My first Jewish Christmas

This Christmas we celebrated the family Christmas as they do in Eastern Europe and the Dominican Republic – on Christmas Eve – and reserved the 25th for my first Jewish Christmas! Honoring my 1/16th heritage, I made an early start to the new year with a new experience. Never had I realized that the burgeoning non-Christian population doesn’t just hunker down for indoor hibernation during other religious holidays: they keep NYC the City that never sleeps! 

We started at Katz’s famous deli, best known for the filming of When Harry Met Sally, commemorated by a sign that reads “I hope you have what she had!” dangling above their table. The line was non-stop, but we lucked out with seating within 5 minutes of arrival, between the breakfast and lunch waves. Their pastrami never disappoints. 

 Katz's deli is always hopping from counter end to counter end
Katz’s deli is always hopping from counter end to counter end

Next we hopped a cab to Herald Square to catch a movie. The Greatest Showman was indeed the greatest show! From there we were a short walk from the new 7 stop on 34th Street, which took us straight to Flushing for some epic dim sum. There were enough people out that I had to navigate the sidewalks midtown style. Our restaurant had the typical buzz of a Chinese restaurant, with green tea flowing and rapid service keeping the traffic moving. After a 15 minute wait, we were seated and ready for some duck, scallion pancakes, pork dumplings, and other deliciousness. Many belly-fulls later we contemplated whether to double down on more movies and food. The group split in two then, half for the Transit Museum exhibition in Grand Central and half for home and hot cocoa. Much like Friendsgiving, we were filled with warmth from a grateful day – and the repeated cold-to-warm transition that marks the start of winter!

The Index Card Summary of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”

Cal Newport incisively speaks to the millenial heart that has been somewhat misguided by the role models of our day with the prompt to “follow your passion”. We’re told to just identify something we like doing, that we’re good at, and that people are willing to pay for. Simple, right? But if it were simple, college kids would not be picking up every single leaflet at every job fair. There would not be nearly so many applying to strategy consulting jobs. We’d all be on “a mission from God,” Blues Brothers style.

 The
The “happy place” in the middle is what popular guidance tells us to seek…

In fact, it seems to be the vast minority of people who have charted out a specific interest from a young age and don’t miss a beat on the way to med school or engineering. The secret truth is, most of the highly successful people we know didn’t experience the ven diagram above simultaneously, but sequentially. The order is 1) Develop a talent, 2) Prove out market demand, then 3) Experience the passion that comes from being skilled and the autonomy that comes with carving out a market niche. Here is how Cal Newport breaks it down.

  1. Passion comes from being good at something, not the other way around

  2. Being good at something – which we’ll call having “career capital” – comes from deliberate practice

  3. Deliberate practice requires continuous feedback, clear standards and goals, and stretching beyond your current abilities

  4. The Law of Financial Viability: Your skills must be something people are willing to pay for

  5. Think small, act big: have a mission, and identify “the adjacent possible” to push boundaries and inject meaning into your work

  6. Know your market: success requires that you knowing what kind of “game” you’re playing – is it an auction market, or winner-take-all?

Once you achieve exceptional skill, you can then command more autonomy, an essential element to satisfying work. Unfortunately Cal Newport observed in his research that this is typically they point when employers push back on unique demands from the highly skilled, since it means ceding more of the value generated by the employee to the employee. But the uber-skilled seem to win out in the end.

So the moral of the story, as Lin Manuel Miranda attributed his success to, is to pick a lane and start running ahead of everyone else.

Ready? Set? Go!

Big data for local pizza

I first read about Slice last summer and their impressive registry of 7,000+ pizzerias, banding together to take on mass-produced monsters like Pizza Hut, one pepperoni pie order at a time. I guess as a New Yorker, with a pizzaria every block or two, I never thought it too inconvenient to hop on the phone and dial in an order. But I have been troubled at the sights in smaller cities where people default to *shiver* Dominos… and like it! I want to preach to my peers “No, it’s not real pizza!” And Slice CEO Sela’s heart went out to the local shops that just don’t know how to throw up a good website. He’s incentivizing loyalty and sharing customer data with the mamas and papas outside of Papa John’s. Pizza for the people. I dig it.

 Love for the local pizzaria
Love for the local pizzaria

An addendum to Christmas tree arbitrage

Last holiday season I followed the pine needle trail to find different Christmas tree pricing from block to block. The good news: there are still arbitrage opportunities! The bad news: average prices are up by 50%. Supplies are short, so don’t throw too much shade at the tree farmer hustle, they want to buy Christmas gifts too. I’ve seen some excellent minimalist millennial tree substitutes as well, exemplar below.

 Book tree - and there were books to spare! A true thespian's West Village nook.
Book tree – and there were books to spare! A true thespian’s West Village nook.

So cozy up with your book tree, pine tree, or just the Captain Morgan’s spiced rum, and remember that it doesn’t have to be pricey to be festive.