Sunday, June 2, 2013

Jumpman, Lady, and a 'Stupid' Ape

Thirty-two years ago today a $100,000 bet was about to pay off in a big way.  Jumpman - a short animated carpenter in red overalls and a blue shirt (later know as "Mario") - began rescuing blonde, twice-his-size Lady who had been abducted by Jumpman's mistreated ape.  Donkey Kong, one of the most prolifically distributed video games in standalone console history, would consume over 720 million quarters in the following twelve months and secure a spot for Nintendo in gaming history.  This game featuring an animal-abusing laborer rescuing a damsel in distress was introduced in bars in the U.S. and did a brisk business among the partially intoxicated.  Three hundred twenty one years ago a more sinister real-life tragedy was playing out on this same day.  Outspoken and provocative bar owner Bridget Bishop was put on trial for witchcraft and ten days later murdered in the name of morality.  Her male accusers offered as "proof" of her sorcery their dreams of her sensuality and seduction.

I have frequently bypassed insensitive and boorish remarks made by celebrated egos.  Many of them (usually made by white men) are merely inevitable cracks in the social veneer that glosses over character flaws ignored by the public due to the compulsive fawning over monetary celebrity.  Returning to Charlottesville after traveling for two weeks I was intrigued by the on-going critique of Paul Tudor Jones' derogatory remarks about women's capacity to be successful traders.  In an attempt to exhibit sensitivity befitting the court in 17th century Massachusetts, his remark, "As soon as that baby's lips touched that girl's bosom, forget it," was the reason why I elected to enter the conversation.  Jones' apology for his comments are empty.  The University of Virginia's neglect for sanctioning the blight that his contempt for women fosters is worse.  The fact that donor status suspends moral rectitude is beyond the pale.

However, my response to Mr. Jones' remarks did not land in the Politically Correct camp either.  In our present cultural milieu, our collective capacity to find offense is at epidemic levels.  What's in considerable lack is narratives that present a constructive and alternative perspective.  So on this June 2, 2013, I thought I'd offer you a story that I'd love to see spread as far and as wide as the remarks of a insensitive billionaire.

Twenty seven years ago, a few years after Donkey Kong was placed beside Pac-Man in the lounge at Goshen College in Northern Indiana, I met an interesting young woman who would later become my wife.  A nurse by both training and destiny, this amazing woman would go on to become one of the most celebrated critical care nurses in the three hospitals where she worked.  From the precision hands assisting under glaring lights of the operating theater to the gentle hand holding countless departing souls ending their journey of life, provocative, powerful Colleen mastered the art of care for those who illness and injury placed in her path.  And far from Paul Tudor Jones' mistaken illusion, it was two babies and their lips that brought her professional endeavor into the world of business, commerce and trading.  

For nearly two decades, Colleen evidenced the exceptional worth of matching her matriarchal care - without which countless would not have office, paycheck or provisioning - with her business acumen making her more valuable a member of our executive team than any of her male counterparts.  More valuable, you ask?  Yes.  It turns out that the contempt for women and mothers that blinds Mr. Jones is why he fails to see that the exact same impulse enables instinctive discernment.  Sure, men may be more reckless and, as a result, more frequently the improbable "winners" (like Jones) but it's been Colleen's discernment that has kept an organization provisioned for 17 years against all odds.

Why does this gender-thing matter?  Well, from my experience, I'd like to share a few observations.  First, I don't recall the last time I had to explain the importance of accountable stewardship to a mother in the market.  And, while Jones may ignore the importance of that, his investor limited partners should take careful notice.  Colleen has always known that she must trade using other peoples' resources.  She knows this and treats resources with great care - stretching funds further than anyone I know.  Second, she's not concerned with short-term scorecards.  Where men in business frequently find themselves engaged in comparison to their perceived peers and superiors, I've seen mothers far more likely to see the merits of the longer view.  Finally, and this one's a bit more tricky, I've seen mothers evidencing the capacity to prioritize the immediate needs of others over their own.  Now, while this can be destructive if imbalanced and overdone, I've never seen men intuitively sense the need to support colleagues with the same acumen evidenced by mothers.

Sure, there are life priorities that pull mothers into the lives of their children.  It would be improper to suggest that I've always seen Colleen's maternal inclination for the merits that it evidenced.  But there's no question that our capacity to conduct business including our capacity to engage in the high-friction fracas that is the capital markets is benefitted by both baby and bosom.  

Nintendo, Salem Puritans, and Paul Tudor Jones all share a narrative of a world where inadequate men feel the need to find their identity in demeaning, objectifying and dismissing the essence of the maternal feminine.  That world of Jumpmen and "Stupid Apes" (the awkward Miyamoto translation that led to the name Donkey Kong) is devoid of the recognition of the value of discernment, stewardship, and collective care.  Rather than ganging up on Mr. Jones, it's far more appropriate to actually take the same social impulse to judge and use it as a reminder to celebrate those women and mothers who have, indeed, given all of us a pathway towards a More Perfect Union.  Thanks Colleen!


  1. Bravo Colleen, and Bravo to those women in the world that continue to brave each day intuiting the full measure of their worth, even while it is disdained. And to the men that acknowledge that we need both the masculine and the feminine, and that life, work, business and enterprise are made better for both.

  2. A lovely tribute to a MOST deserving Lady!
    Love, Mom


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave