. I was fortunate to witness many of his games in person when I worked at Madison Square Garden (MSG) as an account executive for sales. Whenever MJ played against the New York Knicks, the celebrities came out and we treated our best clients to a night of dinner, drinks and basketball. Interestingly, MJ and the Bulls often played on Mother's Day so many of the top executives couldn't make it thus we had better seats to choose from for our clients. I never missed a game when MJ was in town and he never disappointed. The energy and excitement in MSG (The World's Most Famous Arena) was unforgettable!

What made MJ so unique is that he played the game at such a high level both offensively and defensively and had no weaknesses. In my opinion, he is the greatest of all time due to the fact that I cannot possibly imagine how someone (past, present or future) could be better. Most of the greats of the NBA have a deficiency somewhere in their games - not MJ. In addition, his Chicago Bulls never went to a 7th game in any of their 6 NBA Finals which speaks volumes. Maybe most importantly, anytime I witnessed a game in person or on TV with MJ, there was never a doubt about who was the best player on the court. Never.

There are only two athletes I would always make time to watch. One is Tiger Woods and the other is Michael Jordan. As a passionate basketball fan, I am thankful to have witnessed such a remarkable athlete in my lifetime.

Finally, my favorite musician - Michael Franks:

If you know music well, you should have heard of Michael Franks. If not, consider this an introduction to a truly unique singer and songwriter. It's not easy to describe his music although I refer to it as a mixture of jazz and soul with an eloquent and calming quality. He's been making music since the 1970's and his songs have been recorded by Diane Krall, The Manhattan Transfer and Patti Labelle and he has worked with artists such as Patti Austin, Brenda Russell, David Sanborn, The Yellow Jackets and Jeff Lorber.

I learned about his music in 1986 after a visit to Wellesley college, an all female school. One night, I was visiting a friend and we were joined by 8 of her close friends when the subject of Michael Franks came up. They were surprised that I had never heard of him and I was surprised that this group of lovely black women knew his music so well. I was hooked after hearing a few songs!

What I enjoy most about him is the beauty of his lyrics and the smoothness of his voice. He studied literature in college and has put that talent to good use by creating memorable and unique songs for over thirty years. His music is not for everyone yet those who are fans tend to REALLY love his music! His appeal is diverse which surprised me when I went to a New York City concert in 1999. There were various colors in attendance along with young/old, upscale and middle class. The most shocking part of that evening were two brothers who looked liked they came straight out of a rap video yet knew every song and were giddy like school girls in their first row seats.

I have introduced my two year old son to his music, often singing it to him before he goes to bed. He has taken a liking to it and occasionally blurts out a few lines during the day. I believe the mellowness of Michael's music has helped to make my son a sound sleeper as I usually play a few songs for him before he drifts off to sleep. Recently, I began introducing other artists at bedtime so he won't overdose (like me) on Michael Frank's music. My wife is happy about that!

I've had the pleasure of seeing him in concert seven times and meeting him in Boston after one of his gigs. He's a gentle soul and very appreciative of his fans. For over twenty years, his music has never been far from my ears and it's been a powerful and soothing delight in a world that has become increasingly more complex and dangerous. For that, I am grateful.

My personal favorites are Tiger in the Rain, Mr. Blue, Tell me About It, String of Pearls, Hourglass, Nightmoves, The Lady Wants to Know, Rainy Night in Tokyo, Amazon, Dragonfly Summer, Coming to Life -- I'll stop now as the list is too long. If Michael Franks is new to you, start with Soulmate, Tell me About It or When I Give my Love to you - easy on the ears and good for beginners. If you like those, you can ease into a few of the aforementioned tunes.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede playing with clients and colleagues on the famous floor of Madison Square Garden.

2 Readers, 2 Articles - Their Comments

In March 2010, I will celebrate the two year anniversary of "Gswede Sunday". It has been a wonderful journey for me in two ways. First, being able to express my thoughts and knowledge on subjects close to my heart has helped to sustain me - (hopefully I have inspired a few souls along the way). Second, I have enjoyed hearing from you (my readers) whether it be a personal email, on Facebook, in person or a comment at the end of a weekly article. Your insight has frequently been poignant and often made me look at an issue in another light. Occasionally, it inspires ideas for future articles.

I wanted to share 2 reader's comments from 2 different articles I wrote. One is from my friend Manfred and the other is anonymous. I encourage my readers to not use their name if they don't feel comfortable as I would rather read an anonymous opinion than no opinion.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and am grateful for you putting aside a part of your day for my words. Thank you.

I will keep writing if you will keep reading.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

1) The comment below is from one of my most passionate friends. I found his words to be powerful and the perfect enhancement to my view of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. He's an interesting person and I enjoy hearing his opinion on numerous subject matters. Incidentally, he has kept in touch consistently since I moved to Sweden which means a lot to me.

The article he responded to is "Obama's Nobel - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game". Here's a paragraph along with the link.

The love keeps coming President Obama's way - this time in the form of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize from my neighbors in Norway. I had no idea that he was in serious contention for this prestigious honor until a good friend mentioned it to me. Why all the negativity around his winning the Prize? I can understand it from the right wing zealots in America along with the narrow minded Republicans who still believe former President Bush (#43) was a strong leader. What is troubling are those (some I suspect who voted for him) who have shown disdain, disgust and hate toward Obama for getting this award. I saw one American peace leader on TV say "he has done nothing".

Done Nothing? Please.



George, thank you for writing this particular blog! This has become a great platform for debate and I hope to have one of my own soon.People, including those outside the US, quickly forget the state of international affairs when Bush was exiting the White House. Let me remind some of you:

1. The world hated everything American
2. The Axis of Evil statement was rejected by many
3. The Iranians were not to be spoken to
4. The Arabs, with two wars, in their own backyard, had enough of US aggression against them.
5. The Israelis were studying options on how to stop Iran militarily
6. NATO was seriously upsetting Russia with it’s talk of more strategic weapons
7. North Korea was threatening to fire a missile aimed at the US
8. The world was in the middle of an economic meltdown.
9. Global Warming was not being taken seriously
10. The MDG’s (Millenium Development Goals) were being ignored

In just a few months of being elected President Obama achieved the following:

1. Re-established the world’s good opinion by winning the election. This told the world that the US had rejected the Bush Doctrine on US international relations.
2. Obama gives a major speech in a Muslim capital, Cairo, where he admitted to the the failures of the US as well as call out the obligation of Arab nations to change their own rhetoric.
3. He unequivocally rebuked the notion that Iran must not be spoken to and immediately insisted that a US official begin negotiations to discuss their nuclear program.
4. The two wars are still being fought but the notion of torture and the humiliation of prisoners has been unequivocally rejected by this administration from day one.
5. The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, has since changed his own position on Iran and is in a wait and see mode.
6. US has ceased the production and installation of unnecessary weaponry in European borders with Russia in a time of peace. The Russians love their children too, remember!
7. North Korea did fire missiles but the US using better judgment decided to wait and avoid aggression on a nation clearly being held hostage by its dictator and is working through diplomacy with China. Cooler heads do prevail and save lives.
8. The US economy is tied to everybody’s paycheck around the world. The Obama administration allowed an unpopular Bush strategy take its course to avert a major catastrophic economic cataclysm that would have made the Great Depression seem like a hick-up.
9. Obama’s speech at the UN reassured the world that the US will take major steps in the fight against Global Warming. Bush never admitted to it devastating affects on the planet.
10. The speech at the UN also mentioned the need for the US to get involved in 8 MDG’s setout by the international community to battle such issues as poverty, child mortality and gender equality.

So, to all the nay-sayers and skeptics on whether or not Obama deserves the Nobel prize for peace, I will simply pose one question. Do you think that under a McCain/Palin administration, the world would have been a much peaceful place, and achieved any of what I mentioned above? I think we know the answer to that one.

2) Earlier this year, I wrote about my 5 years in Sweden. Many found it uplifting and positive although some were frustrated, saddened and surprised about my candid description of living in Sweden as a foreigner. This particular comment hit a chord with me as it was different in tone and interpretation from the others. I would love to have a conversation with the person who wrote it.

In my opinion, she (confident about that) was a bit sensitive about some of the "immigrant realities" I spoke of although she (nor anyone else) disputed any negative or troubling aspect that I described about Sweden. It's obvious that the truth does hurt sometimes. When you read her comment, you might think that I am unhappy in Sweden.....nothing could be further from the truth.

Here's a paragraph from my article "5 Years in Sweden - No Place I'd Rather be...BUT". The link is below followed by her comment.

This past Thursday, I celebrated my 5th year in Sweden. As an adult, I have only lived in one other place for a longer period; New York City (NYC) where I spent a decade. I never compare any city to the Big Apple because it wouldn’t be fair as I can’t imagine a more fulfilling city! Living in Stockholm, Sweden has been frequently interesting, sometimes disappointing, often intriguing, at times wonderful and in many ways sour and sweet. As the title indicates, life is good...BUT; we will get to the “BUT” part later.



Anonymous said...

Interesting reading! For some reason I find myself getting frustrated when reading even if I agree with you on several levels.However I wonder how many American companys would hire someone who didn´t speak English no matter what experience or fantastic merits? I can certainly agree with many of your comments but maybe moving abroad to a different culture and country takes some extra effort no matter where you go. I think you are brave for trying, but maybe you need to find other influences and see other places in Sweden too. If you are lucky you will move to a neighborhood like my best friends who have dinner with there neighbors a few times a week and people spontantiously come over. There are opportunities out there to make great Swedish friends and aquantances, have interesting networks, enjoy time together, you just have to look. And also learn the language and I think you will find yourself less detached.

Good luck!

The countryside of Vermont, USA - My friend Linda took this lovely photo.

Don't Let Your SENSITIVITY Get In The Way

Over the past few months and throughout my career, I have come across situations in which normally tough minded individuals let their sensitivity get in the way of a productive discussion, doing their jobs or handling criticism. The encounters were never that demanding and had more to do with the fortitude of the individuals. Sometimes it was personal issues (i.e. depression, bad relationships or health issues) that caused the sensitivity while other times it was not wanting to deal with confrontation. On other occasions, it was being able to give criticism yet not being able to take criticism.

The game of life is not for the weak-hearted and when we are in it, we should be in the moment and engage fully in order to deal with the challenges of daily life - not shy away or become oversensitive.

Here's a moment I will never forget:

At a company retreat in the USA, employees were having a dialogue about issues inside and outside of the company. One person was known for her consistent criticism despite the issue being discussed. She was an effective employee although this characteristic didn't help to endear her to many on the team. During one session, she was in her typical mode when she got into a heated dialogue with one of our colleagues. Usually, we would let her vent her criticism and just shrug it off as we were used to it - some were even scared of her. Not this person.

This colleague gave her a strong dose of why she was wrong on a particular issue and fiercely criticized her for intervening with unwarranted criticism along with her constant complaints on other issues throughout the year. Everyone in the room was surprised at how tough the colleague was on her yet most thought it was good that she was the one on the receiving end. What happened next was a shock!

The women (middle-aged) started to cry and quickly ran out of the room. It was obvious to everyone that although she could dish out criticism, she couldn't take it when it was directed at her. I couldn't believe her reaction as all employees (including the CEO) were in the room. Later that day, my boss said to me, "If she expects to thrive in our business, she cannot be that sensitive". He was right. The colleague's criticism towards her was poignant, witty, sharp and truthful yet in no way should have caused her to act like a child. Her career in that organization was never the same after that memorable incident.

The aforementioned type of moment has been rare in my experience. The moments below are more typical:

Recently, two acquaintances became stressed from strong conversations directed at them. Both were in roles that had them talking to numerous people in order to get opinions, hear feedback and gain consensus. Some of the thoughts they heard were strong-willed, passionate and forcefully spoken which I admire as people should battle respectfully for issues that are important to them. These individuals should have been able to handle these thoughts and any conversation as it was their job to do so.

Both became too sensitive at times and it showed when they shied away from certain conversations and/or people as one was upset about a strong phone call while the other was tired of discussing a particular issue. In my opinion, they allowed their personal issues to play a major part in their sensitivity.

These were not troublesome or disrespectful talks and both should have handled them in a more professional way. In business or personal life, if one willingly takes on a responsible role (as the aforementioned twosome did), one must be able to deal with tough encounters or determined individuals while keeping the personal issues on the back-burner. Both individuals are usually mentally tough but they do show signs of being oversensitive from time to time which ultimately affects the progress of their tasks.

Fortitude is a quality that is crucial to success. One can get it from a variety of sources including but not limited to how one is raised, living in a big city or foreign country, participating in sports particularly team sports or wisdom from mentors. It is something that is sorely needed to navigate life's tricky slopes so one can thrive in the manner that they desire. Letting someone or something put a crack in that fortitude by being too sensitive about what I normally view as "small stuff" is not a productive way to live a life.

Those small cracks of sensitivity can develop into bigger cracks where one's daily life becomes consumed with little irritations instead of focusing on the more important and bigger life goals. It's especially vital for young people to embrace challenging moments and not become too sensitive as most have no idea how difficult life will be for them as they join the job force and settle into the world as an adult. The care-free and innocent teenage days will be a thing of the past when our youth step into the real world as a twenty-something particularly in this economic crises. They must be prepared for the obstacles that they will inevitably face.

I speak from experience as I used to let a multitude of small things and/or comments bother me in my early twenties yet I always knew deep inside that they were minor issues compared to the lofty challenges I expected to come my way. Since my mid twenties, I have focused solely on my life goals and dealt directly and quickly with the small and challenging moments of daily life. They don't fluster me or create a panic which frees my mind from distraction and helps me focus on moving my agenda forward and not backwards.

And don't forget that those who frequently show signs of oversensitivity often carry that over to relationships and love which can cause frustration, misguided choices or a life without a partner.

Remember the words of the late Luther Vandross from the song "My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way):

At times I don't believe that I can't control my heart

It skips a beat even before the Lovin' starts

I seem to fall in love with just the slightest touch

and even the little things begin to mean so much

And though I should hold out longer

Just to make sure things get stronger


You tell me that you love me

And before I'm sure you really do

You say you love me more and more each day

And that's when my sensitivity gets in the way


Focus on your fortitude at all times and keep it a a high level so that a productive life, a chance at love and/or happiness won't remain elusive.

Don't let your SENSITIVITY get in the way.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede's youth basketball program (http://www.gswede.blogspot.com/) from 2006. Our 6th year begins in May of 2010!

New York Yankees - Excellence on top of Excellence

One might think that because I hail from the state of Pennsylvania, I would have rooted for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series. Unfortunately, I never grew fond of the Major League Baseball teams in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Since I spent most of my adult years working in New York City (NYC), my heart will always remain in the Big Apple. During my decade of bliss in NYC, I had the pleasure of experiencing and rooting for a team (New York Yankees) that was solely focused on excellence - in baseball that means winning championships. Working at Madison Square Garden (MSG) in the mid 1990's gave me the opportunity to meet Yankees players, attend spring training in Florida, go to over 100 games, sell Yankee advertising and learn about one of the most fierce and determined baseball teams I have ever seen. From 1995-2000, the Yankees provided some of my most thrilling sports moments.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Joe Torre (former manager of the Yankees) and the joy that he brought to Manhattan when he managed teams that won 4 out of 5 World Series. The link is below. Joe currently manages the Los Angeles Dodgers and I was hoping they would reach the championship series this year but they lost to the Phillies. It would have been very intriguing to witness the Yankees play against their former coach - a man who made the Yankees shine for 12 glorious years. In that article, I wished the new manager, Joe Girardi well and he has made the champagne pop in the Big Apple. In only his second year, his team is wearing the championship ring!


Selling print, signage and TV advertising at MSG allowed me to experience regular season and playoff Yankees games; most often with clients and occasionally with a group of friends. I was there for the final out of the 1996 World series and one of my most memorable sports moments was game one of the 1998 World Series. The Yankees came from behind to win that night and the highlight was a Tino Martinez home-run that sent the crowd into a frenzy of pure joy. I have never witnessed a moment like that in sports and probably never will. Beer was flying everywhere, people were screaming, everyone was hugging and the electricity in the stadium was almost majestic. My friends and the 50,000 plus fans didn't want that night to end!

Another perk of MSG was attending the Yankees Spring training in Florida before the season started. We took clients every year and introduced them to a few current and past players. During one trip in 1996, I met the great Reggie Jackson who obviously didn't want to be there as his attitude was sour. That was disappointing for me and many of our clients who remembered his past heroics with the Yankees. One refreshing moment was chatting with and listening to the owner, George Steinbrenner. He was affable and everyone enjoyed his company immensely. As sports fans witnessed from the media over the years, he is a tough minded and no nonsense owner who expects to win the World Series EVERY year. Some of our guests were surprised at his friendly and funny tone as he couldn't have been more pleasant with us. He has travelled a rocky road in managing the Yankees although his one constant is driving his players, coaches and executives to reach for the top every year. He expected and demanded excellence. George is older now and away from the day to day operations although I'm sure he was smiling as he watched his Yankees add another trophy to their previous 26.

There are quite a few teams in sports that could take a lesson from the New York Yankees. Far too many prominent sports organizations (no need to mention as sports fans know) lack the drive for excellence or they don't know how to go after it which is evident by mismanagement or losing year after year. Excellence is more than just demanding it. It requires an owner that knows how to put the proper executives in place in order to give his team the best chance to excel. Those executives then need to choose and develop the players best suited for winning. In addition, the choice of a coach is vital as the success of Joe Torre and now Joe Giradi exemplifies. Most importantly, everyone in the organization needs to know, believe and feel (sometimes daily) that winning is expected each and every year despite rebuilding years or obstacles that arise. Since the owner is the ultimate boss, that excellence drive should come from him or her.

George Steinbrenner (often called "The Boss") steered the Yankees ship sternly and successfully since the early 1970's. This 2009 championship wouldn't have been possible without his relentless pursuit and passion for winning. Hopefully, his son can carry the torch of excellence into the future and make his father proud.

Congratulations to the 2009 World Champion New York Yankees.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede with "Mr October", Reggie Jackson at Yankees Spring training in 1996.

"I Have a Dream" speech - Powerful Words, Useful for Today

Earlier this week, I watched the eloquent and powerful "I Have a Dream" speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr, a baptist minister in 1963. At least once a year, I put everything aside for 20 minutes and enjoy arguably the greatest speech ever given. Dr. King's words inspired me the first time I heard them and this time was no exception. With the challenging economic difficulties in America and throughout the world, his words can serve as comfort and inspiration for all Americans along with the global community to rise up with positivity, help others and be pro-active forces both domestically and internationally.

For those who have not heard the speech, it focused on the Negro's (African-American today) shameful and tragic plight in a 1963 America. You can watch the speech at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk

Here's what Rev. King said in the beginning of his famous talk:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. Now is the time.

Dr. King pursued justice for the Negro in the 1950's and the 1960's with full force yet always preached non-violence as the way to go about it. He was relentless in bringing about change for the Negro and was fearless. I love the words "Now is the time" above and find them useful for our difficulties today.

The questions we can ask ourselves - "What are we doing to help those people suffering in our community, families or other countries? If this crises hasn't affected you personally, have you offered a spiritual or guiding hand to those it has affected? If it has affected you, are you just wallowing in misery or being positive and eager to get back on your feet? If you have a thriving corporation, how have you utilized your good fortune to help those in need? It can be a small or big action but we all must do something! Now is the time.

Even in well to do Sweden, there are plenty of people in need. I heard a wonderful story about a friend who was in need of money as his cash earning prospects were bleak and bills were due. A man gave him 500 kronor (71 dollars) and he was so appreciative. The friend was surprised at the man's generosity. Little things sometimes mean a lot.

With the holidays right around the corner, "Now is the time" to provide food for someone who needs it, give a gift to a child who might not get one or simply listen to someone who needs a comforting ear. The possibilities of helping are endless although the effort must be made.

President Barack Obama appears to have the "Now is the time" attitude with his ambitious domestic goals as well as international goodwill although the REAL need is to help those 15 million Americans who are jobless. Without putting people back to work, it's hard to imagine how America can improve its bleak condition anytime soon. If you aren't aware of the awful unemployment figures in America, please read Bob Herbert's insightful article at the link below. Here's a numbing paragraph:

While the data mavens were talking about green shoots in September, employers in the real world were letting another 263,000 of their workers go, bringing the jobless rate to 9.8 percent, the highest in more than a quarter of a century. It would have been higher still but 571,000 people dropped out of the labor market. They’re jobless but not counted as unemployed. The number of people officially unemployed — 15.1 million — is, as The Wall Street Journal noted, greater than the population of 46 of the 50 states. (From column titled "Does Obama Get it")


It's important to remember that there were not only a sea of black faces listening to Dr. King on that marvelous day in 1963 - many white people were also there in support of the movement.

Rev. King went on to say this:

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

Rev. King embraced white people who cared about the cause and openly called for the Negro not to distrust them as he knew the Negro could not "walk alone". Similarly, President Obama has made it crystal clear that we must reach out to our brothers and sisters around the world as the friendship, support and trust of the people outside of America is essential to re-building America and keeping it strong. Our former President (#43), alienated much of the world and the American reputation suffered immensely because of his actions and inaction. I am grateful for Obama as he enhanced our brand seemingly overnight and that is good for the entire world. I wrote about our brand in my article "The American Brand is Back". The link is below.


More questions to ask ourselves regarding reaching out internationally:

Do you have international friends? If not, why not? If your circle is made up entirely of friends who you grew up with, can you really learn about the world outside of your comfort zone?

Have you travelled outside of your country? I realize that it is easier for people here in Europe to do so yet there is no excuse for the lack of American travel in foreign countries. Less than 25% of Americans have passports. That is a startlingly statistic and must improve if we are going to to show that we care about the rest of the world. I know educated and financially sound Americans who have never left the borders!

Do you take the opportunity to talk with people from different backgrounds or countries when possible? Whenever I ride in a cab in Sweden, I make it a point to talk to the taxi driver (who are mainly immigrants) even when I sometimes don't feel like doing so. Every time, the conversation is stimulating and I learn so much about their birth countries and their experiences in Sweden. I also make it a point to ask every driver if Swedish people talk to them and 95% of the time, the answer is no. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and engage with unknown people once in a while as you may be pleasantly surprised with the conversation that ensues.

I never thought I would see someone in my lifetime who had the chance to be a great American and make a profound impact like Martin Luther King. President Obama has that chance as he has already inspired millions and created hope throughout the world in a way no one could have imagined. He has the tools - charisma, intellect, compassion, oratory skills, and passion although the ultimate judgement will be based upon whether he has the relentless focus and doggedness like Dr. King to follow through on his convictions.

Rev. King never backed down and was a driving force to bring about change for the Negro; his movement played a major role in prompting the 1964 Civil Rights Act. My life, the lives of people of color and America in general would be vastly different today if not for the bold actions of Martin Luther King. He sacrificed his own life in pursuit of justice.

President Obama vowed to make America strong again and embrace our neighbors around the world. He has had an impressive start with education in America and it seems as though a health-care bill will be passed in Congress. Those are two key elements for rebuilding America along with the need for serious action on our climate. In addition, his speech in Cairo to the Muslim world spoke volumes about his passion for international inclusion. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are complicated and not easy to manage although they must be handled appropriately so they don't take the focus off of the horrendous domestic issues in America.

The big test for Obama is getting the millions of unemployed Americans back to work and I have not seen much evidence of a coherent plan to make that happen. That is a troubling sign especially for our young people. America cannot be strong again or great again if our eager citizens can't cash a paycheck.

Paul Krugman's column on the subject of high employment in America is very useful to read. A paragraph is below:

Deficit hawks like to complain that today’s young people will end up having to pay higher taxes to service the debt we’re running up right now. But anyone who really cared about the prospects of young Americans would be pushing for much more job creation, since the burden of high unemployment falls disproportionately on young workers — and those who enter the work force in years of high unemployment suffer permanent career damage, never catching up with those who graduated in better times.
(From column titled "Too Little of a Good Thing")


Mr. President, Now is the Time.

Fellow Americans, Now is the Time.

My brothers and sisters around the world, Now is the Time.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Stockholm in January 2007 - Gswede took a 2 hour walk after after a magnificent overnight snowfall

Starbucks is coming to Sweden (Finally)

Most prominent European countries have a Starbucks. For whatever reason, there is not a single location in Sweden. That is about to change in 2010 as Starbucks is finally coming although only at one location - Stockholm's major airport, Arlanda.

I was surprised that Sweden didn't have a Starbucks when I moved here in 2004. Being one of the top coffee consuming countries (per capita), it made no sense to me with Starbucks doing so well in Europe. Even Austria (another top coffee country) has produced good Starbucks results.

There has been plenty of written reaction (positive and negative) to this famous American brand's entrance into Sweden. Below are three comments from The Local, (Sweden's News in English). The link to the fully story is also below.

Has the typical Swedish prejudgement of all American coffee rubbed off on many of you? I come from a family of coffee lovers, and can say that the best coffee to be had is in USA. You can get it how you want it at a number of nice shops. Starbucks may not be the greatest of all places, but it is definitely MUCH BETTER than Swedish coffee. Swedish coffee done at home is good, however, every time Ive been to Coffeehouse by George, Wayne's Coffee, etc. I am left disappointed with mediocre coffee and a BORING Panini (same everywhere). Hopefully the American chain can bring in some "change."

Moreover, the best coffee to be had is at Espresso House. None of the other chains measure up. Go to you local (small) coffee shop too. There are many throughout Stockholm and Göteborg which are brilliant!
As my username so eloquently explains, I am English., and as an Englishman I feel horrified that Sweden shall be submitted to yet another attempt by an American globalising brand trying to destroy the local culture, such has happened to the country I formely lived in.The negative effects of multinational chains outweigh the benefits of a supposedly faster, more efficient service a thousand fold. Local difference and diverisity of life is one of the more engaging aspects of humanity and something Sweden excels in.It is not simply a matter of taste that needs to be debated here, it is the homogenising of our planet into a single American accented organism that buys coffee at Starbucks, eats in McDonalds and shops at Walmart.A feat that has already , I am ashamed to say, been accomplished in the UK.I hope the population here contniue to keep its head level, buy Swedish branded products and maintain the independance that i for one respect this country for.Keep Sweden Beautiful. --Englishman_In_Norpan
Well, say what you will about Mickey Dees and Starbucks but the fact is that it's usually a sancuary when I travel abroad. My tastes are for Swedish coffee but outside of Sweden good coffee is hard to get. Starbucks is actully the best alternative.I can imagine ppl from Italy or some random place trying to get a good Esspresso somewhere else. They'd probable settle for Starbuck too. As for Swedes not going there because it represents "capitalism" which seems to be some ppls attitudes. Then I'd say quite unlikely that they could resist the buisness model. Everything here is centeralized and swedes almost always do as everyone else does. All they need is a strong push and then magic takeover of the market.-- Bumblebeetuna


In my opinion, the naysayers have little ground to stand on as Starbucks is a brand worthy of being here. It's the largest coffee-house in the world, international, environmentally/socially conscious and most importantly - makes quality coffee. I can understand those who don't like the coffee or are anti-American or don't like big brand names. Those that claim that the coffee isn't quality obviously don't know java very well.

It's important to note that the location will be at the airport, (easy appeal for international travellers) not in a main city. Therefore, I'm not overly optimistic that we will see more Starbucks in the near future. If so, Sweden and Swedes will have to take the bold step of embracing competition and allowing Starbucks to go toe to toe against the the numerous coffee chains including Wayne's coffee, Expresso House and Coffeehouse by George.

In general, Sweden does coffee VERY WELL and I rarely get a bad cup of coffee here although some of the chains could take a page from Starbucks in the ambiance and music category. I enjoy Wayne's coffee and frequently meet friends there.

For those interested in the finance of the company, Starbucks stock has done extremely well over the past two decades until the recession took away a bit of its charm. In my opinion, during the last ten years they lost their focus by opening up too many stores and neglecting their core business - coffee and the customer experience. The founder (Howard Schultz) came back in 2008 as President/CEO and his presence has refocused the brand. I recommeded the stock to a few friends earlier this year when it was 11 dollars a share; since then it has almost doubled.

I'm excited for the potential of additional Starbucks in Sweden if only in the major towns of Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. I have no doubt the brand would be successful and would motivate other coffee-houses to "improve their stores and/or enhance the customer experience" which would benefit all coffee lovers!

Interestingly, I have never read a worthwhile answer from Starbucks as to why they are not in Sweden. It would seem to be a no-brainer for them as Sweden is wealthy and adores coffee - an ideal country in my book.

Will we see a non-airport Starbucks in the future? I'm hopeful but I won't be holding my breath.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Autumn has arrived in Stockholm. Mild temperatures with plenty of rainy days.

Obama's Nobel - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

The love keeps coming President Obama's way - this time in the form of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize from my neighbors in Norway. I had no idea that he was in serious contention for this prestigious honor until a good friend mentioned it to me. Why all the negativity around his winning the Prize? I can understand it from the right wing zealots in America along with the narrow minded Republicans who still believe former President Bush (#43) was a strong leader. What is troubling are those (some I suspect who voted for him) who have shown disdain, disgust and hate toward Obama for getting this award. I saw one American peace leader on TV say "he has done nothing".

Done Nothing? Please.

Here's a taste of what President Obama has done (writer is Joe Boyle):

Critics can argue all they want that Obama has not done anything. However, that is just wrong.

He has called for an end to torture of prisoners, the eventual withdrawal from Iraq and a serious discussion on curtailing the threat of global warming. He has also brought Democrats and Republicans together, often kicking and screaming, to begin serious discussion on national health care.

Critics state that he does not deserve the award because he has been in office only nine months. But perhaps that is the point. All the above listed items are being addressed under the Obama administration. It is not like Obama has had a cakewalk since becoming president. He inherited massive national debt that stirred over from the Bush administration.

He has had to make some tough decisions and addressed the needs of many American citizens who having a difficult time making ends meet. Now, are all of the programs that Obama has initiated going to work? No. However, it is better than watching while the economy continues to crumble

The criticism leveled at Obama seems to get stronger as more praise is showered on him. For those who want to knock him off his mighty platform, know this: Obama has "IT" and having "IT" is hard to explain, describe or define although you know "IT" when you see it. One just becomes more popular and influential than anyone ever imagined and that is the position Obama finds himself in. Let's not disrespect the man for that as I don't think he had any intention of wanting the "rock star" status that has been thrust upon him.

He should be given immense credit for wanting to tackle the horrendous and overwhelming problems in America. In my opinion, his heart is in the right place and I am grateful to have him as my President. Obama has touched the world in an almost majestic way and the world has responded strongly to his compassion, intellect and rhetoric. After the last 8 years in Washington, America and our brothers and sisters around the globe needed someone to give them hope for a better tomorrow and Obama has filled those shoes eloquently.

Even before he was elected, many Swedish immigrants (and even some Swedes) spoke to me glowingly of his potential for the world. Some had tears in their eyes as they spoke and their hope warmed my heart. Interestingly, most of the immigrants made a point to tell me that they feared for his safety. I don't think any of them would say that Obama has done nothing.

Was the award a bit premature? Of course. Obama admitted that he was "surprised and humbled".

For those bent out of shape or angry that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to our 44th President, remember this:

Don't hate the player (Obama), hate the game (Nobel committee). It's not Obama's fault for getting the award. Any frustration that you harbor should be cast upon the 5 members of the Norwegian selection committee.

Here's what the committee based their selection on (from Joe Boyle's link above):

The announcement from Norway that Obama won the award was due to his ability to unite the world on a call for peace and better understanding of each other. He has also attempted to bridge the gap that exists among Muslims and the United States In short, Obama has essentially won the award on his appeal to nations overseas. Europeans, it seems, like what Obama stands for.

Maybe, just maybe the committee could be smarter than many think.

If it turns out that Obama does play a critical role in helping to make our chaotic and divisive world more peaceful, united and safe during his 4 or 8 year term (and beyond), the critics may one day say, "Yes, he did something".

Congratulations Mr. President.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

My friend Linda took this photo in a place I adore - Vermont. It's a beautiful and relaxing state.

2 Au Pairs in Stockholm - Their Experiences (in their words)

Before the summer, a young woman engaged me in a conversation as I was having coffee with a friend. I instantly knew she wasn't Swedish as her amiableness to a stranger rarely happens here. She was with three other women and our dialogue turned to why they were in Stockholm. Her answer surprised me - they were all au pairs from Canada and America. Having lived in New York City, I knew of the plethora of Swedish au pairs in and around the Big Apple although I never realized the immigrant au pair business in Stockholm was so vast. Our connection turned into a nice friendship.

She introduced me to another au pair (big fan of my blog) and the three of us have enjoyed quality conversation and coffee on an almost weekly basis. What impresses me about both is their zest for life, positivity, interest in meeting people and the fact that they have traveled extensively in their twenty-something lives. In addition, it's great to hear about the youth perspective and what is on their minds. I have talked with many teens but not so often with those in their twenties. Also, much of what I write on my blog is geared toward young people and providing a platform for helping to keep them focused and responsible so it was wonderful to listen to their opinions of my blog and hear about how their friends have enjoyed it. There was a big surge in traffic after meeting them so I am grateful for that!

One is from Canada while the other is Swedish/American and comes from the western part of America. Their experiences are quite different so I thought it would be enjoyable and important to know for those young women thinking of coming to Sweden as an au pair. The Canadian au pair has had a wonderful experience. When she talks about her family in Stockholm, her joy is infectious. Unfortunately, her friend has endured an intense form of disrespect from her family - some of which was hard to fathom. I am very proud of her for "taking the bull by the horns" and doing something positive about the bad treatment as one should NEVER tolerate disrespect in any form or fashion.

I encouraged them to write about their experiences and they complied rather quickly. Both are leaving this month and will be missed!

Their stories are below

Happy Gswede Sunday!
Canadian Au Pair Experience in Stockholm, 24:

Experiencing Stockholm has been one of the best years of my life. To really embrace a culture, the best way to do so is by living with a family of a different culture. My journey began when I met a Swedish boy in Thailand, and decided to explore another country by moving to Sweden to be with him. I decided to become an au pair because it was easy to get that kind of job when only speaking English. I had never even thought of becoming a nanny before. I heard a lot of bad stories of girls being treated very badly. I decided I had to find out for myself. When I interviewed with a family on www.aupair-world.net. I said to myself I had to have this family, they seemed so great! I got my friend in Sweden to interview them for me to make sure they were as great as they seemed. He convinced me they were. Unfortunately I broke up with my Swedish boyfriend right before I moved to Sweden, which made things kind of difficult but was ok since I was still happy to come to Europe and so excited to meet this family.

I met the family and they were great. Very nice and extremely welcoming. Which when you think about it, to have a stranger from another country come into your home, you must be very trusting. They have 2 kids a boy and girl ages 6 and 9. A perfect amount of kids and I couldn't ask for better ages. These kids were so sweet and well behaved. They didn't speak English at first but the oldest one now can hold a good conversation, and the youngest understands, but only speaks a little English. The parents are great, easy going people. Both have busy jobs but having me around, helps them to spend that much more time with their children. I work 25 hours a week which is the maximum in Sweden for an au pair. I wake up get the kids breakfast and ready for school and walk them to school. Then I have most of the day free and pick them up after school and make them and the mom dinner 4 times a week. Dinner time is good to get to know the family more, and the mom and I have become good friends having spent time together eating dinners. After every dinner she thanks me for the meal, and almost every time tells me how good the dinner was. Just saying those extra words goes a long way in my mind. When doing this kind of job, its so important to hear thank you and that they appreciate you and the work you do. Its so important I think to make the nanny feel like they are part of the family and that this isn't just a business agreement. They really make me feel like I'm part of the family and making dinner is my contribution.

The family is great with inviting me to almost all their family events and dinner when I am home and not cooking. Which has made it feel so much more at home. It makes me feel like I'm not just the nanny but their friend as well. I think that is important. I know of other au pairs that sit at the kids table when having dinner parties with the family and their friends. I am always included with the adults and their conversations. Someone is always translating in English or asking me what i think. I have made friends with some of their friends as well, which is important to not only have child contact but adult contact as well. Also great when adults look at you like a friend and not just the nanny.

This year has been the best because I have never had so much time to myself. I have all day, evening and weekends free. This gives me time to do the things I really love. Inexpensive things that I really love. Because being an au pair is not the best paying job out there, but its about the experience not bringing in the bacon. So being a poor nanny in a very expensive city can be very difficult at times, but it is manageable, you just have to find free fun and be very thrifty, examples of packing a lunch with you, and having cafe while watching your friends eat. Most of my time is spent meeting friends in cafes, usually au pairs because other people have jobs during the week. Getting to know people is one of my favorite things, and having the time to do so is just awesome to me. This year i have met a lot of friends, that i will stay in touch with forever. I had time to breathe, look around, and really appreciate my opportunity discovering a new country and culture. I now have an awesome family in Sweden, that I will love and cherish forever. I have a new view on Sweden that I had never had before. Coming from Canada I thought I had it great, well I now know how Swedes have it great as well. If something ever were to happen to Canada that it wasn't safe or smart to live there, I know where I would be heading to.

I would advise every single girl to become an au pair, if they want to experience a new culture, new language, good practice for being an excellent stay at home mom or house wife then I would definitely tell you to pack your bags and have the experience of having another family abroad. Even though things never worked out with my boyfriend, I realized that meeting him was just meant for me to have an experience of a lifetime and bring me to this great family in Sweden. I have no regrets of my decision this past year, and would do it again in a heart beat. Now I will leave the family and go back to Canada having an experience of a lifetime under my belt, and will only wish for my kids to be able to have such a great experience as I did one day.

American/Swedish Au Pair Experience in Stockholm, 22:

Coming to Sweden as an au pair seemed like it would be a complete breeze for me. I not only had many years of experience babysitting and being a nanny at home in the U.S. but I was also Swedish. What a perfect match! I would be surrounded by family and friends in Sweden that could also help make my move and transition easier.

My first couple weeks as an au pair were unbelievable. Here I was in the amazing city of Stockholm, that had EVERYTHING to offer. From endless cafes, restaurants, bars, and entertainment I knew Stockholm would be a great place to spend the next year. I quickly made friends through the immense network of au pairs in Stockholm. And I could not wait to start this adventure. I knew Stockholm would be the start of an experience of a lifetime.

My job unfortunately began to change right before my eyes. As the children were happy and very fun little children it was the parents who began to have a harsh impact on my “positive,” experience. The weeks grew longer and longer with my hours going from the promised 40 hours a week to a 50-60 plus hour work week with no ability to take care of myself. My love for working out and eating healthy began to go downhill as I could not even think straight after working 12-13 hour days. After giving it much thought I confronted the family with the intention of forming an agreement of hours and job responsibilities. This was a hard obstacle for me as I am not one who enjoys confrontation but I knew it was for the best if I wanted to see change in my work and to get the schedule and work description I had been promised when committing to this job.

The job soon came to an end when the family could not meet me in the middle and see eye to eye about my concerns with my hours and responsibilities. I had felt that I was being completely taken advantage of as I was responsible for “solely childcare,” as it had said on my contract, but was not the case. My long hours, inconsistent schedule, and inconsistent responsibilities made my job extremely difficult. It became frustrating to me that a family who had EVERYTHING could be so incredibly selfish and lacking appreciation for my hard work. I had never been in such a negative environment where my endless effort and hard work was just expected. I never heard the words “thank you,” words that I was grown up to say in every situation.

Looking back at my experience as a Swedish au pair... I would not necessarily change anything as I grew incredibly from this experience. I would have obviously wished for a more positive situation and that I had fulfilled a whole year in Stockholm, but I am thankful for my decision. If I had to give any advice to other future au pairs I would tell them to make sure and always go with your heart. DO NOT let anyone take you for granted and make sure that you are appreciated and happy. As for future families of foreign au pairs, make sure you tell your au pair that you appreciate them and make sure they feel welcomed and comfortable. Being an au pair can be difficult in the fact that you are suppose to feel like a part of a family but are also an employee. I would make sure both the au pair and au pair family set out the guidelines and job details straight from the beginning.

To the au pairs: if you are ever in an awkward or uncomfortable situation look to other au pairs for help and to to your family and tell them how you feel. If you are not happy or comfortable you will not give the most important part of your job 100%, the children.

Gswede (not pictured) enjoyed a morning coffee and sandwich with his daughter on a glorious October morning. The picture is in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden.

New Friend Mixed with Current Friends = Wonderful Evening

In August, a good friend living in California emailed me about a friend of his who was coming to Stockholm for a few days. I immediately started the ball rolling with my connections in order to help him in any way that I could and told him that we would meet one night in the city.

When a potential new friend emerges (something I embrace) in my life, I enjoy mixing that person with current friends to give the night a little extra spice. Last week, I met this gentleman at one of Stockholm's popular places and within the hour, four of my friends (2 women and 2 men) arrived. The vibe amongst the group was sizzling from the start which boded well for our remaining hours. The energy was good due in large part to everyone being interesting along with a nice mix from America, Serbia and Sweden. In addition, the conversation flowed smoothly whether it was 2 people talking to each other or the whole group interacting.

After a couple of hours, we walked to another hot spot nearby so the new guy in town could experience a different setting. The place was loud and crowded yet we were still able to continue the conversational vibe from earlier in the evening. Being a family man, I left the group around midnight as did two others. The remaining three kept the evening alive and ventured to at least one more place.

Even though I was extremely tired the next day from my daughter's 6am "rise and shine", I decided to meet my new friend in town so I could get to know him better and show him other parts of Stockholm. Since I'm in the midst of 5 months parental leave, he also got to meet my ten-month old daughter. We had a great day walking around the city and the weather cooperated brilliantly with abundant sunshine and soothing temperatures - a warmness prevalent throughout most of September which is uncommon for this time of year.

We discovered that we shared common interests including but not limited to our philosophies about how to live a quality life, being responsible and avoiding dangerous pitfalls that can disrupt, damage or ruin a life. Learning from others is so crucial to leading a well-rounded life and we both gained insightful knowledge from our time together. He also made me think about some issues differently or in a way I had never thought of before which doesn't happen very often.

As I mentioned in my "5 years in Sweden" (link is below) article, my best times socially in Stockholm have been ones that I created or took part in organizing. This evening was no exception and gave me inspiration to write this article. The size of our group was perfect as it gave everyone a chance to interact - something that rarely happens when a night with friends is filled with too many people. Most of my exciting nights socially whether in Belgrade, Serbia or New York City or Stockholm have been with groups of 10 or less.


I encourage everyone to attempt to bring one new friend into your life every year. It's important to embrace as it should challenge your open-mindedness as well as give you energy and inspiration. One of my minor irritations is going to an event at a home with the same people year after year - a common occurrence in Stockholm and probably throughout Sweden as people tend to stay confined to their group of childhood friends or current friends throughout life. It happens in America as well although not with the frequency I have witnessed here. I implore those stuck in the same group of friends to be bold and venture outside of your comfort zone with new people and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

My new friend had a good time in Stockholm and indicated that he will return. When he does, we will mix it up once again, have fun and.....Let the good times roll!

Happy Gswede Sunday!

New Friend, Current Friend and Gswede in Stockholm.

As We Age, Women Become Less Happy than Men. Why?

From NY Times article "Blue is the New Black":

Before the ’70s, there was a gender gap in America in which women felt greater well-being. Now there’s a gender gap in which men feel better about their lives.

As Arianna Huffington points out in a blog post headlined “The Sad, Shocking Truth About How Women Are Feeling”: “It doesn’t matter what their marital status is, how much money they make, whether or not they have children, their ethnic background, or the country they live in. Women around the world are in a funk.”
(The one exception is black women in America, who are a bit happier than they were in 1972, but still not as happy as black men.)

Marcus Buckingham, a former Gallup researcher who has a new book out called “Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently,” says that men and women passed each other midpoint on the graph of life.

“Though women begin their lives more fulfilled than men, as they age, they gradually become less happy,” Buckingham writes in his new blog on The Huffington Post, pointing out that this darker view covers feelings about marriage, money and material goods. “Men, in contrast, get happier as they get older.”

Buckingham and other experts dispute the idea that the variance in happiness is caused by women carrying a bigger burden of work at home, the “second shift.” They say that while women still do more cooking, cleaning and child-caring, the trend lines are moving toward more parity, which should make them less stressed.
(Full article and link can be found at the end)

The paragraphs above come from an interesting article written by Maureen Dowd of the NY Times called, "Blue is the New Black". She's a gifted writer and has shed some light on a surprising although not shocking revelation - (Women become less happy than men as they age)

This past summer, I shed a light of my own on the periphery of this happiness subject (see link below) after talking with a group of Swedish women who wanted to be GREAT in a variety of areas - mother, wife, fitness and career. That conversation inspired me to write about the difficulty of being great in all the aforementioned areas in my article called "Great Mother, Great Wife, Great Shape, Great Career - Impossible". The desire to be a modern superwoman is probably one of the reasons women tend to get unhappier as they age. When one strives for something that isn't obtainable, the strain, stress and pressure of that task will cause anyone to become unhappy over time.


A few days ago, I mentioned this NY Times article to a few women (teachers/parents) at my son's day-care and their immediate response was that they were happy. Both teachers had no children and one even mentioned that as a factor in being happy. One of the parents who has children said that "happiness is a mindset" - something I agree with. Take a moment to view this video of American talk show host Montel Williams - a man who stays happy despite excruciating pain daily from Multiple Sclerosis. I encourage you to read his books as you will be inspired!


I know many mothers who seem to be happy especially with the kids they chose to bring into this world. Are they really happy? If not, are the elements of life outside of children the cause? I realize that women bear a large brunt of responsibility in this world whether rich or poor and are often the rock of the family. If they are getting unhappier as they age, what does that say about the current state and future of the family unit and our communities?

What can be done about this disturbing pattern? Do men contribute to this unhappiness? If so, what can we do to help improve it?

I would like to hear from women and men on this subject. Women, are you happy? If so, how have you kept happiness alive? If not, why so blue? How about your women friends?

Men, how do you maintain or enhance your happiness as you age? Are the women in your life happy or unhappy?

Please feel free to let my readers and me know by leaving your comments below - anonymously if you prefer.

Montel's five keys to happiness (on video) offer an effective way to bring happiness into your life or maintain it throughout:

1) Let Gratitude be your Attitude

2) Practice Kindness

3) Savor the Beauty of Little Things and Moments

4) Nurture your Spiritual Self

5) Learn to Let Go and Forgive

If you embrace these five points, happiness will have no choice but to rise up and bloom inside you.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
September 20, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist

Blue Is the New Black

Women are getting unhappier, I told my friend Carl.

“How can you tell?” he deadpanned. “It’s always been whine-whine-whine.”

Why are we sadder? I persisted.

“Because you care,” he replied with a mock sneer. “You have feelings.”

Oh, that.

In the early ’70s, breaking out of the domestic cocoon, leaving their mothers’ circumscribed lives behind, young women felt exhilarated and bold.

But the more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?

According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier.

Before the ’70s, there was a gender gap in America in which women felt greater well-being. Now there’s a gender gap in which men feel better about their lives.

As Arianna Huffington points out in a blog post headlined “The Sad, Shocking Truth About How Women Are Feeling”: “It doesn’t matter what their marital status is, how much money they make, whether or not they have children, their ethnic background, or the country they live in. Women around the world are in a funk.”

(The one exception is black women in America, who are a bit happier than they were in 1972, but still not as happy as black men.)

Marcus Buckingham, a former Gallup researcher who has a new book out called “Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently,” says that men and women passed each other midpoint on the graph of life.“

Though women begin their lives more fulfilled than men, as they age, they gradually become less happy,” Buckingham writes in his new blog on The Huffington Post, pointing out that this darker view covers feelings about marriage, money and material goods. “Men, in contrast, get happier as they get older.”

Buckingham and other experts dispute the idea that the variance in happiness is caused by women carrying a bigger burden of work at home, the “second shift.” They say that while women still do more cooking, cleaning and child-caring, the trend lines are moving toward more parity, which should make them less stressed.

When women stepped into male- dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.

“Choice is inherently stressful,” Buckingham said in an interview. “And women are being driven to distraction.”

One area of extreme distraction is kids. “Across the happiness data, the one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children,” said Betsey Stevenson, an assistant professor at Wharton who co-wrote a paper called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.” “It’s true whether you’re wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids early. Yet I know very few people who would tell me they wish they hadn’t had kids or who would tell me they feel their kids were the destroyer of their happiness.”

The more important things that are crowded into their lives, the less attention women are able to give to each thing.

Add this to the fact that women are hormonally more complicated and biologically more vulnerable. Women are much harder on themselves than men.

They tend to attach to other people more strongly, beat themselves up more when they lose attachments, take things more personally at work and pop far more antidepressants.

“Women have lives that become increasingly empty,” Buckingham said. “They’re doing more and feeling less.”

Another daunting thing: America is more youth and looks obsessed than ever, with an array of expensive cosmetic procedures that allow women to be their own Frankenstein Barbies.

Men can age in an attractive way while women are expected to replicate — and Restylane — their 20s into their 60s.

Buckingham says that greater prosperity has made men happier. And they are also relieved of bearing sole responsibility for their family finances, and no longer have the pressure of having women totally dependent on them.

Men also tend to fare better romantically as time wears on. There are more widows than widowers, and men have an easier time getting younger mates.

Stevenson looks on the bright side of the dark trend, suggesting that happiness is beside the point. We’re happy to have our newfound abundance of choices, she said, even if those choices end up making us unhappier.

A paradox, indeed.


Gswede on a September weekend stroll in Stockholm with the children.