Reflections on civility, Napa Valley, and Long Island business success stories

three images consisting of Joe Campolo lecturing crowd, black and white photo of hands shaking, and two glasses of white and red wine with green and red grapes

Civility Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a story about a plane carrying a group of schoolboys that is shot down over the Pacific. The only adult, the pilot, is killed but most of the boys survive. The rest of the story revolves around the ensuing decline of civility that occurs when this group has no one watching and regulating their actions. The boys break off into groups and compete to possess a conch shell, and ultimately wind up committing murder among one another for this token.

When I was a high school student, this story seemed esoteric to me – some sort of hypothetical fantasy that I could not relate to.  Today, however, with the pervasiveness of social media, I find myself thinking more and more of this novel and its profound relevance.

“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?” Piggy, the most physically vulnerable yet most intellectually gifted of all the boys stranded on the island, asks this prophetic question.

This is precisely what I found myself wondering out loud Wednesday when I was reading posts about the Amtrak train that crashed with Republican lawmakers on board. Many posts, of course, expressed shock and well wishes; many others, however, were not so gracious.  Most notorious was the now-deleted post of Jonathan Tasini, a self-described “talking head” for CNN who posted about the crash, “God is working hard today to clean up the stink.” Equally disturbing is that this post received many “likes” before it was deleted.

Having read that, you can now understand why Piggy, who I haven’t thought about in more than 30 years, immediately popped into my head. Is this what we have become – savages who delight in the pain and death of those who disagree with us? That was not a train full of “lawmakers,” but a train full of people – our fellow Americans. It was a train full of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and friends. And it is not one-sided; the same can be said for disparaging whole groups of productive citizens by calling their motherland a “shithole.”

Are we not all human, deserving of some basic dignity and civility?

“Maybe there is a beast … maybe it’s only us.” Simon, an intuitive boy who is very sensitive to the others, comes to this conclusion when he realizes that the only “beasts” on the island are the boys themselves, considering what they have done to one another.

Again, this strikes me as very profound. Today, many people consider the “beast” to be the other side, and their belief that they are fighting this “beast” causes them to say and do things that are completely inappropriate in a civil society – so much so that they are becoming the true “beast.” It has become so common that it now permeates the mainstream media channels, which all seek to use stories to score a “win” for their side, facts be damned. We the people must reject the news outlets that are using their platforms to wage political wars; we must demand just plain facts and be trusted to make up our own minds on the issues we face.

To make our voices heard and truly have an impact, we must return to “civil disobedience” and use modern technology to help promote old-fashioned petitions, marches, and boycotts, not use it to make vitriolic, hateful comments (often anonymously). And most of all, we must not give a platform, or a “like,” to anyone who crosses the line, regardless of which side they are on – for if we do, we have then become the “beast” ourselves.

Peacock Passenger – A screaming baby, the guy in front of you who reclines his seat practically into your lap, a smelly seatmate… and you thought flying couldn’t get any worse. How would you like to have a fellow passenger’s emotional support peacock across the aisle from you in seat 14B?

Passengers on a United Airlines flight out of Newark this week were spared that fate when the airline refused to allow Dexter the peacock to board the LA-bound flight. While federal guidelines require airlines to permit passengers with disabilities to travel with a variety of service and comfort animals, those “unusual” animals that could pose a threat to the safety of other passengers may be denied boarding. With all best wishes to Dexter and his person, I find the notion of a comfort peacock ridiculous. Trying to pass off a peacock as a necessary travel companion only makes things more difficult for those who truly need the support of trained service animals and untrained comfort animals. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pack a suitcase for my porcupine.

AROUND TOWN

Wine Country – Too often, I find, that “bucket list” items fail to deliver the amount of joy we anticipate they will. Since watching Sideways in 2004, visiting California wine country has been a dream of mine, and we decided to make that dream a reality by visiting Napa Valley last week with good friends Steve Margarites and Dawn LoBasso. Having completed the trip, I can happily report that it lived up to every expectation I had, and then some.

Our trip started with an early morning Delta flight from JFK to San Francisco, which was on time and very pleasant. I immediately noticed that they were serving Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon (a winery we were scheduled to visit) and, realizing it was 5:00 somewhere, we decided to indulge. Check! Once we landed, we headed to the Trident waterfront restaurant in Sausalito for a delicious lunch complete with their house-made Bloody Marys. Check! From there we headed to the Solage Resort in Calistoga, which would act as our home base for the rest of the week. The accommodations were ready, clean, and magnificent, and we had a bottle of wine and fruit platter waiting in our room. Check! From there, the real fun began.

Over the next few days, we visited and toured Jordan, Cakebread, Castello di Amorosa, and both Stags’ Leap and Stag’s Leap wineries (long story), and stopped by Orin Swift’s tasting bar. Words simply cannot describe the beauty and romantic nature of this part of the country. The rolling hillsides covered with vines, the majestic mountain peaks, winding roads, and stone walls made it feel very European. Stepping out of the cars at the various wineries, you could not escape the distinct scent of soil and leaves they all seem to share which, combined with the cool mountain air, made them feel almost holy in nature (I know that sounds very dramatic but for those of you who have been there, you get it). The wineries themselves are housed in beautiful chateaus and castles, with age-old stories delivered by seasoned tour guides (except for one, who shall remain nameless). But in every beauty there is tragedy, and the burn lines and devastated houses from the recent fires were there to bring a yin to the overwhelming yang. Clearly, the news could not catch the true amount of devastation that had destroyed the houses and structures in the area. (The wineries themselves were unharmed; we learned that the vines carry so much water that they serve as a natural barrier to low-burning fires.)

While our days were spent overindulging in wine, our evenings were spent overindulging in wine plus food. The restaurant at our resort is a Michelin-rated facility, and the meals were outstanding. One night we ventured into the city of Napa to Charlie Palmer Steakhouse and celebrated with, among other things, their special pairing of Dom Perignon and oysters. We also enjoyed an eclectic meal of rabbit and duck (and did I mention wine) at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena, which was a total delight.

Admittedly, it was not a cheap trip. That’s part of the reason I waited so long to go, because I knew if I went I would want to experience the very best it had to offer. I am so happy that I did wait, and would highly recommend all the places we visited.

CMM Live – Nothing energizes me more than a Long Island business success story, and I had the pleasure of interviewing the incredible leaders of two such success stories on this week’s episode of CMM Live.

Spend just a few minutes with Teresa Ferraro, President of East/West Industries, and you’ll see that the Long Island manufacturing/defense industry is alive and well. We discussed the reasons this family-owned, certified woman-owned business made it to its 50th birthday this year and continues to grow at an exponential pace: a focus on the customer, support for Long Island suppliers, and recognizing that employees are everything. East/West manufactures and designs products that save aircrew lives, and Teresa and her team don’t take this mission lightly. Watch the full interview here and learn more about the company’s commitment to hiring veterans and why having a strong team and family support have been critical to the company’s success.

H2M architects + engineers President and CEO Rich Humann joined me for the second half of the hour, and we chatted about his remarkable rise to the top after starting at the company as a college intern in 1988. One of the most striking takeaways from the discussion for me was Rich’s point that as CEO, he needs to recognize that different things motivate people, and it’s his job to find out what that is for his employees so they all stay engaged and want to contribute their best. We also discussed H2M’s enviable growth, starting in a Bethpage basement in 1933 to its role today as a powerhouse firm working on some of the most important projects in the region. Check out our full discussion here and tune in to our next episode on February 27 featuring Jack Kulka. Stay tuned…

Negotiation – After a bout of food poisoning, I negotiated with my stomach and made it to our 2018 kickoff Business Breakfast on Wednesday in Hauppauge, where I presented “Master the Emotion and Psychology of Negotiation” to a great crowd of business owners and professionals. I enjoyed delving into the mental mindset that negotiators should strive for in themselves, as well as how to use your adversary’s emotions to advance your interests. Every crowd brings a new perspective to the topic of negotiation, and I appreciated the opportunity to hear from our guests about their own experiences managing competing emotions at the negotiation table (there’s no crying in negotiation!). Thanks to all who joined us, and if you missed it, hope to see you next time.

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