Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Year's Resolution


A New Year's Resolution"


I’ve got a friend who polls her colleagues at this time of year and then publishes a list of notable New Year’s resolutions. Lots of lofty goals and ideas but I suspect that more thinking goes into coming up with those resolutions than actually following through on them. While I was pondering my resolutions for next year I noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal (by Elizabeth Bernstein on 12/28) that suggested a good resolution would be to focus on making 2011 a year of great relationships. She writes that we should “focus on the state of your relationships instead of the state of your abs.” Hey, that sounds good to me (so much for my repeated resolution about losing weight)!

We all get caught up in our own worlds, with our own problems and hopes and fears and we tend to make judgments about others that color our relationships and how we think of others. These issues (with a small “i”) aren’t nearly as important as making and nurturing and keeping the relationships we have. We all need to keep our focus on the bigger Issues (with a capital “I”) of family, friends, colleagues and community. Ok, so I admit that this is a recurring theme for me at the end of 2010, but then again isn’t this what the holidays are really all about??Anyways, I was impressed with Ms. Bernstein’s tips for improving interactions with those who matter most to us:
  • Share more
  • Make time to talk
  • Go outside together
  • Turn off the computer
  • Reach out
  • Make new friends
I’ll admit that these weren’t at the top of my list but of resolutions but now that I’m thinking about it, maybe they should be. Like most people, I find that the stuff I write about is as much aspirational as it is real, so I am going to redouble my efforts to follow through on the stuff like this and I encourage you to do the same. Take time this week to remember those you love and care about and to let them know. And make a resolution to be a better and more constant friend in 2011.  My year-end message is about integrity and the value of doing good and being good.

“The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.”  -William Safire


William Lewis Safire (1929 – 2009) was an American author, columnist, journalist and presidential speechwriter.  He was perhaps best known as a long-time syndicated political columnist for the New York Times.

Just because you can doesn’t always mean that you should – that’s a lesson that everyone should learn. I realize it’s hard to learn this in the abstract but it’s often even harder to learn it through experience. This kind of learning often comes at the cost of having to suffer through the outcome(s) of some particular mistake. The key is to understand how things will be received and perceived by those it affects and to be sensitive enough to include these factors in your thinking and planning. That means you have to be open to the realization that you may be wrong and flexible enough to consider all of the options that may exist and confident enough to listen to all of the viewpoints that might exist and courageous enough to do what’s right. Which means you have to leave your ego behind. Which means you have to be more concerned about the ‘we’ than you are about the ‘me’.

So as you get ready to make your new year’s resolutions for 2011, remember your family, friends and colleagues: don’t take them for granted, don’t assume they’ll always be there even though you’re not, treat them the way you want them to treat you. These relationships should be the most important thing you commit to supporting in this coming year – because if you don’t, you may wake up one day and find them gone. And that would be a shame.

I hope you have a happy and healthy and prosperous and rewarding new year.

I’ll be back next year. 

Stay well.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Schnapps

jpeg.jpgSchnapps"



Here’s a Monday message to start this last week of 2010.

Everywhere I went last week I saw people carrying gift bags into stores and businesses – everyone was giving gifts to family, friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances and even those they didn’t know personally but knew they were in need. This reminded me of when I was a kid and my father would buy several dozen bottles of “schnapps” (that’s how he referred to all types of liquor) and give them to his best customers.  He’d buy the bottles, package them in colorful bags or boxes, carefully fill out the to and from information on those little note cards and then load them all into his car for delivery.  As the youngest, I would sometimes get to accompany him as he visited these customers and expressed his thanks. The warmth and sincerity of these visits and the feeling behind the giving impressed me because these were not only the friends and family that I knew from my childhood; this gift giving was a whole lot more inclusive than that. And from this I learned that everyone matters when it comes to saying “thanks”.

From this simple practice I learned several things:

•    Treat your family like friends and your friends like family
•    You shouldn’t wait for a special occasion to let people know that you care
•    Simple gestures mean a lot
•    A “thank you” goes a long way

So, from these lessons comes the real meaning of this holiday season. It’s a time to be thankful for all that we have, to be mindful of what having family and friends means and to never overlook or take for granted those around you who give and mean so much to you. Take time today to make sure you’ve expressed these sentiments to all who matter. And if you haven’t, well it’s not too late because it’s never too late to let someone know that you care.

My message this week has to do with actively participating in the things you do:

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” -George Jean Nathan

George Jean Nathan (1882 – 1958) was an American drama critic and editor.  He graduated from Cornell University in 1904, where he was an editor of The Cornell Daily Sun. Noted for the erudition and cynicism of his reviews, Nathan was an early champion of Eugene O’Neill and co-authored with H.L. Mencken.

Elections are the ultimate form of participation and Nathan is right about the effects of not voting. The same can be said about participating at work: think what might happen if you do not get involved and make suggestions, if you hang back and let other less qualified people struggle without your assistance, if you look the other way when mistakes are made or if there are questions that you fail to answer completely. If you do not participate fully in these kinds of situations they might not turn out as well as they could or should. If you do not do all you can then you’ll always wonder if your participation might have helped improve things. Make a commitment starting today to get fully involved and then actively participate in the things that are happening in your world.  Don’t allow bad things to possibly happen because you didn’t.

Happy Holidays and Stay Well!

"Schnapps"



Here’s a Monday message to start this last week of 2010.

Everywhere I went last week I saw people carrying gift bags into stores and businesses – everyone was giving gifts to family, friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances and even those they didn’t know personally but knew they were in need. This reminded me of when I was a kid and my father would buy several dozen bottles of “schnapps” (that’s how he referred to all types of liquor) and give them to his best customers.  He’d buy the bottles, package them in colorful bags or boxes, carefully fill out the to and from information on those little note cards and then load them all into his car for delivery.  As the youngest, I would sometimes get to accompany him as he visited these customers and expressed his thanks. The warmth and sincerity of these visits and the feeling behind the giving impressed me because these were not only the friends and family that I knew from my childhood; this gift giving was a whole lot more inclusive than that. And from this I learned that everyone matters when it comes to saying “thanks”.

From this simple practice I learned several things:

•    Treat your family like friends and your friends like family
•    You shouldn’t wait for a special occasion to let people know that you care
•    Simple gestures mean a lot
•    A “thank you” goes a long way

So, from these lessons comes the real meaning of this holiday season. It’s a time to be thankful for all that we have, to be mindful of what having family and friends means and to never overlook or take for granted those around you who give and mean so much to you. Take time today to make sure you’ve expressed these sentiments to all who matter. And if you haven’t, well it’s not too late because it’s never too late to let someone know that you care.

My message this week has to do with actively participating in the things you do:

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” -George Jean Nathan

George Jean Nathan (1882 – 1958) was an American drama critic and editor.  He graduated from Cornell University in 1904, where he was an editor of The Cornell Daily Sun. Noted for the erudition and cynicism of his reviews, Nathan was an early champion of Eugene O’Neill and co-authored with H.L. Mencken.

Elections are the ultimate form of participation and Nathan is right about the effects of not voting. The same can be said about participating at work: think what might happen if you do not get involved and make suggestions, if you hang back and let other less qualified people struggle without your assistance, if you look the other way when mistakes are made or if there are questions that you fail to answer completely. If you do not participate fully in these kinds of situations they might not turn out as well as they could or should. If you do not do all you can then you’ll always wonder if your participation might have helped improve things. Make a commitment starting today to get fully involved and then actively participate in the things that are happening in your world.  Don’t allow bad things to possibly happen because you didn’t.

Happy Holidays and Stay Well!

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Count Your Blessings"



jpeg.jpg


When’s the last time you reached out to someone and told them something? Like how you feel or what you’re going through or fears and worries that you have or what you’re doing or about your hopes and dreams or just simply about what you’re doing.  Did you do any of these face-to-face, using your voice, using all your senses, responding and reacting while sharing a real physical space in real time? Or did you just log on and connect with them via one of the oh-so-many cyber channels available today? If you’re like most of us, you used Twitter or Facebook or email or text messaging or something that used one of many devices we all have and love. And just as likely, you missed a chance to really share the human experience.

I’m old fashioned enough to still believe that being and interacting with people in the flesh (as they say) is better than connecting in cyberspace. Oh sure, it’s easier in cyberspace (like this email message) but I think there’s something to be said for writing a letter and putting a stamp on it and sending it in the mail or picking up the phone and dialing the number and saying hi and then talking live or sitting down with someone and watching and listening to them with your eyes and ears and all the rest of your senses. Yeah, Skype is cool, but being in the same real space and time with someone is way cooler and a whole lot more satisfying. If we don’t watch out, one day soon we’ll all just be staying in bed with our WiFi connections rather than the human connections that are so much better. When those old AT&T commercials used to encourage us to “reach out and touch someone”, I don’t think they ever envisioned that we’d be doing it in such impersonal ways. In this holiday season, when family and friends are so important, reach out in a more human way: in-person. I think you’ll be glad you did.

In this holiday season, it’s important to be more human than not, and not-for-nothing, my message this week is about life’s blessings:

“Reflect upon your blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”  -Charles Dickens

Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812 – 1870) was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, responsible for some of English literature's most iconic characters (like Ebenezer Scrooge). The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print.

Counting one’s blessings often leads to the question of whether the proverbial glass is half full or empty – this age-old reflection in many ways points out clues to a person’s personality and style. If you look back on the things you’ve done, the results they produced, their impact on others and the effect they had on your life, you can’t help but see and compare the good versus the bad. And therein lies the basic challenge of life: were any or all of these more good than bad? Which is it? And what then can or will you do about it? In the end, it’s probably better to be an optimist about things, to see the good things and try to improve upon them and to recognize the not so good and find ways to improve them too. Do that, and you’re likely to be seen and heard and respected as a real person. And that’s a good thing!

Stay well!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"We're not in Kansas Anymore"




I love to read books – the kind that are bound and you hold in your hands and whose real paper pages your turn with your fingers.  I love to go to the public library and browse the real stacks where the titles and covers fire my senses and imagination.  I read one or two books a week and while I get totally into the plots and characters in each while I’m reading them, I often quickly forget them when I’m done and onto the next.  So on one of my recent visits I asked the librarian if the library kept a record of the books I’ve read (I thought this would/should/could be easy to do) – she looked at me and exclaimed: “No – that would be an invasion of your privacy and could be used inappropriately”. I was shocked that in this computer age this simple service would not be provided; but then I thought about what she said and I sadly had to acknowledge that this was probably the unfortunate result of the politically correct and sensitive world in which we live.  I guess they figure I have to be protected from those who would seek to harm me.

And then I saw in the papers this week that Google joined the e-book craze and will start to offer books in “the cloud”.  They boasted that people like me can now get a book, start it on an electronic reader, pick it up later on a mobile device and even later on finish it on a computer – and each time it would remember where the reader left off.  Clever!  I bet my librarian friend would ask what else would or could be remembered; I bet she’d complain that the folks at Google might compromise the privacy and protection that she boasted of. But, that’s not what’s bothering me: I want to know what the hell is going to happen to those bound editions that I love to hold in my hands and read? Where is this world going? I have no idea where we’re headed or what else will be challenged and possibly changed; I just know that I want to continue to read and I hope that this fast-paced and innovative world in which we live doesn’t somehow screw up that little pleasure that I treasure so much. Like Dorothy, I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.  And if that’s the case, can somebody please tell me where in fact we are, and more importantly, where we’re going?

Books that are printed and bound, like so many other things in and around our lives, are both beautiful and grand and thus, not surprisingly, my message this week is about grandeur.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” 
-Confucius

Confucius was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher, whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese thought and life.  His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity.

I bet your mother taught you “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and that you learned at an early age that not everyone sees things the same way you do.  These are simple lessons that, once learned, are invaluable. You learn to appreciate the things you like and they become both familiar and attractive; they please you more than they do others. You most likely also find that as you talk about the things that please you, others may find them more or less pleasing than you. That’s because each of us is affected by the lives we lead and the experiences we’ve had and these leave impressions on us that are lasting, influential and indelible.  It doesn’t mean that anyone is more right than another; it just means that we each have our own opinions.  

Be open today and learn to see the beauty in others and to accept the things that they see and believe are beautiful, whether you see them or not.

Stay well (and warm)!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Back Pages



"My Back Pages"

While channel surfing the other night I found John Sebastian’s infomercial on the folk music of the 1960s.  Having lived through that era I was amazed to see all the musicians from that time that are still at it (and what they look like) today.  Jesse Colin Young, Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Roger McGuinn, the Chad Mitchell Trio and Barry McGuire.  McGuire, whose website describes him as a prolific singer, songwriter, storyteller and truth-seekerstill sounds the same when singing The Eve of Destruction but he sure doesn’t look the same.  Bald head and a leather biker outfit are his brand today and although he certainly represented the counter-culture back then, he looks more like it today than he ever did back then.  But regardless of his looks now versus then, he still has and sings with the passion of a real minstrel. 


The 60s were when the term ‘counter-culture’ really got its meaning – protests were everywhere and ideas and mores were changing faster and more dramatically then than at any time in the past.  We tend to forget the magnitude and pace of those changes in light of today’s internet-based speed of change.  But back then it wasn’t  the speed of change as much as the magnitude of what was changing that made those times so historically memorable.  From the election of John Kennedy, the civil rights protests, ground-breaking legislation, the anti-war movement to the man on the moon, that was a decade to remember and the songs on this info-show sure highlighted all that went on when so many of us were coming of age.  If there’s one thing that characterizes and defines that era, it’s passion.  In all of its Day-Glo color and rhetoric, the passion of the 60s was real and definitely found in its music. 

So not surprisingly, my message this week is about passion.

“It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.” 
-Babe Ruth

George Herman Ruth, Jr. (1895 –1948), best known as "Babe" Ruth was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935. He became one of the first five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and has since become regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture.


Do you give up easily?  Sports figures are judged every time they step up to the plate - they could give up after missing so many chances but most of the time they don’t quit – they just get ready for the next pitch.  And neither should you give up if things don’t go exactly as you’d hoped – because eventually, if you work hard enough and practice long enough, and prepare well enough – you might become unstoppable.  That requires a burning passion for the things you’re doing, because passion is not a one-time or every-now-and-then thing; it’s a never-quit and always-show-it attitude that leads you and others to the finish line.  And if you make it to the finish line you just might win.  But remember:  you can’t win unless you try and it’s hard to beat someone who tries passionately to win and never gives up.

PS: As the infomercial ended, Roger McGuinn was singing these words from the Bob Dylan classic My Back Pages: “oh but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”.  Amen.

Stay well!