When I read the "Breaking News" email about the passing of Colin Powell from
complications from COVID-19, I realized that many of us didn't even know he was
being treated for illnesses that weakened his immune system. To me, he always seemed to be one of those
incredibly strong and resilient men that could overcome anything, as I knew he served
as the country's first Black
national security adviser (during the Reagan administration), chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff (under President George H. W. Bush) and secretary of state
(under President George W. Bush).
I first became aware of Powell during Operation Desert Storm and was living in Hong Kong at the time (shortly after I married a Brit, Shell assigned him to the Far East). I can remember being halfway around the world from home while watching seemingly non-stop news briefings featuring "Storming Norman" Schwarzkopf, with his "larger than life" details about the extraordinary precision of the airstrikes. At the time, it almost seemed more like a computer game than an actual war.
However, Powell had a far greater impact on me as he exuded calm mixed with steely determination, projecting an air of confidence that you sensed came from experience and deep personal commitment. And at this time of war and conflict, he provided a comforting feeling of power and control.
|I will not pretend to be a history
buff, nor will I reflect on Mr. Powell's greatness as a military figure, statesman,
and trailblazer. I will leave that to others. But, several things stand out about Powell as
a man. First, he put America ahead of political party, stating,
"I'm just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat, throughout my
entire career, and right now I'm just watching my country and not concerned
Thanks to Punchbowl News, I learned that as a young man, he worked in a toy store, and the owner, a Russian immigrant Jew, admired the young Powell so much that he impressed upon him the importance of getting an education. Powell was so touched by this that he stayed in contact with him for the next 50 years. (I loved the sprinkling of Yiddish phrases as Powell tells the story.)
Of course, I could not help but smile rewatching this video of Powell along with two other motorheads, Jay Leno and (at the time) Vice President Biden "racing" Corvettes. And, may explain why one of my many favorite Powell quotes is, "Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror." But in his passing, you cannot help but look back over all he did for our country.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. May he rest in peace.
Want good customer service? Good behavior is a good start.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We grew up hearing the expression "the customer is always right," and Red certainly agreed with it; and while Black understood the customer service aspect of it, she did question its impact on employees (why would you "automatically" side with a customer over an employee without knowing the details). And that was before the pandemic changed everything, but especially customer behavior.
Until recently, Red didn't think much about why the customer was "always right," but it reminded her of years ago when Black shared her amusing (or, at least, to Red) version of the Golden Rule, "He who has the gold, rules. "So, wouldn't that also apply to customers? Wouldn't a happy customer be a loyal customer?
As much as Black wanted to get into all the reasons why the cliché of the customer always being right didn't make sense, or even that the concept evolved into focusing on positive customer experiences (the pandemic has resulted in some positive changes and trends), she realized that customers' combative behavior is hurting us all, so what needs to be said is,
I get it. Everyone, myself included, is tired of the pandemic and the associated "politics". Emotions are running high, and tolerance and patience are running low. However, none of that is an excuse for rude or aggressive behavior. The customer is not only not always right. But, can be flat-out wrong. Full stop.
Of course, Red, although not trying to minimize the impact of Black's statement, couldn't help but think of a scene in a movie (a car-related one, no less),
One of my favorite scenes from "Ford vs. Ferrari" is when a rather rude and obnoxious customer tells Christian Bale's character (who's British) that "in this country, the customer is always right" and Bale replies, "yeah, bunch of nonsense."
Normally, you shred important papers before trashing them … not expensive art after selling it.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red will admit that she's never been into art, except for the Tudor paintings section of the National Portrait Gallery in London, but that's because she loves Tudor history. And although she's been to plenty of art museums, they were more to "tick off" places on her tourist "to do" list than a genuine desire to see the art. That even includes the Mona Lisa at The Louvre in Paris! (When in Paris, Black was content to go to the Louvre-Rivoli Metro station as the platforms themselves were decorated with art replicas found inside the Louvre Museum.)
Black can't remember when she first became interested in contemporary art, although it went to a whole new level when her second husband asked her to acquire an investment-quality collection. In typical Black fashion, she not only researched the art market and worked with an art consultant, but became friends with several leading artists with whom she shared a mutual passion … cars and racing.
And, although the marriage did not last, and all the art was ultimately sold at auction (except for what she purchased from her ex), Black continued to follow the market. She was fascinated by the well-known, but mysterious, street artist Banksy, who made headlines in 2018 when his popular piece Girl With Balloon was purchased at a Sotheby's auction for $1.4 million. But Black explained to Red that it wasn't the price that made it so famous,
Literally, as the hammer fell, it quickly became "performance art" as part of the painting passed through a hidden shredder, leaving everyone shocked and speechless. It was pure Banksy genius. The anonymous purchaser proceeded with the sale (I cannot help but wonder if they were "in" on it) and ended up with a piece of art history.
That was an understatement, as the piece (renamed Love Is In The Bin) went on tour, and then on Thursday evening, it came up for auction again at Sotheby's and sold for $24.5 million, a record for the artist and close to 20 times its pre-shredded price. Meanwhile, Red couldn't help but think,
I may not "understand" contemporary art, but I respect not only its ingenuity and creativity but how it proves that "art is in the eye of the beholder." How you look at something can make all the difference. Because while I might have seen something destroyed, Black probably saw something created. And in that, there's a huge life lesson.
We thought this would be the perfect question to run on National Boss's Day.
|Oh yes, definitely! Without question, that would be Black.
In fact, on more than one occasion, I've been known to refer to her as
The Boss (and I'm not talking about Bruce Springsteen). It's
usually me kidding around and saying something along the lines of "I'll have to
check with The Boss." (Even my daughters
have heard me refer to their aunt that way, and they've never questioned me, so
there must be some agreement, at least in my family, about who's the
To a great extent, it may be because if you were to compare our bios, I don't think my background as a mom prepared me to be a businesswoman, although Black has tried to convince me otherwise. On the other hand, Black's bio makes it painfully obvious she's "all business" so better suited to be "the boss."
on how you define "boss." If you are referring to who owns more of the
company, I hold 1% more than Red, which technically means I have more
"authority". And, I will admit that as
the older sister, I have more practice being bossy (especially as she has
always tried to avoid conflict), but when it comes to business, I value
teamwork. Red has a perspective and background very different than
mine (that is an understatement!), but the key is acknowledging that – and
learning from one another in order to make the best business decisions. |
The bottom line is there would be no Red & Black … without Red or without Black. It is truly a partnership.