Friday, June 24, 2016

Riding the Bull

Bullriders strive to stay on their raging, twisting, dangerous mounts for 8 seconds. 

Microsoft and some Canadian researchers recently discovered that the average American has an attention span of…you got it, 8 seconds. And, that’s down from 12 seconds five years ago.

Think about that. The average American can’t concentrate on one thing for much more than 8 seconds before…SOMETHING SHINY!!!…and their attention jumps elsewhere.

You probably think you’re different. I know I think I can concentrate longer than that, but I just realized that, with the TV on in the background my mind jumps back and forth from writing this to listening and looking up to catch what’s on.

For most of us, information coming at us in so many different ways is the bull we are all trying to ride. We’re so afraid we’ll miss something!

Here’s an interesting thought: So many of the most successful people I read about and contact don’t watch news broadcasts on a regular basis. Increasingly, I think they’re on to something. 

Maybe our attention jumps around because we are looking for something positive.

Think about it…8 seconds. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

And Then the Gun Came Out.....

I’d never had a gun pulled near me—and with the owner looking at me—until yesterday.

Considering that I’m from Lumberton, listed by a variety of sources as the most dangerous town in North Carolina, you’d think it wouldn’t be the first time, but it was. I’ve had knives pulled on me a couple of times, but mostly it was because I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been or I had done something I shouldn’t have done. Luckily, the events didn't escalate.

It was such an innocent thing. I was at a stop sign and a law enforcement car pulled up behind me. I needed directions to a government office and immediately thought, “Here’s someone who’ll know.”

So, I hopped out of the car, held up my hands to show I had nothing in them,gabegave ga and quickly walked back to the officer’s car. He rolled the window down and when I leaned over to speak to him I noticed that he already had his weapon out of the holster and resting on his thigh.

I kinda offered a half-hearted laugh and joked, “You’re not going to need that! I just need to know where the town administrative offices are.”

He gave me what looked like a nervous smile and was open enough to say, “When you got out of the car and started walking back I thought, ‘This isn’t good.’”

He was wonderfully courteous, gave me the directions I needed, and wished me a good day.

I was back in my car and had driven a couple of blocks when I started thinking how different the whole episode could have gone if…it was at night, he wasn’t extremely professional, I was African-American/Hispanic/Middle-Eastern-looking/bigger and rougher looking, or any of a number of other variables about him/me/the situation.

Again, let me emphasize that he was very professional, exactly what I’ve always expected from his agency. And, considering what seems to pass for public behavior today, I could absolutely see his point. 

But, I also thought: If our society has come to a point at which law enforcement officers are so on edge that they pull a weapon when someone who looks pretty innocent (which I think I do) walks up to their car in broad daylight…well, we need to calm down and start asking who we really have become…and why?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Real Threat of Zombies

Do you encounter zombies in your workplace or personal life? Those flesh-eating folks who plod along sucking the life out of…life.

Hang with me here for about 45 seconds as I go into a short version of an academic dance…

Why is the whole zombie thing so popular on so many levels? Fear. They are just human enough that we don’t discount them like space aliens, but they are still scary. In reality, though, zombies as literary and cinematic characters have been popular in our culture in times of recession, epidemic and general unhappiness; the real bad times...times like now.

Here’s the real problem: In the world of fiction, when zombies appear they almost always lead to an apocalyptic future, a future in which humanity is pretty much doomed unless we can do something extraordinary to defeat the zombies, to cure the virus. In other words, the appearance of zombies probably leads to a bad end and it’s a done deal; like a lot of folks are trying to convince us the current situation in life, in the United States, is.

Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of "Theories of International Politics and Zombies," points out that the real threat of zombie fiction is that we start to believe the analogy. We begin to think—assume—that the threats we see, cyber attacks, pandemics, and global terrorism, which the zombies represent in fiction, will create an apocalyptic world and we can do little or nothing to slow them down or stop them.

(End of class…now for the “good” stuff)

Max Brooks's novel "World War Z” (the source of the Brad Pitt movie from the summer of ’13), shows the adaptability, ingenuity and creativity of human beings. The movie showed that we’re smart and we can overcome. As Drezner writes in the Wall Street Journal,  “Any species that has managed to invent duct tape, Twinkies and smartphones stands a fighting chance against the living dead. Narratives about flesh-eating ghouls should remain scary—but they can also remind audiences that we have an enormous capacity to adapt to new threats and overcome them.”

Here’s my basic point: Those flesh-eating, light/fun/energy-suckers who float through your life (and who, unfortunately, may work at the next desk or live in the same house) don’t have to lead to a life that’s an apocalypse, and a done deal. We all make choices and if you continue to think/feel/stay with the zombies you’ve made the choice to become one. 

Let the zombies stumble on their way. Stay positive and reach out to positive people, have goals, keep moving, read/watch/listen to positive information, use positive self-talk to keep yourself in a good place; those are the antidotes to the zombie virus.

Or, atomic weapons. And a big fence. And a chainsaw. In fact, there’s a list, “10 Ways to Kill a Zombie,” if you’re looking for them.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gittin' In to Fit In

Earlier this week I was in a convenience store. As the clerks bounced from one register to the other another guy and I were jockeying around trying to figure out which clerk and which register was working.

We were both laughing as we shifted back and forth and he said, “I’m just trying to git in where I fit in.”

When he said it I had one of those moments in which I thought, “Don’t forget that, it’s important.” In fact, I followed him outside, found out his name is Greg, and told him that I appreciated the thought and would use it.

Aren’t we all trying to do that…git in where we fit in? We want to be in relationships, work, fun situations in which we are welcome, loved and appreciated. 

The other side is to spend a lot of time trying to fit in where we can git in. Too often, we settle for less than we deserve because we believe something ought to be the reality when, in fact, it just doesn’t work. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to greater than what’s just comfortable. But, why make life harder on yourself than it is anyway?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Clutter and Conversation

If you are reading this at work or at home I want you to take just a moment and look around. How much of what you see is…essentially…clutter.

I tell people all the time that every day when you come to work if you have a messy desk you’re looking at a visual To-Do List. It’s almost impossible for your mind to wade through all the images your eyes are sending it and decide what’s most important.

Life can be like your home and workplace. Look around and see what—or who—is cluttering up your life. Maybe you need to think about how you might declutter your life.

Is it easy? Sometimes. 

Often, though, it’s only possible by having a difficult discussion. But, as leadership guru John Maxwell often says, “Your probability of having a happy, successful life will be based on your willingness to have difficult discussions.”

A couple of folks I know recently went through this. The woman decided the guy was cluttering up her life and she, essentially, fired him. No discussion.

It worked for her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Non-believers, The Journey, and Sucking Twinkie Sugar Out With a Little Straw

Seth Godin had a line in one of his recent blogs that has stuck with me: "Shun the non-believers and sell to the ones who want to go on the journey with you."

Roll that one around in your head for awhile. Ease away from the business inference by the use of the word "sell" and plug in the word "welcome."

Immediately, you can see how the thought works in relationships, the workplace, the gym, and a wide range of other experiences.

Getting the non-believers to believe is a pain; it's expensive in time, money and emotion.

And, I'd tell my church-going friends that I get it that they are supposed to be converting the non-believers, but lighten up a bit in the other areas of life.

"Shun the non-believers and sell to the ones who want to go on the journey with you."

The journey itself can be challenge enough without having to constantly question whether the other travelers are on it with you.

And, I get the fact that they may be thinking, "But, I didn't sign on for THIS!" Sure, that's certainly understandable. But, how do they know what comes after THIS? Could be the greatest thing since...mmm...Twinkies. (I mean they put all that sugar stuff in there and if you take a small coffee stirring straw and stick it in the middle you can suck all off on a little tangent there)

"Shun the non-believers and sell to the ones who want to go on the journey with you."

Life is challenging enough. When they get off the train at Non-Believerville it's probably better to let them stand on the platform when the train pulls away.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Runnin' With the Divas

Sunday morning in Ocean Drive, South Carolina. The Run Like a Diva event was a half-marathon with the proceeds going to breast cancer research and charities.

The Diva event is wonderful. Participants, male and female, get a plastic tiara, the standard pink T-shirt with logo, and…a pink tutu!! 

A friend was with me and he and I warmed up with some slow-medium speed walking and stretching, had a great breakfast (I know it’s risky eating before a long run, but both of us are highly-trained, cutting-edge athletes so we felt confident that we’d be fine), and headed to the start/finish line.

When we got to the line we looked around and….promptly walked over to the sidewalk and had a seat to watch the event. WHATAYA THINK? I’M CRAZY??!!! Neither of us is running anywhere unless something bigger than we are is chasing us.

The event was great!! A couple of thousand women, kids, and men enjoying a great Sunday spring morning in an event that does good things.
One thing really struck us as amazing about what happened at the end of the race. There was great, constant music playing. Lots of techno and dance tunes. And, groups of women—20, 30, 50— would be dancing together!!

My friend and I commented that you wouldn’t see the same thing with a group of men. Not even close. The guys would automatically be in a kind of competitive mindset, someone would say something trashy and there’d be a lot of aggressive feelings. 

It’s almost as if we often need women to soften us, to make us human. I keep thinking that the world ends up as a better place if women are running it…and playing tunes…and dancing…and laughing and wearing tutus and tiaras.

I’m just sayin’.