Marriages Everywhere are Struggling

“You May Now Kiss the Bride”

It is very difficult to be successful professionally if your house isn’t in order. I get the sense that couples everywhere are re-evaluating their marriages, most likely driven by being forced to spend more time together because of the pandemic. After getting the green light from my wife, Sina, I’ve decided to share our story in the hopes that it helps anyone else out there gain some perspective.

The Portrayal of Love in the 80s and 90s

As a boy I was always more emotional than my other male friends. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, watching movies like Karate Kid, It Could Happen to You, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman and pretty much anything with Tom Hanks, I had no chance. The story was always somewhat similar. Man meets beautiful sweet woman and they fall in love. I remember watching those movies and falling in love every time, thinking “That’s what I want.”

The movie never shows you what happens later after they’ve been married for 10 years. Furthermore the female characters in these movies never had any real grit, and rarely had their own professional careers or life goals beyond being rescued by that perfect man.

One of the movies I remember growing up with was Flashdance. I recently watched it with my 9 and 10 year old daughters and was completely horrified at the blatant sexualization of the main female character and the portrayal of her as a helpless jealous girl needing to be rescued by her rich boyfriend. It’s amazing how as a child you don’t necessarily question what you see on screen. I just knew I wanted to be one of these men that rescues a beautiful woman and lives happily ever after.

How will new generations view marriage?

It was hard enough being a kid in the 80s and 90s and trying to figure it all out. I’m a boy, why don’t I like football? Why do I cry at an emotional TV commercial? Why don’t I like beer? Am I gay? If so why am I so attracted to women and not at all to men? What about all the movies where the nerdy, nice, sensitive guy gets the beautiful girl? Can’t buy me love, Back to the Future… can’t that really happen? Or is it only in the movies? It wasn’t until college that I finally felt that girls were attracted to me because of these character traits.

I’m glad that kids today are not growing up with such rigid definitions of gender and roles. I wonder how today’s movies and shows with the boy meets boy and girl meets girl storylines are shaping what love looks like for kids. Marriage is no longer defined by society as a man and a woman creating a family. I remember seeing older couples on the dance floor and hoping that I too would have that. What will kids today want for their future? It can’t be easy.

The New Focus on Self

Wellness, self-fulfillment, find yourself, love yourself, figure out who you are and be happy and secure with yourself before you can be happy with someone else. These are all trends and messages that have increasingly emerged over the last 20 years, and I believe that’s a good thing. But can marriage still work today if we truly put ourselves first and ensure that we are fulfilled and happy?

I think the answer is yes, but only if the two people involved in the marriage both acknowledge to themselves and to each other that this is their approach to life. The commitment then becomes, I love who you are and respect and support whatever you want out of life, and will be with you regardless of how that changes over time. But it takes a tremendous amount of tolerance, empathy, self-confidence and security to be in a relationship like that. Frankly, I don’t know many people that have enough of all those things to do it.

Marriages Everywhere are Struggling

I’ve made it a point lately to reconnect with friends that I haven’t spoken to in years (in some cases decades). The one common theme in every single conversation is how surprisingly difficult marriage is. Many have split up, some more than once, or at best, their marriage is struggling.

The reasons behind the struggles are also similar. Money, sex, stress, kids are among the many factors, and not necessarily in that order. People are pursuing their dreams, focusing more on themselves and their own happiness first, and with today’s complex always connected world, there just isn’t time to focus enough on a spouse and kids. Too many of us spend our first and last minutes each day with our phones instead of our spouses.

I now have a newfound admiration for older couples that I see that are still together. I’m sure they faced their own set of challenges, but certainly not the same technology-driven distractions, and complex professional and social dynamics that we face today.

We are no Exception

In 2009, I fulfilled my childhood dream that I grew up seeing in the movies, in which a gorgeous woman falls in love with a nerdy, sensitive man. My wife Sina, who could easily have been on magazine covers, married me. But unlike the movies which end after the happy couple gets married, our relationship continued to change and evolve.

Sina was not the simple passive girl waiting to be rescued. She had a successful career and worked her way up to a key executive position. She had strong opinions, grit, and attitude. These are all traits I am glad my 2 daughters will learn from her. I’ve learned a lot from her and she has opened my eyes to new ways of seeing things about life and the world. That said, she is not the sweet, loving, maternal woman that I always thought I would end up with.

Ironically, that doesn’t mean that our marriage doesn’t work since we have reversed gender roles in that regard. I invest a lot of time in providing emotional support to Sina and the girls. But if I invest so much into my wife and daughters’ happiness, how can I focus on me and make sure I am fulfilled and happy with so much responsibility at home?

What I’ve realized is that Sina brings things to the table that I never even knew could make a family and life so interesting and fulfilling. On a recent catch up with a close friend I said “Having a family has been one of the most incredible experiences, but it came with sacrifices that I never thought I’d be able to live with.”

Rebuilding a Solid Foundation

Marriage is messy, it’s complicated, and it’s fucking hard. Now imagine doing it while trying to bootstrap a tech business from the ground up, with all of the pressure and economic uncertainty that comes with it. Being an entrepreneur comes with even more ups and downs than a marriage. I don’t know what the marriage survival rate of entrepreneurs is compared to the average, but I can guess. Mistakes will be made. You can bounce back and forth between the brink of bankruptcy and the possibility of economic independence multiple times. This can be scary for both partners and requires the unconditional support on behalf of the spouse for a marriage to survive.

The pandemic has likely forced a lot of couples to reevaluate. There’s nothing like being trapped in a house or apartment together to make you take stock of where you fall on the spectrum of love and hate. No more business travel to give people some much needed space and time alone. Lots of time at home to think about life and if this is the one you want.

In line with my theme for 2022 of “New Beginnings”, I have had some much needed open conversations with Sina. I’ve realized that it’s ok if our marriage doesn’t fit the unrealistic mold that I painted for myself in my childhood. It’s also ok if it’s messy and difficult. It’s supposed to be. Sina and I are extremely different people and that’s what makes us a strong couple and parents. We have a mutual passion for exploring new countries, cultures and languages. This is what brought us together in the first place and what we want for our kids. We are partners, and we are best friends. We agree that everyday should be lived like it’s your last and to live life with a purpose. That said, I do need to be more proactive about doing what makes me happy. The key is communicating what I need and taking responsibility for those things.

Marriage is Like Business

You can’t fire your kids, but you do have the ability to influence who they become as a team member. You can of course fire your spouse. As a CEO I focus on open dialogue and transparency. I have the same approach and philosophy at home with my wife and daughters. When I build a team for a company, I focus more on who the person is. I know everyone will make mistakes but the intention is what matters. Does this person’s values align with the company’s core values? Everyone brings strengths to the table. The key is to recognize those strengths, value them, and remember that that’s why you hired them in the first place. Startup life is full of unexpected twists and turns, but it’s your team and their strengths that help the company survive. The same applies to your family. I certainly don’t have the answers but I hope this story helps in some way and helps some of you find some perspective.

Does the USA’s disconnection from men’s soccer negatively impact the nation in politics and business?

I think it separates us emotionally. I’m surprised the US has not improved given the psychological influence the sport has on the world, not to mention the massive revenue opportunity.

The worldwide fan base of soccer is 3.5B (Topendsports.com).

For reference:

American Football (400M)

Basketball (500M)

Baseball (500M)

The USA men’s team didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup or the upcoming Olympics. Maybe Americans don’t want to watch a sport they’re so bad at. It seems so un-American not to pursue victory. Normally where there is a will (and lots of money to be made…), there is a way. The US has an excellent women’s team, and the lack of attention they get warrants another article.

TIME Magazine nailed it: https://time.com/5258984/is-the-us-in-the-2018-world-cup/ @Ratu Kamlani

For the US to compete, a major investment is needed to get the nation’s youth involved. The country should invest now. The #entrepreneur in me says this a proven multibillion-dollar industry just waiting to be built. Trevor, let’s make a movie showing a future where the US has a great men’s soccer team. Rob Flaherty, you look like a sports fan. Wanna help me raise this up the flagpole over there at The White House?

How is it Possible that a Company like Hulu can Have a Terrible User Experience?

I recently tried to watch Seinfeld on Hulu and the process was extraordinarily difficult. Is your sub-optimal UX turning away customers that are literally handing their money over?

I clicked on Seinfeld in the Hulu app and saw this alert: “Sorry, but your subscription doesn’t include this series. You can manage your subscription from your Account page.”

There was no account page in the app. I was directed to the website.

On my account page, there was no option to purchase add-ons (I need Live TV to watch Seinfeld).

It said: “To learn more about premium add-ons… please visit the help page.”

Really? I’m ready to upgrade and you’re sending me to the abyss of the help page?

Apparently I signed up for Hulu through Apple I finally found the section for Third-Party Billing where it said: “The plans and add-ons available to you may vary if you’re billed by one of the third parties below… Select your billing party to learn more.” I clicked on “Apple”.

Here, I was told that I have to cancel my subscription, wait until the end of the month and then sign up again through Hulu with Live TV.

In the name of customer experience, it can’t be this hard to upgrade and pay more! If you need help with your CX strategy, contact me. I can help.

It’s Time for Men to Step Up Their Fashion Game in the Board Room

If woke corporate culture is real, it’s time for men to step up their “fabulousness” as described by Dr. Ben Barry. His article was published in Harvard Business Review 4 years ago and the world has changed since then.

I’m not shy about showing up to a meeting in style. At Meliá Hotels & Resorts, the culture celebrated individuality. As an entrepreneur our success reinforced my confidence to ignore pressure to conform to a traditional male dress code. While working at Kognitiv Corporation, our acquirer, my unique style was applauded for which I’m thankful. It helps that my wife is my full time fashion advisor!

My experience suggests there is room for men’s fashion in the board room. When I stood up in a sky-blue suit at a Kognitiv AGM in a room of shareholders and in jest, introduced myself as the company fashion consultant, it received a lot of laughs. Stylish attire is a great conversation starter in almost any meeting and is well received when one wears it with confidence.

Dr. Barry suggests that when people have to mute themselves at work, organizations are missing out on evoking creative problem solving and authenticity. I couldn’t agree more. Men’s ability to express their style reflects a company’s culture. It’s time for men to step it up.

How to spot BS company culture while job hunting

As I research companies during this “Choose Your Own Adventure” period of my career, company culture is #1 on my priority list. Here are my suggestions of how to see through the fog using LinkedIn:

Who ‘Follows the Leader’?

How many reactions do posts from the CEO get and from who? Is it a broad following at the company or a select few? If it’s the latter, that’s a red flag of an exclusionary culture.

Crickets? Or Raving Fans?

What do employees say about the culture on LinkedIn? If nobody talks about it positively, or at all, red flag. I see companies where the employees across the board rave about the culture. You can’t fake that.

I Believe You Have My Stapler

Search for people who no longer work at the company and make a timeline. Is there a constant turnover of leadership? Red flag! Contact them and ask their opinion. People are more honest after they’ve left. Don’t formulate an opinion based on one conversation because perhaps it’s the person that didn’t fit the culture. It’s the pattern that counts.

Remember, you should interview the company just as much as they interview you, so do your research! 

Lessons in Marketing from Driving the Hello Kitty Car

Fathers would do anything to make their daughters smile. After driving our Hello Kitty car for 9 years, this is what I’ve learned about marketing:

Remove Personal Bias

At first I had to keep my head in check about why women everywhere were smiling at me. Over time I started to realize that our car brought joy to a wide range of people. It’s not unusual to find people taking selfies with “Kitty” including construction workers and teenage boys. I had a preconceived idea of who would appreciate our car and I was 100% wrong.

A Huge Impact Can be Achieved on a Small Budget

Total cost of pimping our Prius? About $1500. We did it because that’s who we are. We live in color, and sometimes that attracts attention. Next to a $400K Lamborghini, our Prius turns more heads.

People Admire Others With the Courage to Stand Out, but Ultimately Most Prefer to Blend In

You’ve seen the movies set in the 1950s when cars were much more colorful. Today, car makers stick to black, white, and gray. I think that’s because people want to blend in. I found this recent CNBC video about car colors fascinating. Some say it’s so that people can easily resell their cars. That’s ok. We’re not planning on selling her anytime soon.

A Father’s Day Tribute to my Dad, Sham Kamlani

I learned many valuable lessons from my dad. This photo is from 1989 during my summer at Interlochen, (yes, band camp). Definitely my awkward decade.

My dad excelled at business. In 1969 he learned about real estate and launched a company in Miami until the market crashed in 1986. We moved to New York where he got into the garment industry. He started Camille Claudel which sold blouses to companies like Victoria’s Secret, opened his own factory, and created local jobs. He moved back to Miami in 2004 and opened Ishq, a modern Indian restaurant on Ocean Drive. All successful businesses. My mom and dad worked as a team. He couldn’t have done it without her.

We would visit family in India every 3 years. Flying on a different carrier each time allowed us to visit various European cities. By the time I was 18 I had explored the UK, France, Italy, Switzerland and more, fueling my passion (travel, culture, and language).

My dad taught me about passion, persistence and integrity. I learned to take risks, learn from failure, work hard/play hard, explore the world, and to give back. But the most valuable lesson was to be a good husband, father and role model. I hope that I am doing half as good a job as he did. Happy Father’s Day Dad, and to all the other amazing fathers out there.

Into The Great Wide Open

Friday, June 11, 2021 was my last day with Kognitiv. Over the last 5 years, I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing professionals and friends, and have learned so much about business and life along the way. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all of the employees and clients of Regatta Travel Solutions. Without you, our acquisition never would have happened. I would also like to thank Kognitiv, in particular for putting employees first throughout the pandemic. As for me and my family, the future is bright and we look forward to what awaits us as we head “Into the Great Wide Open…”

Job sites have not yet adjusted to the new world of remote work

The privilege of working remotely has allowed my wife and I to realize our dream of educating our daughters through multicultural experiences for the last 4 years. I encourage everyone to consider the entire range of possibilities that remote work creates.

As I consider the next stage of my career, I notice the internet has not yet caught up with the reality of a more remote workforce.

– Searches on job sites are still primarily tied to a location. I suggest a range of acceptable time difference for job postings rather than specific locations.
– The job search process should be reconfigured to match job seekers and employers based primarily on skills.
– LinkedIn should add a field next to location in profiles where users can indicate that they work remotely.
– ‘Remote’ should be separated out from the list of locations when employers post a job opening. Perhaps some jobs should be remote by default unless employers opt out.

Recruiters should consider that the most qualified candidates may now be in Barbados, Botswana, or Italy, and adjust their processes, apps and websites accordingly.

As travel returns, companies like Tripadvisor, Google and OpenTable will struggle to clean up outdated restaurant content

Living in Italy over the last year felt surreal. Visiting sites like The Sistine Chapel and The Colosseum with just a handful of other people, when normally there are 20,000 people trampling through them per day, is a once in a century experience.

But using Tripadvisor, Google and OpenTable to research restaurants has become quite frustrating. The number of establishments that have not survived the pandemic is substantial, and many did not think of notifying these websites and apps as they closed their doors for good. The result is that travelers who previously relied on these sources are often sent on a wild goose chase resulting in cranky families. Users now must double check the date of the last review to figure out that the #2 rated gelateria in Florence, Italy no longer exists.

I recommend that a button is added for the next 6 months that says “This establishment has closed” so that users can easily report these instances and minimize the impact on future travelers as we all hit the streets again in search of good eats.