Linda and I are on a two-week, high energy trip that started in London at the Olympia Show. We then overnighted in Helsinki on the way to St Petersburg, Russia and as I write we are in Moscow.
This has been a remarkable journey. Linda worked with our wonderful famous Names UK distributor Louella-Belle and I had the privilege of being reunited with the talented Sweet Squared team. It was a successful show for both and I liked the energy on display.
Linda held two IBX certification classes with forty attendees in each. These classes generally go about 2 ½ hours, these went for 3 ½. The thirst for knowledge was amazing and the gratitude of the students to Linda was special.
What was very, very fun was the spontaneous convergence of some notable industry leaders and the genuine good time we had together every night (in the bar, of course). Alex Fox of Scratch, Athena Elliott of Nail Talk Radio, Elaine Watson of Nailebrity, The Boys of Nail Alliance (Danny, David, George), Jewell Cunningham of Creative Age, the fun and talented Louella-Belle team and more. It shows the great unity that is possible amongst competitors… We are all so blessed to be in an industry that continues to thrive because of leaders who care and interact with the customer base. In the same spirit I had a complete blast with my Sweet Squared Family, many of whom I had not seen in two years. To spend this kind of quality time is so motivating to keep growing and deliver the very best to our customers.
I have never been to Russia. In the plane, on final approach into St Petersburg, it appears to be just like any-other large and pretty city. It struck me how our impressions are greatly shaped by the media we are exposed to. We had so many friends telling us to “be careful and travel safe”. To be honest, we had excitement mixed with apprehension. In reality, we have felt completely comfortable and really like St Pete and Moscow. Our distributor hosts have been so gracious and have created a cultural trip that is amongst our best ever! The techs here are as professional as any in the world. They are smart, passionate and we are really excited about this market.
Back to the media shaping our opinions. I like to watch local news stations when traveling abroad, so have been watching RT (Russia Television) quite a bit. In listening to their coverage of the issues, they present very straight forward, fact based view points from a Russian perspective. In listening, you think…that sounds reasonable or that makes sense. Yet they are almost the mirror image opposite of what we hear in the US. Who do you believe? Who is correct? I think its important to go beyond the main stream media and read alternative/additional views, as its obvious the media is manipulated in all the major countries of the world by our elected officials. At the end of the day, its amazing and refreshing how the common, average person is very similar, no matter where you are in the world. We have certainly found that here. They have the same types of hope, outlook etc that we have in our country. They also don’t put a lot of credence that the politicians have their best interests in focus.
Now for some fun, quick takes on what I learned and observed while in Russia:
Vodka: We are led to believe all Russians sit around and drink Vodka…so NOT true. In fact, the folks we hung with don’t really drink that much at all and beer seems to be more popular.
Iphones are mega popular…seems like everyone had one.
The word “Kremlin” means “strong”…thus a very imposing wall surrounds the Kremlin. It is the “nerve center” of the Russian government and where Vladimir hangs out (but does not live…he has 14 homes around Russia). It was built in 1480 by Italian architects.
Double Eagle is the new symbol of Russia post-Soviet Union (Hammer and Sickle). It represents the view to the west (Europe) and to the East (China/Asia).
GUM Department Store on Red Square looks like a mid-evil palace on the outside and a train station on the inside. We loved it!
Red means beautiful, not communism. Thus Red Square means beautiful square and it surely is.
The Metro stations are gorgeous…like art museums. Lenin built them that way so make the people feel like they lived in privilege. Each station is different. We visited the Victoria Station which had golden statues of German Shepherds…you rubbed the nose for good luck…everyone did it (me too!).
Moscow means “cold or dark water”.
When the first Mc Donald’s opened in the 1990, it was mobbed by 5000 people. Why? It represented freedom and new thinking to the Russian people…we drove by it every day while in Moscow.
Ruble means Rabbit
The 2016 Election is shaping up to be a good one…I don’t recall ever seeing this much interest, especially on the Republican side of things. I don’t really have any idea of who I will vote for, there is a tremendous amount of water yet to pass under the bridge. A few early observations:
• Donald Trump has been a phenomenon. Doesn’t matter if you like/don’t like; Agree/Disagree…he has shaken up the entire process and brought tremendous interest from the public. The last time I remember someone drawing this amount of attention was Ronald Regan.
• Dynasty Politics: I am done with both the Clintons and the Bushes. They have too much power, too much influence and neither of them is in touch with our real world. Jeb has just stumbled. More on Hillary below.
• It is possible a Socialist is running for President and receiving meaningful support??? The foundational philosophy that built our country is under attack…Capitalism is now “bad”. To see how Socialism works, read up on Russia under Stalin. If that doesn’t cure you, nothing well. But really, a Socialist???
• BUT, I get it…people are totally frustrated with the entire political scene in Washington. Why do you think non-politicians are making such a splash? No one trusts the career, pansy politicians running our government. They are corrupt and self-serving with a crony based power structure that places you and me last on the priority list. Both parties. It’s so bad, a socialist is garnering support.
• The Democratic Debate: I was unimpressed. Linda and I arrived home from Russia just in time to view it. It was watched by 15 million viewers and ranked second to NCIS. By comparison, the Republican debate on Fox drew 25 million (see comment on Trump above). It seemed some parts were pre-scripted…like the Bernie Sanders comment on email. It looked like Hillary started nodding her head before Sanders even started talking. So, the socialist to her right declaring the emails not important was deemed to settle the matter. Oh, that’s right…there is that matter of a FBI investigation that won’t go away.
o I read a list of about 25 goodies that were promised during the two hours. Not one mention of the sorry state of our finances as a nation. No one mentioned the total debt we have run up. I don’t think anyone cares, or at least 99% of Americans don’t. My prediction: they will in the next 12-24 months.
o Not one mention of the zero percent interest rate policy supported by the Obama administration that punishes savers, and had little impact on the real economy.
o There was lots of talk about income in-equality. I agree, it exists…but the cause is the approximate THREE Trillion in new money printed under the Obama administration that has pumped up asset prices. If you have assets, they have gone up. But printing money does not create quality jobs. Capitalism does…but that is not popular now, even though there is overwhelming evidence that private sector investment is what built America into a great nation.
o No mention of the vacuum that has been created in the Middle East. Amazing.
• Hillary: I found her boring, scripted and extremely partisan. She said “I will help those who need it the most”. So she will decide who needs help and who does not, right? That is the power of politics for you. Does the email server situation matter? It does to me…it goes to integrity and honesty. The story keeps changing. Who wants four years of that? Not me. She also said she is a “capitalist”, but want’s to rein it in. That is one of biggest oxy-morons I have ever heard. The last thing this country needs is more regulation, laws and rules that further tie the hands of the free market. That is what Hillary will bring. I also think it’s a lock she will be the Democratic candidate…no one else will touch her, too much power in that dynasty.
• All the others: Time will tell…the shake out will occur and it will be fascinating to see who is left standing.
So, its going to be an interesting election. If you want to respectfully share your views, I will include them in my next blog, which will be after the next debate. I respect all views that are well thought out and hope you do too!
That’s it for now…