Archive for February, 2013

Clueless, Heartless, or Gutless


When something goes wrong the responsible parties owe it to each other or others affected to address it. Even if the situation can’t be remedied it’s an important part of bringing closure and maximizing everyone’s opportunity to learn from it. Yet this sometimes does’t happen. Not even so much as an explanation or an apology. I always wonder whether the individual isn’t feeling the responsibility, doesn’t care enough, or if it’s just too difficult to confront.

I say it matters which of those it is. Certainly if there’s a potential for any further interactions this reconciliation is extremely important. It’s a question of trust. Without trust we have nothing. Even if any future looks extremely bleak it’s still the right thing to do. It speaks to the integrity of the perpetrator in question — the guilty party. Sometimes that’s us (unless you happen to be the one perfect person in the world). When the situation is our fault (even partly) there is dignity in owning it. We can walk away or hide. That’s a choice…but we better at least try to be self-aware enough to reflect on why we’re doing that. Perhaps a personal flaw that allowed the bad situation to develop in the first place is also driving the (mis)handling of it. That self-reflection is a vital part of learning and becoming better. It’s just a shame when we’re too insensitive or chicken to help others understand or learn what they can.

However…there is another side to this that’s sometimes a factor. I’ll present that point of view in a future entry. Stay tuned.


trustcodependencyIn real estate it is often said that the three most important elements are:

1. Location
2. Location
3. Location

I make a similar argument for relationships, whether business or personal. What we all mainly want to know is…

Where do I stand?

What do you think of/about me? How important am I to you? Are you going to come through when I need you? Do you trust me to come through for you?

All we have to go on are your words and ultimately your actions. Hopefully the two are consistent, but even when they aren’t that lets us know something. So tell us. Communicate it. Don’t make us waste time and energy trying to figure it all out reading between the lines. That process is highly prone to error. Life is much easier for everyone when we’re all up front about this stuff.

It takes some bravery, but it’s worth it. You have to believe you or your organization is worthwhile. That there are others who will respond positively to you and the truth, no matter what it is (if you don’t believe it then you need to change it). When these relationships and interactions are forged honestly everyone benefits. Its much better than betraying someone or feeling betrayed when the truth inevitably emerges.

Imagine the value of a commercial that says, “You probably will not like our product if…” Or the value of having a person tell you her real intentions behind a set of actions.

So keep it real. Have the courage to be who you are, say what you think, and lay out the landscape even when you’re afraid. In the long run everyone appreciates honesty and integrity, even if it just allows us the opportunity of a clear choice about potentially wasting time on something that isn’t likely to work.

Magic Johnson Cries

MagicCriesI saw Magic sob for the second time on national TV last night lamenting the loss of Dr. Jerry Buss. It reminded me of the first time I saw him cry.

Magic was always that larger than life hero. I argue that while there may be a few (very few) more talented ball players he is probably the most valuable overall player in the history of the game in terms of what he did for his team(s). And he almost always had that big smile on his face while playing.

The other time I saw him cry was in 1992 while speaking at the celebration of his Lakers jersey being retired. It had such an impact on me I remember it like it was yesterday. All the big names were there (Larry Bird, Jerry West, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan) and they were all crying. Everyone thought Magic was going to die. He had been diagnosed with HIV a number of months before, and was forced to retire in the prime of his career.

It was difficult to watch him struggle to speak.

But he did not cry when talking about HIV, or having to retire, or having his career that he loved so much taken away from him, or even as he evaded the prospects that he wouldn’t live more than a few years. What moved him to tears is when he spoke about missing being with his teammates. The times in the locker rooms, in practices, etc.

Missing those times with the people, most of whom had become friends, where they were in something together, and knowing that was lost forever is what was ripping his guts out the most. There is no substitute for this in life.

It’s the people. It’s not the actions. It’s not the stuff we acquire. It’s not fame and recognition. It’s the people we care about and the personal one-on-one experiences we have with them.

Treasure that.

Replacing a Head Gasket

Head gasket on a four cylinder engine block

Head gasket on a four cylinder engine block

Skills either evolve to match the reality we’re in, or the reality we create for ourselves eventually evolves to match the skills we have, although sometimes it moves so fast they can get out of sync.

Replacing a head gasket is one of those car repairs that, to a mechanic, is not difficult, but is beyond the basic skills of the casual, do it yourself tune-up mechanics. It’s harder than it looks to get it right.

In days gone by, back when cars were simpler, many people attempted repairs like this. Many knew how our cars functioned and were intrigued by them. Nowadays it’s more of a magic box taken for granted as a means to take us from place to place.

Music used to be communal. We either sat around and listed together, or we created together, all in one physical space. Nowadays we hit a share button. Many of the nuances and much of the knowledge is lost to automatically generated, style based, motifs. As mere listeners we are often spoon fed what we want based on a combination of what we already have, and some other mysterious factors we know little about.

We lived through a generation where computers were the thing to understand. That’s all gone now, too. It’s just a box that let’s us download music, shop, send e-mail, get our 15 minutes of attention on Facebook, or look for porn.

The depth of understanding is gone. People today get from A to Z and don’t really look at anything in the middle. Look at the bizarre spelling and word use errors so frequent in today’s communication. There is no depth of understanding. We’re skimming along the surface.

Kids graduate and come to me looking for a job. It’s amazing to me the crap they have been fed in school. They don’t know how to do much, but think they’re entitled to a good life because they showed up and asked for it.

Where does it stop? The key is that we (parents mostly) need to instill the value of initiative. Initiative is a characteristic that has people want to seek out knowledge, and want to work to create something worthwhile. I must be careful here to be clear that someone wanting to achieve “success” may have some initiative, but that’s not what I’m referring to. ‘Want’ isn’t enough and ‘success’ isn’t really the best goal. I am referring to the initiative to grapple with and understand the mechanics or depth of something for the mere sake of it unto itself.

How does one replace a head gasket? How does one add a hard drive or a faster CPU to a computer? What does it mean to write in the proper way to convey meaning or elicit emotion? What can I understand about music and art that will make the experience of it more fulfilling? What can I learn about how people tick that will make me an effective leader?

Resolving these kinds of questions requires a depth of thought that is not being instilled anymore because what little culture of initiative there is exists all around the end result rather than the value and beauty of the work/knowledge it takes to get there.

Parents, rather than have the kids do more, work faster, get involved in more things, consider the value of having them experience things deeply. To learn to really think about things, to fully grasp the experience of creating their piece of art and see it all the way through, whatever it is. That’s a start.

Be You


Richard Branson being Richard Branson

Two of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time are Mike Tyson and Mohammad Ali. Tyson never fooled himself into thinking he was going to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and Ali certainly didn’t approach fights as if he was going to achieve a first round knockout (Tyson won his first 19 professional bouts by knockout, 12 of which were in the first round).

You are who you are, and you’re likely not going to be able to consciously change it significantly. What you can focus on is being the best you possible. Play to your strengths. Your strengths probably fall in line with what you love. Those are the things you should invest in.

The alternative is to work on your weaknesses. The perfectionist in all of us is, to varying degrees, challenged by those. It’s hard to back away from that challenge. Harder if you place a higher value on some definition of perfection. Sure, you want to keep them from being a major liability, but the most you can hope for is to turn them into stronger weaknesses, and that’s with great personal effort. Effort that would be better utilized leveraging your strengths.

The 80:20 rule applies here — 80% of the good stuff in your life probably comes from 20% of the things you do. Why not do more of that, and focus more on those things? We tend to build our lives according to rules and perceptions made acceptable by others. Throw off those chains of reason (and unreasonable perfection) and focus more on what you love, what makes you feel good. You will succeed more. It’s not a perfect recipe — some balance is always required — but when you’re happy everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, seems so much better, and easier.

Be as you as you can be.


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