Friday, February 27, 2009

Two Ears and One Mouth

Was at South Piedmont Community College this morning presenting a program for their Leadership Institute. The program was about communications.

I'm sure some of the attendees thought they'd be spending four hours learning how to talk and listen...that's how most people think about communications. But, what they got...I hope, was an understanding that communications for leaders has a whole range of issues at its source.

Issues such as how we think about the concept of leadership, who we've seen and admire as leaders, our energy levels, how we look at the role of work in our lives (if the leadership position is in a work setting), how we deal with conflict, and our behavioral style all have an impact on communications.

We must communicate clearly if we want to have the Perfect Workday or have successful, happy lives. Unfortunately, the only thing we do more without thinking than communicating is breathing. We get a couple of years of guidance about how to speak, a few years of instruction about how to read and write, but almost no guidance or instruction about how to listen. And, as the old saying goes, "God gave you two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk."

Listening is the cheapest concession you can make in a relationship. Listening...active listening...is hard work. It requires focus, energy, and caring about the person with whom you are trying to communicate. It also requires that you don't spend most of your mental energy trying to conjure up what you are going to say in response.

Listening, and then creating a thoughtful response, often means that there will be silence. And that is REALLY hard for some people to deal with. We live in an immediate response world. Waiting is difficult. Try this this weekend: If you are having a serious conversation with someone, tell them up front that you may take a moment to be quiet and consider the best response. Then, SHUT UP. If you stop, stay quiet, and try to think, you'll find that they often keep talking to fill the void. Again, active listening is hard work.

However, the better listeners we are, the more we are able to detect the nuances of communications, understand more clearly the major points, and offer our side of the conversation in a thoughtful way.

Active listening is an outstanding way to show respect and avoid miscommunication.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Do-Over

I keep thinking about my couple of forays to the gaming tables in Vegas. I came out a little bit behind, but won my last spin before walking out the casino door for my flight.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a big gambler. But, the dynamics of the game, and watching the people around the table is some of the best…although expensive…entertainment in Las Vegas.

I kept seeing people experiencing a feeling of anxiety as the little ball fell from the track onto the roulette wheel. No matter how strongly they felt that their bet was right (and hunches will break you as quickly as a system) many of them looked like they wanted to reach out and pull the bet back.

I don’t know if this is good or bad, but once I put a bet down, I didn’t regret it. When the little ball settled onto a number/color and it wasn’t the one I bet on, I was disappointed, but I didn’t feel like I had been wrong. I felt like I had the same chance as everyone else. But, life seems to be different.

Anxiety often comes with even the best thought-out bets/decisions. The tough part of life is that it can be incredibly difficult to reverse some decisions. I don’t know if I believe the people who say that anything short of death is fixable. I understand the logic, but I don’t know if my emotions agree. I look back on some decisions I’ve made and certainly wish I had a mulligan, a do-over.

There’s a line from The Song of the Indian Wars that goes, “So much to win, and only life to lose.” I love the audacity of the quote, but I keep thinking that life is surely a big bet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Power of Ka

Whew!! On a plane all day yesterday and doing a seminar this morning...was wondering if I'd get to Blogland today, or not.

I've been thinking back on the Vegas trip. Met lots of nice people; had fun doing the seminars for dance retailers; had GREAT times with some good friends, David and Felice, who flew over from L.A., and Archie and Pamela, who live in Las Vegas; got a little exercise and ate a ton of good food.

But, the best part of the trip was seeing the new Cirque du Soleil show, Ka, at the MGM Grand. I now get it that a Cirque show is kind of like love; if you have never experienced it a description can't do it justice, if you have been in it, no description is necessary. Go to cirquedusoleil.com and click "country" in the upper right hand corner. Then click US and watch some clips. This is athleticism and art at it's highest form. If a Cirque show is coming to your city, GO! If not, find a show close to you and, GO!

I sat through the show marveling at the creativity necessary to create the extraordinary sensory experience I enjoyed. And here's the key...at some point, the incredible show I experienced was an idea in someone's mind, and they shared it and inspired others, and those people who believed in the vision got involved and added their ideas, and working together they created something no one else had ever seen.

I love the word "inspire." The core of the word is essentially the same as the word "spirit," Loosely translated from Greek and Latin, it means to infuse or breath the spirit of God into a person. When we are being creative in our relationships, work, play...lives, we are about as close to God as we can get. I believe that that is why we are transported when we see something like Ka. We are witnessing the higher potential of humankind...our potential.

What we all need to understand and use is the reality that we can all be creative. We can all be inspired. Each and every one of us can have that feeling...that feeling of being transported to a point at which we can see our greater selves.

So, what in the Wide, Wide, World of Sports does this have to do with The Perfect Workday?! Ask yourself, "If I could be creative in my workday; if I could have a Perfect Workday, what would it be like?" If you will simply let your mind wander there will be a point at which you think, "Waaaaaiiiitttt a minute! I could do....that!" And, you'll get a feeling of excitement, a simple adrenaline rush.

That rush is you getting closer to the essence of you...the part of you that is close to the best you. The Ka.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sumptin' for nuttin'

I'm sitting in the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas about a hundred yards from the slot machines and gaming tables. Did my requisite, "gamble for 5 minutes and lose," so I'm into watching the crowd now.

Made an observation; people smile about as much when they gamble as they do when they run. Not that there is a connection there, but it seemed an interesting thought at the time.

I keep watching the people at the slots. Put in the money, punch the button, pull the handle...then do it all over again.

Here's what keeps hitting me...the look on these folks' faces seem to show that they know the futility of trying to get something for nothing. In fact, one way to look at Vegas is that the entire economy is built on false hope...on relying on luck. I know there is a certain amount of skill to playing cards, but I'm not that smart. And I REALLY hate to say this, but most of the people I see walking around here don't look like Harvard grads. So, they seem to be hoping that that lucky finger of God will reach down and touch them.

The best line I've ever heard out here is this, "They didn't build these huge hotels because they were giving away money."

Friday, February 20, 2009

All Bets Down

Am headed to Las Vegas for about four days to present seminars for the American Dance Retailers Association. Talking about how to maximize effectiveness in a tight economy. Sounds kinda dry but they are a fun group and I'm planning on giving them a great program.

I love Vegas. No clocks. Lots of lights, noise, and action. Middle of the desert. Every kind of person on earth, which means lots of stories. And, Vegas is what a friend of mine called, "A tip town." If you are willing to give a large enough tip you can literally get anything in the world you want.

I'm not a big gambler, but when I do play I play roulette. It's one of the absolutely worst games for the players....if you only play the numbers. Putting a bet on one number means you only have about a 3 percent chance of winning. I use a system that gives me about a 60 percent chance of winning...I tend to break even most of the time and it's a lot of fun.

The table boss spins the wheel clockwise, waits a second or two then flips the small ball counterclockwise. He lets it circle the wheel a couple of time and as it slows he says, "All bets down," and waves his hands over the table. The call and signal means you have to commit. Either your chips are on the table, or not.

We all have lots of opportunities in life on a wide range of issues. But, there comes a time when life says, "All bets down," and you are either in or you aren't.

Most of the people who go to Vegas don't gamble. They're watchers. They stand beside the table and live vicariously by the people who are willing to walk up and put their money down. They cheer when people win and shake their heads when players lose.

But, I can tell you from experience; the watchers might cheer, but they never know the joy of winning a player feels.

Life says, "All bets down" every day of your life. Step up to the table.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Karoshi and Arbejdsglaede

No, Karoshi and Arbejdsglaede are not a comedy team from Outer Pigsnort, Afghanistan.

In the late ‘80s a Japanese businessman died of what seemed like a heart attack. The cause of death on the certificate, though, was “Karoshi.” It means, “death by overwork.” During the last two decades quite a few Japanese have died of Karoshi.

In Finland, the word “Arbejdsglaede” means “joyful life of work,” or something close. The word is pronounced, “AR-bites-glue”…some folks say no one but a Finlander can really say it. But, hey, they eat reindeer so I’m not really sure how much we can believe from a society that makes dinner out of Rudolph…but that’s another story.

Anyway, the two words show very different attitudes about work. I’d just as soon not work myself to death. In fact, I’d really rather not live in a society in which that is seen as an honorable death. Seems way too serious, I guess.

I like the idea of a “joyful life of work.” To me it means that I’m doing something I enjoy and something that matters.

In tight times a lot of folks hunker down, fearful of the possibility of losing what little they have. I certainly understand that. But, I believe that the silver lining of the cloud we seem to be under is going to be that we will look deeper inside ourselves and find what is really important to us; what brings us a sense of joy. And it won’t be more hours at work, and it won’t be anything we can acquire with an American Express card.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where's Spring?

I can hear some birds chirping outside my window this morning and they sound like spring. Now, I know it's still only February 17 and we probably have more cold weather to enjoy before spring, but I'm getting into the birds for a moment.

Yesterday started a stretch of two weeks that will be pretty intense. Am on the road almost constantly. So, I'm looking for moments of enjoyment, fun, and joy to get me...little by little...through the two weeks. The birds were a good example of that.

Too often, we look toward vacations, weekends, big chunks of time off as the rewards for hard work. But, we don't frequenlty have big chunks of time available. However, we do have little bits of time here and there in which we can grab mini-vacations.

Mini-vacations can be found in savoring a piece of food, standing still outside and taking a deep breath, laughing, listening to a favorite song, telling someone "I Love You," or hearing birds chirping.

Victor Frankl, the concentration camp philosopher, Holocaust survivor, and author, noted that life can be lived, and survived, moment to moment.

Here's your assignment for today: Find two moments, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, in which you simply stop and enjoy life. If you are like most people, two minutes can seem like an eternity at first. Simply stop, observe, and be in the experience.

A mini-vacation....I think I'll wear flip-flops.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Sound of Music

(Writing this at about 10:40 on Sunday night. Listening to The Clovers sing, “Don’t Play That Song.”)

It’s no secret how much I love music. I keep the owners of iTunes and Sirius Satellite Radio in Mercedes.

Music is like aural wallpaper to me. I’ve got to have it almost as soon as I get up in the morning, and it’s the last thing I hear before going to bed at night.

What I have to be careful of, though, is letting music send me too far in one emotional direction or the other. No kidding, if you play the right Jimmy Buffett or Beach Music song I’d just as soon not show up for work; just call in “stupid,” buy a case of beer, and head for the beach…with the music on wide open.

I can drive into Boone, NC, and hear Kenny Loggins in my head; driving into Greenville makes me think about The Doobie Brothers.

I’ve discovered what societies have known for centuries. Music can be used as a tool. If I get down I can play music to get me back up. (uh oh, Jackie Wilson’s singing “Higher and Higher”…time to turn it up!) If I need a little motivation I can play “Heroes” by The Commodores. I used to run while listening to the soundtrack from the ’84 Olympics, and I can add 20 pounds to my bench press if you play “Whipping Post,” by the Allman Brothers really loud!

What type of music gets you going? Be careful with it. Music can also be a downer, or send your mind off in a negative direction. And where do you listen to it? Music in the car on the way to work can be a great idea…if it gets you in a productive, positive mood. But, I am especially an advocate of upbeat music in the car on the way home from work.

My Perfect Workday definitely includes music. How about yours?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I was talking with a friend yesterday about some decisions he is grappling with. He has multiple challenges, some very serious, others less so. But, they are all decisions that impact his life. And, not making a decision, at least in some of the choices, is just as serious as making one.

How do you make decisions? Most people use the following four strategies; they are called The Four D's (and I'll give you a bonus D):
- Delay...can you put it off? If so, it may decide itself, or you may get more information that will allow you to make a better decision.
- Delegate...can you get someone else to make the decision, or do whatever the thing that needs to be done.
Don't Do It...I like this one. Ask yourself this question, "What's the worst thing that will happen if you don't make a decision?" If the outcome is not too serious, don't make it...and watch. You may discover that it was a decision that didn't need to be made.
Do it...step up, make the decision and move ahead.
Here's the bonus...Diminish...can you do some things that reduce the impact of the decision, so that it isn't such a serious situation. If you can continue to diminish the situation, after awhile, it simply disappears.

What decisions do you need to make?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Appearing Through the Mist

While presenting a leadership program in Wilmington on Tuesday I asked, "Where do leaders come from?"

Amelia, a smart, quick, and articulate attendee, said, "They appear through the mist." The room immediately went quiet. It was one of those moments in which you hear something profound and you have to sit for a moment to decide what to do with it.

"They appear through the mist."

Read the phrase one word at a time.

The word "They" infers that there can be more than one leader. Looking for one person, one savior, one charismatic individual often leads us to deny our own leadership qualities and responsibilities. Loading the responsibilities for leadership, for change, onto one person is an easy dodge. If life doesn't work out like we would want, it's his/her fault, not ours.

"Appear" can't happen unless we are looking. We know the areas in which we need leaders, and we know the characterstics we need in leaders. So, when we experience leadership, we know it. If we have given up, or if we have an unrealistic assumption of what it takes to be a leader--ex. "they just don't look like a leader,"--leaders don't appear.

Leaders appear "through" the mist. If we let our fears blind us it's like being in a totally dark night. We can't see help even if it's standing next to us.

The "mist" is the problem (or problems), issue, challenge we face. We have to stay calm and keep looking. The mist may make it difficult to see more than a few feet ahead. At that point, we should slow down, get our bearings, and patiently call out into the mist, to see if others are in there with us. By calling out and locating others we discover that our collective sense of direction and leadership can guide us. As we call, the others who can help us "Appear through the mist."

Last night, in the Carolina/Duke game, there were moments in which the mist was getting pretty thick for the Tar Heels. At various moments, though, each Tar Heel appeared through the mist of noise, competition, stress and challenge, and stepped up and contributed...they led. Most notable was point guard Ty Lawson. Especially in the second half, when the Heels were down, and then when Duke made a run to come back, Lawson calmly and quickly took charge...and led.

What is the mist in your life? Are you trying to move through the mist on your own? I can promise you that there are others in the mist. Call out and see who appears.

Thank you, Amelia.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thoughts, and Spankin' Dookies

I'd love to have some sort of wisdom to offer about the economy, the bailout, the stimulus, and how to solve the unemployment problem...but more important issues are at hand.

Tonight is the Carolina/Duke game.

With all the mess that's going on it's nice to be able to take 2 hours and forget that stuff and focus on what's going on inside a 90-foot long rectangle. Even if you don't like either school, the rivalry, or basketball, you should watch the game.

Here's three reasons: The students. I hate to say it, but that bunch of slobbering, screaming, elitist pinheads...the Cameron Crazies, always outdo the students at the Smith Center. That's not a compliment, it's just a fact. They are always wonderfully imaginative in their comments and expressions of ...ahem...displeasure. Second, the coaches. Watching Ole Roy go apoplectic and seeing Ratboy cuss and fume is fun. I keep waiting for that big vein on either one's head to explode. Finally, the drama. Something will happen tonight; there's no telling what it will be in advance, and you'll see it and think and/or say, "HOLY SH**!!" I've got a bad feeling that it might be a Gerald Henderson jumper late in the game.

My take is that the Heels have too much speed for Duke, but Duke is at home, and K cusses worse than Roy, so it'll be tight. Heels by 5.

A final thought that has nothing to do with basketball: If you love R&B music like a lot of us, check out Raphael Saadiq. If you close your eyes an listen to "Let's Take a Walk" you'd swear it was the 4 Tops, Marvin, and Jackie Wilson. Try him, you'll like him.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Key to Leaderhip

Am in Wilmington, NC, to do a leadership seminar, "21st Century Leadership."

Someone asked me the other day,"What's the big deal about leadership in the 21st Century? Hasn't leadership always been the same?"

Yes, and No.

The basics are the same. As someone once said, you have to "know your stuff, know yourself, and know your people." But, the main thing that's changed is that you can no longer make people do things. People are going to do what they are going to do.

Here's the key to 21st Century Leadership...Just Ask. By just asking people to follow; asking in a a variety of ways, the people who believe in where you are leading will follow. Hopefully, you have enough followers to accomplish your goals. If not, you have to ask in additional, different ways.

President Barrack Obama is asking us to follow by pointing out that we need to be more accountable, more responsible. President John Kennedy asked us to follow when he put forth the challenge of sending a man to the moon in the '60s. I once had a coach who asked our team to follow by challenging us and telling us where we didn't want to be. He pointed out that if we did what he coached (asking us) we'd win, and we did.

In Seth Godin's outstanding book, Tribes (the best leadership book I've read in the last 10 years), he emphasizes that great leaders--in one way or another--ask people to follow--and they do.

If you are in a leadership position, modeling the behavior you want to see from your followers is a style of asking.

So, head off in the direction you want your followers to go, look over your shoulder, and invite them, "Let's go this way." You may hear grumblings, you may hear protests, but, if you are headed in the right direction you also may be surpised to hear footsteps.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Facebook Fanatics

Welcome back, it’s Monday.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that part of this blog will make me sound like a Luddite.

If you remember, the Luddites were a group of British textile workers in the early-1800s who revolted against new machines. They believed the new technology would put them out of their jobs. Which, to be honest, it did. Since then, the term Luddite has been used derisively to describe anyone opposed to technological progress and technological change.

For example, my wife is a Luddite. She thinks, or wishes, that computers were a fad. But, I digress…..

About 10 days ago, a friend (now I’m wondering) pushed me to sign up for Facebook. I did it more to get him to stop talking about it than any other reason. I’d read some about social media, and am registered for Linked In. But, I don’t use it, and I zap the requests for connection back affirmatively for no other reason than I don’t want to make folks feel bad by rejecting their gesture.

Well, my encounter with Facebook has already gotten out of hand! I’ve connected with folks I haven’t seen or heard from, or of, in 40+ years. One woman remembered me coming off a lifeguard stand and rescuing her in the early ‘70s. Another remembered me hitting her with a crabapple when we were children. A politician who doesn’t know me from Adam is now my “friend” and is using Facebook to flash an American flag and garner support.

At this point it’s all about memories. And that’s great, I love it. I’ve heard from a bunch of people whom I’d forgotten how much I liked. Anything that keeps people together is a good thing. Even if technology does allow us to reach out without actually connecting it’s an example of what John Naisbitt wrote about in the ‘80s book, Megatrends. He called it, “High tech, high touch.”

But, I’m seeing a disturbing trend. Some of the responses come back so fast that I wonder if the person is doing much else in life other than responding to Facebook. And a lot of the responses happen during work hours.

At a time when folks need to be paying more attention to their work than ever before, here’s a technology that is even more distracting than email. I understand and support the possibility of using work hours to connect with Facebook, Linked In, MySpace, Twitter, and other social media for business purposes. But, get real.

So, carve out some personal time and stay connected with friends. But, don’t be surprised when your employer comes in with a high-tech record of how much time you’ve spent telling your friends online how much you liked Little Anthony and the Imperials or posting pictures of your pet iguana…..and suggests that someone who doesn’t have so many “friends” can be found to do your job.

Look at it on the bright side, though. You’ll have all that time at home to spend on Facebook.

I’ll be in Wilmington until Tuesday night…so I’ll see you on the blogtrain on Wednesday morning.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Change Is Gonna Come

This has been a particularly challenging week. Some changes I hadn’t counted on.

Ironically, I’m presenting a program about change this morning. In times like these the concept of change seems to stare us in the face every morning when we look in the mirror.

If things in your life, or the lives of others close to you are changing, what do you really want to know? What do they want to know?

Well, here you go. To be honest, I don’t know where I got this but it’s on the mark.

You, and they, need to know:

1. What’s the change?
2. What’s going right? Help keep a balanced perspective and protect peoples’ self-worth.
3. What is not working and where are the dangers?
4. What are the benefits of change and the consequences of not changing?
5. Where do we want to go—and what’s it like when we get there?
6. What difficulties might we encounter?
7. What’s the implementation plan?

If your life is changing, and whose isn’t, good luck.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Goodbye and Hello

In 1969, Steve McQueen made The Rievers, an adaptation of a William Faulkner story. I'll cut to the chase here. It's a take on the age-old story of a young person's journey from childhood to an adult awareness of life and the world.

McQueen, who received a Golden Globe nomination, plays a fun-loving country guy who acts as the young person's guide into life.

Early in the movie, McQueen says a line that I have remembered ever since I saw the film on a date as a high school senior. He says, "Sometimes you have to say 'goodbye' to what you know, and 'hello' to what you don't."

If that ain't true in life I don't know what is.

But, the hard part is knowing what to say 'goodbye' to. You can't say goodbye to everything or life is never comfortable. It's a never-ending slog of "Now, how does this work?" The other way to look at it is that life becomes a never-ending journey of discovery; which sounds dramatic and romantic and pumps an adrenalin rush into your veins. Kinda depends on how you look at it.

The Frenche philosopher Voltaire said, "Good is the enemy of the great." Sometimes you have to let go of what is good to move onto what is, or might be, great.

Making the choice of what to let go and what to keep is the challenge.

Having a Perfect Workday, having a great life, is all about choices. And you can't make dramatic choices about everything in life. You have to pick your shots. In this blog, and in my seminars, I talk a lot about the change part of life. In fact, am presenting a program tomorrow about change for a pharma company in Research Triangle Park.

Tomorrow, I'm going to do somenthing different. I'm going to change my opening. I'm going to ask them...what do you want to stay the same. What is good enough? Considering the energy it takes to change, what should stay the same in your life so that you have the energy to change the things you want to change?

What is good enough?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ja'M~ike and the Winter 2009 Stickin' Wid It Tour

Today is the start of the US Snow Scuplting Championship in Lake Geneva, WI. As a champion snow scultor I have to say that I'm sad I can't be there to defend my crown.

OK, so I was kinda messin' with ya there.

Here's the deal...last week a friend turned me on to Facebook. So, just to humor him I put up a page...and started getting tons of emails and links and postings from folks I haven't seen or heard from, or of, in decades.

That got me to thinking. So I tried a little experiment. I came up with an alter ego, named Ja'M~ike (pronounced "jam icky")...and created a little story about the name, and zapped an email about it to 10 friends...mostly college fraternity brothers.

Within a couple of hours I had gotten 23 emails. My first thought was, "don't these people have lives?!" I thought that if they are so bored with what they are doing that they could spend time responding--quite creatively in many cases--they need to find something else to do.

But, the more I watched the evolution of the experiment (and it's still evolving...I'm getting emails this morning) the more I realized two things: First, most people are wonderfully creative if you give them a chance to show it. Unfortunately, many folks are hesitant to show their creativity in their workplace, or they aren't given the chance. They need outside motivation...which I was all too glad to provide.

Second, Seth Godin is right. Godin is the author of Tribes, the best book about leadership I've read in the last 10 years. He says that tribes are basically groups that have a similar interest and a way to communicate. He adds that leading a tribe often takes only one person to stand up and say, "Let's go this way," and then others with like interest will follow. My experiment was a great example of that.

What could you be creative about today? What issue in life...personal, spiritual, work-related, physical, family, financial...whatever, could you be creative in and show others the way. Facebook has created a tribe. Ja'M~ike is a fun experiment that took off.

Step out and lead. You may be surprised who will follow.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Music

Everyone has heroes whether they admit it or not. And, I'm not talking about the hero-worship attitude we see concerning athletes or entertainers. I'm talking about people after whom we model our lives; people in whom we see traits we would like to emulate.

I have three heroes: Jimmy Buffett, Ron Rice, and Bob Parsons.

Buffett turned a lifestyle into a career, and then into a brand. I've read a number of biographies, tons of articles, his autobiography, seen hours of interviews, and read a couple of his books, and I can tell you that the most important point about Jimmy Buffett is lost on most of his fans. Buffett worked hard to find the thing he was good at, and then he focused all his energy on getting better at it and expanding its reach.

Ron Rice used the same strategy (and, essentially, headed in the same geographic direction, to Florida) as Buffett. As creator and owner of Hawaiian Tropic he searched for a product that would allow him to create a life and business around the lifeguard's lifestyle. I interviewed Rice once for a magazine article and he told me, "Go where you want to be and look for a way to make a living that allows you to live there."

Bob Parsons is a Marine Vietnam veteran who came home to eventually start and sell a couple of software companies. A couple of years ago he founded godaddy.com and has used the company as a vehicle to have fun (and poke fun), make contributions to a wide range of causes, and pioneer widespread use of the Internet for any and everyone.

I keep thinking about the common denominators of these guys. All three took off in directions that were far away from the suit and tie world. But they used suit and tie rules, traditional business basics, to succeed. The key attraction for me is that they did it their way. Granted, all three met and overcame obstacles, and, from what I can tell, worked exceptionally hard. But, also from what I can tell, it never seemed like work to them. What they do is fun to them, and they show it.

I keep thinking that The Perfect Workday is my music, Hawaiian Tropic, and godaddy.com. Working shouldn't be like being poked in the eye with a stick every day. And, it isn't for me.

Is it for you?

What's your music?

Monday, February 2, 2009

You Know What Assumptions Do, Don't You?

Over the weekend I had three experiences that forced me to start thinking about how I look at other people…other human beings.

On Friday I read an article about people using the phrase, “that’s so gay,” as way to describe something stupid or ridiculous or (in fashion) hideous. The phrase has nothing to do with homosexuality. It’s a simple put-down.

The point of the writer, an authority on gay/lesbian behavior, was that using the word “gay” in such a way denigrates gay people. And, such denigration eventually leads to gays being discriminated against and, in some cases, physically assaulted.

Now, I have to admit, my initial reaction is that this was one more example—not unlike some issues and comments that people of color bring up—in which the writer comes to the discussion with a chip on his shoulder. That type of oversensitivity seems to lead to a sense of “white/gay/obesity/you-name-it guilt” I see in too many people.

So, hang with me.

Late, late, late on Saturday night I encountered some videos on youtube.com showing heat signature shots of Taliban and other terrorists taken from American planes and helicopters in the war zone. I was struck by how the footage (granted, that’s an archaic term) made the whole thing look like a video game. I watched as people ran from trucks and buildings and then disappeared in flashes of light and smoke as the bombs hit.

Third, I watched youtube.com videos of the terrorists’ planes flying into the World Trade Center buildings. And then watched people jump from buildings to their deaths.

I thought about how the videos and the article about the gay phrase could easily lead me to think about other people as less than human. They weren’t people, they were just blips on a video, or words in a phrase. I have to believe that that’s how Germans…how a variety of societies…have thought about Jews for centuries.

Part of the experience is just humans being humans. Throughout our history our ability to recognize “different” has kept us alive. Different makes us cautious; cautious keeps us alive.

But, we are past the point at which another human’s color, religion, sexual orientation, bodyfat percentage, or other physical or psychological difference is a threat…if it ever was.

The key is what “they” do. Action is everything. What the other person does tells us if they are friend or foe. If they have a history of actions that are threats to us, then it’s time to be cautious. I’m certainly smart enough to realize that there are situations in which we can’t wait for others to act before we react. A threat to national security is a different animal altogether.

But, I can’t shake this feeling that we all make assumptions that slow us down; assumptions that keep us from fully connecting with others who could make a positive difference in our lives.

What assumptions are you making about others based on appearances or issues, not actions?