Humanity Series, Part 2: Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment. This is a topic on which I have many complex and diverse thoughts. It is particularly tough because it hits close to home for me. I have two young daughters that I don’t want growing up in a world where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I hope that by exploring my thoughts on the issue I can ensure the ladies in my life don’t experience the harassment or unwanted advances that seem so prevalent in our world. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the men in the recent firestorm of public stories was someone I knew personally. The story hit too close to home for me and made me seriously consider the world in which my children are growing up. Do I want my daughters to ever have the feeling of needing to exchange some form of sex for a job? It’s sad to say, but this is the world we live in, whether you see it first hand or not. I don’t know how to change this personally, but I think at least the conversation and awareness being created will help. The hard part for me is knowing what constitutes harassment, but I think ultimately if a woman (or man for that matter) is put in a situation they don’t feel comfortable in, and they voice that opinion clearly, then the other person needs to respect their opinion and evaluate their own actions. Obviously their are many types of predatory behaviors that clearly cross a line and are even illegal or criminal. In those cases I sincerely hope that the authorities pursue any case they can to bring justice to the victims. Creating strong and clear punishments will ultimately be the biggest deterrent to these types of actions. 

What am I personally doing with my kids to protect them? Well the first step is education. We explained to our children that if anyone EVER makes them feel uncomfortable they need to speak up. We have a rule: NO secrets from mommy. So while my wife might never be surprised again with anything fun (sorry babe), we know that any and all information gets told to her. They know to tell her first and also that they should tell me or another grown up they trust. There is no shame in admitting your feelings or expressing them. By hiding these feelings, predators are able to continue their dangerous behavior. Another thing we have chosen to do is to encourage our children to take self defense classes. A friend of one of my daughters was biting her at school. She told the boy to stop and told my wife. My wife reminded her to tell the teacher but that she could defend herself if it happened again. He bit her again and she defended herself by smacking the boy in the face. While we don’t encourage violence, I am glad she followed the steps she had learned. She used her words and when that didn’t work she defended her body. To be fair they are 4 (and good friends), so this type of behavior is somewhat normal, if not expected at that age. When we saw our school offered judo classes we decided to sign our girls up so they could learn to properly defend themselves. They are the only girls in the class. It will give me piece of mind when they are older to know they will be comfortable defending themselves if a boy does something they shouldn’t. 

Ultimately, all of this makes me sad. While I am glad I am educating my children to understand the way this world works, it is tough to realize we need to start this young. I didn’t realize how ubiquitous this behavior was until it came out in the news cycle so aggressively. I knew it existed, but I did not realize how prevalent it was, and the degree to which the harassment was happening. In the business world, and in Hollywood in particular, it seems especially bad – people are taking advantage of their power to make life miserable for others. My message to them is: Get over yourself. Find a way to be honest about who you are. If you are doing something wrong, get help – go see someone who can diagnose and treat the problem. I wish that I could do more for this problem, but ultimately it starts with role models and people in power. If they are the ones continuing to use their power and influence in a predatory way, then the cycle won’t stop. We need to hold them accountable for their actions.

To the women and men who have gone public with their stories: I can’t imagine the strength it required or how difficult it is, but I want you to know you are the heroes who are changing the world and I am incredibly grateful.

Humanity Series, Part 1: Puerto Rico

I returned to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria on December 23rd. While I was one of the lucky ones to be able to leave Puerto Rico and miss the devastation that hit my adopted home, I have now had some time to see how bad things are in Puerto Rico. This post will continue my introductory post on Humanity from November 2017 and dive into some of what I see in Puerto Rico and how people can help rebuild this great island.

I must also note, I feel a lot of guilt for being able to leave Puerto Rico for the Hurricane and aftermath. I have a business which depends on my ability to be online and I would have let many people down if I wasn’t able to operate my business. In addition, I have three young children who I had to think about. Leaving the island before the hurricane was the only choice I had, but I am very happy to be back and begin helping with the rebuild.

The first thing I will say about Puerto Rico, is that the people are a proud and strong group who are making the most of a difficult situation. In addition, I know of many people who rose above and beyond to help out in the aftermath of the storm. The manager of the community I live in, for example, told me that our community donated 60,000 mattresses to the surrounding neighborhoods in the month after the storm. Another friend of mine has personally donated over $100,000 (and raised an additional $140,000) to go towards providing generators to people without power. I know another person in my town of Dorado who was literally out in the streets from Day 1 just helping anyone who needed help. And every day, even now four months after the storm, I see people making the most of a difficult situation and going about their lives and trying to get back to normal.

Here’s the thing though: this island still is hurting and needs help. FORTY PERCENT OF THE ISLAND STILL DOESN’T HAVE POWER. Let that sink in. Can you imagine nearly half of New York City going without power for FOUR MONTHS??? That is insane. Many of the communities near me, even in nicer areas, still don’t have power. How is this possible? I think the federal government needs to do more to support it’s citizens. Let’s not forget, Puerto Ricans ARE UNITED STATES CITIZENS! This lack of basic humanity that is being shown to the people down here is appalling to me (and this doesn’t even get into the children dying in Hospitals because of lack of care, or the lack of clean drinking water in many places). Someone within the executive branch of the government needs to make an executive decision to help actually rebuild Puerto Rico rather than just posture about what Puerto Rico can give in return for getting basic human aid.

There are some positive things I do see though. The humanity shown by people down here to their fellow brothers and sisters is uplifting. Locally and privately, people are helping those in need. Since the government is not responding in an obvious manner, it is up to private citizens and organizations to fill the void. If you want to help, please leave a comment or get in touch with me via one of the social media links at the bottom of my site. I plan to continue to contribute to rebuilding Puerto Rico over the coming years however I can – I believe in a long-term effort to help get this island back on it’s feet! And I also fully believe that Puerto Rico will rise to be better than it ever has been before.

Quick Post: Take a Break

Over the summer, I got a chance to watch Hamilton in NYC twice with my lovely wife Megan. It was truly a treat, and that is saying a lot because I generally don’t relate well to musicals. These days, when we take a long car ride as a family, I really like listening to the soundtrack in sequential order. There are a ton of themes in Hamilton, written from the perspective of the American Revolution, which I feel like I can personally relate to. To me this is the genius of how the story is told – everyone can find something to relate to. It is also really cool that Lin-Manuel Miranda is from Puerto Rico and I am really looking forward to his special shows in PR in about a year’s time. We will definitely be going to at least a couple of them.

Anyways, the theme that really hit me today was Taking a Break. In the show, it is Alexander Hamilton taking a break from work to spend some time with his wife and kids. This hits me every time I hear it because I am constantly working, usually doing research for new trade ideas for my investment fund, SG3 Capital. It’s quite a conundrum for me, and getting work-family balance is really difficult in our house. I must say, I owe a lot to my wife who “gets it” and is so supportive of me managing my own fund.

In any event, this weekend I managed to spend nearly the whole weekend with the most beautiful woman in the world and the Minions, and while I didn’t get a ton of sleep, it was well worth it. We got to go out to a really nice dinner at The Dutch in Miami, which managed to combine the best of The Dutch in NYC which is an old brunch favorite of ours, and Andrew Carmellini’s best (in my humble opinion) restaurant in New York, Locanda Verde, where my wife generously threw me a lavish 30th birthday party in their private room nearly 4 years ago. While Miami is quite the scene this week with Art Basel in town, The Dutch managed to serve up an awesome meal with service to match.

Saturday and Sunday were all kids all the time. They woke both mornings at the crack of dawn and were NON-STOP! We managed to make the most of a rainy day by going to Just 4 Fun, and it was insane on a Saturday afternoon. While I hate crowds like that, I am glad we found the place because the kids had a blast and there is one in Puerto Rico! On Sunday we went to a mall and managed to find some great deals. We did have a plan to make it to Chuck E. Cheese, but luckily that didn’t happen – can you envision that place on a Sunday afternoon?

Now of course, I am back in the office working… but it was good to TAKE A BREAK. Now if I can just get a full nights sleep…

Note: I plan to get back to the serious topics in my last post on Humanity as soon as possible, but I might not get the time with the holidays right around the corner.

Humanity

This is a subject I have been thinking about deeply for the past few weeks and I finally had time this past weekend to put some of my thoughts into words. The general theme here is humanity, or rather, the lack thereof, that I feel like I see on a day to day basis. It is something that has really been bothering me because I don’t want my kids growing up in a world without hope or optimism. Over the past year or so, I really feel like our country, and this world as a whole, have been going in the wrong direction. From the divisive politics we see on both sides of the aisle, to the lack of a strong humanitarian response to a natural disaster that has affected three million Americans, it saddens me to see the direction we are headed. I will touch on a bunch of different themes where I see a lack of “humanity” and then I plan to explore each theme in a future post. I hope that by getting my thoughts down, I can find pockets of positivity and ways to influence the world and help make it a better place for my kids to grow up in.

The most immediate personal situation which has been upsetting to me has certainly been the slowness and general lack of response to Hurricane Maria which ravaged Puerto Rico in September. It has now been almost two months since the storm, and some of the more populated areas are getting closer to some normalcy, but the island as a whole is still in bad shape. The response from many private citizens was quite uplifting to me: I had random people reach out to make donations and find out how to conduct relief missions. This is typical when the destruction is front and center in the news cycle, but the rebuilding on the island will take many months if not years before things are normal. I sincerely am hopeful that the rebuild actually rebuilds in a way that will make infrastructure stronger so that this doesn’t happen again when the next storm rolls through, but I am also wary of the band-aid approaches which get things closer to normal but don’t actually fix the longer term problems. What is really sad though is the slow and minimal response from a higher level – the federal government. These are US Citizens, Americans, who are suffering, who are leaving their homes to build new lives on the mainland, because they aren’t getting the help they need. I really hope our government can get their act together and show more support for Puerto Rico in terms of federal financial aid.

Another thing that has been really bothering me has been the seemingly ubiquitous harassment and assault that takes place amongst people in positions of authority. I won’t mention names, but in the past few months countless Hollywood heavyweights, politicians, and titans of business have been named as being serial abusers and harassers of people working for them. In most cases, it is older, powerful men who are taking advantage of younger, less powerful women in ways that are downright sickening. One particular story hit me quite close to home, as my family knew the family of one of those in the headlines. The thought that my daughters are being raised in this world where this type of stuff happens is not just worrisome, it angers me. It shakes me to my core. I guess to some degree, I knew this behavior took place in some circles, but I didn’t realize how prevalent it was until it made headlines. It takes a lot of courage for people to tell these stories and stand up to their abusers, so I commend those who have done so, while at the same time, I get how difficult it must be. I just want to try to change this world, so that my daughters are not subjected to these same problems when they are older.

The next theme on my mind is less specific: I have been noticing general fraud and shady behavior more and more recently. I don’t know if this is an actual change in the world that is happening, or if I just happen to notice this behavior more at this point in my life. In some ways, it feels like 2008 all over again, when the fraud was mostly in the financial services and real estate industries, but now it seems like it is in every industry I see. I plan to get into some specific examples of the behavior I’ve found fraudulent or shady in a future post, but the bad behavior I personally have become a target of is really disconcerting, and it makes me sad because I am guessing there is a lot worse stuff going on out there to other people.

The last few themes that have me losing faith in humanity are politics, terrorism, and global warming. Our political climate seems to be one where politicians don’t seem to care about actually helping people. Its sad because I can’t even see why anyone would even want to go into public service anymore with all the personal attacks and crony behavior which is engulfed our government, on both sides of the aisle. Terrorism has recently hit quite close to (a former) home of mine, with the tragic attack on the West Side Highway in New York City, which literally happened a block from where I lived in 2015. While I realize that more people die from car accidents and other tragic events, the threat of terrorism is quite real, and is one of the reasons I pushed for our family to move from New York to Puerto Rico. It is sad that I have this (somewhat irrational) fear, but nevertheless, that is the world we live in, and it’s very unfortunate. Climate change is a touchy subject for some, but having witnessed natural disasters both in New York and in Puerto Rico, I am convinced rising water temperatures are to blame for the increase in storm activity seen around the globe. I think a concerted global effort is needed to begin to switch to cleaner energy and help save this planet for our children and future generations.

This post describes broad and complex subjects which I want to explore in more detail in future blog posts. Generally speaking, my mood is quite sad right now about the state of our world and the lack of humanity and decency I see out there. I hope to expand on each of these themes with more specific examples and my end goal will be to find some green shoots of optimism which maybe can restore my faith in humanity. I want to find ways to help change things for the better so my children grow up to have happier and more meaningful lives. While right now I don’t have a lot of answers or solutions, I hope that by exploring these subjects in greater depth, I will find ways to make the world a better place.