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? 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Water Torture & Adapting to Change

What is valuable?

Does value change?

Should one adapt to a changing value?

These are all great questions for personal and professional introspection. Without consideration a stakeholder of a value may actual become obsolete as the value changes. Thus the story of the changing market in businesses and the work force. The lack of content and leadership regarding adaptability and change management is unfortunate.

Value is ever changing, adapting to change and value variation is more important than subject matter expertise in today’s world.

The shower in our master bathroom had become like some cruel torture device as of late. No matter what direction you turn the handle the water comes out scalding hot. A quick internet search and read through several forums answered some of the questions I had. The shower faucet cartridge was busted, which controls the mixing of hot and cold water. Simple enough directions were to remove this cartridge and replace it with a new one to end the water torture we had endured for a couple nights.

While attempting to remove this cartridge with my needle nose plyers and because I’m a man (read foolish), when it was getting difficult to remove, I pulled harder, which broke off the only piece I could grab to withdraw this cartridge. I’m not a plumber nor have the skillset to be creative enough to know where to start in this situation so I call Roto Rooter.

The nice gentleman from Roto Rooter arrives while I’m at work and my wife is at home. He is asking Dana a bunch of questions that she doesn’t know the answer to so she calls me and puts him on the phone. $492 was his quote to fix the issue.

The faucet was older so a model number could not be located. The part I thought would fit from Home Depot did not fit. I was at a crossroads. Continue being tortured, give up hopes of ever having a decent shower in my master bathroom again, or pay up. Like a capped crusader, the internet and the advancement of our society intervened and I chose neither of the three options.

After laughing at Mr. Roto Rooter for quoting me an absurd quote I decided to do some more internet searching.

I did end up having to pay $125 to have him remove the part that I had broken. I was able to find a specialty part plumbing store close to my house who were super helpful and helped me track down the actual part that the Roto Rooter guy was going to charge me $100 just to go find. The part was $12.77. It took a total of 30 minutes to drive to get the part, drive back home, and install it. My shower now works like normal and I’m no longer being tortured.

Where is the lesson in all this? I think my children will think it is crazy when I tell them stories of how we used to call out specialists to come to our house to fix things. They will probably ask, “Why didn’t you just look it up on Google?” To their point, the internet has made global knowledge easily accessible that anyone can search for anything and get those answers.  I often wonder how small stores stay open when you can order things off the internet and now even get them delivered within 2 hours of the time you place the order. How does a plumbing company continue to bring in revenue when the supplies are available, the step by step directions are available, and even renting the specialty tools can happen? What happens to an industry or company or person when what they relied upon to define their value is no longer unattainable to the general public? Typewriters are no longer a thing because we have personal computers.

Change is the only constant. If this statement is true, why would businesses and schools not train their employees and students on managing change or adapting to change more so than any specialty trade? Knowledge is no longer exclusive. Outside of proprietary information or data that is protected with a security clearance, the general public all has the same access to knowledge. The internet and globalization has flattened the earth and made it small. The global marketplace is the new marketplace.

How do you value yourself or your work product? What sets you apart in a way that supports your salary or position? Value is ever changing, adapting to change and value variation is more important than subject matter expertise in today’s world. You can lose a lot of money not adapting to change. $492 used to be a sure thing for a company like Roto Rooter, but they only got me for $125. Think about all the small transactions like this and how quickly that adds up. It’s scary to think about relying on anything that can deflate in value that quickly. So, I ask again…

What is valuable?

Does value change?

Should one adapt to a changing value?


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Defining Trauma

I want to get back to normal.

A phrase often used when returning from a vacation or joyfully saying goodbye to the relatives that stayed a little too long.

There was a disruption of your normal that will now disappear, allowing normal to return.

If normal is a small pond, disruptions may be a rocks skipping across the water’s surface causing ripples and slight variances in the otherwise glass-like surface. Eventually, the ripples calm down and the water returns to its prior state.

One state experiences a disruption that only temporarily changes its state, meaning a return to that prior state is inevitable.

I want to get back to normal.

What happens when this phrase is foreign and no longer applicable?

What happens when that rock skipping across the small pond doesn’t just cause ripples that will eventually calm down, but changes the entire chemistry of the water?

What happens when your normal is changed for good and there is no way to return to anything you are familiar with?

How does one change the mindset from returning to a particular state to identifying themselves in a total new reality?

The most difficult part about trauma is the lack of any familiarity. The most difficult part of trauma is the removal of anything comfortable or known, an introduction to a new state that you’ve never experienced before.

I cannot even say you have to rebuild your identity. A simple morphological exercise would show that the use of rebuild would be incorrect. The prefix “re” means back or again. Merriam-Webster defines again as returning to a previous position. To rebuild something would be to return to a particular state. You cannot even rebuild after trauma.

Trauma is like growing up in Kansas your entire life, knowing everyone, and everything, then being hit over the head and waking up on Bear Island in Norway with no explanation (Bear Island is recognized as one of the top 10 most remote islands in the world).

You are forced to learn everything from scratch. You need to learn a new language, how to relate to people, how to live in a new climate, what clothes to wear, learn the local trade to make money, but then you have to learn how this currency operates, etc.


Unlike any compelling movie where the main character does all this work to get themselves up off the floor and learn all these new things so that they can return home, trauma burns home down, trauma changes the chemistry of the pond, trauma changes you forever and rids the reality of any return to normal and requires you define a new reality. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Factories, Donuts, & Labor Day

My company is doing a weight loss challenge to promote health through November. Ironically enough, this announcement was made in a meeting that is celebrated by bringing in donuts.

Is weight loss healthy? Yes. Maybe. While the initial intent of the idea is great I think it misses the point a little. The better focus would be body fat percentage. Is it better to lose 30 pounds or 10% body fat? There are tons of variables that make answering this question more complex than a simple challenge.

We also celebrated the fact that we all have Monday off due to Labor Day in this meeting. Labor day and this weight loss challenge collide in terms of ideology in a way that I think we can learn from individually.

What is Labor Day? According to the USDepartment of Labor; Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

A member of our Talent team made the statement this morning that it is a celebration of the normal 8-hour work day. What is “normal” and why are those hours chosen?  Is the logic that led to these normal hours even applicable to our culture now?

These normal working hours are referred to as the Eight-Hour Day Movement.  It started because working conditions were unregulated in Britain during the Industrial Revolution when large factories were booming.  It was a mechanism to limit abuse of laborers and children from working 10-16 hours a day.  The International Workingmen’s Association took up the demand for an eight-hour day at its convention in Geneva in August 1866, declaring The legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvements and emancipation of the working class must prove abortive, and The Congress proposes eight hours as the legal limit of the working day.  1866 is where this all started.  When this eight-hour day movement was being initiated it was to protect workers from being over worked in factories because they were production-based jobs.  You could spend endless hours on an assembly line or in a factor, so it makes perfect sense that this was a logical and humane course of action.  We don’t have many factory jobs anymore, we have moved on from the industrial stage and working looks a lot different today than it did even 20 years ago, especially different from 1866, 151 years ago.  Is it not a bit odd that we still use a system suited from a 151-year-old culture?  I’m about progress and don’t think much can be made without challenging or at least intellectually considering current systems. 

So what? Just poking holes in things like donuts, weight loss programs, and definitions of celebrations doesn’t do anyone any good does it? Instead of focusing on things that are only good in a vacuum, void of any context, let’s evolve and consider contextualized reality. Weight loss is good where and when needed, however, sometimes gaining weight can be better than weight loss. Sometimes no weight change at all is great if your body fat percentage changes. Is an 8-hour work day good? In the context of reducing abuse of hourly workers, yes. Is an 8-hour work day good for someone less industrial and more intellectual or analytical in capacity? I’m unsure of an affirmative answer here. We should celebrate working hard, but just putting in 8-hour days doesn’t mean one is effective. If efficiency more important than a simple chronological measure of an individual sitting at a desk?

When working an eight-hour work day, how effective is the work force? There are all sorts of statistics out there that measure how much time is wasted by the average worker in an 8-hour day. However, rather than looking at usage I believe it is more important to look at effectiveness and efficiency. How effective or efficient are you at what you do. Let’s not just simply lose weight or work an 8-hour day, let’s be more effective and lose body fat percentage and use our time efficiently for our companies.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Manager

In speaking with many people unhappy at companies I've seen a trend in what has been misinterpreted and perverted as management.  Manager is a term that has been confused with the role of a leader which has causes and causes daily destructive consequences.  In the most practical sense of the word a manager within a company/business context is a supervisor or one in charge of a team.  Whatever that team's job maybe it is the managers job to oversee their success, etc.  What is a manager?  What should a manager be?  What should a manager do?  These are all valid questions, questions that many that are being managed ask, which causes a rift in the culture and tearing of the fabric of a company.  Morale is negatively impacted when these questions are unaddressed or dismissed as insubordinate.  Although the questions are not asked directly you can feel their presence just below the surface of circumstantial dilemmas.  What a manager is defined as and thus what their role and area of expertise is determines the success of a team and ultimately company or business.  

Where are we?  Let's first discuss the context that many of us find ourselves within concerning managers.  Most work for stable companies where managers are promoted from within based on their expertise and experience of that area or subject matter.  But what is it that a manager should be an expert at?  Is it the subject matter itself that a manager is concerned with or is it the people?  If person A is an expert on subject X, is it necessary to be an expert of X to be a manager?  The answer to that question is what separates companies and departments employees thrive in and enjoy from those who promote mediocrity and low morale.  My prescription to this query is absolutely not.  No, a manager doesn't need to be the expert in a certain subject matter in order to be an effective manager.  Managers are simply supposed to be individuals who are skilled at motivating and coaching people.  If that is the definition we use in terms of what a manager should be then it is unnecessary to posses expertise in any area outside of people skills.  

Companies/businesses that select managers based upon their expertise in a subject matter or experience and time with that company fail to realize that just because someone has done something successfully for 30 years does not mean they would make a good manager.  Many talented basketball players would make horrible coaches and there are coaches that are horrible at actually playing the game.  The general premise is pretty simple, managers are supposed to be people oriented, skilled at motivating and serving others as a means of accomplishing a task.  If Jane make widgets really well and Jane is promoted to manager because of that, is it because she makes widgets well or is actually good at managing people? This question should be asked and is necessary to consider.  The assumption that Jane will be a good manager because she has exceeded company standards in widget making and done so for consecutive years is a very flawed and dangerous one.  

Business needs managers, not experts in subject matter that cannot manage people.  Expertise in subject matter outside of people skills for a manager is nothing more than extras.  I'd rather have a manager skilled in people management than skilled at the job in which the people they manage perform.  If companies and businesses thought more so this way we'd see more productive and effective work being done.  What are your thoughts?