Move to Sweden at 21 or 41 (not 31)


I’m glad I didn’t come to Sweden when I was 31 as my life in America was in full swing and thriving.  Being almost 40 when I made the bold move abroad, I left behind an interesting career and enriching social life in New York City. I was ready though and looking forward to getting to know my wife’s country.

Even with top quality or diverse work experience, Sweden is extremely tough in business for an expat. If you aren’t aware of the job difficulties, just have a chat with an expat or read one of several articles I wrote below, including my experience after 5 years in Sweden.



Whether you are a young person (20’s) in America, Europe or other parts of the world, I implore you to go live in another country for at least 2 years. Not only will it broaden your world view but will more often than not give you an unforgettable experience. Sweden is a good choice for youth, especially if you are looking for an easier way of life. If you want a more interesting challenge, consider a place like Belgrade, Serbia; where I spent two months living and had a fabulous time!


For those considering the Swedish plunge around age 31, I encourage you to think carefully about your decision. I’m not saying don’t come although if you do venture here without doing your research and/or don’t have a strong union with your Swedish spouse/relationship, an unpleasant experience could be waiting for you. For those who don't know, most expats come to Sweden for LOVE.

Most I know have had very tough times after they arrived in Sweden around 30. Not only were the job opportunities scarce but several had love relationships they thought were solid yet turned out to be tenuous at best. A simple piece of advice is to visit Sweden two or three times before you decide to move here. It’s important to get a feel for the country and its people and visiting once won’t provide that. In addition, talk privately to as many expat’s as you can.

Of course there are thirty-something’s who qualify as an exception to the rule and are flying high in Sweden, yet the majority have taken serious blows to their careers and future job opportunities. Also, some have sadly lost their souls.

I was fortunate in that I had met several of my career and life goals and was ready for the international challenge. It’s been a nice ride for me, filled with great highs, many challenges and several disappointments. It has always been interesting though which has been a big positive.

At 21, yes, do come to Sweden or venture abroad anywhere in our diverse world.

41, a good age as well. Sweden is a calm place to ease into as long as you have achieved some of your work/life goals previously.

At age 31…..think twice.



Sweden's beauty is magnificent. Image is from Skåne (southern Sweden).
Image's Website

Old Friends, Stimulating Conversations

My recent trip to the USA was long in plane rides yet stimulating in conversation.
               
I was alone for a 10 day journey with my 3 and 5 year old, which put most days on a “64 Chevy Level”, compared to calmer ones at home.

It was wonderful to see my mom as I don’t get the chance to visit her nearly enough with the vast distance from Sweden.  In addition, the bond that emerged between my kids and their grandmother was heart-warming. My son Lennart said more than once, “Why can’t we stay in America?”

One of the interesting parts of the trip was spending time with old friends. I wasn’t surprised at the great conversations we shared although I was surprised that I have missed that type of stimulation.

I generally don’t miss things and stay focused on the here and now although some of our talks put me in a place I haven’t been to in quite a while. The kind of dialogue where time becomes irrelevant, laughter is abundant and you are not thinking about anything else but the present moment.

That back and forth energy and flow is conversation I love! It was like a beautiful symphony at times.

The only time I wasn’t fully engaged was when my mind would drift to wondering when the night would end. If it wasn’t for having to be up early with my children, I might have stayed to the morning hours on a few occasions.

I am grateful for such good friendships. It’s clear that despite long absences from each other, our bond is still as strong as ever.

This man said it best:

"Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world"
(William James)

Happy Gswede Sunday!



My son and I with man's best friend a few years ago. Not our dog but one day we will have one.


One Great Debate Does Not Make a President

One of the only things that could have hurt Mitt Romney and his momentum after the 3rd and final Presidential debate was dear old Mother Nature.

And did she ever rear her ugly head.

The devastation, deaths and severe blow to thousands of families was sobering and sad. The hearts of Americans (and many outside) were heavy last week. Hurricane Sandy was more damaging than we imagined.

Not only did Sandy give President Obama a “Commander in Chief” moment, but no one expected what came next – a heap of praise from Republican and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  He toured the state with Obama and flew on Marine one, which had to have many Republicans shaking their head in anger.

Christie was one of Obama’s harshest critics and the keynote speaker at the Republican convention. He used words like “wonderful” to describe the actions of the President after the storm.  The worry was obvious when Rupert Murdoch wrote this on Twitter recently – “Now Christie, while thanking O, must re-declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years.”                    

I’ve always admired how Governor Christie was able to work across party lines, particularly with the Mayor of Newark, Democrat Cory Booker. Mark Zuckerberg credited both of them in his decision to give 100 million dollars to Newark schools. It spoke volumes about his character when Christie wasn’t afraid to give credit to the President.

Before the storm, I thought Romney’s chances were slim as Obama had a strong advantage in the Electoral College from the start. 237 electoral votes are on the side of the Democrats and if Obama wins Ohio (been leading consistently), he would be at 255– only 15 shy of the magic number of 270.  Winning one or two of the remaining swing states gives him the victory. See below for more specifics from an online article:

Obama began the general-election race with a base of 18 states plus the District, totaling 237 electoral votes. Romney began with a base of 23 states, totaling 191 electoral votes. North Carolina is tipping toward Romney and Nevada toward Obama, putting the president at 243 and Romney at 206.

Romney is making a late play in Pennsylvania and Minnesota and will campaign in the Keystone State on Sunday. Both states continue to lean toward the president, but Obama’s campaign has decided to send former president Bill Clinton to Pennsylvania on Sunday for extra measure.

Assuming those states continue to stay in Obama’s column, the president would need only 27 of the remaining 89 electoral votes to win. Romney would need 64 of the 89, which explains why Obama still has an easier — but by no means certain — path to an Electoral College majority. For example, he could win a second term simply by winning Florida, which remains competitive.

The Electoral College math just doesn’t add up for Romney. Needing 64 0f 89 remaining electoral votes is a tall task, especially with Obama having a modest lead in most current polls.

It didn’t have to be that way for Romney as he and his team ran a bad campaign. I talked about his difficulties in my October article called, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”. A passage is below:

Even some Obama supporters must feel for him as his last month has ranged from incredibly stupid (47% comment) to terribly unprepared (untimely attack on Obama administration’s foreign policy)….which was preceded by a snore fest of a Republican convention, where Clint Eastwood was the story on what should have been Romney’s night.

Before these “foot in mouth” stumbles, Romney offered very little of himself or his policies, yet was still in a close race with President Obama.

Romney’s lack of strategy and stumbles had his campaign reeling in September and Obama’s re-election was looking very promising.

The upcoming (and first) debate on October 3rd was his last chance to rescue the campaign and his light couldn’t have been brighter. He was masterful and crushed a non-enthusiastic Obama. He was now back in the game! A passage from my article on that debate is below:

Whether it was on Twitter during the Presidential debate or watching on TV after, words such as “not aggressive, “cool Barry”, “no passion”, “lack of fire” and “landslide for Romney” came fast and furious in describing this massacre.

And yes, it was a massacre.

The President didn’t come to play, was unprepared and failed to adjust in any way during the debate. Romney delivered boldly and beyond expectations. He was impressive.

On October 4, Romney had the momentum on his side, and his standing among women improved tremendously; an area where Obama had a big advantage before the debate.

Obama did improve significantly in the final two debates although Romney had solid performances and still had the momentum.

And then Sandy hit and the focus came completely off of the challenger, went directly to the President and halted any momentum Romney enjoyed. Karl Rove (George W. Bush’s strategist) indicated that Sandy has helped Obama by being seen as the “Comforter in Chief”.

In any campaign, starting strong and maintaining momentum is of the utmost importance although closing can be meaningful. Also, a “Moment of Truth” can be helpful to a winning participant.

Romney started poorly and never made any inroads or progress in the heart of the campaign. Obama wasn’t impressive either although his campaign was strategic and focused, with no risks and very few mistakes. The Obama strategy was to paint Romney as “out of touch”, hoping his missteps would be his downfall.

Romney’s “Moment of Truth” was that first debate. It not only saved his campaign, it also gave him the sizzle he lacked all year long. Obama never really had one although one could argue that his final two debate performances were a mini “moment”.

Any planned closure by the candidates was made impossible as Sandy hit one week before the November 6th election.  Both campaigns had to suspend, react and campaign on a fine line so as not to show any disrespect towards the victims of the tragedy.

Nobody wants to benefit from a disaster although there is not a much more powerful closing week than the spotlight of being President during a country’s time of need. Most polls were positive in how Americans viewed Obama’s handling of the storm.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, Romney is on record for questioning FEMA and the role the federal government plays in distributing funds to states in a disaster. He’s indicated that the power should be with the states and the private sector. That cannot be helpful to the Romney camp.

Could Romney still win? Of course although to do so, he would need to have an improbable run of wins in most of the swing states – a very difficult task, especially if he doesn’t win Ohio.

Here's what a sports columnist tweeted during the weekend:

“Can’t run one race to win nomination and then run a different race to win Presidency. This election is gonna be a blessing 4 Repub party.”
(Jason Whitlock on Twitter)

A prize this big doesn’t come easy. One great debate does not make a President.

My Electoral Vote Prediction: Obama 299 - Romney 239

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Looks like the Donkey will get 4 more years

An “Unclean” Dimly-Lighted Place



I don’t get embarrassed easily although this moment was memorable:

A few years ago, I needed an apartment for special guests that were visiting me in Sweden. Fortunately, a friend was kind enough to lend me his apartment, which I appreciated. Often, Swedes open up their home for a friend to use when they are away – something that has always impressed me.

Upon entering this dimly-lit apartment, neither my guests nor I noticed anything out of the ordinary although it was a gray day and they were tired after travelling overnight. It wasn’t long before I left and they got a few hours of sleep.

When they woke up, they got a surprise they weren’t expecting. The place was a mess. Dust, food crumbs and dirt were abundant and I won’t even mention the state of the bathroom or kitchen.

Taking the bull by the horn, they spent an hour cleaning the apartment as they couldn’t stay in such a dirty place. It became livable by decent standards, not by their standards as that would have taken most of the day.

Needless to say, I was embarrassed after hearing what they had to endure on their first day in Sweden. If I had known, I would have paid for a cleaner. They were gracious in how they told me although they said it in no uncertain terms.

Most people (and Swedes) I know, take care of their home in the same clean manner as we do. I assumed that this friend was similar. I’ll never make that mistake again!

I never mentioned to my friend what my guests had done on that first day and I didn’t have to. Unbeknownst to me, they had also cleaned the place the day before they left; making the apartment sparkle in ways I’m sure it never has. When my friend returned, he mentioned how clean the place was. I thought, “If you only knew”.

I’m hopeful that seeing his apartment in a clean condition may have helped to inspire him and his family to take better care of it.

It was a powerful lesson for me as I’ve rarely assumed in life but for some reason I did this time. Any place I’ve borrowed after has been checked thoroughly.

Thankfully, there have been no “Unclean” apartments since.

Happy Gswede Sunday!


You might know this proverb if you are religious - "Cleanliness is Next to Godliness"

13 lbs (6 kilos) Lighter….Healthier & Feeling Great!

It almost didn’t happen.

I was content with my body and eating habits although somewhere deep inside, there was always a small voice reminding me that I could do better. I ignored that voice in the past as my weight has rarely been a problem and my health has ranged from very good to excellent.

Then the inspiration came.

My wife decided to change her eating habits earlier this year and with a gentle push, I said to myself, “Why don’t I join her”.  It took less than 1 minute to decide and just like that, my life changed for the better. This was May 1, 2012 and I've never looked back.

I wrote this only a week after I started this lifestyle change:

Like many people around the world, I’ve been guilty of consuming too much sugar, and/or carbohydrates at times – things that can really drain a mind, body and soul. For the last 7 days, I’ve changed my eating dramatically, especially in regards to the sugar intake, which has been minimal.

I feel great!  My body feels lighter and I have a spring in my step – something I didn’t think was possible as I felt good nearly every day before this change. I realize that it has only been a week and any worthwhile change must be sustained although I felt compelled to get the message out, if only for the inspiration someone may be looking for.

It’s been close to 6 months and I’ve been consistent with my improved eating habits.  My life and body have changed in ways I never imagined.

  • I can feel my stomach working for the first time. 
  • I lost 6 kilo’s (13 lbs) and weigh the same as my collegiate days. In addition, I lost two pants sizes.
  • With the severely decreased sugar intake, food tastes better and I don’t get as hungry as I did before, therefore I eat less.
  • The nice jeans my wife bought me some years ago, never quite fit the way I wanted.  Despite loving the jeans, I only wore them a handful of times. Now, they fit perfectly. I never knew jeans could be so comfortable.
  • I have more energy.
  • Running is easier and more enjoyable
  • I’ve never had a bad back or trouble with my knees although infrequently, I would have stiffness/aches due to my basketball playing days. Neither has bothered me once since May. 
I could go on. The best part is that I feel fantastic!

I’ve also decided to be a “Champion for Healthy Eating” so as to help promote healthy eating and be an inspiration for those who might need a push.  In Sweden, the UK and other parts of Europe, people are becoming increasingly overweight and I think most people know our dreadful obesity statistics in the USA.

Here’s what I wrote in mid May:

I'm even more inspired this week and officially challenging myself to become a "Champion for Healthy Eating". With the wide spread obesity in America and increasingly in Europe and around the world, we all have to DO SOMETHING to help fight this tragic epidemic.

The passage below about America is sobering:

"In 2030, 42 percent of people are projected to be obese, and 11 percent severely obese. Obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, which is 186 pounds for someone 5 feet, 6 inches tall. Severe obesity is a BMI of 40 or more — 248 pounds for someone that height." 
Article - Study on American Obesity 

In no way do I mean to sound preachy or convey that eating healthier is simple as I know that changing the emotional and/or addictive grip that food has on many people can be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome. I looked in the mirror and didn't like some of the bad eating habits I saw so don't be afraid to do the same.

We all need to play our part if only for the sake of our children as they tend to follow the actions of the parents. If you are eating poorly, chances are that your children are eating poorly as well; and no parent wants to create a child who becomes dependent on bad food, thereby making the transition into adulthood extremely difficult.   

Remember, it’s not the kids fault when they are given unhealthy food.

For those who embrace healthy eating habits, I believe we can do more and be inspirational to family members and our inner circle. We cannot be afraid to nicely encourage those we care about. As is usually the case, it will be up to that person to make the change, although our love and positivity can go a long way.

This past summer, I was talking to one of my fitness mentors about the best way to promote healthy eating. Anytime I see him, I become inspired as his look and attitude sparkle with health!

His words were simple:

He said, “People will notice and be inspired by your actions George. Just keep eating well and exercising, and people will notice. That is the best thing you can do.”

I plan to do just that.

Happy Gswede Sunday!


My wife's amazing caesar salad.

Anniversary Day Massacre – Obama/Romney


Whether it was on Twitter during the Presidential debate or watching on TV after, words such as “not aggressive, “cool Barry”, “no passion”, “lack of fire” and “landslide for Romney” came fast and furious in describing this massacre.

And yes, it was a massacre.

The President didn’t come to play, was unprepared and failed to adjust in any way during the debate. Romney delivered boldly and beyond expectations. He was impressive.

It happens. Haven’t we all had bad moments or performances?  It probably didn’t help that this massacre occurred on an important day for the President – his 20th marriage anniversary. It's hard to be at your best work-wise on such a special day.

As I was watching in the early morning hours, thoughts of another massacre were swirling in my mind. The year was 1985 and the day is appropriately called the “Memorial Day Massacre” – the first game of the NBA Basketball Finals between my beloved Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

A description is below:

The 38-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, in particular, slogged up and down the court, while his counterpart in the pivot, Robert Parish, seemed to motor effortlessly from one baseline to another. The Lakers' old warhorse seemed to be not one but many steps behind. He finished the day with 12 points and three rebounds, while Magic pulled down only one board. The famed "Showtime" running game had been slowed to a crawl. 

And the Celtics? They raised a huge red welt on the Lakers' scar from the previous year with an overwhelming 148-114 win that became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. Scott Wedman hit all 11 of his shots from the floor, including four three-pointers. But it was Ainge who lashed the whip hardest, lacing in six straight buckets at the end of the first quarter to finish the period with 15 points. 

"It was one of those days," Celtics coach K.C. Jones said, "where if you turn around and close your eyes, the ball's gonna go in."
As an avid basketball player and fan of the sport, Obama should be well aware of this lopsided game. On Wednesday night, Obama was Kareem Abdul Jabbar…..never quite finding his rhythm.

Romney performed like the Celtics on Wednesday evening.  He was confident, strong and had a Gordon Gekko type Swagger. Like the Lakers, Obama was pummelled by the super energized Republican candidate. The debate wasn’t even close.

Fortunately for the President, this moment should serve as his wake-up call, just as it was for Kareem and the Lakers.

Kareem went out the next game like a man on fire with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocks. The Lakers won game 2 by a score of 109-102. The Lakers took a stand and never looked back. And to my pure joy, we won game 6 in Boston and the NBA Championship!

I don’t think anyone doubts that Obama will come back with a focused strategy, much more intense and ready to do battle in the two remaining debates. He didn’t get to where he is by being passive and unwilling to fight.

The President had it easy in the 2008 debates against John McCain as all he had to do was show up; his rock star status made it tough for anyone to compete against him. Mitt Romney is a different bird (no PBS pun intended) as he proved himself to be a sharp and capable debater.

Like the Memorial Day Massacre, Obama’s poor performance could be a blessing in disguise.  With a formidable and highly disciplined campaign team to help him, the Obama who everyone expected last week should reappear in round 2.

Romney will have to step up his debate game even higher in order to match an energized Obama. The confidence Romney has gained from his stellar night cannot be taken for granted or make him overconfident.

The President is in the driver’s seat as he still leads in the polls and should have incredible motivation. It’s his game to lose.

Obama’s Anniversary Day Massacre might just be the jolt he needed to finish the campaign forcefully and secure his re-election. If not, Romney will credit last Wednesday night as his “Moment of Truth” in becoming the 45th President of the United States.

Happy Gswede Sunday!



(www.newyorker.com)

Mitt Romney – Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

One of Gordon Gekko’s famous lines in the movie Wall Street was:

“Well, in my book, you either do it right, or you get eliminated.

Mitt Romney hasn’t been doing much right lately.

Even some Obama supporters must feel for him as his last month has ranged from incredibly stupid (47% comment) to terribly unprepared (untimely attack on Obama administration’s foreign policy)….which was preceded by a snore fest of a Republican convention, where Clint Eastwood was the story on what should have been Romney’s night.

Before these “foot in mouth” stumbles, Romney offered very little of himself or his policies, yet was still in a close race with President Obama.

Too Much

In a private room with top fundraisers, Romney offered words about 47% of America that would come to haunt him:

“I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives”.

Instead of sticking to his safe talking points, he said too much in May 2012.  Didn’t Romney or his team know a basic rule of politics? - to always speak as if the world is listening. The owner of that hidden video camera must have been jumping for joy.

When two competitors are in a close race (like the candidates in summer), it’s important for each person to maintain a nice flow and not do too much to upset the balance. The Obama campaign understands that and is highly disciplined.

In addition, attacking Obama on foreign policy before the facts were known about Libya showed a severe lack of preparation. As the Benghazi crisis was unfolding, Romney criticized the current administration for making an “apology for American values”.

As we now know, the attack in Libya took the lives of the US Ambassador and three other Americans. Even some Republicans (media and politicians) were critical of Romney’s statement.  This moment was a classic case of striking out while going for a home run, when all Romney needed to do was keep hitting singles.

Too Little

Romney has offered broad yet unspecified plans of his strategy for America, along with letting the Obama campaign define his image.

In addition, he has failed to inspire, a key ingredient in winning Presidential elections – just ask Reagan, Clinton or Obama.

A)    Low Taxes, Less Governments and Creating Jobs have been central themes for Romney. With a tough USA economy and circumstances dire for millions, one has to think that voters (especially undecided ones) want to here more specifics in order to be persuaded to the Republican side.

B)    Romney has seemed uneasy talking about his Bain Capital background and financial success. Since the Obama campaign has done a very good job painting him as “out of touch” with effective advertising, it’s hard to fathom why Romney doesn’t proudly extol his past experience. He has lived the American dream so why not promote that to all Americans? One should never be bashful about hard-earned success.
  
C)    Since Romney was a businessman most of his life, the savvy political instincts never seem to come forth.  Maybe he is trying to be something he is not (i.e. appealing to his conservative base), which in life or politics isn't a good thing.  Romney seems like a decent man although his authenticity rarely glows.

Romney has given potential supporters too little to be inspired by.

Too Late

Romney had his chance to shine yet never seized the day with a positive game changer or “wow” moment, therefore not putting any real pressure on a sitting President, vulnerable because of the bad economy.

Despite the lack of sizzle, he was in a good position against Obama before convention season. Instead of riding the wave with singles and the occasional double until November 6, his mouth has put his campaign into disarray.

Offering “Too Much” in the form of unwise words lately, preceded by “Too Little” of Mitt to start with = Too Late.

Could Romney still win the Presidency? Of course.  Only a fool would believe that the race is over as one never knows when a damaging story or event could undermine Obama. The President has taken a significant lead in many states including the all important swing states because of Romney’s missteps, but that could change quickly if Romney gains some momentum.

However, the beginning words to the song by Johnny Mathis and Denise Williams are perfectly suited for some Obama supporters, as they are singing them already:

Guess it's over, call it a day
Sorry that it had to end this way
No reason to pretend
We knew it had to end some day, this way
(Too Much, Too Little, Too Late)

One would think the former capitalist in Romney would display more of the boldness of Gordon Gekko as they are cut from the same cloth (i.e. making money from distressed companies). As a former CEO, one has to think that the boldness is there.

Gekko always played to win and never lacked confidence.  Mitt needs some of that swagger; particularly in Wednesday’s first debate.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote a column recently advising Mitt to “Go Large”:

Mitt, he’s right. You need to make some Power Moves as you cannot rely on luck at this point.

Do it Big and Do it Right and Do it Now…..or you will be eliminated.

Happy Gswede Sunday!



 Mitt Romney needs some Gordon Ghekko Swagger. (en.wikipedia.org)

September 11, 2001 - LUCK Kept Him Alive

On Tuesday, many will remember that horrific day in 2001, especially those of us who were in NYC that morning.

Here's a passage I wrote 4 years ago about a man I played basketball with on a weekly basis:

Many people were fortunate to be absent from their job on that fateful morning for a variety of reasons. One of those absentees was a member of my gym. He worked for the firm Cantor Fitzgerald which lost the majority (over 600) of their employees that day. He was playing in his weekly Tuesday morning basketball game which didn't end until 8am. He was on his way to work when the first plane hit. I wanted to ask him how he felt to be alive but the moment never felt right. Two of his colleagues (nice guys) who often played basketball with me at the gym were in the office that morning and never came home. Fortune smiles on some and frowns on others.
 My article from 4 years ago (Sept 11, 2001 - Pain, Giving, Renewal)

I was thinking of him lately as if not for the LUCK of that basketball game, he would have surely been dead.

Many of us probably don't attribute our success to luck although it is difficult not to see how important luck really is.

-- Wasn't I lucky to be born with a basketball talent? I think so. Yes, I cultivated the talent and made the best use of it to get a college scholarship although luck played a large part. Without the luck of basketball along with the luck of having a great mentor and parents, my life wouldn't have been nearly as interesting or exciting.

-- Hard to see how Bill Gates wasn't lucky to be born into a well-off household where he could play with computers at his leisure during his childhood. If he came from a poor household, it is highly unlikely that he would have been as successful.

-- Wasn't it luck that someone took a chance on an overweight black woman named Oprah early in her career? With the ratings war and beauty (just look at CNBC) being more of an emphasis for women today, it's hard to imagine a 2012 Oprah getting that lucky break.

Oprah and Gates made the absolute best of their fortunate situations although luck cannot and should not be discounted.

-- If Barack Obama hadn't lost that 2000 Congressional race to Bobby Rush, is there any doubt that there wouldn't be a President Obama? Luck.

-- In 1982, I asked an older mentor (was married before) to come to my community pool as I noticed  there were plenty of friendly and single ladies. He met a kind woman and they hit it off immediately. They moved in together within weeks and will be celebrating 30 years of marriage soon. They have been a perfect match! Hard not to see the luck in that moment.

If you are not a believer of luck in your success, maybe this quote from a famous writer might give you some food for thought.

"People really don't like to hear success explained away as luck, especially successful people. As they age and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don't want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There's a reason for this. The world doesn't want to acknowledge it either. Don't be deceived by life's outcomes. Life's outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that you have had success, you have also had luck. And with luck comes obligation."
(Michael Lewis - Author of MoneyBall)

If I had the chance to go back to any of our basketball nights after 9/11, when we sat together exhausted after fun competition, I would ask the aforementioned man one question:

Don't you feel like a Lucky Guy after 9/11?

Happy Gswede Sunday!

http://elliesworld-blog.blogspot.se/2012/09/the-fight-for-freedom-i-have-no-idea.html

Being “Average” was OK Before...(No Longer)

Throughout my life and career, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by many individuals who are above average.

Whether they possessed wit, charm, grace, intelligence, grit, diligence, empathy, toughness, relentlessness, street smarts, confidence, social skills, determination, mentoring qualities, common sense, nuance, thick skin or a passion for those less fortunate…..they all had one common thread called “Success”.

They were not average in any sense of the word. Maybe more importantly, most perfected the art of having fun with their accomplishments.

It’s been a wonderful gift for me as I’ve been motivated to be as good as I could be in my career, as a human being and as a parent. Even when I have fallen short, there was never a lack of inspiration to get me back on track.  I also realized early on that by being around successful people and/or having quality mentors, would not only make life more enjoyable but also benefit me immensely as I chased my dreams.

The aforementioned thoughts surfaced because of a great article I read earlier this year, written by author Thomas Friedman. A passage is below from his column “Average is Over”:

Yes, new technology has been eating jobs forever, and always will. As they say, if horses could have voted, there never would have been cars. But there’s been an acceleration. As Davidson notes, “In the 10 years ending in 2009, [U.S.] factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years; roughly one out of every three manufacturing jobs — about 6 million in total — disappeared.”

With the way technology has rapidly blossomed and will change even faster in the future, it’s important for everyone (especially our youth), to embrace change and develop more than one set of skills.

Another passage:

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

The link to this timely and insightful article is below along with the author’s parting words:

In a world where average is officially over, there are many things we need to do to buttress employment, but nothing would be more important than passing some kind of G.I. Bill for the 21st century that ensures that every American has access to post-high school education.

“Average” might have provided a good life for someone before although one thing we can all count on is that it won’t anymore.

Happy Gswede Sunday!


Gswede was "Above Average" in Basketball, thus securing a 4 year college scholarship! Along with Education, sports can take one a long way as well if one is willing to "Put in the Time".

We Have a Winner.....(Los Angeles Lakers)

If they were giving out Oscars for the "Best Trades of the NBA (National Basketball Association) off-season", the Los Angeles Lakers organization would have won at least 2 Golden Statues - signing two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-Star Dwight Howard!

Now that the dust has settled and the Laker haters/doubters have had a chance to adjust to these two GREAT signings, I wanted to give you some insight about what this means for the Lakers. Since I bleed Purple & Gold, I thought it was better to read an unbiased opinion of the deft moves by my favorite sports team - the mighty Lakers.

My good friend Sean, is a passionate Philadelphia 76er's fan yet he called me recently about the Lakers.  As a basketball fan, he was impressed at their ability to improve their already solid team.  Sean appreciates teams who boldly and consistently do what it takes to improve and compete for championships.

In addition, his analysis of the trades and what it means for the Lakers is spot on.

I will make this prediction.  If injuries are kept to a minimum, my Lakers will be in the NBA finals, most likely facing the Miami Heat in what would be a dream matchup in June 2013.

For the aforementioned haters/doubters, enjoy my twist on a Kanye West song called "Good Life":

Kobe told me go ahead and switch my style up
And if they hate 
Let em hate
And watch the championships pile up!

For everyone else, enjoy Sean's article below called "We Have a Winner",

Happy Gswede Sunday!
-----

We Have a Winner....
(By friend Sean) 

The Los Angeles Lakers have emerged as the winner's of the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes.  Those of you who are clouded by your disdain for the Lakers to think that this trade doesn't equate to another title run are allowing your emotions to impact your ability to reason.  I am a Philadelphia 76ers fan, but most importantly I am a basketball fan and Mitch Kupchak's ability to orchestrate this trade was superb for many reasons.

First, let's make one thing clear, having a legitimate big man to anchor your defense has and continues to be the best blueprint to compete for a title.  I know some who disagree with this thought process will quickly evoke the success of the Miami Heat without a dominant big man, but remember, until Chris Bosh was reinserted into that lineup after his injury the Heat were being challenged by an aged Boston Celtics team. Even with Bosh they were pushed to seven games because of the play of Kevin Garnett (a dominant big man).  Dwight Howard is the best center in basketball with the kind of stamina that KG no longer has!  

What LA has accomplished is adding the most physical inside presence in the NBA to their already championship experienced lineup.  Think about how both Oklahoma City and Miami strategically attack teams by repeatedly going to the rim.  Sure, Kevin Durant is the game's most lethal perimeter shooter yet, Harden, Westbrook, and the others on that team attack the rim which has played a huge role in the team's success .  The same can be said for Miami's James and Wade.  They are at their very best when in attack mode.  As a matter of fact, Lebron's ability to post up defenders this season is one of the biggest reason for both his and the team's success.  With Dwight Howard manning the middle those two teams I have mentioned will no longer have the ability to leisurely attack the rim against LA.  Oh, and don't give me the argument that the Lakers had Andrew Bynum and that did not deter OKC from attacking them.  I am assuming that many of you already know just how much more athletic, physical, and an all around better player Howard is compared to Bynum.  Besides, Bynum's limited success when he was healthy and on the floor can be directly attributed to the presence of "The Black Mamba" and Pao Gasol. 

The addition of Nash and Howard has essentially added a few more years to Kobe's career.  Nash takes the pressure off of Kobe to run the offense and create shots for the team as well as himself.  Nash still has the range to make a difference from the perimeter, and now will get uncontested shots having Bryant, Gasol, and Howard playing with him.  If you need an example for what I just explained, see Jason Kidd and his success with Dallas last year!  Nash is arguably still one of best 'pure" point guards in the game in terms of his ability to run an offense.

Howard's presence ensures that Kobe will have more room and freedom to operate, and another more than capable option to defer to when needed.  Furthermore, the fact that LA did not have to part ways with Gasol to consummate this trade was brilliant.  Kobe once said that Gasol was one of the best players he has ever played with.  How much more effective do you believe Gasol is going to be having a presence like Dwight Howard playing next to him?  Lastly, I'm sure many of you have completely overlooked the talent and skills of Ron Artest here.  Artest will be comparable to what Dennis Rodman represented to MJ and the Bulls during their run.  Artest is a menacing defender, both physical and irritating, and has demonstrated that he is more than capable of hitting big shots when needed (ex., the Lakers last championship season).

Miami has no front line to match what LA now has put together (Bosh and who?).  Are any of you bold enough to take an OKC front line of Serge Ilbacca and Kendrik Perkins over Howard and Gasol?  For those Bulls fans reading this, prior to Derrick Rose blowing out his knee from quite simply a tremendously stupid coaching decision by having him on the floor in a game that was already decided, your team minus injuries had the talent to challenge the Heat.  During the regular season the Bulls essentially had their way with the Heat.  Unfortunately, because of the injury to Rose and the uncertainty of what the impact will be on his speed and explosiveness, the Bulls cannot be considered as championship contenders.  Thus, barring any significant injuries to Gasol, Bryant, or Howard this trade means that LA now becomes a more than legitimate threat to dethrone Miami for the NBA title next season.  Once they develop chemistry as a team, (which by the way will not be remotely close to what Miami went through when they meshed James, Wade, and Bosh because Howard does not need to control the ball to be effective like the aforementioned do),  LA could win 70 games.


Superman aka New Laker Dwight Howard

Vibe in Varberg, Sweden


I love a GREAT vibe.

It rarely happens when I stumble upon or visit a new place although when it does, it fills my soul with immense pleasure.

Last week, it happened magnificently.

My wife took me on a 24 hour getaway without kids (yes!). It was one of her birthday gifts to me.  The spa/hotel was called Varbergs Kurort – a lovely place in western Sweden.

The lobby was relaxed, warm and friendly upon arrival. Everything flowed nicely as we checked in, enjoyed a cool drink and strolled around the property. The vibe was good.

After we came back from our late afternoon dip in the sea, we settled down in comfortable chairs for more drinks and an early dinner. The music came on and that is when the vibe went from good to great!

Good music is as important as anything else when it comes to creating atmosphere. If it’s good, it adds a dynamic dimension to a hopefully already good scene.  If the music is bad, the moments and vibe can burn out quickly.

The playlist at Kurort was perfect – soulful and smooth. It was the kind of music that even those who don’t appreciate or like music wouldn’t mind. It was never in the way, only beautifully soothing.

If we didn’t have to go to a terrific concert (Veronica Maggio) that night, we would have undoubtedly stayed there another couple of hours, soaking in the surrounding elements and enjoying the beauty of day.

Without the music, the vibe was nice as the staff, setting, sun and food were terrific. With the music, the vibe was sensational! 

Can’t wait to experience it again.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

View of Kurort from the Lighthouse - Varberg, Sweden

Joe Paterno – From “Success with Honor” to SHAME


Like many sports fans, I admired Joe Paterno (JoePa as he was affectionately called), the late Penn State Head Football coach.

He was the epitome of everything that was right in college sports. His teams excelled, players graduated and negativity avoided “Happy Valley”- a Penn State slang term that doesn’t seem as appropriate in 2012.  In addition, former players, opposing coaches and business leaders often shouted his praises from the mountaintops.

I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and could get to the university in less than two hours. My state was CRAZY about Penn State Football! I’ve also known alumni and visited the campus on many occasions.  The topic of football frequently came up during those times and nothing but positivity emanated from any conversation about the program or the Head Coach.

Paterno was viewed as a Great Coach, Man and Leader. And since he never had any serious scandals (unlike many other college programs), the term “Class Act” and “Man of Integrity” was often applied to him.

That was then.

Most opinions (including my own) of Paterno have changed dramatically since a damaging report was revealed to the world Thursday. After hearing Louie Freeh (former FBI Director) talk about his independent 8 month Penn State investigation of the Jerry Sandusky Case, I doubt anyone would use words like classy or integrity in the same sentence with JoePa.

Here’s what Freeh said:

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh wrote in his summary of his report. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."

Even those who staunchly defended Paterno are changing their tune. Nike CEO Phil Knight – a long-time friend of JoePa, spoke at his memorial (before this report) and gave a passionate speech defending Paterno.  Below are Phil’s recent words and the immediate changes at Nike speak volumes about how they feel now.

“Other than my parents, my college coach, Bill Bowerman, was the biggest influence in my life. Bill Bowerman and Joe Paterno shared some great qualities. Throughout Joe Paterno’s career, he strived to put young athletes in a position to succeed and win in sport but most importantly in life. Joe influenced thousands of young men to become better leaders, fathers and husbands.

According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains."

Nike also announced that the child-care center at its corporate headquarters would no longer be named after Paterno. Nike president and CEO Mark Parker announced the move in another statement.

"I have been deeply saddened by the news coming out of this investigation at Penn State. It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes. With the findings released today, I have decided to change the name of our child care center at our World Headquarters. My thoughts are with the victims and the Penn State community."

I can’t fathom how Paterno and the other three men could have shown such disregard for the lives of those innocent boys and their families. Even Bobby Bowden of Florida (2nd most wins in college football after Paterno) said that he would have wanted to ask Joe WHY he concealed a monster like Sandusky.

I played Division 1 basketball so I’ve seen what attention and adoration can do to the egos and mindset of players and coaches. Often, it’s not positive. Also, I can understand (yet not condone) other acts that have been done (cheating, paying players ,etc) in collegiate sports although I never thought in my lifetime that I would be reading about 4 grown men at one of college football’s most prestigious programs, covering up for a suspected paedophile.  

More facts from the Sports Illustrated column:

"But combine that fact with what we already knew. In 2001, graduate assistant Mike McQueary told Paterno he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a shower at Penn State's football complex. Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz -- already aware of suspicions that Sandusky was a child molester -- did absolutely nothing. The two most powerful men on Penn State's campus (Spanier and the late Paterno) and two more on the upper end of the totem pole did nothing to help the child involved in 2001, nothing to stop Sandusky."

The janitors at Penn State also bear some responsibility as one of them witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy and did NOTHING. A few details are described in Mike Lupica’s (Daily News) article below:

“They (the janitors) witnessed what I think in the report is probably the most horrific rape that’s described,” Freeh said Thursday.

“And what do they do? They panic. The janitor who observed this said it’s the worst thing he ever saw. This is a Korean War veteran who said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that. It makes me sick.’ He spoke to the other janitors. They were alarmed and shocked by it. But what did they do? They said, ‘We can’t report this because we’ll get fired.’ They knew who Sandusky was. They were afraid to take on the football program."

I almost wrote about Paterno, his three conspirators and Sandusky in late 2011 when the scandal was at its boiling point but decided to wait as all the facts weren’t out yet. As the most powerful man at Penn State, I (like many) suspected that Paterno knew more than what he was saying although at that time, there wasn’t any evidence to prove it. There is now.

Their acts to protect Sandusky and lack of action for these boys were disgraceful and inexcusable.

One final passage from the Sports Illustrated article:

"The real downside, as anyone with a soul knows, is that more children were abused. That is the ultimate tragedy, but Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz weren't worried about children. They were worried about themselves."

Regarding the victims and their families, let’s let all our hearts go out to them with the hope that they are beginning to heal and find a bit of peace now that Jerry Sandusky will go to prison for the rest of his life.

Because of this case, I’m hopeful that other colleges/schools will be more diligent and forthcoming when suspicions arise or they are confronted with similar issues as only a naive person would believe that this type of abuse is not happening elsewhere.

“Success with Honor” was a Paterno motto and often used to describe his program. What a joke his words seem like now.

His famous quote is below:

Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good.
(Joe Paterno). 

His legacy is forever tarnished and can be described in one five letter word. SHAME.

Shame on Joe Paterno.
Shame on Spanier.
Shame on Curley.
Shame on Schultz.



 Joe Paterno Statue - I can't imagine that Penn State would keep this standing.
Picture Link

Father's Day Message (4 years ago)

On this USA Father's Day, I wanted to share an article (below) I wrote 4 years ago on this very same day.

I'm grateful that I have a caring and beautiful family and the love that surrounds me keeps my soul shining! In addition, I'm thankful for all my male friends (most are fathers) who I count on for wisdom, inspiration and support.

Happy Father's Day Gentlemen. I hope your day is filled with a big spoonful of love and gratitude!

Happy Gswede Sunday!

-----

Honor your Father, Today and Everyday
(June 15, 2008)

On this American Father's Day (November in Sweden), thoughts of fatherhood are swirling in my head.

--- I will never forget the speech that a dear friend gave in Pennsylvania at the funeral of his father. It was eloquent, funny and moving. His words helped me tremendously when only a few years later I was in the same position. He continues to inspire me.

--- Many of my friends have had children from 2005 -2008 and most of them are good fathers (not all unfortunately). Those who do not take fatherhood seriously tend not to spend enough time with their kids and/or don't put the child's best interests first. They run life on their terms and the kids have to fit in. What a shame.

--- A childhood friend in Boston has inspired me as a person and as a father. His young son has a serious illness that will take several years to cure although he is doing better now. I think of his entire family often. They have overcome some huge obstacles over the years. I cannot imagine the pain of seeing one's precious child experiencing such an ordeal.

-- Two of my friends in Sweden take the father role seriously. One has a daughter that is wise beyond her years. On my first day of substitute teaching a few years ago, she helped me organize and maintain composure in the classroom. She was 9 years old! The second speaks of his daughter in such a loving and passionate way. I have never heard someone show such emotion when talking about a child.

--- The best boss I ever had is a wonderful father. We have had some enriching conversations throughout the years. If you were to see him with his two daughters, there would be no doubt in your mind about how he is as a father. He has inspired me from the moment we met.

--- In late 2005, during the Xmas holidays, one of my childhood friends (and loving father of 3) sent me an email about his father being sick. It was like a dagger to the heart as I truly felt for him especially since I had recently lost my father. His father died not long after his message to me. What I loved about his father was the pure joy and pleasant nature he exuded! He was a kind and decent man and I always felt better after being in his presence.

--- Since an early age, I have had the privilege of spending time with and learning from one of my mother's cousins (like an uncle to me). He consistently looked out for me in my career and his success in business and life was invaluable to witness and hear about. His three lovely daughters are very fortunate to have him as their father which I am sure they know.

--- My first basketball coach has been like a father to me. Without his care and teaching, I would have never reached the Division 1 heights in college basketball. In addition, his life lessons during my teenage years were very helpful. It brought me sincere joy to bring him over to Sweden from 2005-2007 to inspire youth utilizing basketball as a tool.

--- My college basketball teammate is one of my dearest friends and seeing him around his kids has been refreshing for me. I learned a lot from him before I had children regarding the tough task of raising kids. He was always frank with me and didn't sugarcoat his words which I appreciated. I admire the father and man that he is.

--- One of my most interesting friends in NYC lost his father last year. I only met him once but it was memorable. He was smart, cool and very hip for being in his 70's. Everyone enjoyed his company on that summer Manhattan night.

--- My high school basketball coach died in March 2007. He was instrumental in preparing me for the rigors of college basketball. He was 54 years old and had two sons. After speaking to him in January of that year, he gave me some fatherly advice. He said "don't push your son into sports if it is not something that he wants to do". Important words for any father to hear.

--- The godfather of my son is a gentleman that I have known less than 5 years although it feels like I have known him for 20 years. He is a good father and godfather and someone I always enjoy being around. He has 3 boys so his insight and candidness about fatherhood have been important to hear.

-- My father had a stroke in 2003. The last time he was conscious was on Father's Day 2005 when my mother and cousin read a letter to him that I wrote about fatherhood. I got choked up hearing about his reaction as I was in Belgrade, Serbia at the time. He died in July 2005. He was a good man and good father. As the years go by, I realize how much I learned from him and how comforting it was hearing his voice.

Writing to a few friends this morning, I conveyed that we must all continue to be be strong, value oriented, disciplined and loving fathers that spend as much time with our kids as possible. In addition, our children's best interests and well being should always be at the top of our agendas.

We can even learn from the far too many absent and non-caring fathers that surround us. I witnessed quite a few growing up and I instantly knew that I didn't want to be like them.

It is important to have one or several father figures or mentors in your life. If you do, talk to them, observe them and learn from them before and after you have children. If you don't, be diligent in finding one because life can be tough without the wise counsel and care of people outside of mom and dad.

My mentors continue to inspire and benefit me.

Honor your father on this day and everyday. The best way to do that is by being a good man, a good father, a good husband, helping others and continuing to evolve as a person.

One never knows how long our father's or mother's will be around.

Happy Father's Day and Gswede Sunday!

 Gswede and daughter Nova-Li.

One of Life's Most Important "Quotes"

I love quotes and have shared some of my favorites throughout the years. Three articles are below:

7 Favorite Quotes


A Magnificent Quote from the 30th President of the United States

The quote below is one of life's most important as it sums up nicely what is essential to a quality well being and to making a difference in our global world.

It's not only essential to live by these words but one should also be surrounded by those who share the love of kindness.

Can you imagine how much better the world would be if we could all be just a little kinder to one another?

"3 things in human life are important: the 1st is to be kind; the 2nd is to be kind; and the 3rd is to be kind." 
(Henry James)

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Photo: Even though Sweden has 'slim to zero' chance of winning the Euro fotball (soccer) Championship this month, the mood is festive, especially in stores!

Swedish Spirit is high for this month's European Fotball (soccer) Championships!

You Are Where You Want To Be


I love the line 'You Are Where You Want To Be' and have never forgotten its importance.  Whether we are happy, sad, miserable, jazzed or indifferent, all of us are 'where we want to be' in life or we would work tirelessly to change our circumstances.       

Numerous people are joyful, passionate, happy or thriving while many have supreme challenges. Sadly, others are just existing or going through the motions of life.

If you don't like where your life is at this moment, why not charge like an angry bull to change it?  Keep in mind that loved ones may have their feelings hurt in the process or friends may not like the changes or your kids may lose some parental time although it’s usually worth it if it creates a better you and gives you a life you desire.

Don't forget who is (or should be) the most important person in your life...YOU!  My article (quote and link below) on benefits may provide some insight.

M) You are # 1If you are not, how can you live a good life or benefit others? People tend to forget that taking care of YOU FIRST is the most important thing in life. Living life for others or through others is a sure way to experience a HO HUM existence. There are many ways to achieve this no matter how busy you are in life. One is to act on a passion you have and make sure to do it every week if only for an hour.

It’s disheartening to see those who devalue their worth or put others ahead of their own well-being. How can one be the best that they can be for loved ones, friends or colleagues exhibiting that type of behaviour?

It's one thing to know that you should come first in your life although if you don't act like it, 'where you want to be' will continue to remain elusive.

Below are words from a good friend after he received some inspiration on putting himself first:

“Thanks GP, this message came on a day when it was most needed.”

Don’t be afraid to do whatever you deem ethically necessary to continue to soar in the way you desire or CHANGE, so that you can get out of existing and into the joys and happiness of living!

If change is what you desire:

A)    Will you make it Bambi inspired or like an angry Bull? 

B)    Will you make POWER MOVES (Article on "Power Moves") or continue to thrive in the powerless world?

C)  How bad do you want it?

As always, the choice is up to you.

Whatever you decide, one thing that can’t be taken lightly is “putting in the time” needed to make any change.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

The antidote to envy is one's own work. Always one's own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the doing of it.
--Bonita Friedman

Happy Gswede Sunday!


The beauty of Summer (Picture by Mia)