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Holiday Cheer

Last year the holidays were almost an afterthought, as me and my team were busy opening not one but two new entertainment venues. Like always, it is hard to believe it’s been a year. Both venues have had a great year. And we have much more in store in 2018 and beyond.

But the excitement and business related to those activities last year meant we had to sacrifice some holiday traditions and goings-on. We didn’t send cards to friends and family. We weren’t able to get my team together for a holiday event. We didn’t really do gifts of any magnitude.

This year is more normal, though being that I work for a company that never slows down, we are still busy. And Joyce has been swamped all year helping Caesars resolve its financial situation. So we are excited to still be able to attend a holiday party some good friends throw, and added back team dinners for both of us. And I got gifts for everyone on my team. These activities have given us a peaceful feeling through a busy season, which to me may be the best gift of all.

Still waiting to be brought back are the holiday cards (will be sending an email to our friends so at least they know we still care about them and appreciate them). And house decorations are still relatively simple. Luckily, we have next year to look forward to. I guess I need to start putting up lights at Halloween!

Here’s hoping everyone is enjoying the holidays, in your own unique way. Good cheer and peaceful spirits are coming your way at least from the Arpin family.

 

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End of the Year

I looked back, and so far this year I have written what appears to be just over 70 blog posts. Some were book reviews, some were about leadership topics, some were about sports, some about travel. Many were about the thee seminal events that all happened to occur in my life this year – my father’s passing, my mother’s struggles with dementia, and the Las Vegas shooting on October 1.

I’ve also written probably 25-30 introductory messages to our entertainment division newsletter. And written three articles for an industry magazine focused on gaming and technology.

To recap all of this would end up focusing on the negative. It would be way too easy to say “GOOD RIDDANCE” to 2017. Instead I think I should challenge myself to be thankful, and to cherish this year. As Tim Urban noted in his Ted Talk, we lose time quickly in our lives so we better enjoy it, even if it’s not the easiest thing to do. So here are things I’m thankful for in 2017:

  • First full year of marriage. We enjoyed it thoroughly. Had family at our house, entertained, traveled, supported each other through buys work schedules, and through incredible trauma we grew even closer than we were. We made our roots stronger, tackled life together.
  • Traditions. We were able to take our annual trip to Cedar City, Utah for the Shakespeare Festival with our great friends the Selwoods. We were able to make our annual Thanksgiving trip to somewhere new, traveling to Hong Kong (ok, new for one of us) and Singapore. We had our annual staycation at Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas (always great spa experience and a meal at Twist, plus window shopping at Crystals! We made it to a few “first Saturday” wine tastings at Trader Joes – note to self for New Years resolution, do more of those!
  • Pro sports! This one really is meaningful for me at the intersection of native Las Vegan, entertainment executive, sports nut, and with my personal story working for many years to make a new arena in Las Vegas a reality. Our NHL team started this year, and we have already experienced some of what pro sports brings to a community, starting with just that – community. The ability of sports to help heal after the October 1 shooting was a great introduction to Las Vegas residents as to what sports can do for you, if you invest in it. I wish Bill Foley and his team all the best and will do whatever I can personally to ensure we are a top tier sports town for a long time. And there is more to come – next up WNBA and USL soccer, then of course the Raiders in a few years.
  • New tradition – journaling. We documented the last few years of travel, events, dinners with friends, concerts, movies, sporting events, etc. Including “scrap-booking” the mementos.
  • Our health. I still weigh too much, and I keep re-injuring my rib cartilage every time I do a corporate challenge sport I haven’t played in years; this year it was dodgeball. But it was worth it, we finished second to the perennial champs the Hakkasan team. Joyce got to go to her first executive physical and we had a wonderful time in La Jolla enjoying the resort there with Joyce’s friends who came down from Santa Monica.
  • Golf. Speaking of which, I got to play the famous Torrey Pines south course while I was there. I didn’t get to golf too much this year, but that was a highlight, and I always appreciate every round I get to play as it is time outdoors and with friends. I also got to play another top course, while in Tampa for the College Football Playoff championship, we got to play Innisbrook (the Copperhead course where the pros play) with friends from IMG College and Under Armour. We played a fun charity tournament at Spanish Trail with our partners from Anheuser Busch, the annual Gaming and Leisure tournament, and a couple of rounds with friends and co-workers that resulted from charity auction buys. Definitely another NY resolution here.
  • Emotion. Losing my dad brought out a lot of emotion in me. I was appreciative of that, as it let me know I was grieving and processing the loss. I needed those emotions and that process later in the year to help myself and those around me after the October 1 shooting. I didn’t want either of these things to happen, but I am proud of not ignoring the pain and emotion and resolving to grow for myself and with those around me.

I still didn’t cover many great things, like my church, friends, wonderful meals, and I’m sure many others. I am still glad 2018 is coming soon though. I hope it will bring new adventures along with traditions built upon. I pray for good health, and stronger relationships. I wish us all peace regardless of what craziness is happening around us.

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Thanksgiving is about gratitude

Gratitude is a slippery thing. It often feels like we don’t have anything to be grateful for. It often feels like we “exercise” our grateful “muscle” but are not rewarded with good karma or blessings in our life, like we are told will happen. It often feels like we should wait for others to be grateful for/to us versus us taking the initiative.

But this isn’t a game of “even-steven” and it isn’t about what others do for you or to you. Gratefulness is about you and you alone. It is about how you will view the world. Will you assume that because something bad happens in your life that must mean the world is out to get you? Or that it negates anything good happening in your life? Or will you accept that life is a journey and there will be good and bad, and focusing on the bad is a tough way to make it through life?

Amazingly, most people choose to focus on the negative, and don’t practice gratefulness. I know, I used to be one of them. I never realized it, for 40 years of my life. So when I started to try to change that, and be more grateful and look for the positive in the world, I was angry at those who hadn’t had my experience of change and were still being negative. Now I realize I should be empathetic and understand they don’t even realize it themselves. One wish for this Thanksgiving is that more people would hear and live this statement by David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk for many decades, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy” (credit to Jud Wilhite of Central Christian Church for posting that quote along with his own thoughts on gratefulness).

There is no silver bullet to making yourself more grateful or making those around you more grateful and more positive about life and the events therein. It takes practice, and discipline. Old habits are hard to change. You can’t just be thankful on Thanksgiving, and you can’t just be grateful when times are good. You have to work at it, and be grateful even on days your mom doesn’t remember you are her son. That is my bad thing, but I still find things I am grateful for. You have to be grateful even when you find out your grandson has cancer, likely terminal. That is a co-worker’s bad thing, but she still finds things to be grateful for. You have to be grateful even when it seems we are helpless to stop mass shootings, even in our own town. That is a lot of ours bad thing, but we must find things to be grateful for, like the kindness of strangers on display since the shooting.

Thanksgiving started because one group of folks (Native Americans) helped another group of folks (the Pilgrims) and the group that received that help didn’t take it for granted, they celebrated it and said “thank you” with a meal. This thanksgiving, realize that other people are likely the things you should be most thankful for. Find them, tell them that, and keep telling them that. You all may just start a snowball of gratitude that could help us all feel a lot better about this world.

I’m grateful today for my incredible friends who always stick by me and support me. I’m grateful my mom is in a safe place and gets the care she needs. I’m grateful for a wife who taught me the meaning of gratefulness and how to have a positive outlook. I’m grateful for strong families and family connections for both of us. I’m grateful for an awesome team I get the privilege of working alongside.

If I think about it, I’m grateful for a lot more, but you’d just get bored. More importantly, what are you grateful for?

Happy Thanksgiving.

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One month

One month. 31 days. How much can change in such a short time.

One month ago, we mourned. We cried. We hugged.

One month ago we couldn’t believe we lost friends, family, innocence.

In a month, we have fed each other, consoled each other, celebrated each other.

For one month, a hockey team made a miraculous run that helped heal a city. We will never forget it, and will always be thankful to them.

For one month we’ve listened to people talk about what happened like we weren’t here, like it didn’t hurt for them to make up stories about what happened.

In this the hardest of months, we learned who our real friends are, who the real leaders are, what the “good guys” are made of.

Is it all over, after this month? Not by a long shot. We won’t ever know when it’s over. We won’t know when we are healed. We just have to move forward. Together.

Some months going forward will be better than others. Not a month will go by when we don’t remember how hurt we were, or how strong we’ve been.

I’m amazed at myself and those around me for surviving this month. My only hope is for another month. More healing. More togetherness. More empathy. More caring.

One month. Seems like yesterday. We are starting to look like we used to. But we will never be the same. I think we are better. Only one month at a time will we be able to tell for sure.

 

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Coping

Coping isn’t a fun thing. The word doesn’t even sound good, it sounds depressing. Because we associate with the “necessary evil” of plodding through a less-than-desirable situation. It’s the “struggle” and “deal” portion of the definition.

Currently, those of us affected by the Route 91 shooting are coping with a variety of things – grief at loss of life, trauma of being there and witnessing the horror, and a variety of other emotions and issues like guilt, anger, fear of crowds, etc.

Other times, we might be coping with a different situation. Maybe we are stuck in a bad relationship, maybe work isn’t going the way we want, maybe there is an illness in the family or with ourselves. Any number of “life things” can cause us grief, and require us to cope.

Of course, there is more to the definition of coping: “to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success” or “to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner.

These parts of the definition give us hope. It’s not a panacea, it doesn’t say “with complete success” or “like it never happened;” but it allows us to face the negative with a workmanlike approach and get THROUGH the bad.

I have been posting a special affirmation this month since the shooting:

      Part of coping is keeping to routine. So I’m still posting an affirmation:

      I will get through this, and I will help others do the same

It is important to know that we have to get THROUGH the bad, not get stuck in it. There is no other option. We either overcome the grief or it overcomes us. And we have to do it TOGETHER. If you are stuck in mud, you need someone on solid ground to reach out with a hand or a stick to grab onto.

Finally, remember that coping is also a noun, meaning a finishing cap on a wall or molding. If we do the verb part of coping right, we build ourselves stronger for future hurts and pains and grief.

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My UNLV Homecoming Message

I think this year is particularly important that I say a few words about UNLV Homecoming. You see, I was born and raised in Las Vegas and I graduated from UNLV and serve on the Alumni Association Board. And most importantly, I also lead the live entertainment team at MGM Resorts, so homecoming means something special after the tragic events of a few weeks ago. It’s obviously been tragic and traumatic in so many ways, and will continue to be. But it’s also been inspiring to see the amazing acts of kindness, heroism, support and human spirit over the past few weeks, from our entire community, and our University played a big part. I have never been more proud to be born a raised in Las Vegas, and a UNLV graduate. Because I know now what it means to be #VegasStrong.

I start by addressing those who have come back to campus for the first time since graduating. I hope you got a chance to walk around our campus; if you are like a lot of us who strayed away from UNLV for a bit after graduation, the campus has probably changed significantly since you were last here. I remember my first time, thinking aliens had kidnapped our old little library and supersized it with gamma rays or something! The campus is growing, and becoming more modern, and becoming more of a student-focused campus, all great things for us as we stand at our 60th anniversary. Your job as an alumnus is to not let this be the last time you come back.

But the changes don’t stop at the physical changes. Those of us who have now been coming back and gotten used to the physical changes notice the amazing achievements from our students and faculty. Every corner of this campus is excelling in ways large and small. Our solar houses continue to rock the global scene, we compete and win globally in business case competitions, our entrepreneurship program is phenomenal, our design and engineering students regularly make breakthroughs, our robotics program is top notch, our student athletes continue to lead their competition in so many sports; the list goes on. Your job is an alumnus is to find out about these things, celebrate them, and advertise them in your networks.

Finally, there is so much hope for the future if we continue to come back. Top tier initiatives around campus, a new medical school to change healthcare forever in Las Vegas, the new Hospitality building (don’t worry Lee Business School, I hear we are trying to get one too), a new football practice facility. Most importantly, an energized leadership and staff that is focused on connecting your University to you. Community like never before. It’s that connection that will make both the University and Community better than they could be on their own. And you have a big job as an alumnus.

You need to keep coming back and be ENGAGED. Join the alumni association at our events – tailgates, seminars, networking, the arts – and find yourself making serendipitous connections and having timely conversations that lead to advancements in our goals. Connect with your college: help the Dean of your school strategize ways to improve the curriculum and make learning more real for students; become a guest lecturer at classes, or a part-time instructor; attend career fairs and other events where you can share your wisdom with students.

If we do our jobs as alumni, we will continue to welcome back our peers for the next 60 years, and they will continue to be awestruck by the physical changes on campus, the achievements of our students and faculty, and the engagement level of their predecessor alumni. This will be your legacy, one that truly represents the ideals of #VegasStrong.

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A city to be proud of

I have never been more proud to call Las Vegas home than this two weeks. I guess I wasn’t sure what to expect from us in a time like this. I like to think we are a great town, with great people, but I’m biased because I have never really known anything else. I now truly know how much spirit there is and how strong we are.

In the last two weeks, we have cried together, hugged together, cheered together. We have given each other blood, food (lots of food), therapy, time to rest and time to get back to normal. We have realized how stupid some of the things we focused on really are, and we know much more about what is important.

When we went through and survived the Great Recession, I always told people – and still do – that those with the longest memory will be the ones to succeed in the long run. Meaning we shouldn’t forget what factors led to us hurting so much in the recession. I think this event will be like that too; but not for the lessons learned from an attack. We will need to handle that for sure. But more important for the health of our community is to remember what it is like to support each other. To care for each other. To respect one another. To realize we are each an indelible and irreplaceable link in this community’s chain.

It is taking all of us to get through this together. If we can get through this together, think what other amazing things we can do together.

I have never been more proud to call Las Vegas home than this two weeks. But the best part is that I’m confident this won’t be the last time I say that about my hometown. Thank you Las Vegas, for giving a born and raised kid renewed faith in all of us, and great hope for the future.