Opinion

My (internal) Confrontation Waiting to Happen – Again

I’ve had ‘confrontations’ with myself for years now, simply because I know I should be doing things that continuously make myself better.

And by better, I mean refocusing my efforts to live life to the fullest – being a better friend, brother, son, uncle, employee; working out a little more; drinking a little less; traveling more, etc. I’m happy about the experiences I’ve had to date but there’s still this innate desire to do more.

Yet, I am my own worst critic. I always wonder, “Could I be doing something bigger and better to truly make a difference?”  (Some of you know this, but I served in the armed forces and worked in a hospital for quite a while. Defending freedom and saving lives are two professions that set the bar of achieving “something more” pretty high.)

I could argue that I don’t have the discipline to – day after day – make the proper decisions. That would be an excuse because discipline is a learned quality, a function of habit. I could say, simply, that change is hard. Everyone knows this. But, again, an excuse.

  • What would you do to make a difference in the lives of others?
  • How do you achieve your level of discipline?

One time I was told, “Don’t judge your insides by somebody else’s outsides.” This held two meanings for me. Everyone has their own set of problems. As hard as you try, you will never be able to read another person’s mind and the demons they deal with on a daily basis. You should look at your own ‘insides’ and realize that change comes from within.

Maybe it’s time to have another deep confrontation with myself.

Oh, and here’s the inspiration for this post: Seth’s Blog: The confrontation waiting to happen.

Professional Development Groups: a Thing of the Past?

I was recently part of a team tasked with marketing a huge professional development / networking event. The event wasn’t attended well and was probably our worst rated event, based on survey responses.

We (thought) we did everything right. Great speakers. A great venue. We tied in a networking session followed by the actual presentation. We had to charge a moderate fee ($50, association members received a discount) – well below what other competing groups charge for similar events. We had all the pieces but it didn’t work.

I then started to think about professionals, generation concerns, and organizations as a whole.

What do people want to hear about when it comes to marketing, public relations, design or corporate communication?

I’ve always gotten a lot out of my professional development groups, simply because they help me network, provide resources and better my craft. Yet, it makes me wonder if I’m unique.

In this age of instant gratification and instant Internet, have professional development organizations outlived their usefulness? And, do people feel they bring value?

I’m considering a twitter discussion on the topic. I’ll keep you posted. Feel free to leave comments as well!

Inspiration Comes in the Wildest Places

Over the past few months I’ve been wallowing in my sorrows. Not sure where it comes from or how it started. I’ve been feeling this huge sense of latency and beguilement, hoping to find some answers from within or maybe even look for a sign.

It’s interesting to me how intspiration can come from the most unique places. Today, I was getting my hair cut at a new barber shop in the city. It’s a small, fairly nondescript storefront that serves the East Lakeview neighborhood.  As I was getting chopped, I was talking to the barber (who was no older than 28) about his upcoming trip to Alaska. Nice guy.

Upon paying him, I asked if he could break a $20. He looked and me, answering, “Sure, but how much do you want back?” (Him, taking his gratuity from the difference).

I said, “Ugh, now you’re asking me to do math!”

“That’s why I’m a stylist. I don’t do numbers.”

To which I replied, “That’s why I’m a writer, I don’t like math either.”

But then, something interesting happened. His response sort of threw me off guard, “Oh really? What types of things do you write?”

“Mostly corporate, business-oriented stuff. Human resources policies, newsletters, some items for our website. Stuff like that.” I’m not sure why I played down what I do. Perhaps, in some way, I wanted it to sound more creative and artistic than it really is.

I would never really know his exact thoughts but by the weird grimace I could see on his face, I’m sure it fell along the lines of, “I’m not sure if that sounds somewhat boring, or really boring.” And, to be honest, I agreed with him.

I’m not quite sure why I classified myself as a writer. I do write for work, but not as often as I’d like. And the things I do write are immensely flat, due to the fact I’m writing about an organization with a bunch of older white men, the lawyer who is my boss, and the legal team that tears apart everything I try to distribute. (To those in the corporate communications world, you know of exactly what I speak). I’ve not published much outside of this blog (which has been lackluster at best) and I barely write outside of work. I like writing but like so many other artists, the question always becomes, “What do I create?”

I guess a little inspiration, as well. Would my struggle for creativity simplify itself if I had a muse? Would flow arrive more readily if I focused on a consistent theme? I see the art of writing as an outlet; as an expression. My hope being that in some fashion, the words I write may inspire someone else, give a person a new perspective on a situation or discover an entirely new part of themselves. Too much? No, I don’t think so.

And yes, I know. Practice makes perfect. Writing only becomes better when you work at it…a lot. I also know that I could pound out a thousand words a day, work on a piece over and over again, and NEVER get it to perfection. To me, writing is never a completed piece of work. And, typing on a computer-because of its easy editing ability-only makes those revisions more tempting. It’s how my brain works.

Perhaps it was time for my brain to turn “on” once again. Maybe it was that Timmy told me exactly what I needed to hear. Even more simply, maybe I need to pay more attention to the things around me, think a bit more simplistically, and take a step out of the rat race. What ever the case may be, I’m making a pledge to post at least one post per week. Thanks, Timmy, for triggering the kick in the butt I probably needed.

Do Your Taxes Mean More than My Equal Rights?

Photo: Socialworker.org

Photo: Socialworker.org

Today’s political landscape tends to ignite so much emotion and confrontation that I avoid speaking about it at all cost. This does not insinuate that I don’t care about the nation, or that I’m not educated on the issues. I just try to be the better person and agree to disagree. In my mind, talking politics to some people is like talking to an ex-wife about her recently divorced husband’s adulterous affair…with her sister…over Thanksgiving dinner.

It just doesn’t bode well.

I also don’t write much about being gay. Being gay is one part of a whole that I call, “me”. I’ve always said that it’s part of who I am and not what I’m about. My principles, my personal and professional track record, and my relationships with friends, family and colleagues are what’s important to me – and how I feel history should judge me. This post, however, ties these issues together.

I’m extremely happy to have the right to vote. I’m also happy that I was able to vote, and excited about the outcome. I also have realistic expectations about this presidency — that things will move slowly over the next four years. This will occur because Americans have voted for an increasingly conservative Congress that will, no doubt, continue to block the President’s efforts for progress. Supporters of both parties should understand that to get things done, there needs to be cohesion for the American people, not just for a select demographic. (As far as the economic situation is concerned, let me remind you that President Obama didn’t create this catastrophic meltdown that destroyed almost every major economy on the planet, he inherited it.)

I know (a lot of) people who voted for Gov. Romney. I have family members that voted for Romney. I have friends that voted for Romney and, sadly, know gay people who voted for Romney.

What I would like to know is how these people – people who know the kind of person I am and the level of trust I engender – could vote for someone who would deny me equal rights as a citizen? I want to know how they could place (sketchy) economic reform, which [probably] wouldn’t work in four years, over my right to be a parent? I’d like to have them look me in the eye and tell me how a small tax break means more to them and me having the ability to have equal hospital visitation when a partner is ill.

This idea is not singular to me. I was inspired by a quote from Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Doug Wright, who posted to Facebook:

I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, “My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.”

It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you ‘disagree’ with your candidate on these issues.

If you voted for Romney, you did these things to me. You voted to take away my rights as an equal. You voted to take away the same tax benefits that you receive as a married individual. You voted to demean my lifestyle and those of others.

This issue doesn’t solely revolve around me and my rights. You also voted to take away affordable health care to millions of Americans. You voted to take voted to take away what a woman could do to her body. You voted to unravel what progress we have made over the last four years.

I don’t write this out of spite, or to take away your freedom of choice. I write this to make you understand there’s more at stake than what is in your bank account. Christopher Hennessy, a Huffington Post contributor, wrote, “We need to make clear to our friends and family what the stakes are for them. The stakes are our relationships with them, our continued willingness to meet them without rancor, to feel like part of the family, to not wonder how a slight decrease in their yearly taxes could mean more to them than we do.”

Yes, these are turbulent times and we have a long road ahead. We have made some progress. My hope is that we will continue down that road with each passing moment. But keep in mind that voting is not exclusively about party lines, tax incentives, economic reform and jobs. It’s about voting for the right candidate for your city, district, and state. If voting for the President, your vote impacts everyone living in this great nation, even those individuals right in front of you.

How to be Remarkable

Two years ago (which at this particular moment seems like a lifetime) I came across a great presentation on the true meaning of success.  At that time, the American mood was pretty grim as companies and individuals were still experiencing the catastrophic effects of the 2008-09 financial disasters.  I had (fortunately) just gotten hired in a new communications role that seemed to have potential.

I happened across a small e-book that provided a some focus in a very crazy world.  Over seventy authors came together to provide insight on, What Matters Now.  The book’s messaging provided, at least for me, a mental “push the reset button” and allowed me to re-prioritize. Seth Godin, a world-renowned author, TED speaker and marketer, posted the e-book on his blog.  (You can download it here.)

Through a series of events, and a little research, the book led me to the following article.  Seth wrote the article in 2007 for the Guardian and most of the content holds true today.  I thought I’d share:

American entrepreneur, author and public speak...

“You’re either boring or you stand out. You’re either invisible or remarkable. And, all your life, everyone has been pushing you to fit in. All your life

you’re told to keep your head down, work hard, don’t make waves and get it done. What rubbish. Here, in 10 easy steps, is how to grow. How to stand out. How to get noticed, make a difference and have a shot at the big time.

  1. Understand the urgency of the situation. Half-measures simply won’t do. The only way to grow is to abandon your strategy of doing what you did yesterday, but better. Commit.
  2. Remarkable doesn’t mean remarkable to you. It means remarkable to me. Am I going to make a remark about it? If not, then you’re average, and average is for losers.
  3. Being noticed is not the same as being remarkable. Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won’t accomplish much. It’s easy to pull off a stunt, but not useful.
  4. Extremism in the pursuit of remarkability is no sin. In fact, it’s practically a requirement. People in first place, those considered the best in the world, these are the folks that get what they want. Rock stars have groupies because they’re stars, not because they’re good looking.
  5. Remarkability lies in the edges. The biggest, fastest, slowest, richest, easiest, most difficult. It doesn’t always matter which edge, more that you’re at (or beyond) the edge.
  6. Not everyone appreciates your efforts to be remarkable. In fact, most people don’t. So what? Most people are ostriches, heads in the sand, unable to help you anyway. Your goal isn’t to please everyone. Your goal is to please those that actually speak up, spread the word, buy new things or hire the talented.
  7. If it’s in a manual, if it’s the accepted wisdom, if you can find it in a Dummies book, then guess what? It’s boring, not remarkable. Part of what it takes to do something remarkable is to do something first and best. Roger Bannister was remarkable. The next guy, the guy who broke Bannister’s record wasn’t. He was just faster … but it doesn’t matter.
  8. It’s not really as frightening as it seems. They keep the masses in line by threatening them (us) with all manner of horrible outcomes if we dare to step out of line. But who loses their jobs at the mass layoffs? Who has trouble finding a new gig? Not the remarkable minority, that’s for sure.
  9. If you put it on a T-shirt, would people wear it? No use being remarkable at something that people don’t care about. Not ALL people, mind you, just a few. A few people insanely focused on what you do is far far better than thousands of people who might be mildly interested, right?
  10. What’s fashionable soon becomes unfashionable. While you might be remarkable for a time, if you don’t reinvest and reinvent, you won’t be for long. Instead of resting on your laurels, you must commit to being remarkable again quite soon.

“But wait!” I hear you say. “My boss won’t let me. I want to do something great, but she won’t let me.”

This is, of course, nonsense. Your boss won’t let you because what you’re really asking is: “May I do something silly and fun and, if it doesn’t work, will you take the blame – but if it does work, I get the credit?” What would you say to an offer like that?

The alternative sounds scary, but I don’t think it is. The alternative is to just be remarkable. Go all the way to the edge. Not in a big thing, perhaps, but in a little one. Find some area where you have a tiny bit of authority and run with it. After you succeed, you’ll discover you’ve got more leeway for next time. And if you fail? Don’t worry. Your organisation secretly wants employees willing to push hard even if it means failing every so often.

And when? When should you start being remarkable? How’s this: if you don’t start tomorrow, you’re not really serious. Tomorrow night by midnight or don’t bother. You’re too talented to sit around waiting for the perfect moment. Go start.”  via How to be remarkable | Money | The Guardian.

This still hangs on my desk. Get started!