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Add Value

by Alan Fox 3 Comments
Add Value

Whenever I ask myself, “What is worth doing today,” one idea that always ends up high on my list is, “Add value.”

The concept of adding value is simply this: each day, leave the world a better place than you found it.  Adding value feels good, even if you never receive credit – especially if you never receive credit.  Adding value is the point, not recognition.

Every morning when I walk to my office from the parking garage I take the long route, which is more than half a mile.  I always notice cigarette butts and, nowadays, discarded surgical masks along the street.  Recently, despite COVID-19, I’ve started to pick up the trash and discard it in the receptacles that the City of Los Angeles has thoughtfully placed along Ventura Boulevard.  I like to walk on a street that is free of debris.

I also add value in my business by dealing immediately with emails (at least that’s my goal).  I aim to look at an email once, answer it, delete it, or forward it to someone who can answer it for me or who might find it helpful.  One silver lining from COVID-19 is that I receive fewer emails. Right now there are fewer than fifteen from the past month that I still need to answer.

As we continue to live through the pandemic, it often feels more difficult to help ourselves, let alone others.  But it’s also more urgent.  We are all facing these times of danger and uncertainty together, which is why our children, friends, and family need our support now more than ever, just as we need theirs.  I sometimes joke that, “If it were easy I would do it myself.”

Of course, the first rule of adding value is to take care of yourself.  If you are finding it difficult to function, do what you need to do for yourself, and don’t hesitate to ask others for help.  You can’t take proper care of yourself, or anyone else, if you’re sitting in a corner staring at the walls. Reach out to someone you trust for support.

I hope that no matter how difficult these times might be that we will all continue to initiate kindness.  A “thank you,” to acknowledge the generous act of a stranger, or offering someone a helping hand is inspiring.  During the past three months I’ve received more than the usual number of gracious emails, and each one brightens my day.

Thank you for reading my blog.  We can do this.

Add value.



The Monkey, the Fence, and the Bananas

by Alan Fox 1 Comment
The Monkey, the Fence, and the Bananas

A monkey is on one side of a wrought-iron fence. A large bunch of bananas is on the other side just beyond the monkey’s grasp. The monkey reaches through the fence repeatedly, trying to secure the bananas but fails every time.  Eventually the monkey starves.

Whether or not this story is true, it is useful.  The monkey could easily have climbed over the fence and enjoyed a banquet.

We are sometimes like the monkey, attached to a solution that is obvious, simple, and useless.

Years ago, I learned an important lesson from the book The Road Less Traveled, and that is to take my time in solving a problem.  To this day, I think through possible solutions.  The beat poet Alan Ginsberg wrote, “First thought, best thought.”  This may be true in writing a poem, but not necessarily in reaching a bunch of bananas.

On the TV quiz show Million Dollar Pyramid a contestant who was stuck had the opportunity to call a friend.  That’s still a good idea.  None of us has a monopoly on ideas, and I’ve found that my co-workers, children, and friends often find an excellent solution never would have occurred to me.

Life is like a quiz show, with new questions to be answered every day.

So, if you’ve been reaching through the fence without success. Maybe it’s time to slow down and rethink the solution.

Take your time, reflect, ask for help if you need it, and you’ll find answers that are effective, rather than obvious.



The Kindness of Strangers

by Alan Fox 1 Comment
The Kindness of Strangers

When the pandemic was just beginning, I tripped and fell on the street behind my office. It was at a time when many had already begun to keep physically distant from others to prevent the spread of the scary new coronavirus.

Two men engaged in conversation saw me fall and immediately rushed over.

“Are you hurt?” one asked.

“Can we help?” the other added.

“I don’t think I’m hurt,” I said.  They each took one of my hands and helped me up.

“Thanks,” I said, brushing the dust off my pants. Earlier this year one of my employees had fallen on the same street, spraining one wrist and breaking the other.  I was relieved to have avoided a similar fate.

The two men stayed to make sure I was okay.  After I again assured them I was fine, they nodded, gave me a “thumbs-up,” and left.

I was then, and I still am, grateful.  Kindness seems to be in shorter supply today than it was before the pandemic overran the world, perhaps because of our additional concerns. I must admit, the added stress in my own life has made it more difficult for me to be consistently pleasant, even though I know it’s more important than ever.

But isn’t the true test of character what you do when your own life is difficult?  Do you snarl, lash out, and blame others?  Or do you focus on the positive and actively express your empathy and support?

There are many times in our lives when we need help.  We most often turn to friends and family, but it’s reassuring to know that even in stressful times we can still rely on the kindness of strangers.


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