Letter to the editor – concerns over attacks on others

I sent the following brief letter to my newspaper this weekend. It will likely go unprinted, but I want to share it with you in case you would like to modify and use. Maybe it will get printed somewhere.

Reading about the increase in verbal and physical attacks on LGBTQ+ citizens or the denigration of the rights of women or people of color concern me. This is especially troubling when it comes from people who espouse the teachings of Jesus. When he said treat others like you want to be treated, he offered no caveats. Full stop. If we would only follow that one rule, which is so important it is called “golden” and also appears in in other religious texts, we would be in a much better place with our civility. We have two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. We all deserve such treatment.

People died for our country to preserve the freedoms for all its citizens. That guy Jesus chose to spend most of his time speaking to and hanging out with the disenfranchised people in his time. We should remind ourselves why would they choose to do that. Our country has had fits and starts of trying to live up to our ideals. Yet, we should never stop trying to be the best version of ourselves.

Friday free form – recognizing those mistakes

Happy Friday all. I thought I would throw a few random musings down in free form on this Friday. In no particular order:

  • I watched a great movie whose title was uttered by a prescient boy with a debilitating immune disorder. He said you are “more beautiful having been broken.” He was sharing this with a new female friend who he sensed was sad. Its poignancy and pertinence to the plot was profound. Think about this line as it applies to all the screw-ups, errors or misstatements in your own lives. We learn more from failure than success.
  • This self-awareness is important for self-improvement. If we don’t acknowledge our mistakes, then we never learn from them. One of the best teachings by the former president is what we should not do – not recognize that we messed up and blame others for our transgressions. This is what a toddler would do. “I didn’t do it” is uttered with his hand in the cookie jar. It is not what a more mature person should do.
  • I don’t think I have enough toes and fingers to count all of my mess-ups. Thank goodness for erasers, backspace and delete keys. In fact, it would be great to have a life oriented “undo” button. Handling a break up poorly – undo. Saying something hurtful to a loved one – undo. Passing along a rumor that may be untrue – undo.
  • I wonder if ol’ Putin wishes he could press the undo button. For such a control freak, who used disinformation to build the impression that Russia is stronger than its adversaries, to make the horrible mistake of invading and failing to execute in Ukraine is telling. Russia’s economy is not large enough to support the military spending of its aspirations and the Ukraine president called the bully’s bluff and said “I am not going anywhere.” Russia has made some inroads but has also been fended off and is now viewed as a pariah.
  • Speaking of undo buttons, ol’ Boris got a vote of confidence, but the celebration is muted because of the closeness of the vote. He was fortunate to recognize he would benefit by calling Putin on the carpet for his invasion. Everyone needs a foil. Had he not been able to do so, Johnson may have been on his way out. He may still get there, but he should learn some lessons from this about lying, cover-ups and poor decisions. The question is will he?

That is all for now. Key lessons. Our mistakes make us better, not worse, unless we choose to ignore them. In that case, they can be an anchor.

Interesting quote about church going

Sometimes quotes come at you from surprising sources. The following quote comes from a good movie called “Burning Bodhi” about old friends grieving the sudden death of one of their own from an aneurysm. The character was from a God-fearing community in West Virginia with a number of churches. When asked if she went to church, her reply was priceless.

“Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than hopping into a garage makes you a car.”

The profound simplicity of that statement floored me. It also reveals the act of going to church is not as altruistic for everyone as it is for a group of truly devout people. Having grown up going to not only church, but Sunday school as well, I saw all kinds of people there. Just like in general society it was a collection of imperfect people with biases, faults, and sins.

There were good lessons to be learned as well as some that were not so good. This church had an excellent youth program called “Tell it like it is,” where young people could get excited about their faith. Yet, on the flip side the church eventually split in half over an argument regarding the overt nepotism of the pastor in hiring practices. I have seen churches and synagogues have active outreach programs even starting charities to help people in need, while I have also seen churches led by ministers whose ego and greed got the best them.

Having worked with church and synagogue leaders on outreach programs to help those in need, I have witnessed both sides of the coin as well. I have met the most wonderful and kindest people who want to help, but I have also witnessed some who were there for themselves, not the people in need. The charity has to be about helping people help themselves, not doing something that makes you feel good about yourself.

I am no longer a church going Christian, so many would not even call me such. I am imperfect just like everyone else, but I do feel we should walk the talk. I do feel it is more important to help people climb a ladder out of the hole they find themselves in. I do feel we should treat people like we want to be treated with no caveats. And, if a church leader does not espouse those things, I would suggest finding a different place to worship.

The limits of sequential thinking – a reprise

The following post was written a few years ago, but I stumbled upon it today. It stands the test of time regardless of how one tracks progress.

What does sequential thinking mean, you might be asking? Many of us think in a sequential order. Basically, it means I cannot think about a certain thing, because it comes after what I need to do next. Sequential thinking is at odds with a working or living environment that demands a multi-tasking mindset.

When I say multi-tasking, I am not referring to doing more than one thing at one time, although that is its most common description. What I mean is having a list of multiple things to do and balancing the priority and times of when you plan to do them. It is akin to walking while juggling balls in the air. The key is to not drop any balls while you keep walking.

Let me use a few examples to emphasize my point. I may have a list of ten or twenty things to do. I receive information to do one of the items, but that item is not needed for a week. Sequential thinking would push doing that project until later in the week. But, what if you have a hard deadline and the information provided might be incomplete?

The military doctors and nurses coined an apt term called “triage.” So, a multi-tasking way to think of this would be to triage the information for the later project as an earlier step. Then, if it is incomplete, you could ask the sender to clarify or send additional input. Then, you can move onto other things while you wait.

Another example is moving forward with pieces of a project before having all the needed steps complete. One of the best project managers I have ever worked with would apportion a large report out in pieces for earlier completion. She would have folks working on producing the Appendix, Sections 5, 8, 11 and 14, e.g., while the analysis was being done to complete the key findings and recommendations. So, the supporting sections could be completed, so as to reduce the time crunch at the end once the analysis was done.

Although the last paragraph makes so much sense, it is not as widely practiced as you would think. Neither is the triaging concept, except in medical emergency settings. The other thing these two approaches avoid is the bottle-neck created by other projects and demands. And, in so doing, it enables deadlines to be better fulfilled.

As I write this, I recall a very demanding client. She could be a hard-ass on staff, but at the heart of her criticisms often was a legitimate one. If you told her a deadline, she expected you to meet it. The key was to give her a deadline that could be met, not in a vacuum, but in recognition that you had other things to do.

People like to please and hate telling people no. But, having been a consultant and client manager for ages, I would rather someone tell me they were too busy to help, forcing me to find another source, or avoid giving me too aggressive a deadline. This may not surprise people, but many deadlines that are not met are set by the person doing the work, not the client. Managing expectations is vital.

A favorite author, Malcolm Gladwell, confessed in an interview that he writes in an unusual way that works for him. He said he does not do all his research up front, so he outlines the idea, does some research, writes some, does more research, writes some more and so on. Why? Two reasons – he said he would get bored doing all the research, then writing. Plus, the research is fresher in his mind when he writes soon thereafter. He portions out the work in smaller more manageable segments.

Sequential thinking can get in the way of moving forward. I am not suggesting everyone will think like Gladwell or the best project manager I mention above, but think in terms of smaller, earlier steps to move things along.

My friend Carol who “leaned in” – a reprise

Although we are two days removed from Women’s History Month, I stumbled onto an old post of eight years ago that tells the true and still ongoing story of my friend Carol, whose decision to change her path forward is an example for us all.

For those of you who follow the wonderful blog called “The Bookshelf of Emily J”  you know that she recently highlighted Sheryl Sandberg’s book called “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.” The post can be found with the attached link: http://emilyjanuary.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/women-at-work-leaning-in/. After reflecting more on Emily’s post, I decided to tell a story about my friend Carol who during the early part of her career realized she was not doing what she wanted to do and did something about it.

The fact that she realized she was not fulfilling her dream is not the story, as many come to this realization. The story is she did something about it and took a leap of faith back into her dream. Carol had always wanted to be a social worker, but she listened to the counsel of her father and studied something more practical in college that would gain her a better paying career. Unfortunately, he was focused on the economic value of the career and not the psychic value of helping those in need.

So, she got a great education from a wonderful college and embarked on a career with a major electric utility. She was doing very well, but something was missing. She did not know what until she began volunteering with a crisis assistance organization that helped people who were about to be evicted from the homes or have their power shut off. Through this community service, she rediscovered her social worker mindset and calling. So, she sought and discovered opportunity with this agency.

Since she also had the business mindset from her schooling, she was able to leverage her heartfelt desire to help those in need. Eventually, she became the Executive Director of this organization and has successfully led them for many years. Because of her solid reputation, she is also a go-to person for many community efforts or to be a spokesperson on the plight of those in need. She lends her voice to those whose voice cannot be heard.

I like many things about Carol. But, in my dealings with her, she listens to what others have to say and she is comfortable enough in her own skin to change her opinion if you present good arguments. Yet, she is also confident enough to stick to her guns when she feels she is in the right. And, she can sway those who may disagree with her through her intellect and conviction. Many new ideas have been piloted through her involvement, whether directly or indirectly. She is a wonderful partner. There is an old saying about change. When you are looking to have change, make sure you have people on the bus that will help move it forward. You want Carol on that bus.

Carol leaned in early on. She changed the arc of her career to do something she loved. She rediscovered her passion. Yet, she is also someone who you want to work with. That is one of her true gifts. Together, with Carol on board, we can solve many more problems than without her involvement. She is one those “lights” that President George H.W. Bush spoke of so many years ago. Thanks Carol. You are more than one of the lights – you are a gem.

 A true aphrodisiac

My apologies for the provocative title, but I wanted to share an old lesson about the rules of attraction. A person becomes more interesting when he or she is interested in you. This does not make them attractive by itself, but having someone interested in you increases his or her appeal. It is a true aphrodisiac.

I was reminded of this paradigm watching a movie about a woman who had taken care of her father after a stroke for several decades. She had not loved or been loved during this time. The movie is about a traveler who takes an interest in her and slowly breaks through her protective resistance. Their first kiss surprised her as she pushed him away, but it peaked her interest and she reached out the next day to apologize for overreacting.

I have long believed the premise the woman picks the man. Her interest in him is intoxicating. But, maybe that is too one sided. We pick each other by being interested in the other person. In the documentary movie “I Am” on what makes us happy, it is noted the heart gives out an electrical current that can be felt several meters away, so if someone makes your heart beat faster, it can be felt by another in the same boat. I like to think that faster pulsation is the sound effect to the mutual eyeing of each other.

An old consulting friend used to say he was looking for a woman that was Attractive, Witty, Interesting and Interested. He loved acronyms, so he called these four terms AWII. While forgiving his consultative nature, I find his use of the word “interested” meaningful. If the target of your affection is not interested and she or he cannot be persuaded to be such, then you need to take no as an answer and move on. Ironically, he and his second wife began dating after he thought she sent him an anonymous card after meeting, so when he called to ask if it was hers, she said it was not, but she wish she had sent it. They were married for three decades until she passed away much too early.

Attractive, Witty, Interesting and Interested. What are your thoughts on the subject? Am I all wet? What attracted you to your partner?

You are no day at the beach either

One of the funniest “corrective” lines is in the title to this post. I cannot recall where I borrowed it from, but it is the kind of retort that will make folks laugh at themselves and not take things too seriously.

When someone is in the middle of a rant about the shortcomings of another person who is usually not present, efforts to give the non-present person the benefit of the doubt sometimes fail to dissuade the critic from his or her rant. At that point, you can walk away or use some means to change the subject. Humor works well in this situation. Using the person’s first name, you could say with a smile “you are no day at the beach either.” It tells the ranter that he or she is not perfect, so the ranter may want to let up on the criticism.

I often think of this retort when I read or listen to the rants of imperfect people (which we all are) that are hypercritical of someone who used the wrong words or did something we do not like. None of us are perfect, me very much included. Full stop. Even Mother Teresa shared her doubts in her diary about not being pious or good enough. And, she was one of our finer residents on the planet.

We all mess up. We all have messed up. And, we all will mess up again. Hopefully, we learned something and will minimize those mess-ups, but we still have it in us to make mistakes. The question that needs the attention of others is this modus operandi or is it an exception. The doctor who does something right 19 times out of 20, should get a bigger break than the one who messes up more than half the time.

A final thought to ponder is the following. When someone rants about someone not present, the only window is that of the ranter. The ranting will tend to make those present feel more sorry for the person being criticized, even if they decide to join in because of the forceful personality of the ranter. I would also suggest those present do their best to not join in.

Opportunity missed – a revisit

Happy New Year. This is a repeat of an old post from five years ago. Its message is still apt.

One of my favorite quotes about opportunity is “Opportunity is missed because it is often dressed up as hard work.” To me, this speaks volumes. Too many look for easy answers, when success comes from doing some heavy lifting.

Along these lines, in his book “Outliers,” two of Malcolm Gladwell’s four traits of successful people involve opportunity. I should mention the other two are being smart or talented enough and putting in 10,000 hours or more of practice. But, the two pertinent to this discussion are recognizing opportunity and seizing opportunity.

A quick example illustrates this point. By the time he was age 21, Bill Gates was one of the top programmers in the world. Why? He had the opportunity to work on the mainframe computer after 1 am at the University of Washington. As Gladwell points out, it was recognizing this opportunity and getting up or staying up to program while others slept or had fun. He was learning.

Gladwell points out that even the smartest of people sometimes overlook opportunity. In a genius grant project, money was given to watch these geniuses flourish, but many of them were not successful. The reason is they missed opportunity. The ones who were successful either saw opportunity or had someone who brokered opportunity for them.

Some very smart people fail to see that they are in competition for people’s time, interest and money. By waiting until something is perfected or their schedule frees, that opportunity may be gone.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this brief discussion. First, don’t be frightened of hard work. A man will never be shot while washing the dishes.

Second, keep your head up, network, ask questions and just be involved in your surroundings. Connect dots by looking for or asking about things you see in someone’s office or something you saw online.

Third, be prepared for these moments. Do your research on companies and people that you are meeting with. This will help in making those connections.

Fourth, seize opportunities. If you are driving and see an interesting shop – stop the car and pull in. This is a metaphor for business, volunteer or investment opportunities. Since the average person has had eleven jobs by the time they’re forty, take a chance on something that interests you. But, honor that interest and invest your time in it. These life experiences will build your wisdom.

Opportunities abound. Look for them. Seize them. Work them.

A little bit of this and that for 2022

Happy New Year everyone. May your resolutions last longer than your hangover. I have celebrated New Year’s in a number of ways, but this old soul is less inclined to stay up until midnight these days. Living on the east coast of the US, we have resorted to celebrating the New Year’s on Greewich time, so we are done early.

I learned yesterday the legendary actress Betty White left us just shy of her 100th birthday. She has always been a character and has played many different types of roles over the years. She played nice girl roles for the longest time, so when she played the back-stabbing Sue Ann Niven in the 1970s on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” it was a shock. Yet, she went onto many other roles in the 1980s and 1990s on the “Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland.”. And, she was a terrific humanitarian and friend to animals. May she RIP.

Going in to 2022 and its insane campaign season which started about eleven months ago, we must try to regain some level of civil discourse in our society. Since changing politicians and opinion entertainers seems nigh impossible. we will have to make this a ground up change and force them to notice.

Here a few rules of the road that might help:

-if someone speaks or writes with name calling, labelling and cursing as their modus operandi, do what I often do and stop reading and do not respond. If this is the how the person wishes to argue, then his or her argument is poor.

-cease watching opinion entertainers who are dressed-up spin-doctors at best and disinformation peddlers at worst. Some do their homework more than others, but you are being told an opinion, often times not a well-supported one.

-if you are getting your news from someone on social media who you like because you agree with them, please do not consider that news and refer to the first two items above.

-if you are getting your news from a politician, check other sources; some have more veritas than others, but too many are just spouting BS without doing much homework. I used to think elected officials knew more than we do (and some did), but I stopped thinking that long ago. They also expect us to have short memories.

-you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Ask more questions of people and listen to their answers. Listen to understand, not to respond. Only then can you follow-up with comments, but make sure you give like you want to get. Calling a person an idiot is not a good sales pitch.

-be civil to each other. Sometimes the best thing to say, is not to say it. Look for common ground, by doing that listening thing noted above. You may disagree on five points, but agree on two. That is a start.

One final thought to drum in your head. An old friend used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Engage. Converse. Catch-up. And, thank the other person for their time and interest. Time and interest are the best gifts someone can give you.

Be safe in 2022. Be well and be wise.

Saying goodbye to old friends, so to speak

Yesterday, I went through my remaining old business suits and sports coats and slacks. I had donated some of them earlier, but I don’t wear them anymore unless I am going to a wedding or funeral. Sadly, the latter gets more opportunities at my age. And, since I lost so much weight, I only altered a small few, so most of these clothes no longer fit.

So, I was going through them to organize the rest for donation and maybe pick two more for alteration. These “friends” served me well over time. I was a little melancholy to see them packed to go. I realize fully they are just clothes, but they were my uniform to do my work. I loved wearing a couple that stood out – a dark green pin stripe and a khaki color suit. Each could be paired with a blue, cream or white shirt. For some reason, they gave me more confidence.

When it is all said and done, I will be left with two suits (navy blue and gray pin stripes) and three sports coats and slacks combinations. So, I will be ready when needed for the next wedding, funeral or special occasion. I did keep an old tuxedo which is sealed up, but I would need to alter that when the next occasion arises. I needed it for fund raisers for charity and select events, so it is mostly unworn. I may have worn that thing ten times tops, but it does pay for itself after a few as you forego a rental. Plus, it makes me feel like saying “Bond, James Bond.”

The melancholy paring process sure did free up some more closet space, which my wife is relishing. So, the 67/33 split in space usage is about to become 75/25. If I pare some more, my remaining clothes might end up in the guest bedroom closet. Married men know this space allocation process all to well.

The process did result in two funny stories at the alteration shop. The two young women who measure the needed alterations are very short twins, under five feet tall and I am around 6’5″ in height. To measure some alterations in the shoulders, both had to strain on tip toes to make it work. The other story is a haberdasher was there with a customer and offered to sell me new suits. I laughed and said thanks for the offer, but they would sit on a hanger, as I don’t wear them anymore unless someone dies or gets married.

Let’s hope it is for more marriages, christenings, etc. in the future.