Time to move our feet…

January 31, 2017

You can think it. You can say it. You can pray it. But, unless you get up and do it, nothing changes. These two quotes, both from the Jack’s Wining Words blog, but which were posted weeks apart seem to go together and seem to be especially appropriate right now.

“Optimism for me isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better.”  (Melinda Gates)

“When you pray, move your feet.”  (African Proverb)

We have been thrust into times that demand more of us that just sitting by optimistically hoping and praying that things get better.

Over the weekend groups of people were suddenly been thrust into an unfavorable spotlight for no other reason that where they came from when they came (or tried to come) to America. It was more than just a coincidence that they also happen to mainly praying-muslimshave religious beliefs that are different from those in power here right now. The picture of them on their knees, shoes off, bowed down and praying in an airport is apparently frightening to those who see their religion as a threat. Of course these same “leaders” see people pursuing different lifestyles as a threat, too; enough so that they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pass laws about what they can and cannot do, with whom and where they can do it.

Those of us who may not have yet joined one side or the other in the happenings around us now find it more and more difficult to sit idly by watching the reports on TV of others who are out and moving their feet in public places in protest to what is happening. The same was true in the 60’s when the Civil Rights movement showed us the dark underbelly of racism and bigotry. Eventually enough people got off their couches and moved their feet to get the attention of those in power. When they did change happened. Recently not enough people moved their feet to keep someone from power that everyone thought shouldn’t be, couldn’t be and wouldn’t be elected to lead the country – #POTUS.

Now we are faced with the need to mobilize and move our feet to prevent the destruction protest-marchof the very values that made America the great country that it is. Instead of continuing to welcome newcomers who will carry forward the wonderful story of success that our diverse history is based upon, the new leaders are trying to shut off the flow of people who strive to be a part of the American Dream. They would have us build walls instead of bridges. They would single out and discriminate against whole nations of people because of their religious beliefs. Where have we seen that idea before?

The really ironic thing is that our new leaders don’t even represent the majority of the population. The majority voted for the other candidate. The very system that was invented to protect the minorities from smaller states, in fact worked to propel the minority into leadership. One has to believe that if the majority got better organized and moved their feet more, change could be effected. In as little as two years enough change is possible in the Legislative branch of our government to stop the insanity currently being wrecked upon, or proposed for, America. In the meantime, there needs to be a vigilant and constant effort in the courts to thwart the most outrageous moves by the current leaders.

This too shall pass; but it will not pass without considerable pain and damage unless enough of the majority in America move their feet and get out on the streets in protest and into court to challenge and into the voting booths next time, to cause change. Yes, we should still pray about it, but we should move our feet, too.


Living with ambiguity…

January 30, 2017

“What’s important is to keep learning, to enjoy challenge, and to tolerate ambiguity.  In the end there are no certain answers.”  (Martina Horner) – as seen in a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Ways blog. Jack went on to write – Neuroscientists say that the brain does not like ambiguity… People, in general, want “yes or no” answers.  No equivocation.  But life’s not like that.

worriesIn my real estate world there many cases where the answer to a question starts with “it depends…” Lawyers tend to answer questions like that, too, because they know that so much in the law is open to interpretation. Much what has been said lately by #POTUS, #Tweeter-in-Chief seems initially to be straightforward, until one starts to think about how the simplistic answers that fit into 140 characters will actually be implemented. The devil is in the ambiguity of the details.

One consequence of the brain not liking ambiguity is that we waste a lot of time trying to solve problems for which there are no real, unambiguous answers. It is possible to answer a child’s question, ‘Why is the sky blue?” with an unambiguous and scientifically verifiable answer. But let that same child ask, “What is love?” and see if you can come up with a complete answer to that. We also tend to wrestle with things that we pose to ourselves as questions, when in fact they are conundrums with ambiguous answers.

A very important word in today’s quote is “tolerate”. It is saying that while we are not insightgiving in to ambiguity, we have come to the conclusion that we will not let it ruin our lives, that we will acknowledge it and choose to live with the fact that some things are unresolved and unresolvable.  The catch phrase “it is what it is”, was probably invented by someone who had just accepted some ambiguity in their life.

Once you accept that there are no certain answers to some things, you can let go of them and focus instead on the things that you are sure of or the things in your life that can be solved or resolved. You can spend more time focused upon those who love you and accept your and less time trying to figure out why some people reject you or hate you (or so you think).

At the end of today’s quote is also an important little phrase – “In the end there are no certain answers.” I made the point earlier that certain things were scientifically provable and thus not ambiguities; but are they? A huge majority of the world’s best scientists have signed on in support of the theories surrounding man’s impact as the primary cause of Global Warming, yet our #Tweeter-in-Chief and his appointee to the critical post of EPA Chief don’t believe the evidence that these scientists have collected and the case that they make. So, in the end, there are no certain answers in the minds of those men.

Perhaps Anton Chekhov was right when he said – “Man is what he believes.” 

disagreement2Since we live in a world that surrounds us with many ambiguous situations and we are now under a leadership that now supplies us with “alternative facts” to almost any situation, I suppose Chekhov’s insight is now more important than ever – we are what we believe. Perhaps #POTUS has discovered a new way to deal with ambiguity – just believe something and it becomes true, it becomes an alternative fact upon which we can build the rest of our lives.

I still have trouble with that concept, perhaps because I bring some beliefs about right and wrong into the mix along with some historical perspective of the facts. I struggle to understand that way of thinking, the same way that Chuck Todd (#chucktodd) did in his TV interview with Kellyanne Conway, when she introduced the term “alternative facts” in response to a question about something that the White House Press Secretary had said. Todd was nonplussed by that term and how to differentiate an “alternative fact’ from a lie. Maybe Chuck and I just don’t see the ambiguity that is hidden in the term fact.jpg“fact”. Obviously, for some, it is not a fact if you don’t believe it is a fact; and, even less so if you choose to believe an “alternative fact”.

So maybe we don’t have to worry about accepting ambiguity, but just get used to tolerating alternative facts for the next four years. I for one am having a hard time with that. How about you?

 


Lighten up somebody’s life today; give them a compliment.

January 24, 2017

This little quote was in a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Compliments are the helium that fills everybody’s balloon.”  (Bernie Siegel)

Everybody can use the helium of compliments to lighten the load of day-to-day living. There are many things that we tend to worry about and which tend to weigh us down. Receiving a compliment from someone about how we look or how we have acted or about something that we have done serves as a counterbalance to lighten our day a bit.

At my local Chamber of Commerce referral networking group, I recently presented somegreat-job information from articles that I read about why businesses lose clients and employees. The main reason in both cases was that the client or employee didn’t feel that they were appreciated. I think saying a few “thank you’s” and giving some compliments in both cases could go a long way to preventing those losses and the costs to the business that goes with them.

In our personal lives we too often begin to take our life partners and the things they do for us for granted. All too often in our modern society that can lead to problems and even divorce. Taking the time to give a few compliments about how they look or thanking them for the things that they do every day to make our lives easier or better can go a long way to keeping the relationship vibrant and together.

At a personal level, if you really stop and think about it; don’t you feel better when someone compliments you or acknowledges the work that you’ve been doing? It makes complimentyour day a little brighter if someone says that you look great today or perhaps even “that color looks so good on you.” A boss or even a fellow worker who recognizes and thanks you for the good work that you’ve been doing is reward enough to make your day. One of the articles that I had read on this had the line “people don’t work for companies; they work for other people.” That drives home the point that workers are looking for positive reinforcement from the people that they work for and with; they’re hoping to be recognized and complimented by the boss and co-workers.

So, make the day better for those that you encounter today and find something to compliment them on. Your little greeting of “You sure look good today” will put them in the right frame of mind to have a great day. They’ll leave you thinking “You’re right. I do look good today. This is going to be a great day.” You’ve filled their life with the helium of a compliment and lightened their load. While you’re at it, give yourself a compliment, “That was a nice thing to do and I feel good about it.”


What good can come out of all this?

January 22, 2017

As I was thinking about something to say about the recent inauguration of our new President, I came across this quote that I saved from an earlier post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.   “Everybody has difficult years, but a lot of times the difficult years end up being the greatest years.”  (Brittany Murphy)

One can take refuge in the hope that the difficult four years ahead will be looked back upon as a time when the best that is in America was energized into resistance against the anger, hate and bitterness that led to this state of affairs. Perhaps it will come to be reright-and-wronggarded as America’s finest hour when the goodness that is in people found a common cause in the fight for what is right and just and compassionate in the battle against the insensitivity and the self-serving, closed-mindedness of the current political regime in our nation’s capital. Have no doubt about it, this is not a one-man problem, but a systemic assault being waged on the very values that the country was founded upon by a group of frightened politicians who are fighting the inevitable tide of change and diversity that the country is undergoing.

So, what good can come out of these four years of potential darkness? Perhaps the best thing that can happen is the awakening, revitalization and commitment of opposition to that darkness. Such an awakening was demonstrated around the country the day after the inauguration.  The awakening may occur within the existing two party structure of our political environment or perhaps result in the birth of a third party that doesn’t carry with it the baggage of both of the existing parties. Perhaps it will result in the emergence of a new charismatic leader who can serve as the voice of reason and compassion and lead the waitingnation out of the morass that is now finds itself in. I don’t know who that will be, but I would not be surprised if it another strong woman. It is well past time for that to happen and perhaps the country has never needed the difference in approach to governing that a woman could bring to bear than now (or four years from now).

It will take a little while for the current emotions of shock, anger and disappointment to settle down enough in the country for rational and organized efforts to get underway to resist the dismantling of the rights, privileges and protections that were put in place over the last 8 years (and before) and to begin planning for the 2018 and 2020 opportunities to take back the country. It would be a shame if the 65,844,954 million voters who did not vote for this president didn’t get better organized to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen again next time. The demographics have always been on the side of that majority, but the techtake actionnical mechanics of the last election were such that they allowed the minority to win. That can and will be overcome with the proper effort and commitment on the part of the majority. There is absolutely no need for this to be anything more than a short–term anomaly for our country and perhaps a one-term Presidency.

The good that come out of this is taking a serious look at the failures of both parties that allowed this to happen. The Republican Party did not imagine this outcome when thewinner-loser campaigning for their candidate started. They had several much better choices at the beginning, but those candidates allowed themselves to be bullied out of the way. The Democratic Party seemed to believe that it was entitled to win and chose a candidate that allowed herself to believe that, too. After all, how could she lose to that Republican candidate? The Democrats discarded the only candidate that might have defeated that Republican’s choice when they conspired to block the one candidate who was not beholding to the party elite. What a hoot that Presidential campaign would have been to witness.

So, who will rise to the challenge for 2020 to lead the nation back to sanity? I doubt that it will be Senator Elizabeth Warren, as many have predicted. She certainly has the intellectual capacity to be President; however, she has become as identified with the extreme left as any Tea Party member of Congress is identified with the extreme right. What will bring America back to an effective and productive middle ground of bi-partisan cooperation will be either a Democrat or Republican who is charismatic enough to ignorediversity the right and left litmus tests that the parties try to apply to their candidates. Perhaps it will be another populist, but one this time who espouses diversity, inclusiveness, compassion and a more centrist approach to things. I’m old enough to remember when moderate Republicans were allowed in that party and when there were fiscally conservative Democrats. Both have joined the Dodo bird in the Smithsonian display of extinct species.

So, it’s time to put this election behind us and get geared up to do a better job next time. There will undoubtedly be many fights about, and much anguish over, what happens in those four years. The good news is that we really only have to wait two years until the opportunity to put in place a new set of people in Congress who can slow or stop any destruction that the new President can effect. The Republican Party certainly sstart-with-mehowed us how effective having a majority in Congress can be to blocking everything that the President wants to do. It’s the game that both parties would rather play than focusing on getting the people’s work done. You have two years to be ready to effect change. Don’t waste that time lamenting what went wrong this year, focus on what you can help go right the next time and the time after that. It all starts with me. That’s what good can come out of this.

 


Leveraging diversity at work and in life…

January 18, 2017

I read a good article by Sally Krawcheck recently that focused upon the question – Why are we still asking women to act like men at work?  If you don’t know who Sally Krawcheck is go read the article and follow the links from her name that are there. She has quite an impressive resume.

Krawcheck was making the point in this article that diversity in the workplace has real value to companies, by giving them a wider perspective on the needs of the market, as well as a better knowledge base from which to make business decisions. She focused in the embrace diversityarticle upon the tendency in business to recommend (even demand) that women act more like the men in the business, in order to be successful and to be taken seriously. She makes a good case that diversity of thoughts and opinions, in this case letting women be women in business, makes more sense and leads to better decision making.

The same logic can apply to life in general. There is a tendency, based upon staying in our comfort zones, for people to surround themselves with other people who are just like them. The tendency drives them to create or join organizations that are populated by arrogantpeople like themselves. Many social clubs and churches are good examples of that tendency in practice. The same stagnation and self-serving, if wrongheaded, decision making that Krawcheck says can occur in businesses because of a lack of diversity also sets in at those more or less homogeneous clubs and churches over time. Due to the changing demographics in the general population, these insular organizations eventually wither and die, due to the inability to attract enough people “just like us” to sustain the organization. More successful organizations embrace diversity and thrive because of the wider pool of potential members that comes along with diversity.

At the root of the lack of diversity at work and in our lives may well be doubts or insecurity with our own role and place in life. The different opinions or points of view about things disagreement2can be perceived as threats to our own view of things. We see the admission that someone else’s’ opinion about something being accepted as “right” must mean that our opinion is “wrong”. A more correct way to look at things is that both opinions or points of view have merit and should both be taken into account when making decisions. In business, to do any less is potentially to immediately discount an entire segment of the population and possibly to lose them as customers. In life, to do so is to ignore some solutions or answers and to limit the possible solutions to a problem. You may even discover that having the insight of another person’s point of view (especially someone not like you) will lead you to the conclusion that something that you saw as a threat or problem was not a problem at all, but rather an opportunity for you to grow as a person.

Back when I was in the corporate world (and the seems like a lifetime ago) I would, about once a month, join a group of women from the office who regularly went to lunch together. I told them that I was getting in touch with my feminine side, which they found amusing. I seldom got a word in edgewise on these luncheons, but it was fascinating and interesting to sit and listen to the conversations that went on over their lunches. The part that was most in contrast to lunches with the men in the office was the ability of the women to share their life experiences with one another, rather than just banter about work. Men’s lunches tended to be all about the business, whereas the women lunches tended to focus upon life and family and other “people-oriented” topics. Sure, there was also some sharing of office gossip, but mostly it was sharing at a level that invited empathy and shared concerns. The men’s groups were always very guarded about anything like that from their personal lives.

In her article Krawcheck used a great analogy for both business and life. She said that different-points-of-viewbuilding a good team (at work) or support group (in life) can be thought of like building a good basketball team. In her words – “it’s hard to build a national championship team if your players are all point guards.” The same is true of the teams that you might be on at work. You need different skills and different points of view in order to make good decisions. I life you need a diverse set of friends around you as a support group for your life decisions and crises.

I recall watching the TV show Queer eye for the straight guy in which a group of gay men would help with the makeover of a straight guy each week. There were experts on the gay makeover team for personal grooming, clothing, cooking and home decor. Some of the members of that show are still on TV on other shows, such as Chopped. Each week some guy would be proposed for a makeover, usually recommended by friends and family. It was the totally different point of view of the gay makeover team that drove the dramatic changes that most of the participants underwent. Most of us probably don’t need to go to that extreme, but all of us could use the advice that we can only get from having a more diverse set of friends around us. Somebody has to say “yes” when we ask, “does this outfit make me look fat?” Then maybe they can help us make better choices in clothes and in life.

diversitySo, the take-away for work and life is to encourage and embrace diversity and to understand how to leverage that diversity in order to make better decisions. After you stop being amazed that anyone would see things that way that a person “different” from you might see them; you then need to make the effort to understand why and to let that understanding help you take that wider view of the decisions that you need to make. You’ll make better decisions at work and in life.


Be extraordinary, try something different today…

January 17, 2017

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to live with the ordinary.”  (Jim Rohn) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog so time back.

One of my dad’s favorite sayings was “go with what you know”. Dad was not a risk-taker and like to stay within his comfort zone on things like the choice of a restaurant or maybe a clothing brand. He also avoided going on vacations to anyplace that he didn’t know, which my mom hated. She traveled extensively after his death. He was not willing to risk the unusual, so he lived a very predictable and ordinary life.

Today we call the avoidance of the unusual “staying in our comfort zone.” That concept can extend to all aspects of our lives, including the interpersonal relationships that wecomfort-zone develop. Many times we might avoid people who seem to be different from us and our normal friends, because they are unusual – not like us. Maybe they look different or dress differently. Maybe they have a nose ring or spiked hair. Perhaps they are a different color or perhaps speak with an accent that is unfamiliar to us. For whatever reason, we choose to avoid them and go with what we know. How sad for us.

I have posted often here about diversity and the benefits of trying to understand different points of view. People who are different from us bring new perspectives into the conversation. They look at things differently from us and many may see things that we missed or overlooked. Certainly, they have come to different conclusions they we did and there is value in trying to understand how and why that happened. In doing so we may be different-points-of-viewintroduced to a different set of life experiences than we had, which shaped their view of the world. We may even discover how insular and one-dimensional our lives have been, compared to the experiences of others.

Perhaps we never have had people pointing at us and calling us names. Maybe we didn’t experience the horrors of war at a very young age. It’s likely that we didn’t have to endure the dangers of a long migration in hopes of finding sanctuary. Maybe we didn’t undergo incestuous rape while growing up. Perhaps we were not denied something just because of our color. Maybe we didn’t struggle with gender identity questions while growing up or fear that someone would find out that we were attracted to those of the same sex as us. We probably didn’t have to deal with the stigma of having a disease that left us visibly disfigured or with a condition that left us unable to socialize with others. So, how could we possibly see things from those perspectives?

What difference do any of those things make? They each contribute to seeing things
differently and each provides a perspective that we can learn from, if we take the risk, get out of the ordinary, and try something different by meeting someone different from us. Sometimes in order to do that we might also have to go somewhere different. One cannot expect to sit comfortably in the familiar surroundings of one’s home and have differentlistening toi music people trooped by you, so that you can meet them. You have to get out in the community and go places and do things that are different.

One of the more comfortable settings that we become complacent about is the church. It feels comfortable to be in our own church, among fellow Christians who are of a like mind. Going to church has become as much a social event as a religious one for most Christians. It is time to greet each other and feel good to be among friends. There is time to chat before and after (and sometimes during) the service and sometimes there are hospitality events (coffee hours) right after the service. It’s all very comforting and comfortable. For many it is also easy to check their faith at the door and leave it at the church, not to be needed until the next weekend.

A few, however, don’t check their faith at the door, but wear their Christianity out into the community during the week and share the Good New through service to others. Those few also get the added benefit of experiencing people with whom they would not normally associate and listening to people with different points of view. It may be taking meals seerving othersto shut-in through the Meals-on-Wheels program, or volunteering at a local soup kitchen or an organization like Community Sharing. Whatever the job, it does get you out of the ordinary and expose you to things and people that you would not ordinarily meet. Whether you realize it at the time, or not; your life is richer for the experiences.

You don’t have to go out and volunteer somewhere to change your life by doing something different or meeting someone different. Opportunities for change are all around us every day; we just don’t see them or look for them. The easiest way to see an opportunity for change is to just ask yourself, “Why am I doing it this way or going this way or making this decision?” if the only answer that you can really come up with is, “Because I always do that”; then you have hit upon something that you can do differently today and see what impact that has on your life. Surprise yourself and do something different today. Risk the unusual. Be extraordinary.

Have a great and unusual day.


Change your world today…

January 11, 2017

“You can change your world by changing your words.”  (Joel Osteen) – from some time ago on my favorite source of inspiration, the Jack’s Winning Words blog. 

I don’t recall what Jack said about this little quote at the time, but I knew that I wanted to save it and write something about it later. I’ve posted here a few times about attitude and how having a positive attitude can change things in your life. The words that one chooses to use can both spring from that attitude and impact it at the same time.

It may seem to you to be a simplistic view of life that your words matter so much; however,different beliefs if you choose to use upbeat and positive words to describe the things and people around you it will reinforce your positive attitude about life. If your words are harsh or critical, things will look a lot darker around you. People might start avoiding you, because they don’t want to be dragged down by your words or they may approach you in an argumentative way, because they find your words to be offensive or hurtful.

It may take a conscientious effort to choose to use positive and upbeat words, rather than just throw out the first words that come to mind; but, after a while, you will notice that the words of encouragement and thanks and praise come more naturally. It also requires more thought about the way the words that you use are received and perceived by those with whom you are speaking. I was recent sent a link to an article on the use of words in business for use as an educational topic at an upcoming referral network group meeting. The article was entitled Phrases Smart People Refuse To Use In Conversation by Dr. Travis Bradberry. One example from this article demonstrates how the words you use about the same topic can be taken by the listener as either hurtful or positive.

Bradbury wrote this about the words not to use with someone who has lost weight –

“Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!” Once again, a well-meaning comment—in this case a compliment—creates the impression that you’re being critical. Telling someone that she has lost a lot of weight suggests that she used to look fat or unattractive.

Instead say: “You look fantastic.” This one is an easy fix. Instead of comparing how she looks now to how she used to look, just compliment her for looking great. It takes the past right out of the picture.

You can see how even an innocent comment that is meant as a compliment can be taken the wrong way by the listener. So, it’s not just positive vs. negative words that one needs to be concerned about, but rather how all of the words that we use to try to communicate will be received.

obamhaUsing the right words requires attention and concentration. One of the aspects that I most admired about outgoing President Barrack Obama is his very measured, thoughtful and precise use of the language. You can tell by watching him speak that he is carefully choosing the words that he uses to make sure that they get his points across in an unambiguous manner. Let’s all hope that the incoming Tweeter-in-Chief can indeed “act Presidential” as he claimed during his campaign and do a better job of communicating his thoughts when he has to use more than 140 characters.

So, resolve to take the time and make the effort to choose your words more wisely and to use positive and upbeat words wherever you can today. See if that doesn’t have a positive impact on you and the people around you. Your words can paint a picture of you as EeyoreSnoopy joy the sad donkey in Winnie the Pooh or as the happy, dancing Snoopy in the Peanuts comic. Which would you rather be perceived to be?

Speak happy, be happy!  Change your world today.