Tuesday, July 30, 2019

No Jokes in The Harold


I’m listening to a new book. Yes, that reads as odd and uncomfortable as it was to write. I listen to books these days, I guess. I commute daily for work and always want to learn so I listen to podcasts and most recently discovered Audible and listening to books. I’m currently listening to Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. The entire book is about cultures of successful companies or groups of people. I was fascinated to learn about an improv group called the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) which has produced many well-known and successful actors and comedians. A structure used to train and teach within the context of comedy improv groups was developed by Del Close and given the fancy name of The Harold. It's a fascinating group and teaching ideology and/or structure.

There are 11 rules Close developed to guide The Harold:

1.      You are all supporting actors
2.      Always check your impulses
3.      Never enter a scene unless you are needed
4.      Save your fellow actor, don’t worry about the piece
5.      Your prime responsibility is to support
6.      Work at the top of your brains at all times
7.      Never underestimate or condescend the audience
8.      No jokes
9.      Trust; trust your fellow actors to support you, trust them to come through if you lay something heavy on them, trust yourself
10.  Avoid judging what is going down, except in terms of if it needs help, what can best follow or how you can support it imaginatively if your support is needed
11.  Listen

All the rules are designed and intended to tamp down selfish instincts and to serve your fellow actor. I find it challenging to think of applying this set of rules to any group I’m involved in, whether at work or a group of friends or even a faith-based group AKA church. How is it we can apply these simple rules to our own environments to improve the culture which drives success? 


Monday, May 20, 2019

Conflict


Conflict Resolution
In order to evolve in any way one must be willing to listen and understand another’s perspective and the myriad of experiences that have constructed this perspective.  Then we can understand each other which will build bridges rather than walls, creating community and connectivity.

Conflict resolution; this is a term that sounds good, right?

We all want to resolve conflict in some form. Sure, there are some conflicts that cannot be resolved, but those are few and far between. The truth of the matter is conflict is an inevitable part of our culture and traditional learning institutions have not done great jobs at teaching conflict resolution.

Fast forward to the golden age of social media where everyone has a platform to speak, which in and of itself is a beautiful thing. However, the dark pattern of this platform is that differing opinions, experiences, and world views are constantly crashing into each other, creating conflicts. You could spend your entire day responding to people on threads and posts about hot topics and controversial subjects. Most people are braver and less careful with their words with the hedge of protection provided by technology and not having to actually face the people you are debating or arguing with.

Debate versus argue. Let’s set the records straight here. A debate is where 2 parties with different views offer opposing points to be considered by the other. The underlying idea is that there is some point to the back and forth. Arguing is just exchanging views without consideration. Arguing is what Facebook and other social media platforms are full of.

Intent is very important to everything we do. There is a reason to everything we think and do. Most conversations I have watched occur end with frustration or even anger due to ignoring the question that is essential to engaging in any conversation. What is the point here? What are my intentions in entering this conversation?

Unhealthy exchanges I see are driven by a desire of both parties to change each other with force. Party A says no to subject green while party B is an avid supporter of green but does not like purple, which happens to be party A’s jam. The conversation typically goes like this:

Party A: Purple is the best and here are my personal views which will pursued you to love purple as much as I do

Party B: Insert whatever positive monologue you want here about green.

The next step following the failure to convert someone to their side based on monologues is to destroy the other’s view by tearing it down or immediately defending their own position.

Harsh words are exchanged and eventually the conversation is over and the only thing that has been accomplished is both subjects have now doubled down on their perspectives.

Isn’t this a sad reality?

What if we rejected this and embraced a healthier strategy?

Instead of trying to convince anyone of anything, what if we tried to understand another person, which would most likely get them disarmed and wanting to understand us? What if we really embraced the idea of resolving conflict and gaining understanding rather than the combative and destructive exchanges we see on social media?

How would this slight change in intent and mindset impact our culture, careers, and socio-economic climate?

Friday, April 19, 2019

I Am A Feminist


I’ve become a feminist.

I’ve become a feminist and that is sad. Stick with me. It’s sad that I’m a feminist because realizing, acknowledging, and empathizing with a female is a noteworthy event.

I am a white male. I don’t like this statement and reality, but in our socioeconomic culture I am at the top of the food chain. I realize my white privilege and am not too proud to admit and acknowledge the wrongs in the history of such a thing.

My wife and I are trying to conceive. Not in a young and ignorant way of just pulling the goalie (this means discontinuing the use of contraceptives) and thinking conception will occur by simply not using protection. Ignorant is not a bash, but a proper use of the word. Miriam Webster defines ignorance as, “lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.” Most people are not aware of the complex nature of a woman’s body, much less the complex nature of what it takes to conceive and bring a live birth to the breathe a live here on earth.

I play basketball every Friday morning at 5am. Well, most Friday mornings, I do occasionally oversleep and miss it. My lower back was hurting that morning and was in constant pain. I had it in my head that if I was still in pain by that evening I was going to the ER. It was this constant nagging pain that would not go away. I was miserable and anyone within an earshot was very much aware of my discomfort.

I’ve learned about menstrual pain and endometriosis, more so than the average male. I’ve learned so much about conceiving a child and how much the female anatomy has to go through to create and carry life.

The most difficult part of this process for me physically has been masturbating into a cup and bringing it into the office to have analysis done on my semen. I’ve been to 3 appoints this week alone with my wife for a mid-cycle sonogram in order to measure the uterine lining and size of follicles before we know she will ovulate.  If you’re not familiar with a sonogram, it’s a stick put into the vagina for an ultrasound to see all the parts they need to see. 3 times this week the first thing she has done in her day is lay on a sterile table and have someone do this. Then you have the trigger shot injection she gives herself because I am too scared of giving it to her myself. She gives herself a shot so her body will be induce ovulation. If she does not get pregnant, until she reaches a certain age she will have menstrual pains each month for 4-7 days at a time, each month. To do some quick math, most females begin their period around 12 and average age of menopause is 51. 51 less 12 is 39 years. There are 12 months in a year. There are, on average, 30 days in a month. 468 months. Let’s be kind and say average menstrual cramping is only 5 days each month. I had that back pain that I considered going to the hospital for not even an entire day, but my wife will most likely have 2,340 of those days in her life.

Wow right? I play basketball pretty regularly. I played organized ball so I’m very well aware of when I am fouled or some other offense takes place. I’ve called foul before and been called a pussy. The implication of this is that a pussy is feminine and a female is weak. Can you go read the previous several paragraphs again?

Welcome back. Pussy is weak? What? Now, if you look at average pay of women versus men for the same positions and the women’s rights movement, doesn’t all this seem a bit unfair?

I’ve become a feminist and some think it’s great and admirable that I’ve become so aware of these things. That is what is sad to me. It’s like on a 1-10 scale the entire world operates at level 5 and we celebrate when we stop seeing people as 2s and 3s and bring them up to a 5. That isn’t something to celebrate, that should be a given. I think it’s sad we don’t learn more about the female anatomy and sex and child bearing. I think it’s sad I’m considered progressive for this post and many conservatives would view me as liberal right now when I’m literally just figuring out that women have it tougher than us males do.

I’m a feminist and I hope you become one too. I’m happy to discuss anything or answer any questions you may have. May you consider the reality of others and acknowledge the disparity between yourself and them. May you bridge that gap and be more compassionate towards others.
*Of note, my buddy and I now call people little penises when we want to insult them while playing basketball, which always gets a good stare of confusion.

Lost Heroes


Today I lost a hero…

Have you ever had one of those moments where something happens in front of you to someone else, but the underlying truth of the moment cuts your heart like a hot knife through butter?
That happened to me today and now I sit here and mourn a hero, or at least someone I revered as such.

I have a friend who has a family member struggling with infertility. In a casual way she said she would be willing to be a surrogate carrier for her. She said she would do anything for this person and giving her the gift of life, in spite of the complications and trouble it would bring into her own life, would, without any hesitation, do that for her. I hear and watch her anguish over wanting to be able to support her family member through the pain and struggle she imagines this person must be going through, even when and if she doesn’t understand it. You can see the love and concern for her family member and it’s inspiring, but in this moment, also heart breaking.

I had a hero once. Someone I could talk to about anything. Someone that I could be my true self around. Someone I looked up to and admired for their overcoming struggle and strife. I had a hero who I had to acknowledge in that moment would not and does not care for me that way. Maybe my hero never did. Maybe my hero was a capacity I had imagined because without it I would have crumbled under the pressure of life. This hero isn’t someone who even checks in on me.

My wife and I had to face a terrible & life changing decision to terminate a much wanted pregnancy due to medical complications. It was the most compassionate thing we could do, removing the pain and suffering from a life that would be over before it even had a chance to open his eyes. His name was James. It’s been almost 2 years since we said goodbye and even as I type his name my eyes fill with tears of anguish. James changed my life and taught me that reality isn’t always palatable.

My hero not once has checked in on me. Not once have they shown any concern. My hero came crashing down from the throne of expectations I had built them. Reality set in as I watched a family member truly care for another. I realized in that moment my hero was not a hero at all, but a person that did not stand up to those standards I had imagined. My hero was less than ordinary and someone that had not supported me and remains oblivious and apathetic to my pain. My hero is no hero at all. My hero is a memory that I laid to rest that day.

Although painful, trauma changes you, and sometimes for the better. This DOES NOT in any way justify or make sense of the trauma, but in a simple way, is simply a side effect of that trauma. That’s where I see god. Not a god that creates pain in order to fit some greater purpose. A god that in spite of trauma and pain can reveal beauty.

Although I lost my hero, I gained important perspective of reality and not allowing myself to believe something that is not supported in action. Action is the expression of the heart and soul. Without action there is no love.

I hope for someone reading this it can be a rallying cry of sorts to let go of false heroes and fabricated realities. May you give up any fictitious reality you’ve created to insulate yourself from pain and embrace actuality, even if it hurts. Painful reality is far better than a blissful ignorance. Free yourself from false heroes.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Equality


We are having the wrong conversation; equality doesn’t help anyone already behind, we need/want equity.
The rainbow was replaced by an arithmetic symbol for equals. Volatile arguments are had among social structures about having, or still desiring, equality. I’m hoping if you are reading this, you follow me because you have a general idea that I have strong opinions, but if you stick with me and read the entire thought, I’ll bring it all back around.
“I want equality,” screams the child without a toy. “You have it, stop whining and making a big deal about it,” exclaims the child with the same toy. This is a fractional analogy, but it works because society has treated the term equality as if the subject matter is a tangible product like a toy. The conversation is all wrong if you ask me.
A conservative white male former friend of mine tells me I have white guilt and that I’m ashamed to be a white man. Am I ashamed of my skin’s complexion? No. Am I painfully aware of the destruction white men have caused to the rest of our beautifully blended melting pot of a country? Yes, absolutely. His logic is fairly simple; Whining about wanting equality is stupid because the minorities have it. Are African American’s equal with white males? Is the LGBT community equal to a white male? To be clear the white male remains atop the social structure in terms of privilege and opportunity. I don’t love this statement or reality or even social structure, however, I am pragmatic enough to call a spade a spade. White males accidentally stumbled upon this country, colonized it, and then used others to remain in power for as long as they can be. This is history, this isn’t a political opinion. I’ll get back to this in a minute or two, because I need to address the discomfort white males feel in our current world.
A black male, woman, homosexual or transgender person can vote, has access to the same benefits* a white males does. The only asterisk I will place out there is the ridiculous legislation of some states that prohibits same sex marriage. From a simple-minded perspective, we are equal. A simple-minded person will stop the conversation there, but there are deep implications of this equality that must be explored.
I am an avid basketball fan and player. Although I’m not as athletic as I once was in college or even high school, I still play as often as my body allows me to. See that kids? Your body will tell you what to do when you get older, so enjoy it while you can. When I step into the gym and I see a game of 21 going on I will ask what the scores are before entering. This is a standard happening in gyms across the country. Why though? Why does the score matter? I have a threshold of 13 because I think I can still get in at 0 and surpass that player to get 21. Is it harder to earn 21 quicker than the player who already has 13? Absolutely, it is, I have to play harder just to catch up to the 13, and then we are equal. Why join a game when the high score is 19 and the next shot wins? The player with 19 and me, when I join, are equal, we both have access to the game and opportunity to score 21. Who would do this though? I applaud those who have the confidence to join, in basketball and life. 19 to zero isn’t equal is it?
I saw this powerful and simple video once. A teacher took all his kids outside and lined them up at the end of the field. If your parents are still married, take one step forward. That’s one of the statements he made. If you this, take one step forward. If you that, take another step forward. With each step those who answer yes move closer to the finish line at the other end of the field. Aren’t they all playing the same game? They are equal then, right? Isn’t even the most gifted athlete at a disadvantage if they are 100 yards behind a lesser athlete at the 290 yard line of a 300 yard race? They are equal, but one is automatically at a disadvantage. No one likes to be treated unfairly. Have you seen an angry white woman at a restaurant when she feels she has been treated unfairly? That stereotype is funny, but also shows the outrage people feel when they sense unfairness.
Equality isn’t what we are looking for. Equity is the good stuff that will and can make the world fresh again. Another illustration I have seen is three people who are each given a box. Every box is the same size, however, each person is a different height, i.e. person one is 7ft, person two is 5’10”, and person three is 4’11”. Each person is standing before a 6’ tall fence with their box. Equality is each person standing on their respective box. Equity is the 7-footer realizing he doesn’t need the box and handing it to the other smaller person to stand on so they can see what he sees over the fence. Equity is everyone not only having the same rights, but having those rights administered in the same way.
I don’t panic when a police car drives behind me. I have illegal tint and often speed. I’m held to the same laws a black male is. We are equal. However, we do not have equity. I know and anticipate being treated by a police officer in a certain way. A black male doesn’t and has not been treated the same. Obviously not all police officers are terrible, but unfortunately for them, the terrible ones reveal such a large and systemic problem that they overshadow everything else.
My wife and I went to this bar once because they had an advertisement in the local paper for a free drink when you check-in at their establishment. The whole ideology behind them having an advertisement promoting free stuff is to draw people in. People love free stuff! We decided to try it out as we are always looking to do and try new things and places. We walked in and there was a cloud of smoke that started at my wife’s hip. My wife is 5’2” so her hips are quite low if you can picture it. There are four guys in the bar who were obviously friends. Two were working at the bar and two were customers. My wife and I have the same right to service and drinks as they do, don’t we? We were uncomfortable because obviously this business was not interested in gaining new customers because they were so exclusive with their friends who were there. Although we are equal as customers in terms of being able to buy a drink, they had advantages that we did not, in terms of relationships and frequency of visits that gave them access to better service than we received.
I hope the picture is beginning to become clearer to you here. Equality isn’t what a minority wants or should even ask for. Stop saying you want something you already have. The truth is equality isn’t enough, equity is the right thing to give those at a disadvantage, whether it be socially, economically, or personally. Now, back to the discomfort a white male should feel in the current societal and political environment. Whenever someone in the lead begins to lose the lead or sees someone on their heels, it is very uncomfortable. No one wants to concede power or position. I don’t like being beat at games. I get uncomfortable when someone shows up and is more charismatic and social than I am. I want the spot light!
Here’s the thing though. Have you ever been in a spot light? It’s hot. It’s bright. It’s lonely. It’s awkward. The spotlight feels good, but it isn’t as great as we think it is. When we broaden that spotlight to light an entire room, we can see, we can see our peers, we can see our flaws, we can see those in need. Giving every individual the same thing isn’t admirable, it’s contextualizing the individual or minority and bringing them up to speed that is inspiring.
Equity is what we need and what we should protest for. Kneel for the anthem. Boycott businesses that don’t stand for what is right. Demand fairness. But do not ask for equality. Demand equity.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Jump the f#@k in!


“Can I be honest with you man?” Asks a friend of mine, to which I respond, “Of course.”  I appreciate honesty and genuine communication more than most.  I can take honest feedback and not be offended.  

I’ve discovered through a long journey and much personal searching that I am cut from a different cloth.  I am by nature and entrepreneur and leader.  There’s much debate about this, but I think it is something you are either born with or not. This has led me to great restlessness working in the corporate world for large corporations.  In my attempts to get out and put myself in a position where I can thrive and truly optimize upon my skillset and strengths I’ve met and befriended many other entrepreneurs.  In this particular conversation I was lamenting about how difficult it has been for me to find opportunities to really give myself that one shot.  Every person you speak to who is successful has one moment or opportunity that really spring boarded them and gave them the jump start they needed.  I understand that opportunity is inevitable, it will always come, however unless you are prepared for it you will not recognize or capitalize on it.  This process has been and continues to be about me preparing myself and waiting to pounce on that opportunity.  Within this conversation, along the lines of looking for future opportunities, and discussing an idea I have my friend tells me, “You just need to jump the f#@k in man!”  Before I continue, let me say I don’t question his good intention in saying this or his business savvy at all, it just made me think and therefore I’m writing.

Ultimately the tension I feel when considering this advice is that between responsible and irresponsible business actions, specifically entrepreneurial types.  He wrote an article about how our culture frowns upon failure and because everyone fears failing not many get out of their comfort zone enough to achieve their full potential.  I totally agree with this premise and think failure actually isn’t failure at all, but more learning opportunities*.  Let me explain that asterisk a bit.  Failure isn’t a bad thing when it is based upon responsible risk taking.  Responsibility and risk taking too often are considered acronyms; however, it is my prescription that they must go hand in hand if one is to achieve success.  An example I was given was Donald Trump.  He has filed bankruptcy 7 times and look how successful he is, I was told.  Hold on hold on, let’s rewind before we take this as solid counsel.  Personal and Business bankruptcy are very different.  Trump walked away from business bankruptcy, not personal, and has a ton of cash to blow and risk to lose.  Comparing apples to apples is fair, apples to pomegranate is not.  Don’t look to Trump as a blueprint, it worked for him, but most of us aren’t him, and thank God because that comb over is sick!

Risk is risk for a reason.  Risk is risk because you have a large chance at failing.  I look at it as a frozen lake.  The risk of jumping in is that you’ll die, so before you do so, if you choose to do so, have a plan, be responsible.  Just throwing caution to the wind and jumping in is irresponsibility, not fearless courageousness that a true entrepreneur has.  I think that’s the most difficult thing to balance here.  It’s a mighty thin line to walk being responsible yet willing to take risks, it’s a tricky dance.  So just jumping in and looking at failure as a chance to learn is well-intended, however, failure can be good or bad.  Failure because of lack of preparation is different from failure because of lack of experience or other external, uncontrollable variables that impact and ultimately drive the failure.  Don’t fail because you are irresponsible.  If you fail responsibly then you don’t fail, you learn, and grow.  Don’t just jump the f#@k in, consider everything and plan carefully, then walk that thin line until you have to jump, responsibly of course.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sammie J & PSL

Today’s Google Doodle is dedicated to honor Samuel Johnson, who wrote the most comprehensive dictionary in the 1750’s. Johnson spent 9 years working on the dictionary. 9 years! When is the last time you spent 9 years working on a single project?

In a society of distraction and shiny objects lack of focus and discipline are the cornerstones of the modern work force. We are a need-it-now culture. The internet is mostly to blame for this and while amazing in the expanse of knowledge that is readily available to anyone willing to type a subject matter into a search engine, it has also turned us into impatient people, dissatisfied with anything that doesn’t give us immediate pleasure.

Until the arrival of the good ol’ world wide web, the dictionary served as the knowledge bank for generations. The impact of the English dictionary and Johnson’s work is undeniable.

If you ask most CEOs or successful business persons what are their keys to success, hard work and never giving up always make the list. Hard work, dedication, and persistence is what allows hard work to surpass talent. The difference between a professional athlete who isn’t just a flash in the pan superstar, but has a long successful career and a uniquely athletic specimen is the amount of dedication and persistence put into their craft. I’ve met with millionaires and even one billionaire who told me they had no clue what they were doing until they were well into their 50’s.

The housing crisis had other factors than greedy banks and mortgage companies. They were allowed to lend too much to debtors because we want what our parent’s worked for 30 years to get now. Why save 20% down payment when someone will give you a mortgage and you can have that dream house now?

The unique theme and challenge of the current work force is a lack of persistence and patience. I struggle with this daily. When you stop and think about things that have changed our world, like the dictionary, it took time. Johnson worked on this for 9 years.

Take away the counter argument of advancements like the printing press and internet that would cause some length to any project or success and focus on the general idea of being determined and focused on a goal, and committing time to it. Wouldn’t it be great if we all just sat down our Pumpkin Spice Lattes, didn’t take our Adderall, stopped tweeting and snapping, and just focus, chose one thing to focus on and be successful at?


In a world where fast moving shiny objects reign supreme, it’s the infrequently visited or considered ideology of focus and determination that will help us change the world. What do you think?