Friday, January 28, 2011

Crackberry Blues

"Crackberry" Blues

Some of my friends chided me last week for writing about weather and mass transit stuff - they were incredulous that I failed to mention the ‘blackberry thing’. I guess I didn’t want to expose how little I really know about the technology I use. But they’re right: I should mention the ‘blackberry thing’.

I’m definitely a "Crackberry" addict – I love my old Blackberry Curve and am to the point where I feel naked and lost without it.  Hey – before you snicker, how often do you feel for and check your mobile phone? How long can you go between looking at your email? And how often have you done this while in the middle of talking to someone so you can look at, or respond to, a message? Tweets, Facebook, Instant Messaging – they’re all there to feed this addition. Your contact list – forget about remembering anyone’s phone or email or snail mail – they’re just a click away. And the calendar – you never have to remember where you’re going – just look when you hear the alert.  Sound familiar???

So last week when I had to change my settings, they said: just “back it up” onto the blackberry app you download from the web. Easy, right? Not! I clicked on all the right options and chose all the new settings and when I went back to restore all the old settings and information: NOTHING WAS THERE! Cooler, more experienced heads might have just done it over or rebooted but I got dizzy and felt like I’d been hit by a semi on the cyber highway. I was freakin’ lost! How was I going to do all those things I love to do while running around trying to do everything else: call my mother – I don’t remember her phone number; pay my online bills – they were no longer online; get in touch with that friend or business associate – their addresses were gone? This made me remember that song Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone - I felt like the sunshine went out on my ability to connect and communicate and in my head I kept hearing the part where he sings: I know, I know, I know, I know…for what seemed like fifteen minutes. For me, right then, “there ain’t no sunshine when your phone dies”!

This is the point where us 60 something’s need to check with an in-the-know 20 something; this is the point where we realize that we - need others - this is the point where we need to remember there are solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems that challenge us each day - this is the point where we need to be open to the experience and help that others can offer.

If you’re going to get involved in anything – especially newfangled and somewhat complex things like these new smartphones (or all those other complex things you’re doing today) – then you need to take charge of learning all you need to know about what makes them work. You need to network and search to find out what you don’t know; you need to calm down and find and use all the help that’s available. Internet searches, calls to friends, checking with experts, reading the user guides and FAQs and taking lots of deep breaths while telling yourself that it all really will work out. Most of this stuff can be figured out if you slow down and calmly take your time to take stock of all that’s out there. Yeah, I know we’re all too impatient for that but I also know (now) that patience is (like your mother used to say) a virtue. And I also now know that with most of these new fangled things, you can’t live with them almost as much as you can’t live without them. So take charge of the things that are going on in your world today and make them all they can be.

My message this week is about (you guessed it) – ownership:
“What you RESIST, PERSISTS. If you take ownership and deal with things that are bothering you, then in the very process of dealing with them, they very often will go away.  -Unknown

How many things won’t go exactly as you planned today? And what will you do about that? Will you be prepared for the things that might happen today - or will you just start the day and hope for the best? Will you think about all that might happen before it does or will you just expect to be able to react as they happen? When faced with the things that happen, will you calmly assess the situation or just accept it and hope that it will be as good as it needs to be? Truth be told, you need to be a whole lot more engaged in the things that happen in your world so that you can have some control over them, so that you can learn and grow from them. You know that they’re not just going to go away - all of this stuff really does matter to you or others and if you get engaged and pay attention and work hard at them, you can own the results that happen in your life. You need to take ownership and deal with the things that that are bothering you today (and everyday) – and make them go away.

Stay well!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Old Habits Die Hard

Old Habits Die Hard

What do you do when you need groceries or want to go out to dinner? How about when you want to go to the park or go out for something social or get stuff at a store? You probably get in the car and drive there. At least that’s what I’ve always done and let me tell you: it ain’t easy to change your routine.

This week I’m on the plane back to sunny southern California – going back to what I know and have for so long felt comfortable with. Suburban living, cars in driveways, malls with parking lots, warm weather (all the time!) and a laid back style more conducive to hanging out than getting somewhere. But now I’ve chosen to live in an urban area for a while and I’m not so sure about what I really like. Living in a big city means (at least in the case of the Big Apple) that mass transit and walking are the primary means of getting around. Subways and trains and busses may not be the easiest way to get from one point to another but by making these accessible and affordable, everyone in NYC just accepts these transit tools for what they are: the best way to get around. But I’ve been going out and getting in the car to go to any and everywhere for so long it just seemed like there were no alternatives. And as I got ready to go to NYC for an extended tim e I thought that not having my trusty wheels was going to be a pain in the ass.

But wait: I’m now sitting on a crowded freeway in California and trying to get somewhere – I’m driving because there’s no other way to get there. Busses and trains were never really built out here to handle the kinds of traffic that exists. Sure, they have car pool lanes but even those are crowded and slow. Is it the commitment of the local officials or the lack of interest by the people who live here? Without the mass transportation infrastructure already in place, maybe the officials think that nobody would accept the kind of lifestyle changes that would be needed for people to adopt that new paradigm. Maybe somebody ought to ask all the drivers and passengers in all the cars sitting on all the crowded freeways what they would like. I suspect we’d all have heartburn about the cost to build and retrofit our life with these conveyances but wasn’t that part of what the stimulus money was supposed to be used for? Maybe we should take a momen t to find out what we need to live the lives we only dream about. I wouldn’t have thought about or been talking about these things if I hadn’t experienced this kind of paradigm shift first hand. So it makes me think that we often don’t know about what we don’t know and thus we’re convinced that these kinds of changes might not be easy or good. Maybe we should start to look into the things we don’t know and just maybe this new knowledge will help us change our habits.

Experiencing and learning new things is a win-win and the quote and message this week focuses on the commitment needed to win. So my message this week is about pride and doing what’s right:

When it comes to anything that's social, whether it's your family, your school, your community, your business or your country, winning is a team sport.  -Bill Clinton

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. At 46 he was the third-youngest president; he became president at the end of the Cold War and was the first baby-boomer president.

When was the last time you were on a winning team? And how did that feel? Even though we most often associate winning and losing with sports, there are so many other times in life where winning is important. Certainly at work – whether it’s competing against another company or against another department or division within your own company – there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had from being the best. And at home – when your family competes on some level in the community – there’s a closeness that’s achieved when you’re all working together to show off your family’s commitment and expertise. There’s something very social about working together and also about competing to win. The winning doesn’t happen unless everyone works together and shares in that effort. Make the effort everyday to work with others to find ways to improve our lives and exemplify that winning is a team sport.

Stay well. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Substance and Style


Here’s More About The Weather In Brooklyn:
I’d forgotten what it’s like to walk around with my shoulders scrunched up around my ears trying to ward off the cold.  I’d forgotten how I had to watch the weather report to see what I’d need to wear when I went outdoors.  I’d even forgotten about long underwear and the importance of dry socks.  But some things you never really forget.  Good lessons, once learned, remain in your memory forever, and come rushing back to remind you when needed.  A good blast of cold weather calls up these lessons quickly indeed.

But This Is Not Just About The Weather:
As I was sitting in the terminal this week and waiting for the train, I noticed how many shapes and sizes and styles you see when the subway trains come in.  I’m usually there at rush hour and truthfully it’s all I can do to make my way onto the right train for watching the people.  I didn’t realize there were so many different kinds and styles and colors of coats and hats and boots – and everyone seems to wear them easily and well.  And as I’m watching I think about when I get ready to go out and how I obsess about having something that looks just right rather than making sure that it is just right.  And then I realize that the people that are doing the best are those who have the right things – and I can’t help but think that in some cases those were obviously not selected for looks alone.  Now that’s a real lesson to learn on a cold day and it reminds me about what Mr. Natural (the R. Crumb character) says: “you need the right tool for the job!” 

So here I am, shoulders scrunched up around my ears in this cold urban experience, waiting for a train, and it becomes clear that substance is way more important than style; as in: if I could only have one, I should choose substance.  And, if you get them both, well, that’s cool (no pun intended); but don’t count on it.  So my lesson this week is all about putting ego aside and learning that when it comes to deciding what to do, it’s more about what’s right than just about what’s cool.  What was it the Billy Crystal character used to say: “It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look; and you look mahvelous!”  Well guess what: feeling good is way better than just looking good!

So my message this week is about pride and doing what’s right:

“Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.”  Kahlil Gibran

Of Gibran (1883-1931), it was once said: "His power came from some great reservoir of spiritual life else it could not have been so universal and so potent, but the majesty and beauty of the language with which he clothed it were all his own."

Pride is good when it drives you to doing what’s right and being the best you can be.  Pride is good when it’s the result of your association with and participation in wonderful things.  Pride is good when it causes you to notice and speak well of the things that others do. Pride is good when it makes you sensitive to others, and fun to be around, and unselfish when dealing with others.  Pride is not so good when it drives you beyond good sense, or when it makes you want to act as though you’re more than you are, or when you boast irresponsibly, or when you do things for show rather than for good sense, or when you don’t share freely with others, or when you care more about yourself than others.  Pride can cut both ways: it can be a force for good if you’re good or bad when you’re bad.  Work at being good and doing good today, and be proud of that.

Stay warm and be well! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Get Up On Your Tiptoes!

Get up on your tiptoes

It’s been nearly 30 years since I left the east coast and started making my way west and left the cold weather behind. All these years I thought it was the sunshine and open spaces that immeasurably improved life. But by some stroke of sheer coincidence I now find myself assigned to an extended engagement in Brooklyn in the winter. And I’ve got to tell you; I find life here exciting and exhilarating.

Living in an urban setting, taking mass transit to work, being a small part of a large (as in millions) and diverse (can you say: “melting pot") crowd – that’s where I find myself today. Wearing a down overcoat that’s rated to minus 40 and I’m still cold – but the buzz in this mass of humanity warms me. Walking down a street where nobody knows anybody else – but everybody’s in the same boat and they’re all courteous (no bumping) and friendly (there’s even a sign at most corners asking drivers not to honk their horns). Being in a completely new setting and everyone I’ve asked for assistance or directions or advice has been more than happy to stop and give it, freely.

The point is, that we all get settled in our own little worlds and we think that our own space and situation is the only one for us and we get a little complacent and stop looking at what might be over the horizon. But now I see it’s not where you are but how you look at where you are.  And hey, it’s a new year and there’s no better time than right now to try something new. You don’t have to go take the kind of bold leap that I just made but there are probably lots of things you can do that are creative and innovative, that will alter your circumstances and perspectives and opportunities. Make sure your New Year’s resolutions are designed to help you be all you can be. Make sure you’re looking at all the possibilities rather than all the problems. Make sure all of your senses are open to all of the opportunities that might exist. Get up on your tiptoes and look at all that’s just over the horizon. Make 2011 a year to remember!

My quote this week is about ‘innovation’. Read on and see if you can free the angel in your marble.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”   -Michelangelo

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475 –1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet and engineer. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered an archetypal Renaissance man.

Innovation starts in many ways, but almost always there’s a vision or inspiration that precedes it. How one gets to a vision or inspiration can take many routes: you can be working with someone or some thing and like a bolt of lightening you’re struck with the vision or inspiration – almost like a divine revelation; or you can study hard and research a lot and finally find your big idea embedded in the sentences or formulas of your work, sort of like Einstein’s theory of evolution; or you might be part of a team of people whose collective efforts culminate in a wondrous moment, not unlike the first lunar landing; or you can be sitting around with friends and noodle your way to the genesis of the next Facebook.  Either way, you need to keep your eyes and imagination open to recognize the proverbial ‘angel in the marble’ – when that happens, be sure you act on it!

Stay well!