Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe it’s the end of 2011.  Nor can I believe all that happened in 2011.

The United Nations designated 2011 as the Year of the Forest…that’s amazing since there was absolutely nothing in the news about that.
I guess all this other news drowned that out:



The Arab Spring, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the economic roller coaster, Prince William married Kate, the tornado in Joplin, Dr. Kevorkian died (of natural causes), Governor Blogojevich went to jail, more sensational legal battles (Casey Anthony and that guy from the IMF), NYC had an earthquake, tornado and hurricane, the endless Republican debates, the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal, some team won the World Series, there were killings everywhere (Arizona and Finland were the most notable), Occupy Wall Street became a movement, Bin Laden was killed, Steve Jobs died, Joe Paterno retired in disgrace, the European Union nearly imploded, the war in Iraq ended (really?) and too much more to mention here.

So what about The Year of the Forest?  My friend Virginia puts this on all her emails: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best time is NOW. Maybe the UN should do the same!

Maybe all the news that we see and hear each day isn’t what’s really important.  Maybe we need to slow down and focus on just a few important things in our lives. Maybe we have to stop running as if there’s someplace important we have to get to:

There’s a set of escalators in New York’s Grand Central Station that many people use every morning to get up to street level.  Escalators are nice because you don’t have to climb the stairs – right?  But people push to be able to run up these escalators as if that will give them some extra time to complete the things they have to do.  But really, how much time can they gain?  And does that really make a difference?

Fact is, we are all rushing around rather that slowing down to smell the proverbial coffee or roses.  The days, months and years all keep rolling on and unless we each make a commitment to doing something meaningful then nothing much is going to change.  And this leads me to this week’s punch line: maybe that’s why people make New Year’s resolutions!

So what’s your resolution going to be for 2012?  What’s the one thing you hope to accomplish in 2012 that will make a difference?  Sure we all want to be better, or lose weight, or see some beautiful winter scene, but what will you commit to in 2012 that will really make a difference?  That’s the question of the hour and now’s the time to answer it.  If you haven’t already made a resolution, stop right now and do it.

At times like these my mind tends to go back to the songs I’ve learned and sung.  Maybe one year’s ending and the new one’s beginning is like that line from the song All My Life’s a Circle by Harry Chapin:

                        No straight lines make up my life, and all my roads have bends; 

                       There's no clear-cut beginnings, and so far no dead-ends.

Where will your roads lead you in 2012?  And what will you do to steer the course you choose?  Those are the questions that are on my mind as 2011 ends, and I’ll spend 2012 trying to find the answers.

I hope you have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Stay well!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Life is a Journey

If today were my last day on Earth and I could share 500 words of brilliance with the world, here are the important things I'd want to pass along to others...
My Dad always told me to live each day as if it were my last, and as a child the specter of one's last day always seemed like a remote possibility. But with maturity and experience comes the realization that it's not just about one's last day, but also the lost chances and opportunities in life that should also be seen through a lens of hope and caring. So as you go about your daily chores it's always best to do all you can to make every day count.
Be positive and upbeat: We all can find the glass that is half empty, but why bother? Every day presents us with so many glasses that are half full and you should spend all of your time trying to fill them all the way up. Think how much you can help others by showing them how and when and why they can help others today.
Be an inspiration: Live your life as an example to others. We all observe those around us and try to mimic the good things we see, so remember that when on your journey. It's so much better to do the kinds of things that inspire others to be better and to leave that as your legacy.
Tell others you care about them: All too often we just assume that others know how we feel about them, but are you sure they know? There's no harm in telling them as often as you can how you feel - it never gets old. And if by chance you never get another chance you'll be happy that you did.
Find the harmonies in your life: The best things in life are those that complement each other and you should never miss an opportunity to share in them. Being part of a team, working closely with others, sharing good things and times with those you care about - these are the moments that make the most of your time and energies. Don't miss any chance to join in and find life's harmonies.
Leap empty handed into the void: I must admit, I didn't come up with this one - I saw someone in an interview on TV saying this and it's something I now believe in. Whether it's your last moment on Earth or just one of the many along the way, remember to put down what you're doing before you start to focus on the next thing. To get the most out of anything you should always be ready to put your all into everything you do.
That's it: short and simple. Now the trick is to remember these and make them a part of your life every day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

                      Inspire Me


I'm excited to share some great news with you. On December 23rd, 2011 I will be the featured Inspirational Luminary on InspireMeToday.com, sharing my thoughts with the world.

Inspire Me Today features the 'Brilliance' of a new Luminary every day. You can start your day with the wisdom of Sir Richard Branson, Guy Laliberte, Seth Godin, Neale Donald Walsch, Marci Shimoff, or one of hundreds more, now including me. I'm honored to be with such esteemed company!

To help you stay inspired, you can sign up to receive this 3 minute 'Today's Brilliance' pick-me-up each day by email, by RSS feed or as an iPhone app. You can even subscribe to it on the new Google Currents.

Please visit the site on December 23rd, 2011 and help me inspire the world. If my traffic and comments break records, InspireMeToday.com will share my content with millions of additional people too! I hope you'll check it out, leave a comment and share it with your friends.

From the folks at Inspire Me Today and from me, thank you in advance for your kind support. I know you're going to love InspireMeToday.com! Together we really can inspire the world.

Be inspired,

Arte

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

 Razr



I got a new phone and phone number last week.  The phone’s pretty cool – but I’m not anywhere near prepared for the learning needed to figure out all that this phone does. I’ve had the same cell phone number for nearly 12 years – that made me easy to find.  And I’ve had a Blackberry for more than 5 years and that makes me a Crackberry addict.   Now they’re both gone – replaced with a new number and a Droid Razr.  Droid??  Razr????  I guess I’m just an old dog thrown into a world of new tricks.  Grrrrrrrrr.

So the first thing I did was send the new number to lots of people I know, on the off chance that any of them were going to call me.  Talk about being an optimist.  I hope I’m not going to be terribly disappointed.  And then I changed from a Blackberry to this Droid – the old one I knew and was comfortable with; with this new one, even the name creeps me out.  I told the guy at the phone store I do lots of email on my phone, and he said these new touch pads are just as good as the Blackberry keypad.  Not.  And the guy at the phone store told me how cool it’d be to more easily surf the web – you know, find the closest gas stations and dim sum restaurants.  Huh?  The Blackberry was not very good at surfing the web and I seemed to get along ok with that.  But, hey, maybe he’s right.  Maybe I do need to spend more time looking for things I don’t really need or was able to get along without before.

But there’s got to be something to these new-fangled devices – I say devices because they go way beyond just being a phone (duh, I guess that’s why they call them smartphones).  Remember the first cell phones – those big old bricks with the hard black antenna – some of them even had a regular old hand set tethered to them.  All it could do was make a call, and even then there wasn’t enough cell coverage to make that a particularly good experience.  But these really are smart….or at least the people who designed them are smart.  Maybe we have to be careful about using the word smart – people are smart, pets can be smart, but phones – I’m not sure smart is the right adjective.  

Ok, so what can I do with this that I couldn’t do before?  Text and email while I talk on the phone – that’s the new multi-tasking standard.  See where I’m walking and heading as I try to find what I’m looking for – that’s the new replacement for stopping and asking for directions (a distasteful task for guys, right?).  Photos, tweets, voice commands, Skype on the go, check the weather and subway routes, read a book, watch tv, listen to the news, and millions (literally) of other things in the app store.

App store?  Yep, in yesterday’s NY Times they announced that there are now more than a million apps available.  I won’t even go into what all of them can do because I can’t even imagine what all of them can do. Or why I’d need any of them. I spent the last few days looking at many these possible apps – I didn’t see one to help me breathe, or make eye contact, or act nicely, or care a lot, or any of the countless things that humans do (and presumably Droids don’t). Yep, I’m an old dog, and learning these any or all of these new tricks may be somewhere between a full time job and impossible for me.

And now that I have this new phone, I’m getting flack for not choosing the iPhone, and challenged why I don’t put down the phone and pay attention to those I’m with.  It ain’t easy going from a Crackberry freak to a Droid – I just hope I don’t forget that I’m a human and not a Droid. I hope I don’t fall farther into the cyber world where connections are on the web rather than face to face.  I hope I don’t start to become one of those people who look more at the small screen rather than at the big picture. I hope… no, I wish, the world would slow down and give us back some of our real people to people world.  I wish I didn’t have to be an old dog in a new world.  

My message this week is about working and interacting with other people up close and personal:

“I can achieve far more if I work amiably with people, if I support other's goals.”     Ruth J. Simmons

Ruth Jean Simmons (born July 3, 1945) was the 18th and current president of Brown University, the first black president of an Ivy League institution.  She stepped down in September, 2011 and will continue at Brown as Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies.

How well do you work with people? Are you the kind of person who claims the spotlight and the glory, or do you share equally with all?  Are you the kind of person who casually leaves the details for others or do you personally dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s?  Are you the kind of person who creates a lot of drama or are you more steady and dependable? Customers, colleagues, family and friends all react better when you’re someone whose knowledge and behaviors can be counted on, whose efforts complement those of others, and whose commitment is beyond question.  You probably know people who take more than they give and are insensitive to how that affects everyone else’s efforts.  Make sure you’re not one of them.  Make sure your involvement and participation benefits everyone.  Make sure you work amiably with others and support their goals.  Make sure you participate effectively today.
 
Stay well!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

                  I Get It

You haven’t heard me talk about the subway lately. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention to some of the better things people do while riding the rails. I’ve been watching one specifically lately, and I think I got it.

Try standing on a moving train and reading a newspaper while holding on to a bar or strap. Time was when I had all I could do to keep my balance. Time was when I had to stay focused so that I wouldn’t miss my stop. Time was when I had to make sure I didn’t get swept off the train by the masses. But once I got those basic things down, I wanted to be able to read the New York Times at the same time. Not easy. But since I saw so many others doing it I thought I should give it a try.

First you have to be able to fold the pages twice – so that the result is a half-page. Now doing this and still getting the crease in the right place is not that easy – takes two hands, have to smooth it out and get it so you can unfold and refold it to be able to see the other half of the page. And then when you’re done with that page, you have to unfold it so that you get to the next half page. And so on. Sounds easy, right? Nope – because the folds come undone, the flipping back and forth gets confusing, and what if a story is continued on a much later page, how do you get to that one and then back? You get the picture.

So I watched for months, and then practiced at home when no train was moving beneath my feet and no one was watching. And in this there are lessons.

First: we watch others all the time, and whether it’s leading people, riding a bike, playing golf or reading a paper, much of what we learn is done by mimicking the actions of others who are more skilled and knowledgeable. That’s the best way to learn the countless moves we need to know in life.

Second: there’s the need to perfect things through practice – which is best done when you’re out of the spotlight. Now I will admit to trying this paper thing on the train before I learned and practiced… didn’t work well and what I did could have been embarrassing if anyone were watching. And even if they weren’t, I still made a fool of myself in my mind’s eye.

And third: we’re all our own harshest critics. That’s as it should be, so we work extra hard to do things that feel and seem right to us. But still, we want to be good at what we do, we want to meet or exceed the expectations or perceptions of others, and we want others to notice how good we can be. That’s human nature.

So now I’ve got it. I can get the fold right the first time (most of the time), hang on and read the first half-page, and let go of the strap quickly and refold things accordingly and keep on reading. I may not be perfect, but I’m more than credible. I look like I almost belong on a subway. I pretty sure I look like I get it.

My message this week is about learning to act professionally and then doing what needs to be done.

“Self-respect is the cornerstone of all virtue.”  John Herschel

Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Baronet (1792 –1871) was an English mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and experimental photographer/inventor, who in some years also did valuable botanical work. He originated the use of the Julian day system in astronomy. He named seven moons of Saturn and four moons of Uranus. He made many contributions to the science of photography, and investigated color blindness and the chemical power of ultraviolet rays.

What’s your best virtue? These musings look at values such as professionalism, passion, loyalty, team spirit, participation, grandeur, ownership, integrity, innovation and pride – and self-respect may be at the heart of them all. All of these values are important, but self-respect is how you feel about yourself, and how you approach things, and how people see you, and how good you try to be. It’s about doing the right things because they’re the right things to do, about caring a lot and trying hard all the time, about being the kind of person you want and hope to be, about trying and learning new things, and about setting an example for others. Actively living all of these virtues will make you a great role model – and in life, being an example for others is all about observing others, listening to others, learning from others and teaching others. Look at your life – can you honestly say you’d be what you are today if others hadn’t shown you the way? So live all of these values and virtues every day, and let self-respect be the cornerstone of them all.

Stay well!