Dad’s Favorite Joke

I was gonna make this a Friday Thought for Today, but:

  1.  It is way too long (as you know I try to keep the daily quotes short and sweet)
  2. It is pretty “obtuse”, is, I guess, the word. And I’m thinking many people won’t get it/see the point, but I love it, and have for well over 50 years.

You see, it was my Dad’s favorite joke. And, while my Dad was not particularly funny, he did have a pretty warped sense of humor. (thanks, Dad! 🙂 His jokes often had deeper meanings (not sure if that was intentional or not—hopefully, it was ;).  Like, one of his jokes:

A homeless guy is sitting on the steps to the subway selling pencils.  A business guy stops and says, “Ok, I’ll take one. How much”.  And the homeless guy says, “a million bucks”.  And the business guy looks at him and says, “A MILLION BUCKS?  FOR A PENCIL???”  And the homeless guy replies, “Yeah, but I only gotta sell ONE!”  (Now, in this age of crazy political correctness, I am sure that joke is now considered wrong in many ways, but…back in the day… 😀)

But that is not the joke I wanted to use for the thought of the day.  (Actually, I think I may already have—it’s kind of short enough).

Here is the joke:

I have shortened it because it was one of those jokes that went on for 10 minutes so that, in the end, you are kind of pissed off that you took so much of your time for a lousy punch line  (I TOLD you my Dad had a warped sense of humor), but back in the day, it went on forever.

But the gist of it is:

A young boy asks his mother and his father, “what is the meaning of life?”

They tell him, “Wow, that is way beyond us” and steer him to his grandparents, his uncle, his rabbi, his high school teacher, and on and on.

And as he grows, he asks many people he meets, “What is the meaning of life?”, but nobody has a good answer.

He grows up/goes to college. Asks his professors and deans.

He goes into business/becomes successful. Asks all his successful friends, not nobody knows.

Becomes wildly successful. Gets to ask Congressmen and Senators and the President and leaders from all over the world. But still…no succinct answer.

Finally, he is an old man. Some long-time acquaintance tells him, “I have good news and bad news. I have heard about some swami on a mountaintop near Tibet who knows the meaning of life. BUT…it is a long, arduous journey and he really speaks to anyone anymore, so I don’t think you’d be able to make it, and even if you did, doubt you’d get to ask him”.

Undeterred, clearly recognizing his life’s last mission, he heads out towards Tibet. He flies over, takes a car, takes a small bus, and then has to use his cane to walk for days to the temple where this “man who knows” lives.

He finally makes it and asks for an audience, but is told he will have to wait.

“I will wait” he replies and settles in for days, then for weeks and for months until someone comes out and says “he will see you now”.

He walks into the house where the man lives. Nothing fancy. Simple (of course). An old man, nearly naked, in rags, sits on the floor and looks at him, almost as if he’d been expecting this visit, almost like he knew him for centuries.  “How can I help you, brother?”

The man can’t help himself and breaks down in tears.  Finally, he composes himself.  “I have searched my entire life for you. For nearly 100 years I’ve waited for this very moment, oh wise one.  And I have but one simple question for you. He looks up through tears eyes and asks,  “WHAT is the meaning of life?”

The old man looks at him knowingly. Smiles a soft smile and nods. Closes his eyes for a very long time before speaking:  “I will tell you the meaning of life”.

And then, after another very long silence, he speaks in a quiet but confident voice:

“Wild birds can’t fly with wet wings at night”.

The man looks at him, trying to listen fully, to think deeply, to be in this moment, and to absorb the ultimate wisdom that he just heard.  But he can’t.

Can this be the meaning of life??? Wild birds can’t fly with wet wings at night?

He slowly, sadly shakes his head in confusion. Raises his eyes to meet the eyes of this all-knowing man.

“Wild birds can’t fly with wet wings at night? What does that even mean?


The swami looks at him with surprise.



Told ya it was a bad joke.

But I do believe it has a powerful meaning. Don’t hate 😉

Miss ya, Dad.


The Need For Speed

Hey all, please read the below link because it is worth reading and important, I think.

I know that some folks at LP think that our “need for speed” is sometimes unreasonable. But I really don’t believe that. I think if you look at many of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, Steve Jobs with Apple, Larry Ellison with Oracle, Jeff Bezos with Amazon, Elon Musk with Tesla (and many others, I’m sure), they all have many common denominators—1 of which is “unreasonable speed”.

Whether it’s answering the incoming phone call, or getting back to the customers, or solving a problem, or developing software that the biz needs to grow—the “reasonable” speed (what everyone else would do/consider “normal”) probably just won’t cut it. And, you will find, that the pace of doing things more quickly (but doing them right—remember John Wooden’s old quote, “be quick, but never hurry” still counts) then becomes more of the “norm” and becomes contagious. And that then becomes the speed of a successful business, like Apple and Amazon and Oracle and Tesla and (haha—not in the same company by any means, but…) LP.

An aside—two actually:

  1.  If you ever watched a juggler, they may be tossing 5 or 6 apples (or chainsaws or axes) at once, and it seems CRAZY.  But, if you watch their hands, they are not moving quickly or chaotically. It’s the rhythm, the consistency, and the adjustment when necessary that makes it all work. And
  2. “Too busy” is never a good excuse.  Doing things right once, the first time, takes no longer than doing it wrong the first time and takes way less time than doing it over. So be careful, be efficient. Measure twice, but cut once and you’ll find you actually have MORE time to do things.  As my Dad used to say, “you want something done, ask a busy person”. (Dads sure are smart : )

So, when we have tasks to do, things to fix, issues to communicate, speed matters. Don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today. (I always say: Much better to have a DONE list than a TO DO list). And don’t accept timelines that are argued to be “normal”.  Normal does not cut it in the business world. Getting shit done (done right) quickly, and then moving onto the next project does.

PS—and “customer obsession” is key too. Bezos got a LOT of things right, and has been on the same track for 25 years. This letter was written when he was starting out and all these years later, he still KNOWS they are true.  Lessons we should all learn too if we want to pursue our mission to “humbly conquer the world from Erie, Pa 🙂



A Few Covid-19 Thoughts

Of all the folks who have been talking about Covid for the past 9 months (9 months—Wow! Who woulda thunk it?) my favorite has been Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner. I also like Doctors Birks and Fauci, but maybe because Gottlieb is no longer in Government, he has been able to be more measured, and I think more sober and accurate than anyone.

On ‘Face the Nation’ this morning, he said this: (my words, not his)

That the next 2-3 months will be the worst period of this pandemic.

That even though we now know more about the virus and are able to treat it better, the fact that it is surging all across the nation will make it hard/impossible for the Federal Govt to “backstop” the hard-hit areas (because there are now too many hard-hit areas vs in the spring when it was mostly in the Northeast and major cities).

He said, “Don’t get hit now. Be smart. Be careful. Don’t let Covid fatigue get you down. You’ve made it this far. Don’t let your guard down. Muscle through these next few months”.

Because help is on the way and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The 2 vaccines (plus several more from other big firms) are testing out VERY well/way better than expected, with 95% (vs. normal 50%) effectiveness. First indications seem like these will work and will work well.

They will be out in a month or so, and by the beginning of 2021, will have been given to front-line health care providers and the most at-risk elderly who are in health care institutions.

Later in 1Q 2021, the other at-home elderly people will also get their shots.

They will then work down the cohorts and by next fall, likely 30% of Americans will have either had the disease while another large portion of the population will have been given the vaccine, so that going into next year’s “flu” season, the risk should be almost eliminated and the rest of the young/healthy population can get inoculated then.

That’s truly good news and, while requiring more patience, it seems like the end of this mess will be here sooner than later (finally!) Can’t wait.

Stay safe and stay smart everyone!

Here’s a pic of me visiting Big Ern out in LA last week 🙂


Clearly Identify The Mission

It always seems wise to me to know exactly what we are all trying to accomplish.

The first clear mission was:

Flatten the curve so hospitals don’t get overwhelmed.

That made sense and after a probably too late/somewhat rocky start, seems that this part of the mission, at least, was accomplished. Hospitals are not overrun (actually many are near empty now, with staff having their hours cut back) and it seems, by and large, we are ready to handle the cases that are still to come. (The fact that we now realize that 80% of those who went on ventilators actually died, and “science” now recognizes that ventilators might NOT have been what they all needed—well that’s another story).

But can we all agree that the next overriding phase of this mission is:

Get the economy going so that the country does not fall apart.

Many have been saying from the beginning, and I believe now more are starting to see that this “cure” can, in fact, end up being worse than the disease. 36 million newly unemployed (think about that for a minute!). What will these people do, when their jobs don’t come back and millions of others’ jobs don’t come back, with businesses that don’t survive.

And can’t we also agree that we are “adult” enough to have a variable level of fear? If your restaurant does not allow anyone in without a mask, then people who feel everyone should be wearing a mask can eat there, and those who don’t believe in that, and won’t put a mask on, can’t. (To those who say that takes away my freedom, STFU, because even before the pandemic you couldn’t go into lots of places barefoot because of the sign, “No shirt, no shoes, no service”. That is the restaurant owner’s choice.

But if I own a restaurant and don’t feel you need a mask to come in, then those who feel the same will come to my restaurant. This way everyone can be comfortable in their own space, taking/avoiding the risks THEY perceive, without infringing on anyone else’s “rights”. Let people seek their OWN level of safety, comfort, and let society determine when we get back to a new normal, whatever that may turn out to be.

Our political leaders are not gods. They/no one knows for sure how this all turns out. Staying indoors til there is a cure (hell, the common cold has been around for a million years and there is still no cure for that) is NOT a successful solution. Viruses have been and will be with us forever. How we learn to coexist with them should be up to individuals/not to a government mandate that is always (as they say) “based on science and safety” (what jibberish!) when the data is incomplete and changes all the time. (Remember, people used “science” to justify slavery, the extermination of Jews, the dominance of men over women). My radar goes off when anyone hides behind that bullshit :). All the scientists who predicted that “blood would be on the hands of Governor Kemp of Georgia” because he reopened too soon. Where are they now? Have not heard from them lately.

Danger is real. No doubt. Fear is real. No doubt. But lots of Chicken Littles out there as well as big, bad wolves. People should be allowed to make their own determinations of how much risk they choose to take. Let them decide if their restaurant requires everyone wearing masks or not. They’ll be those who won’t go, but those that will. And that creates an economy again.

We flattened the curve. Now let’s get the economy going and society up and running again.

Just Sayin’


Hard to believe over 30,000,000 (thirty million!) Americans have become unemployed in the past 2 months.

Frigging devastating! And likely will be for a long time. Estimates are that 100,000 US businesses will NEVER come back. That’s unbelievable!

We are very lucky and grateful that we were all able to continue working throughout this. Great job, everyone, and a testament to our tenacity and willingness to do “whatever it takes”.

Thank you.

And not only that, the fact that we were able to provide such vital, essential services to our many good customers, as well as procuring and delivering millions of pieces of PPE all around the country and the world (when it was needed the most) will stand as yet another shining moment in LP’s long history.

Proud! 💪

Thank you all.


Some Thoughts On This

Check this video out:

That’s me on the left 🙂

I admit that I don’t know the difference between shit and Shinola about viruses or medicine. But…

Can’t we all agree that as bad as all this is, it is not what we thought it might be?

Not blaming anyone. No one’s fault. Assuming no one wanted this, and that everyone is trying their best. But…

The initial fears have not STATISTICALLY come to pass. Though every death is tragic (clearly) this is not the pandemic like the one in 1918 that killed FIFTY MILLION PEOPLE. This has killed way too many, but not statistically more than many other things THAT HAVE NOT GONE AWAY.

Think about all the sad stories we heard every day on the news before about the tragic effects of:

Heart Disease
Domestic Violence
Drug abuse

None of these went away when this new Coronavirus suddenly showed up. They are ALL still here with us. And many are exacerbated by living in this new “normal”. And it’s only just beginning. Millions of people out of work, unable to support their families, losing confidence, losing hope will lead to more of the above, I’m pretty sure. And those deaths will be just as tragic as are the 70,000+ Covid-19 deaths.

As with most things, I think there has to be a balance. This virus will be here, like all the other viruses, forever. Sure, good hygiene, common decency, common sense, are all good things that probably should have been here before and may likely be with us going forward. That’s a good thing. But this isolation and fear is NOT healthy and the results of that, though harder to measure perhaps, may very well be worse than the disease itself.

Short term isolation to help “flatten the curve” made sense. The idea being that it gives the various local health systems the time and ability not to get overwhelmed by a surge of critical patients so that anyone who needed it could help proper help. That has worked. Here is NYC’s daily death rate.


Awful. But clearly the surge has died down, and hospitals are now not even close to being overrun. The US Naval hospital ship has left (and was barely used). The “hospital” in Central Park is being taken down. Good. That job got done.

And here in Erie, there have been 2 COVID-19 deaths, both elderly (still sad) this entire time. But…

Does that require this destruction of our economy that will adversely affect (please see above list) in our community?

Can’t we just say, “Well, thank God, the direst estimates were wrong.”

And can’t we now “re-calibrate” and realize that for 99% of people this disease, even if contracted, is not a death sentence—not even close—and get back to the “normal” human job of providing for our family and being Actually connected to our friends?

Facts are facts. They can be interpreted in many ways. But let’s keep them in the proper perspective.

Balance. That is usually the best way.

Just my 2 cents, though I may not know the difference between shit and Shinola.

You should also read this:



Data Driven

You know how all the public officials like to say they want to be guided by the data?

“The data should guide our actions.”

“Data driven.”

“Listen to what the numbers are telling us.”

Okay. Fair enough.

Well, this morning I got up at 3:15, even earlier than usual 🙂 I just worked out and now I have an hour before I go wake Hallie up. So I got on google, grabbed my calculator and figured I’d actually LOOK at the data.

I looked at Erie, Crawford, and Warren County. That is an area around us of over 3,500 square miles. That’s a pretty big region. Bigger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

The population of these 3 counties is about 400,000 people (270k in Erie, 85k in Crawford and 40k in Warren)

To date:

Erie County has 62 confirmed cases and 0 deaths.
Crawford County has 17 confirmed cases and 0 deaths.
Warren County has 2 cases and 1 death. (An 82 year old woman; RIP)

This is what the actual DATA tells us about the pandemic’s toll in our region.

So, I wondered how that looked statistically. And, because this is not yet over (though, thankfully, it looks like we may be on the downside of it) I DOUBLED the numbers . IF it more than doubles, this analysis will be wrong.

So, even if we end up at TWICE the number of cases and deaths, your chances of getting COVID-19 in this tri-county area of NW PA is .0004. This means that 4 out of every 10,000 people (about the population of Edinboro and Northeast combined) will get the disease. And for many, getting the disease feels like a cold or flu, and MANY feel nothing at all—they don’t even know if they have/had the disease.

Your chances of dying from the disease have been. .0000025. If we double that it goes to .000005, meaning that 1 out of every 200,000 people would have died from this disease.

That is the actual data.

As with any data, you can analyze it however you like and put your own take to what it means and how we should deal with it. But, as they say, the numbers ARE the numbers.

I find that very interesting, especially in comparison to the harder hit areas.

Just an FYI.

-Jim Berlin, Founder and CEO

Words & Other Things

As many of you know, I’ve been reading Erik Larson’s book about Churchill during the German blitzkrieg of England in 1940-41, and have tried to glean lessons about leadership and how one faces death and destruction, and survives/even triumphs. Very interesting read. And Churchill’s speeches clearly rallied his people (and America), and are remembered even to this day: “We shall fight on the beaches…we shall never surrender…”

I was not around for Roosevelt’s famous “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (I know I’m old—but not THAT old 😊) that helped rally America out of the great depression and it, too, is still remembered and repeated to this day, nearly 100 years later.

The power of WORDS is impressive.

I do remember hearing John F. Kennedy’s words as a young kid, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. Inspirational then and now.

And though I was never the #1 fan of George W. Bush or Barack Obama, I will NEVER forget when each of them won me over for good.

October 30, 2001, Game 3 of the World Series, and America still on edge from 9/11, George Bush strode to the mound at Yankee Stadium and delivered a perfect strike in the ceremonial “first pitch” even though millions of people (myself included) worried that he might be assassinated there, out in the open by himself in the middle of the diamond. Bush, who was never a great speaker, did with this action the same thing, though. Rallied the people and courageously showed that there was hope and a future. That day, I became a fan. (Funny side story—Derek Jeter, the Hall of Fame Yankee shortstop, told President Bush before he went out “Don’t bounce it. They’ll boo you”. New Yorkers are a tough crowd 😊).

And on June 26, 2015, when President Obama went to deliver the eulogy for the nine black parishioners mindlessly shot down in cold blood by a 21 year old white supremacist after praying with them at the Charleston, South Carolina Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, to deliver solace to the families, the community and the nation, and spoke about grace (many of the victims’ families had already displayed incredible grace in forgiving and praying for the shooter) he extemporaneously broke into song, singing Amazing Grace and lifting the spirits of those in the church and throughout America and the world, I became a fan.

I will never forget either of those moments and the strength and pride in humankind that they gave to me and millions of others.

It would be so timely today if something someone says/does in the near future will be one of the things that not only lifts our spirits and rallies our nation, but is remembered for generations to come as a symbol of the strength and the resilience of the human spirit.

When the Wagon Goes Into the Ditch, What Do You Do?

NOT the time to argue, point fingers about how it got INTO the ditch (usually there’s enough blame to go around).

You need to figure out how to get it OUT of the ditch. Basic common sense.

That’s what I hate about people pointing fingers and blaming others (China, Trump, Obama, WHO, CDC, DiBlasio, NY State, whoever) for where we find ourselves today. Trust me, there will be plenty of time (And ink. And internet outlets.) to lay blame when this is over. We can all sort that out then.

Now, though, let’s focus ALL our attention on how to get through this please.

Two thoughts in this regard:

1. I watched a very responsible 5 minute segment on NBC Nightly News last night on how to best keep your house germ free. All the things you can do to help avoid infecting you and your family. My question though: Why did NBC not show anything like that BEFORE this pandemic? Shouldn’t they/the press have better prepared us for this mess? Didn’t they (and everyone else) have fair warning that global epidemic was only a matter of time? So why did THEY TOO wait until the shit hit the fan? Why no 5 minute segments on the nightly news about this last year? Is the media at fault then too for us not being prepared better? I suppose you can make that argument (I guess I just did 😊) but it is impractical, and if they HAD been showing stuff like that on the nightly news last year, no one would be watching and they’d be off the air.
2. I’ve been reading Erik Larson’s book about Churchill during the German blitzkrieg of England. Great book and lots of lessons, I believe, for us in this time (War, right?) In early December, 1940, Churchill called his top military advisors together to put together a counterattack on a German city to rival the death and destruction (and sheer terror) that British citizens of Coventry had others had experienced over the past few weeks. He asked them to let him know the strength of the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, so they knew what to expect. But, I guess not surprisingly, estimates of German air strength put together by all the British military leaders varied so much that no one really a clue how many aircraft they actually had. BUT…it was the same when he asked how many actual aircraft the RAF, HIS air force, had. And the numbers he got were as widely varied as it was for the enemy. And those were THEIR aircraft! And THEY didn’t even know how many planes they had. Unbelievable (maybe). But very typical, I’d bet.

My point is that this shit is hard. There is the fog of war, and even the best folks, trying their hardest, are gonna have a hard time making ANYTHING go smoothly or even look smooth. Having beds and ventilators and masks and nurses and doctors and patients etc all in the right place at the exact right time is very tough. (Logistics, once again, plays a key role as it does in any war). And things are changing VERY quickly, and unpredictably, as we know, so every “best guess” is not gonna be right. To me, what you ask for is cool, calm level-headedness, crazy hours of effort, everyone doing their best, cutting some slack for whoever, and pulling together to get through this. We can play the big blame games later.

If I’m drowning and someone comes up and throws me a life preserver, I don’t ask them who they voted for in the last election. I don’t ask their race or religion. Right now we need to stop the second guessing and the know-it-all bullshit and just everyone do their best to just “do the right thing” and help each other out. Less “noise” in an emergency is usually a good thing.

Focus on the goal at hand. Do your best. Be safe. Be strong.

Let’s get through this first.

Jim Berlin (Founder and CEO)