Siri and the Pandemic

Exercise has always been a part of my life. When I was in junior high, I would wake up early to do the Jane Fonda workout videos. In high school, I became certified as a group exercise instructor, bossing around adults more than twice my age.

In college, I taught ten classes per week and became a personal trainer. I discovered Pilates while pregnant with my second child and immediately found my favorite workout. I owned a Pilates studio for fifteen years and I exercise almost every day.

For my birthday a couple years ago, I received an Apple Watch from my boyfriend. While I love the connectivity to my phone and other Apple devices, Siri is rather bossy.

She monitors my workouts and sometimes when I forget to log a workout on my watch, I’m shamed for it. I discovered how to add in a workout if I forget to activate my watch, but Siri is somewhat suspicious and doubts the validity. Please, like I’d cheat myself out of a workout…

Miraculously, Siri has become less annoying recently. Another of her commands is reminding me to breathe. The pandemic has influenced this specific Siri directive, taking on a deeper meaning.

Breath is life. The Chinese refer to life force energy as Chi. There is Tai Chi breathing, Qigong breathing techniques, and in yoga, Prayayama is the formal practice of controlling breath.

In Pilates, we perform posterior lateral rib cage breathing — which is expanding your lungs and ribcage outward to the sides with a complete inhale. This can be felt across your back, with the abdominals held in. This breathing technique is known for maximizing the oxygen efficiency in the blood, generating energy (Chi).

In a study of occupations as it relates to life expectancy*, orchestra conductors live (on average) 38% longer than the general population. Why? Because they lift up their arms expanding their breath, opening up their ribcage while they work (bossing around musicians). Their breathing technique is half of their job — which is vigorous cardiovascular training.

During this pandemic, Siri reminding me to breathe feels like a blessing. I do not take for granted my ability to take a deep breath. I am gratefully able to expand my ribcage without feeling any discomfort in my lungs. The only pressure I receive is from Siri — to breathe.

I wish everyone positive Chi and deep breaths and I need to sign off now because Siri tells me it’s time for me to stand up.

*Metropolitan Life Insurance Company study

I’m just filling in

Fountain performer in Vegas
Even the fountains are performers in Vegas

I don’t really “get” Vegas. I understand that it’s popular for trade shows, which is why I am here. I am attending the KBIS show which is an industry-only trade show for the kitchen and bath and construction industries. This is the second year in a row for me to come to this show (with my boyfriend) and I just don’t get it. We don’t gamble. We don’t smoke. Fortunately, next year the show is in Orlando.

It shouldn’t be this hard to get a healthy breakfast. I ask the man behind the diner counter, “Do you use real eggs? If I order an egg over easy, it will be directly cracked out of a shell, right?”

The guy behind the counter says to me, “Hey, I’m just filling in.” [his eyes added, “So lay off, lady.”]

This phrase, “I’m just filling in”, when uttered by someone in the service industry, enables them to be treated with a little more kindness and a longer rope for their limited knowledge in their temporary position. Maybe this is what we should all do— admit that we’re just here to fill in. We should tell people we are just here to help out. Maybe this disclaimer should be thrown down when someone asks a technical question that could be answered with extensive knowledge on the topic, but prefaced it with “I’m just filling in, but…”. Perhaps people would be kinder to one another.

Somewhat satisfied with the egg response and the discovery that the oatmeal was gluten-free, I took a seat at the bar. 

Even the Wi-Fi sucks here. Clearly this is a city for play — not for work. With the casinos, they know what they are doing with their cybersecurity / IT stuff. They truly don’t encourage visitors to get a whole lot done except to eat drink and gamble until their new football stadium opens later this year, where the new sport will be “How to get to Death Star Stadium” (there are 15,000 parking spots and the stadium holds 75k people, what were the odds?).

Vegas Sunset
At least the surroundings of Vegas are beautiful

At least the surroundings are beautiful. The mountains are gorgeous, especially during sunset. I’m looking forward to leaving. But the best part is the people. No one is from here. Like the man seated next to me. He was just passing through. He tells me that this is his first Monday of retirement. He was driving from his former home in San Diego to his new home in the mountains of Utah where he is going to enter a second career as a ski instructor. He’s 72, he has grandkids that live in Sacramento, and he’s been divorced for 20 years — never remarried. He shared all sorts of random details of his life story with me and towards the end of our conversation, he disclosed something amazing that will have me laughing for decades.

This man asked me if I would ever marry again. I smiled and said yes, that I had met the love of my life. He then said, “Well let me tell you something, 10 years ago, I sought help for depression and was prescribed a medication. The downside of going on this antidepressant was that I could not drink any alcohol and so I quit drinking cold turkey that day.”

He claims that he was not an alcoholic before then, but he would drink socially and in business situations because he was in charge of a large auto parts distributorship in Southern California and alcohol was part of the job.

Then he added, “One of the side effects of the medication was that I may lose desire and drive.” He gave me a knowing, “you know what I am talking about” type of look, then added, with what is the best punch line I’ve heard to date:

“Best thing that has ever happened to me!” 

So apparently in his early 60s he basically became a Eunuch. He seemed quite happy about it. I might have spritzed out my tea.

I said, “Hey I’m just here to fill-in.”

Carmel Music Academy

This story originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Carmel Magazine.

John Mellencamp and Jon. E. Gee on bass. Photo courtesy Sarah Wiley.
Jon E. Gee has been playing bass with John Mellencamp since 1999. Photo courtesy Sarah Wiley.

There are no barriers to entry into the arts, and Jon E. Gee and his wife, who was given the nickname “Mrs. Gee” by a tour accountant of John Mellencamp, embrace this concept by welcoming a wide range of ages into the Carmel Music Academy.

“No one is too young or too old to learn how to play,” says Mrs. Gee. Since opening in 2011, their youngest student was under two years old and their oldest has been in their 80s. 

Each of their music rooms contain multiple instruments. At the Carmel Music Academy, they feel that exposure to other instruments is important for growth.

“A student will ask, ‘Can I try that?’ and point to a guitar or a bass,” says Jon E. Gee. “And we say, ‘Sure! Let’s finish with your piano lesson and then you can pick that up.’ Perhaps thegravitation to another instrument leads them to something that sparks an even deeper passion for music.”

The philosophy of the Carmel Music Academy is “the instrument will find the musician”. Case in point is the story of Jon’s musical journey to the bass. 

When Jon E. Gee was sixteen he was introduced to a band that needed a bass player. When asked if he played bass, Jon E. Gee replied, “Yes!” He didn’t. He immersed himself in learning how to play this new instrument and from that day on he played bass every day. In fact, he remembers the first day he didn’t play it. 

“I was 24 years old and it was a Sunday,” recalls Jon E. Gee. “And I loved playing! It was the biggest rush of my life to play in a band.”

The method of teaching at the Carmel Music Academy may be considered unconventional, but it is natural to human instinct. 

“We teach how to read music, but we don’t teach it first,” says Jon E. Gee. “The students learn theory very quickly once they start playing well. By playing first, they are listening and have reference points to the music. Reading music is easier once you are already playing. It suddenly makes sense to them – they get the connection.”

Jon. E. Gee on stage playing bass. Photo courtesy Sarah Wiley.
Jon. E. Gee on stage playing bass. Photo courtesy Sarah Wiley.

The Carmel Music Academy teaches music the same way we learn to speak. When we learn to speak as children, we begin with sounds. An infant is not handed a manual on the proper way to create these sounds. There is no coach other than excitable parents when a baby coos. Speech is intuitive and learned, initially, through mimicking sounds and is refined naturally over time. First by creating sounds, then words, sentences, and finally, formal structures. This process is parallel to learning music. At the Carmel Music Academy, music theory is peppered into the lessons once someone has the sight, sound, tactical, and auditory experience of playing.

It’s a fact that a lot of rock stars don’t read music. When the famous guitarist Chet Atkins was asked if he could read music, he replied, “Not enough to hurt my playing.”

Muscle memory is powerful. Having a multi-sensory experience with music makes it easier to retain. Written music was created for communication purposes, which transcends across all spoken languages. This methodology is intuitive learning. Those who only know how to read music, very seldom retain their musical ability.

The Carmel Music Academy creates a family that reaches beyond the lessons. Some of the Carmel Music Academy graduates are doing big things in the arts: one played with Sugarland, one was in Jersey Boys, and others have toured with professional acts. One former student, who is now a doctor, lives in New York City and has his bass on a stand in his office on top of his desk. This clearly identifies his passion for music.

“Our goal is to make musicians for life,” adds Mrs. Gee. even if they don’t play professionally, they still play, they remember the life lessons.

A strong sense of community is experienced by students of the Carmel Music Academy. Many have performed at Walt Disney World and around the state of Indiana. Locally, Carmel Music Academy engages with the Carmel Community Playhouse, the Cat Theater, th Carmel Gazebo, and Carmelfest. They have also performed at Pinheads in Fishers and the Indiana Landmarks Center. One goal is to have their students perform at Carnegie Hall. 

Jon E. Gee’s passion for music philanthropy extends beyond Indiana. He serves as an Honorary Board member for Little Kids Rock, an organization providing the resources for children who don’t have the resources for musical instruments. Other board members include Carlos Santana, Ziggy Marley, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, and B.B. King. Little Kids Rock provides music education and opportunities for underserved areas. They are in 45 states, helping over 400 school districts with the resources to ensure music stays in schools. 

“The Carmel Music Academy is the place that I never had as a kid,” says Jon E. Gee, who was discouraged from pursuing a career in music by music teachers. “We have a couple students that I think should be signing autographs now. The point is: If you love it, if you really love it, you need to pursue it.”

The Carmel Music Academy focuses on fostering passion and purpose with music. Jon E. Gee and Mrs. Gee’s efforts speak loudly for how much they love what they do. They know there are no barriers to entry to music, and if one is passionate, the Carmel Music Academy will nurture that individual.

Drawn to Inspire

Formey Disney Illustrator Amy Duarte now calls Zionsville home

This story originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Zionsville Magazine. Download a PDF copy of this story as it was originally published.

Amy Duarte has been drawing since she was old enough to hold a crayon. Her earliest memories are of creating art. When she was five years old, she saw the movie Cinderella and told her parents authoritatively, “That’s what I want to do!”

Miraculously, at this young age, Duarte knew that she wanted to be an artist for Disney. No small goal for a young, deaf girl living in Indonesia.

Amy Duarte and her family

The previous year, Duarte began speech therapy.

“My mom knew that it would be beneficial for me, long term, to learn how to talk and to lip read,” she says. “My mom rewarded me with Kentucky Fried Chicken after my challenging therapy sessions.

I am so grateful for her pushing me to do this. Speech therapy likely saved my [professional] life and to this day, when I pass a KFC, I smile.”

Duarte’s parents strongly encouraged her to follow her dream of working as an artist for Disney. When Duarte was 14 years old, she moved to LA with her mom. While earning a degree in art at Cal State Northridge, Duarte would illustrate her letters to friends. One of her friends had left a letter of Duarte’s on her coffee table when a guest saw it and asked to meet the artist. This created a side-hustle for Duarte. She began storyboarding commercials for companies, including McDonald’s, Snapple and Hanes.

“It was the perfect part-time job for me during college,” she says.

The art students were encouraged to apply for internships at the start of their junior year. To Amy’s excitement, spots were available with the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Around 1,400 applicants applied for 15 highly coveted spots. Duarte’s application was accepted. She was subsequently offered her dream job of being an artist for Disney.

In her 20 year-long career with Hollywood, Duarte worked a number
of animated features including Atlantis (her first film with Disney), Home on the Range and Bolt. Some of the movies that she has worked as a Senior Visual Effects Artist include: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Ironman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Throughout her career, Duarte has worked on more than 30 major motion pictures.

Aside from drawing, Duarte’s other love is horses. Her love of equestrian sport led her to meet Max Duarte on the polo field at a club in Los Angeles.

“I’ve always been a horse girl since I was very small,” she says. “It started when my mother would take me to pony rides at the park near my grandmother’s house in Bandung, Indonesia. My parents signed me up for proper horseback riding lessons near our home [in Jakarta]. I got into the world of dressage and show jumping and competed in several Southeast Asian international competitions. As an adult, I eventually ventured into the world of polo, starting at the California Polo Club in Los Angeles.”

Now living in Zionsville, Duarte continues her animation and graphic design work. She is also an accomplished children’s book illustrator, with “Angels Amongst Us” and “Coming Down, Looking Up” (written by Marian S. Taylor) as several of the titles of the books already published. Duarte and her husband Max live near family where their children can enjoy playing with their cousins and, conveniently, a polo field is nearby.

I think it may be inspiring for young children to see me on YouTube and think ,’Hey, I could do that!’

— Amy Duarte

Duarte posts many of her personal collection of illustrations to Instagram and recently started a YouTube channel where she discusses the creative process of her artwork.

“I think it may be inspiring for young children to see me on YouTube and think, ‘Hey, I could do that!’” says Duarte, who admits that she was nervous to post her first video due to her less than perfect speech. The reviews are five star.

To learn more about Duarte, visit amyduarte.com or find her on YouTube and Instagram at @amyduartedesigns.

Remembering Dad

This piece originally appeared in the November 2019 Fishers Towne Post. Download a copy of this piece as a PDF with original artwork.

World War II Veteran’s Memory Lives on Through His Son

Veteran’s Day, or Armistice Day as it was originally named, was declared to honor the 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the end of World War I. Veteran’s Day is a day of gratitude and remembrance of those who have served our country. This Veteran’s Day and every day for that matter, Fishers resident David M. Delafield honors his father, David D. Delafield, who served during World War II.

Self portrait of David Delafield

David D. Delafield was born in 1920 and grew up in East Aurora, New York just outside of Buffalo. While away studying art at Miami of Ohio, his father plunged the family car into a lake. This suicidal episode was mainly due to the impact the Great Depression had upon his jewelry business. He not only drowned himself but his younger daughter and granddaughter. Delafield’s mother and older sister survived. Delafield’s older brother, Will, like himself, was away at the time. Delafield left college to help his family get through this rough time before he transferred to Ohio State University to earn his Bachelors of Fine Art.

In 1939, a professor of Delafield’s at Ohio State, Hoyt Sherman, creatively engaged in the war effort by helping the U.S. Navy identify enemy ships and planes through drawing classes. Unbeknownst to Delafield, his classes at OSU with Sherman prepared him to be a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator. In January of 1942, Delafield enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. In August of 1943, he was a member of the 727th Squadron of the 451st Bomb Group. The 727th was stationed in Tunisia.

Delafield’s new B24H Bomber had a nickname borrowed from Snuffy Smith, the “Bodacious Critter.” Delafield was a crew member of the Bodacious Critter II, as the original Bodacious Critter was shot down by the Germans in late June 1944. Delafield designed and painted the nose art on the plane. The job of the bombardier is to accurately target the aerial bombs to their destination. The visual techniques that Delafield learned at OSU enabled him to be one of the most successful at his craft. The Bodacious Critter completed 51 missions over Germany, France, Italy, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. The 52nd mission was thwarted by a crash immediately after take-off.

Wreckage of aircraft

After serving in the war, Delafield returned stateside to complete his degree. His war experiences impacted his priorities and created artwork to reflect the awareness of poverty that he had encountered in Europe. Delafield not only earned his BFA at OSU but also an MA and a PhD. He taught at Washington State University for three years, then he spent most of his career at the University of Northern Iowa.

It was in Cedar Falls, Iowa where he met and fell in love with a student named Marianna. Marianna had returned to school at UNI to earn her teaching certificate. A single mom with three young children, Delafield not only married Marianne but adopted her three children. The youngest is David M. Delafield.

“It was this act of love and generosity that endeared me to my dad,” David M says. “My dad already had four kids of his own and it was amazing how well the seven of us kids blended.”

David M. and his adopted father bonded over many things, not the least of which was baseball. They were both Cincinnati Reds fans and David M played baseball through high school, and today is an athletic clothing rep for baseball apparel.

Delafield would pass in December of 2003 after battling a decade of Alzheimer’s-related illnesses. While his life was cut short, Delafield leaves behind a body of work that continues to be celebrated. However, the most enduring legacy of Delafield’s is the love that he had for his family. Delafield was many things: a son, an artist, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a hero to all.

Game On!

Alex Reibel

Pivotal, world-altering, moments are hard to forget. We remember where we were, who we were with, what we felt, and identified the possibilities that these defining moments could lead. July 10th, 1999, was one of these moments. 

On that hot day in Los Angeles, the #USWNT beat China in final of the Women’s World Cup. The game came down to penalty kicks, with Brandi Chastain scoring the winning goal and her subsequent celebration in her sports bra was the happiest, most exuberant moment ever in sports. While not in the stands of the Rose Bowl among the 90,000 record-making crowd, I watched the game from my living room with my daughter napping in my arms. She was barely 2 years old at the time. 

This historic win broke open women’s sports, smashed glass ceilings, and catapulted Title IX’s impact. When Title IX passed in 1972, I was the exact age as my daughter was when Chastain ripped off her jersey.

FIFA Germany 2011From the moment my daughter was born, I knew her potential was unlimited. This was cemented in the final, stressful moments of penalty kicks during that 1999 World Cup final. As my daughter started to walk, then run, I signed her up for multiple sports. She quickly settled into soccer as her favorite. Soccer dominated our lives: posters of Mia Hamm, attending women’s professional soccer games, meeting Carli Lloyd and other #USWNT members over the years continue to inspire my daughter and millions of young, strong girls around the globe.

The same sport is also loved by her two younger brothers. We attended the Women’s World Cup in Germany during 2011. It was during this trip that my 10 year old son watched the women who dominated the field of play with intensity and respect. On that trip, I felt like my job was done as a mom: my son appreciates women’s sports.

My daughter became a goalkeeper and ended up loving to defend penalty kicks. Her reasoning for this was data-driven: all the pressure is on the kicker, most pk’s result in a goal, but if she could sense the correct direction once in a while, then her lifetime stats defending them might be pretty good. Her resulting stats were better than average, earning her a D1 experience. She not only played soccer on IU Women’s team, she was a member of IU Women’s rowing team (thanks, Title IX). 

Alex Reibel, IU Soccer

Fighting for gender equality, with “equal pay” being chanted at the end of #USWNT game, is at the top of the list for societal change. The attention to LGBTQ freedoms and acceptance is another very important issue that the #USWNT is unapologetically championing. Watching #USWNT continue the fight for equality and speaking out for women’s rights with an intensity of focus as strong as their play on the pitch redefines multi-tasking. 

Witnessing history can have an indelible impact. I hope July 7th, 2019 is one of those dates. The magic of these moments is identifying the possibilities of the ripple effect. Little girls around the world are watching.

History Lesson

Japanese Flag Crew

One of the birthday gifts I received from my boyfriend was a collection of books by Stephen E. Ambrose, an author I had not yet experienced. The titles included, Undaunted CourageD-Day, and Citizen Soldiers. I started (and finished) reading Citizen Soldiers over the holidays. At the end of CitizenSoldier(not a spoiler alert), Ambrose speaks of the men he covered so graciously throughout the book with intuitive accuracy in stating,

“…these were the men who built modern America. They had learned to work together in the armed services in World War II. They had seen enough destruction; they wanted to construct. They built the Interstate Highway system, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the suburbs (so scorned by the sociologists, so successful with the people), and more. They had seen enough killing; they wanted to save lives. They licked polio and made other revolutionary advances in medicine. They had learned in the army the virtues of a solid organization and teamwork, and the value of individual initiative, inventiveness, and responsibility. They developed the modern corporation while inaugurating revolutionary advances in science and technology, education and public policy.

The ex-GIs had seen enough war; they wanted peace. But they had also seen the evil of dictatorship; they wanted freedom. They had learned in their youth that the way to prevent war was to deter through military strength, and to reject isolationism for full involvement in the world. So they supported NATO and the United Nations and the Department of Defense. They had stopped Hitler and Tojo; in the 1950s they stopped Stalin and Khrushchev.

In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy described the men and women of this generation: “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in the century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed.” – from Citizen Soldier by Stephen E. Ambrose

Bob and GIs
Pvt Robert Albright (middle), Okinawa, August 1945

A truer assessment of this generation has not been stated. In my opinion, this is the most relevant passage in the entire 492 pages of Citizen Soldier.

World leaders would be well-served to take a refresher course in our planet’s history. Unfortunately, I am unable to wave a wand to make this so. We are all on our own to appreciate the lessons from our nation’s (and that of the world) history. If we don’t do this, history will repeat itself.

Over the years, I have interviewed and spoken with close to 200 veterans (maybe more), most of whom served in WWII. Many of these men and women did not speak of their experiences until decades later. Once the floodgates began to open, healing began in earnest and their valuable perspectives were more clearly understood. Ambrose does an exceptional job of collecting the oral and written histories of men who served.

In Indiana, our war heroes include Dr. Duane E. Hodgin and Steve Hardwick for their contribution of written oral histories of Hoosiers who served. These men introduced me to many of the veterans who I have written about. Hardwick, after serving in the Army, earned a degree at Indiana State University and was profoundly impacted by Holocaust survivor and Mengele twin lab rat, Eva Mozes Kor. PBS aired a documentary on this remarkable woman. I am so grateful for Steve’s introductions to Eva, Andy, Bob, Brigit, Dale, Averitte, Johnny, Jimmy, and all of the veterans who have shared their exceptional stories with me.

Donald Bollinger
Donald Bollinger

One of them, Don Bollinger, who served with the Merchant Marines, sent me a beautiful letter of gratitude after a piece I wrote on him was published (he was the cover for the Broad Ripple Magazine, November 2014). The last part of his gushing letter reads:

“We all lovingly thank you for telling the present generation about the past that helped form the present. With enough love and compassion, the present might make a terrific future.”

He signed it, “Lots of Love, Don”.

I’m simply doing my part, Don. All of these stories, yours included, have merit and contain valuable life lessons.

The Journey of Finding Joy Began 5 Years Ago

Bob & Joy

My expectation with every (personal interest story) interview that I have experienced over the years has consistently provided me with wonderful stories that I am excited to share. But there was one that was different, one that impacted me in a way that I had not expected. The result was profound. Today, April 22nd, 2018, marks the 5th anniversary of the day that changed my life forever. This was the day that I met Bob.

It wasn’t one moment or one word or phrase that Bob had shared with me that day, it was the collective of everything he did and said. The way he walked, his breathy voice, his beautiful blue eyes, his kind demeanor, and especially his sense of humor. His story is amazing, but it was how he handled adversity, how he made lemonade out of lemons, how he looked for joy in every area of his life, how he was a perfectionist and how he lived and loved that impacted me. I fell in love that day.

It’s a fact that I fall in love with stories, but little did I know that when I entered Bob’s home on April 22nd, 2013, that I would not only fall in love with his story, I would learn to love myself.

My journey towards finding joy in my own life was spurred by Bob’s request of me to find Joy. For when a 90 year old man tells you to find joy – you do it. Finding Joy (book and screenplay are being released soon) for Bob meant being reunited with his 1st love and providing a beautiful final chapter to a charmed life.

Witnessing happiness, kindness, and love between people is the best role model for visualizing your own happiness and manifesting it into your own reality. This was Bob and Joy’s gift to me.

Yesterday I mentioned this anniversary to one of my closest friends on the planet when I realized that I was driving behind a vehicle with a license plate that read: 2U JOY. How prophetic.

Bob continues to be a gift to me. It’s through his strength that I found my own. I am forever grateful and blessed for knowing him.

Intrapreneurship: A Driving Force Within Companies

This post originally appeared in my column on Inside Indiana Business.

“Intrapreneurship,” the application of entrepreneurial practices within the confines of large, established corporations, is steadily becoming a commonly-used term. Many of Indiana’s largest companies encourage intrapreneurship within their walls. This simply means that taking risks with innovation is encouraged, whether in small teams or individuals. Many companies without the budgets of these big firms are also experimenting with intrapreneurship, some relying upon it as a source for new business ideas or growth strategies for old ones.

“According to the Kauffman Foundation, it’s not small companies that are responsible for economic growth, it’s new companies,” says ClearObject John McDonald. “Companies less than 5 years old are responsible for nearly all of the [net] new job growth in our economy. That’s why introducing intrapreneurialism into existing companies is so critical, it’s the engine that fuels the creation of new opportunities and new businesses from within.”

Memory Ventures, a company which relocated to Fishers from Los Angeles, encourages their employees to take risks, even allocating funding and a time limitation on experimental projects. Many of these projects don’t result in success, but that’s a key part of the ethos of intrapreneurship.

“A lot can be learned through failure,” says Anderson Schoenrock, CEO of Memory Ventures. “When given a concise budget and time frame, the money spent is worth the outcome – which means it is successful if it flies or fails.”

Startup tech companies rely upon intrapreneurs to compliment their fast growth companies. In fact, this characteristic is highly sought after when assembling early stage teams. This is due to the fact that those individuals have a rare mix of corporate experience and existing business connections alongside the risk-taking and trial-by-error mentality of an entrepreneur. Tech startups live or die by experimentation. For example, user experience issues need to be resolved urgently, with intrapreneurship being key to the success or failure of these companies.

Becci Medhurst, an Australian serial intrapreneur, moved to the U.S. in 2016 to continue her work within startup companies. She is VP of Operations for Kenzie Academy, a tech apprenticeship school focused on education, mentorship, and job placement here in Indianapolis.

“Today’s intrapreneurs are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs,” states Medhurst. “Emerging tech ecosystems are generally very supportive of founders and emerging companies, but should look to take a step further in strengthening the support of our future tech leaders who are taking the risk and getting behind these new startup ventures as early employees.”

It surprises no experienced intrapreneur to discover that First Internet Bank CEO and Chairman David Becker encourages his employees to take risks. Becker is a serial entrepreneur who has stayed engaged with First Internet Bank through intrapreneurship.

“I have no problem if one of our employees takes a risk and fails, in fact, I encourage it,” shares serial entrepreneur Becker. “I just don’t want them to make the same mistake twice.”

This is something she hopes to tackle with Kenzie Academy, fostering innovative tech leaders who will be able to take an idea, build a successful team around them, and produce a profitable and scalable product/solution.

“These are the sorts of employees who will commit their time, invest their skills and benefit greatly by building their careers alongside the success of the companies they work for,” says Medhurst, who recognizes synergies between Australia’s emerging startup ecosystem, and what she’s witnessed here in Indy.

Cultivating intrapreneurship within a company may create surprise outcomes, such as growth and creative problem solving. Given the start of a new year, perhaps it’s time for more companies to experiment with celebrating intrapreneurs.

It’s all About Love

This week of Thanksgiving has begun with sadness and an overabundance of gratitude for someone who has profoundly impacted my life.The following is the eulogy that I delivered today for a man that I loved dearly, for he asked me to find Joy…

Bob would be sorry to miss this. He told me that he loved having family nearby so that he “had people to argue with and torment”.

Thank you for being here to celebrate the life of this amazing man. The poet Rumi wrote:

Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes,

Because for those who love with heart and soul,

There is no such thing as separation.

My perspective on Bob is a bit unique. It was 4.5 years ago that I had the privilege of interviewing him for a cover story. I could not have imagined at that time, the impact that a nearly 90 year old man, who moved with a walker and had macular degeneration would have upon my life.

I love it when people surprise me and Bob was full of surprises: from the clarity of his beautiful blue eyes, his kind demeanor at his advanced age, the number of cats he cared for – which I am fairly certain exceeded the legal limit, his seemingly endless list of accomplishments, and most of all, his sense of humor.

Bob said he had more keepers than the zoo – with his daughter and her family living next door, and many friends and relatives who would come to visit him.

He told me:

“When you get to be my age, everyone thinks you’re senile – I say mess with people!” and “You’ve got to have fun in your old age, it’s awfully miserable if you don’t.”

His canned response to a question that he did not wish to answer was “I’ve tried that before and it’s a bit too spicy for me.”

 

Bob spoke and moved with intention. He was deliberate and precise, which were remnant characteristics of a man who was a perfectionist. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for him to first lose his vision, then lose his preferred methods of communication since his stroke. Yet in spite of these challenges, his sweet demeanor endured.

It’s comical to me that the term “survived” is chosen to represent those still living when one passes. Although in Bob’s case, “survived” must be an accurate description that his 3 children have a right to feel, having survived a perfectionist father.

Bob was blessed to have experienced many interesting and miraculous chapters in his life, a life that could not possibly be confined to one book, for his adventures could fill volumes.

Bob was born July 9, 1923. Bob’s childhood was a bit unique in that not many of his friends had a darkroom for developing in their bedroom. Bob’s parents, Frank and Jessie, indulged Bob by encouraging him to pursue his passions which included scouting (he was an Eagle Scout), he played multiple sports including tennis, and his love of photography – which was influenced by his father and would define his professional career.

 

Bob graduated from Arsenal Tech High School in 1941, at the age of 17, the war was imminent and Bob eagerly enlisted in the Navy that summer, for he wanted to be a pilot. But the Navy was after college grads to fill those coveted spots, so Bob enlisted in the ARMY, hoping to be part of the Air Corps. When he took the entrance exam, which is an IQ test, he scored 150. Maybe it was something about how he looked, maybe he made a smart ass comment, because he was asked to repeat the test. The second time he scored 151. His flight training unit was flushed into infantry, except Bob. Bob told me he was late for the meeting, but whatever the truth, he ultimately served in the US Army Signal Corps, training to be a professional photographer at Paramount Studios in NYC before being deployed to the Pacific, coming ashore in the 2nd wave on the beaches of Okinawa, Easter Sunday, 1945.

While he was proud to serve his country, he was reserved about sharing his adventures until later in his life – the first reason is that he was told not to speak of it, for he had been a spy. But Bob deeply felt the loss of those who did not return. He said they were the real heroes. Bob’s missions typically involved being behind enemy lines, which earned him a Bronze Star.

It’s funny to me that Bob claimed that he could throw a pistol with more accuracy than shoot it so he kept it wrapped and ready for inspections, using only his camera to “shoot”.

 

Bob’s sense of humor served him well, for humor was his coping mechanism that kept him alive. At the close of the war, as teams were sweeping caves on the island, a grenade was thrown at Bob’s feet, it turned out to be a dud. He commented, “what poor quality munitions”. He had observed the yellow picric acid, identifying the location of landmines on a nearby beach, and said, “better not go swimming at low tide”. He needed these moments of humor to help him cope with the uglier side of war, which he undoubtedly witnessed.

After he returned from the Pacific, he would become the first professional photographer Eli Lilly ever hired. He was a pioneer in the medical photography field, devising his own equipment to photograph lab slides at a pivotal time for drug companies, because the FDA pivoted to accept photographs in lieu of artists renderings.

Bob proudly shared that, for an insulin atrophy study, he “photographed more women’s behinds than pornographers”.

Sacrifices had to be made, all in the name of science.

Bob had said that it took him a long time to take decent photos of his children, since it was his job to focus in on scientific and biological imperfections, so once he stopped his compulsion for wanting to zero in on acne, he figured out how to take decent portraits.

I mentioned that he could throw a pistol with more accuracy – later in life he became an expert marksman and a hunter. He also pursued his passion for flying. He started flying almost immediately after returning home from the war.

Privately he told me that one time he was flying over Geist Reservoir looking for ideal fishing locations when a voice spoke to him, asking why he was flying alone when he had a beautiful family who loved him. He listened to that voice and gave up flying to spend more time with his wife Joanne and his children – entering into a new era-defining “survival”, as Bob and his two oldest children won archery championships in their age groups. True to form, Bob achieved professional status.

 

Bob knew how to keep busy. Everything in Bob’s life was a hobby; his job as a professional photographer was a hobby; flying, marksmanship, fishing, archery, and painting. He stayed childlike, exploring his passions. He became a HAM Radio operator, collecting postcards from people around the world, including King Hussein of Jordan. He also reached the pinnacle of leadership within his Masonic Lodge. He studied world religions, striving to understand other people and cultures through their religious beliefs. The phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” didn’t apply. His name was Bob, not Jack, and he mastered them all.

In retirement, Bob and Joanne traveled, with one trip paid for by National Geographic Travel Magazine, with his photography taken on that trip serving as a cover shot for an issue. Together they took art lessons, creating many amazing paintings and crafts.

 

Fast forward a few years, It was April 29, 2013 when I went to see Bob for the 2nd time, under the guise of reading him the rough draft of the article I had written about him from my interview the week before. But Bob had a different agenda. He was a few months away from his 90th birthday. Retired, a widower, he was reflective of his 9 decades of life. As he took inventory, he had but one regret. He had one last shot, one last hope to wrap up a blessed, charmed life. He wanted to complete his final chapter with love and he asked for my help. That was day Bob asked me to find Joy.

I was overwhelmed by his courage. He had not spoken of Joy in 67 years.

There’s something special about a first love. While Bob and Joy were happily married for the majority of their lives to others, as God intended – they never forgot one another.

I found Joy thanks to Google and Joy’s daughter Beki’s obsession with genealogy, when I delivered an envelope the following evening to Bob as I took a car full of boys to soccer, and I simply said to him, I found Joy.

When he called Joy a couple days later, he said, “This is Bob Albright, Don’t hang up!”

Joy didn’t hear him clearly the first time, asking “Who is this?” and when he repeated his name, she had to sit down. This man was full of surprises.

 

Speaking of surprises, a surprise birthday party for Bob’s 90th was planned. Bob told me that his vision was better than they thought it was since he noticed the extra soda and chips being stashed about – but Bob was the one with the surprise. He had asked Joy to marry him and would announce their engagement at the party.

A question that took him 67 years to ask.

He said, “I don’t know how many days I have left…but whatever time I do have, I want to spend it with Joy.”

Their time together, while brief, was enough. It was a beautiful final chapter to an extraordinary life.

Bob and Joy joked that their relationship was all my fault, and I happily accept the blame.

Joy and Bob

Bob thanked me for one last miracle in his life, he thanked me for giving him the gift of Joy. But he’s the one who gave me – and all of us – the greatest gift, for he showed us what was possible. He showed us that you’re never too old for love.

With Bob Albright, living to age 94, becoming the oldest living Albright ever – a world record that I guarantee he hopes is broken by many in his family – Bob lived more than a dozen lives, for he lived – he really lived – through wonder, with humility, with courage, and with love.

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to weep, and a time for joy, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Bob would want us to dance.

 

Photos courtesy of Brenda Staples Photography

Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky