Boost of Energy on my 11th Year in Sweden

I received an inspiring call this morning from an expat living in Sweden, who after many years of dire struggle, has finally turned the corner and is now in a calmer and more positive place. I've been a shoulder to lean on or ear to listen to, all the while, attempting to keep his spirits high. He never gave up, stay focused and kept positive throughout, which I admired. His call came on my 11th year anniversary (April 16, 2004) of being in Sweden, which was a great boost of energy.

Some expats have his type of struggle, while others have a smoother one like mine - a disheartening first few years (common), but a very good overall experience. Many are somewhere in the middle. Every situation is different of course, but there is a unique struggle about Sweden, outside of the normal challenges of moving abroad.

For those who haven't read my 2009 blog - "5 years in Sweden", I encourage you to do so, as it will give you some insight into being a new expat here. I wrote it in order for future expats to gain some important knowledge before they move to Sweden, as far too often, many come to this Nordic country unprepared for the reality.  It's still my most popular blog and one I'm proud of.  A passage and link are below.

"During the job hunting process in my early years, I rarely received an interview from a Swedish company. When I did, it was clear that I was not going to be a finalist for the job. Ironically, one of the few and best interviews I secured occurred before I moved. It was from a top non-profit organization that did fundraising work with corporations, much along the lines of the fundraising work I was doing in NYC."

After a bumpy start, Sweden has exceeded my expectations, for which I'm very grateful. There are lots of things Sweden can do better and numerous things I can improve upon to make my journey even sweeter. Every year, Sweden and I are moving closer together.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Friend Greg Poehler's TV show about being an ex-pat in Sweden

Be Like Spieth?

Before hole #17 at the Masters Saturday, I was ready to coronate Jordan Spieth with the coveted Green Jacket. He had been masterful up to that point. I had a special tweet prepared and ready to send, although history has taught us not to be premature.

With an impressive 7 shot lead going into those final two holes, all he needed were pars on both and the 2015 Masters was essentially his. At worst, he would have had a 6 shot lead going into Sunday, which is ideal for a young man in search of his first Major. If so, I wouldn't have worried about a similar ‘6 shot lead’ collapse that Greg Norman displayed in 1986.

It was Spieth’s first ‘moment of truth’ at Augusta at #17. I expected his nerves to show and he didn’t disappoint. He stumbled badly throughout the hole, missing what should have been an easy bogey for him, and carded a double bogey. Instantly, that 7 shot lead was down to 5.  
He made a valiant effort on #18, with a great chip shot, to save par and probably put his mind at ease somewhat going into the final round. Justin Rose birdied hole #18, so Spieth's lead for Sunday was only 4.

Game on.

Patterns are important in most facets of life and here are Spieth’s:

--  Round 1 – 64
--   Round 2 – 66 (36 hole scoring record)
--  Round 3 – 70 (54 hold scoring record)
--   Round 4 -- ?

Yes, he’s gone downhill each day, but he has set two Masters records in the process. He should feel good, but those final holes on Saturday have to linger in his young mind. Instead of slamming the door shut on Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose, he left it half open.

To be fair, he’s only 21. His success on the PGA tour thus far has been spectacular for someone his age. These three days at Augusta will only be a footnote though, unless he wins today.

I don’t think he will. Here are a few reasons why:

1)      Phil Mickelson is a difficult 5 shots back, but has won the Masters three times, and has five Majors in total. That comfort of knowing how to close at Augusta will be invaluable. Look for Phil to be one of the last men standing.

 2)     Justin Rose has been super on the back 9 holes at Augusta. He should be at ease as well, despite never winning here. The comfort of having won a Major already should make him an aggressive player today. Since he is paired with Spieth, that intensity may be a distraction.

3)     Tiger Woods and Rory Mcllroy play two groups behind Spieth and they have nothing to lose. Woods is legendary and Rory is on that path with multiple Majors already, so they should attack the course fiercely. The roars from their crowds could be another distraction.

4)      Spieth would still be in college if he didn’t turn professional and this type of Sunday pressure is tough for anyone with a three day lead, including seasoned veterans. How will he handle the challenge? And let’s not forget Rory’s choke in the 2011 Masters at a similar age.

5)      No guts, No glory – Will Spieth have the guts to not ‘play if safe’ by hoping that a round of even par (72) will bring him Masters Glory? He should be aggressive and go after the gold.

6)     The Golfing Gods can be incredibly cruel at Augusta. Ask Chris Demarco (2005) or Rocko Mediate (2008) or Len Mattiace (2003) or Ray Floyd (1990) or Hubert Green (1978) or Ed Sneed (1978) or Scott Hoch (1989).

With all the aforementioned potential disruptor's, the best Spieth can hope for is even par (72) in my opinion. That could be enough to win, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Here’s the tweet I have waiting:

With Michael Jordan, they said “Be Like Mike”

There’s a new Jordan in town, his name is Jordan Spieth.

“Be Like Spieth”

I hope Jordan Spieth proves me wrong, as I would like to see him win and send that tweet.

Enjoy what should be another great Masters finish. I’m excited.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

One of many fun golfing days in Sweden

Duke Won (So Did I)…And An Act Of Kindness

I take the annual NCAA ‘March Madness’ College” Basketball Office Pool very seriously. I love the sport, played at the Division 1 level and enjoy competing, so this time of year is a joy for me.

I’ve participated in one in New York City for 13 years. On average, there are 80 bracket sheets that people fill out each March in our pool, with points assigned to each round. The person who gathers the most total points wins a substantial cash prize.  I’ve come in 1st place 6 times in those 13 years, including a 3-peat from 2003-05.

Despite my success, I made a big mistake with Duke in 2010, which I vowed would never happen again. I didn’t have them winning the championship on any of my sheets that year and it cost me, as they won the title. Typically, I have at least one sheet with Duke University as the winner.

I learned a valuable lesson as one can never doubt a team with a leader like Duke's Coach K – one of the most accomplished coaches in any sport. If I had only 1 sheet with Duke winning in 2010, it is likely that I would have won the top prize that year. That loss still bothers me.

In 2015, I didn’t feel Duke would win the NCAA title, but 2010 was swirling in my mind. They had talented freshmen this season and a great big man, although like many, I thought this was Kentucky’s year to go 40-0. On other sheets, I had Kentucky and/or Wisconsin winning, but I made sure to fill out one bracket sheet with Duke as the champion.

That sheet (at the bottom) won the top prize easily, with 76% of games chosen correctly. Even if Wisconsin had won, I would have taken 2nd and 3rd place, which combined was a substantial prize, yet lower than the 1st prize.

Almost immediately, I decided to provide a kindness.

My competitor needed Wisconsin to win in order to claim the top prize. If Duke was victorious, he wouldn’t have won anything. Since I’ve been fortunate over the years (having never lost when final game decided top prize outcome), I offered him a deal.

If Duke won, I told him I would give him 20% of my winnings, and if Wisconsin won, he would give me the same percentage of his winnings. That way, he was guaranteed to win a decent amount of money.  I was going to win a large amount either way, so I didn’t want him to have a feast (top cash prize) or famine (Zero) scenario going into the Final Game. I’ve seen others lose that way and it isn’t fun. He gladly accepted

I’ve also written two posts (below) on how one can improve their chances for winning in their own NCAA office pool. It doesn’t give away my strategy (I have a formula), but it does present common sense tips for filling out a successful bracket sheet.

The mistake most people make in office pools (including mine this year) is picking the favorite as champion, especially if it is an overwhelming one like Kentucky was this year. It’s best to be unique and enter an unlikely but possible scenario, especially if one is only entering one sheet.

Even if Kentucky went 40-0, the chance of one being victorious in my pool was slim as there was too much competition. 50 sheets had Kentucky as champs. I had Kentucky winning on several sheets, but would have won 6th place; a small cash prize which would have only covered the entrance fee.

Only 5 players picked Duke as Champion.  I knew my odds of winning were good when I saw that.

I can’t wait until next year to defend my title.

Happy Gswede Sunday (a few excited days early)!

My 2015 NCAA Bracket Sheet - 76% correct