On Friday my father successfully came through open heart surgery. I flew from LA to South Florida Friday night, saw him on Saturday, and am flying back to LA Sunday morning. With the biggest worry my family has faced in years now in the rear view mirror (Much thanks God…again), my attention focuses to the Finale of “The Apprentice.”
It is time for Mr. Trump to fire 3 more people, and tell the last remaining applicant “You’re Hired.”
While Mr. Trump has always been a controversial public figure, I admit that I simply like the man.
I met Donald Trump in the 1990s. He was in Los Angeles promoting his book “The Art of the Comeback.” He was back from the financial trouble he encountered in the early 1990s, and he was back on top. On the back of his book cover he blames himself for his near total fall. He states that he stopped working hard, and that everything came easy, and he took it for granted. He says with much candor that if he had maintained the same work ethic in the 1990s as he did in the 1970s and 1980s, there would have been no recession for him. Far from being the egomaniac some wish to portray him as, he was quite self critical.
As for his book signing, while he was a celebrity in New York, this was not the case in Los Angeles. He was not a movie or television star. He was just a guy who we knew was famous in New York for something involving business. The line to see him was only about 30 people, and the rain might have played a role. When it came time for him to autograph my book, I took out an 8 by 11 piece of paper and wrote, “Dear Mr. Trump. In return, here is my autograph. I am sure you will find it valuable. Cherish it always. Sincerely, Eric.” He laughed and looked at his press secretary with a perplexed look and said “Fair is fair, he gave me HIS autograph.” He asked me to watch him on Leno, but I explained to him that as a New Yorker, he should be on Letterman. I actually had Trump on the defensive. He asked me this once to watch Leno, and I said I would this once, but next time it should be Letterman. My friend reminded me not to hassle the poor billionaire. This conversation could not take place today. Trump is a television star, and 3-5 minutes is a lifetime.
Despite this exchange, my admiration for Trump is that he has spent his life building. Not just buildings, but people. As talented a dealmaker as he is, he is not an island. He has talented people around him, and he has selected most of them. The Apprentice is not “Fear Factor.” He does not humiliate or degrade his applicants. He pushes them hard. Some of them crack, and some rise to the challenge. He simply wants top talent.
Some people do not like Donald Trump, and their reasons are flimsy. When gossip columnist (Only in America could that be an actual job. Jewish people call gossip “Loshon Hara,” which is a sin) Liz Smith noted his pending divorce from Ivana Trump, she coldly stated “He is rich. He’ll get over it.” The man is a human being. He feels pain like anyone else. He has had close people he cared about die tragically and well before their time. He has had two divorces, and it is a painful process for anyone. His oldest children have turned out remarkably well, and he absolutely has to be given some of the credit for that.
Rosie “Queen of Morona” O’Donnell lambasted him for giving a Miss America winner with a drug problem a second chance. His motives were attacked, as if he did it just for publicity. Folks, Donald Trump has publicity when he walks out of his apartment. Besides, even if that argument were given credence, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still doing the right thing. Trump did something positive. Unlike many moguls who shove people under buses, he showed a forgiving nature. He has carried this attitude onto the Apprentice. When a contestant has had several victories, and then has a bad loss, they often survive. Trump looks at the big picture, and one loss does not make one a loser.
Trump also has a diversified group of winners, and not due to any forced quota program. Randall Pinkett did not win because he is black. He won because he was one of the most impressive individuals on Earth. The guy has 5 degrees, is a self made multimillionaire, and was so far above the other 17 candidates that I regret not putting my money where my predictive mouth was. He cleaned their clocks, as expected. Kendra’s being a woman did not get her the job. Her being smart and sharp did. Trump likes degrees, but he has given street smarts their due as well. In short, if you can show you are top talent, Trump will give you a chance.
Another reason to like him is that when someone gives him an argument that makes sense, he will back down. When he questioned one finalist why she dropped out of college (he does not like quitters), the woman responded that she dropped out to get married and raise a family, and she was raising four wonderful children. Trump immediately withdrew his objection, and said that her reason was a fine answer. When he told one young contestant that he hated tobacco (the kid was caught chewing in front of youngsters), the contestant promised to quit on the spot, and have people monitor him. Trump was very impressed that someone would be that bold. While he noted that this would be very difficult, the young man did not back down. Trump likes discipline, and this was an act of discipline. That week the young man was spared.
As we get down to the final four, I will make my prediction. Nicole is adorable, and if she has a Jewish twin sister I would marry that woman. However, she is quick to show her vulnerability, and might be too fragile for the job…perhaps. If I was wife hunting (actually, I am), Nicole would be a fabulous choice…but this is a job that requires a certain fight…I am not sure she has it. James is a nice guy, has great energy, but might be bouncing off the walls. I wonder if he is too independent to be part of such a structured organization. He has few weaknesses, and could win. The other woman is smart and competent, but she is so non-descript that I cannot recall her name. She has been flying under the radar. She has made no enemies, and no major mistakes. However, I am not sure she has stepped up when necessary either. She is qualified, but is not “the best of the best.”
Let’s face it. None of these candidates are Randall, but then again, not many people are. He is in another stratosphere. However, the goal is not to be the best ever…just the best this season. I am for this reason rooting for Frank. I am a Brooklyn guy, Frank is a Bronx guy. It is the same thing. Like Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny,” Frank is a fighter in the boardroom. He was almost fired in the first episode, and lucked out that Martin was his opponent. He outdueled Heidi (who very well could have been the best of the bunch). Heidi seemed to be made of Teflon, but Frank simply would not give an inch. Trump may love book smarts, but he clearly admires Frank’s street smarts. Albert Einstein was a genius, but the kid on the corner playing “3 Card Monty” is the kid I want to hire. Everyone knows it’s a crooked game, and they play anyway. That is salesmanship. Frank is rough, unpolished…and tough enough for the job. He should win in a tough fight.
Many of my friends have asked me why I do not try to become the next Apprentice. I explain to them that while I have a deep admiration for Mr. Trump, I have no passion for real estate. My passion is the stockbrokerage industry. Trump is not hiring someone to run one of his securities portfolios. He is hiring someone to build real estate projects. I have no knowledge or interest in that field. Also, I detest golf. I do not have the patience for it. I play miniature golf, where the toughest part is getting the ball through the windmill.
Lastly, working for Mr. Trump takes a certain desire that I might not possess. Randall’s grandmother died, and Trump was incredibly classy in flying him to the funeral and back in time for the next task. Randall could have quit, and no one would have criticized him. As I said earlier, my father just had open heart surgery, and the only reason I am attending the taping of the finale is because my father is absolutely ok. Mr. Trump has had much financial success, but at the heavy price of two divorces. I am not assigning blame, but to balance such an intense work schedule with a healthy family life is very difficult, and even a talented man like Donald Trump could not balance it all. Business won out. I do not have his finances, but I have had the same friends my whole life, and can see them whenever I want. My weekends are free to watch the ballgame. My boss does not have me on call 24/7. I do not have to wake up at 4am for business meetings. Good nights of sleep truly are priceless.
Having said all of that, Mr. Trump is what America is all about. By motivating top talent to reach their already incredible potential, he helps himself, his company, and the individuals he hires. Even those who do not win are not losers. He reminds them that they are the top 18 out of one million, and most of them go on to bigger fortunes just by competing on the show. It is one thing to make yourself successful. It is another to bring success to others. In Judaism, the greatest level of charity is helping someone else help themselves, aka teaching them to fish. Learning business from Mr. Trump is a top rate Apprenticeship, whether done on his show or at one of his companies far away from the spotlight.
People who meet him are better off. I look forward to meeting him again, and this time I promise to be less sarcastic. I wish him much success, because he brings success to many others. If he offers me a job, I will be gracious. If he asks me to play golf, I will be polite and steer him towards miniature. The bottom line is my liking of him is not because of his power. It is because he comes across to me as a genuinely nice, smart guy who does a lot of good for a lot of people, including himself.
I wish him well, and if he has as much power as everyone thinks, he will introduce me to Nicole so I can convert her to Judaism and give her dad some burnt offerings for her hand. My lord she is adorable.