Monday, December 10, 2012

Moderate

Moderate Christian, is this an oxymoron?  Let's put on our lab coats and dissect a little first. Unlike peeling open a frog in your ninth grade biology class this topic could get a bit messy because so much passion is involved, and I'll be the first to admit the passion is well-intentioned although sometimes misguided.  What do I mean by moderate Christianity? I suppose to define that I'll have to work inversely.  What I don't mean by moderate Christianity is extreme or radical faith, as the church has trending right now.  For a little background, i moved to Indianapolis and helped start a church and was steeped well into the ideology of ministry and church-planting.  Being extreme and radical was all I knew.  I had even gone as far once to lament to a friend at the time, "I used to think that Christians should be different because not everyone can be as on fire as me, but now I think you're not a Christian if you're not as on fire as me."  It is with great shame, guilt, and sadness I even admit that, however, all to show I was radical.  That statement in and of itself could lead me down an entire tirade alone, however I'll hold back for now.  Obviously I no longer feel the way I once felt, which is no indication upon my faith (which has been questioned by those I once frolicked in the radical mindset with), in fact, I'd argue that my faith is about as strong as ever at this point in life.  leaps and bounds away from where I started I now find myself as a 29 year old married man, living in Carmel, IN, wanting to do business as a living, and no longer obsessed with the radical.  In a religious culture that is high on being radical and extreme I'm desiring more than ever to move away from those ends of the spectrum.  It is in this place that I've found a vacuum concerning faith.  It is in this vacuum that I find myself and others being dismissed and dejected, all the while desiring the same thing as we used to, a way to practice our faith in a meaningful way.  Our values, as far as what the meaningful looks like, have changed, but the desire to love God and our neighbor hasn't.  In a world of extremes we yearn the middle, in a climate of liberal or conservative we seek moderate, black or white and we seek grey, rich or poor and we seek middle-class.  Moderate also is not synonymous with luke-warm as referenced in the bible (i'll touch on that shortly).  

My great idea for Bible College when I graduated was an extra class, required before graduation.  It'd be a class focused on transitioning well trained and educated men and women from a very spiritually focused atmosphere to the "normal" world.  We all begin bible college thinking we will get out and save the world for Jesus and do huge things for the kingdom, but the reality is most return to being accountants, repairmen, or other vocational duties outside of a structure religious organization.  Those who go on to be pastors, missionaries, or other ministry leaders are ready and do well, but what about those who need to take all that vast knowledge of Jesus, God, and the bible and balance a budget.  What about the guy who cleans toilets but has a degree from a theological seminary?  So my idea is a class focused on helping them see faith within non-ministry roles.  The first reaction most have when things don't go as planned with anything is doubt.  The danger with this concerning getting out of bible college is the doubt sets in about your faith, your sole.  That's a large issue to doubt, that's a heavy burden to carry.  When you're not praying, talking about Jesus specifically, feeding the "poor," or any other high recognizable religious activity, where does that faith reside?  

Many may call moderate faith, luke warm, in doing so reference a piece of scripture incorrectly.    They're specifically taking words out of Revelation (and for all you southerners, there is nor will there ever be an S at the end of Revelation, it's just one revelation, not plural, no s) 3:16, where it is said, "So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth(NIV)."  This ideology is not the same as moderate christianity, not the kind I am talking about.  This verse is talking to a church that is wishy washy back in the day and God is saying, basically, look you are either with me or against me, you can't be wishy washy.  That is much different from one desiring to have faith within the context of business and life outside of church or other outwardly religious institutions.  Now that that is out of the way we can move forward, progress into the practical faith that is more internal and casual than that of the radical extremes that flood popular religious thinking.  There is nothing wrong with those who are "radical" it is just illogical to think everyone must be so.  If that were so who would teach our kids, or pick up our trash, or clean the public bathroom you use at work?  I think that's the beauty of the body parts metaphor Paul uses in his letters.  We are all different parts which makes this whole thing, humanity, beautiful and functional.  So much effort and time is spent on radical that moderate seems to be lost in the shuffle.  What's that look like?  Have you had these thoughts?  Are you in this vacuum of a place?  I'd be interested to hear some feedback, looking forward to your thoughts.  

Creating and Waiting


"If you're not creating, you're waiting."
-Random Comedian

I forget the guys name and I apologize for not citing him correctly.  I was listening to a radio show one morning and this comedian says something incredibly insightful that applies across all arenas of life.  

"If you're not creating, you're waiting."

He said this in the context of his career in entertainment meaning that if you are not creating new content then you are just waiting for someone to call you for a gig.  The concept is pretty simple in that context, however, can be applied liberally to any arena of life.  It is my belief that we were created to create, as humans we are at our best when we are creating as it is at the core of our nature (that's an entirely large and separate topic to be discussed as well).  Creating can look different for everyone.  Creating can be art, music, poetry, writing, etc.  In a less traditional sense creating can also be in terms of opportunities, community connections, conversations, and other personal connections with others.  Another concept that can be discussed at length separately is that you have zero control over anything but yourself, meaning external variables are outside of your control so it is wasted energy and effort to believe and act otherwise.  the implication of this simple yet powerful statement is that if you are not creating you are depending on someone to contact you, meaning you are relying upon something you have zero control over.

What are you waiting for?  What is the outcome you desire?  This could be anything from love life to a job.  Once you can answer what it is you are looking for or looking to accomplish then you can move onto the next question.  What are you doing to create, in terms of this desired outcome?  If we can accept as a truth that if you are not creating then you are waiting, and waiting is on someone else, which you have no control over, wouldn't it be logical to create instead of wait?  

What are you creating, what are you working on?  Are you just waiting around?  I challenge everyone to push harder into their circumstances to see what they can create while they wait.  Waiting alone will get you no where, it is when we create that circumstances begin to change because it is something we have direct control over, ourselves.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pegs and Interviews


I know several people who are looking for jobs.  I’m not talking careers, just a job so they can get a paycheck.  In this economy having any job is a good thing and I think that there are times where you just have to have a job to support yourself, even if it’s not your dream job.  I respect the man/woman who provides for their family by working several jobs to get by, but I don’t think this is the perpetual state we should operate within if we, as a culture/society, are to move past mere existence and into living abundantly.  I’m not limiting abundance to fiscal plenty either.  Living abundantly is a finding what you are most naturally wired or made to do, focusing on your strengths and natural abilities, and ultimately reaching your full potential.  That is the abundance I’m speaking of.  When we live abundantly we fulfill life’s purpose and are fulfilled in return.  I think about this often as I speak to my friends looking for jobs specifically when we discuss interviews.  You can find a ridiculous amount of resources on the internet about interviews tricks and tips, suggestions for how to interview well, and ways to prepare yourself so that you dominate the interview.  There aren’t many resources that I’ve seen though that offers a different approach to interviewing. 

I call this approach the peg approach.  Again, I think that making it is admirable, but at some point we must seek to thrive and move beyond simply getting by.  We’ve all seen children play with the little peg toys.  Those little boxes with certain shaped holes cut out with complementary pegs that go in each.  These toys teach children cognitive skills along with fine-motor skills.  It teaches them how to reason at a very simple level.  “It helps them see whole-part relationships, increases their visual specialawareness, and depending on the subject matter can teach them a variety oftopics.”  I realize that it’d be quite odd to see a grown man or woman sitting in their office playing with this simple children’s toy, but maybe we ought to revisit the logic it teaches so early on. 

The stress involved in an interview is interesting and intense.  So much to worry about, will they like me, will I say the right things, what if, etc etc,  Nerves get the best of a lot of folks and they end up bombing an interview and ultimately failing to show the interviewer a true sense of who they are.  Because of that we walk away feeling regret and remorse and eventually insecurity sets in.  It’s kind of a nasty cycle all caused by a random meeting between 2 strangers.  Have we forgotten the whole-part relationships and special awareness we learned when it was still acceptable to pee our pants?  You can watch a child spend much effort trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.  They exhaust themselves until they learn the true shape of the peg and place it where it belongs.  It is a simple concept in terms of this toy for us now; however the application doesn’t seem to stick with us.  Preparation for an interview is essential and something to be applauded.  Knowing the company, what they stand for, what the job will entail, and how you can contribute are all very good things to know.  More important than all of this though is be aware of yourself, preparing yourself by identifying your shape.  Yes, I do realize there are several directions I could go here with corny acronyms, but I’ll save you the torture.  If we do not recognize our shape and correlating proverbial hole we fit in we will expend and waste a lot of effort.

My advice to prepare for that interview, to knock it out of the park, be yourself, focus on being confident in what you can offer, not what you imagine they want you to say.  Let’s put round pegs in round holes, it’s child splay really, isn’t it?  

Intangible Value


I’m a Food Network fan.  I enjoy cooking (eating especially) so naturally I enjoy watching television programs that revolve around food.  I've learned a great deal and been entertained by many programs.  Most notably, I have become a fan of Food Network Star.  I enjoyed the contestants, but more so was struck by an underlying psychology of business I saw in the mentors of each contestant.  If you’re not familiar with the show, the basic premise is 3 Food Network celebrities pick teams of chefs and through a season of challenges and such end up choosing the final person they think can be the next Food Network Star.  These groups of people are selected and split into teams, who are then mentored.  2 mentors/coaches interested me the most in how different their approaches were in tracking down the next star.  The difference in how they went about things ultimately interested me and kept me watching until there was a new Food Network Star crowned at the end of the season.

In the beginning of the show they were interviewing the mentors and asking what they were looking for as they picked their teams.  One coach said that he was looking for good cooks, as long as they could cook, he could teach them how to do television.  In stark contrast another coach said he was looking for big personalities first and that he could teach them how to cook.  This can be reduced to a simple paradox, experience versus potential.    One coach wanted experience and skill in cooking and thought he could teach them how to have a personality on television while the other looked more for the intangible (call it personality or potential) knowing he could teach a skill.  The ultimate difference in approach here is that there is some intangible, call it personality, potential, or an x-factor.  The question is, can this intangible be materialized or learned?  Is it better to go with a resume that is impressive and has all the experience and skills you desire while being possessed by a person that lacks an intangible or look for intangibles knowing that one can learn and most are teachable?  I suppose to answer that question one would need to decide on the philosophy of work they have.  One philosophy is the old hard-nosed work ethic that says work isn't supposed to be fun or fulfilling, but should just be done.  This philosophy produces mediocrity and discourages strengths and intuitive thought process.  The other philosophy is that we are each born with something we have natural abilities and skills to do, we possess a certain potential, and it is our role to find an avenue to express this in, when we find that work is fun and meaningful.  One philosophy promotes molding the subject to the process while the other promotes finding the process that best fits the subject.  Again, these are very different approaches and dictate how you behave.

I’m a potential philosophy guy.  I believe it is better to seek out to find intangibles you’d like in an employee over seeking the experience and hope to teach the intangibles.  I think personality and potential cannot be taught, I think they are natural rhythms which we operate within.  When we find the beat of our drum we thrive.  The truth of consumerism is that it is emotional more so than it is logical.  If a business can somehow appeal to a consumer’s emotions then they have a sell.  Truly, it’s all about how you make the consumer feel.  Logic is a great thing, but ultimately even super educational type marketing attempts in any business make the customer feel something, maybe that something is assured.  Emotions play a very high role in consumerism so it would make sense that you would want to make hires based on what they can offer or how they can complement the emotional connection to whatever product or service a company is selling.  You won’t hire an accountant to sell cars because although they may be the best on advising about value and financing they don’t have the personality to make an emotional connection to sell a product.  Naturally I have an emotional tie to this subject because I am experiencing the tension between experience and potential and the on-going struggle between their values.

So what’s your philosophy?  Do you value experience or potential/personality/intangibles more?  It doesn't always have to be either or, but we do have a bent left or right of the center.  I had a professor once say we are pendulum people, meaning we constantly swing from side to side in how we view the world and thus behave.  It is rare to see and experience total moderation; we are always swinging or leaning to one side or another.  What do you think the world would look like if we made decisions based more on the intangibles than experience?  I’m a fan of what our old friend Albert had to say though (check out the picture/quote above).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shut the Cluck Up!


People are running around like chickens with their heads cut off when it comes to well, chicken.  If you’ve been keeping up at all or even if you haven’t I’m sure you’ve heard about the CEO of Chick-Fil-A being asked a direct question in an interview and answering it regarding same-sex marriage.  Chick-Fil-A is a traditionally Christian owned and operated organization.  Ever wanted a juicy sandwich on a Sunday, well, if you’ve ever wondered why the parking lot and restaurant is empty it’s because of their religious belief that Sunday is “the Lord’s day.”  Again, the CEO was asked a question directly and responded with his own opinion.  Dan Cathy said he supports the traditional man-woman marriage.  The media has taken off with it and both sides of the aisle are turning a simple comment into an ugly political and religious storm.  As I watch the storm brew and see passion thrown around irresponsibility I can’t help but weigh in and tell people to relax or my clever play on words, shut the cluck up.

Today is Chick-Fil-A appreciation day and of course the media only talks to the yahoos from both extremes.  One man says he came out o support Chick-Fil-A because he believes what the Bible says while others, same-sex supporters plan a “kiss-in” at locations where they will put their same-sex relationships on public display (FoxNews).  Publicly elected officials who are sworn under the constitution are taking on the media saying they’ll ban the business from coming to their city or saying they should be banished from the city.  I’m just shaking my head here and trying to grasp why it has come to this, why are publicly elected officials admitting publicly they’d compromise their oath and break the law and have citizens put their private relationships on display?  What’s really going on here?  Can we be rational for a moment, before we allow our emotions to control us, which would be characterized as irresponsible and impulsive anyways? 
I’m not going to Chik-Fil-A today and it has nothing to do with who marries one another.  I’m not going because I’m not craving a chicken sandwich and typically don’t do fast food.  Let’s review what Dan Cathy did NOT say.  He didn’t say he hated gay people.  He didn’t say that they were not welcome in his establishments.  He didn’t say they should burn like his delightful crispy chicken sandwiches.  Dan Cathy did not say anything offensive out rightly.  Dan Cathy answered a direct question honestly.  Do you like blue or red.  I like blue.  Of course all the red supporters now want to paint everything red and seek a counsel to disband blue from being a color at all.  Reverend Greesball takes to the podium and declares empathically, “Crayola throw down your boxes and love your brothers and sisters, I say we must banish blue!”   You do see how ridiculous that’d be right?  Are we allowed to have opinions anymore folks?  Can we disagree?  Must we try to convert others to our beliefs?  Isn’t that what folks have had against Christians for so long anyways?  Those old school Christians who go around the world converting a minority to their majority opinion have been frowned upon.  Isn’t it hypocritical to look at the majority and be so offended that they do not hold to the same principles as the minority and seek to convert and manipulate until it happens that way?  This isn’t about chicken at all is it?  Let’s be honest, this is about world view and control.  This is about power, or the illusion of it.  Logically this is a simple story.  The CEO of a big corporation came out and said he supports traditional marriage, not same-sex marriage.  He doesn’t make any further implications and made no hateful comments, he simply said his opinion.  Because his opinion was on a hot topic all those extreme people on one side or the other took this opportunity to take to the streets and wave their banners for or against such an opinion.  Would we have cared if the question was Batman or Superman?  Would we see the streets and local businesses filled with capped men and women nationally?  If we take the emotions out of this and are left with logic and rationale alone, this is quite silly isn’t it?

While folks do have the purest intentions in doing these “kiss-ins” and touting your bible to your lunch table, I think all this passion is misplaced.  I wouldn’t want to see a straight couple in a public place kissing, keep that behind your doors at home.  I wouldn’t care if a Hindu came to eat because they like the color red in Chick-Fil-A’s branding.  You can have a stance on same-sex marriage and by the law are allowed to voice your opinion.  Isn’t that what is so great about our country?  We don’t have big brother shutting off our internet when we see or write something they don’t like.  The general idea is differences are celebrated rather than discouraged.  It is ok to disagree in America.  Or is it?  So everyone chill out and calm down, this really has gotten way out of hand.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tampa, Kicks, & Food Trucks


I was in Tampa, FL buying my niece a pair of sneakers.  I’m what they call a sneakerhead, so it brought great joy to my heart when I could provide my niece with some fresh kicks.  A stark contrast to the sense of frustration I felt after purchasing them.  Not because the girl that helped us ring up was rude or I had a bad experience in any way at the local shop, it was because I was in Florida, where I thought I could escape from the MidWest for a moment, specifically the universal stereotyping of a great city I love.  Again, I feel it necessary to reiterate that I was in Tampa, FL.  That is more than 1,000 miles away from here.  I handed the girl my ID as she requested, which was impressive, no one ever checks my ID anymore, which I find dangerous in today’s culture where plastic is king, not cash.  She comments on how nice it must be to be away from all those corn fields in Indiana to which I respond, “Well, I actually live in a cool arts district area just north of Indianapolis called Carmel.”  I could have told her I lived on Purple Space Monkey Mountain in the middle of Timbuktu and for all I knew she wouldn’t have known a difference.  I mean, we’re in Tampa, Fl, why would she know anything about Indiana?  “Oh, you live in Carmel?  Isn’t that where all the rich snobby people live?”   This is what this young lady in Florida hit me with when I mentioned Carmel, Carmel Indiana for god sake.  In moments like this I realize I have a pride for where I live and contempt for stereotypes. 

These feelings were recently stirred again by reading a post from Innovative Carmel.  They posed a couple questions regarding food trucks being allowed in our city.  1. Do food trucks play a role in Carmel’s future?  Why or why not?  2. Do you support regulations on food trucks wishing to do business in Carmel?  If so, explain what type of regulations you would support.

So what do sneakers, Tampa, and food trucks have to do with each other?  Well, you could throw out a bunch of things I suppose, but specifically I’m focusing on one thing and one thing only; a girl in Tampa Florida has a perception of Carmel, IN.  This inerrant stereotype of Carmel has crept its way into a bordering city, that’s understandable, but all the way to Florida is a bit shocking.  Now, I have learned that there is a new Carmel and an old Carmel mentality.  Old Carmel folks harshly disagree with new Carmel folks, and that’s fine, but sometimes it can turn uncivil, it’s my hope that such wouldn’t happen here, as it has on other Carmel forums in the past.  This is an obvious new Carmel mind giving his opinion on a trendy topic, feel free to disagree, but let’s have a discussion and not just cross our arms and choose sides here.  Carmel has an image problem, all can agree.  Folks who don’t live in Carmel all see it as multi-million dollar mansions sitting on beautiful lots in a sprawling  suburb of Indianapolis.  There is no culture in such a place, only rich folks who dislike the poor of Indy.  Seriously, this makes me want to beat my head against a wall, but I know that won’t solve anything, but giving the Carmel Fire Department more work to do.  The only way to fight stereotypes is with education and exposure.

I’ve lived downtown Indianapolis and while I was dating my now wife she lived in BroadRipple.  I’ve experienced what both have to offer and when the idea of moving North came into conversation I will admit I was the first to put the brakes on and spew out stereotypical logic for not moving to old snooty Carmel.  It was boring, I wasn’t ready for the suburbs, it had no culture, we weren’t rich, and on and on went my ignorance.  It wasn’t until we visited the Arts and Design District did I realize that it wasn’t anything like what the stereotypes had told me.  So we decided to try it out, living above the shops on Main St, curious to see what this little district would have to offer.  After a year in an apartment we were sold and bought a house within steps of the Monon and Arts & Design District.  I loved the reality of low property taxes, good school systems, and a progressive Mayor who wanted to put Carmel on the map.  We saw Bill Cosby at the Palladium and he says, “…you know they’ll be saying Indianapolis is that city close to Carmel soon.”  Agreed sir, agreed!  Look folks, I had to be exposed to Carmel to buy into the District and what Carmel offers. 

Food trucks are a national trend.  Food Network has a show based solely on this idea of mobile food.  It truly is a nationwide trend right now and Carmel is missing out.  Should this be part of our future?  Absolutely.  But I don’t want a food truck that doesn’t pay taxes in Carmel making money here and pulling business away from our local businesses.  This is the retort of some in Carmel and I can see that perspective, but only through a hazy and short-sighted view.  Should a food truck plop down in front a business that would be a competitor?  No way, I get that, and that is where the regulations would come in.  Don’t allow a food truck to part within so many feet, yards, meters, or whatever kind of measurement you can contrive in order to end the conversation of local businesses that do pay taxes getting business taken away from them by non-tax-paying businesses.  Other than that let the food trucks roll in as they will bring with them a large audience.  I know people who have Twitter accounts only to follow food trucks.  People follow them.  I leave Carmel all the time to track down my favorite food trucks.  The same would be true of folks surrounding Carmel, they’d leave their respective places to come here, if that’s where the food trucks were.  The food trucks would bring a whole new audience into Carmel who would then see and be perplexed by all of what Carmel, specifically the Arts & Design District and the City Center/Palladium have to offer.  If we can peak some interest and get some to return and explore we win.  Think of the exposure, for free, Carmel would get.  Once others were exposed to and experience what I already know and love I have no doubts Carmel could see some new business and growth. 

Come on Carmel, let down your guards and let in the food trucks.  Not only will we experience unique culture and foods, those who follow the food trucks here will get the unique experience of what we have to offer in Carmel, and trust me, it is more than a stereotype limits us to.  

Abstraction

Howard Gardner, in his book Extraordinary Minds, concluded that exceptional individuals have, “A special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses (Dweck,Mindset).”

There is a stark contrast between awareness and arrogance.  Arrogance is taking the perspective that your strengths make you better than others.  Being keenly aware of your strengths can make you exceptional and possibly mad.  This is my take on Gardner’s now famous prescription in Extraordinary Minds.  Can and the possibility of madness are where I find myself existing at times unfortunately.  Dr. Andy Brothers introduced me to the concept Abstraction (of qualities) recently.  His introduction to such a concept was said in passing, but intrigued me enough to consider it beyond a simple concept.  The general concept is characterized by an individual only focusing on, almost obsessing over, the smallest variable in an experience so much that the majority becomes meaningless and intangible.  An example would be the student who received a B on a paper in comparison to the rest of his class and obsesses only on the fact that it is not an A.  They give no credence to the fact that a B is actually an accomplishment and although obviously some errors were made that stopped them from achieving perfection it is still an accomplishment to be proud of.  Another example would be a person who finds a way to disarm any compliments and only focus on his areas of weakness.  This can also be seen in those who only see the bad, only see the negative, and only see areas of discrepancy.  

Again the general idea is that this person is aware of weaknesses, but cannot bring themselves to see the strengths.  The thought and condition that plagues me is how can we move past abstraction into exceptional or becoming extraordinary?  Exceptional individuals with extraordinary minds have the capacity and potential to been aware of weaknesses and strengths.  Only when an individual is able to identify their strengths equally as much as their weakness can they realize their potential.  Our culture is, and unfortunately so, based on weakness focusing or as I like to call it mediocrity.  Most employers have measurements and reviews for employees that focus on areas where they can improve only; giving little focus to the individual unique strengths they may exhibit.  We have been taught that fitting a mold and doing many things average is the goal.  I suppose this is fine in an industrial age where continuity on simple production is required, however, we have moved far beyond that age, but cannot escape its logic.  The industrial age logic still has us working 8-5 hours, it still has performance reviews that focus solely on areas where a person can improve, and still have companies that actually discourage individuality.  These shackles of past logic must be shaken in order to free us to become extraordinary.

In order to become extraordinary and exceptional individuals we need to reject mediocrity and understand that while improvement in areas is always a good thing, focusing on strengths first is more optimal.  It is acceptable to be aware and identify your own strengths.  It is actually key to change your frame of mind in a way that discovering what your strengths are becomes most important.  Once you can identify your strengths you can become aware of how to use them most effectively.  This brings us back to abstraction.  Because we have bought into this old world ideology we have devalued strengths and thus push them away or allow our focus to shift quickly to weaknesses.  We abstract all the good and focus on the minute, finite amount of bad.  We dismiss positives and embrace negatives.  Embracing our strengths will make us exceptional, not running from them.  I will be the first to admit I abstract often and find myself only focusing on improvements and areas that need focus, weaknesses that must develop.  While progress is always a good thing, sometimes, especially in the case of only focusing on progress, so much that you cannot see the good in front of you, is an impediment of the very progress one desires.  Abstraction is the extreme we need to avoid if we are to become more than ordinary and mediocre. 

Do you find yourself abstracting often?  How can you move past this?  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Inverse Backbone


I respect someone who takes a stand on a point.  One who is educated enough about something to come to a conclusion and stick to it.  I respect a man with a backbone, as they call it.  Having a backbone is a good quality, if managed properly.  My view on characteristics in general is that all characteristics are good and turn bad when mismanaged.  This logic excludes mental illness obviously.  Having a backbone is good, standing for something is good.

I make sure I try to look at things from angles other than ones I agree with.  For instance, I find it interesting to read FoxNews and CNN.  In political races I watch both sides of the aisle so I can be educated on what I actually support.  Educating myself in order to make an intelligent decision when it comes to voting is of the utmost importance.  There are far too many uneducated voters, folks who simply vote based on emotion.  Politics is the greatest example of mismanagement of good a characteristic. Having that backbone is twisted in an off way and we know more about what candidates dislike or are against rather than what they are for.  I call it having an inverse backbone.  Having a strong stance on something you are against, only being critical. 

I worked with a guy once who had a very simple rule when it came to meetings.  His rule was that if you are going to be critical that you have a solution for the dilemma you bring to the table.  I’m part of a community forum and have noticed a theme of inverse backbones, which has become bothersome and think it’s a subject that needs to be discussed.  Is it acceptable to simply take strong opposing views on things without ever clarifying what it is that you stand for?  Is it acceptable to only be a source of criticism?  Is it acceptable to always be the ringing bell of negativity? 

Most times complex things can be reduced to simple concepts.  In this case we will work with 2 words, destruction and construction.  I look at things as either destructive or constructive.  If you rip a building down to its foundation and build nothing on it what good does it do?  Maybe it could be a killer basketball court or place to play foursquare, but when it comes to inhabitation it serves zero purposes.  When discussing anything you can either destroy or build up.  Destruction alone, like the house analogy, makes the discussion meaningless, outside of games, or debating for sport.  Critiquing something is perfectly acceptable, but why critique without a suggestion?  Why tear down without offering an equal amount of effort to build up?  Shouldn’t we offer balance?   I’m not aware of anyone who is constantly negative and critical who has many fans.  These people are looked down upon and avoided because they are destructive forces who suck the energy out of a room.  People of balance are well liked individuals because they aren’t overbearing on either end, not too high and not too low.

Self-reflection and evaluation are always healthy.  What kind of person are you?  Are you a source of destruction or construction?  Do you only have the inverse backbone?  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

NO CREDIT NO PROBLEM!!!! (the problem is you yelling…)


Bad credit may not be a problem, no credit may not be a problem, no money down may not be a problem, but something within me thinks yelling at consumers may be. 

My family has the distinct ability to take something that is said once and run with it.  Each morning on the way to work I am amused and little bewildered by the car sales commercials I hear on the radio.   My in-laws never answer their home phone (yes, I realize it is 2012, however, they still do have a land line, oh yea and AOL) as a way to screen telemarketers (by the way, can we universally agree to just call them telephone sales people and take the marketing name away…presents a huge identity problem for marketing I think).  So when we call we leave messages, once they realize it is us calling they will answer. Because we think it’s funny that they do this we (which means me) leave ridiculous messages pretending to be telephone sales people.  This process has led me to some rich impersonations including most recently the annoying yelling car salesman on the radio.    We all know the guys I’m referring to right?  The dramatic music with the emphatic BAM sounds behind the guy yelling theatrically, “HOT HOT HOT, THIS SUMMER IS HOT AND SO ARE THESE DEALS, NO CREDIT, BAD CREDIT, NO PROBLEM, WE’LL PAY TEN THOUSAND MORE FOR YOUR OLD CAR, COME IN NOW, KIA HONDA TOYOTA, FORD, WE SELL IT ALL, COME DOWN TODAY!” 

I’ll be the first to admit it; I’m kind of a nerd.  Not nerdy in the lack of style or social skills kind of way because let’s be honest, I’m kind of a cool dude, I’m talking nerdy as in I love to learn and am very curious.  My initial response to these commercials is laughter because they are so confusing to me.  It’s confusing because I wonder about the logic behind them yelling.  I can imagine that this guy was hired for sales on the actual lot and started yelling at customers so management said, “Oh no bro, you got to go, you are scaring people, let’s put him on the radio.”  So now this socially inept cat is on the radio yelling at people he can’t see and thus cannot scare because they can just turn the channel.  I don’t think it is wise or socially healthy for people to act without reason or understanding.  I wonder if these commercials and the yelling have any logic behind them from a marketing standpoint.  Is there a strategy to it?  Does yelling about great sales somehow psychologically alter a person’s perception so much that they are willing to buy?  Is this some sort of Jedi-mind-trick?  How much return are they seeing off these commercials?  Do they see a greater return when their tone is aggressive?  There must be some bean counter in the back of the dealership somewhere that knows how many new sales are generated off these radio spots right?  Or is this about quantity over quality?  There’s a local couple of sisters that have commercials that are very low budget and truly cheesy, but literally they have a new one weekly, which comes with it’s own new theme.  My best example is the Halloween edition, “Scary credit, don’t let that spook you, come on down, etc etc.”  Is the goal to flood the radio waves with your name so much that you are just known? 

There must be some marketing company out there advising these folks or they are simply repeating a pattern of sales and a style of advertising that’s been this way for years without any forethought.  Can we stop all the yelling and maybe explain to me why it is you must scream at me and play such dramatic music on the background?  Let’s be honest, if I go to BestBuy and some dude screams at me about a TV I’m walking out, why is this logic any different when it comes to radio or cars?   I'm all ears folks, and willing to help turn things around for you, let's stop all the yelling.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Responsibility


nce upon a time (isn't that right, in fairy tale books the O always seem to be huge) I attended a conference featuring one of my favorite speakers.  He said something that I've never forgotten and find wise and a bit unconventional.  In regards to teaching, whether that be written or spoken, he said, “Don’t just say something, when you teach make sure it comes from an internal burning and you feel like you can no longer withhold this information and must tell others or you’ll explode.”  I've struggled often with the tension of creating content just for the sake of creation and reconciling this wise advice.  It seems like everyone on the World Wide Web just creates to create at times.  Top each his own and I've gone through stretches where I was a blogging animal, however, I now find myself in a position of sitting back and analyzing life until I must write.  So without further suspension here are thoughts that would otherwise cause me to explode if I don’t get them out regarding a hot button issue.

Responsibility has two responses acceptance or deferment.  The difference between success and mediocrity is how one responds when faced with responsibility. 

In my current position there is a report I run to catch items done incorrectly by users that cause errors in the system we use.  These errors potentially cause customer delays so it is important for them to be corrected quickly.  Naturally my report is based on who set the widget up incorrectly as the responsibility should fall upon them.  However, despite common logic, daily I go back and forth with folks who email me wanting to defer that responsibility elsewhere.  Really?  Why is it anyone else’s responsibility to clean up your mess?  You see this kind of behavior if you watch carefully daily.  Can you tell me who did this?  I didn’t do that because you didn’t tell me to.  My mistake was based upon [insert excuse here].  Pointing the finger outward is a lazy thing, it is the easiest way to duck and weave around accepting responsibility.  Pointing the finger inwardly and accepting responsibility is tough, but the best thing to do.  So many things happen because people don’t accept responsibility.  Most shows on television, besides those tired and predictable reality shows, plots hinge upon characters not accepting responsibility.  Cover ups, lies, cheating, stealing, blaming others, and a barrage of unhealthy and destructive human behavior are all results of deferring responsibility.  Why not just accept responsibility when and where you can.  Why change the thought process from “is this my job” to “how can I handle this NOW”?  If you have the tools to find out who created that widget why not find out for yourself, why ask someone else?  If you did something wrong, why not fix it?  If you made a mistake, why not admit it?  Deferring responsibility outside of yourself brews a nice smelly pot of mediocrity.  This mediocrity is of responsibility deferment is saturating our culture and has become status quo somehow.  Our culture has come to accept mediocrity.

Is mediocrity something we should accept though?  No, mediocrity is a cancerous ideology that plagues our culture and businesses that should be stamped out.  Kony2012 was cool, but I say let’s go Mediocrity2012 and shut it down.  There is one response to responsibility, accept it folks.  Accept responsibility for what is in front of you and take the steps to remediate whatever dilemma you face however you can.  That’s not my job, can you have so and so do it, where do you find this, etc.  These types of statements are expressions of potential being choked out by mediocrity.  Poke the box and oppressive culture of mediocrity and start the change personally, others will follow, you’ll see.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Islands


I like the idea of nursing homes for the elderly. (keep reading before you assume what’s next)

Typical responses to this statement are gasps and looks of contempt thrown my way.  “How could you say that Adam, those are horrible places?”  To clarify, I’m not talking about the hole in the wall; nasty places the media has made seem like are the majority of nursing homes.  I am talking about assisted living communities.  My liking of such communities is that it is a response to a bigger problem.  The problem is the elderly are far too often forgotten and lonely.  These small types of communities fill the void left by our individualistic society.
We have an elderly neighbor who walks her dog past out house a lot.  Actually we have a lot of elderly neighbors, we live on a cul-de-sac and are the youngest people in the neighborhood, so we see a lot of traffic from folks walking dogs, riding bikes, or taking leisurely strolls.  We are only the 3rd owners of our home and it was built in 1960, there are still some original owners around the ‘hood too!  Point being there are lots of old folks around.  This exposes an essential dilemma our society and neighborhood faces that burns me up. 

While walking her dog one of our elderly neighbors mentioned in passion to my wife that she needs her gutters cleaned, in response to seeing me on my roof cleaning ours.  Julia (my wife) let me know and my immediate response was to catch her the next time around the cul-de-sac and offer my help.  I went over and cleaned her gutters out, it may have taken me a total of 20 minutes in work, however I probably spent an hour over there, talking.  This is not to elevate myself or brag about some great feat I feel I’ve accomplished though.  My question the entire time walking across her roof, as I bent down to clean the gutters, was simple, “Where is her family?” 
This is a story I see and hear all too often.  Elderly folks who are lonely so when someone else stops by or makes conversation it is obvious they are lonely and need help in some areas, whether that  be yard work, cooking, cleaning, etc.  I have no problems doing it and actually think that is what community is for.  I may be a bit of a romantic when it comes to neighborhoods and small communities.  I have family members who live within 20 minutes of my grandmother and see her as often as I do.  The sad part about that is I live 1800 miles away and come home maybe twice a year.  I keep myself awake at night worrying about the elderly population that has been forgotten and pushed towards the fringes of society.  There is an inner sadness that fills me that I wish others could see.

This same shadow touches the opposite end of the spectrum as well.  How many boys from fatherless homes do you know?  A boy from a fatherless home is not a new storyline, something society is not familiar with, but the way we treat it is as if it is a small, isolated, or rare event.  How many boys could profit from having a positive male role model/friend in their life?  I have a “Little Brother” I’ve been with since he was 7.  He turns 13 this year.  I have seen him grow and become a young man I am proud of.  Grades have taken huge leaps and even his personal confidence has grown.  I’d like to think a little of that has to do with our relationship. 

I feel a responsibility, almost indebted to, for others.  Not in an unhealthy controlling way, but a way that I think narrows in on part of humanity our culture has undervalued and, from what I’ve experienced and seen, overlooked.  We are our “brothers” keepers.  A community does not flourish because of individuals alone.  The succession of any community, business, or team is in the individuals supporting one another and becoming an organism rather than isolated cells.  The meshing of cultures and individuals is what makes our world beautiful.  This beauty is overshadowed by selfishness and individualistic thinking.  No man is an island, nor should he be.  Can you see the darkness of individualism in your community?  Do you have an elderly neighbor?  Is there a mother of 3 raising her kids alone down the street?  Couldn’t you shoot some hoops with one of her boys?  Maybe cleaning out gutters isn’t your thing, which is fine, but are you willing to metaphorically roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty for the sake of others?  Do you feel any sense of responsibility for others?  If not, why?  If so, what are you doing about it?  I think this conversation needs to be made space for and discussed more openly today.  The shadows of our neighborhoods would soon lift and let the sunshine of a resolute humanity in.  The chains of individualism and selfishness would liberate a flourishing community.  All these nostalgic and poetic images begin with one thing, you.  What’s your response?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lessons from Chicken in ATL


Airports are portals of random temporariness.  As strangers pass each other en-route to their final destination lasting impressions are easily something that are not found here.  However, amidst all the fast walking, cell phone talking, iPod listening, and internet browsing that can often times seem like a big blur of random happenings if one looks close enough priceless lessons can be found beneath the fast moving surface. 

The Atlanta International Airport is large and in charge, a boss among airports in the United States.  So large that I’ve never travelled through it without stressing out about making my connecting flight on time in part to having to run from one concourse to the next, which are far apart.  If you’ve been there you know what I am talking about.  There’s a subway system that connects the concourses to one another.  Amidst all the hustle and bustle of airports, especially a large one like Atlanta it would be easy to think little things are of little importance and that last impressions are foreign concepts. 

Because I now live in the Midwest (originally from Jacksonville, FL) every chance I get to indulge in something “Southern “I gladly do so.  I decided to grab something to eat, Popeyes Chicken.  Popeyes is in a huge airport with a huge food court in one of its many concourses.  Expectations are that you purchase your food, keep your head down, find a table, eat, leave, and remain a homogenous part of the crowd.  To my surprise my expectations were shattered and otherwise dull travelling experience enhanced.  I bought my food and headed to the corner where all the straws, napkins, and sporks were stored.  I was greeted by a jolly gentleman named Ralph who said hello and asked if I needed a table for one.  I was a bit confused and didn’t want to be rude so I said, “Yes.”  Luckily for me what happened next did so while my food was in Ralph’s hands because otherwise I may have dropped it out of pure shock.  Ralph proceeds to say, “Let me get that for you sir, follow me,” and takes me to a booth.  I sat enthralled by his kindness.  Maybe I just looked like I needed help or he admired my tattoos?  As I sat there for the next 30 minutes I watched Ralph float around the little eating area greeting everyone with the same kindness.  As folks left their table he would assure them he would get their trash and wish them well on their trip.  He walked to others who were eating asking if they needed anything.  I just smiled as I watched him because I saw such great joy in his work that most would consider not much.  So I call him over and ask him his name.  I extend my hand I tell him I really appreciate what he is doing and that I’ve never had such a good experience in all my travels, and then I asked who his manager was.  I go find his manager, Jim, and tell him the same, which hopefully was refreshing because I could only imagine in an airport food court that most people only want to complain when talking to a manager.  I walked away hoping others would do the same and fill Ralph and Jim with encouragement all day, but was also left with their fingerprints embedded in my mind.

Ralph makes maybe $8.50-10 an hour and definitely probably doesn’t have benefits. He serves people all day.  His attitude could be poor.  Most in his position are, however, Ralph really took ahold of his job, which really isn’t beyond cleaning up tables as folks leave (evidenced by his coworkers walking around doing so) but he took it to another level of excellence.  Ralph is a man I’d give a job “off the streets” when I own a company in my future.  That kind of joy and work ethic is hard to find these days and I really thought it beneficially to share this story.  Have you had any experiences like this? 

I’m not sure if Ralph or Jim or anyone affiliated with them will ever see this, but I am thankful to have met them both and had that experience.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bullying

Much has been done and said for the cause against bullying.  The news media has brought national attention and rightfully so, to a social dilemma that has been faced by young people since communities existed.  This generation of younger folks has taken bullying and fear based manipulation to a whole new level it seems though.  News stories of teen suicides, violence, and other volatile reactions to bullying have burdened my heart especially over the last several months.  National campaigns have been launched to educate the general population about and to stand against bullying.  With the advancement of social media and other technologies bullying has left the playground exclusively and lurks in a very public domain.  I’m actually grateful for growing up without the internet and social community as it is today.  It’s hard enough being a teenager that time of life is difficult, but with the added stress of constant exposure is unnerving.  Nowadays, yes, I said nowadays, thus aging myself appropriatley, kids can bully each other in person and online. Every little detail of a teenagers’ life is now exposed for all their peers to see with the constant onslaught of social media.  Much has been done to bring attention to this generations biggest social dilemma, bullying.  It is encouraging to see celebrities step up and speak out.  Messages of acceptance and unconditional love have and are taking little bites out of this problem.  You were born this way, it gets better, support hotlines, etc. have given progress to no longer tolerating bullying.  With all this attention one would presume anything that reaches this generation by the masses would harmoniously sing the song of intolerance towards bullying.

I sit around a group of guys at work that review estimates and asses vehicle damages for a living.  Most come from a background in body shop work.  These are very “manly” dudes, very masculine.  They poke fun at me quite often about my “pretty outfits” and “fancy ties.”  They especially love to pick at me about having a GQ, Esquire, Details, or Complex magazine on my desk for extracurricular reading.  The reason I draw this stark contrast is to say we have influenced each other by being around one another for several hours a day.  One guy, although he won’t openly admit it, followed my lead and has started wearing suits and ties to work.  We now have “suit-offs” anytime our executive leaders are in the office.  Along the same lines, I find myself involved in conversations I’d typically feel like a displaced foreigner in.  One such conversation is regarding wrestling.  No not collegiate wrestling, but WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly WWF, World Wrestling Federation).  Wrestling that boasts such characters as The Undertaker, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, and Brett Heart (yup, that’s a blast from the past).  I’m always the guy calling out the fakeness of the “sport” but am met with passionate arguments that it is real and they are athletes.  We always agree to disagree as our definition of real is quite different.  My argument is that these giant men do not full on hit each other while entertaining and follow scripts.  Their argument is that even if they don’t they are still hitting each other and it would still hurt, thus it is real. Our differences aside, this has become one of the typical Tuesday or Wednesday morning discussions in our office.  As a good sport and one who likes to be educated on anything I have an opinion on, I find myself on Monday evenings, on commercials switching back and forth between whatever shows I am watching, generally a basketball game or other sport, and WWE.  Since the show is on for something like 3 hours there is always something I am able to catch.  Last night before I slipped off to bed, I decided to catch the last 10 minutes or so of the program as I am sure that’s when all the good stuff is reserved for.  As I watched I was discouraged and heavy hearted about the message such a broad-reaching program was sending to a generation of children facing the issue of bullying.

Apparently Brock Lesnar, most recently known for being a beast in the UFC, has returned to WWE.  For those who don’t know, Brock started in the WWE, left for the UFC, to prove his toughness, and most recently returned to the WWE.  I’ll go ahead and temper by saying I don’t know a ton about all this, the story lines, etc.  I do know John Cena is a big name because I’ve heard of him before.  Apparently he is the face of the WWE.  Last night I saw him wearing a “Rise Above Hate,” t-shirt.  I’ve heard of his great humanitarian efforts and have seen his active hand in commercials for anti-bullying campaigns.  Good for him.  If he is the face of the WWE and this program is watched by this generation facing bullying than I am encouraged by his intolerance for it.  Now back to Brock Lesnar.  Apparently he wants to be the face of the WWE and yada yada and on the soap-opera-like drama goes.  Not sure of all this, however, I did watch as the obvious antagonist of this story line behave in a way that actually encourages bullying rather than discourages it.  Lesnar uses scare tactics to get a man, I’m guessing is his boss, to agree to a ridiculous list of demands before he would be willing to sign the contract to fight Cena.  Lesnar stands center stage taunting Cena and calling him scared and little boy.  Cena finally shows up to the ring and there is a huge tense stare down shared between the two.  Lesnar continues with is bully-like actions demanding Cena sign the contract.  As Cena stood there in his Rise Above Hate t-shirt everything in me yearned for him to refuse to sign the contract.  Lesnar’s power was in his ability to control a fight.  That power would have been stripped from him had Cena just walked away from it, leaving Lesnar standing there, center stage, with no fight to manipulate.  I so wanted him to Rise Above Hate and not sign the contract and walk away.  Much to my disappointment Cena signed and the bully got his way.  I was disgusted as I turned off the TV.  I couldn’t care less about the WWE or this fight, however, I was quite disappointed by a media outlet as big as the WWE given the chance to put the bully to shame and not tolerate it, give it power and fail to show their audience something encouraging.  Maybe it was to get people to follow the story line, but in that moment given the opportunity to send a positive message the WWE failed and that is discouraging.

I’ve attached a video of what I saw last night if it interests you.  I’ll say it here that I am all for anti-bullying campaigns and things that encourage or support bullying should be ashamed.  Shame on you WWE.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Impatient King

One cannot be duplicitous in diverse environments. 

I used to play basketball during lunch on Mondays and Fridays each week.  I really enjoy playing basketball, however, really didn’t enjoy some of the folks that played during this time of day.  The same guys show up religiously each week and behaviors are as predictable as owing the government taxes.  One guy in particular irritated me in such a way that I decided it best to no longer play with this group.  I just didn’t want to be around this type of behavior, especially from grown men that I expected maturity out of.  On a random occasion I was out with a buddy of mine and we ran into this guy who was by generally decent at the time.  My friend walked away with stories of how this guy is such a good guy except on the basketball court.  I remain skeptical of this ideology that behavior in one situation can be isolated and controlled.  I believe every situation has the opportunity to act as a trigger for our behaviors.  While some behaviors are hidden or repressed for the sake of professionalism or any other endless reason when an individual is stimulated by some trigger that sets off this behavior it is in that moment when the natural self is exposed.  This natural characteristic cannot be turned on and off depending on situations, it can only be repressed.  It still exists no matter what.  However, one can, with time and discipline, learn to change a trait that may be otherwise unhealthy or destructive.  In short, one cannot be duplicitous in life.  What you see as bad on the basketball court exists off the court; it is only hidden out of some sense of appropriateness. 

None of this is to say a characteristic or trait cannot be changed, but it is simply saying it’s not like a light switch that can be turned on or off.  With time, self-reflection, and a lot of support a person can change though.  This change will make itself obvious when those triggers no longer release venom into the environment that person finds themselves in.  Basketball is a trigger I have; it is a trigger that releases a part of me I dearly wish would die off.  Arrogance is the ugly knick in my armor, the thorn in my side, the inverse of a great strength.  It is my prescription that all flaws are truly just mismanaged strengths or gifts.  A strength I have is confidence and when that is managed properly it can be a huge asset to situations I find myself within.  When mismanaged this confidence turns to arrogance.  Arrogance is very nebulous in definition and application though.  Arrogance has many disguises and hides just beneath the surface of characteristics we would rather be pegged with.  Arrogances’ best muse in my case is impatience.  I find myself being impatient in life, especially on the basketball court.  I can see it, it is like this huge splinter stuck in my finger that I want to rip out.  Taking this trait away from my character will hurt though, much like removing the deeply embedded splinter.  Impatience is truly arrogance dancing in different shoes.  My impatience with others in basketball with deductive reasoning reduces to me thinking my way is better than others and becoming frustrated when they fail to meet my standard or expectation.  I set myself on a throne as king of basketball when I am impatient with others during a game.  It is unhealthy to place standards on others that may or may not be superior at all.  The superiority of a way of thinking shouldn’t even be a cognitive path one wants to explore anyways.  It is in these little moments that I see my ugly side flair up and become aware and ashamed.  Through self-awareness though it is my strong conviction that change can be made.  Basketball is a trigger for me, however, I know that any characteristic triggered by basketball is hiding just beneath the surface in every other situation I find myself in.  Arrogance applied in other life situations can be more damaging than just becoming frustrated with teammates. 

We all have flaws; we all have ugly traits that flash when stimulated.  Are you willing to be deductive in your reasoning when you see things in yourself?  You cannot have different personalities unless you have a mental illness; otherwise you are only fooling yourself and denying personal growth.  It is important for us as individuals, business owners, employees, fathers, husbands, brothers, co-workers, and fellow humans to embrace our own imperfections and seek to change any destructive expressions to embitter life, in whatever capacity that may be.  Will you join me?  Remember, you cannot live a duplicitous life.  If you’re an ass at work or on the basketball court, you’re an ass at home.  Don’t be an ass, make the change.  At least be willing to call out that flaw and begin working on changing yourself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Ton of Metal

Taking things for granted results in mismanagement at best and destruction most often.

I had just dropped my wife off at the airport and was returning home.  It was around 5:15am and the roads were peaceful and empty.  Considering how peaceful it is at such an early hour I wondered if my fellow interstate drivers were considering the same sense of black top serenity.  No sooner than the sounds of waterfalls and ambient music started as I considered this roadside peace I was reminded of reality and humbled quickly.  Without a turn signal a car in the adjacent lane cut me off.  Naturally I just gave him a little flash with my brights, as if to say in car language, use your blinker next time.  I didn’t lay on the horn or high beam him for 30 minutes.  There was no anger or aggression in my action.  Again I was on the interstate doing about 70mph and there was no traffic.  Much to my surprise I was greeted quickly with brake lights and had to slam on my brakes to a point of doing a mere 20mph.  Again, we were on the interstate at 5am, there was no traffic around warranting such a volatile braking.  It was obvious what his gesture meant.  It was obvious he didn’t appreciate me high beaming him.  It was also obvious that he was pretty reckless so I got in the other lane and continued homeward bound.  This should be the end of my little story, however, he sped up quickly and got so close to my bumper that I could almost not see his headlights in my rearview mirror.  His high beams were on and I was a little surprised by his recklessness at such an early hour.  I decided to ignore him, flipped my mirror up to dim the high beam lighting, and continued driving. My best logic told me that if I did he would leave it alone, however, and again, I was wrong and surprised.  He followed me like this for probably a couple miles, although it felt much longer than that.  Eventually he had to get off and go to wherever it was he was headed and it ended.  What he lacked in common courtesy he made up for in inspiring a thought though.

Isn’t driving fascinating?  I mean, be honest, get past the fact that you drive a ’92 Land Cruiser with no a/c and only one working power window, and consider the complexity of what is really going on when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle.  There are several discussions happening in the automotive world currently concerning the lightest production vehicle, however, to generalize it, let’s agree that your vehicle is around 2,000 lbs at a minimum.  This guy was driving a Dodge Nitro, which weighs in at 4,162 lbs.  It is powered by gasoline.  The engine is lubricated with all sorts of oils.  The amount of flammable liquids in this 2 ton machine is enough to do some damage.  Then you have the problem of velocity.  We listen to the radio, steer, and know what the appropriate amount of pressure is to either decelerate or accelerate.  We have the understanding of distance to keep a safe amount and not just end up running into objects.  I could get a lot more involved and detailed; however, this is a pretty good starting point for me.  Do you see how complex it is to drive a vehicle?  It is complex and we do it like second nature, often not ever considering the complexity of it all.    When we are not appreciative of these things and are not grateful for all that goes into driving we take it for granted.  When we take it for granted we abuse the good to cause bad.  It is very good to drive, it is good to have all these systems and liquids working in such a way that we can transport ourselves at a greater efficiency to places we desire to travel to.  When we do not appreciate this and take it for granted though we abuse the good and cause it to become bad or destructive or discouraging.  That’s the story of my angry morning driving friend.  He took the complexity, full of dangers and risks, and abused it becoming destructive in behavior and what could have been destruction physically if something would have happened. 

I’ve carried around that thought for hours and internalized it in such a way to consider, what is it that I take for granted and when I do what does the destructive output look like?  When you see or hear yourself engaging in destructive behavior you most likely can use deductive reasoning to lead you back to the source of your behavior, a mismanaged good.  A good taken for granted.  If it is taking things for granted that leads to destruction than the inverse is simple.  The inverse logic would lead one to believe that being grateful leads to constructive behaviors.  We all have things we take for granted, but do we consider what taking it for granted causes?  Are we destructive beings?  Are we grateful?  Are we appreciative?  Do we take more than we should for granted?  So many questions, but isn’t that the point?  To be self-reflective and consider such things is what sets our minds apart from that of an animal, even if sometimes we act like one, most notably a jackass on the roads. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hope Springs

I’m confident that some if not all of my neighbors think my wife and I are crazy.  We are the new kids on the block.  We bought our first home in an old neighborhood at the heart of the Arts & Design District nestled away on a quaint little cul-de-sac.  We’re the youngest couple by far.  There are actually some original homeowners still living in this neighborhood!  When weather permits we walk to as many things as we can in the District.  One of the many things we have done and continue to do is yard tours.  Julia loves gardening and nature, so with great excitement she grabs my hand and walks me around the yard during the summer to show off her handiwork.  Our yard is beautiful because of it and I truly enjoy these tours.  If you’re in Indiana then you know it has been an unusually warm “winter” this year, so much so that last week on one of the nicer days Julia took me on a spring tour.  With enthusiasm she pointed out the buds on tress and her prized bulbs breaking the ground surface.  All this made me think of one word, hope. 

The glimmer in her eyes matched the pep in her step and joy in her voice as she took me on the tour and pointed out new birth beginning to show signs of spring.  She was so excited because these gave her hope for spring.  This got me thinking, what makes me have hope and what is it I am hoping for?  To extend that to you, what do you hope for and what triggers enthusiasm for that hope?  Julia hopes for summer, she loves summer days full of gardening, cheap beer, grilling out for dinner, and time spent together under the sun.  When she sees signs for what she hopes in she is filled with excitement.  Some hope in a god, some in a season, and others in a vast universe of other possibilities.  So what is it that you hope for?  What excites you for things to come or the arrival of what you hope for?

Furthermore, bringing this all back to a personal level, in life, are you someone who offers hope?  Are you a person that offers signs of hope to others?  Hope that people are kind?  Hope that people forgive?  Hope that good manners aren’t just a state of nostalgia your grandmother lives in?  Hope that humanity is decent?  Hope that integrity still exists?  Hope for love?  Hope builds and gives life.  If you’re not offering hope what are you offering?  Like the aura of delight surrounding Julia as she shows me the tip of a daffodil coming up  on a day in late February, do you cause joy in others?  Random thought while walking around the yard I know, but one so simple and powerful that shouldn’t not be considered.  Do you inspire hope?

Value

How one determines or considers their personal value or worth is directly connected with how they interact with their environment, whether it be personal or professional.

I went to lunch with a couple friends who do similar jobs within an organization. Both departments and roles affect the other so they are familiar with each other’s’ jobs. As they heatedly exchanged words about their perceived value I sat back in my seat seeing a bigger picture than they realized they were painting. Maybe it’s just because I’m so analytical or a big picture type person, but the theme I saw developing in this discussion was one of value and how an individual perceives his or her own value. Both sides saw themselves as more valuable than the next and the argument continued to go in circles because each was only putting out arguments attempting to prove their superior value. As I so often do, I stepped in as a mediator and gave my best objective view of both sides, trying to explain to each how the other felt while also acknowledging their opinion and point of view. I provided both with confirmation of their values and tried my best to help each other appreciate the other’s value. The lunch was intense but ended with laughs and hopefully a little understanding.

I often times find myself just watching others and paying special attention to how they treat each other. In my professional experience at a fortune 100 company I’ve been discouraged to see unkindness and impatience. The larger a group of people gets the tougher communication becomes. This is because the differences between so many people becomes exponentially larger than they truly are. When this happens people stop thinking of each other and turn their focus inward. This inward focus creates a natural desire to prove one’s worth or value to others because they don’t feel valued. If others won’t value them they go on a mission to prove their worth.

A brilliant quote from a surprising source:

“You are never as good as you think you are and you are never as bad as you think you are.”
-Mike Tyson

One side of this quote is from an individual perspective; don’t whole heartedly accept your own perceived value. You are your worst critic but can also be your biggest fan. Both extremes are equally unhealthy.

I am a hopeful romantic of sorts I suppose. I am hopeful in people. I view the majority of people as well intentioned citizens looking to discover or confirm their own value. I don’t think when Bob snaps at Mary in a meeting he is intentionally, in that moment, consciously intending to hurt Mary’s feelings by having a rude tone. Mary of course only feels devalued and takes immediate offense. Things could and often do get out of control and quickly. It’s important in moments of conflict to consider 2 things. 1, remember that people don’t intentionally hurt each other (unless there is a mental illness or a behavioral problem), give everyone the benefit of the doubt and 2, consider confronting the person who offended you. How you confront someone can make all the difference. I am in no way promoting “going off” on someone because you were offended. In the heat of the moment at the height of your emotional reaction is not the appropriate time to consider confrontation. After you have cooled down and really processed the offense, calmly approach the offender and only talk about how you feel. Tell them how they made you feel only, do not prescribe anything to them about themselves, but rather focus on telling them how you feel, talk about yourself. How the offender responds is 100% their responsibility. You have no control on how they will respond, but as long as you were professional in your confrontation then you are in the clear and should not carry the burden any longer.

Resolving the conflict of perceived value is important to success, both personally and professionally. Considering others as valuable in unique ways, different than your frame work for value is important to respecting others. Without respect we cannot value others and if we fail to value others we will receive equal reciprocation, meaning others won’t value us. If we don’t feel valued by others we will fall into the ugly downward spiral of trying to prove our value at the expense of others. Don’t try to prove your value to others by devaluing them. Look for value in others, when you do that it will be reciprocated appropriatley thus ending the ugly cycle of individuals seeking to prove their value to the world. Do you value others? Do you value yourself too much? Do you value yourself too little? By considering the theme of personal worth or value we can change the trajectory of what can sometimes be a rocky environment. We can improve the professional and personal world by doing so.