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  • Back Pain?

    I was in a long line at the dry cleaners and the owner was talking about her back pain problems with a customer. The customer then shared his back pain story. The next customer stepped to the front of the line to drop off her clothes and she talked about having disc surgery. The third customer had a story and so did the fourth. Over 12 minutes, I heard five back pain stories! When it was my turn at the front of the line, I said to the owner... "Hi Kim, now check out this crazy story about when I had sciatica..."

  • Four Types of People

    It was 27 degrees, the sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky. A pretty winter Saturday and I was psyched to ride my motorcycle. I dressed in layers and got my bike ready. However, I didn’t know about the danger of riding on “cold tires.” Two blocks from my house I took a turn and my bike slid out from under me. There wasn’t any ice or gravel. Just cold tires and no traction. I stood up and realized I wasn’t hurt. I assessed the minor damage to my bike. Immediately people reacted. Here's what I observed. There are four types of people… 1) The Leaders. These people took initiative. They pulled over, put on their flashers, walked right over to me to help. They didn’t seek permission. They stepped up. 2) The Managers. They slowed down, opened their windows, and asked if I needed help. They were concerned, but they wanted to make sure their assistance was needed. They didn’t want to waste their time. 3) The Majority. They slowed down, looked at the accident scene and kept driving. 4) The Assholes. They looked at me, smiled, smirked, or pointed. Who are you?

  • Are You Passionate About Your Work?

    It’s transformative to watch someone perform their craft with expertise and passion. In the business world, I’ve seen executives give speeches that inspire employees to work long hours simply for the joy of being part of the company’s mission. I've stopped my car to watch bricklayers. I’ve witnessed jazz great Miles Davis leave his audience silent and frozen in awe after improvising one of his classic pieces. I’ve seen Tony Robbins work 4,000 people into a frenzy and convince them to walk barefoot on hot coals. And this week, I saw violin soloist Ray Chen perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64. Mr. Chen was hypnotic. He stood during his performance and played with his entire body. His fingers moved so fast and with such precision that they appeared to blur. He stood on his toes, crouched low to the ground, swayed slowly, and jerked his body. His facial expressions mirrored the mood of his notes. Mr. Chen smiled, scorned, frowned, and grimaced. The performance was electrifying. I left wondering how can I inject more passion into my work.

  • Commuting to NYC From Westfield, NJ

    Leaving the vibrant urban areas of Jersey City, Hoboken, Brooklyn, or Manhattan for the New Jersey suburban lifestyle has many benefits. The homes are more affordable and the schools are excellent. There are young families, safe neighborhoods, street fairs, parks, playgrounds, sports teams, and weekend barbecues with the neighbors. There is also a dark side – the daily commute into NYC. The commute can be either tolerable or miserable. It depends upon where you live, where you work, when you leave your house, mode of transportation, the weather, and if the trains are delayed. Some towns have a direct train to NY Penn Station, others require transferring trains in Newark. Unfortunately, Westfield does not have any direct trains during rush hour. Many Westfield commuters have used other options. Residents who work downtown may drive to Jersey City and take a ferry. Some midtown workers prefer taking a bus to Port Authority station. Some will even take the bus in the morning and a train home in the evening. And some brave souls avoid public transportation and drive, often leaving their house before 6:00 am. This post examines 12 ways Westfielders travel to work. I cover the commute time, transit costs, and parking costs. And since fewer people are commuting five days a week because of Covid, I included the costs for those who commute three days a week (13 times a month). These are the following ways people commute: Park in the Westfield station and take the train to NY Penn Station. Park in the Westfield station, take the train to Newark Penn Station and transfer to the NJPath to World Trade Center (WTC) or Jersey City. Take the bus to NY Port Authority. Drive to the Liberty Landing City Ferry in Jersey City, park, and take the ferry to Downtown. Drive to Rahway, park at station, and take the train to NY Penn Station. Drive to Metropark, park at station, and take the train to NY Penn Station. Drive to Newark, park near Newark Penn Station, and take the train to NY Penn Station. Drive to Newark, park near Newark Penn Station, and take the NJPath to WTC. Drive to Linden, park at the the station, and take the train to NY Penn Station. Drive to Summit, park at the station, and take the train to NY Penn Station. Drive to NYC. Park near Westfield station at a Boxcar lot and take Boxcar to NYC. This article will discuss each option in detail. (If you want a summary, skip to the infographic at the bottom.) Train from Westfield to NY Penn Station When most people think of commuting to the City, they think NJ Transit. During rush hour, taking a train into NYC requires changing trains in Newark Penn Station. The transfer is usually less than ten minutes, but it can be a hassle because riders may have to switch tracks. Riders must switch trains because the diesel trains on the Raritan Valley Line cannot go through the tunnels to Manhattan. Only electric trains are allowed. Westfield passengers disembark their train on Track 5 or Track 1 in Newark. If it's Track 5, they have to walk down the stairs to the station and then up to Track 2. From there, the electric train line goes into New York Penn Station. NJ Transit has tried to address this problem when it introduced a new dual powered electric/diesel train in 2015 that could go directly into Penn Station. However, it only operates during non-rush hour. The direct trains run at 9:16 am and 10:21 am in the morning. On the way home, the only direct trains from Penn Station run at are at 8:48 pm, 9:48 pm, and 10:48 pm. Westfield commuters are extremely frustrated the "one-seat" rides don't operate during rush hour. The direct train would not only save them about 8 minutes, but they also wouldn't have to change trains. Why hasn't NJ Transit added more trains? Money and politics. Until recently, there wasn't enough money to address NJ Transit's challenges. That changed, however, with the passage of the $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill. On December 1, 2001, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit to begin construction of the Gateway Tunnel project. This will allow The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to build a third rail tunnel under the Hudson River, add tracks in Penn Station, and replace damaged and aging tracks. The $12.3 billion project will begin in summer 2023. Unfortunately, the targeted completion isn't until 2035. Until then, Westfield commuters bound for New York Penn Station will transfer trains in Newark and continue to deal with frequent delays. The Raritan Valley Rail Coalition is an advocacy group that keep tabs on efforts to add more direct trains to Westfield. Also, commuters can monitor NJTransit's performance and join the NJ Commuters Action Network's Facebook Group. Despite the challenges and daily inconveniences, Westfielders rely upon the train. Taking the rush hour train is part of life. The rush hour trains from Westfield to NY Penn Station average 56 minutes. The monthly train fare from Westfield to NY Penn Station is $270. Three days a week costs $240.50 a month. Trains from Westfield to Downtown NYC or Jersey City When passengers destined for Downtown or Jersey City get off the NJ Transit train at Newark Penn Station, they’ll take the NJ Path train to the World Trade Center. Assuming it takes ten minutes to transfer trains, the trip from Westfield to the World Trade Center NJ Path Station will be 58 minutes. If passengers are going to Exchange Place in Jersey City, the trip is 54 minutes. The monthly fare from Westfield to Jersey City or the World Trade Center is $245.25 with a pass from both NJ Transit and NJPath. Three days a week costs $201.50 a month. If the final destination is Hoboken, add 11 minutes. If it is Newport, add 2 minutes. Both stations require a NJ Path transfer at Journal Square. Parking At Westfield Train Station There is a two-year wait to get a Westfield train station parking permit. For those lucky enough to have one, the cost is $58/month for the station lot and $35/month for a lot a little further away on Watterson Street. (Contact the town's parking office for more information.) Daily permits for the south side lot are $5/day. There are also daily meters at the station and one block away on Watterson Street. Meters are $0.50/hour or about $110/month (assuming you will be commuting 22 days per month.) About a half mile from the station, there is free street parking. Be careful to avoid streets with signs requiring a permit. Westfield parking enforcement is notoriously diligent. The monthly commuting cost (parking and train fare) to NY Penn Station for full time commuters is $380. For those who commute three days a week, the monthly cost is $305.50. Full time commuting costs to the World Trade Center or Jersey City is $355.25. Three times per week cost $266.50 per month. Bus to Port Authority Some commuters prefer taking a bus to the Port Authority in the City. They avoid a transfer and it runs more frequently than the trains. North side residents who live close to Route 22 will often park across Rt 22 at a private lot on New Providence Rd and then catch the 114X or 117 on Rt 22E and New Providence Rd. Others take the bus at Lawrence Avenue and Rt. 22. The bus takes 52 minutes and a monthly pass is $251. The NJ Transit bus 113X stops at North & Elm in downtown Westfield. It takes 49 minutes and a monthly pass is $251. There's a steep discount for monthly passes. Commuters who take the bus three days a week into the city, will pay the same amount as full-time commuters who have a monthly pass. Downtown Via Jersey City Ferry Another option for those who work downtown is to drive to Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City and take the Liberty Landing City Ferry to the financial district (World Financial Center is near the WTC Memorial). If the drive is before, or during the early part of rush hour, it should take 30 minutes to arrive at Liberty Landing Marina. The walk to the ferry is about 10 minutes and the ferry ride is 15 minutes. The ferries leave every 30 minutes. The commute time is comparable to the train and bus provided there isn't unusually heavy traffic. Parking is $7/day and the ferry is $14/day. However, the discounted monthly ferry fees are $154 for parking and $220 for the ferry. Commuting full time to the Financial District by ferry will take 65 minutes and cost $374/mo. Commuters going in only three days per week, will pay $273 per month. Alternative Train Stations Since there are no direct trains during rush hour, some Westfielders drive to Metropark, Rahway, Newark, Linden, or Summit train stations. Rahway Train Station The train ride from the Rahway station to NY Penn Station is 42 minutes. The drive to the station is 17 minutes. Commute time is comparable to the above options, without having to change trains. The daily round-trip fare is $18.50 or $270 per month. There are a few options for parking at the Rahway station. There is a parking deck that is $100 per month, a lot for $85 per month, and metered spots at $7/day which equates to $154 per month. If you opt to drive to Rahway station to avoid changing trains in Newark, the total commute time from Westfield is 59 minutes and the cost for full time commuters is about $424 per month. For three times per week, the monthly cost is $331.50. Metropark Train Station Metropark station is a 14-minute drive from Westfield and the train ride to NY Penn Station is 44 minutes. The daily fare into the City is $21.50 round-trip or $310 per month. There is a waitlist to get reserved parking in the garage. It costs $150 per month. Unreserved parking is available at $105/month and daily parking is $7. A major inconvenience with commuting from Metropark is that it can take 20 minutes to enter or leave the station because of the parking structure's limited ingress and egress. The commute time to NYC Penn Station from Metropark is 58 minutes and the cost is about $460 per month for full time commuters. Three days per week commuting will cost $370.50 per month. Newark Train Station Driving to Newark train station from Westfield is about 29 minutes and the train ride to NY Penn Station is 20 minutes. Assuming a 7 minute walk from the parking lot to the station, the total commute time is 56 minutes. The monthly NJ Transit pass is $152 for full time commuters and $136.50 for commuters traveling three times per month. The closest parking is adjacent to the station at Parkfast, 50 Commercial Street. The cost is $250 per month for full time commuters. Three times a week commuters will pay $169 per month. For commuters going to the World Trade Center station, the trip from the Newark train station is 23 minutes and a monthly pass is $100.25. Three times per week will cost $71.50. Full time commuting from Westfield via Newark Train Station to NY Penn Station takes 56 minutes and costs $402 per month. For three times per week commuters, the cost is $305.50. Going to the WTC takes 59 minutes and costs $350.25 per month for full time commuters. The cost is $240.50 per month for commuters going in three times per week. Linden Train Station Some Westfield commuters on the south side, drive to the Linden train station to catch a direct train on the Northeast Corridor Line. The drive from Westfield is about 17 minutes and the train ride to NY Penn Station is 40 minutes. Assuming a 7 minute walk from the parking lot to the station, the total commute time is 64 minutes. Full time commuters pay $254 for train and $132 for parking per month. This totals $386 per month. Three times per week commuters pay a total of $299 per month. Summit Train Station Some Westfield commuters on the north side, drive to Summit train station to catch a direct train into NY Penn Station. The drive from Westfield is about 17 minutes and the train ride to NY Penn Station is 43 minutes. Assuming a 7 minute walk from the parking lot to the station, the total commute time is 67 minutes. The monthly NJ Transit pass is $298 and station parking is $264 per month for full time commuters. Commuting from Westfield via Summit Train Station to NY Penn Station takes 67 minutes and costs $562 per month. Commuting three times per week costs $409 per month. Driving to Midtown Some brave commuters prefer to drive. If you leave Westfield before rush hour, you can arrive at midtown in 50 minutes. If you drive during the light part of rush hour, add 15 minutes. And, in the middle of rush hour, it could be 90 minutes or more. Tolls going into the City include Garden State Parkway, NJ Turnpike, and the Lincoln tunnel. Returning home there is no Lincoln Tunnel toll. Daily tolls are $28.71. Once you arrive in the city, the time it takes to arrive at the parking garage can be its own commute. Rush hour traffic in Manhattan isn't pretty. Parking in NYC is expensive and $35 per day is typical. Full time commuters will pay $631.62 for tolls and $770 for parking. This totals an $1,401.62 per moths. Three days per week commuters will pay $828.32 per month. Ride to NYC in a Boxcar Bus Boxcar offers a "business-class" commute to NYC. The buses are equipped with Wi-Fi, power outlets, and restrooms. The cost is $39.98 roundtrip and parking near the station is between $7 and $9 per day. A full time commuter (22 days per month) would purchase a monthly discount membership and pay $684.55 for the bus and $176 for parking. That totals $860.55 per month. Three days a week commuters will pay $623.74. According to Boxcar's Chief of Staff, April Kabbash, since the pandemic, more riders are commuting 2 to 4 days a week and reserving seats with the same group of people. She also said the bus route in the city goes up to Madison & 71st and many passengers can avoid the subway. Below is an infographic summarizing all 12 commuting options. Please reach out with any suggested changes. Contact me at richard.hopen@compass.com or 908-917-7926. Happy commuting!

  • Journal Every Morning

    Listening to books and podcasts has become part of my life. When I run on the treadmill, drive more than 10 minutes, or walk to a store, I digest the news or learn about tech, marketing, or self-improvement. Last year I listened to an interview of a top Hollywood movie director. It was a Tim Ferriss interview and one of Tim’s standard line of questions is about morning routines. The director talked about the value of writing in a journal first thing every morning. He said his mind wasn’t yet cluttered with the day’s urgent tasks vying for his attention. Instead it was the clearest it would be all day. He gets out his journal with his favorite pen and forces himself to write for at least 20 minutes. He doesn’t outline ideas. He doesn’t make lists or draw a “mind map.” He just sits and writes whatever comes to mind. The ideas come spewing out. Most are useless, but there are gems. And some of those gems germinated into movie ideas that became blockbusters. And they changed the course of his life. I’m no Hollywood movie guy, but I’m an ideas machine. Give me a scenario, challenge, goal, and I’ll go to town. Stick me in a room with a few creative thinkers and large blank whiteboard and I’m in heaven. Better yet, give me 20 minutes first thing in the morning with my journal. I write about big life goals, small goals, and what’s holding me back. I challenge myself to do those things I know I should do, but don’t. I hold myself accountable. I assess how I’m feeling. I figure out what distracts me, or worse, what discourages me. I become my own therapist and patient. Teacher and student. Guru and disciple. The day becomes more productive and fulfilling. I’m slowly creating the future I’m writing about. Daily journaling is changing my life. Convinced?

  • The Gatekeepers Are Gone

    A very smart woman in her eighties announced she was going to write a book about her life. A life filled with riveting stories. She witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism in her beloved home town of Alexandria, Egypt. She survived air raid bombings. At seventeen, she boarded a ship for America. She’s a good writer and her stories will be fascinating, but sadly, it's likely they won’t be read. She believes she needs the blessing of an established publisher. In days of yore, authors needed publishers to distribute their work. Today we have the internet. An author writes a story, chapter, or book and click, it’s available to everyone. No gatekeepers. No excuses. Start writing.

  • You Don't Have a "What if..." Plan

    What if you go to work today and your employer announces the company is shutting down? What if your position is eliminated? What if your new business venture runs out of cash? Over the past 10 days, I heard from two friends who are grappling with these issues. One just lost a job he’s had for six years. The other friend’s startup just lost their only account. I’ve been laid off and I’ve shut down startups. As have most employees and entrepreneurs. If losing a job or failing at a business venture is inevitable, how come so few of us are prepared? I blame our brains. Specifically, the part of the brain that has enabled our species to survive 70,000 years. Your ancestors survived in the wilderness by being aware of immediate danger. There weren’t any long term plans, only two short term goals. Stay alive and propagate. They accomplished these goals and you were born. Unfortunately for us, this part of our brain still drives our behavior. Modern man isn’t hardwired to prepare for danger in the distant future. That’s why most of us don’t do it. We don't have a "what if" plan. Those that do, have a happier more fulfilling life as they approach old age. At least, that’s what they tell me.

  • An Art Degree is a Hedge Against AI

    My son Matt is an artist. He sees the world through an artist’s lens. He must create art everyday. If he doesn’t, the day has a big void. As a fine arts major at Pratt Institute he’s learning from the best art teachers in NYC. Great, but is it practical to study art? In 2021, a student with an inclination in nursing, science, technology, engineering, or math is set. They will develop a skill and leave college knowing they will find a job with a good salary. What about artists? Turns out, deciding to become an artist may have a been a very practical decision. He has a profession that will be among the last that AI will supplant. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company published a report about AI that has some startling findings. My takeaway is that when Matt turns 30, AI will be upending much of today’s work force. But not artists.

  • We'll Be As Ignorant As Flat-Earthers

    Before explorers took to the seas and traveled beyond the horizon, man believed the world was flat. Why would they have thought otherwise? The world appeared flat. Perception was reality. What about today? How do we perceive the world and will our view be laughable in the future? Of course it will. Advances in technology are happening so quickly, we are blind to it. Consider the changes my grandfather saw during the first 30 years of his life. He saw cars replace horses and the invention of radio. My dad saw the dawn of air travel and television. And by the time I turned 30, I saw rockets launched into space, a moon walk, cell phones, and an early form of email. My kids were born as computers became a household necessity and the internet was connecting everyone. And then social media changed how we interact with each other. We use our pocket computers. But this ain’t nothin’ compared to what's ahead. Artificial intelligence will infiltrate every industry just as electricity did in 1880s. Augmented reality will change how we experience our environment. And then virtual reality will create an entirely new reality. It will be fictional, that is non-physical, but it will feel real and we’ll remember it as real. What will life be like for my grandkids? I can’t possibly know. The rate of change is increasing so fast we don’t have the framework to guess. However, I will make a prediction. They will look back on life in 2021 and laugh at us. Will we appear more ignorant to them than the flat-earthers appear to us? Yep.

  • Bye Bye Humans

    In forty years, when my son is my age, computers will be smarter than humans. Today, we experience computers being smarter than us when calculating numbers, navigating a route in our cars, or remembering the name of an actor from a movie we saw 10 years ago. But imagine a computer that can do everything our brain can do, but better. Now imagine it learns at such a rapid rate that it will be more intelligent than all human brains combined. That moment is known as singularity. It’s when we’ve crossed over from artificial general intelligence to artificial super intelligence. This isn’t science fiction. It’s the inevitable next stage of human evolution. Some argue it will be the end of biological evolution. Of course, it’s hard for us to get our minds around the end of human biology. But we’re already integrating technology into our lives to serve our bodies and minds. I wear a Fitbit so I can monitor my sleep (or lack thereof) and exercise. I use the internet throughout the day to get answers to questions. Nanotechnology in medicine is making big strides toward curing diseases we think of as incurable. As I age, will I be able to replace failing organs with those that are manufactured? Will we become cyborgs? Or maybe we’ll just abandon the body altogether and only have consciousness. Similar to the Matrix. Or Buddhism. Singularity. Get ready, it's coming.

  • I Need More Coffee. Now!

    Every few months I eat breakfast alone at a diner. I bring my journal and write about business, money, goals, heath, and family. I look for a quiet spot. If there are noisy customers or a blaring television, I plug in my earbuds. I also need a lot of coffee. Today was a problem because my server was inattentive. At 6:15 am I was the only customer. I sat in a booth near the window but the waitress didn't come over to my table. She was seated across the restaurant at the counter, working on a crossword puzzle. I started reading early journal entries and ten minutes later, she came to my table with coffee and took my order. Twenty minutes later she brought my eggs, but didn't have the coffee pitcher for a refill. I asked for more, but she never come back. I couldn't get her attention. She just sat across the diner at the counter, head down, focused on her crossword. I have no tolerance for poor service and I started to feel agitated. My introspective journal writing mojo was fading away. I was going to shout for her, but that's not my style. I decided to leave. She looked up as I walked to the front of the restaurant to pay. She put down her pencil, stood up very slowly, and shuffled to the register. She grimaced in pain with each step. Her left knee had a brace on it. As she was writing up the check, she talked about her grandkids, the nice weather, and the benefits of waking up early. She was sweet and I liked her. I felt like a jerk for being judgmental. I must learn to be more patient.

  • Stepping Off the Merry-Go-Round

    I’ve been searching for answers my entire life. When I was a teenager and a college student, I was interested in Hinduism, Buddhism, psychology, hypnosis, meditation, and politics. I pondered questions that were typical of youth and the 70s. What is reality? How do our minds work? What’s truth? Why are we so caught up in materialism and our egos? Why is society and politics so broken? Why is the world filled with so much suffering? Can I escape this darkness and live a life of true happiness? And then I grew up. My energy shifted to being an adult. Building my career(s). Building a life with Jody and starting a family. The big life questions of my youth were still there, just muffled. They are back. My interest in how technology is giving us a peek into how our brains work is rekindling my intrigue in Buddhism and meditation. I just read Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism Is True and it has sparked my desire to pursue living a more peaceful life. His thesis resonates with me… As humans, we are animals created by natural selection. Our instincts drive our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. When something around us stimulates a thought or feeling, we react. Meditation is a tool that allows a person to observe this process and change their behavior. It teaches them to insert a pause between stimuli and response. Having more control of my behavior and emotions sounds good to me.

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