Fear

I see that NYC teachers have again refused to go back to class to teach. They say they are afraid to go back to unsafe conditions. (Of course, they say they are afraid for others/not for themselves. Uh, huh)

And I get fear. As I’ve mentioned, when this all started I happened to be reading the book about the blitzkrieg nightly bombings of London during world war 2. Imagine how horrifying that must be. And different folks reacted differently to it.

Some would go into the bunkers, while others would not even bother. But the ones who went into the bunkers would come out once the all-clear siren sounded. But, for others, that was not enough. They stayed scared to come out. (Some may never have come out?)

Isn’t it the same here?  In NYC there are virtually ZERO deaths/new cases down here for the past couple of months. Isn’t that enough of an all-clear siren?  These teachers all say/rally that they care about educating “their” kids. But, if they really believed that, wouldn’t they just face their fear and take the first steps and get back into the schools (yeah, wear masks, social distance, wash your hands, create pods).  How do they justify this when so many other schools have been open and their teachers back to work for weeks? (I’d think these parents here in NYC are seeing kids from all over the country going back to school and wondering “why not my kids?”)

Also, another, related thought: What if others (who were also afraid, I am sure—all through this deadly epidemic) stayed home?

Nurses? Doctors? Janitors? Truck drivers? Grocery store clerks? Warehouse workers?

People who DID THEIR JOB, even when scared and in WAY more danger back then than there is now. And—how dangerous is fighting these out of control forest fires? What if the tens of thousands of front line heroes fighting these west coast fires said, “Ah, it’s dangerous out there. I don’t feel safe going.”  Where would California and Oregon be? What kind of country would we be?

I don’t know. I hate to judge others. But, really, is going to school to teach kids who need it and miss it all THAT dangerous?  REALLY???

Here is the daily NYC chart of deaths from COVID-19.

Come on, folks!  Be smart. Be careful. But—

Do Your Job!  Just like so many millions of others have done through the months-long (and relatively successful) process of flattening this curve.

Just my 2 cents. Stay safe. But…

-JB

My Brother (Doug) and Bill Russell

This article first appeared in the Post Journal on October 28, 2007, days after my brother returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Las Vegas and a visit with his sports hero and a few other NBA legends.

The photograph below, which spans two pages in a hard-cover book entitled ”NBA at 50,” is of a man, who has his chin resting in his hands. The shot is taken from such a close range that one can read the inscriptions on the rings that he wears on each one of his fingers. Bill Russell, one of the NBA’s 50 all-time greatest players, knows all about rings and, more specifically, those of the championship variety. After all, between 1956 and 1969, the former Boston Celtics great led his team to 11 titles in 13 seasons.

Tack on two NCAA championships he won at the University of San Francisco and an Olympic gold medal and Russell is arguably the greatest winner in the history of team sports.

” … The only really important thing was to try and win every game,” Russell said in a quote accompanying the magnificent photograph, ”because when I got through no one could say, ‘Well, he was the best at this or that.’ The only thing that really mattered was who won. And there is nothing subjective about that.”

Powerful words.

Not surprising, at least to Doug Berlin.

The Jamestown resident has literally carried the book – and figuratively decades of memories – all the way to Las Vegas, hoping to have his dreams realized by rubbing elbows with Russell, his lifelong hero.

So as Berlin sits down to eat breakfast last week at the ultra-posh Wynn Las Vegas Hotel and Casino – he was one of 30 campers to take part in the Bill Russell and His Legendary Friends Basketball Camp last week – he can’t believe what he’s seeing.

First, John Havlicek walks in, he the owner of eight championship rings and a former teammate of Russell’s. Sam Jones, another Celtic icon with 10 rings, soon follows and Berlin has to pinch himself to realize it isn’t all a dream.

At least he doesn’t think it is.

But then Russell makes his appearance. Berlin, a 53-year-old U.S. Postal worker who first saw the 6-foot-9 center at Madison Square Garden in the early 1960s, just about choked on his fresh fruit.

”He walked in front of me and I said, ‘It’s him, my hero,”’ Berlin recalled. ”It’s like I was watching him on a big-screen TV.”

Larger than life.

Berlin was finally snapped back to reality when he was tapped on the shoulder.

”Doug,” said a man known for his no-look passes, championship rings and ear-to-ear smiles,

”do you mind if I sit here?” Berlin’s new breakfast guest was none other than Magic Johnson.

Berlin was smitten with Russell upon seeing him for the first time during a visit to Madison Square Garden with his father Al more than 40 years ago.

”I saw the Celtics come out with those green shiny uniforms and then this guy came out and it was like there was a light on Bill Russell. … There were nine guys on the court and this vision.”

From that point on, Berlin emulated everything Russell did.

”I was the only Jewish kid on Long Island wearing low-cut black Chuck Taylor Converse shoes … and I was the only Jewish kid wearing the No. 6. … I could have gone any one of a million ways, but it just happened to be him. With my luck he was on a great team that won, which made it all the better.”

And even though his interest in the NBA isn’t nearly as great now as when the Celtics were piling up championships like cordwood, Berlin’s love for Russell has never waned.

”He’s been a hero all these years,” Berlin said.

Jim Berlin has been well aware of his younger brother’s love for the Hall-of-Famer, dating back to the days when the boys shared a bedroom in their Long Island home.

So a few weeks ago he decided to do something about it.

The website for Bill Russell and his Legendary Friends Adult Basketball Camp proclaims the four-day visit to Las Vegas as an ”incredible weekend filled with basketball skills and competition, fun and exciting games. Establishing acquaintances with this exceptional group will be the foundation for a most memorable event.”

Amazingly, there’s no embellishment in that description.

In addition to Russell, Johnson, Havlicek and Jones, the other ”legends” who appeared at the camp were Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Charles Barkley and Ann Meyers-Drysdale.

In the middle of it all was Berlin, who read about Russell’s camp in The Boston Globe and thought it would be ”cool,” but never envisioned himself ever attending it.

That’s when Jim Berlin, the chief executive officer and founder of Logistics Plus in Erie, sprang into action.

”I got an email from my brother and he asked me if I’d seen the website,” Doug said. ”I wrote back to him and told him I had.”

Jim’s response?

”Pack your bags, you’re going.”

Despite initial reluctance, Doug was able to get the time off from work and finally agreed to take his brother up on the offer.

”He left me no wiggle room,” Doug said.

Added Jim: ”Once I heard Bill Russell was having his first fantasy camp, I said, ‘Doug needs to be there.’ ”

So on Oct. 17, Doug and his wife Maureen took a flight from Buffalo to Las Vegas.

They were eventually met by their daughter Erin, who flew in from Florida. Their sons, Matt and Mickey, received daily updates at home.

”I guess when Jim saw this,” Doug said as tears welled in his eyes, ”he knew it was made for me.”

The owner of a magnetic personality with the ability to carry on conversation with people in all walks of life, Doug was the only ”camper” who made the trip as the result of a ”gift.”

Still wired from the trip days later, Doug recalled a conversation with Russell’s daughter,

Karen, on the first day of the camp, during which he told her he was a mailman from Jamestown. When he mentioned that he was there courtesy of a gift from his brother, she was stunned, calling him the luckiest guy at the camp.

But Doug knew Ms. Russell wasn’t considering him fortunate only because he was in the company of these great players.

Rather, she realized how unusual it was for brothers to have the kind of relationship that the Berlins do, and that one brother was able to fulfill another’s lifelong dream.

”It’s not that he sent Maureen and I to Las Vegas, gave us ‘x’ amount of dollars and said, ‘Have a good time,’ ” Doug said, as he shook his head in disbelief. ”It’s that Bill Russell is my boyhood hero, who is doing this once-in- a-lifetime thing that Jim found out about and as soon as he heard about it, he said, ‘This would be great for my brother.’

”Here’s a guy who used to be a factory worker and really an ‘every man.’ He wrote scripts and he had a chance to go to Hollywood, but he had a family so he didn’t do it. So he worked at Red Star and it went under. He started his company on his own. In 10 years, he’s got hundreds of employees all over the world, and he hasn’t changed one bit.

”If you knew him 20 years ago, he’s exactly the same.”

Jim, meanwhile, said that sending his brother to Las Vegas ”made me feel great.”

”It’s so neat,” he said. ”He’s such a good guy, and he’s done so much for kids in the Jamestown community for 20 years, and he loves doing it. … It was kind of a way for me to give back.”

The legends and campers spent plenty of time together during their weekend in Las Vegas. Not only were there basketball games – Doug was on a team coached by West, Drexler and Meyers-Drysdale – but there were also ”mixers” and meals at the hotel, where Doug and Maureen had a suite on the 50th floor.

”The bathtub was the size of my bedroom at home,” Doug joked.

By the end of the weekend, Doug had managed to finish in fourth place in the hot-shot competition despite being hobbled by a pair of painful Achilles’ tendons. But, most importantly, he had had a chance to talk, to laugh and to sit down and have a meal with each of the basketball greats.

The autographs and photo opportunities were merely a bonus.

”They were all engaging and warm in their own way,” Doug said.

When it was time to say goodbye, the mailman from Jamestown sought out Russell one last time.

”I told him that he’s always been my hero and that he’d done nothing to diminish it,” Doug said.

A day later, back in Jamestown, he received a visit from another, more personal, hero – his brother.

”I told him the trip was the greatest,” Doug said. ”He just smiled.”

With a little help from our friends (at Delta)

To All,

Well, Megan, Yuriy and I got to the Detroit airport yesterday evening just in time to meet our first Delta Cargo charter I mentioned yesterday, arriving with a full plane load of PPE masks and other items for various American customers we’re delivering for. Awesome!

We actually arrived at the Same Exact Time as the charter did. Thank you, John and Hallie 🙂 and we met it on the tarmac as it headed into the gate. (Logistics, baby! 😀)

Delta 01

Incredible effort by all—Eileen and her team in China, Russel in Houston, Kelly, Megan, G2 and others here in Erie.

Delta 02

The ground crew quickly jumped to work and the entire plane was unloaded in 45 minutes.

Colleen was a most delightful hostess and took us to watch the entire process, and then to the Delta warehouse where we met Mohammed, who runs it. They were glad for the business (Detroit airport looked like a ghost town—sad). Both were upbeat and hopeful, even in a hotspot like Detroit, that we are at least beginning to emerge from all this and will be getting back to more normal business soon.

Delta 03

This could not have been possible without the help/hopefully fledgling partnership with Delta Airlines.

Unless you have been intimately involved in trying to book these charters, as Eileen and Russell and Yuriy and Kelly and Megan and G2 have, you really cannot fully understand how impossibly crazy it’s been. And not just “business is harder now because of the pandemic” tough. This has been WAY beyond that.

—Trying to place orders for product in China, where the demand has soared
—Manufacturers canceling promised orders
—Quality control
—Varying, very specific certifications required by customers/governments
—Other parties buying out/stealing orders that were being produced for us.
—Russell dealing with new rules, changes, cancellations of flights
—Trucks waiting in lines MILES long trying to deliver product to the airport.
—Chinese customs changing their export rules.
—US customs changing our import rules.
—Ground crews in China overwhelmed with the volume of cargo and planes.
—China changing rules regarding planes/crews/quarantines
—Eileen spending 24 hours straight at the Shanghai airport to help make sure our cargo all got loaded onto the RIGHT airplane 🙂
—And on and on and on.

And, whatever issues that WE/LP have been dealing with—Delta and the other airlines, had to deal with them, and many, many more (they are the actual OPERATORS in this picture!) Total chaos and constant changing, sometimes by the hour. Total Wild West.

And that’s amidst this time when airlines are already getting economically crushed by this pandemic. Tough, tough, tough.

So, it’s been very heartening that we have been able to work so closely with Delta (my favorite airline) with a little help from many of their top leadership, from Ed Bastian, their CEO, through their corporate leadership, and right down to the front line troops like Mohammad and Colleen.

If you have ever flown Delta, you know of the superior customer service and attention they provide. It was no different here. They, like us, know that even in tough times, you need to treat each other right. You find the patience and the creativity and the mental toughness and the resilience to navigate through, and they did. (The old John Wooden quote: “Tough times does not build character, it reveals character”.

A good and positive experience for our LP team, and a terrific result for our customers who will today be getting the masks and other personal protective equipment they ordered through us delivered to them. Success!

So, thank you, Ed, Shawn, Eric, Arthur, Mohammad and Colleen. Thank you from me, from LP, from our customers and from those who will now be able to feel safer and more secure as “inch by inch” we/all of us, continue to get through this awful mess. Thank you.

Onward! with a little help from our friends… 🙂

-JB

Jim Berlin, CEO, Logistics Plus

Delta 04   Delta 05 Delta 06

(click any of the three photos above to see larger version)

Call Sign Chaos by Jim Mattis & Bing West

As you can tell, I’ve really enjoyed reading this book. LOTS of great experience and lessons learned in a fascinating life well lived.

Mattis is one of those “Warrior/Monks”.  Has read thousands of books about history and people and, though a Marine through and through (one of his most publicized quotes was “Be polite, be professional, but be ready to kill everyone you meet”) he has studied history, and understands that there is not much new under the sun—that people, no matter how advanced technology has become—are still people, so there are lessons in history that we can learn from to avoid making some of the same mistakes we have made in the past. It is a fascinating read.

One of my favorite concepts he has (and something I learned years ago, though in business—not warfare) is “dispersed leadership”—the idea that you have to empower the officers and the troops to make decisions and act.  I recognized that when we first started LP with the GE Routing Center 23 years ago—managing all the inbound domestic transportation for GE Rail.  I realized that if I told each person which carrier to use for every shipment, then there was really no pressure on them to have it deliver on time.  I had told them what to do, and if it didn’t work out, not their fault.

So, just instinctively, it made sense to say “go online/see all the options you have/balance money and speed of delivery (and other factors) and YOU make the best choice”.  That way THEY own the decision. They knew what the goal was:

Deliver on time, in good shape for the best price.

And while that didn’t always mean choose the cheapest option, it meant: what was the best VALUE for GE.

So “dispersed leadership”.  That’s why we like our ops folks to be THINKERS, and not just “monkeys” pushing a button over an over.  We want folks who OWN what they do, rather than shrugging their shoulders or pointing fingers if things go wrong.

But, conversely, from my end, if something does go wrong you can’t just jump down their throat and second guess them. You have to find out “what were you thinking?”  If that makes sense, and something went wrong, that’s life. Shit happens. So, you then have to 1. Step up and own it  2. Fix it 3. Let the customer know.  4. Learn the lesson.

However, if there was NO thought involved (earning a well deserved WTF?) that is a different story. Can’t have folks who don’t take ownership, who don’t “give a shit” (GAS) and want to blame others. To me it’s like a wide receiver—it he dives for the ball and can’t hold on when he hits the ground, that’s one thing. When he comes to the bench, maybe you slap him on the back of the helmet and say “hold onto the ball, man!”  But if he doesn’t even try for it—if he shortarms it, or misses it to avoid the hit—then find a different player.  Can’t have that attitude. That’s not someone you want on your team.

In Mattis’ book, this is all much more important because it is life and death, not missed deliveries or passes.

If the mission is to “take that city” and YOUR job is to “take that hill” you can’t be running back to HQ for instructions on how (you should have been practicing that already).  And, when you run into shit (if you think shit happens in transportation, imagine the shit that happens in warfare!) you can’t come back with: “It’s raining and the hill is slippery” or “they’ve dug holes in the dirt and put IEDs in there” or “they’re shooting at us” or “the radio is out”.  it is on YOU, and not the commander, not HQ, not IT, not anyone but you, to TAKE THAT HILL.

As Mattis points out, you need courage and ingenuity and flexibility and smarts to figure out how. You have to think and react on the fly.  And you have to do it fast.  You have to “make decisions at the speed of relevance”, not sit and dither about it. You have to ACT.

And one thing that he stresses maybe a dozen times in the book is that “dispersed leadership” ONLY works when everyone understands the COMMANDER’S INTENT and acts accordingly. The mission (whatever it is) has to be clear and understood by all.

For Mattis, it might be “Kill Bin Laden” or  “take Baghdad”. For LP, I try to keep it real simple: GROW (although in parentheses, we should probably say “Grow PROFITABLY”. Some people forget that part 🙂

But you can tell that we don’t want to micromanage people. We want everyone to understand the vision/mission—GROW—and then want you to take the lead on that, to be bold, to make decisions, to be aggressive, to find solutions.  And with a team around you and supporting you that can help if needed.

Like I’ve said before, when I drove trucks at Red Star, the sign I saw leaving our terminal gate was “outside of this terminal YOU are Red Star Express”.  My customers knew ME/a truck driver. They did not know my dock foreman or my dispatcher or the terminal manager or the President or the owner. They knew me.

In battle it is the soldier who does the fighting, not the General.  At LP it is the ops person who the customer deals with who is “LP” to them. So YOU should be the one to develop and grow that relationship.  That has been, and is, key to our success. It is the job of all of us to take charge and to help us grow.

And, one other thing that Mattis mentions over and over is how we treat people. You saw my quote of the day this week, “Praise in public, criticize in private”.  You need to treat EVERYONE with respect. Even when they f up. (You may decide that someone who messes up or doesn’t GAS is not LP material, and that happens. But even then, you don’t demean or embarrass them publicly. We just separate them out—not their fault. Just not what LP needs).

One simple idea—we have very few rules here—but the Golden Rule is a good one to apply in any situation. “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”.  We all do that, that alone can get us 90% of the way there.

In the end, it’s all about people, and trust. Everyone needs to know that ALL of us have the same goal and we are all working our very best to get there. If that’s the case, when there are honest disagreements (as there always will be—NO ONE is right all of the time) we all know that it’s not a matter of ulterior motives, we just happen to disagree. Not the end of the world.  But we listen (2 ears and one mouth, as they say 🙂 we show respect, we make a decision and then everyone tries to make it work—whether it was their idea or not. That is critical to success in business, just as it is in warfare.

I think you will love this book. Again, my gift to anyone who wants to read it.

Thanks,
JB

Shanghai

I had an amazing visit with the LP Shanghai team and got to celebrate my birthday with them!

This brand new hotel was about an hour outside of Shanghai. As you can see, it’s built into a quarry. Simply amazing.

Looking down from the glass walkway at the hotel and from the Pearl Tower in Shanghai. If you’re afraid of heights this is not the place for you…

This is an old estate in Shanghai that incorporates stones and water which is meant to “align” with nature and is very important to the Chinese people.

Me and Eileens’ daughter Jessica walking around the city temple. Tons of fun!

Taking a picture with our awesome Chinese tourist ladies!

Even in China! My old stomping ground in Long Island was White Castle. It was like a buck for 8 burgers on Sunrise Highway. Yum!

Cambodia

Some of the local kids we met in a village in Cambodia. Very warm and friendly people.

This “bike” is called a rickshaw. The driver gave me a chance to drive him around except the bikes are small and my knees kept hitting the handlebars -ouch! The Lamborghini rickshaw was pretty awesome too.

We were able to get up close and personal with some animals. These elephants in Angkor were the “trucks” of our day. Riding them made you realize how big these things were…

This band comprised of people that lost limbs due to all of the mines that were dropped in Cambodia during the 1970’s.

Believe it or not, this is a “gas station” in rural Cambodia. Most people drive scooters and this is where they fuel up.

This temple in Angkor Wat was a thousand years old but the design and complexity of it was simply amazing!

Taking a well deserved break in Angkor Wat. We put in 15,000+ steps a day!

Vietnam

What an amazing sunset on the Mekong River.

The “Viking Mekong” was the boat we took up the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia. We were served Tarantula (it tasted like a mix of crab and shrimp), crickets (not bad), and frogs (I did not enjoy).

Our tai chi class on the boat…Way harder than it looks!

A bamboo bridge across the Mekong River. This is how people got over rivers and gorges for thousands of years (and still do).

They have street fairs in Vietnam on the weekends where kids get to play with toys.

Two Vietnamese HS students stopped to meet and interview us to practice their English!

Look at this beautiful tree in the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi.

Outside the Hanoi operations house. Everyone loved having their pictures taken there!

Dubai Day 4

What an amazing time we have had. Such an incredible place.

These guys were visionaries.
Turned a desert into an amazing place.

The Grand Mosque

Originally built in 1900, demolished and built again in 1960. Then it then underwent a further rebuilding in 1998 (to what you see now). The mosque is the hub of Dubai’s religious and cultural life.

Such beautiful architecture…

What a sweet ride.

Cityscape.