Context is important with news

Context is key to understanding. It enables one to understand why a change or news item is important and when people are masking over a problem or blowing smoke.

Here are a few examples of why context matters:

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook testified to Congress of his concerns of privacy of data. He may say he is concerned, but his business model is to sell access to your data to marketers. Unless that model changes, our data will be exposed. Facebook was told to address these privacy issues five years ago and failed to act. It may be a new company, but it has learned to feign concern like an old one.

Football helmets are very high tech these days to soften the impact of blows to the head during this violent game. Yet, no matter how much cushion is offered, the problem is they cannot stop the fact the brain rattles around inside the head when it is struck. Unless football outlaws head hits, the game may have to require players to sign a waiver acknowledging the potential damage before they play and youth tackle football may be banned.

The changes needed in governments are obvious to many, including the legislators. But, they won’t happen. Why? Change will not occur if the people who need to make it are too aligned with what needs to be changed. Politicians are too enamored with keeping their job to actually do their job. Money matters too much in these equations.

Let me close with a final example. There is a difference between someone who does the right thing 19 times out of 20, but screws up one time versus someone where the opposite is more true. The one error for the first person may be similar to one of the second person, but they deserve a closer look. I have seen good people fired because managers ignored this kind of math. Context is key.

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Mistakes happen – focus on tasks at hand

Sometimes sports stories offer good examples for daily life. Four stories shed light on putting mistakes behind you, so you can focus on the tasks at hand.

Orel Hershisher was a successful pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While he looks more like a Sunday school teacher, this devout man was as tough a competitor as you could find. He had a knack for not letting mistakes get to him. He said in his biography he set out to throw a perfect game and after the first hit, he would try to throw a one-hitter and so on. One of his more significant achievements is setting a record for not allowing a run for 59 consecutive innings of play.

Years before the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series breaking a 108 year drought, they stood on the brink of going to the series with one more playoff victory. With their opponent, the Florida Marlins, rallying in game six of their 2003 playoff, the hitter hit a foul fly ball that was just inside the stands. The left fielder had a chance to catch the ball by reaching into the stands. A fan did what many do and tried to catch it, so he prevented the Cubs player from catching it. The player demonstratively berated the fan, the crowd booed and the Cubs pitcher and players came unglued and they lost their cool and the game. It carried over and they went on to lose the next game losing the playoff series.

The New York Yankees had a pitcher by the name of Allie Reynolds, who the players called the Big Chief as he was he was a stoic and fierce competitor. He was throwing a no-hitter and the famous Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters ever, was possibly the final out. Williams popped up a pitch and Hall of Famer catcher Yogi Berra settled underneath the foul ball…and then dropped it and fell down. Helping Berra to his feet, a tired and anxious Reynolds was kind: “Don’t worry Yogi, we’ll get him next time.” Williams popped up the next pitch and Berra squeezed it for the final out.

How you react to mistakes or a crisis is important. A great leader can be judged by how he or she handles a crisis. The leader’s calm and reassuring demeanor can make the difference as others will follow suit. Reynolds and Hershisher understood that. The Cubs pitcher and players did not and affected their behavior.

After mistakes happen, the best we can do is to focus on the tasks at hand. Preparation and practice helps a great deal in handling stress. The great basketball coach Bobby Knight was asked why he did not call time out at the end of a close game his team won. He said he knew his team was more prepared, so he did not want to give the other team a chance to do so. In one national championship game, one of his players Keith Smart hit the final basket after their opponent, Syracuse missed a free throw, and Knight just let his team play without a timeout.

So, following their lead, prepare and practice for tests, speeches, meetings, interviews, etc. Mistakes will happen, so don’t react too negatively and focus on the tasks at hand. And, thank goodness for erasers and delete keys.

If I see you on the trails

I long ago ceased my running and have been a walker and hiker instead. Often, I will go to one of the four trails in parks near my home. If you see me on the trails, you will see a friendly, but tall 59 year old man. Yet, I understand why women running alone will pause when they see me coming towards them.

The news of the day only heightens the concern women must have in the workplace. Similarly, they must be diligent when away from the crowds. I do my best to be overly friendly when walking on the trails, but I am a big guy and people don’t know me from Adam. Female joggers and walkers have to be on the guard.

Since I walk the trails quite often, allow me to offer some advice as this old man and father sees it. Please do not run or walk alone. It is that simple. There have been too many stories where lone women have been attacked. A dog will help, but another person is even better.

Another piece of advice may be harder to follow. Shed the music and earpieces. Sound is a good indicator of trouble, so when it is blocked by music, one of your senses is disabled. I know of several stories where the assailant came up from behind. Another sad story is a woman running at night on a street did not realize a truck passing had a trailer, so she stepped off the curb after the truck passed only to be killed by the trailer. If she had been without earpieces, she might have heard the trailer. Plus, it is not uncommon for a runner to dart in front of a car when listening to music.

The final piece of advice is to avoid running at night or dusk. It is hard to see you, first and foremost, but it is harder to see the assailant. The best option is to run or walk at a park with a crowded parking lot. If yours is the only car, it is best to avoid the trail that day. It gives me pause when I am the lone car.

I have come across some interesting things along the paths. I saw about eight deer earlier this week. I have seen snakes and been spooked by rustling squirrels and birds. I have yet to see any bears, although there have been more sightings in the city. I have witnessed what I think was a police/ informant meeting, which hastened my pace. I have seen people who have given me pause. And, I have seen too many women jogging alone.

Be safe and happy trails.

Oops…that would be me

We are an imperfect lot and there are times when things just don’t go our way. As a 59 year-old, I have had my share of faux pas or as I call them “oops.”

When I was ten, I was a pretty fair baseball  player and would pitch on occasion. After putting a fence around our outfield, every hitter wanted to be the first to hit one over it. Unfortunately, the pitcher on the throwing end of that homer would be embarrassed – oops, that would be me.

I have often said God has a sense of humor to keep us humble. While playing golf with some attorney friends, I had the good fortune to birdie a long par five, something I don’t often do. Walking to the next tee full of confidence, I tee my ball up and proceed to whiff with my swing. That means I did not make contact with the ball – oops, that would be me.

Each October in the US, we honor women  who have been challenged by breast cancer. A colleague of mine led efforts to have mobile mammograms for our female employees conducting over 11,000 detecting nine cancers. She was listening to me explain to someone about our specific efforts during “breast awareness month.” She said that would be “breast CANCER awareness month.” – oops, that would be me.

I have had to do a significant number of presentations and speeches over the years. In so doing, I have had far more than a few oops. Here are a few:

– Don’t wear a wool suit to speak, no matter how cold it is outside, as you will sweat bullets – oops, that would be me;

– Don’t number how many things you are about to say as you may forget one – oops, that would be me;

– Don’t reopen the presentation summary after the decision-maker makes the decision you were suggesting, as you just might unwind the decision – oops, that would be me; and

– Don’t forget to number the pages of your  speaker notes, as they can sometimes get mixed up – oops, that would be me.

The oops are too many to list. Beware of forwarding emails as there may be surprise emails not for public consumption at the bottom of email streams. Do not perpetuate reply all emails, be very judicious. Don’t communicate too aggressive a turnaround time if you don’t have to as you are setting yourself up for failure. Avoid being critical in email, do it in person or by phone if you cannot.

Oops happen. Take the time to review your work and prepare for meetings. And, when they do happen, say you are sorry and fix the problem. Then learn from your mistakes. Remember, God has a sense of humor, so it is OK to laugh along.

Two movies, two thumbs-up

We caught two of the recent movie releases and can give them both a thumbs-up. They are two very different movies – “Blade Runner 2049” and “The Battle of the Sexes.”

“Blade Runner 2049” is a sequel of a cult classic movie with Harrison Ford. It was a dark futuristic movie and the sequel does justice to the original. Ryan Gosling and Robin Wright star along with Ford, but the other supporting roles add greatly to the movie, especially Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis and Jared Leto. If you did not like the first Blade Runner, you won’t like this one. But, it does have a good plot and theme. I would add what seemed so science fiction when the first movie was made in the early 1980s, seems less so now, which is a little unsettling.

Gosling plays his role quite well as does Hoeks. De Armas’ role is quite interesting too, and she is ideally suited for it. I will try to stay away from further reveals, but encourage you to watch it. Some have called the movie sexist given some of the roles. I understand their point and would agree that parts of the movie are. I would counter that Wright and Hoeks have a lot of screen time and play key roles, so I will let you be the overall judge.

“The Battle of the Sexes” is about the lead up to the famous tennis match between former men’s champion Bobby Riggs and current women’s champion and advocate for women, Billie Jean King. Riggs was a renowned hustler who loved to gamble in conflict with his wealthy wife’s wishes. At the age of 55, he saw a chance to make money by challenging King, who initially turned him down.

King knew Riggs for what he was, a showman, and she was deep in the middle of the start of the women’s tennis circuit called the “Virginia Slims circuit” when they boycotted the USTA for the much smaller money being paid to women. Riggs did find another opponent in Margaret Court, who was married with one child, playing her on Mother’s Day. Although, the current number one player, Court was not prepared to play that day (and greatly underestimated the situation) and Riggs easily beat her, which drew a match with King.

I remember this national prime time match between King and Riggs, so the movie brought back a lot of memories. The other key subplot is King was dealing with her own Lesbianism which began to manifest itself during the Virginia Slims tour. To say, she was conflicted at this crucial time is an understatement. Her husband Larry stood by her for awhile, but to see his angst through this is also important, as she loved him and respected his input and support.

The movie stars Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs. Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Pullman and Austin Stowell also play key roles. Stone and Carell are excellent in their roles. Cumming, though, eats up the screen with his role, in my view.

Check them both out. Let me know what you think. Is Blade Runner too sexist? Do you remember the King/ Riggs’ match?

 

Four true stories per my friend Bobby

This weekend, I was reminded of an old friend Bobby. I was a client and friend of Bobby and his team. Four poignant stories come to mind about him or his team. I should mention Bobby was a good golfer. I once witnessed him make five birdies in a row en route to a seven under par 65. But, that is not one of the stories.

Bobby told me of the time he was playing in his club championship. Telling the story, he was down two holes heading into the 16th hole. He birdied the 16th and 17th holes to tie and then stood on the 18th tee. He then proceeded ls to top his shot into the lake. One friend shouts and accepts money from another saying “I knew he was going to do that.” Yet, the story becomes funnier when he over heard his caddy relate the story about how  “we birdied the 16th and 17th to tie, then ‘he’ hits it into the lake.”

On a more serious note, a tragedy ended well for his friend and colleague. Bobby received a call at night that his colleague’s 54 seat plane had crashed and there were only four survivors. Bobby got the call as the ticket was purchased by his firm. He called all of the hospitals and learned his friend was one of the four. He called his friend’s wife to let her know there had been a crash, but her husband had survived, was hurt but OK.

The friend said he survived because he was calm and followed instruction while others went beserk. Although not an overly religious man, he made his peace. He said the crash was more violent than he could possibly describe and afterward he smelled jet fuel and crawled toward the cold January breeze. He said he felt like he crawled 100 feet, when it turned out to be only twenty.

Then, there is the story about another colleague who was driving along I-85, when a car veered across the median and hit him head on. This was before the wired fence-like structures were erected in the median to prevent such occurrences. They both walked away from the accident as both cars had driver side air bags. Bobby’s colleague suffered only broken knee caps.

Finally, on a more humorous note, another  colleague was working in their office in Greensboro. A friend called him and asked him what he was doing that day. He said he was working and his friend said he needed to play golf. To his “no” response, his friend said you need to play because you are the only member of this club and I have someone who wants to play with you. It turned out to be Michael Jordan. Jordan, eventually played 54 holes of golf, but Bobby’s friend begged off after a very tiring 36 holes.

Thanks for indulging my memories. I actually have a few more Bobby stories, but this will give you a good taste. These remembrances made me smile.

 

Skiing is a dangerous sport

Having grown up in Florida, I have snow skied exactly one time. Being tall, I resembled a tree falling over again and again. The first thing one should do in learning to ski is to lie on the side of a hill and get up, as that will be a frequent exercise.

I am writing this as a second child has been caught dangling from the ski lift when their backpack got caught on the chair. Fortunately, both survived without injury, just the fear of such. I imagine signs will be placed on all future lifts to be wary of your backpacks.

This reminds me of the time a former client ended up in traction merely by exiting a ski lift. His two sons were messing around near the jump off point and when he was asking them to be safe, lost sight of his own safety and skied into the fence near the drop off and tore his leg up.

Back to my own situation, my wife and I went skiing with her brother and his first wife, who were both good skiers. Note to new skiers, skiing is best learned as a child before your bones get harder and take longer to heal and you know these facts. As I am lying on the hill for the umpteenth time, my sister-in-law skied over to me and looked down and said, “You don’t look like you are having any fun.”

My response was simple, “No, I am not.” I spent the rest of the afternoon by the fire inside nursing my soreness and ego. Skiing will make you sore, but falling will make you more so.

Having watched the movie “Eddie the Eagle,” about the courageous Brit who deified odds and limitations on his abilities and flew as a ski jumper in the Olympics in Calgary, Canada, I recognized how crumpled I would be after crashing like he did in training. Coming in last was irrelevant because he did what few of us can do. I wish I had his courage to keep at it, but he was more committed to his cause.

So, I must recognize I will never be an Eddie the Eagle, nor do I wish to be. Because I would be more like Fallen Limbs.