The Black Issue

Nia Wilson died when her throat was slashed in an unprovoked attack on a BART train a few weeks ago; the day I turned 60. I determined I needed to work until 65 to ensure I am fully funded to the age of 96. I was in a bubble. I forgot Black women experience the highest rates of homicide of any racial group in the United States; more black women are killed in America than any other race. I ride that train. I’ve transferred trains at that station. I could have been the target.

My fear with aging is money; fear of murder is not in the list of top things. However, this latest incident reminded me I suffer constantly with the subtle stress of vigilance in public spaces. As an African American, this is a new level of ridiculous crap. This week, someone called the Santa Monica police and said a large black man was entering a residence that did not live there. Basically, police held the actor Ving Rhames at gunpoint for entering his own home. 

“I get up, I open the door, and there’s a red dot pointed at my face from a 9-millimeter, and they say, ‘Put up your hands.’ Literally,” he said. “Now, I just walked and opened up the door.”

The police, he said, told him to open the door with one hand and exit the house. One officer kept a pistol trained on him as he walked outside, where Rhames found another officer, the captain of police and a police dog. 

Suddenly, one of the officers recognized Rhames — not because he was an actor but because the two men’s high school-age sons played against each other in basketball. 

The situation de-escalated, but Rhames naturally wanted to know why they came to his house in the first place.

“He said to me, ‘A woman called 911 [and] said a large black man was breaking into the house. 

I had lunch with a couple of friends yesterday and I commented how this is all crazy. One commented, “No, it’s not crazy, let’s call it what is racism.” She is not wrong. To think this is crazy, is crazy, there is a cause and an effect. The cause is racism. I live in Oakland, where less than two miles from my home, there was the high profile case of a Stanford professor calling the police on a family barbecuing at the lake. She was afraid. Someone called the police on a black man who they feared was doing criminal activity; it was a firefighter doing a routine inspection. Two weeks ago, across the bridge in San Francisco, the police were called on a black man opening his own business. It’s exhausting enough, but, I deal with the reactions also I hear comments when I am in public spaces. I read things. I feel like I’m crying wolf, that the public at large does not believe there is inequity and actually rationalize behaviors.

It’s actually comical how Black people and the media are now making such a big deal about calling police. I’m pretty sure all races get the police called on them at one time or another. I’d be embarrassed if the media was constantly trying to protect my race. I’d feel like my race was special needs that has to be coddled and protected.

People who watch TV news are told by the anchors that in this day and age, they need to be vigilant and if they see any suspicious activity, they should call the police. Well, call or not — what should we do?

Understand, every time an incident like this occurs, as an African American woman, I process how I would handle the situation because for me, there is a reasonable probability of occurrence as I have described in previous posts. Why do people fear me when I’m more likely to be murdered than they are; when I’m more likely to be a victim of a violent crime. Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” So, thank you Anne Hathaway for your outrage.  I have the hope of making it to a fearless 96.

annehathaway The murder of Nia Wilson- may she rest in the power and peace she was denied here- is unspeakable AND MUST NOT be met with silence. She is not a hash tag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man. White people- including me, including you- must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS. White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence. Given those givens, we must ask our (white)selves- how “decent” are we really? Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action?
Peace and prayers and JUSTICE for Nia and the Wilson family xx

 

 

 

https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/5/30/17406092/race-911-white-lady-calls-police-on-black-family-bbq-oakland

 

The Reboot: Pause, Reflect and Lessons Learned

July 2015

Facebook showed this photo I posted  three years ago today. It reminded me how different some things are. I took the week off to do nothing in particular, except to rest pause and reflect. When was the last time you took a pause?

 

July 2018

 

Lessons learned; it’s something I do at work after a big project. It’s also something I do with  life and this was the week to do it. What’s happened over the last three years? When was the last time you looked at life to figure out what works and what doesn’t. What things to keep and what things to discard?  Maybe this is a good week to flip your perspective and pause. Over the last three years, what are your lessons learned?

 

 

The Age Issue: Potato Chips, Yoga and 60

This is like eating that entire bag of chips. You know you did it, you were there for every moment and yet it still comes as a shock when you reach in and the bag is empty. Yup, that is how I feel about turning 60 today. And, when people ask, what are you doing for your 60th, my response is I’m going grey. I have seen things, done stuff and been places. Easier said than done.

“Don’t you dare,” the words came out so fast and defiant, to my manager, I had to back off with “I mean, if I have a choice to opt out, I prefer nothing.” That was my response to a public recognition for my 35th work anniversary.  My best life financial plan requires me to work until at least 65. I felt like my peers, seeing a 35 anniversary, would think, she can retire, start rumors, someone would get it twisted (she can retire versus she wants to retire) and I’d be a target for layoffs. I went down a rabbit hole of anxiety and paranoia; brought on by the belief of an age bias skewed toward youth in my work place. Younger is better, let’s get rid of the old people. Why?

I have been doing yoga for 25 years; longer than some of my yoga teachers have been alive. In a class that puts demands on your body, you value people with experience in body types, anatomy, musculature to help you move in a way that is injury free while reaching your peak in a pose. It’s not a matter of young or old, it is expertise to be valued.

I am fearless in yoga. I got years, maybe decades in age on a lot of people in class, but I’ve seen things and I can do some stuff, watch. Bring it. For the last couple of months, I’ve taken that attitude at work, the one about, ultimately, value is in expertise. So bring it! I have seen things, done stuff and been places. I am balancing the perception of age with aging.  Give me that senior discount because I am more than you can imagine 60 could be, otherwise, keep that ageism.  I am 60, going grey and getting another bag of chips.

Taxation by Representation: the Taxers and the Taxed

I had this moment of clarity. The Hasan Minaj, interview on the New Yorker radio hour.  It’s right after 9/11, Hasan is a teenager and his father told him not to answer the phone; but of course he answers  to vicious racial and religious slurs and threats and violence and ending with, and the caller saying the address of the family home. Not yet recovered from the call is the sounds of breaking glass. The windows of the family car were broken. Hasan races down the street to find a trace of who did this only to return to see his dad with sweeping up the glass.

“Why aren’t you saying anything?!” His dad responds in Hindi: “These things happen, and these things will continue to happen. That’s the price we pay for being here.”

Hasan called his dad’s reaction, the American dream tax. I could relate. My stomach tightens, the words catch in my throat, and my fingers pause over the keyboard.  As a minority, I am happy to have a seat at the table, I knowingly, accept less than. I realize my resistance to Sheryl Sandberg and that lean in business that literally makes my eyes roll. Who can lean in when there is the fear of being kicked out. With all due respect to a very successful Ms Sandberg, I make the assumption, she has never been asked to leave an event because of her race as I have been.

If ideas akin to the American dream tax pass generationally, then the corollary is true. There are people who never question their right to live in a neighborhood, work at a company or sit in the board room. There is something passed down generationally; a sense of entitlement and privilege. There are the taxers and the taxed. There are  taxers with no idea they are taxers. The taxed, we know who we are; we know what “extra” we have to do, what “slights” we encounter that the taxers don’t.

This week, be the observer; what do you see? The taxers or the taxed? It’s not a balance; you can be in a situation with all taxers or all taxed. If your office, neighborhood, gym, coffee shop is not diverse, think about why. Don’t revert to, well no one choses to live here or work here, go a little delve deeper into the why. These are observations, not judgement.

As parents, is anyone asking their children, “is anyone being mistreated at your school?”A little boy in San Ramon California, taunted by the kids at his school because he was one of the few black students. He started off with a few friends, but those friends were threatened by the other kids, so what few playmates he had vanished to none.

It’s really comfortable to think, “that doesn’t happen here” or when someone cites an incident to say, “that is an anomaly or a one off.” That’s the discount. It’s something taxers say that make themselves feel better; it does nothing for the taxed. How to shift away from the American Dream Tax being ok? I will follow the guidance of Hasan.

“… equality is a right everyone should have, I am born here, I have the audacity of equality.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.newyorker.com/podcast/the-new-yorker-radio-hour/hasan-minhaj-naomi-klein-and-yotam-ottolenghi

 

Based on a True Story, the Revolutionary War, the Statue of Liberty and the Fourth of July

“Based on a true story.”  That is code for a condensed version of the story, trimmed down to be told in a short period of time and carefully edited to create a compelling story of near mythical proportion. Coming this fourth of July, amidst the parades, barbecues and fireworks, are you celebrating a holiday “based on a true story,” presented as a triumph of 13 scrappy colonies with a population of 2.5 million people taking on a Great Britain, a nation of 13 million and winning?

But the war wasn’t just between the US and Britain. Near the start of war, France secretly started shipments of arms, ammunition, uniforms, boots and money to the United States. Soon after, the Spanish Empire and the Dutch Republic started to send assistance. Spain’s Prime Minister, José Moñino y Redondo, Count of Floridablanca, wrote in March 1777,

the fate of the colonies interests us very much, and we shall do for them everything that circumstances permit”.

The French provided 90% of the gunpowder used in the America Revolutionary war; ensuring victory. The history is robust and complex; the rivals of Great Britain united against imperial supremacy.

A century later, Edouard de Laboulaye, French abolitionist proposed a monument to commemorate the end of the US Civil war and the abolishment of slavery. Edouard de Laboulaye, an anti-savers advocate, admired the ideas of the US Constitution, themes suppressed by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Alas, the US funders of the pedestal demanded changes to the design. There should be no reminders of slavery. The piles, a headpiece worn by emancipated slaves in Rome was to be removed. The statue could not hold chains and shackles.

In place of the shackles and chains is a tablet, engraved in Roman numerals with the date of July 4, 1776. This fourth of July, celebrate as you may, but consider the footnotes of history. The end of the revolutionary war on September 3, 1783, was with help from France, Spain and the Dutch Republic. The Statue of Liberty dedicated on October 28, 1886, was a gift to honor the freeing of slaves and lives lost during the civil war. While changes to the statue may have the appearance celebrating American  Independence, the chains at the bottom of the state are a footnote to the intent; based on a true story.

Dogs, Children and History

On March 13, 2018, a flight attendant was responsible for a puppy being placed in an overhead bin. The 10 month old french bulldog died in flight. Less than 24 hours later, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana sponsored a bill to ban pets from the overhead bin, because “pets are family.” What does Senator Kennedy have to say about the detained children? There is nothing in the senator’s Twitter feed or Facebook posts. Silence. The news of infants being taken from their parents, children sleeping on concrete floors with mylar blankets and teens being placed on planes and flown to detention centers throughout the US ripped out the collective hearts of us with one. In the midst of an animated conversation on this very topic, a freak accident sent me into mild shock and the emergency room.


The treatment space in emergency was eerily quiet. My only hospital patient experience was at 7 years old for a tonsillectomy.  I was 1 of 4 of kids in a hospital room. Visiting  hours were over, our parents were gone, it got dark, it got quiet, we got scared. We whimpered and cried all night. Years later, here I am, rationalizing with myself, everything will be ok.  There is this visceral feeling of helplessness for the  2,322 children that are 12 and under who are alone. Unlike me, they have no certainty or possibly for what is next. At night, it get’s dark,nit gets quiet and they get scared. Their families are vilified as illegal immigrants, when the truth is the majority of these are families seeking asylum from gangs and criminal activities in their home countries, and are not breaking the law. The US is obligated to accept asylum-seekers under US and international law if they can show a “credible fear” of persecution or torture. The Chinese Exclusion Act, the first law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States was in effect from 1892 through 1943.  During WW II, 120,000 Japanese Americans (62% American born) were interned along with 11,000 Germans. Historically, as a country, this is what we have done, detain, intern, dehumanize and criminalize. As a nation, this is nothing to be proud of, but a history to learn from.

In a medical situation it’s important to get the facts, to know as much as possible to determine the best options for treatment. There were two doctors conferring immediately after I was injured. This was a deep cut; you’re going to stitches. That was echoed in the emergency room. We have to bring both sides together for healing. This frightens me. No, not for me, three hours, five stitches and a tetanus shot later, I’m back with an amazing community. It’s the country. There is no unified effort to bring the two side together, no plans to heal. We need to keep the facts in the forefront, determine the best options for treatment. We need closure. There will be a scar; but the alternative is an open wound will fester. Senator John Kennedy, in a Facebook post, commenting on a department of justice report on “the emails.”

I’m only interested in getting the facts out in front of the American people. Some of the bacon-wrapped shrimp crowd here in Washington doesn’t think the American people are smart enough to draw their own conclusions. I think they’re wrong.

The facts are out there. We will keep the out there on the path to healing. Senator, on this point I agree, the American people are smart enough to draw their own conclusion and when the time comes, they will vote with resolution. Every dog its day, what about the children?

 

Flags, Brutality and Protests

 

This Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph, The Soiling of Old Glory,  by Stanley Forman is cringe worthy, sickening. It’s 1976, Boston. I heard statements like, well t at didn’t happen here, or that was 42 years ago.The kid wielding the flag is 17 years old.

[Joseph] Rakes vividly recalls the “blind anger” that motivated him—anger aimed, he says, at the urban policies that were ruining the close-knit South Boston neighborhood where he’d grown up. “When the busing started, it was, ‘You can’t have half your friends’—that’s the way it was put towards us,” Rakes says. “They took half the guys and girls I grew up with and said, ‘You’re going to school on the other side of town.’ Nobody understood it at [age] 15.”¹

A few things about this photograph are misleading. The man holding 29-year-old Yale educated lawyer, Ted Landsmark was trying to get him out of harm’s way after he’d been attacked. The flag never  made contact with Landsmark.  

I was also a 17-year-old when this happened. The joy I experienced just a few days earlier with a college acceptance and engineering scholarship to a predominantly white university in the south  vanished in the moment.  The residents of Boston, declared they weren’t racist, they were just anti busing. Are you good with that? Should I not be afraid because, there was someone helping the black guy who’d been knocked to the ground? Should I be relieved that the flag never hit Landmark, his injuries were from crowd attacking?  The problem is  a black man in a sea of white is brutalized. While people are anxious to distance themselves from the optic, can we address the problem?

“I couldn’t put my Yale degree in front of me to protect myself,” Landsmark told a newspaper reporter a few days after the attack. “The thing that is most troubling is that it happened not because I was somebody but because I was anybody….I was just a nigger they were trying to kill.”²

Saturday, I just spent 7 hours developing a business case for one of my projects. I spent a couple of hours clearly articulating the problem to emphasize the power and opportunity with the solution. After a long day that started with 5 hours of yoga and work, i just wanted to relax. That Bill Mahr. He had to show a condensed reel of police violence.  He had to mention Colin Kaepernick taking the knee to protest racial injustice and police brutality.  And here I am at 2:00 am in the morning, drafting ideas, I have to write.

Look at this photo. Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick are kneeling in with respect and solemnity. What are details behind this?

Eric Reid: In early 2016, I began paying attention to reports about the incredible number of unarmed black people being killed by the police. The posts on social media deeply disturbed me, but one in particular brought me to tears: the killing of Alton Sterling in my hometown Baton Rouge, La. This could have happened to any of my family members who still live in the area. I felt furious, hurt and hopeless. I wanted to do something, but didn’t know what or how to do it. All I knew for sure is that I wanted it to be as respectful as possible.

The problem  is represented as “players disrespecting the flag.” There is nothing about the meaning and intent to  protest racial injustice and police brutality. How will history view this flash point? In a speech, the president of the United States said:

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 8.39.40 PM“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said at a rally for Republican senator Luther Strange, 

“When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. “I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”

 That became the story. The optics then used to incite fans, “you’re paying them all this money and they won’t stand for the anthem…this is unpatriotic….they should  be fired.” 

His words frame the problem patriotism and obfuscates the issues of racial injustice and police brutality.  The new NFL guidelines say teams will be  fined if their players or staff do not show appropriate “respect” for the national anthem, but, the team and personnel have the option of remaining in the locker room.  The NFL ‘guidelines give the appearance of enforcing patriotism, but, in reality, protects the business interests of the franchises and  implement a solution that minimizes the risk of  alienating fans and losing sponsors.

Honestly, I feel trepidation that I’ve written on this theme several times. I struggled, do I write about this again and risk appearing militant and angry?  My theme is balance and a part of balance is focus. The focus keeps getting lost. I was with a group of people, someone talked about the risk of a Jewish last name and someone else described Nashville Tennessee and how it lacked diversity. I gave that knowing smile, Yes, I lived there. Then someone asked, how did I do it, living in the south. “it’s not a matter of how, it’s why. I learned to be invisible to live.” I guess now at this point, I’m learning to be heard to survive.

 

¹https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/stars-and-strife-113668570/

² https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/03/12/soiling-old-glory

³ https://nyti.ms/2jXXPAi

Balance Beams, Gossip and Actions

The first sound – the loud smack of a 4×4 piece of wood hitting shin bones. The second sound – an anguished piercing scream. The third sound – silence. Everyone stopped – mid sentence, mid action, mid thought. A 145 pound wrestler with all his might tried to keep a gymnast on a beam, unaware, she was practicing a dismount and with every fiber in her body was doing everything she could to clear the beam. The difference of one word, a cartwheel off the beam versus a cartwheel on the beam. A change of a word, the loss of intent and well meaning actions lead to pain.

There is a children’s game, sometimes called whispers, gossip or telephone. The intent is to teach children the harmful impact of gossip and rumors. It’s played with anywhere from 4 up to even 30 kids. The first person starts by telling a message to another person. The message continues to be told from person to person until it reaches the last person. The last person repeats the message aloud. Inevitably, the message becomes bears no resemblance to the original. It happens every time. Even with adults, who know the game, who know the message gets distorted and as hard as they try, it will still end unrecognizable from the original. It is true in the game and true in the workplace.  The children’s game doesn’t do much for gossip. A kid about to gossip doesn’t stop and say, oh wait, I learned last week that a simple message like becomes wildly distorted, I’m going to be quiet. The greater lesson is for adults; information, even with the best intent get distorted. What about the work place? How often does nformation not reflect the intent?

With my balance beam experience, it was easy to spot the error. In life? At work, at home, think of how even one word can change the problem you’re trying to solve and lead to a different intent and action The misinterpretation is not obvious, but the consequence of mayhem, chaos and frustration are. This week, are you acting on fact or interpretation? What’s the damage if your interpretation is wrong?

The Potential Predictability of Instability

“An excellent cast is jobless because of Roseanne herself. The show was like a bridge and she burnt it. Lost potential.” That was one my text this week. Potential. It’s that thing.  People  stay in a relationship, a job or an  investment because there is “potential.”  Yet, there is the sobering moment when someone asks, what actions has that person, job, or opportunity,  displayed to engender the great expectation that potential will be realized? 

 

Roseanne was fired this week for comments on twitter. End of story, done. I’d watched this season and saw potential. The episodes hit on issues fueling the political divide in the US, yet showing the unified impact. It was a platform to showcase discussions between people with  different views sharing a household. Suddenly the cast and crew were out of jobs because of the actions of one.

In 1990 Roseanne was booed for her rendition of the national anthem and for grabbing her crotch. In 1994 she revealed she has multiple personality disorder. In the 2000’s she was known for her outbursts. Scroll through her twitter feed of the last decade and you’ll find a complexity of rants. She notoriously published the address of George Zimmerman’s parents; she wanted to make sure he was arrested and couldn’t hide. She’s tweeted about the government mind control experiments and other conspiracy theories. She oscillates between antisemitism and pro Jewish. In 2013, she tweeted that Susan Rice was a man with big swinging ape balls.

The show had great potential to be that bridge that All in the Family was in seventies.  However, in hopes of the show’s potential, I ignored Roseanne’s potential. My sobering moment was Friday. Bill Mahr, on his show, asked Charlamagne Tha God his thoughts on Roseanne’s firing. Charlemagne replied:

It wasn’t surprising; not at all. I mean Roseanne has a history of racism and she has a history of bigotry and I don’t feel sad for her or the cast or the crew, because when you get in bed with somebody like that, you eventually know you are going to have to deal with the consequences of their actions. So when they go down, you got to go down with them.  You have to know that was going to happen.

There it was. The potential of the show, the opportunity to do good work in a sitcom platform was a risk played out against the probability of unacceptable behavior by the star and namesake. for whatever the reason, Roseanne had the potential to do abhorrent things.

Given Roseanne’s actions, her behavior is no surprise. Given the current environment in the entertainment industry, a movie was reshot to exclude an actor and powerful men were fired for sexual misconduct, the decision by ABC Entertainment Chief Channing Dungey to cancel the show and fire Roseanne is no surprise. Potential, opportunities, actions and risks. Too often, the start of a “trend” is first viewed as a one-off, something atypical. Is it really? Or, is the behavior someone owning his or her potential?  I have a saying in the work place, “if something is a surprise, you just don’t know all the facts” I will adjust that to, say, “if something is a surprise, there is a good chance, you just don’t know all the facts, or you are ignoring the potential probability of the predictable.”

Remembering Memorial Day

Memorial Day – at times it seems we are trying to hard to forget what the day is really about. Which is rather ironic for a holiday that is all about memory.

IMG_0400Memorial day is in honor of those who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces. Formerly known as decoration day, the holiday started after the American Civil War to commemorate all the soldiers who died in the war. The civil war, today – still remains the highest loss of lives in military action. That is nearly 2% of the total US population. A number that increased the probability, every single person was impacted, every single person knew someone who lost a life in service. Today, for as much media coverage as we have, the loss of life is tangible, but for many not personal.

Memorial Day –  so sure, have the day off, attend the art festivals, the fun runs and celebrate the start of summer. But stop and consider what it means to have lost a life in service of the country. It’s Memorial day so remember the reason we can have a day off to have the celebrations.

Orange Juice, Toothpaste and the Cerebral Palate Cleanser

You think, “Yuk, that doesn’t taste right.” Then you remember, certain food combinations  (orange juice after brushing your teeth –  cringe)¹ destroy flavors. Hence, the value of a palate cleaner to remove food residue, and competing flavors; enabling you to fully experience your food without the yuk. A weekend is a cerebral palate cleanser.  It neutralizes the typical daily routine, stress and tasks of a job.The weekend is the time to do something else. Be with a different group of people, do a different activity in another place. Your days off may not be a Saturday and Sunday or you may still have other commitments that take up your time. Regardless, you still need time off to reset and regroup. You need the cerebral palate cleanser. Take a break, it’s not being indulgent, it’s a necessity. Not taking time off regular time off is  orange juice after brushing your teeth.¹ Realistically, you might have to do a few work items on the weekend; but, don’t make it your default where you automatically allocate work tasks for your time off. Find the balance and take the time to remove the work residue. Free your mind, have some fun, balance work and life.

 

 

¹If you have not experienced this total destruction flavor, try it to experience your brain on overload.

Power Plays: Blown Fuses and Short Circuits

A blown fuse, caused by a temporary overload or power surge simply needs to be replaced or reset. A short circuit is frayed wires that need to repaired. They both result in no power, but the fixes are very different. After eight hours of trying to troubleshoot and fix a no power situation in my home, I’m 95% confident to say it is a short circuit situation.¹  This reminds me of how our brains work.

We all glitch. You know, you can’t recall the name of something, you send an email without all the information, you notice the light is green and wonder how long you have been sitting there. It’s a mental blown fuse. It’s temporary and just requires a reset. A mental short circuit may present with the same symptoms only in a persistent state. The balance is discerning the difference and acting accordingly. The remedy for a blown fuse may be as simple as a good night’s sleep or food. That more problematic state, mental short circuitry requires troubleshooting. What’s the root case? What can you fix?  What’s it going to cost you?

Of course it’s going to cost. Snap out of rainbows, puppies and unicorns. Consider, a persistent state, of oops, mistakes and flusterations (fluster and frustration) mean you are unwilling to let something go, or take an action because it’s going to cost you. You may be assigned to much work. Admitting it will cost you, but, can you afford not to? Even if you’re doing the job of 2.5 people, can you afford to keep making errors? Sure, you may be overloaded, others may even know this. However, your mistakes, your delays, your inconsistencies show sloppy, unreliable work. No power.

Me and no power for two days, I’m calling a professional; I need help. I can afford it, it meaning I’ll shift some things around. It’s the same for a work situation. A blown fuse; is a temporary overload, a surge. Do a reset. A short circuit, frayed wires and loose ends, you’ll need a fix. Accept it, determine what you can afford and find the balance between reset and repair. That’s the power.

 

 

¹I have reset the circuit breaker. Unplugged everything in the room with no power.  Reset the circuit breaker multiple times.  Checked all the GFCIs outlets. Reset circuit breakers, multiple times again. Found one GFCI that wouldn’t reset. Replaced it after three trips to the hardware store. Did all of the above again. Got nothing but an idea for a blog post: -)

A Neurotic Dilemma: Celebrations, Birthdays and Why

I had role models for my neurosis. When my Dad died, my mom routinely said, “I’ll be dead in a year, you know when one spouse dies the other dies within a year.” A few years later, my mom was deeply concerned and sad; she was still alive. “Does this mean I didn’t love your father enough?” But, don’t think it was just my mom, my Dad moved into the garage to experience poverty. As a child, I struggled with the  existential crisis, how to celebrate mother’s day balanced with my dad’s birthday. These two events typically occurred within the same week. Here I am doing it again; fifty years later. Mother’s Day is Sunday and my Dad’s birthday is Thursday. Can I write a post that honors them both?

The voice of sanity is my brother. He has a way of asking why? It’s a melodic comforting voice that turns why into two syllables. As to why I need to write a blog post about both of them, I have no good reason. I am choosing to make something complex. I’m piloting a new process at work and for the last month, I’ve watched people try to make an easy, straightforward process hard. Now, I find myself doing the same thing. Like seeing a parking space right in from of a restaurant, but thinking, no, that’s too easy, must be a loading zone. So for this week, are you making something difficult? Are you looking for the cosmic joke and not taking the gift in front of you? Why?

 

For What It’s Worth: Apples Versus Oranges

This was pricing discussion was about to take that ugly turn. Our pricing is 30% higher than the competition. The engineer flipped back to his PowerPoint slide detailing the functionalityand snapped, “We’re not higher, we have more features. You’re comparing apples and oranges.” The developers and offering management did the head nod, acknowledgement of the agreement. Then the sales guy, unfazed, and unamused said, “That may well be, but t’s all fruit to my customer.” Brilliant.

You have a deep appreciation, a perception of nuance, a love of detail of one product versus another and the person you are talking to does not care. The me you talk, the more frustrated both of you become. You, because you become more passionate about the what you are describing and the other person because you are rambling about the same thing over and over, that they don’t care about.

Golf clubs, nah. Don’t care, they are all clubs to me. Shoes, well, are we talking heels, pumps, boots, oxfords or monk-straps, etc. Yoga in shoes, I love shoes. Look, I know this is one area where many would describe me as overzealous about matters that do not impact life or death. Much like a discussion about feminism in dystopian societies in the series Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale.  Bless be the fruit now freeze all motor functions. These topics have select audience. What does your audience care about?

What do you do when someone gives you details and the history of a something you care nothing about? If it’s in person you might do the body language that indicates impatience, get on with it, or I don’t care. If it’s a virtual meeting, you might start checking email and doing some other useful task until the person stops. Don’t be “that” person; that person that goes on and on about something no one cares about. Determine what your audience cares about.  When speaking or starting a discussion, watch the nonverbal cues. Is there interest in what you are saying? If you are unsure, you can always ask. We’ve all had times when something we thought we had no interest in is fascinating. Of course, there’re times to acknowledge, your passion is someone else’s annoyance and that’s ok. Let it go.

Assume it’s all fruit and find out if your audience wants to know more, if so, bless be the fruit and you break down those apples versus oranges differentiation. Otherwise,  freeze all motor functions, take a moment, bring yourself back on line and move on to another topic.

Social Connections: Comments, Civility and Choices

“Wow, that’s what you really think?” I slapped my laptop shut, stunned by what I’d read. Was I overreacting to a comment made by a connection on LinkedIn? What’s my problem? Is this a teachable moment? I returned to the post three days later. I read the replies and six out of eight  expressed the disappointment, dismay and alarm I felt. Two, in particular, were eloquent, heartfelt and gave specific examples in which the connection was a part of the same situation he condemned in his comments. I realized two things. 

  1. Every “teachable moment” doesn’t mean you are the teacher. Those two were the teachers. 
  2. A teachable moment requires a willing student. The connection, while busy commenting on other things, did not respond.

The teachers taught, my thoughts were represented in the replies of others. Why was the comment still running a loop in my brain?

I have friends I love dearly and there are areas where we differ sharply; we don’t dismiss each other for our beliefs. I’ve worked with, laughed with, been partnered with unlikely people. Van Jones and Newt Gingrich, joined forces in 2015 calling for criminal justice reform and now in 2018, they are focusing on the opioid crisis. Difference in philosophies, politics, beliefs and ideals do not mean automatic hatred and inability to work together. People can and will differ in opinions. This was a difference in opinion. So why did this snide and snarky comment bother me?

Ahhh. there it is. This was a  a “snide and snarky” comment masquerading as an opinion. This connection has a pattern of posting comments are dismissive and divisive. A 2016 study by Michigan State University states: 

“People who are recipients of incivility at work feel mentally fatigued as a result, because uncivil behaviors are somewhat ambiguous and require employees to figure out whether there was any abusive intent,” said Johnson, associate professor of management. 

While curt remarks and other forms of incivility do not involve openly hostile behavior such as bullying and threats, they are a frequent occurrence in the workplace and have a significant effect on employees, the study notes.

This wasn’t wit and humor, it was incivility. Something that is harder to detect, because, hmmm, is the person being sarcastic, funny, what did they mean by that comment? My malaise is mental fatigue. This week, notice your experience of workplace incivility.  Does it exist? What’s the impact if it does? I Maya Angelou said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I support civil discourse, This connection’s pattern disregards civility and discourse. What do I do next? Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison said” The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.”  It’s a balance. With much thought and consideration, I choose to remove the connection from LinkedIn.

 

 

What Do You Do? Starbucks, Arrests and What’s Next?

The coffee booth was not at the framer’s market this week, so I took orders from a few vendors to do a coffee run. A customer heard “Starbucks” in the exchange.

African American Customer: “No, you can’t go to Starbucks. After what they did, boycott Starbucks.”

African American  Vendor: “Listen, Starbucks has an engage the community policy. Look, what happened was absolutely an outrage, it hurts, we’re tired. Two black men arrested while waiting for someone. It is awful, but,  that was one store, one manager.“

Starbucks is literally my neighbor, we’re in the same building. This location will give a cup of coffee to the homeless. Within the space of a week, the manager called the police when two people were physically fighting in the store. That same manager engaged an emergency protocol when someone vomited in the seating area and to finish the week, called in grief counseling when an employee died in a crash en route to work. I am compelled to speak up for my neighbors, as far as Philadelphia is concerned, they did nothing wrong.  Much in the same way Melissa DePino posted the video about the to gentlemen arrested in protest because, they did nothing wrong. So, do something right, question. Question, why the store manager felt the need to call the 911. Question why the manager “didn’t think the police would arrest the men.” Question, why 27,339 Starbucks should be boycotted because of the actions of one manager in one store?

I’m not boycotting Starbucks. I am not stopping anything. You?  Maybe in lieu of hashtags, sad faces and likes, question. What would you have done if you were in that Philadelphia Starbucks? Would you have recorded it on your cell phone and posted  in protest? Would you have intervened when the manager shouted leave?  That question was for non black people. Because really, if one of us had questioned management, we would have been arrested too for inciting a riot. For those of the opinion, the men should have left, pause. If you’ve been a patron of Starbucks, you know people come in, set up their work and never make a purchase. To say the men should have left is to say black men should accept a position of less than. While other people can do this, you are black, you can’t. You will be arrested for “suspicion  of trespassing” by 6 police officers and held for 8 hours until Starbucks declines to press charges and you are released.

I am not boycotting Starbucks because this is not a Starbucks issue. As a country, we have to accept that unconscious bias and privilege exist and feed micro aggressions¹. What happened wasn’t rare, it wasn’t a one off, it’s America. I heard someone say, well that wouldn’t happen here in the Bay Area, we’re too diverse. It happened here. W Kamu Bell reflected on his experience of being kicked out of Elmwood cafe in Berkeley. The story is is stunning as he’d eaten there earlier in the day and had returned to join his wife. During a 2015 segment on this American Life², he commented, …we don’t need an apology, we need a reckoning. The recent Starbucks incident is another opportunity to have an open dialog on race. I understand many people are sorry this happened, but me, I am once again scarred.

 

 

¹A microaggression is the casual degradation of any marginalized group. The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans.

² https://www.thisamericanlife.org/557/birds-bees/act-two

 

The Right to Choose: Soda?

“…the police shouldn’t be drinking soda anyway.” Huh? The speaker was referring to Berkeley’s sugar ban and a new recommendation asking the 

… City of Berkeley departments and City food services contractors to refrain from: 1. Procuring sugar-sweetened beverages with City funds; 2. Selling sugar-sweetened beverages on City property, including in vending machines; and 3. Serving sugar-sweetened beverages at City meetings and events on City property. 

Now, Berkeley is going ban the sale of soda in vending machines on city property. What are you saying Berkeley? Grown people who work for the city can’t make informed decisions? Adults in your employ need to be told what to eat? Police who handle life and death situation, serve and protect, can’t be allowed to make their beverage choice?

This is not about the tax a on SSBs¹ or ban on SSBs in school as much as it is about a statement “…the police shouldn’t be drinking sodas anyway.”  Where is the balance between protect and control. Are there other ways to address the health impact? Think about this. If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one, if you don’t like gay marriage, get gay married. If you don’t like sodas as a beverage choice?

 

 

 

additional information

¹The efforts to tax sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) and ban the sale of SSBs in schools have been around for 7 years in efforts to combat obesity and diabetes. The studies are indisputable; sugary drinks increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and gout. Some statistics, one sugary drink per day can increase a child’s risk of becoming overweight by 60%, while adults with the same habit are 26% more likely to be overweight alarming.

“WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco blocked the enforcement of the law, ruling that it encroached upon the free-speech of soda advertisers in September of 2017.

Bunnies and Baskets and Lies

Can we stop with the Easter Bunny? Look, don’t have kids, I’m not involved in child rearing, so herein is an observation. A key objective in education is critical thinking reasoned judgment in thought and action; the ability to reason well and the disposition to do so. This means, education has to first undo the suppression of logic used to rationalized some holiday traditions for children.

As a child, I could not reconcile the religious Easter holiday with the concept of an Easter bunny that leaves Easter baskets full of candy. How are they related, and if they aren’t related, why do they both use the term Easter? Easter always occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring; that didn’t really make sense either if it marks the celebration f a historical event from a religious view point, but as a pagan easter eggy thing ok. Don’t get me started with Christmas. One man of significant girth coming down a chimney for all children? Even factoring in time zones, this was a tough one. The photographic evidence was indisputable, there was a different man in those “pictures with Santa” every year. The problem is, as people rationalize to me, a five year old, why the Santa was real. Everything I’d learned during my limited time on earth disproved this concept. Was this to protect my “childhood” or to keep me from busting the myth among my friends? I was left confused.

I was still excited to get a new Easter outfit and happy about my Easter basket even knowing it was supplied by my parents and not a rabbit. The same with excitement about Christmas. Was my lost of confidence in my ability to understand the world worth the ruse? In the pursuit of an Idyllic childhood and the preservation of innocence, is it a mistake to rationalize the holiday traditions for children? The simple answer to a complicated question, critical thinking; reasoned judgement and thought that varies according to the child.

Stalled, March Madness, and Balancing on Unstable Surfaces

I’m stalled. Work is stalled, the blog is stalled, my plans for world domination in some areas is stalled. A car stalls when the engine is overloaded. My stall is not an overloaded engine; it’s a lack of vision, an absence of what’s next? In times like theses, I  watch basketball; it’s March Madness and time for NCAA college basketball – upsets, buzzer shots, over times and victories. For many players, this is it. They aren’t going  to play professional ball; this is the pinnacle of their basketball careers.Are these players treated fairly?

More than 20 years ago, on a date, we worked out a plan for compensating college athletes. There is no way to carry a full load, study and play sports; the athletes should be compensated. After all, it’s the athletic programs, with TV contracts, tickets sales, etc that bring in billions- six billion. The power five conferences bought in 6 billion on 2015 according to ESPN. All of that revenue comes predominately from two men’s sports, football and basketball. The questions still remains, what about the athletes? I heard the debate again on NPR this morning with Gene Demby.

So most of the players in the money sports, in football and basketball at the Power Five schools, are black. So 56 percent of the basketball players – men’s basketball players – are black. Fifty-five percent of the football players are black. But 2.4 percent of the students at these schools are black men.

Only 2.4 percent. I know. That was shocking to us, too. But there’s this weird paradox that happens, right? So you have black men on these campuses who are basically invisible in the classrooms. But at any given time and during any given academic year, the most high-profile undergraduate at one of these universities is likely to be a black basketball phenom or a black football star.

Demby went on to point out, less than half of these students graduate. “…they’re not graduating from college, and part of that is because the incentive structure is set up for the schools to value them as athletes before they value them as students.” As I watch the TV cameras shift between the payers and fans, I see the statistics in living color. It’s painful to concede my favorite time in sports in tainted with unfulfilled promises. Maybe the true Madness in March is the outright refusal to address the issue. How should the athletes be compensated? For players stalled in their athletic careers, who will not play sports at a professional level, can they continue with their education after the playing is done? In a world all about rules and regulations, can fairness and fulfillment of the pursuit of a college education be part of the game?

 

 

https://www.npr.org/2018/03/25/596805323/questions-of-race-fairness-complicate-student-athlete-pay-debate

Thinking Green, The Bag Fee and Foreign Policy

I see this in Target all the time. Shoppers start by picking up a drink at the in store Starbucks and upon check out, these shoppers do this strange juggling act of trying to carry all their items and not pay 10 cents for a bag. This is  hilarious, because, oh yes, pay $5.45 for a coffee drink and not pay cents for a bag? Just something to think about.

This seems to make little sense monetarily. But what about the environmental impact? The intent behind charging 10 cents per bag is to reduce the number of plastic bags which have a harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests and the wildlife. Yippee, we’re helping the environment. What about the cups? Those single use coffee cups. The plastic lining that makes leak proof makes the cups non recyclable, so they are hand sorted out of recycling leaving 4 billion single use coffee cups going to landfill yearly.

Screen Shot 2018-03-17 at 5.42.50 PM.png

But wait there is more; more what we think is being recycled that is going to land fill.  Much of the US recycling, is sent to China, or was. Effective March 1, 2018, China has banned imported waste worldwide causing a global upheaval. From the New York Times:

China’s ban covers imports of 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the low-grade polyethylene terephthalate used in plastic bottles, as part of a broad cleanup effort and a campaign against “yang laji,” or “foreign garbage.” It also sets new limits on the levels of impurities in other recyclables.

China had been processing at least half of the world’s exports of waste paper, metals and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016, according to recent industry data. Last July, China notified the World Trade Organization that it intended to ban some imports of trash, saying the action was needed to protect the environment and improve public health.

In the short-term, this means what we intend for recycle will end up in landfills. The US isn’t equipped to process everything collected. What started off as just a question, why not pay 10 cent for the bag has ended with the harsh reality.  All that “feel good” I’m recycling is most likely going to end up as land fill. What are we going to do with this information? I don’t know; just like what’s going to happen to all the collected recyclable that China won’t take? It is involved and complex. We’re facing a problem without a solution, starting with, most of us, are not aware there is a problem. Just something to think about.

Disruption, Cell Phones & Adaptation

There was a time you’d find a bank of phone booths at any airport. Larger airports had set ups with privacy screens and a shelf for the working business person. Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 10.15.34 AMBut that was before cell phones. Cell phones were a disruption. The airports could have tried to keep the phone booths in place, made the phones sleeker or added extra features like an aromatherapy mister. Instead, they were forced to pay attention to travelers who set up labyrinth hazards of cords and gadgets in search of power. The airport response was to install chairs with power outlets and  sleek bars with outlets and USB ports. Manufacturers saw an opportunity and the airports evolved.  It’s a simple matter of looking at a solution and asking, is there something else that serves the same purpose or does the same thing?

We do the same thing with our lives. Are you clutching to a process that is cumbersome, tedious and onerous? Have you adapted to disruption or denied its very existence? This week, look around, what are you holding onto? What disruption have you adapted to? Is there a disrupter that could enhance your life?  Have you tried a fitness app, grocery delivery, streaming video. These things may or may not work for you, but what if they do? Disruption is the leap forward.

Wonder Women? History, Diversity & STEM

If there is an invention, an idea, a discovery that is not accepted by a ruling body, does that mean it is not qualified or worthy? Consider the electronic feeding tube; rejected by the American Veterans Administration, but adapted by the French government in 1951. A few years later,the same inventor approached the same organization, the American Veterans Administration with the disposable cardboard emesis basin (the kidney dish). This invention was also rejected but sold to the Belgium government. Qualified versus accepted. Bessie Virginia Blount.Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 5.45.12 PM She’s one of the people I think of when organizations say, “we cannot find qualified women. ” She invented the electronic feeding tube which allows amputees to feed themselves and was awarded a patent for the device and she invented the disposable cardboard emesis basin¹ – which decreases cross contamination of diseases. Yet, twice the American Veterans Administration did not accept her inventions which are in still in use 50 years later.

Is there really a shortage of qualified people or qualified reviewers? Or,  do applicant screeners automatically seek to fit candidates into a template of what is familiar? For a group that prides itself on creativity and innovation, why is the concept of the value of a diverse team rejected, even though data supports a diverse team makes a better product? As a product tester, I could break things, easily. To the chagrin of the team of male engineers, I broke a dot matrix printer ready for release simply by changing the font size. The team’s response, but why would anyone want to change fonts, even as I presented 4 credible scenarios. A diverse team brings a diverse perspective, and yields a better product. Many organizations set diversity quotas, yet do a disservice to the workforce in by not promoting the value and strength of a team that has men and women, young and old and diverse cultures. As technology becomes more and more expansive  and touches all parts of our lives, isn’t it imperative the designers of those systems at reflect a cross section of its users.

Twitter’s Evan Williams says trolling could have been curbed early on if more women had been on staff from the start. Male engineers thought Pinterest’s visual search feature was ready to launch when a female software developer found flaws with the first thing she tested. Women make up half the population and influence 85% of the purchasing decisions, we need them in tech designing and developing. We’re hurling rapidly into artificial and augmented intelligence. Should the current stereotype of socially awkward, 25 year old White and Asian males be the imminent designers of products of the future?  This isn’t a search for the Wonder Woman of technology; this is acceptance that there is value of everyday people working together to create wonder. March is Women’s History Month; what do we know, what can we learn, what can we create with diversity? The future depends on it.

 

 

 

¹ disposable cardboard emesis basin

 

March for Our Lives

First, there are sirens. Your brain registers that there are a lot of sirens and emergency vehicles; something must have happened? Minutes later, you are in the office and everyone is standing in the middle of the office, still and quiet with one guy on the phone. When he finishes his call, he reports, “my wife is ok; he shot himself, the shooter shot himself.” The Standard Gravure shooting left 8 dead and 12 injured. There was a woman in the news, paralyzed by a gunshot during the rampage, who said she was still very much in favor of guns and not putting restrictions on them. She described how she was reaching for her gun and almost took him out, before she was shot. A few days later, I was volunteering as a greeter at the mass for one of the victims, as a man visibly shaken with grief made his way towards the back for solitude and to step outside. I open the door for him, only to see news camera and reporters descend upon him. This was  the second mass shooting in the US, September 14, 1989.

There are more places to buy guns in the United States than there are Starbucks worldwide. ¹  Why 26 years later, is the problem of mass shootings greater and the debate still stalled?  In business, there are three things that usually stalls finding a solution to a problem; 1) a lingering problem lacks a sense of urgency or is not relatable, 2) there isn’t an agreement not the problem or the goal of the solution and, 3) there is not a “what’s in it for me.” When things stall, it’s often because at least one these three things are in play. Using this filter on the gun debate, highlights the issues.

Sense of Urgency; Relatable Premise

It is very easy to obtain a gun. There are 51,438 gun retailers, not a number you may remember or may be able to relate to. That number put into the context, exceeds the number of  Starbucks Worldwide (27,339) or grocery stores in the US (36,536) Federal laws allow anyone over the age of 18 to purchase a weapon with no waiting period. The federally required background check  that validates you are not on a list of people prohibited from purchasing firearms is typically completed within minutes by a phone call. State laws and regulations may vary. You may not need to undergo a background check, if you buy a gun online, through a gun show, or through some private sales.

Agreement on Problem to be Solved

The gun debate  is literally a comparison of apples and oranges  –  two items compared that cannot be practically compared are. With school shootings, one side is for restricting the availability of guns particularly semi-automatic weapons (weapons of mass casualty,)  and the other side is proposing arming teachers. Mitigation versus contingency. Mitigation reduces the probability of a risk occurring. Contingency will reduce the impact when the risk happens. From a project management perspective, you want mitigation first, followed by a strong contingency plan. So while both address shootings, like both apples and oranges are fruits, the two sides aren’t really discussing the same thing and we spiral out of control.

Not in one case in the last 30 years of 62 mass shooting, has an armed person stopped a shooter.Let that sink in for a minute. In none of the 62 mass shooting has an armed person ever been able to stop a shooter! Based on historical data, the contingency plan of armed teachers is not going to work. Remember what I said earlier, from a project management perspective, you want mitigation first, followed by a strong contingency plan. The armed teacher proposal is a contingency plan; a contingency plan that has not worked in the history of mass shootings. Yet, the counter argument is we’re going to train them specifically for this situation and the shooter will have the element of surprise. Yes, I digressed to show how the argument detours and stalls the debate. The discussion shifts to make the contingency plan more palatable rather than meet the goal of a discussion on preventing and mitigating how easy it is to obtain a weapon of mass casualty.

What’s in for me?

For those opposed to mitigation and restrictions on the purchase of mass casualty weapons (aka semi automatic weapons); what is the supporting point of view? Consider this, persons under the age of 25 are not allowed to rent cars; but according to federal laws, an 18 year old can purchase a mass casualty weapon? What is the goal of not restricting the sale and use of these weapons? For the students protesting across the US, they want to feel safe in their schools.The second amendment ratified in December of 1791 says,

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The amendment’s meaning and interpretation has been argued over and over, in the last 227 years. The present debate on gun control calls into question the availability and use of  weapons of mass casualty aka assault weapons, aka semiautomatic weapons. Maybe this is the time to stop thinking about what’s in it for me and think about what’s in it for us. Altruism.

The students (led by Emma Gonzalez, and Cameron Kasky ) of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida ignited a movement.Their sense of urgency; their friends are dead. They agree that part of the problem is the availability of  semiautomatic weapons  and advocate prevention and mitigation. What’s in for them, starts with the ability to feel safe in school. These students will travel to Washington, DC for an event they are organizing, March for Our Lives, in an effort to get Congress to address gun issues. They are making an eloquent plea for our future.

 

¹Kai Ryssdal; Marketplace

 

Happy Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year which is typically the second new moon after the winter solstice, started February 16th. This is different than the solar new year, which started January 1. Habit makes us want to map something unfamiliar to something we know. Which is why people unfamiliar with this start to look at me as if I am speaking a foreign language as they try to make sense of why the lunar new year occurs on different days, depending on the  year. I struggled with algebra the first month; I thought I was losing my mind. I could not seem to remember the value of “x.” It took a while to understand the concept of “solving for x” and that x was unknown.

Often, new things don’t have a one to one mapping. You miss new functions and features when you take something new and focus on how to make it do something old. This is very apparent with devices, some users have basic functionality while others it seems, have a totally different device. Making this transition requires thinking about what you need to do, rather than what you used to do.

As we welcome the year of the dog, what are the things you are holding on to the way you used to do? How can you look at work and life with a new perspective for the new year?

 

 

You Can’t Always be Your Best; But You can Avoid Acting Your Worst

My favorite cashier at Target – Karen. Sure, I could do the self check out, but I always laugh with Karen It wasn’t always that way. In 2013, Target had reported that hackers stole data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards of shoppers who had visited its stores during the holiday season. In February of 2014, Karen asked me if I’d like to save 10% on my purchases today by signing up for a Target Credit Card. Really, after Target just had a data breach of over 40 million, do you think a credit card is really a good idea? The people in line had their aha moment, and Karen just said ok. Not my finest moment. I was “that” customer. Sanctimonious and rude. Karen was just doing her job. You know, we can’t always be our best, the very best there is, no way. But you know what, we can avoid being the worst.

At work, there is the possibility someone is having their absolute worst day and that’s reflected in their interaction with you. Yes, it’s natural to be cautious going forward. After all, you can’t tell if it’s an anomaly or a pattern. I was fortunate with Karen’s graciousness.  Inside voice occurs to me now before I make that perceived clever comeback; where in inside voice means, it stays inside my head. This week, are there times when you should use your inside voice?

 

 

Let’s Talk; #MeToo, #HeToo, & #WhatNow

Put down the phone, walk away from the tweets and posts and hashtags and let’s talk. Drop the defenses and attitude for a few moments. #MeToo shed light egregious forced assaults, degrading groping and humiliating innuendo in the workplace. Now, Three months post Weinstein, what sound likes “embarrassing choices” and “regrettable sex” have crept into the conversation. This week, I asked two men, “What impact has #MeToo had on you in the workplace?”

“I’m scared. I don’t know what to say or do.” 

“I’m not saying anything to anybody, period.” 

Harassment is to create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive. If men are scared, we have to ask, has #MeToo created a hostile and intimidating environment? Seriously, we need to talk. The good guys are replaying conversations,  examining their behaviors and realizing they have #HeToo” stories. But they aren’t talking.

Women haven’t come forward sooner because of shock, fear and stigma. Over 20 years ago, a male friend told me he was molested repeatedly by his mother’s friends when he was in high school. He felt helpless, confusion and shame. When he sough supports and help, he was met with belittled and met with ridicule, yeah right, you’re a guy, how does that even happen or dude, you should be loving life. After a few attempts, he shut down. Don’t doubt, men have #HeToo. The tendency is to think, well that is rare, but, how would you know? Men don’t talk. In the workplace, men are approached by women in power and have to respond with a firm, “you are making me uncomfortable.” The providence of #MeToo is both men and women in the workplace.

People are messy. The odds are good you will have a workplace incident, but none of us are particularly inclined to have an uncomfortable conversation. Yet, it’s pretty basic. Be prepared. At the moment, you’re shocked, you try to think back to what may have provoked this, you want to be fair and reasonable. Tick, tick, time, time is passing. You need to have a response ready, such as “that is inappropriate”, “you’re making me uncomfortable,” “would you find this behavior acceptable if someone did it to your daughter, “etc.. Your objective is to respond immediately, seriously and firmly. Avoid the nervous laughter. You are setting a boundary, your expression says back off, I’m putting you on notice, this is not OK and it should be done with the first incident to prevent others.¹

Look, good people are scared. The not so good people; it’s doubtful they have had a brilliant moment of clarity. They don’t magically change. So all of us have to define the boundaries and own it. This week, let’s talk. Ask men how they feel about #MeToo and if they’ve experienced a #HeToo. Ask women what makes them uncomfortable in the workplace. Let’s talk about the differences and the degrees of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. Let’s talk to each other rather than at each other. This is an incredible time rich with opportunity to learn and grow, if we shift from the hashtags of me and go into the future of we.

 

 

¹The service industry is problematic, and not a matter of no and boundary. I can’t even begin to break down what needs to happen in this sector. Attitudes shifts and policy changes are overdue, support those advocating for a better work environment.

You don’t know what you don’t know: How do you learn?

If you don’t know, what you don’t know, how do you learn? Follow me here. In the realm of knowing versus don’t know, there are 4 possibilities.

1. You know what you know
2. You know what you don’t know
3. You don’t know what you know
4. You don’t know what you don’t know.

And that last one is dangerous. You don’t know what you don’t know. You see some crazy stuff in the workplace, someone is dressed totally inappropriately, someone says something that makes you question their suitability for employment and the list goes on. You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s your personal blind spot. This highlights the need for mentors; having people around who you trust and respect AND are willing to enlighten and impart knowledge to you. They leverage teachable moments with you.

There is a lot of stuff I don’t know and I know I don’t; this includes a long list of things, I don’t want to know or need to know. What you don’t know you don’t know is for things that are important to you. So, when was the last time someone told you something you didn’t know you didn’t know? Think about that and this week, notice if this happens. If it doesn’thappen at all, consider, do you need to increase your circle? Just in case you don’t know, for the people who are there to tell you what you don’t know, you don’t know, be thankful.

 

 

Zero Tolerance? Disruption, Change and Policy

“You will feel a little discomfort.” A little discomfort is squinting in bright sunlight. A little discomfort is your underwear wedged in your butt crack. This feels like my teeth are being flossed with a very slender wire, this feels like a sharp object is being shoved into my gums. This is not discomfort, this is pain. I am not numb and I feel every part of this gum surgery. On Thursday, I took a phrase at its basic value and distorted reality to make it true. I thought myself  weak, or maybe I didn’t have a good idea of discomfort.  I missed the obvious, the anesthesia had worn off.

What about the words, slogans and branding that you hear, what do they mean? In the wake of #metoo and #timesup, companies have stated they have a zero tolerance policy. What does that really mean? Is it “feel good” public relations? In schools, zero tolerance policy mandate automatic punishment, such as suspension or expulsion, for infractions of a stated rule. While sounding good ideologically, what does it mean in practice? Results and studies over the last decade show these types of policies are ineffective. In companies with “zero tolerance” around discrimination and harassment, what does it mean, especially if these organizations offer no training?

Decidedly there is a difference between an inappropriate comment, inappropriate touch, inappropriate behavior and assault. I ask again, what is zero tolerance. It’s illogical to treat these four instances the same yet none have are acceptable in the workplace. As we make the transition to respect and dignity, when does the conversation start? Many companies have released “statements.” Change is more than a decision; issuing a statement is not a cultural shift; a start does not mean a finish. As a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in the 80’s, I received a well thought our letter with the recommendations we adapt gender inclusive language. The letter was addressed Dear Sirs. We were a progressive idea trapped in a default setting. David Foster Wallace said the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about and used the fish parable to illustrate.

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

We’re at a point of disruption with a broad spectrum of sexism. This present two challenges. One is to acknowledge a repressive construct is in place, the default setting. The other is, disruption requires construction; if you break down an existing paradigm, what comes next? This is policy and this is the tricky part. Effective policy is somewhat like a recipe. To reach a desired outcome, there are ingredients and an environment that makes it a success. A recipe can be tested and tweak. It can evolve over time to meet the current needs. At any time, you can test it to see if the results meet the intent. As we emerge from #metoo and #timesup, what’s the construct, what’s next. For companies heralding zero tolerance, what’s the policy? Is it working? On a personal level, what is your policy? When something seems to be wrong, do you speak up, engage, educate or tolerate?

I stood stunned and simply replied, “that is inappropriate.”  In the vortex of sexual harassment, here was a man saying something indisputably awful to me. Substantiating, just because there is a heightened awareness of an issue, a hashtag and movement, there is not an immediate behavior change. It was my role to set a boundary and accept an apology when offered later. There is no change unless we all change.

If you’d ask me last Wednesday, would you do gum surgery without anesthesia, I would have given you a withering look and disdainfully said no; yet in the moment, there I felt everything.  The reality was different; I mentally tried to rationalize pain as discomfort. I’ve done a far better job with responses for the spectrum of sexual misconduct. What are your policies?  As a woman, do you have your policy? As a man, if you were standing beside me and heard the offending comment, would you have spoken? Be more than a hashtag; be disruption, change and policy in the making.

 

 

 

Sweet Home Alabama: King, Wallace, Trump & Racist Adjacent

Because people were bombing black churches and he preached

Because blacks had the right to vote in 1870 and Jim Crow laws kept them from voting and he marched

Because he protested the Viet Nam, a war in which McNamara admitted we couldn’t win and he spoke out

Because his message and actions were nonviolent

Because this Martin Luther King birthday, I pay homage to the man and the legacy. It is a day I sit in amazement of the strength, belief and fortitude it took to be the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

On January 14, 1963, King’s contemporary, George Wallace took the oath of office as governor of the state of Alabama. In his speech, the line that stood out was:

In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

In September of 1963, Wallace attempted to block 4 black students from enrolling in 4 different elementary schools in Huntsville. After federal intervention, they were allowed to enroll on September 9, 1963 to which Wallace responded “The President (John F. Kennedy) wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-communists who have instituted these demonstrations.” On Sunday, September 15, 1963, when four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps located on the east side of the church; four dead and twenty two injured. These acts of violence did not deter King or weaken Wallace.

From March 7 – March 25 of 1965, King led the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabamawas for voter rights The march started with 600 and ended with about 25,000 people for the end of discriminatory practices barring blacks the right to vote such as poll taxes, literacy tests which were applied subjectively. After Bloody Sunday were marchers were beaten and bloodied by state troopers as they approached the Edmund Pettis Bridge, President Johnson in a speech said,

“Every man should have the right to vote and that the civil rights problems challenge the entire country, not one region or group. “ and the President asked Congress “to help him pass legislation that dictates clear, uniform guidelines for voting regardless of race or ethnicity and that allows all citizens to register to vote free from harassment.” 

 Johnson went on to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that August it was a step forward, but by no means a fait accompli in race relations. On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. In 1970, in a run for his second term as governor, Wallace ran what has been called the most racist campaign ever. Wallace aired television advertising with slogans such as “Do you want the black bloc electing your governor?” and circulated an ad showing a white girl surrounded by seven black boys, with the slogan “Wake Up Alabama! Blacks vow to take over Alabama” It’s worth noting that Wallace stated, “I’ve never made a racist speech in my life.” It seems fitting to end the story on Wallace here and cast him as a villain; but I can’t.

It gets more interesting. During his third run for US president as a democratic candidate, in 1972, Wallace was shot in an assassination attempt. He tried for a fourth run at the presidency in 1979. Then in the early 80’s, he contacted civil rights leaders he’d opposed in the 60’s and 70’s including now Congressman John Lewis who suffered a fractured skull during Bloody Sunday. He made phone calls. He gained the support of the African-American electorate and in 1983, became governor of Alabama for the third time AND made more African-American political appointments than anyone else in Alabama history. The Johnson tapes describe George Wallace is described as someone who does not listen and does not trust anybody.  One of his three wives said, “I don’t believe George needs a family. He just needs an audience. The family as audience wasn’t enough for his ego.” What caused the reversal? Is it possible once shot and confined to a wheelchair, he had to trust and take counsel in his recovery and everyday life. Is it possible, the vulnerability changed the ego?

NPR aired an interview Recy Taylor from a few years ago as a follow-up to a speech by Oprah Winfrey last week during her Golden Globe acceptance speech. In 1944, 6 men kidnapped and raped her as she was walking home from church. Despite being told to keep quiet, Mrs. Taylor reported crime. The first trial ended after 5 minutes of deliberation by a jury of all white men ad dismissed. The second trial, the defendants admitted to the rape,but the all male, all white jury refused to indict. Her home was firebombed. There were some who said, well it was consensual, that Mrs Taylor was a prostitute. She received death threats from white supremacist for 25 years until moving to Florida. The state of Alabama apologized in 2011. The sentiment was, well that was the time, that’s how we were raised, everyone did it. Is this a legacy we want to embrace? Because Alabama is all of us and it’s happening again.

In the recent Alabama Senate race is the story of Judge Roy Moore. A man who was removed from the Supreme Court of Alabama for refusing to obey a federal court order. A man banned from the mall in Gadsden, Alabama because of his predatory behavior toward young girls. When accusations of sexual assaults came forth from women who were 14 and 16 at the time, his supporters said, well it was different back then, we don’t know if it’s true. An exasperated Charles Barkley finally said to Alabamians, “We’ve got to stop looking like idiots, do not vote for Roy Moore.” It was a win for Doug Jones.

Because he refused to shake the hand of Angela Merkel

Because he said to Billy Bush, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything; Grab them by the p****. You can do anything,”¹

Because after Charlottesville he said “violence on both side”

Because he said ofMexicans, “They are not our friend, believe me. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Because he said of Carly Fiorina in a Rolling Stone interview “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you

imagine that, the face of our next President? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

Because 19 women have accused him of sexual misconduct including assault

Because he said Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here

 

Some media outlets have spun his last statement, “well he said what we were all thinking.” Or as he himself said, “I used strong language” His supporters when interviewed said, they don’t believe he said it, but if he did it’s not good. Today, he said, “I am not a racist, I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” Yes, and as noted before, George Wallace said “I’ve never made a racist speech in my life.” How do we want to go down in history. Is this another time when racism, sexism and assault go unchecked because, it is the time and we can’t be sure?

How many times will we flunk this test?  How will time treat your views and opinions? Will you say, well that was the time or will you say, that was the time, but I did?  We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to be. On this Martin Luther King day, what will you be? What do you stand for?

Pain and Exhaustion on an Ordinary Day

“The doctors say it’s never going to get better. A nap won’t help. She’s not lazy. She struggles with pain and fatigue every single day. She has lupus, fibromyalgia or arthritis and it’s not the same as your cold or body pain. The most frustrating part is people look at her and say “you look good,” while her body is being attached inside.” My brother posted this on Facebook this week; he quoted something he’d seen that describes my sister-in-law’s. By the time she was diagnosed I had some familiarity with the autoimmune disorders and fibromyalgia other friends.

Everyone is shocked when the cancer diagnosis comes. But cancer is visible, there is a before a during and after. When we say, you look good, it’s after a battle with chemo or radiation, hair loss, weakness or bed stricken. With cancer, we can process what is going on. We can cheer the journey to recovery or mourn defeat. But how do you support, autoimmune disorders if there is no recovery?

My friend with lupus was relieved when diagnosed, but frustrated. ”I tell people what’s wrong, I have lupus and  I’m in pain. But,  they say, well you look good. Well, how am I suppose to look? Do you think I”m not going to comb my hair,  wear makeup, or get dressed?” Busted. I know I have said similar things. Many of the comments on my brother’s Facebook post, were things I have said in the past.

Those comments are about me. My brain is trying to process how I would cope. Well of course, I’d get a second opinion, I’d try diet, exercise and I have heard many people have hidden food allergies that mimic diseases. The truth is, I can’t handle ” it won’t get better.” My comments are all about me and what I would do, for me. I  forget I am having a conversation with someone who is in constant pain.

What would you like people to know, what’s the most biggest conception about autoimmune disorders, what therapies have you found useful, etc. There are many ways to have a conversation without “try,”because if you have a conversation, you often find your “try” has been “tried.” Maybe it’s not the person with an autoimmune disorder that needs to try, maybe it’s you who need to try? Try to listen, to learn about the disorder, even go outside your comfort zone and correct people who dismiss autoimmune as all in someone’s head. Sure, some of these conversations may be uncomfortable, but think about the constant discomfort and pain this group is in. I found Chronic Mom to be a good start to get an idea of the autoimmune world and struggles.

 

 

 

Five Minutes, Probability and the New Year

Five minutes; I watched a movie this weekend and the last 5 minutes changed everything. Stories have an arc, the conflict, the climax and the resolution. What I thought was the resolution changed 3 times in the last 5 minutes. The Pacers versus the Knicks. It was 105 Knicks and 99 Pacers with 11 seconds left. Seems safe to leave? Reggie Miller scored 8 points for the Pacers in 9 seconds, giving the win to the Pacers. Those who left early, not only had the wrong winners, but missed a great moment in basketball.

So much can change in just a moment. My calm, sunny afternoon on the pier was suddenly interrupted when a couple in front of me started fighting. I saw the man put the woman in a headlock and then he roughly pushed her away.  Yelling at her to stay away, he hurled her purse as far away as he could. I was alarmed, but my two friends with me explained, whilst I was checking my phone, she had struck the child and he had protected the child. It was then I noticed the small child holding the man’s hand. How often have you either come late or leave early and miss the story?

This is the conundrum. You don’t know if you have the whole story or not. It happens a few times in movies, things change dramatically in the last few moments, but typically waiting is only going to give you the credits and a few outtakes. TV dramas, it’s pretty likely something will happen in the last minute, the cliffhanger, designed to keep you coming back. Sports events, if one team has been leading significantly, most likely the last 2 or 3 minutes is not going to change the outcome. If you think about it, you probably use probability to determine if you have the whole story.

The calendar flips over to a new year this week. For many, this is a reset. What about the new year being not so much of a new year, but a probability? If things stay on their current course, what’s the probability you’ll be happy with the outcome? What do you want your story to be next year at this time? Are coming to late or leaving too early in your own life? Things can change in a moment, timing is everything, what’s your everything 2018?

Homeless for the Holidays

She is a mini me. This little brown girl with wide eyes sporting a leopard print hat that matched mine. We locked eyes for a moment; both of us break into a smile. A few moments later, it all made sense. The last tent on the right. There are 4 tents pitched under the highway behind the guard rail. I pass this location 8 times a week. In September, I noticed a white board with a very neat display of small stuffed animals. I never thought of the obvious.  I never considered the possibility of a homeless child. Yet, there she was, a little girl peering out of the last tent on the right. 

I have always struggled with the holiday juxtaposition of  bright, shiny, beautiful decorations, wonderful smells, joy and excitement versus scenes of cold stark despair, hunger and need. Spoiler alert, the despair wins. People know, I’m not a big fan of the holiday, I have no tree or decorations, can we just fast forward through the season to be jolly? In my overwhelmed headspace, I mentioned the homeless shelters charge a fee. My friend Julian commented “… you know, you give them a $20 bill and if they make smart choices, they can have shelter for a week, but you know things happen. We do what we can do.” All of us in the conversation, at some point in time given someone “the twenty.” My perspective shifted.

I write about balancing on unstable surfaces and this instability caught me by surprise. Sadly, over the years, I’ve not given my community credit for caring. People really do. That is the balance. It’s not we have to be all sad, or all happy. If I think I have to solve this problem alone, I will be depressed and overwhelmed. As a community, we make a difference. My neighbors, the Ellington residents and I donated $10,000 to the Alameda County virtual food bank. People care. Just like me, the hungry, the homeless and the destitute concern us, but we rarely talk about it. That doesn’t mean there is an absence of caring, it’s evidence of a sense of balance. You do what you can do. You give and donate and you balance that with great moment, so you celebrate what’s merry and bright. Just like my moment with my mini me.

 

 

Notes:

The view from the corner. The tents are barely visible to drivers. People have said they are afraid to walk this stretch of Broadway at night; but the little girl in her leopard print hat lives there at night.  I think of my mini me, I hope she is safe, happy and smiling.

The Big Picture

Off the Grid: The Lot 12th & Broadway Oakland CA

Is it that obvious? I’ve walked by this fence more than 150 times. I took pictures of artwork in October. Yet, it wasn’t until last Friday night, when my friend Audrey was driving me home that I realized, there were letters, there was a name, “The Lot.” How did miss it? When I took the photo, I was too close. When I walked by, I was in motion. Stopped at a traffic light, marveling at the city nightscape, the writing was clear. We often hear, look at the big picture. What does that really mean? Step back, relax and take a different approach. Look for the patterns, look for the disruptions.  What does it tell you? This makes me wonder, what things have I missed that were glaringly obvious that I missed because I was either too close, or that I didn’t stop to notice? This week, what can you stop and observe. Pause and ponder a stance diametrically opposed to yours. It doesn’t mean your view changes, it means you see something you haven’t seen before; you see the big picture.

 

A Failure to Communicate; Can We Laugh about it Now?

Suddenly there was silence. My brother and I were in another room during our parent’s Christmas party and the only sound was fast approaching footsteps. The door flew open and my mom’s expression indicated she was not happy. We were 20 and 21, home forwinter break and got a look from my mom that indicated we were in trouble. We held our breath waiting to hear what offense, we’d done. But, my mom couldn’t seem to speak. Mrs Bryant, looking upset, pushed my mom out-of-the-way and asked, “Why did you two let your mama buy that record? That language was awful. I am so shocked” Looking at my mother, my brother responded, “you said you wanted a comedy party album for tonight.” I add, “you asked us if that Richard Pryor album was funny and we said yes.” We never heard either of our parents use anything near profane language. We weren’t allowed to say darn or shot or gee. The Richard Pryor album contained “adult language.” Maybe, I thought, “adult language” meant language only adults could use, and once you became a certain age, your vocabulary could expand to include a sub genre of the profane?

Tony Robbins said, ‘the quality of your life is directly proportional to the quality of your communications.” In that moment with my mom, the quality of my life and my communication was proportional. Poor communication resulted in a room full of upset people.Often there are questions we don’t think we need to ask or conversations we don’t think we need to have. But how do we come to those conclusions? This week, think about your all your communications, what you hear, what you understand and what you express. How well can you do these things? Consider, is the quality of your life proportional to the quality of your communications? Cheers to a wonderful life.

P.S. The happiest of birthdays to my brother; in memory of the Ps – happy anniversary.

Rainy Days, Books and Commitment

I write each week out of fear. This is the perfect day to read; it’s raining, I have hot tea and a stack of books to read. So why am I writing? I could take a break this week. With over 150 posts, surely one can be reused, or can’t I just post “on vacation?” But, I fear one week off will turn into two weeks and before I know it, my latest post will be 18 months old. I write because I fear I will lose the ability to find a topic each week. I fear I’ll lose the discipline it takes to post every Sunday by midnight.  I fear, creativity will shut down and I will miss the happiness when a reader responds and relates to something I wrote. Not writing is a failure and a sense of losing something that makes me happy. So, I guess it’s wrong for me to say I write out of fear. For now, I write out of a commitment to myself with a sense possibility and joy.  What about you? What are the things you are committed to that bring you joy? If you can’t think of anything, is it time to make a commitment to happiness and do something?

 

Banned Books, Chasing Rabbits and Thanksgiving

I’m doing nothing for Thanksgiving, I have a stack of books for a reading frenzy. I’m going on a literary feast of words; I’ll be swept off into other worlds; presented with challenges, dilemmas and triumphs. This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to be able to read what I want. A book once disappeared from my e-reader. I was in mainland China; I thought I’d read before bed to help with jet lag. It was gone. The book I was reading during my flight was no longer on my device.  No notice, no book, nothing. Then I remembered, the preface of the book said it was banned in China. Ughhhh. This book was banned in China just like Alice in Wonderland.  There is book censorship in China and violation can lead to imprisonment. So, yes, I’m thankful this thanksgiving to be able to read any book I want or can I?  Are there books banned in the US?

I fell into the rabbit hole – a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation which it is difficult to extricate oneself. Banned Books Week (September 24–October 30). Huh? There is banned books week in the US and that’s because there are banned books?  I haven’t thought much about banned books. I think Huck Finn was banned because of language and there were some schools that banned Harry Potter? Reading various list sand reasons for banned books fascinated me. In the mid 60s, Where the Wild Things Are was banned because it was “problematic” that Max was sent to bed without supper. In 1983, the Alabama state textbook committee banned The Diary of Anne Frank because it was a downer. In 2006, a parents group in Kansas had Charlotte’s Web banned for depicting two talking animals; talking animals must be the devil’s work. Harry Potter was banned in many places in 2007 for sorcery. At times I was relieved when  I read the phrase,“challenged, but retained,” knowing someone my favorite books were still allowed in libraries. Some of the debate is understandable about required reading, though a few of the books banned in college curriculums was surprising.  The banned books a cultural statement; especially the recently banned books  that are  over 50 years old, long thought of as staples are banned from libraries. More on banned books can be found here http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/rebelreader)

Two hours later, I was nearly out of the rabbit hole only to fall deeper. Books banned in prison. In August of 2013, the State of Connecticut prison system lifted its ban on Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin; the basis for HBO’s Game of Thrones. The books were banned for ‘safety and security” reasons.  The State of Texas prison systems has banned The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Bag of Bones by Stephen King, It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham, books  I have read. What was confusing was the rational and logic that was used to ban these books seemed not to apply to Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf and David Duke’s My Awakening, these books are acceptable. More information on books banned in prisons can be found here (http://www.bookstoprisoners.net/banned-book-lists/)

Emerging from this rabbit hole of banned books, I don’t have a point so much as an experience. Like reading a book, I was swept off into other worlds; presented  challenges, dilemmas and triumphs as I became aware of things I didn’t know existed, learned something and emerged with more compassion and appreciation for things I take for granted. Now, That’s something to be thankful for. Let the reading begin.

Rules, Measurements and a Tipping Point

I optimistically emerged from my post Futurama cartoon binge coma. I’m ready to write. How does this sound as a Hollywood policy and process for filing a sexual harassment claim?

The accuser must first engage in 30 days of counseling with a legal counselor in the Office of Compliance. After 30 days, they can choose to go into mediation with a representative within the office with whom they’re lodging complaint against. That mediation would last at least 30 days. When mediation is finished, the accuser must wait 30 days — but not wait longer than 90 days. It is only then, after those steps, could the accuser officially file a formal complaint and pursue a hearing either with the Office of Compliance or Federal District Court, but not both.

OK, you may or may not recognize this as the dispute resolution process for sexual harassment claims on Capital Hill for some 30,000 employees of the legislature. But wait, there is more. The settlements are paid by the US Treasury, not by the office against which the complaint is launched. The US taxpayers pay the sexual harassment settlements. There is proposed legislation underway to change this process and do regular reporting to gage if progress is being made.

This is logical, a rule is put in place and you need a measurement to determine if it’s working. The legislature has rules forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace, there needs to be a measurement to determine if it’s working.

The fair pay act passed  2009 – women should be paid the same as men for the same job. Data shows that women are still paid less than men, on the  average of 83 cents to the dollar. In 2014, President Obama enacted the fair pay and safe workplace order requiring companies to report how much they pay workers by race and gender. Obama’s executive order also barred forced arbitration of sexual harassment claims. These were known as coverup clauses. President Obama’s ban on “cover-up clauses” stopped companies with government contracts from using the forced arbitration clause to keep sex discrimination claims out of the courts and off the public record. Makes sense, there is a fair pay act, there needs to be a measurement to see if it’s working.

In April of this year, President Trump signed an executive order revoking the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order. Hence, companies (that do work for the federal government)  do not have to provide data that would help determine if women are paid less than men for the same work and forced arbitration to keep sexual harassment out of the court continues. This is reprehensible especially in light of the existing policy on Capital Hill for sexual harassment claims. Are recent events signs of a tipping point? A point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change where the norm is equal pay for women and a harassment free environment? Or is that truly Futurama, something that only exists in a cartoon parody?

The Binge

I am on a binge; a Futurama binge. It started last week and now I’m 84 episodes in with 56 left to go. I’ve calculated 20 hours left of viewing time with an estimated completion day of next Saturday. Hmmmmm, is this normal?  Am I in avoidance mode? I read that binges are a way to deal with negative emotions. Since I did spend 4 hours nightly over the last week watching an animated cartoon series that debuted in 1999 I figured a little self diagnosis was in order. Día de los Muertos! This week was the day of the dead holiday, a remembrance of friends and family members who have died.I realized the show for me is oddly nostalgic; reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid and the family would watch cartoons over a leisurely breakfast of pancakes and shoestring fries. It was the one day of the week breakfast time was not punctuated with hurry and finish, you have to go to school or church. It was the one meal of the week we could eat while watching TV. For my brother and I, Saturdays were special. Is binging on a tv show different from other binges?  This week’s binge was not avoidance or procrastination. It was break from reality, a connection with the past and a lovely indulgence of remembering my parents and cherishing the memories of them that remain.

Trick or Treat, the Bogeyman and Ordinary People

The bogeyman is a hoax; it’s some made up creature that spans multiple cultures, albeit with various other names, used to frighten children into good behavior. We’ve seen children reduced to tears, fearful of the threat of mythical bogeyman. But this trick is not just for kids. Consider the adult version of the bogeyman. It starts with concepts of good and bad, left wing and right wing, for and against. Even Halloween has a polarizing tagline of trick or treat.These are polarizing abstractions that give rise to the adult bogeyman. Categorical opposites are demonized and loathed. As adults, we’ve turned ordinary people into an army of bogeymen.Our prioritized fear against this threat has left us with an unpredictable irrationality and inability to move forward.

Crap. I had a decent hypothesis and opening for this blog post, it fits with a Halloween theme, but now what? I put the bogeyman in the story and now I see no way out of this existential crisis.   I lucked out. This week, I saw Van Jones in conversation with Alexis Madrigal at a City Arts event. Van Jones described on stage and in his book his friendship with Newt Gingrich.

     The former Speaker once told me something profound, as we discussed ways to think about bipartisanship: “Your ‘ninety percent enemy’ can still be your ‘ten percent friend’ – on every point where you agree.” Newt and I still passionately disagree on 90 or more the issues. But in those places where our views align, we look for ways to work together. When i comes to topics like fixing the justice system or ending the opioid epidemic, we owe it to ordinary people to try.¹

The concept that your enemy can be your friend on every point you agree is a way to turn that army of bogeymen turn back into ordinary people. Turning on the “proverbial light” to banish the monsters requires us not to act as if everyone is a trick or a treat, but an opportunity to find common ground to solve common problems. A version of insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Fear,  loathing and demonizing the “other side” does not work. The choice is yours, keep your boogeyman or consider the possibility of working with 10% friends. Maybe this new trick will give ordinary people a treat.

 

¹ Jones, Van Beyond the Messy Truth, Ballantine Books, 2017, p128

² Forum Radio Interview: https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2017/10/20/van-jones-goes-beyond-the-messy-truth/

 

They Did a Bad Bad Thing; Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The crash and burn of Harvey Weinstein produced shock, rage and a hashtag. But, this is just an event. An event without action remains an event, not a movement and not a change. While many question how Mr. Weinstein’s behavior continued for decades, the better question is, will this continue? History shows it will. The culture of sexual harassment in the workplace has some parallels with the civil rights struggle that can provide lessons learned and a path forward.

In 1863, the emancipation proclamation by Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. In 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery. In July of 1868 and the 14th amendment, gave African Americans due process and equal protection under the law. In February of 1870, the 15th Amendment granted African American us the right to vote. But, what followed is a lawless, shameful, embarrassing and uncomfortable history.

The southern democrats began enacting “Jim Crow” laws in 1877 to separate the black and white races, “separate but equal.” From a historical perspective, this was a backlash against laws granting rights and citizenship. Fast forward to 1957, the Little Rock Nine were 9 black students who were blocked from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas by orders of Arkansas Governor Orval Fabus to prevent integration. President Eisenhower sent federal troops and the National Guard to intervene on behalf of the students. This was an open defiance of laws by government officials and a heinous event where 9 children waiting to enter a school who were spat on by angry protesters. Would anyone want that for their child?

Today we’d like to think we’re done with this. There are times when racist comments are discounted, “well, you know, that generation,” or “that’s the way it used to be.” Slavery ended over 150 years ago people. “That generation” is no longer alive. Treating people with a lack of humanity is wrong and if that is how people were taught and raised, it’s wrong. Reality and civil rights have been tenuous at best which lead to the civil rights act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Sixteen years later the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964.

More than 100 U.S. Navy and United States Marine Corps aviation officers were alleged to have sexually assaulted 83 women and 7 men, at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada took place at the 35th Annual Tailhook Association Symposium from September 8 to 12, 1991. Shannon Faulkner, the first girl to enter the Citadel on August 15, 1995, was met with anger, death threats and protests. She started her first day with the escort of United States Marshals. The home of her parents was sprayed repeatedly with graffiti and her parents also received death threats. She voluntarily resigned, citing emotional and psychological abuse and physical exhaustion at the end of the first week. The male cadets celebrated her departure. This behavior was atrocious and it was in 1995. Again, we’re talking about a kid going to school with threats of death.

The early accusations of Harvey Weinstein start in 1984. Behind closed doors, it has been said, that was time, or that’s what happens in “that” industry? Does that feel more comfortable to put that behavior at a distance and is it some consultation that those women chose to be in that business? Like Those 9 children chose to go to that school, so they should have expected it? Treating people with a lack of humanity is wrong. If that is how people were taught and raised, it’s wrong.

There are laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Companies have detailed policies of how this behavior is not tolerated; they can show the process for reporting sexual harassment and produce metrics on incidences. But companies are not asking the right questions. Is this an environment where people are comfortable reporting? Have people had an incident that they don’t report? Why don’t people report? Who are the executives that speak openly and supportively of a harassment free workplace. In terms of change management, who is the executive sponsor, those in leadership who champion a harassment free environment? Who are the advocates of change, those workers at large, who are not the targets of sexual harassments but vocal supporters of a harassment free environment?

In the timeline of civil rights, Jim Crow laws served to undermine the intent of the US constitution. Many companies have a non – disparagement agreement or ask workers to waive their right to go to court over employment issues — including sexual harassment — instead steering them into private arbitration where the claims and their outcome may never be made public. Whether it was the intent or not, these agreements are now a way for companies to avoid public disclosures of misconduct. Harvey Weinstein is an abomination, but not an anomaly. Cases of gross misconduct from Uber, Tesla, Amazon, Fidelity, Fox and others this year alone highlight there are issues. In the timeline of civil rights, Jim Crow laws served to undermine the intent of the US constitution. Many companies have a non – disparagement agreement or ask workers to waive their right to go to court over employment issues — including sexual harassment — instead steering them into private arbitration where the claims and their outcome may never be made public. Whether it was the intent or not, these agreements are now a way for companies to avoid public disclosures of misconduct.

What’s next? With recent events in the news, it is an excellent time for companies to examine their policies. For people in his workplace, it is a time to think about how to handle harassment. ¹ Most of all, understand what you hear in the news are not isolated instances but everyday life and it’s wrong. It’s time for a substantial conversation with actionable results. The facts show sexual harassment is a problem in the workplace. History shows a pattern this can continue for decades. Now is the time for a movement to embrace a change for an inclusive, harassment free environment.

 

¹Sexual Harassment, Collateral Prey and the Myth of the Bystander

 

Life Happens: Survivor’s Guilt, Phantom Grief and the Pursuit of Happiness

We’re under a collective fatigue. A lot has happened the past few months and this is the breaking point. Between the hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, an earthquake, events now called by cities, Charlottesville, Las Vegas, followed by trial by Northern California Fires and Hollywood Harvey and a time line of taking the knee.I felt guilty that I spent two minutes debating the merits of lavender scent laundry detergent versus fresh air scent. It reminded me as kids when we were told, finish eating there are starving children in the world. Here I am picking a laundry scent when there are people without a place to live. Sure, there are relief efforts for the natural disasters, there is social discourse on events, but that seems to do little to reign in the gamut of emotion from the anxiety, doom, empathy, compassion and survivor’s guilt. With information, pictures, videos and stories so available today, there is a new thing to add to the list, something that is becoming more prevalent, phantom grief.

There was a mass shooting in Louisville, Kentucky over 25 years ago. I drove to work, I knew there was something wrong because there were so many ambulances. By the time I got to  the office, I learned there was an active shooter at Standard Gravure, one of the guys in the office was on the phone with his wife. The next day, I couldn’t speak, I had no voice. No, this wasn’t shocking or grief, a group of us went to Cincinnati that night for a Rolling Stones concert. I lost my voice during the opening act, Living Color, my guitar hero Vernon Reid was on stage, singing Open Letter to a Landlord. Three days later, I was a greeter at the Cathedral of the Assumption for a memorial service. Something almost unbelievable had happened and yet life went on. Five friends went on a road trip to River Front Stadium and watch the Rolling Stones perform Gimme Shelter from row 11, floor seats.

Now, in a world of political correctness and optics, I feel the need to stress, oh yes I was impacted and felt deeply. I was horrified at the media presence at the memorial service and tried to protect a few grievers from photo ops and sound bites. I am thankful a few days before, I was with good friends on a once in a lifetime adventure. The desire to show compassion and empathy can lapse into the dark side of fantom grief. It requires us to stay in a hyper-vigilant state of mourning, any good time is guilt ridden. The grief cycle is denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As we process grief and we may spiral back and forth between the stages before we emerge to acceptance. With phantom grief, nothing is really a loss. We will stay in anger, bargaining and depression because there is nothing to process. We are left with primarily anger and depression that plays out in all kinds of crazy.

If you find yourself or those around you anxious, overwhelmed and slipping to the dark-side. Consider it could be phantom grief; you are not in immediate danger, you do not have a loss, it’s ok to be happy.  I once heard a response to eat all your food, there are starving people in the world. This kid responded, I am thankful we have food, I will trick or treat for UNICEFF, but  my eating or not eating isn’t going to stop people from starving. Use kid logic now as inoculation against phantom grief. Have gratitude for what you have and compassion for those in need. Go spend time with friends and family and enjoy life.

Down Dog, Reflections on Barks in a World of Bytes

Ace in Action

Ace does not like me. This is a fact. Ace is a dog and every time he sees me, a barking frenzy ensues. He is not afraid of me. His tail is wagging, but his demeanor is more, let me get off the leash and see watch what happens. Ace has spoken barked.  Someone mentioned to me, what if people were more like dogs? There is an honesty about dogs. Dogs don’t lie to you,dogs hang their heads in shame when they have done something wrong. You know when they like you and when they don’t. My immediate thought,  It’d be great not to have to try to figure people out.

I work virtually, with limited time on the phone and emails,  there are challenges.  I wonder, how engaged are people in a project, is there support for change, is there enthusiasm for innovation? The worldwide virtual environment is  in its infancy;  there isn’t a strong organizational culture around how things work.The trouble is, we act like there is. While one team adheres to strict plans and schedules with check points, other teams feel this is just a suggestion. Frustration and mayhem ensue.

Imagine two groups of dogs are playing . One group is trained to heel and sit and the other is taught to sit. If you say heel, half of them will obey and the other half will keep playing. This is only a problem if the expectation is all dogs would heel. At that moment, telling the playing dogs what “heel” means is not going to change help.¹ Agreed to behaviors, definitions and goals are the way forward for projects. Yet, often, little attention is given to this and we end up with “they” are behind schedule versus “they” have set unrealistic dates.  There may be a year long effort kicking off and time isn’t spent up front understanding work style preferences. Little time is spent on discussion and agreements on goals. Projects have more of an “assumptive” launch. Everyone “assumes” they know what things means and how it is expected things will go. Consider dedicating a little more time up front. Look, if everyone is in agreement, it’s short meeting. If not, it’s time well spent.

I should not say, Ace doesn’t like me. Ace barks in my presence. He could be a wonder dog who barks to indicate disease, mental anxiety,maybe I’ve disrupted his puppy world, or you know, he just doesn’t like me. We don’t know and can’t know because we can’t have a conversation with Ace the dog. But with teams and people, we have the gift of words. You can ask. So instead of wondering why something is not what you expected, ask. Yes, there is a chance you may not get a workable answer, but there is a good chance you can. That’s a lot easier than the mystery of the barking dog.

 

 

¹This example is for illustrative purposes only and by no means insinuates people must be trained as animals. 

² The yoga pose in the featured image is commonly called down dog.

Somebody’s Watching You? The Virtual Reality

Assumed you’re always being watched. I know there are those bristling at the thought. From my 7th floor balcony I can see people in a parking garage 3 blocks away, see housekeeping enter and exit rooms at a hotel a block away and see inside which restaurants have a line before I go out to eat. Yes, I was still a little surprised when my neighbor said she sees me walking to yoga from the window in the gym, but it reenforced, assume you’re being watched. I wondered if she noted the times I crossed the street to avoid the sketchier side of the underpass on the my half mile walk. The real concern is avoiding the“harmful” watch. Those who are watching to potentially do us harm, or exploit us. That’s the creepy, icky, criminal watcher we want to be mindful of. Consider there is another “watcher” that’s just a click away.

Have you experienced getting online and somehow, 90 minutes have gone by? You’ve probably slipped into the darkness of algorithmically delivered content based on your likes, dislikes, previous searches, subscriptions, online shopping patterns, etc. The content is customized to fit your world view. I heard Jeff Bezos speak at a commonwealth club event in the Silicon Valley three years after the launch of Amazon. He talked about overcoming the difficulties of a start up, from the first name, a take on abracadabra which sounded too much like cadaver, to the necessity of kneepads in packing boxes. But it was his vision that sold me. He perfectly articulated my feeling after reading a great book. The exhilaration, the need to tell someone and the desire to find another book as good. The challenge was using data to make this happen. Revolutionary! As an avid reader,the possibility of buying and reading a book I absolutely love sounded like reader nirvana.

Fast forward and we’re in the era of big data. Technology today makes it possible to gather, analyze and predict behaviors based on data. This is collecting our clicks, the amount of time we spend on sites, what triggers a tweet, a text, an email, a social media post to determine patterns and predict our behavior. We listen to podcasts and similar ones are recommended.We read a post and there are 5 related links that follow. This is stealthily customized content, readily evident with a simple Google. Two people can put in the same search in Google and get different search results. You can delete cookies, clear history and it’s not going to change this. We’re being watched and we’re in an echo chamber. ¹ What we see and hear on-line reflects our world view. Here is the danger.

In the real world analogy, you’re looking for a place to park. There is a big event, you’ve circled the block slowly three times and it’s clear people are trying to find places to park. A stranger knocks on your window and says, I’ll park your car for you, just give me $20 and your keys. This seems like to perfect solution to meet your needs, right? In this scenario, would you even roll down your window, let alone pay $20.00 and hand over your keys?  Is it time to bring more discernment to your online experience? In an echo chamber there this is the absence of competing views, those get censored out, are ridiculed, discounted or underrepresented. Your beliefs now have point of views, masquerading as facts, to prove your intellectual superiority in being right. This cycle circumvents the questioning the validity of the source, there is no fact checking. Delusional is characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument. Your echo chamber has the potential to render you virtually delusional.

You’re always virtually watched. Your content feed can be informative and entertaining, but, needs to be balanced with reality to avoid the malady of virtual delusion. This week, what happens if you approach online as unfamiliar? Question each link as you would a new neighborhood at night, who told me to go here and why am I going here. As you review content, consider, is the source reliable, is this fact or opinion, what might the competing view be. You’re not necessarily changing what you do; you’re just bringing a new awareness of where you are. I haven’t changed my route to yoga in the last 6 months, but I have an awareness of when I need to be more alert. Be virtually aware, Big Data is watching you.

 

¹An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system.

Ready, Set Go? The Case for Change

I hadn’t intentionally changed my order at Starbucks in 10 years. In March, the barista made me a vanilla latte instead of a chi tea latte and boom, for the last 6 months, my drink order has switched. Funny, it hadn’t occurred to me to try anything new. “Stuck in a rut” is defined as too fixed in one particular type of job, activity, method, etc., and needing to change.I argue that I was not really stuck in a rut with my drink order, I didn’t feel a need to change,but 10 years with the same drink order is screaming, pull me out of this rut and save me from a myopic existence. As adults, how do we know when it is  time to change, when it is time to move on?

As kids, we’re pushed to do things that are new and different to us. It’s the start of the school year, a new grade with a new teacher and new people. At university, you’re given options, take this test, and we’ll know if you’re ready for med school, law school, or grad school. There are all these things saying, you’re ready. But now what? As an adult, typically, the only time I try something new is by accident. Not the first one to yoga class, forced to try a new spot, road closed, time to find a new route.

Who tells you, you’re ready? When do you know it’s time for a new job, a new relationship, a new financial plan, etc. Is it only when things are not working you consider a change? Be cautious with “if i ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s a path to obsolescence. At the very least, there is maintenance. When was the last time you made a change, by force, by accident or by intent? Do your actions keep you comfortable or put you in the conscious pursuit of making life better?

Ain’t too Proud to Beg?

The song, Ain’t too Proud too Beg* has been on my mind and I’m not happy with the dictionary definition of beg which says to earnestly or humbly ask for something. Begging is pleading with a sense of urgency and fervor. It’s been informed by 3 generations in my family. I begged for Captain Crunch cereal as a kid. I pleaded with flailing arms and legs, convinced Captain Crunch was magical and life changing. My mom, would give me the look of admonishment and sternly say, “stop begging, “ followed by a reminder, we take food down to the shelter where there are people with no food, stop begging.” The intruder my mom surprised was still holding the hatchet he used to break into our house. My mom screamed, fell to her knees and begged for her life, “please don’t kill me, I have two small children.” My plea for a cereal seemed meaningless sand trivial, begging is life changing. My grand gesture of begging was in sharp contrast to my grandfather,  who, barely able to move or speak, whispering for someone, or something to please end the pain. He was begging for death.

When do you beg? A very frustrated bus driver asked the passengers aggressively trying to board the bus, “Wait, I have to get the wheelchair passenger on first.” The driver lowered the wheel chair ramp and no sooner than it hit the ground, passengers shoved to board the bus. Incredulous and frustrated, the bus driver shouted, “Wait, I have to get this passenger on the bus before you board. We aren’t going anywhere until I finish so can you wait?” The driver pushed the chair up the ramp, strapped the chair in place and ensured the passenger was ok.  Then there was a small gesture. The woman in the wheel chair smiled, said thank you and handed the bus driver a tootsie pop.  I saw the initial look of the drivers face that went from what do I need this for , to the realization that the woman was acknowledging her help. The driver graciously took the candy and nodded.

My experience of ” beg” ranges from the trivial requests of a child or a matter of life and death.  Despite all the histrionics I associate with “beg,”  the action is more subtle. It can be a look asking for help, which keeping with the dictionary definition, is to earnestly or humbly ask for something. When have you begged? You make many choices everyday. When given an earnest and humble request, are you helpful and respectful?

 

 *The world premiere of Ain’t too Proud, the Life and Times of the Temptations is currently featured at Berkeley Rep and runs through October 22, 2017.

In Case of Emergency: Beignets and a Plan

I don’t associate vegan restaurants with decadence, but Souley Vegan,  Monday through Friday, from 6:00 am – 10:00am, serves beignets and chicory coffee. It takes 11 minutes for me to run across the street, grab my fix and get back  to my desk for a sugar and caffeine party. My party was interrupted on Friday. As I wait for my order, I see a blind man get off a bus. His cane tapped the very edge of the handicap ramp,  his foot landed  where the curbed started and he stumbled. I gasped loudly, which made the waitress look out the window. In a flash she was out the restaurant and on the corner where the bus driver has gotten off the bus to help get the man oriented. The waitress helps the man across the street as I stare out the restaurant window. Why didn’t I rush to help?

View of restaurant and street from my 7th floor office window.

An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. I know what to do in the event of a fire, stop drop and roll. I know what to do in the event of an earthquake, drop, cover and hold on. A helpless person on the street, it’s embarrassing, I’m not proud if it, but I’m not sure what to do. I help myself, but what about others? I thought a lot about this the last few days, and I think it’s as simple as this. Go to the person and ask, may I offer you some assistance.

A friend once told me he does scenarios and thinks about responses. You won’t know in the moment what to do unless you’re prepared. This week, do emergency preparation. Think of scenarios you could encounter and how would you respond. Here are some examples, and note, there are variables with each that will inform your response. It can be intimidating –  someone yells at you at work.  It can be safety – you know a coworker has been drinking heavily and watch, the person staggers to their automobile and are about to drive off. It can be integrity – you hear someone tell an untruth to a group of people. What do you do when someone makes a racist or sexist remark?  These are difficult situations; however, the odds are, you will encounter something unpleasant and you will have no control over that event, but you can control how you respond. Be prepared.

 

Note: To the Tampa Crew, the architect, the professor, and the realtor – hope you all made it through the storm. For the Deland Family, Riding the Storm Out with a sound track; I’m a little calmer now, didn’t want to see you folks without a roof again. 

Take the Cake

Houston is incomprehensible. The scenes of people fleeing with water above their necks, The narratives of people who fled Katrina, moved to Houston and are fleeing yet again. People have lost everything. It will take years and years of recovery. I’m just going to eat cake. I started a new job in February with a new team. Two left the team in June and this past week, the two of my peers quit. Cake for breakfast.  As a small nine year old bookish kid, a tall popular kid stopped a mean kid from beating me up. No, we did not become best friends, there were no other words said, but I am so grateful. She saved me; so compassionate. She died yesterday. I’ll just finish off this cake now.

You can’t have your cake and eat it (too) is a popular English idiomatic proverb or a figure of speech. The proverb literally means “you cannot simultaneously retain your cake and eat it”. Once the cake is eaten, it is gone. A lot of things are gone this week. Many things leave an impact and shape our lives. Sometimes we need a moment. There will be more experiences, more loss and cake. This week, just a take a moment.

 

How Ya Doing?

How are you doing? The clerk caught my eyes, and he knew I meant it and admitted, “I know I’m suppose to say I’m good, but I am tired. I have school, two jobs and I’ve not had a day off in 10 days.”  With that, we could have a conversation. The exchange left me to question,  the harm we do when we say,” it’s all good?” Has social media conditioned us to say only good things, to curate our lives as perfect? Are we trained to express any concern, frustration or anger with a touching photo, emoji or a repost of some popular meme. After all, no one wants to be labeled a complainer. With all of that,  have we lost the ability to express emotions or do we assume people don’t mean it when they ask how are you doing?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to have empathy. We have an ability to pick up on audio and visual cues. The glib, however polite response, neurologically messes with something. You sense one thing yet a response registers as false.  A casual encounter does not mean you press someone into details and don’t stop until you get what you deem to be an acceptable response, some things aren’t for you to know. But, what you can do in the case of an, its all good which runs contrary to what you sense , just say, OK, you look/sound a little  distracted/off/ tired. Don’t push them to acknowledge how they feel, just say what you sense and stop. Likewise, when someone asks, how are you doing, it’s not necessary to go into a list or report of what’s happening. You can say, thanks for expressing an interest, it’s a little rough right now, but I’ll get through it.

At work, in life, in relationships, it’s not all perfect. A rough spot in one area can distract us from others. It’s ok to say it’s not the best day. Your communities of work, friends and families are what support you. Give them a chance, and this week, stop, pause and ask yourself, how are you doing?

 

%d bloggers like this: