Thursday, October 30, 2008

"The Courage to Try"

Often, what is most essential in creating an extraordinary life is what is needed to get started. We call this the courage to try: courage to discover who we really are and leave what is comfortable, safe, and known. Courage to act on our convictions. Courage to see our dreams played out against the backdrop of the world. Courage to fail. Courage simply to begin.

For Anita Sharpe, courage meant walking away from a prestigious job at the Wall Street Journal at the pinnacle of her career to pursue her calling and start a magazine and company focused on helping people pursue worthwhile work and lives. For Cory Booker, it was leaving behind a world of comfort and moving to a housing project in Newark to join the front lines of a battle against poverty. For Mary Cutrufello, it was about reviving her musical career after being sidelined for years by illness. For Karin Weber, it was reinventing her life at sixty and embracing all sorts of new adventures. These life entrepreneurs acted in spite of their fears. Indeed, without fear, courage is impossible.

We often confine our thinking about courage to fields of battle and acts of valor. But there is also a personal courage that requires a willingness to start taking action even in small ways that get us moving in the right direction.

*Excerpted from Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek, Jossey-Bass, 2008).*

Gregg Vanourek, one of the authors of this great new book Life Entrepreneurs will be with us tomorrow (Fri, Oct 31) at the Denver IDEA Café. 2 to 3:30 p.m. Panera Bread, 1330 Grant St. here in Denver. Free and open to anyone starting a new career, campaign, or new business. More information and RSVP at

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Very interesting talks: Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley about how he found his true calling while attending the University of Kansas; philosopher Alice Von Hildebrand about true feminism; and a panel discussion. Click here to listen:
Interesting blog post from journalist Amy Gahran about how to Twitter.

Twitter is the Internet service that allows posting from your cell phone or computer short messages about what you are doing now and to follow similar posts from anyone you choose to follow.

Big question in my mind is “why Twitter?” Amy says it’s a good way to catch breaking news, sort of like CNN headlines from friends, and a good way to create traffic for your website.

I’ve been trying to use Twitter for a couple of months, and similar features on Plaxo and Facebook, “What are you doing now?” Do all of these enhance life or do they just drown out thoughtful refection with chaos? Does anyone care what I’m doing moment by moment, and what help is it to me to follow others actions as if they were ants in an Ant Farm?

Will we soon be treating a new mental illness, Twitter Jitters?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
Pablo Picasso, who was born yesterday, Oct 25 (1881-1973)


Small business says to Google: "Financial crisis? What financial crisis?"

Google may have some brand name marketers among its customers, but most of the volume of its advertising (according to Google financial reports) comes from hundreds of thousands of smaller companies around the world. Drop the word “baby” into the Google search box. The advertising is from and Punch in the term “boats” and the paid links are to

Google’s results uncover the robustness of an unimaginable number of marketers who may only spend a few thousand dollars to vie for customers. But, they would not be spending the money unless, in the judgments of these modest operations, it worked.

From 24/7 Wall Street Blog

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It is believed that James Truslow Adams coined the term "American Dream" in his 1931 book The Epic of America. But Truslow's coinage of the phrase had an entirely different (and much broader) meaning than what it has come to mean today.

The American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."
Ralph Nader complained to a small Boulder audience last night that the two-party system in this country is dead. The Denver Post made his sour comments the lead story on their online front page this morning!

I just posted this comment:

The two party system is not perfect, but it's better than any alternative I can imagine. It's served us well ever since the Federalist Papers were written as this country was founded.

Ralph Nader's negative opinion of the system is like the old man who has never left his home town being critical of travel: If he had tried it while he was still young enough to enjoy it, he'd have a different view.

People who went to their local precinct caucus in February saw the Colorado Caucus, what I believe is the full flowering of the two party system. The system has been neglected for decades, new leaders are needed at every level. Yet even at it's worst, which in some ways last February was, the people I've talked with loved the experience.

The ordinary, average, common person has his or her best chance of getting elected to local office with the two party system, there is absolutely no doubt about that. Those who are just getting involved can now become elected to party leadership roles and local offices over the next few election cycles.

If Nader, instead of grand-standing as a 3rd party spoiler, had gotten elected to local office and gotten solid experience for higher office, he very well might be a contender for President today. Let's not let his sour grapes spoil our basically sound system.

What's needed now is for the thousands of new people who got involved for the first time this year to become local leaders.

What do you think? You can always post your comments here or call into a radio talk shop, of course, but if you'd like the chance for live, face-to-face discussion join us tonight for the Denver Socrates Cafe or Sunday afternoon for Denver Speakers Corner

Small Enterprises, Big Lessons

Although this collection of startup memoirs (2007 books Ehrenfeld reviews) is written by small business entrepreneurs, the lessons are big and broadly applicable to all new ventures. Wherever startups begin, the experiences are always personal; they are driven by passionate individuals, marred by painful fits and starts, and inspired by quirky happenstance or ambitious global goals. Few successful new ventures become the company that was originally conceived. Startups always respond to change — and as a result there are few that are not changed as they mature.

The path to sustainability (as in self-funding growth) must be discovered through experience rather than plotted on a map. And the ability to become a viable and ultimately thriving venture rests on the experience, network, and wisdom of the particular founder and founding team. More than any single product or service, their long-term success depends entirely on the quality and capability of the company they have created.

Tom Ehrenfeld in Strategy + Business
Tom Ehrenfeld ( is a former writer and editor at Harvard Business Review and Inc. magazine. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, the New York Times, Boston magazine, and Parenting magazine. Based in Cambridge, Mass., he is the author of The Startup Garden: How Growing a Business Grows You (McGraw-Hill, 2001).

Tom's agreed to be a "surprise" speaker at the Denver IDEA Cafe via teleconferencing in the next couple of weeks. To join us, RSVP at

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you."
Gal 3:11 (Message translation)

by Leonard Nathan

As children in the schoolroom game
whisper from one end of the class to the other
and garble the message they pass on or change it
beyond recognition, so we
pass on the truth of our kind.

My father heard it from his, something
vaguely involving God, and his father
heard it from his, and so on back
to Abraham, and so father
passed it on to me, but God had dropped out.

And so my son heard it, a wisdom
found inside a Chinese fortune cookie:
"Be good and hope," which he will pass on
to his son, but maybe with good
missing or hope, maybe with love added.

Though love was never meant to mean so much.

"Truth" by Leonard Nathan from
The Potato Eaters. © Orchises Press, 1999.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

George Farah, the executive director of something called Open Debates (, complains in the Denver Post about the Presidential Debates.

Here’s the comment I posted on his op-ed column:

Here's an idea: Instead of a debate, televise a Socrates Cafe discussion comprised of the nominees for President and Vice-President, and eight other people chosen at random and then approved by both sides, the way juries are formed.

What's a Socrates Cafe? Join us any Thursday evening for the Denver Socrates Cafe, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Trinity Church, 18th & Broadway here in Denver. More information and RSVP at

What do you think? Would a Socrates Cafe shed more light than heat, unlike the current debates or the variations on the current system George suggests?

How about this: A weekly television series called Socrates Cafe. That's reality TV that I would watch.

In the meantime, I hope you will join us for our Denver Socrates Cafe, for more info on it and to RSVP, click on the link above.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Want to get rich? Video with author Ken Fisher tell about his new book that tells 10 ways to do it, and why nows the best time! Do you agree?
Here's a great American story that should become a book.

M.E. Sprengelmeyer did a great job covering the Iowa Caucus back in December:


PART TWO: Democrats

PART ONE: Republicans

And then in January, he wrote this on his blog with a link to his great Rocky Mountain News wrapup article about the Iowa Caucus:

Well, if Iowa is a microcosm of the national White House contest, then a precinct caucus in the little, back roads town of Adel was an even tinier example of the run for the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center.

In Adel, where the downtown streets are paved with bricks in honor of the masonry factory that built this town, the result perfectly matched Iowa's statewide results: Sen. Barack Obama first, former Sen. John Edwards second, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton third. highlights Clinton's struggle to connect on a personal level with average voters.


It seems to me our wonderful Colorado Caucus, the system that has served us well since 1912 is in great danger. I attended the Denver Democrats Central Committee meeting last Tuesday. The big announcement was that none of the officers are standing for reelection, and no one has announced that they are interested.

If no one steps forward to lead all the political newcomers who came into the system at the neighberhood caucuses last February, we can anticipate a disaster in 2012. Right now it appears that there is no leadership in Denver.

Can we take the lessons of Iowa and strengthen Colorado in general and Denver in particular, or are we going to let ourselves slip back into the muck and mire of apathy and neglect?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Radio ad the Colorado Catholic Conference is running:
What needs to be done by Catholics today for their country? The answer is: Don’t lie. If we say we’re Catholic, we need to prove it.....public life needs people willing to stand alone, without apologies, for the truth of the Catholic faith and the common human values it defends. One person can make a difference – if that individual has a faith he or she is willing to suffer for; a faith that can say, as [St John] Fisher did in greeting his executioner, "I come to die for the faith of Christ and Christ’s Catholic Church."
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, Render unto Caesar, p. 197

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Vincent Carroll writes in today's Rocky Mountain News:

State Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Genesee, asked a very good question of Colorado's two Senate candidates at Monday's 9News debate. Too bad he didn't get a very good answer.
"As you know," Witwer said, "42 percent of our federal budget goes to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. And with the retirement of the baby boomers that number will only go up. Currently the only plan to pay for that is to add it to debt and it will be on the shoulders of the next generation. One of you two gentlemen will likely serve in the last U.S. Senate that can address this problem before it reaches that kind of crisis . . . And my question to both of you is what specifically would you do to address that looming crisis?"

Carroll then writes about how both candidates sidestepped the question.

This is the comment to Carroll's column that I just posted:

Yes, there is a problem. And not just in this race.

Political parties under current leadership are a problem. I went to the Central Committee meeting of one of the largest, strongest political organizations in the state last night and there was virtually no thoughtful discussion about the Colorado ballot issues. There was a rush to finish the meeting and get to a bar that was TiVoing the debate.

Presidential campaigns are a problem. Everyone complains about how much time and money ($200+ million!) has been spent to get to the debate last night!!!

Local campaigns are a problem, districts are made "safe" when political parties negotiate boundries every ten years and there is virtually no real debate.

So what's the solution?

I'm going to suggest this as a topic at our next Denver Socrates Cafe tomorrow (Thursday, 10/9) evening , "Who do you trust? Media, groups, campaigns, political parties, independent research, and devine revelation: How can voters best form their opinions today on candidates and ballot issues." Join us for good discussion on important topics each week as we seek truth by our own lights. More informationa and RSVP at

What does it mean to be a good citizen today? How do we become part of the solution rather than part of the problem? These are questions on my mind right now, I hope you'll come and help us find the answers, or at least the paths to the answers, at our Denver Socrates Cafe meeting this Thursday.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Benjamin Franklin, Entrepreneur - The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary

Benjamin Franklin, Entrepreneur - The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary

Keys to Ben Franklin's success.

Global Denver

New City of Denver recruitment website:

Global Denver
So what should the government do? Eliminate those policies that generated the current mess. This means, at a general level, abandoning the goal of home ownership independent of ability to pay. This means, in particular, getting rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with policies like the Community Reinvestment Act that pressure banks into subprime lending.

Jeffrey A. Miron, senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University. A Libertarian, he was one of 166 academic economists who signed a letter to congressional leaders last week opposing the government bailout plan.

There is an interesting article in the Denver Post about the Colorado Democracracy Alliance (a local offshoot of the national Democracy Alliance), and how it is getting it’s political points across through support of a network of non-profits.

Here’s the comment I just posted at the end of the Denver Post article:

I'm going to suggest this as a topic at our next Denver Socrates Cafe, "Media, groups, independent research, and devine revelation: How can voters best form their opinions today on candidates and ballot issues." Join us for good discussion on important topics each week as we seek truth by our own lights. More informationa and RSVP at

Sunday, October 05, 2008

“What’s wrong with the Church? I am.”
G.K. Chesterton

Conscientious Election
A moral guide for Catholics entering the voting booth

In order for men and women to engage in the political debate, their consciences must be formed. Only then can they discern the common good. The U.S. bishops emphasize the role of conscience in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility, a guide for Catholics as they prepare for the 2008 elections.

Conscience emerges as a voice, greater than one’s own, from the center of two sources: right reason and the teaching of the church. Conscience communicates the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, based not on the truth of circumstances, my top values or best intentions, but first and foremost on the truth of things in themselves accessed by faith and reason. To ensure that each aspect of conscience thrives, we have an obligation to form our consciences: “a well-formed conscience…perceives the proper relationship among moral goods” (No. 34).

Forming One’s Conscience

The formation of conscience entails first the clearing away of sin and its effects: concupiscence, ignorance, weakness, ideologies, microscopic self-concerns, lingering justifications, anger and prejudicial impulses. In the process of being freed from sin, our minds more easily grasp, and our hearts more easily accept, that which is true. The Holy Spirit seeks to build up, throughout our lifetime, the virtue of prudence within us (No. 19)...

Thus, the formation of conscience thrives on our openness to hear the voice of God in Scripture, in the teaching of the church and the prayerful discernment of the true dimensions of the concrete choice before us. Even with our best efforts, our judgments of conscience may, at times, be only partially correct. God continues to seek inroads to our heart to clear the blockages that impede a mature moral vision…

Careful Deliberation

…There are times when it seems difficult to apply a judgment of conscience. We may judge some policies of one candidate to be correct, but dislike other policies that seem to be morally erroneous. Rather than stubborn resistance, this calls me deeper…

The application of conscience is often difficult: “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil” (No. 35)…

On a political coastline where the waters run shallow, it is not uncommon that in a particular contest each candidate on the ballot holds a position that favors an act of intrinsic evil… The focus on “careful deliberation” cannot dwindle to a minimal criterion by which one can squeeze past the core issues, much less justify support for intrinsic evil; it is a summons beyond our vision to a new junction, where we are called to embrace a new vision.

Conscience sees broadly. It brushes back the curtain, pries down the lever, and by the leverage of honest truth is able not simply to change, but to transform the world.

Rev. J. Brian Bransfield is a moral theologian with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis and its incoming executive director. In America Magazine

Friday, October 03, 2008

There is an interesting article this morning in the Wall Street Journal about the revival of classic music:

I posted this comment to the article online:

I was Director of Marketing for the Denver Symphony when Chris Dunworth was Executive Director in the early 1980's. We had more sell outs than ever before or since.

The secret to our success was Gene Amole, a columnist at the Rocky Mountain News who had owned KVOD radio, the #1 classical station in the country, and Helen Black who had founded the orchestra. They helped us see that everyone likes Good Music, and so we reached out to the community in a number of new (to Denver) ways: rush tickets, brighter advertising, getting a second story in the paper each week before a new concert, the first ever Bronco pep rally in our concert hall, Blue Jeans concerts, etc. etc.

We found the biggest barrier to our success was that few people in Denver knew when our concerts were held or how to buy a ticket. Our advertising and publicity was designed to change this, and it did: We went from being front page bad news to front page good news.

When I left, marketing was done by a local rock and roll promoter and the Denver Symphony Orchestra eventually went into bankruptsy, arising as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

It breaks my heart to see all the empty seats now at nearly every concert I attend. The interesting fact is that I've never had a board member or musician or anyone else call me to inquire about our brief period of success.

John Wren Denver, Colorado

If someone from the Colorado Symphony or any other performing arts group sees this (forward this page along to anyone you know who might know a board member, staff member, musician, or actor), please join us this afternoon or any Friday afternoon at the Denver IDEA Café. I’d love to brainstorm low cost/ no cost ways to sell more tickets. More information and RSVP at

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"The decline of the American Empire has begun."
Nouriel Roubini, Oct 1, 2008

"The rise of the rest."

Fareed Zakaria in his new book, The Post-American World

Just as fax machines brought down the Berlin wall in 1989, the Internet is bringing down Wall Street, global corporations, and crony capitalism. What we are seeing now with the government bailout is the sack of Wall Street by insiders, marking the beginning of decline of the American Empire just as surely as the sack of Rome in 410 marked the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire.

Ben Franklin and our other founders saw opportunity in the beginning of the fall of the British Empire. Franklin went to England in 1724, where he learned the latest in printing technology and where he saw the advantages of men gathered together in clubs and associations. Only 21 years old, he returned to form the first Franklin Circle, what he called the Junto, and to apply the printing technology in a chain of print shops and publications. This laid the foundation for the American Revolution and the founding of this country.

Franklin constantly looked for the main chance, the opportunity in change. How can today’s chaos be turned to constructive action? What is today’s main chance to bring about creative destruction and the birth of successful new businesses and new wealth?

Let today mark not only the end of American Empire, but more imporantly the start of a New American Revolution that will lead to a better future for our children and grandchildren.

This life is short, let's get started!

Next Sunday join us to speak out on this, who you like for President, or anything else that's on your mind at Denver Speakers Corner, 4 p.m., Civic Center, North Pavilion on Colfax across the street from the Denver Newspaper Agency. More information and optional RSVP at

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I just sent this letter to my U.S. Senators and Congressman:

I heard Irving Crystal call global corporatism "socialism is sheepskins."

This bail out would be the full flowering.

Or it's a chance to get back to the basics of a freemarket system.

There is a need to loosen credit, but this is the wrong way to do it, in my opinion.

What would work?

I've been in businesses that go through a down cycle and show a loss for the year. Good accountants advise that inventory, receivable, and other assets be written down so there is solid footing for growth the next year.

It's time to write-down America:

1. Negotiate settlement of all U.S. debt.

2. Let irresponsible corporations go tits-up.

3. Loosen regulations so entrepreneurs can take over the assets of these corporate carcasses and step in to fill the giant demand for credit that will be created.

Joseph Schumpeter called times like this "creative destruction." Please allow it to operate.

John S. Wren, MBA+