Sunday, March 31, 2013

Another April Fools' Day




                                                   
          Another April Fools’ Day

I was walking on a New York City street this past week, and in front of me was a short guy about my age wearing a Marine’s jacket and hat.  Seemed incongruous because he was short, and the picture in my mind of an ex-Marine didn’t include short.  I’m short, and never envisioned myself as big enough to be a Marine – but from the look of this guy I guess that wasn’t all together true.

We started talking and he told me he’d been a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam, and how that changed his life: bad hearing and emphysema. He’d grown up in Brooklyn, had been homeless for a time after the war, was now living in a Veteran’s Home, and had kids and grandkids he didn’t see much.  The conversation got deeper more quickly than I’d expected; it seemed like he just needed to talk, so I walked on and listened.  And as he talked I reflected on how two short and similarly aged guys had such diverse backgrounds and stories.  And how lucky I am.

The streets are filled with people, and most of the time we never know much about them; but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from asking.  We don’t often ask because we’re too busy or absorbed, and so a microcosmic incident like this proves how much we lose by not asking, not just from the people we meet by chance, but also from those we know and love.  How often have you been too self-centered to stop and ask, and really care about, what’s going on with family, friends, colleagues and strangers?  For me, the answer is too often!  And that’s never good or right.

So on this April Fools’ Day, forget the pranks and focus on the thanks you can give and get by asking and really caring about those around you.  Life is full of stories, most of which are warm and enriching.  And life should be full of caring, which can be nurturing when it's genuine.  Make time today to ask, and listen, and care.  That’s nothing to joke about!

My message this week is about the kind of person you should be:

“Before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.”  Harper Lee

What do you see in the mirror in the morning when you’re brushing your teeth?  Is it the person you want to be?  We read messages like this, or watch the news about notable people, and think we’d like to be more like them: smarter, taller, wiser, funnier, better, or just something other than what we are.  But in reality, we are who and what we are, and the challenge is to be the best we can be.  Because there’s no reason to try to be someone we’re not, it’s important to listen to our inner voice when it points out right from wrong.  That’s called your conscience, and it can, and often does, point you in the right direction. Listen to your inner voice today and let it guide you to doing what’s right!

Stay Well!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Ides of March




The Ides of March

How often have you heard someone say: “beware the Ides of March”?  And how often have you wondered what that really means?
Sure, we all know it was the date that Brutus assassinated Julius Caesar, but who cares?  That was in 44 BC, so why are we still worried?  How come nobody reminds us to beware of so many other dates when people have been assassinated - is it because the date is less important than the concept of someone betraying us? 
How often have you been betrayed or disappointed by friends and loved ones, and how many times have your hopes and aspirations been dashed by those you’ve trusted? Life is full of these kinds of ups and downs, but we shouldn’t spend our days fearful of those around us. Rather than worrying, maybe we should work hard to make sure we’re the kind of person that others could and should trust, the kind that others never consider betraying or disappointing.  We should communicate effectively with others so that the chance mistakes that lead to mistrust and betrayal don’t happen.  And maybe we shouldn’t be so fixated on being afraid – most things turn out okay if we let them.
I feel badly that Brutus betrayed and killed Caesar….but I can’t let that long ago event ruin my day.  No more than I should fear getting in a car or walking across the street – how many of those routine acts have resulted in more fatal incidents than we can count or keep track of.  Life is certainly full of risks – but if we’re open and honest and aware and careful, chances are we’ll get through the day without anything more than the normal scratches that life presents.  So keep your eyes, ears and minds open today for all that’s going on around you, and Enjoy the Ides of March!
My message this week is about being honest and fair:
“I never think about my best interests. I think about what's the right thing to do in a situation.” Clive Palmer
Most of the time we’re encouraged to be consistent, the thinking being that doing the same for everyone is the right thing to do.  But how often are circumstances exactly the same – almost never, and so consistency is not always the right way to proceed.  Having to think about what’s the right thing to do in a situation is a better way to approach things: you have to assess everything, use all your expertise and experience, add some common sense, and then decide on the best course of action.  That way others will know that you considered all the factors and options, and decided on what’s fair and just.  Deciding the right thing to do is the way to be fair, and that’s what others expect and deserve. That’s all you can ask of others….and them of you.
Stay well!

March Madness




                  March Madness

I spent this week in Las Vegas, taking care of family stuff and watching as people from everywhere showed signs of March Madness.

Webster defines “Mad-ness” as “the state of being mad”.  Sounds pretty straight-forward, and yet none of the thousands of people flocking here for this annual ritual appear to be mad.  In fact, they’re downright giddy!  They come in groups, hang out all day and night, drink and eat, and generally look like they’re more happy than mad.

Funny how we use common terms to mean multiple things: mad for happy, bad for good, go for stay, yes as an exclamation.  It’s no wonder that people for whom English is a second language have trouble understanding us.  And it’s no wonder that many native speaking English people also are confused by the words and phrases we use.

In this era of hype-as-speak, we need to focus more on saying what we mean, and then meaning what we say. We need to be aware that our words impact others, so we should carefully watch what we say (can you really watch?).  And we should make sure we use words when appropriate, and hold our tongues (have you ever really held a tongue??) when it’s proper and prudent to do so.  Enough said!

My message this week is about being the person others need you to be:

“You can pretend to care, but you can't pretend to show up.” George L. Bell

How do you show your professionalism?  Is it by caring about and empathizing with others, trusting others and showing them respect, being fair, and being there?  People at work rely on the professionals around them to be there for them: to answer questions, give guidance, provide positive leadership, and give a helping hand.  But you can’t do that if you’re not there and visible.  How often have you worked with or for people who don’t interact as much as you need, or don’t come out of their office unless they need something.  Remember: when you’re the professional, walk around, talk to others, ask if you can help, and let others know you’re there for them.  People don’t care what you ask as long as they know you care, and while you can pretend to care, you can’t pretend to be there.  Show up today and be the professional that others need you to be!

Stay well!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

MOOCs




                        MOOCs

I read in the New York Times this week that the next big thing on college campuses is known as a MOOC.  No, that’s not a new drink or dance, but rather it stands for: Massive Open Online Course.

College courses used to be an on-campus thing that you’d walk to and sit through.  These usually only have as many students as there are seats, and a live professor lecturing in front.  These, like other professional development seminars, are and have been part of the brick and mortar world we’ve known for so long.

But this Internet thing is disrupting this legacy practice just as surely as it’s changed so many other things we do. Think about shopping, reading newspapers, watching broadcasts, researching information, and email. Now, universities like Harvard, Duke, MIT and others are broadcasting some of their best courses and teachers across the Internet to tens of thousands of students who would not otherwise have access to them.  These courses are often free, have proctored testing procedures, and are starting to spread in ways only the Internet can support.

Because the Internet is often portrayed as a waste of time, it’s interesting to see it start to develop in ways like this. The commercial Internet has only been available for less than 20 years but it’s already producing game changing practices that 100 years from now will be seen as remarkable as automobiles, penicillin, computers and airplane travel were and have been.

Every one of us who’ve been hijacked or held hostage by the Internet should start using things like this to truly change our lives.   As the Internet becomes known more for beaming the best rather than just being a tool for foolishness, it may truly start to reach its full potential.  And that will truly be amazing.

And thus the last line in the article really hit home: When outstanding becomes so easily available, average is over!

My message this week is about working together to create something great:

“Great teamwork is the only way we create the breakthroughs that define our careers.” Pat Riley

What kind of breakthroughs have you had in your career?  It’s usually something important that you worked on, like a project or a problem, and often is a bit of a challenge.   Work is mostly the same routine, over and over, but every now and then something comes along that is different, and in that moment you have a chance to shine.  That’s when you need to focus your abilities and energy, and be in that moment when nothing else matters.  It could be responding to a question, or serving someone, or finishing something with others: it will be an occasion when teamwork creates a great breakthrough that defines your career.  That’s when careers are defined!

Stay well!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tweeting



 Tweeting

It never used to matter if you were long-winded or short and to-the-point.  As long as you knew what you were talking about the message usually got through.  Not any more.


We used to communicate in many ways, using lots of different media….but today it’s all about Tweeting in 140 characters or less.  It’s all about quick questions, quick answers, and quick statements.  And sometimes the thought process is just as quick, and that can lead to problems.  Because when we get things so quickly and easily, we then feel the need to respond nearly as quickly – and that can lead to mistakes and misstatements.  Once you hit “send”, there’s almost no going back.

And then there’s the incentive to use grammatical shortcuts, n ths cn be a prblm 2.  Wht hpnd 2 gd gramr, lol??  It seems that today it’s more about speed and being hip than about being thoughtful and correct. Technology shouldn’t be used to diminish our ability to communicate correctly and effectively or reduce the time we spend face to face with others.  A world of shortcuts is not always best.

So think before you Tweet, take time to say what you mean, and then mean what you say.  U wl b J u dd.

My message this week is about feeling good about yourself:

 “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” Gautama Buddha

What do you think you are?  That’s not as simple a question as it seems: because the answer should define the essence of you.  While most might answer with something superficial or simple, the real answer lies among the things you do and the way you act.  These are the things that make up what others see, and these hopefully represent the things you’re most proud of about yourself. What you think of yourself colors your thoughts and shapes your world, so take time to look within yourself, understand those things and learn the answers to who and what you are.  And be proud of them.

Welcome to March & Stay well!