Achim Nowak

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About Achim Nowak

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Achim Nowak Posts

Last Friday, I went on an architectural tour of the Vitra Industrial Campus on the outskirts of Basel, Switzerland.

Vitra is one of the premier makers of iconic modern furniture. The campus, Vitra’s main manufacturing complex, is a sprawling grid of industrial buildings designed by some of the world’s great architects: Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Sanaa, Herzog de Meuron.

I am an architecture geek. Whoa, I was in architectural heaven.

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You know you’re smart. You know on any given day you’d be able to figure it out. But today, just for today, your brain is going on strike.

Can’t process another piece of information. Can’t look at one more spread-sheet. Can’t listen to one more scintillating idea.


Let’s simply call it mental fatigue.

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You may be too young to remember the K.D. Lang classic: Constant Craving.
Haunting, hypnotic song.

I thought of “craving” a lot last week while I was working in France. The beauty of engaging with a Europolitan group of business folks – they re-energize my thoughts on stuff I think I know.

Oliver, the sharp and super-insightful German Operations Manager of a global manufacturing giant, gave me a little linguistics lesson.

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First things first. I’m not catholic.

But I, like many, am fascinated by a pope that is sending new leadership signals.

Among the flurry of reactions to Pope Francis’ public demeanor, this comment tickled my fancy:

What we’re seeing is an incredible change in the atmosphere, Sister Carol Zinn, president of the umbrella group of American nuns, said in an interview. And when you have change in the atmosphere, it’s amazing what kind of things can unfold. (NY Times, Saturday, 9/21/2013)

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A quick little email exchange last week with Carolyn Holland, an Associate at my firm, as we negotiate dates for an impending engagement.

My, you’re a busy bee, I write to Carolyn playfully.

From one busy bee to another, Carolyn chirps back.

Yes, busy bees we are, Carolyn and I. Every one of our clients is, as well. Busy. Unceasingly so. Communication-fueled. Information-overloaded. Break-deprived.

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When it pops up in every conversation it’s not a fluke. It’s a theme.

That’s what happened to me in LA last week.

I broke bread with some amazing colleagues. And every conversation settled onto the notion of personal generosity.

Two chats, in particular, got me thinking.

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I was skype-chatting the other day with Hoda Maloof, a colleague in Beirut, about the US holiday week-end.

Labor Day? she asked. Isn’t that celebrated sometime in May?

Yes, Labor Day has been a uniquely American ritual since 1894. The rest of the world celebrates the socialist-inspired International Workers Day in May. In the US, we tend to honor the economic and social contributions of workers with a host of supremely American traditions: Parades. Barbeques. And for some folks, shopping like there is no tomorrow.

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I never watch Anderson Cooper. Yet something made me turn on CNN last Thursday night, right after 8 pm.

Within minutes I was riveted. Inspired. And moved to tears.

Anderson Cooper was interviewing Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper at the Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, GA. Antoinette’s conduct during her 911 call while a gunman with an AK-47-style assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammo was on a wild tear through the school is an astounding act of leadership. Her demeanor likely prevented a Sandy-Hook-style massacre. In tandem with 911 dispatcher Kendra McKray, Tuff’s poise showed up every politician and business leader whose words ring hollow to the core.

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I don’t much like networking.

And I attended a mega-networking event in Miami the other day. Accompanied by my friend Anne B. Freedman, cherished colleague and impeccably skilled social animal. Over 300 people in the room. Whoa.

Yep, I still don’t like networking. I’m cleaning up my language for you here. My true feelings about the networking charade are way more ferocious than I care to commit to in print.

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Learning about breath came upon me early.

I did it in Acting Class when I went to college. I did it with my voice teacher, Joy Mclean Bosfield. I did it when I figured out my rhythms as a swimmer.
And heck, I practiced yoga way before Madonna made it trendy in the West, back in the early 90s.

But the person who really got me to understand the power of breath in a different way was Eric Butterworth.

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