leadership, personal

Explaining the affirmations – part 1

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 5-6 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with this one:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

There are others, and I continue to think about and work on them. I thought I’d take a moment to explain these affirmations.

The genesis of doing affirmations in the first place was a combination of advice from my leadership coach and some events in my leadership journey. My leadership coach helped me identify negative self-talk as an issue. I do a lot of thinking, a trait I get from my mom. I dream at night pretty much constantly, often about work or other events in my life. I ruminate on “losses” or setbacks, something I’ve written about before, most recently here: https://rarpin.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/athletes-and-injuries/

I’m sure many of us who do a lot of thinking and self-talk tend towards the negative side of self-talk. So my coach thought I needed to be intentional to balance things out, hence affirmations.

I also had suffered some leadership setbacks, for example discussed here: https://rarpin.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/squeezing-problems/. So I put the two together and started a daily affirmation to focus on what I want to be (a positive look forward) and what I need to work on to be the leader I want to be.

The first affirmation was inspired at the same time by a message I saw at Central Christian Church, also written about in the post cited above. You can see it here: https://www.centralonline.tv/media/subpage/?sid=78&mid=253&vs=teaching

The idea that you can choose what clothes to wear, and you can clothe yourself in kindness, humility, love. One of my common self-talk items is blame, and excuses. This reminds me that it is my choice. My reaction to what happens around me, I own that.

Tangent – at the same time I was reading the book “Extreme Ownership” which I highly recommend and will write a review of it soon. But it contains a similar concept, as a leader everything is your fault that happens within your team. No excuses, extreme ownership.

The other thing I really wanted to capture was the notion of focusing on what is in front of me. Right in front of me. So not yesterday, for sure. No looking back, if I made mistakes yesterday let’s learn from them and move on. But also not too far ahead, so that I miss the moments that matter. So the word “today” seemed really important to me.

Finally the idea of patience and mercy, I am often too quick and not being empathetic, not thinking of others because I am whizzing through the day. So these words resonated as words that would remind me how to behave for the whole day.

If you don’t suffer from negative self-talk, I salute you and maybe this post isn’t that useful. If you do suffer from negative self-talk, you will have to think through your own call to action, how to frame an affirmation that will help you find balance. Hopefully you can get some great advice like I did, or some divine inspiration by seeing a message that was timely or reading a book that resonates. Best of luck, and stick with it. I will write about my other affirmations in future posts.


career, finance, fun, leadership

Appreciating some former colleagues and friends

Before I joined the entertainment team at MGM Resorts, I spent several years leading our financed shared services. I have been thinking of that time lately, and realizing the most impactful thing about my time there was the people. That’s probably true about any season of our lives, actually; but it’s been really special to reflect on it in the past weeks and realize how true it is for myself relative to those years. Actually sitting down to write this post was inspired by one of my former teammates, who now works for me in entertainment; he was reminiscing about some of the things we used to do as a team.

When I joined the team in 2009, we only had three departments acting as some form of corporate or shared services, and two of them had formerly reported elsewhere in the organization and one was very newly formed after a few years of project work to transform the function and re-organize the teams. About 150 people total.

When I left the team formally in 2015-ish (it was sort of a phased transition), there were six functional departments and a host of supporting areas and individuals. About 400 folks. We still had lots of things to work on, but we had proven that the model works, and become a leader in our industry in shared services. The team that made that happen is a bunch of all-stars, many of them still there. It was a privilege to lead them and work with them.

I learned a ton with them: I had never really managed a large team, I had never led an “operation” before, and I had never worked on such large complex projects. I screwed up a lot with them and with my colleagues, but I tried to make sure I learned from my mistakes, and help the team learn from our collective mistakes, and help them be continuous learners, and help them grow as leaders. We built practices and processes that I still use today – strategic planning, leadership development, team building. These were critical areas of focus for a growing organization having to manage through some difficult change. Here’s a few things they taught me while I was there:

  • People will pretty much do anything to have fun. The workplace generally is devoid of fun for a lot of folks. It can be particularly challenging with an area like accounting and finance – not nearly as “sexy” as y current job. Soon after I started, we started an internship program. It’s been a big source of talent – we had no interns when we started, by the time I left we had about seven interns each semester (UNLV) and 3-5 summer interns (other schools). One of the summer projects for the interns was to plan a fundraiser, and the first group started a trend that was built upon. They threw basically a carnival party. Dunk tanks, face painting, music, food, eating contest. It was a blast. And everyone put their muscle behind it, helping plan the event, leveraging resources to get décor, the list goes on. I used to joke that if we put that much energy into closing the books faster, we’d be done in a day. But the lesson was to give people some fun; our employees got more motivated, our turnover went down as we went along, as we incorporated fun into our routine (like cube decorating contests, wine and canvas events, participating in corporate sports competitions, and the list goes on). I am lucky now that entertainment has some built in fun, but I have slipped in ensuring organized fun to help the team build relationships within the team itself. I’m going to work on that.
  • People will do pretty much anything for charity. I have told countless leaders who are working in new or growing teams the power of philanthropy to build teams. If you are cynical, it’s a bait-type situation, hook people in for the good feelings of helping others, and “voila” the team builds stronger bonds. But I’m not cynical, so I call it a win-win. The point of both the first item and this item revolves around finding common goals. It proves how challenging it is for leaders to articulate a vision that is both clear and inspiring: the team should rally together to help us grow revenues, or implement a new system, or whatever. But what often motivates them is some other common goal – in the first case, trying to beat the pants off the other corporate groups in softball; in this case, volunteering together to feed the hungry or read to kids. While they are at it, they learn about each other, realize that each of them has a “soft” side, and suddenly work seems to go smoother, there is less office drama, and we all are more satisfied with our jobs.
  • We have to help each other. I learned so much from my leadership team in shared services. We gave each other regular feedback, based on the trust we built. We stepped in to help each other out in times of crisis. We all pitched in to work on projects, or train our staff, or help an employee struggling with something at home. I never realized how little one person can do, how it really takes a village. I learned how to build the village, and grow the village. And the things we accomplished were only a result of how well we did those things. I still get a lot of help from some of these folks even today. Today I say “leadership is a contact sport, but it is also a team sport.”

So to everyone who worked in our finance shared services center, who used to stop by my cube and say hi, or pay the extra money to dunk me at the intern event, or spend the extra hours trying to make our operation better – thank you. And to the leaders who worked and still work – and continue to lead fearlessly and expertly – thank you! I can never repay you for the life lessons and fond memories I have reflected on since then (and many more while writing this post!).

And to the person that inspired this post, look forward to some chicken nuggets, or costume bowling, or something similar soon. And thanks for forcing me to reflect and appreciate an important and irreplaceable part of my life.


entertainment, sports

VGK Draft Week Excitement

I’ve heard a lot of “stuff” about our pro hockey team – our first major league team, thank you Bill Foley – in the last months. Things locals didn’t like about the name, logo, etc. But I hope we can all appreciate what they did this past week and the time leading up to it.


They hired a boatload of scouts, who worked for a year to get ready for a whirlwind few days. And it appears they did a great job. They were professional, drafted players with character, and found a balance of skills and experience.

Players I spoke with (see below) seemed impressed with the process.


This one is getting national attention. VGK has done an amazing job of building a social profile, their engagement levels are super high (see below, did a great job engaging with fans this past week utilizing the new players) and they have generated significant followings. For example, they added 10,000 twitter followers just in the last week. Now that they have players, and soon when they have a mascot and a dance/ice crew they will have even more engagement opportunities.


One of the themes I’ve heard people critique the team for is being reactive versus proactive. But there has been a lot to do in a short time so I think that will take care of itself over time. But this past week, marketed as a “VGK Takeover Week: was well planned, even having to coordinate a large-scale event with the NHL (the combined awards show and draft) and having their entire hockey staff totally hut-of-pocket and then out of town for the entry draft. They were so prepared, that the day after the expansion draft, several players were doing local engagement events (throwing out first pitch, doing youth street hockey clinic, and social engagement activities. I was lucky enough to have dinner with a few of those players, and they couldn’t believe how well planned the time was, and that it wasn’t like anything they had seen before.


They got the team store completed on time, and it looks fabulous and has some great gear. Particularly given the tough circumstance of everyone getting new jerseys from a new provider. Even before this week, I have been impressed about how much gear I see us wearing around town, developing pride with every shirt, hat or car sticker!


Having the schedule out is important in a couple of ways. First, the team can now start selling single game tickets and other packages. Second, we saw an instant reaction from out-of-town visitors looking for tickets, rooms, etc. for the times their teams are visiting Las Vegas. I think we have all underestimated the amount of demand there will be for Las Vegas games from tourists traveling to see their team.

In my opinion, the week couldn’t have really gone any better. Hopefully this will just be a launching point for exponential growth in excitement. There is still so much for the team to do (and for all of us to do) in the next 90 days to ensure an awesome first preseason game. But we’ve got some great momentum from this past week.

family, leadership, personal

Joint post from Rick and Joyce – Love Languages

Do you know your love language? If you haven’t heard of the five love languages, see here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ As I’ve discussed with my team at work, it is also a great way to talk about recognition and appreciation in the workplace (understanding that some modifications are needed, like “touch” takes on a different meaning).

We know ours. Joyce likes physical touch, followed by words of affirmation. She couldn’t find a category for “stare at me uncomfortably for several minutes while I smile and ham it up” so we will call that a form of touch…or it could be part of quality time, which is her third love language.

Rick’s is acts of service. If Joyce does a chore at home for me, I feel awesome. If someone at work goes above and beyond on a project, I celebrate that and have big thanks waiting for them. I also like gifts, something Joyce has adapted to – even surprising me (I’m very hard to surprise) with a framed picture of me and my Dad in advance of Father’s Day. She used to not even get me a card for holidays, so luckily I’ve apparently broken her of that by occasionally reminding her of my second love language.

Love languages can come in really handy. When Joyce goes too long without food, and starts to get “hangry” I know I can make her feel better by just holding her. Even though I might want do take out the trash because that would make ME feel better, that is the time to put the chores off for a few minutes and just hold and talk to Joyce.

Sometimes Rick gets too focused on tasks and getting things done, especially around the house (bad combination of anal retentive and OCD). Joyce can take immense weight off of him by chipping in and working on the chores with him. And it’s quality time together, which is Rick’s third love language. Words and touch aren’t his thing, but he is getting to like them more by engaging in those languages with Joyce.

Hopefully, you can improve relationships at home and in other areas of your life by exploring the five love languages.

leisure, personal

Restaurant Review – Other Mama

Other Mama is a Japanese/sushi restaurant near Desert Breeze Park (Durango and Twain, near one of my favorite sushi spots, Sen of Japan). It has been open for a couple of years under the direction of Chef Daniel Krohmer. It is one of several relatively new (post-recession-recovery) restaurants in the west/southwest part of town that are making this area somewhat of a mecca for quality cuisine off the Strip; see for example Pier 215, Andre’s Bistro, DW Bistro, Ohjah Noodle House, Komex Fusion. We have seen this trend in waves before in areas like Green Valley/Anthem and along Spring Mountain Road. I look forward to seeing how this one plays out also.

To summarize my review: I’ve heard and read so many good things about Other Mama that I had pretty high expectations. Other Mama met or exceeded all of them. A truly great dining experience.

Now let’s be clear, it’s not overly fancy – in food or décor. It definitely feels like a neighborhood place, but a hip neighborhood place, I felt vibes of Santa Monica or a place like that. We went with a group of six, and I think it’s definitely one of the new style restaurants that is better with a group so you can order more of the largely sharable dishes.


Beverages are outstanding, with inventive cocktails like the Svetlana, made with horseradish vodka which I had never tried before. Typical beer and wine selection including sake. And a host of Japanese whiskeys which is always a positive.


Raw options were outstanding. The sashimi is very fresh, well presented. Oysters were lovely and were accompanied by unique sauces along with the traditional cocktail sauce and mignonette. Tuna tartare was very nice, served in a mason jar and waffle fries to spread it on. But the highlight for me was the ceviche, also served in a mason jar, alongside light tarot-type chips. Perfectly refreshing, a bit of spice, and mango for sweetness.

Other small dishes were also good. Chicken wings were flavorful and had the right “snap” to them. Chicken fried lobster was perfectly balanced, the light batter not overwhelming the quality lobster. The kimchi fried rice was outstanding, once you got the egg and poke belly properly mixed into the piping hot rice.

The highlight of the meal for me was the New York steak, served sliced with a miso hollandaise sauce on top and accompanied by more waffle fries. It was like a Japanese version of steak frites and it was sublime. The steak was incredibly tender, the fries the exact right thickness, the perfect amount of sauce.


Japanese cheesecake was different, not sure I loved it but I liked it. Sort of dry and spongy. Then we had an amazing (literally the best brownie I’ve ever had I think) brownie with ice cream. Our final dessert was a scoop of “Miso Honey” ice cream – fantastic, plus the jokes about its name and a link to a certain rap song from the 1990s lasted well beyond the table that night. All of course were well accompanied by the Japanese whiskey.

I highly encourage you to get to Other Mama for a meal. I think you will find it very satisfying the level of quality a neighborhood restaurant can create.

fun, leisure

Strip photo 1991 – redux

Last time I posted this photo courtesy of @classiclasvegas. The photo is an aerial shot of the Strip, largely the west side of the Strip, from just north of The Mirage. Of course, the Mirage had just opened a couple of years earlier.

strip 1991

My challenge to you was to find/list/share interesting things from the photo. Here are some things I found:

  • The old Dunes golf course where Bellagio, CityCenter, Monte Carlo and T-Mobile Arena are now.
  • In the very bottom of the photo, there is just a parking lot for The Mirage, where TI (Treasure Island) stands now. I remember parking in that vast lot (which extended past the photo all the way to Spring Mountain Road).
  • There are not one but two temporary outdoor arenas in this photo. The classic Caesars Palace arena where they did major boxing matches and tennis matches. But when The Mirage opened, Steve Wynn had the goal to take a big chunk of that business. The one at Caesars kept getting encroached on by new hotel towers (see next bullet) and larger pools and parking garages. The one at The Mirage got overrun by a bigger convention center.
  • Caesars Palace has evolved so much – even at this point it was much bigger than when it opened; but look at all that has happened since this photo:
    • No more Omnimax (do you remember the Omnimax???), now it’s the Colosseum;
    • I don’t see the Forum Shops in this photo.
    • The Augustus and Octavius towers were both built after this photo.
  • The MGM Grand is not yet a reality. You can see the Marina Hotel in the top left of the photo, which was retained as part of the MGM Grand (the West Wing), and behind that is the old Tropicana golf course. How ironic that after 26 years of development, and a theme park (oh my gosh, we had a real-life theme park in Las Vegas!!), we are back to using that land for golf, in a slightly different form as TopGolf.
  • Look at the median of Las Vegas Boulevard – there were a lot less lanes and much more “stuff” in the median.
  • On the far left you can see the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts, now the AXIS at Planet Hollywood.
  • Farther south, no Luxor or Mandalay Bay yet.
  • Something is getting built near Harrah’s and the Imperial Palace (now Linq), I’m not sure what it is.

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch, but what a great way to realize how much Las Vegas has grown and adapted over time.


fun, personal, travel

Strip photo from 1991 – what do you see?

strip 1991I recently saw this photo on twitter, thanks to the amazing twitter account of @classiclasvegas. If you haven’t seen it, you should follow it on twitter. Especially if you’ve been in Las Vegas for any length of time. Always showing old photos of Strip resorts, does trivia, just a really great twitter account.

The photo is an aerial shot of the Strip, largely the west side of the Strip, from just north of The Mirage. Of course, the Mirage had just opened a couple of years earlier.

My challenge to you – find/list/share the things you find of interest in this photo. There are many obvious ones and some not so obvious. I’ll get you started with some easy ones:

  • There is a golf course where Bellagio, CityCenter, Monte Carlo and T-Mobile Arena are now. That’s the old Dunes golf course.
  • In the very bottom of the photo, there is just a parking lot for The Mirage, where TI (Treasure Island) stands now. I remember parking in that vast lot (which extended past the photo all the way to Spring Mountain Road).

What else do you see? There is so much more!!