Thursday, August 30, 2012

Labor Day

Labor Day
 
Labor Day is the federal holiday that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. That’s all workers, as in every employee who gets up and works. Like you.  So, how are you going to celebrate?

In the beginning, people got the day off as a way of thanking workers for working – back then there weren’t a lot of other days off. Most people today have a 3-day weekend – they celebrate work by not working; most celebrate by doing stuff with family and friends – but not the people they work with. And come next Tuesday, everyone will return to work and the celebration will be over; but not the work.

As you get ready for this holiday weekend, look around at the people you work with and thank them for all they do, and the relationships and memories you share.  Then take a moment to remember those who are not working, and the sacrifices they’ve made these past few years; take time this weekend to reach out to some of them and let them know you’re thinking about them too.

And then give thanks for the job you have and the work you do.  Do it every day. That’s a better way to honor labor and celebrate Labor Day.

My message this week is about the people we work with:

“Only by binding together as a single force will we remain strong and unconquerable.”
 
Chris Bradford

Chris Bradford is an author, professional musician and black belt martial artist, best known for his children's fictional series, Young Samurai.

Life is full of opportunities to work - either alone, or with others.  How you approach these opportunities says a lot about who you are and how you see things.  Many would rather ‘go it alone’, feeling that self-reliance is the key to success.  There are certainly more than enough examples of people working alone – on their computers, in their own zone – and banging out the work that they know they can do and trust.  But the concept of “two heads are better than one” is based on our ability to leverage the skills and knowledge and abilities of many to then create a result that none on their own could achieve.  And this is not just true in heavy lifting, but also in complex thinking, tight production schedules, doing more with less, and being able to push all the participants farther than they each might individually expect.  Whether in sports, work, war, or family, binding together as a single force can, and usually does, make us strong and unconquerable. Practice this effectively today and you’ll be strong and unconquerable too!

Have a great Labor Day!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sick and Tired



Sick and Tired
 
How often have you heard someone say they’re “sick and tired” of something?  When’s the last time you said that yourself?  Thing is, if you’re not really sick then you shouldn’t say that.  Sick is a splitting headache, sick is pneumonia, sick is arthritis, sick is cancer; save the term for when it’s appropriate.

Tired sometimes comes from being fed up, and nothing gets me fed up more than politicians who say they have lofty goals but whose actions portray low ethics – they say or promise one thing but then have another agenda that they stick to, no matter what.  They all claim to be bi-partisan until they have to stand up and be counted: isn’t that like lying?  And then when they finally do come out and say something, it’s absolutely incredible (read: unbelievable).  Shouldn’t the people we elect work together to find the best solutions to our problems?  Whatever happened to two heads being better than one; whatever happened to the art of compromise; and how come when these seemingly regular people get into public office they turn into partisan and selfish ideologues (or whatever more salacious term you’d choose here)?

When I started my career years ago, a mentor advised me “you can disagree, but don’t be disagreeable”; that taught me the value of thinking about what I really believed in, studying up on those things so I knew all the facts, listening closely to others in case I missed something important, working with others to find the best solutions, and compromising or holding fast when one or the other was the right thing to do.  So how is it that the people we elect to represent us either never learned or, worse, forgot these simple ideas; and once elected, turn into something we neither expected nor wanted?

It seems that the partisan politics we’re witnessing is decidedly disrespectful to the history and values of our country and culture.  So maybe I am sick and tired of the partisan bull that’s thrown around in lieu of honest, open, transparent and effective discourse?  We’ve got serious problems and partisan politics is not going to produce the solutions we need.

As we get ready for the upcoming political conventions and the following presidential election campaign, we should be looking for politicians who are more interested in doing what’s right than rigidly following partisan party lines.  Maybe we need to elect people who are committed to not being disagreeable. Maybe we should demand that this be the new standard.  And maybe we should not support anyone who won’t make and keep that simple promise.

I wonder how many others are sick and tired of this.  Maybe someone should start a Facebook page for people who support this simple concept, and find out!

My message this week is about acting and being professional in all aspects of our lives:


“Experts often possess more data than judgment.”
-Colin Powell

Colin Luther Powell (born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1987-1993) and the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005).

Professionals are called upon to make decisions all the time.  And those decisions need to be both quick and correct.  If they’re not, how long do you think others will trust and rely upon them?   Of course being a professional doesn’t mean you operate only in the business world – people are expected to act professionally, reliably, reasonably, fairly, ethically, truthfully, kindly, openly and honestly in every aspect of life.  That means in your personal life with family and friends, in your community life with other volunteers and committed people, and in your professional life with co-workers and colleagues.  And in order to be at the top of your game, you need to rely on all of your senses and all of the information you can gather.  Consider this: if you just look at data, you might miss the human element that accompanies everything in life.  That’s because people who possess more data than judgment aren’t as good as they need to be to anyone!

Stay Well!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Big Ideas



Big Ideas

It’s an election year and every politician wants us to believe that their big idea is best for the country.  But big ideas are like noses – everyone has one…..and not all of them are worth considering.

Dwight Eisenhower had a big idea back in the 50s – to build an interstate highway system all across America.  Sure, it was a good idea because it facilitated moving the military around the country easily – something that he learned was necessary during the War – but it was good in so many other ways too. The fact is, that big idea – like Roosevelt’s New Deal, Kennedy’s Space program, Johnson’s Great Society, Nixon’s approach to China, and Reagan’s “tear down that wall” speech  -  significantly improved lives and livelihoods and are still paying dividends today. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not sure we’re seeing ideas that are similar in vision and scope today.

I was thinking about this last week as I drove the New York Thruway on my way to the Adirondacks. I’ve actually driven across the US twice and been amazed as one interstate led into the next – through Pennsylvania and Ohio, across the Great Plains, over the continental divide and Rockies, and on into California.  Whether taking this northern route, or following its southerly twin across Texas, up through Nashville and then along the Eastern Seaboard, the sheer expanse of this land we live in is impressive to behold.  And that wouldn’t have been possible without Ike’s big idea.

Most of the time the only perspective we have on the size and diversity of our country is through the eyes of the media commentators who define it in terms of red or blue states. They’d like us to believe that there are more differences that divide us than common values that unite us.  But that’s not the case.

As this month’s political conventions take over the airwaves from the recently concluded Olympics, it’s probably a good idea to view these as the polar opposites of the human spirit: one is divisive, the other is inclusive; one is full of demagoguery, the other is full of hope; one is viewed with cynicism, the other with pride; and one represents the lowest common denominators, the other the best we have to offer.  It’s rare that two opposites like this bump into one another so visibly, so watch both spectacles and decide for yourself what is really important, and how you should act every day.   Remember to think big the next time you head out on the highway of life.

My message this week is about what turns ordinary into extraordinary:

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

-Anne Frank


Annelies "Anne" Marie Frank (1929 – 1945) was one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her diary has been the basis for several plays and films.

Everything great starts with your imagination. No matter what your circumstances, as long as you can think and dream about great things, then you have the foundation upon which to act.  And you don’t have to wait for anyone to tell you to start – just look around at the things that surround you and try to imagine how to improve any one of them.  Chances are you have some pretty good ideas, and all you have to do is figure them out.  You’ll have to think your ideas all the way through; you may then want to share them with others to see what they might think; and if they’re good then some may even be adopted.  But if you’re shy, or feel that speaking up might not be appreciated, you might hesitate to even start imagining how to make things better.  Stop thinking that way right now, because nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve anything!

Stay well!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Helmets






Helmets

Here’s another “old dog in a new world” thought:

I was walking along the wooded and nearly deserted country road that runs past my Adirondack mountain cabin last week when one of the few neighbors we have rode by on her old Schwinn bike – and she was wearing a helmet.  And this started me thinking about how things have changed.

Most of us learned to ride a bike long before helmets were strongly recommended and universally accepted. We learned to ride by having our parents run alongside us and then letting us go.  Back then it was more about avoiding the shrubs, and our parents never mentioned wearing a helmet. Fact is: we’d have thought it childish to wear one, even though we really were children.

Bikes then had one gear and no handbrakes – we’d work like crazy going up hills and then speed like fools going down, and the brakes on the pedals often tended to cause the bike to fishtail.  More than once I wiped out and skidded along on the roadside cinders.  All my friends had similar (or worse) accidents, and still, nobody wore a helmet.

And then, overnight, nobody rode a bike without a helmet. I was driving by then and would walk before I’d get my bike back out.  So when I finally did get back on a bike it seemed awkward to use a helmet – after all, I wasn’t raised having to wear one, so I didn’t.  But the baby boomers had children of their own; I had a child and worried about her safety: so I made sure she had and wore a helmet.  And because I wanted to be a good role model, I had to wear one too.  And just like that, the world – at least for me and all the other boomers, as it related to helmets, changed.

It’s interesting how we go from cool to responsible, especially when there are others who rely on our acting responsibly.  And it’s interesting how many of the things that were acceptable when we were growing up became unacceptable along the way. Many of these things had to be learned, or maybe the things we used to do had to be unlearned.  Is that what growing up is?  

We think we know so much, and then we find we don’t.  We think we’re cool, until the definition of cool changes.  In this Internet age of information overload, it’s a wonder that more time isn’t spent unlearning. The fact is that one of the only things we can count on is change, and it’s mostly for the better. If we’re honest with ourselves, and open to change, it’s wise to understand that things like helmets are best learned later than not.

My message this week is about how proud you’ll be when you learn new things:

"When faced with a challenge, look for a way, not a way out."  
-David Weatherford

David Weatherford is a child psychologist with published poems in "Chicken Soup for the Soul", and he is the author of "Slow Dance", a poem widely reproduced throughout the Internet.

What do you look for in life each day? Let’s start by admitting that life is full of challenges – and each one represents an opportunity.  What you do with each of those opportunities is the measure of your effectiveness – sort of like your personal report card. When presented with a challenge, do you look at it as something positive – a chance to show what you can do with all the knowledge skills and abilities you have; or do you see it as an obstacle or hassle – something that you grudgingly have to deal with? Either way you’ll have to tackle it, so you might as well view that opportunity as chance to show what you know and can do.  But if you approach it with a negative attitude, whatever you then do won’t be nearly as good as it could or should be.  And that’s the challenge – to look for a way, not a way out. Approach life’s challenges with a positive attitude today!

Stay well!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Family




                                         Family
 
 One of the best parts of having a family is getting together with them.  And the larger the family, the harder it is to do that.

 People get busy, move away, have families and obligations, lose touch, and get distracted; and before you know it the years slip by and everyone gets older and more set in their own worlds. We lament this fact, and we say we’re not going to let it happen; but it happens. Everybody gathers when there’s a funeral, and how often have you heard your relatives say then “it’s a shame we don’t all get together in good times”?

And even though we have more social networking sites than we can keep track of, it’s not the same. “Liking” someone is not the same as hanging out with them. Posting your pictures and looking at theirs is not the same as communicating and sharing face to face.

 So it was kind of cool when one of my in-laws suggested that the family get together. Easier said than done because people had lots of reasons for not being able to attend – it was too far, they had other plans, some were ill, and others had little time or interest. But because my wife is from such a large family, the idea resonated and 1/3 of all who were invited showed up. And when the obligatory picture that you see here was snapped, there were 34 smiling faces looking back at the camera.  While there were far more who didn’t attend, those that did came away with a renewed sense of family.

 Young cousins who rarely see each other were off building the kind of relationships that enable families to span generations. New boyfriends and girlfriends were introduced and quickly became part of the extended family.  Parents and aunts and uncles nodded happily at this process of continuity that is so often found during summer vacations and around holidays and events. And the result was the strengthening of those things that bind us all together: the pictures we keep and share, the memories we’ll talk about for years to come, the things that made us laugh and cry, the stories about things and people recently or long gone, and the experiences we’ll always remember. Everyone there, like everyone who has family get-togethers everywhere, has fond memories of these things, and we’re all stronger and better for having had them.

 When’s the last time you had any kind of contact with any of your relatives - not just those who conveniently live nearby, but with those you take time to reach out and connect with?  If the answer is: “you can’t remember”, then it’s been too long and you need to do something about it. Don’t let another week go by that you don’t pick up a phone or take a ride or write a letter to a relative you haven’t connected with in way too long; and don’t use Facebook – that’s a cop out! Do it the old fashioned face-to-face way and get all the advantages of being part of a family.  After all, that’s what having family is all about!

 My message this week is about being proud of who and what you are: 

"When faced with a challenge, look for a way, not a way out."  
-David Weatherford

 David Weatherford is a child psychologist with published poems in "Chicken Soup for the Soul", and he is the author of "Slow Dance", a poem widely reproduced throughout the Internet.

 What do you look for in life each day? Let’s start by admitting that life is full of challenges – and each one represents an opportunity.  What you do with each of those opportunities is the measure of your effectiveness – sort of like your personal report card. When presented with a challenge, do you look at it as something positive – a chance to show what you can do with all the knowledge skills and abilities you have; or do you see it as an obstacle or hassle – something that you grudgingly have deal with? Since either way you’ll have to tackle, you might as well view it as chance to show what you know and can do.  But if you approach it with a negative attitude, whatever you then do won’t be nearly as good as it could or should be.  And that’s the challenge – to look for a way, not a way out. Approach life’s challenges with a positive attitude and see how proud you’ll be!

 Stay well!