Help me raise money to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma

September 18, 2009

Two years ago, my Dad Matthew David Wolf, succumbed to illness after more than a decade-long battle with Lymphoma and related illnesses. There have been so many advances in science and medicine in the last 10 years, that many lives are being extended, if not saved altogether, today.

But MORE can be done. MORE needs to be done.

On Saturday October 3, my wife and I, along with my family, and led by our Team Captain Hannah (my niece), are walking in the Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Society’s Light The Night Walk to help raise money in this fight. You can help by visiting my web page:

Russ Wolf’s Light The Night Walk Fund Raising Page

My Dad underwent Stem-cell transplant about 9 years ago, at a time when it was still experimental. “We are going to basically take his life, then try to give it back,” the Doctors told us. For 2 weeks that seemed like years, extreme chemo treatments drained my Dad. His body was broken, but not his spirit. Those same Doctors then told us if he survived the treatment, we would be lucky to have 2 more years with him. But he didn’t listen. His will was strong.

We got 9 more years with my Dad.

If they can do that a decade ago, before the days of the iPhone, imagine what they can do tomorrow, and every day beyond.

Organizations like this one are helping push the boundaries of discovery in the fight against these and other cancers. I am certainly not a scientist but I’m helping any way I can. Even in tough times, I hope you will consider doing the same. Every single penny, quarter or dollar will help in this fight – and are all very much appreciated.

If you have questions, feel free to email me via the link below or check out the page. Thank you – Russ

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Russ Wolf’s Light The Night Walk Fund Raising Page


Feeling “blah”? Try the power of “Hello”

March 13, 2009

It’s been one of those weeks. We all have had them, and in these times, I suspect more of us have them more often. You know what I’m talking about – you just feel kind of “blah” – tired, rundown, unmotivated, unhappy for no reason in particular. Call it the weather, call it the economy, call it whatever you want, we have all been there.

Driving in to the office yesterday I was thinking back to one of the greatest trips of my life. In the summer of 2000, Solly (one of my 2 best friends) and I left on a journey together that covered Arizona and Nevada. For different reasons, we both needed to get away, we both were feeling the “blah.” This trip not only became my true introduction to the passion that is driving in a convertible (another story for another day), but it was a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Trust me when I tell you nothing compares to the feeling of wind rushing through your hair, and brushing by your face, at 75mph on the open road.

After a night in Phoenix, we cruised about 2 hours to Sedona. If you have never been to Sedona, Arizona, plan a trip. It is one of the most beautiful, serene and truly spiritual places you can ever visit. From the majestic red-rock formations (take a Pink Jeep tour to be amazed), to Devil’s Bridge (not a well-known tourist stop, but a definite must-see & must-hike) to the Church of the Red Rocks (it looks like this church was created right along with the rocks, not built later – truly incredible), you will find yourself at an inner peace you didn’t know existed.

But this is not about a trip I took. It’s about a journey – a journey that started on our first night in Sedona. We stayed at Solly’s cousin Cheryl’s house – Cheryl was the epitome of Sedona – peaceful, spiritual and carrying around a pure calmness. Her house was set against some mountains – LOTS of open space. Great to just peer up to the heavens at night and stare at stars. Well as we settled in that first night, I needed to find something to read for a few minute break (yes, that kind of break). I picked up a little book – it was about living a life of peace, and finding inner happiness. Of course I scoffed –after all 9 years ago I thought I knew it all.

But when I turned to the first page, the message struck me. It simply said, when you are out and about doing your daily business, shopping, taking a walk, filling up at the gas station or dropping a letter off at the post office, just look and smile at everyone you come across and simply say “hello”. Never before did I realize the power that a 5-letter word could have. The rest of that trip, and when I got back home, I made it a habit to smile and say hello to almost everyone I came across. Sometimes I got a “hello” back. Sometimes I got a look like I was from another planet. And sometimes I just plain got ignored. But for those people who did reply (either with a “hi” or a simple smile), the payoff was priceless. Maybe I brought a brief moment of joy to someone. Maybe I reaffirmed the belief in someone that not everyone in this world is cold and unfriendly. Maybe, just maybe, I made someone’s day a tiny bit better.

Then I realized… My “blah” was gone. The world – my world, was all of a sudden just a little happier of a place.

Yesterday was my 4th day of being in a “blah” rut and I kept thinking about that one night in Sedona that changed my life. It had been a while since I was saying hi to people on the street. Everyone in this world right now is stressed; pressure on people is immense and the entire “friendly” quotient is down measurably (and obviously) to anyone who spends time in public.

So as I walked out of a hospital yesterday (visiting a friend who just had a baby), and my “blah” was in full effect, I decided to say hello. First to the elderly woman confined to a wheel chair being pushed down the hall of the hospital. She said “hi” and smiled brightly back at me. Then I met another woman in the elevator down to the lobby. Clearly, she was not having the best of days. I said hello to her as well and got that look like I was from another planet. How dare I say hello. Then lastly, in the parking garage elevator, I said hello and tried to strike up a conversation with an elderly man sharing the ride with me. He smiled but couldn’t say hello. He motioned that there was something wrong with his throat and couldn’t really talk. I made a little joke about people wishing I couldn’t talk sometimes and he chuckled. The elevator doors swung open to the cold, dreary cement of the parking structure, but suddenly I felt like I was in a sunny paradise. The man patted me on the shoulder, with a huge smile, and though barely audible, forced out “have a great day.” And you know, from that point on, I did. No more “blah.”

So as you venture out in your life today, tomorrow and the next day, and whether you’re feeling “blah” or not, say “hello” to those you pass. People may ignore you. People may look at your funny. But some may say hello right back. And if we all did that, wouldn’t our entire world be a happier, less “blah” place?

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No winners in Little League?

February 17, 2009

Many years ago, I coached the Agoura White Sox, a little league team of 10-11 year olds along with a close friend. We were in college, loved baseball fanatically, and we wanted to teach. Having both played ball in high school, we figured we could bring the kids on our team a different perspective than all the other baseball dads coaching their sons.

We worked on complicated drills and plays with this special group of kids, that were built on the assumption they had a good handle on the basics. After the first 4 games, we were wrong. We started 0-4, and the games weren’t even close. The kids and parents alike were questioning us, we were questioning ourselves, and ultimately we realized we needed to get back to basics. We practiced hard and won game 5, then game 6. The kids were having fun, playing as a team, playing hard, and playing to win.

In recent years, as I have gone to my nephew’s games and to those of my friends kids, I have been astonished at a trend in which there were no winners and losers. As long as the kids play hard and learn. Granted, these kids are a few years younger than our Pony team, but at least back then, every game counted. Not just in the standings for the local newspaper, but to each and every one of our kids. We taught them to lose with dignity and win with grace. We taught them to work hard with one another as a team, and individually. We taught them honesty and integrity meant something in a game, and in real life. They knew what it felt like to win, and they knew what they had to work on improving when they lost.

So what do the little league kids of today learn? Even in their early years, if they don’t learn about winning and losing, how can they take serious the games of life they will play when they are older? Aren’t they being taught that losing is no big deal? And if that is the lesson, then what happens when they get in to that real world, and have to support themselves and maybe a family? Will losing not matter than either?

In school we learn the skills and information needed to be successful in life and profession. But it is in our friendships, our families, our extracurricular activities, like little league baseball, that we learn so many of the values and lessons that will carry on throughout our lives. And now, in a position where I am responsible for hiring and firing people, I am seeing the results of the generation that thinks losing is no big deal. The picture I’m seeing is no Picasso.

Losing is a big deal. No matter the business, you have to strive to be number one as a company, a team. Individual effort is important, but if you’re say, a Project Manager on a software development project that is integral to your company’s success, is winning or losing important? You may work hard, but perhaps few or no one on your team does, and the project is riddled with problems, not to mention being late and over budget. Does winning or losing matter then? In today’s economy, company’s are struggling to stay afloat – does it matter to them if they win or lose? Go to the local unemployment office and ask anyone in line if it is important to win or lose.

Winning and losing alike are a part of life. It’s never too young to teach kids what it is all about. Let them taste the sweetness of victory, but also the bitterness of defeat. Should there not be winners in local spelling bees in school? Or writing contests? Science competitions?

I am not a parent, so perhaps it is not fair for me to judge, but our nation of parents has become so hung up on not upsetting their children or disappointing them, that we have begun playing games that don’t count and don’t mean anything. Doesn’t the very definition of game mean you have a winner and loser?

Our White Sox worked hard the rest of that season. Kids of 10 and 11 stepped outside of comfort zones, tried new things, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. But together, we all decided winning was important and something to work hard for.

We finished the last 10 games of the season undefeated… sweet victory! We lost our first playoff game… bitter defeat. But all of our kids on that team we’re better off for the experience.

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