Saturday, August 23, 2008

Josh Hamilton and the Adult Baby Sitter

Josh Hamilton and the Adult Baby-Sitter.

I need you, by me, beside me, to guide me,
To hold me, to scold me, because when I’m bad
I’m so, so bad

-Donna Summer

Sports Illustrated recently did a cover story about Josh Hamilton and his comeback from addiction.

Josh has gone to the depths of hell, but found his way back. Redemption was a combination of Jesus, his wife, 12 step, and his coach, Johnny Narron, who serves as Josh’s, adult baby-sitter.

Narron is with Hamilton nearly 24 hours a day. He handles all Josh’s money, including petty cash. He eats with Josh, prays with him, guards his hotel room and acts as a shield between Hamilton and temptation.

It’s worked. Hamilton is now one of the greatest players in baseball.

A professional athlete has the means and motivation to have an adult baby-sitter. I'm wondering how many average Americans need the same service.

Earlier this summer, I had breakfast with Joe Nocera, the award-winning columnist for the New York Times. In his 1994 classic business book, A Piece of the Action, Nocera chronicles the history of personal finance in America. He concluded the moves gave Americans the chance to have their own “piece of the action” controlling their financial destines.

It stunned me when Joe said that Americans were doing a poor job of handing their newfound freedom.

I realized he was right.

Americans were better-off when they had a defined-benefit, fixed pension, instead of a 401k, where they are subject to fluctuating markets and their own investment decisions.

Americans were better-off, when they didn't have access to high interest credit cards and payday lenders. Americans were better-off with a conventional mortgage and 20% down payment, instead of a nothing down, subprime loan.

We've had increasing amounts of freedom and haven’t done a good job of handling it.

For the past 26 years, my job has been to act as a financial baby-sitter for people who receive large sums of money. My success rate is good, but it comes from understanding that people are going to fall to temptation or do something stupid. I’ve learned to place barriers between people and their money.

I tell lottery winners never to take the lump sum payment. Take the payments over time.

Judge Brandy Brown and Drug Court Program Coordinator Anna Beth Hardiman,, having been showing me the juvenile drug court in Madison and Clark Counties (Kentucky). I became interested watching the two of them on an Emmy winning A&E program called Life or Meth.

There was a captivating scene on Life or Meth when Judge Brown scolded a young man who slept through a 2 pm appointment. Her tone was similar to how a parent deals with a child.

Judge Brown developed the same solution that baseball created for Josh Hamilton: Strong supervision and fewer opportunities for temptation.

At some level, adult Americans are crying out for the kind of supervision, guidance and structure that Judge Brown brings to juveniles in her court.

You can see it happening everywhere.

One of the hottest new occupations is life coaching. People have personal trainers to help them exercise, financial advisers to handle their money and psychologists to talk about life problems.

Others adults don’t have counselors or advisors. When they can’t cope, they turn to drugs and alcohol. Just like Josh Hamilton did.

It is not practical to assign an adult baby-sitter to every hurting American. Few people have the talents of Josh Hamilton. Even fewer have an employer motivated to maximize those talents.

Whatever they are doing with Josh Hamilton, it is obviously working. I’m headed to Judge Brown’s drug court to see how that is working as well.

I’m a big advocate for individual freedom but it in areas like addiction and finance, many adults and juveniles would be better off with someone beside them, to guide them.

Because they are bad, they are so, so bad.

Don McNay is the Chairman of the Board for McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Kentucky. You can write to him at and his award winning, syndicated column at McNay is Treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good Mike Leonard column about Jeff Zaslow

A columnist writes about a columnist ...
> Commentary
> ‘Last Lecture’ co-author has reason to give daughter an extra hug Mike
> Leonard 331-4368 | August 21, 2008
> Thousands of parents will be helping their children move into
> residence halls, apartments and other living quarters in Bloomington
> over the next two weeks. Most will give their child a hug before
> heading home.
> That hug might have been a little more heartfelt and a little more
> emotional than most Tuesday evening when Jeffrey Zaslow said goodbye
> to his daughter, Jordan, an Indiana University sophomore. Zaslow was
> the co-author of “The Last Lecture,” the best-selling book he wrote
> with the late Carnegie Mellon professor, Randy Pausch.
> “Randy told me maybe two months ago — I’m addicted to Googling his
> name — he said ‘Stop Googling my name and go hug your kids.’ He was
> right, of course,” Zaslow said. “I’m still addicted to Googling his
> name, but I still think of him when I hug my kids. Now I know I’ll be
> thinking of him because you brought it up.
> “He didn’t get to have kids my kids’ age,” he went on. “I’m so lucky
> I’ve raised a new adult here. Randy always said he would have been a
> good father of teenagers because he’s been hanging around them so long
> as a professor.”
> It was Zaslow who drove from his home in Detroit to Pittsburgh last
> September to hear Pausch’s last lecture. The school has a tradition of
> featuring a last lecture by professors who are retiring. Pausch was
> stepping down because he knew he had pancreatic cancer and would die
> soon. The 46-year-old computer science professor wanted to devote his
> final months to his wife, Jai, and three small children, ages 5, 3 and
> 1.
> Pausch lived longer than doctors estimated, dying on July 25 at age
> 47. And neither man could have dreamed what would transpire over the
> professor’s last year.
> In a column for the Wall Street Journal titled, “A Beloved Professor
> Delivers The Lecture of a Lifetime,” Zaslow described the wisdom and
> good humor of the Pausch speech. “The minute we posted my column, and
> a little five-minute (video) clip, at midnight at the Journal online,
> I started getting e-mails immediately,” Zaslow said. “By morning, it
> was linked on dozens of Web sites and by noon it was on hundreds. By
> the next day, it was in the thousands. People were sending and sending
> and sending it. I knew pretty quickly that this was touching people
> more than anything I’d ever done before.”
> It was more than a compelling story of a brilliant young scientist and
> professor dying at a young age and leaving a wife and children behind.
> It was more than a tale of courage — who among us could get a death
> diagnosis and stand up and deliver a funny and inspiring speech
> without losing our emotions?
> It was clear that Pausch had a gift for absorbing life’s lessons and
> communicating them through quotes and parables that resonate with
> people. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the
> hand,” he said. “The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the
> brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want
> something.”
> Not only was Zaslow’s column e-mailed around the world at lightning
> speed; the video of Pausch’s speech, posted on YouTube, received more
> than a million viewings in just a month. The professor became a
> sensation, appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and, eventually, an
> hourlong television special hosted by Diane Sawyer.
> In the meantime, Pausch and Zaslow committed to writing a book to
> expand on the original lecture, which was titled “Really Achieving
> Your Childhood Dreams.” In order to savor every precious moment with
> his wife and children, Pausch talked on the phone to Zaslow when he
> took bicycle rides around his neighborhood to keep up his strength.
> “He put on a cell phone headset and we talked practically every day
> from November through January,” Zaslow said. “I spent 53 hours on the
> phone with him, taking notes. It had to be written so fast. They (the
> publishers) wanted him to be alive when the book came out, and we
> weren’t sure that was going to happen.”
> Since its publication April 8, “The Last Lecture” has consistently
> hovered at the top of the best-seller list. More than 3.4 million
> copies are in print, and the book has been translated into 35
> languages.
> Zaslow said he’s not at liberty to discuss the financial aspects of
> the book, but it has been reported that the authors received a $6.7
> million advance. Sales have far exceeded that amount and Zaslow,
> Pausch’s family and pancreatic cancer research have all been
> beneficiaries.
> Zaslow was already on a “book leave” from the Wall Street Journal when
> the Pausch story came his way. He was writing, and recently completed,
> a book titled “The Girls From Ames.” It’s a story about the
> extraordinary lifelong friendship shared by 11 women from Iowa.
> He really isn’t sure what his next move will be. But he does know that
> his own life has been forever changed by the friendship and
> inspiration imparted by the late computer science professor. His wife,
> Sherry Margolis (a Detroit television anchor) and daughters Jordan,
> 19; Alex, 16; and Eden, 13, have become more precious than ever —
> something he wouldn’t have thought possible a year ago.
> “People who have seen the lecture and read the book all say they
> finished it and wanted to hug their children. As I was writing it, I
> was hugging my children — except for the times I said, ‘Go away, I’m
> writing the book,’” he said with a laugh. “Of course, Randy would have
> traded all of the fame and everything for just another month with his
> kids.”
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