Specific Instructions

Thursday, June 9, 2016.  Didn’t get to post yesterday.  Fell asleep during the Cavs game believe it or not.  I guess I was comforted when they were up 20 after Kyrie hit a couple of deep 3’s in the first quarter (was dozing on and off throughout the 1st quarter).  I did get the report from Jake at the end of first quarter before he went to bed — Cavs up 17.  He was so pumped.  Then I fell back asleep.  I woke up at a few points (they were up 10 in the 2nd and then up big in the 4th), but each time I must have felt comfortable so I went back to sleep yet again.  Woke up at 3:15 am, checked my phone, responded to a few texts, and then slept until 53oish.  Not bad.  I’m still in the hospital by the way.  A second “precautionary” night.  Better to be safe than sorry. [Yes Jen, you were right.  Touché.]

I had my third blood transfusion yesterday afternoon (following chemo), but when I still had a headache they thought I should get an MRI (which I got at 8 pm last night; told them I needed to get back for the Cavs game at 9….should have realized the anti-anxiety medication was going to knock me out).   While not a big deal, and certainly not worth complaining about, MRI’s suck.  If you have had one, you know exactly what I mean.   I have no idea why the machine needs to make those ridiculous noises for 45 minutes to snap some pictures of your brain.  Between the clicking and the sirens, you are almost rooting for someone to start scratching the black board 30 minutes in.   Waiting for the results, but it sounds like all is OK.  So after chemo this morning, I should be heading home.

They take very good care of me here at New York-Presbyterian.  From the top to the bottom (doctors, nurses, support staff, janitorial services — everyone here is an A+).  Frankly makes it easier to stay an extra night if need be.  I am appreciative and was thinking of the best way to show that appreciation.  Going to take a page out of Professor Pausch’s book (read it, you will understand) and a lesson from Byron Wien.

For me personally, there have been a bunch of takeaways over the last 48 hours, including the need to ring the alarm bell if I am not feeling well (my hemoglobin level was really low and I tried to tough it out as I knew I was coming to the hospital yesterday for chemo).  But one takeaway that I know will stick with me both after this hospital stay and beyond, is the need to give specific instructions.  It sounds so simple.  Yet so many of us tell someone something and get frustrated when the response is not what we were hoping because the reality is we were less than clear in giving the mandate.  It happens all of the time.  And if we were a little more specific, just imagine how much time we would save for the more important things?   Let me explain my moment of clarity.

Yesterday morning I ordered an omelette (yes, you can order an omelette at this hospital!).  Jen usually makes me an omelette with one regular egg and four egg whites.  I scribbled in chicken scratch something along those lines on the piece of paper where you indicate what you want for breakfast.  When my omelette arrived and I opened up the silver plate cover, I was confused and actually thought someone played a joke on me (the picture will be posted when I get home later today).  On the plate was the smallest omelette I had ever seen.  It truly looked as if someone had taken a normal omelette and shrunk it.  I could not believe that spinach and onions could even fit inside.  [Remember the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with Rick Moranis (1989).   My omelette and those kids shared a similar fate.  By the way, what happened to Rick Moranis?  After he won the Oscar for Spaceballs he disappeared.]  I suddenly realized that the omelette was made with one egg white.  Clearly my instructions were less than clear. [Note:  I don’t like using the word “clearly” in a brief.  Someone once told me if you have to use word the clearly, it is not all that clear.]  Got me thinking to to the countless times I have given instructions to associates (or even family members) about a project or a deal and led people down a winding road that did not need to be so winding.  [By the way, I do not pretend to offer advice or otherwise give lessons to anyone.  This is for me more than anything.]  Had I given better instructions, I would have had a bigger (and more enjoyable) omelette [The shrunken Wednesday omelette (with poor instructions) vs. the Thursday normal omelette (with proper instructions) are pictured below.].  And if I take the time to communicate better (with more specific/detailed instructions) when I get back to work, I will not waste other’s time and everyone will have more time to spend on the more important things — rather than having to re-do something because I failed to properly explain it at the outstart.

Byron Wien, according to his bio on the Blackstone website, is Vice Chairman in the Multi-Asset Investment group where he acts as a senior adviser to Blackstone and its clients in analyzing economic, social and political trends to assess the direction of financial markets, thereby helping guide investment and strategic decisions  .

Those in the finance/investment community are familiar with Mr. Wien and get copies of his “Market Commentary” pieces that are widely disseminated via e-email and included on Blackstone’s website .

I have to admit, I often times delete his e-mails without reviewing the content.  Silly because Mr. Wien knows his stuff and he does not post these commentaries all that often.  I even deleted the piece below and needed my friend’s father to send it around on a mass e-mail to get my attention.  But it certainly got my attention.  And while it is easy for someone successful like Mr. Wien (or Jim Boeheim, whose book (Bleeding Orange) I am now reading) to spew out the keys in life to being successful after having reached the pinnacle in their respective worlds, if you read the list below and think about it a bit, it will get your mind racing.  In my own personal view, some of these points should not be read literally.  For example, not everyone (like the Sussberg family) has the time or an unlimited budget to travel “extensively” like Mr. Wien suggests (see #7 below).  My sense, however, is Mr. Wien is making a bigger point about being cultured.  And you don’t need to go very far to get culture.  The Sussberg family can drive 17 miles into NYC, yet we rarely do.  Food for thought (one of my favorite sayings)….

Having reviewed this list a few times, I have already found myself referencing some of these points, including during a conversation I had with my brother-in-law Justin the night before last in the hospital.  So while I first reviewed this list about a week ago, it seemed apropos to include it in a post from the hospital after being able to reference it while I was here……

Blackstone’s Byron Wien Discusses Lessons Learned in His First 80 Years

“I was scheduled to speak about the world outlook at an investment conference recently and shortly before my time slot the conference organizer said the audience was more interested in what I had learned over the course of my career than what I had to say about the market. I jotted a few notes down and later expanded and edited what I said that day. I have since been encouraged to share my thoughts with a broader audience.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned in my first 80 years. I hope to continue to practice them in the next 80.

1. Concentrate on finding a big idea that will make an impact on the people you want to influence. The Ten Surprises, which I started doing in 1986, has been a defining product. People all over the world are aware of it and identify me with it. What they seem to like about it is that I put myself at risk by going on record with these events which I believe are probable and hold myself accountable at year-end. If you want to be successful and live a long, stimulating life, keep yourself at risk intellectually all the time.

2. Network intensely. Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible. Nurture your network by sending articles, books and emails to people to show you’re thinking about them. Write op-eds and thought pieces for major publications. Organize discussion groups to bring your thoughtful friends together.

3. When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend. Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start. Occasionally you will be disappointed, but your network will broaden rapidly if you follow this path.

4. Read all the time. Don’t just do it because you’re curious about something, read actively. Have a point of view before you start a book or article and see if what you think is confirmed or refuted by the author. If you do that, you will read faster and comprehend more.

5. Get enough sleep. Seven hours will do until you’re sixty, eight from sixty to seventy, nine thereafter, which might include eight hours at night and a one-hour afternoon nap.

6. Evolve. Try to think of your life in phases so you can avoid a burn-out. Do the numbers crunching in the early phase of your career. Try developing concepts later on. Stay at risk throughout the process.

7. Travel extensively. Try to get everywhere before you wear out. Attempt to meet local interesting people where you travel and keep in contact with them throughout your life. See them when you return to a place.

8. When meeting someone new, try to find out what formative experience occurred in their lives before they were seventeen. It is my belief that some important event in everyone’s youth has an influence on everything that occurs afterwards.

9. On philanthropy my approach is to try to relieve pain rather than spread joy. Music, theatre and art museums have many affluent supporters, give the best parties and can add to your social luster in a community. They don’t need you. Social service, hospitals and educational institutions can make the world a better place and help the disadvantaged make their way toward the American dream.

10. Younger people are naturally insecure and tend to overplay their accomplishments. Most people don’t become comfortable with who they are until they’re in their 40’s. By that time they can underplay their achievements and become a nicer, more likeable person. Try to get to that point as soon as you can.

11. Take the time to give those who work for you a pat on the back when they do good work. Most people are so focused on the next challenge that they fail to thank the people who support them. It is important to do this. It motivates and inspires people and encourages them to perform at a higher level.

12. When someone extends a kindness to you write them a handwritten note, not an e-mail. Handwritten notes make an impact and are not quickly forgotten.

13. At the beginning of every year think of ways you can do your job better than you have ever done it before. Write them down and look at what you have set out for yourself when the year is over.

14. The hard way is always the right way. Never take shortcuts, except when driving home from the Hamptons. Short-cuts can be construed as sloppiness, a career killer.

15. Don’t try to be better than your competitors, try to be different. There is always going to be someone smarter than you, but there may not be someone who is more imaginative.

16. When seeking a career as you come out of school or making a job change, always take the job that looks like it will be the most enjoyable. If it pays the most, you’re lucky. If it doesn’t, take it anyway, I took a severe pay cut to take each of the two best jobs I’ve ever had, and they both turned out to be exceptionally rewarding financially.

17. There is a perfect job out there for everyone. Most people never find it. Keep looking. The goal of life is to be a happy person and the right job is essential to that.

18. When your children are grown or if you have no children, always find someone younger to mentor. It is very satisfying to help someone steer through life’s obstacles, and you’ll be surprised at how much you will learn in the process.

19. Every year try doing something you have never done before that is totally out of your comfort zone. It could be running a marathon, attending a conference that interests you on an off-beat subject that will be populated by people very different from your usual circle of associates and friends or traveling to an obscure destination alone. This will add to the essential process of self-discovery.

20. Never retire. If you work forever, you can live forever. I know there is an abundance of biological evidence against this theory, but I’m going with it anyway.

The views expressed in this commentary are the personal views of Byron Wien of Blackstone Advisory Partners L.P. (together with its affiliates, “Blackstone”) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Blackstone itself. The views expressed reflect the current views of Mr. Wien as of the date hereof and neither Mr. Wien nor Blackstone undertakes to advise you of any changes in the views expressed herein.

This commentary does not constitute an offer to sell any securities or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any securities. Such offer may only be made by means of an Offering Memorandum, which would contain, among other things, a description of the applicable risks.

Blackstone and others associated with it may have positions in and effect transactions in securities of companies mentioned or indirectly referenced in this commentary and may also perform or seek to perform investment banking services for those companies. Blackstone and/or its employees have or may have a long or short position or holding in the securities, options on securities, or other related investments of those companies.

Investment concepts mentioned in this commentary may be unsuitable for investors depending on their specific investment objectives and financial position. Where a referenced investment is denominated in a currency other than the investor’s currency, changes in rates of exchange may have an adverse effect on the value, price of or income derived from the investment.

Tax considerations, margin requirements, commissions and other transaction costs may significantly affect the economic consequences of any transaction concepts referenced in this commentary and should be reviewed carefully with one’s investment and tax advisors. Certain assumptions may have been made in this commentary as a basis for any indicated returns. No representation is made that any indicated returns will be achieved. Differing facts from the assumptions may have a material impact on any indicated returns. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance. The price or value of investments to which this commentary relates, directly or indirectly, may rise or fall. This commentary does not constitute an offer to sell any security or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security.

To recipients in the United Kingdom: this commentary has been issued by Blackstone Advisory Partners L.P. and approved by The Blackstone Group International Partners LLP, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. The Blackstone Group International Partners LLP and/or its affiliates may be providing or may have provided significant advice or investment services, including investment banking services, for any company mentioned or indirectly referenced in this commentary. The investment concepts referenced in this commentary may be unsuitable for investors depending on their specific investment objectives and financial position.

This commentary is disseminated in Japan by The Blackstone Group Japan KK and in Hong Kong by The Blackstone Group (HK) Limited.

10 thoughts on “Specific Instructions”

  1. Wein’s Wisdom=love it. I suspect you and I are 80% there…let’s get to 100%!
    MRI=Maddeningly Restrictive Interior
    Spaceballs=top ten of all time–“May the Schwartz be with you!”


    1. Mike Z, good to hear from you — hope all is well with you and the fam. I think you have some of the kids home for the summer. I am sure you are enjoying. You are at 100% — who are you kidding?! I am going to rent Spaceballs soon….


  2. Rooting for you Josh! I check your blog everyday. It’s outstanding. If you apply the same focus and determination that helped you make Law Review, thrive at Weil and make partner at Kirkland, you will beat this thing.

    My wife and I and our one year old daughter live in Bedford Hills, not too far from you. When you get better, we will all go out and celebrate! Stay positive and keep writing.

    Greg Weiss, Cardozo ’04


    1. Greg, long time no speak. Great to hear from you. And glad to hear that all is well. Bedford is great and you being married and having a daughter is even better news. Hope work is going well. Would be great to properly catch up. Best to your family.


  3. I think about you daily. You were ALWAYS one of my brother’s coolest friends. You inspire me and are in my prayers.


    1. Hey Stacy. Hope you are doing well. Your brother and I hung out with some real goof balls, but I will take it as a compliment!

      I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. We go way way back!! Have a great weekend with your family and I look forward to seeing you in Chicago.


  4. Josh,
    Lindsey Braunstein just shared your blog and diagnosis with me and I just wanted to send so much love your way! It has been so long… It sounds like you and your amazing family (I am a HUGE Nelson fan- Kim was my camper a million years ago and I know what a special family they are) are handling such a difficult situation with so much positivity, love, support and optimism. Your blog is incredible and you are such an inspiration. Just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you and your family- your boys are too cute. I have a close friend who just beat stage 4 colon.
    Sending much love,
    Rebecca Sweder Platt


    1. Rebecca, great to hear from you! It has been a long time since we were hanging out at Rick’s Cafe in Naples, Maine! As I told Lindsey, my oldest is heading to camp soon — can’t wait to get back to Maine! Like you, I still speak to a bunch of the Samoset guys. We have a mini reunion every July and I got in touch with a lot of people I had last touch with over the last 2 months. Pretty amazing.

      I really appreciate you reaching out and sending these thoughts. Unbelievable that you were my sister-in-law’s counselor. If we had girls, they would be going to Mataponi….

      I hope all is well with you and your family. I get reports on you here and there and always phantom Jen’s Facebook page so I have seen pictures. Beautiful family.

      And I am thrilled to hear about your close friend. That is awesome. Love those stories.

      Thanks again for reaching out. Speak to you soon.


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