Not everything has to have a practical purpose. I write to entertain.
Do I have to network?
I don't really want to network. Can't we just enjoy each other's presence and connect over a coffee.
How do you see the world?
Oh our collective busyness. We hold it tight in our hands. No clamoring to be heard will overcome it. Earnest listening remains an elusive wish, a hope that is ungiven. Spare me your pearls. Withhold from telling me your extreme ideology. For how I interpret the world is custom to me.
We create magic when we give others the time to tell their stories. It is like multiplying the books you read. Books, like bees, have to make a comeback. It is in listening to others that we help them maneuver around the natural and technological barriers that frustrate them.
Take your time, I'm listening
When listening to others allow them to pour themselves out without interrupting them.
Don't clamor to be heard
We start bending at an early age because we are doing something that is not authentic to our true self. Don’t waste time trying to get someone to value you. Don’t waste time clamoring to be heard – speak your own truth.
The artists are our soothsayers
I like to stay close to art. It shows me the personal expressions of others and how they see the world. It keeps me curious. It keeps me from having to slunk into the understood. Art keeps me from sliding into vocabulary with no taste. The Internet with all its knowledge cannot feed my human senses.
Love / Hate relationship with social media
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. On the one hand I love communicating with friends, family, and coworkers. On the other hand, there is this sort of collective longing that always seems to show up. A sort of comparison type of structure that underpins or at least drives social media. I suppose some of it can be good, such as competition in business. But comparison amongst individuals is not good to me. As a girl Dad, my wife and I are always engaged in building our girls self-esteem. We ensured they can and do stand on their own two feet. They are strong women, like their mom. Still, I worry about younger generations. I was recently on a plane and had the good fortune of sitting next to some teenage athletes. I was amazed at how fast they could scroll through their phones and do it all while carrying on cogent conversations. I sort of felt like a doddering president as I slowly pulled out my old school hardback book to read. Ok, I did not mean to say doddering president. My mind was in a sort of whirling dervish from a news clip I saw. What I meant to say is that I have perceptions. Perceptions about social media. My perception is that social media can make it more difficult to have deeper conversations. We need conversations that allow our teens to pour themselves out without using the iPhone as a focal point. Now I was taught many, many years ago that judgement stops all conversation. So, if you want to write or speak longer with folks try not to judge. I want to be careful not to judge social media or at least paint it with such a broad stroke. But at a minimum we need to set down our busyness and be present for those around us. Or we need to become better multi-taskers. Maybe we are, I am not a good enough amateur social scientist to figure it out, but I do worry. I worry about how long my butt can take these plane seats and listen to these kids talk incessantly about their Instagram accounts.
Dream Your Dream
The dream shifts from time to time. Can you recognize when the center of gravity has shifted? It’s not easy. People want to hear and see themselves coming back as themselves on a variety of platforms. They want to make it. They aspire and want to turn these into real world actions. Many of them want to and try. Many of them won’t realize their specific dream, but it should not be taken for naught. If you learn something while doing it, then it is worth it. You might have discovered you are an exploratory learner and need structure or scaffolding to help make sense of your thoughts. What is your melody? What is your cadence? What is important is to resonate. Create curiosity with your own style. Awareness might follow but then again maybe you need to couple it with reach. There are plenty of Marketing guru’s here to help you figure it out. The difficult part of the Internet and platforms like LinkedIn is how much of the content becomes homogenized. It’s like a cacophony of Jackdaws sitting in the tree limbs squawking. It was Ernest Hemingway that said, “There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring.” Dream your dream. This is what is important. You don’t have to live unlike others. But you do need to embrace your own style and your own authenticity to make it.
Do you want to be right or do you want a relationship?
Although I make a living with computers, I prefer to live my private life in a world with sensations. A short walk outside was all it took to remind me of this. While strolling down a favorite path I witnessed two birds in a fracas about 20 feet ahead on the side of the path. I must admit I don’t know much about birds. I have no fancy ornithological theory to explain what was happening. In an instant they flew behind some bushes, and I could hear more flutter than I could see feathers. Before I knew it, it was over. It seemed all too brief. I let my observations wash over me. They kept me there for moment. No analysis was done, just gratitude in getting to see nature. The more I reflected on it, I thought about how our society holds analysis in high esteem. I remember my daughter telling me her teacher was showing her how to analyze a piece of literature. Of course, like most parents, I proffered a soft response of, “What about reading for fun? Is that part of it?” “No Dad it’s about analysis and breaking things down,” she replied. Sounds fun and interesting. Sort of like when Kafka put forth, “an intellectual sawdust the others have chewed up for me.” For me, I need to stay close to the primal feelings I have about issues. There are times where I might need to abstract myself up and out, but sometimes it feels good to realize that I am part of nature and not separate from it. Sometimes it feels good to let go of my scientific rigor and allow my intuition to guide me. I might be wrong. It’s okay to be wrong in this case. In fact, it is somewhat cathartic to admit that you don’t have to be right. Being blessed with a long-lasting marriage I often remind myself, “Do you want to be right, or do you want a relationship?” Of course, I choose the relationship. Nature moves imperceptibly while most of the modern world has no patience for things to work these days. I can demand things to run on time, as they did in the days of old. It is easy to take the promises of those around me and not do analysis. A blind acceptance will not suffice in most situations. But in nature, I can let go, I can be part of it with no analysis demanded. I only need to slow down and look for beauty.
What's in a brand?
What’s in a brand name? A lot it turns out. I decided to test my own marketing research with a new brand I call, “Ruprecht’s Thirst Quencher.” My survey results came back with a 3:1 ratio that people hated it. So right there, I’ve already garnered market attention. Now indulge me for a moment. If you are going to be a savvy marketing person you must listen closely to the market. It’s sort of like going from Twitter to X in one thought, it’s so easy when you own the company. But even if you own the company, you must still be listening. You have to listen for words like, “On point or cringy.” Now Ruprecht’s Thirst Quencher™ came back slightly off-point. Personally, I like to use art and inspiration when thinking about a new brand name. Then I apply my first impressions to see if it is unique. If it is not unique then I try to copy a well-known brand name. For example, Hulu might become Mulu, “the last toilet seat you will ever need.” Ultimately and regardless of what you come up with, if people are curious about it, you probably have a winner. Someone might even call it gucci, like “oh that’s gucci.” I think it means cool, I had to look it up and spent 10 minutes looking at luxury purses. Under no circumstances should you ever use the phrase, “Tom foolery.” Happy branding.
The Wellness festival
Have you ever noticed in your local community how many silly wellness day events there are? There are weekend festivals to help you understand the right amount gluten-free cheese to be eating. As I walk thru these events someone is inevitably acting like it is fun. They tell me the different events, “Over here in our over 50 tent we have the Hemorrhoids Help Group.” Give me a break. You might be some troglodyte from the North American cave system. For you, the purple haired lady calls out, “Sir maybe you would like to visit our vitamin tent? We offer a variety vitamin C and D horse pills to keep your sores from festering.” Of course, they don’t tell you that you will be stopped up for a week. They have another special laxative tent for that. Try our special tea, ‘oolong-colon blow’ it’s guaranteed to work before you can get to the porta-a-jon. Someone talked me into getting my blood pressure checked to see how bad of shape I’m in. They had several unregistered nurses and some do-gooders standing by to help me. While I was sitting there the do-gooder asked me, “So what brings you to the wellness festival today?” To which I reply, “Oh just trying to get healthy and my wife wanted to walk thru it.” Just stop it already. I hate being here. I am only thinking about the BBQ sandwich my wife promised me later. If you are lucky and I usually am, you’ll find some local shaman talking about the benefits of crystals. She might say something like, “If you place this rose quartz crystal on your forehead at night you will no longer have a migraine when you wake up.” To which, I think is most likely because I rolled the crystal into my mouth and chipped my tooth. So even though my mouth hurts my headache is now gone. And viola instant quackery. I just can’t do it anymore. Maybe if they advertised something like “there’s going to be a miserable group of sourpuss men in the Hemorrhoids Help Group tent, come make fun of them and it will make you feel better,” I would go. If you are going to host and put on a wellness festival at least stop acting like it’s fun or at a minimum have a BBQ truck off in the distance that we can burn calories walking to.
Nature does not care
How horrible it must be to live forever. Nature teaches us to let go and set aside the things we don’t need. Nature does not rush. It does not thrust everything upon us like the modern world. Nature does not yell, “Figure me out!” Nature says, “Admire me or do not – I could care less what you think."
The problem with social media is that it brings overwhelming information to relationships. It encourages us to judge and compare ourselves to others in many cases. From the news cycle to sharing images, we share without regard, not realizing that we are short circuiting our conversations. We share a new promotion or raise not realizing our neighbor just lost his or her job. Worse, is we don’t give the other side a chance to share or we deprive them of the chance to tell their story. Our busyness leaves us no time to listen to one another, to be present for those that are in front of us, to be fully there when we are talking to others.
The power of writing
Writing is my refuge. It’s where I go to cast a spell on another. I use it to craft my incantations both strong and weak. It allows me to tiptoe atop a picket fence. It brings me solace in times of strife and the power to absorb change. It can be a hard place to live. Many ships have set sail without me. It's ok, my magic does not depend on others. Twice around the world is a treasure enough for me. Nature and solitude are my companions.
Double trouble with technology
Technology is taking the place of skills. I don't know if this is good or bad. What I do know is that working with technology can create an environment that feels sterile. Like a hospital. They greet us with salutations from the land of Jargonia. They say, "In our country we talk about hiring people that can multi-task and communicate at a world class level. We teach our younger employees how to be polite and speak with euphemism. Eventually, they will graduate to be a Senior person that can sling clichés within a community of practice. Our workers must learn to imitate so they can master the language of Jargonia." None of this takes place without the loss of authenticity.
In praise of our teachers
The job of the teacher is to take the pain out of learning. It is hard work to infuse lessons with vibrant colors and stories that set aside the sterility of the technology. If done well, we act as a sounding board to allow others to articulate their perceptions of a problem. We give our students a break from their “to-do lists from hell.” By listening to others, we help them parse the differences between what they mean versus what they say. Hooray for teachers.
The power of being invisible
I’ve seen people complain about being invisible in the workplace. To this I say that there is great power in being invisible. I need to pull up an old quote that I read by Bill Russell. He was a famous NBA basketball player back in the day. He was adept at positioning himself where the next play was going to be. He said, “Invisibility opens doors, creates opportunity, where none seemed to exist before. When we are unseen, we have an enormous advantage in moving in, doing things we wish or need to do, and in the process, to change the very dynamic of existing, seemingly closed, patterns.” So, there you have it. If you are already in position and can impact others without their knowing it, then you have discovered the power of invisibility. To pull it off requires a secret spell. Quotation is attributed to Bill Russell.
Eat more chocolate
I don't have the best of everything but I do have some dark chocolate. I eat it every night when the clock is split in half. It is the sort of thing that transports me from whatever cares and anxious thoughts are gerbiling in my mind, into the present moment. It holds me there.
I wish had done better in my stats class. If I had applied myself, I might have come away with some valuable tools and discernment. Insights like not categorizing people. Many years ago, I learned about overfitting with data. Overfitting as best as I understand it means we are being too discriminatory. If I apply it to those around me, I might look past them. In truth, most people are a collection of interests and emotions. Social media extremism and our hurry up atmosphere have caused the loss of the ability to appreciate those in front of me for who they are. If I am cavalier in my attitude about it, I subconsciously slap a label or title on them. As my Hollywood friends say, "I've typecast them." To my friends in the software world, it means something else. At any rate, I pour all I know into that label and I eventually arrive at a non-thinking consensus. I might decide this person is not interesting or she is this or that. I think I understand them. I do not. I apply this to the complex issues of the day from politics to communities of people. It's the sort of thing that everybody does. It is popular sentiment, but this does not make it right. I need to remember that judgement leads to an abrupt stop in thinking. There's no more discussion or discovery. I need to give others the time to tell their stories and be who they are. As I listen to them it's like multiplying the books I read. I can help them discover what is already within them and bring it out. Boy I wish I had paid attention in stats class; I'm still figuring it out.
Everything show it's age with time
Everything shows it’s age with time. Over time, even people begin to change in their thinking. As a Gen X’er, I straddle the Boomer Blockade and the Millennials. I am here to tell my older counter parts to relax. The younger generation has things well in hand. They are skillful and thoughtful in how they work. What older workers need to do is to accept and adapt to change. This is good news. Now that I know what to do, I can admit I’m terrible at it. Some of us older workers need to take different roles. This will allow the younger and more agile workers to position themselves. In most cases, we can fill a fabulous supporting cast member role. A role that helps the younger generation shine and get to the next level. It takes nothing away from us. My point is this, to progress we need to let go of outdated thinking. Sort of like letting go of anger. As the world grows more complex, it requires a nimble mind to ensure we don’t fall into extreme thinking. Gen X’ers can offer wisdom to help younger professionals discern and understand that not everything falls into simple dogmatic right and wrong camps. Many ideas do not. We should resist extreme ideologies. Those of us that are older and have mellowed in our thinking should stand as the guard rails to help those coming up. If you can’t move out at least move over and be a supporting cast member that helps others to shine.
Accomplishing team goals. I think the conundrum for many of us is that it’s hard to follow other people’s direction and ideas. We get focused on following explicit processes rather than just adopting the values and principles of certain methodologies. It ends up moving us out of our natural flow into something that feels foreign. Can we agree on a worthy goal? If we can, then there’s a good chance, we’ll succeed. Start by having your individual team members list out the practical things they need to happen to feel fulfilled and successful in their work. Try to personalize them, customize them for team members. Maybe ask them which ideas they believe in and which ones they don’t. The ones they don’t believe in will be the ones they won’t get behind. Image below: Don't forget the fun!
Leaving Twitter and X.
Why I left Twitter. There seems to be a certain amount of meanness circulating around. An amalgam of prejudice and extremism that I don’t want to be a part of. Actually, I won’t tolerate it, not in my feed anyways. Not today Satan! We need to embrace kindness and stop this ridiculous book banning happening in our school libraries. I feel like we are regressing. Running head long into anesthetizing jargon and language that does not do anything but demonize whole swaths of people.
The trouble with computers
In the post-Covid era my approach to work has changed. My “to-do” list from hell is measurable. It feels like a never-ending stream of interruptions. The list keeps piling up from emails, direct messages, and meetings. At some point I end up recycling taskers from the bottom of queue to the top and swear, “Today is the day I finish this.” Of course, this pales in comparison to what so many young Moms are doing: getting the family up, fixing breakfast, getting their kids dressed and off to school. Now, I don’t mean to throw the dads under the bus but let’s be real, Dad has already woofed down his food in case he does not get an official breakfast. At work we are expected to drive high-performing cultures. And we do. We drive each other bonkers with gentle reminders and interruptions. There are important issues to discuss. Issues like whether you are willing to drink the office swill or are you one of those 'bougie' latte drinkers? Well, there’s no time to discuss these in depth because most of us have a meeting to get to. Which brings me to an important point. We need to make time for fun. The truth is the human mind needs to play. I mean these days I barely have time for checking my social media let alone conducting any real structured procrastination. I think it is because of the computer, I’m still analyzing and will report back when I have proof. I am putting it on my list.
Instead of quiet quitting how about quiet performing
Quiet quitting is crap. I was recently reading about the "quiet quitting" trend. In the current vernacular it sounds like an excuse. Instead of "quiet quitting" how about we do "quiet performing." "Quiet performing" is when we surge our performance when needed and we take an operational pause if that's needed, without drawing attention to ourselves. We should normalize taking the initiative and getting things done. The best thing we can do for people that are burned out is to meet them where they are at in life. We can be present and listen to them. We can provide good leadership that stamps out fear and sheds artificial busyness when we see it.
The self check out kiosk
Making sense of the modern world. Probably like your community, almost overnight our grocery stores have installed the self-check-out kiosks. This is even more evidence that technology is taking the place of skills throughout our society. Except for when my wife was telling me that I was scanning too slow, I actually enjoyed being the checker myself. I need to work on my bagging skills. Like most men I can’t multitask for crap, but before I get distracted, I want talk about the impressions I absorbed during the process. I feel empathy for the hourly checkers standing on their feet, mindlessly scanning item after item. As an aside, I am inclined to think this is a good use for technology and it is ok to displace the people doing this with the exception of teenagers. I feel like every young person should have a character-building job that they can say sucked. Nothing makes those of us carrying the financial load happier. Now back to my impressions of the self-checkout kiosk. I don’t relish scanning 100 items so I will go to someone more efficient than myself. The point I want convey indirectly is that it’s not just that technology is here to stay, it’s that the mindset that comes from accepting technology is as critical as the automation itself. I’m still learning how to find the kumquats in the look up catalog. I find it useful to ask the teenager in charge of the check out pods if he or she can help me find the fruit look up portion on the kiosk screen. Sometimes I get too many of something and need to ask where to leave it. When I leave the store, I know I will have done my job in helping the next generation build out their character.
Stepping away from hyper-consumerism and hyper-individualism
“The only truth is music.” – Jack Kerouac. As I watched both college and pro football over the weekend it struck me that we’ve become hyper-individualized. Our great American football is dominated by hyper-consumerism. I don’t know that the clock is ever going to turn back. What I do know is that I can’t take one more stupid insurance advertisement, at least until Monday night. I think we should all call the insurance firms and play their commercials back to them in an automated loop fashion. We could even offer them a survey at the end to see if they enjoyed their service. I don’t want to sound cranky, so I’ll leave you with a change of tone. “But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
We need to pay attention to oblique references. I recently made one myself in an earlier post, not thinking about it. It was about making things run on time. I am not a historian but remember reading about Mussolini from WWII promising to make the trains run on time. Fast forward to today and I can see it is easy to take the promise of others, particularly our politicians. We must resist the temptation to swallow the promise. We might get someone who makes bad decisions for our democracy. It is further hampered by our hurry up society where there is limited or no patience for things to work these days. We needn’t be reflexive in our thought process. Not everything is simple to understand in today’s modern times. Some issues require nuanced understanding and complex mental processing. They require education. It took my hamster brain a couple of turns to read this quote from Dr. Leor Zimgrod, Junior Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, “Subtle difficulties with complex mental processing may subconsciously push people towards extreme doctrines that provide clearer more defined explanation of the world, making them susceptible to toxic forms of dogmatic and authoritarian ideologies.” Now I’ll admit I’m tired just reading that quote. I guess it articulated my thoughts about incrementalism not being a bad thing. In business and government maybe, we should take the lower risk route of incrementalism in our decisions. But then I start thinking about the competition. It’s a vicious cycle, I need to get back out to nature and give the hamster a rest. I hope you can too.
What is behind the giving of a social media like?
What’s behind the giving of a social media like? I did some robust research, by robust I mean a search on Google. It did not take long before I realized I needed to refine my question to giving likes on LinkedIn. Apparently, there are different kinds of likes on different kinds of platforms. I thought this was going to be a simple research project. It was not. It turns out that there are some 30 – 50 different types of social media content posts, depending how you categorize them. They range as you would expect from quotes and self-congratulatory notes to the usual sterile marketing infographic, just to name a few. There’s the how to, the tips, the selfies, and the usual holiday greetings. Quite frankly it was overwhelming. What started out as simple curiosity and ignorance was rapidly moving into the academic world. My motivation is ebbing and when my enthusiasm slows, I throw back a handful of M&M’s and finish up. I tried to answer why we give likes, but realized it is so individualistic that it would be presumptuous to assume why people like things. Some of us like things because we want to give the appearance of cordiality. We want to lift-up our friends, our colleagues and take part in their getting promoted. While in other cases we find the video touching. Sometimes we like people’s outfits and other times we want to support the causes that align with our values. All I can say is I hope if you are just getting started in creating you will continue. The more you create, the closer you come to finding your own authentic voice. It becomes easier the more you do it. You also become less reliant on likes. As to why people like some posts and not others, I’m going to leave it to the assessment makers. The answers are out there, but the weekend is calling me here.
The gentle reminder
The gentle reminder. Some days are more task oriented than others. Nowadays it seems as if I get clobbered by my never-ending to-do lists. Like most of you, I get tasks from my peers, my boss, my dotted lines, my subordinates, and the computer system itself. “It is now time for you to sign off on such and such.” Probably like you, I have administrative overhead that comes with the job. The examples are endless from completing form fields in a database to helping someone find a document or piece of data to name a few. The real benefit comes in between the spaces before and after I complete the tasks. I get time to think. Depending on how I receive the task I might use the opportunity to learn. If by chance, I got the task from my boss, I gain the opportunity to learn perspective. I get the benefit of asking, "what are you giving me and what do you expect me to do with it?" I get the added benefit of looking silly if I don’t understand it. Sometimes I have to send my own “gentle reminders or follow ups,” to those whom my task completion list depends upon. Please forgive my sarcasm but, who came up with the stupid, “a gentle reminder or a gentle nudge,” phrase anyways?! I would like to give you a gentle reminder that I can hear you trundling by my cubicle. I would also like to remind you that this is a no-trundling zone, so move out buster! It was probably some gleeful self-help guru. If there is such a thing as a good task, then it’s the one that pops up spontaneously where we get to help another human that is speaking with us. It reminds me that I learn when conversing, I learn when I am telling. The point is if I am thoughtful, I can even learn when to be away from my laptop when I know the system will send me a gentle reminder to complete such and such task before I get the first Final Reminder.
Make your own magic
There’s no better way to do this than taking a trip to the beach. Living in Florida I was reminded of this on a recent trip to the beach. As an aside, for my friends up north this is but one of the many luxuries we Floridians gain by living here. Other perks include wet underwear, high humidity, scenic scrub, and a plethora of man-eating insects to name a few. Like most men at the beach I relegate myself to just a few of activities: eating snacks, watching people, and building a sandcastle. The water is still a touch chilly to get in to body surf my paunchy dad-body, so I resign to building a sandcastle. Location is everything when building a sandcastle. If the sand is too dry you end up ferrying buckets of water to make it work. The ideal spot for most amateur builders is just where surf comes up and then returns back out to the ocean. As I started building my sandcastle with semi-wet sand, I was imagining something ornate with towers, a draw bridge and of course the obligatory moat. As I sculpted, in truth it was more like scooping, but I was still imagining. My creativity was just barely kicking in yet. It could have been because I ate my last peanut butter and jelly sandwich too fast. Now I am fully into my ornate castle and have built a solid wall with a flowing moat of salt-water coming across my drawbridge. It began getting trapped behind my main wall into a small pool. “It’s a hot tub,” I tell myself. It was about this time when I realized my castle was not really progressing from my imagination into a fully creative work. In truth it looked like a mound of sand trapping a small pool of water from going back into the ocean. I started to think about the difference between imagination and creativity. It dawned on me that I had plenty of the former but was less trained in the latter and like most people I realized building a sandcastle while philosophizing is not a good combination. I needed to figure out a way around this mental blocker and get back to my imagined Disneyesque castle. The only thing I could think of was to get another snack. As I left my castle, I noticed a young boy of about 8 or 9 years of age come up and start to tinker with my castle. Can you imagine?! I mean the nerve of that kid. I wanted to yell out, “Start your own work of art, punk!” But being a mature man-child, I took the higher road and said nothing. As it turns out the kid did improve upon my castle. Apparently, his imagination and creativity were more tightly coupled than mine. No matter, I am sure he can’t match my ability to place random strangers with the type of work they do. Like the couple that just strolled by, they probably met on the Bumbler or whatever they call it. She looks like she works at the Piercing Pagoda kiosk in the mall. Wherever you live, I hope you can make your own magic. I hope you can bridge the gap between your imagination and creative ability. If for some reason your castle ends up looking more mound-dish than one of the magical fairytale ones we see at Disney, remember you can always retreat to your snacks and hot tub. Your own little slice of heaven as we say in Florida.
Long days but short years - elementary and middle school years
Long days but short years. This is how someone once described the process of raising young children to me. Of course, these days it seems like you need an endless supply of energy. Although I am an empty nester, I spent this past year cheering on my neighbors as they plowed through the purgatory of middle school and the endless stream of after school activities. “Do I miss the activities?” they ask me. No I do not. Nowadays I don’t even try to disguise my glee at being done with this phase of life. If memory serves it seems like I had an awful lot of homework as my second daughter and I worked to complete these formative school years. I originally thought ok, "I did school, completed college, finished grad school and now I’m done!" Nope. I had to repeat the 6th, 7th, 8th grades as an unpaid Uber driver. The tips were terrible. Sometimes I would be given last minute assignments which I had to complete or there would be hell to pay. I remember having to read a book in one night so I could recall key information for a report that was of course…due the next day. Ah good times. God help you if your kid is playing travel ball or on a traveling gymnastics team, I hear horror stories. The costs alone are enough to make you head to the old YMCA summer camp. To all you young moms and dads out there, enjoy your summer because the school year is right around the corner.
Quality over cost
Occasionally I take a serious look at manufacturing across different industries and different companies. It is easy to see when the bureaucrats or bean counters as they used to call them, have gained control of a company. They put cost first and above everything else. This is wrong. Cost should be last. Fortunately, my company puts safety at the very top. Safety of our people and safety of our products to do no harm. They ensure that quality of product is next. We even talk about the quality of our processes as they are made for others. Sometimes people are trying to perform under crappy processes. It takes finesse and insight to recognize and calculate the conditions required for success of a product or service. It is rarely just a number. There is a reliability as it relates to timing and the timeliness of outputs, inputs, people, and daily cadences. Everything should be present and on time, always. Cost should be last and not in front of these other priorities. It is important but should not be the top priority.
Summer time for graduates
Into summer we go. One of my favorite things to do is to listen to and cheer on our new college graduates. It gives me hope. They bring new thinking and new energy. I wonder what kinds of thinking these new hopefuls must have to succeed in our modern times. Although it is an old concept, the idea of “systems thinking” comes to mind as still being valid. It seems new employees will need to be able to widen and tighten their analytical aperture at will. This is something that is hard. I know when I am faced with the anesthetizing jargon of technology my mental chipmunk freezes up. It gets worse if I have to actually understand it. Layered thinking seems like it might be important. This type of thinking is similar to musicians layering pitches and frequencies to make music. Here people need help recognizing the interdepencies between things. I need to understand the nuances of how fast or how slow something is happening. People in my demographic recognize change but need to see the nuances between subjects. I need the next generation to parse out the differences. Contextual thinking might be another area. By this I mean the ability to take the pain and sterility out of learning new subjects. I need the next generation to translate technology and create context that people can relate to. I need humor and illustration, but humor that is without meanness. I need you to bring your own style. Don’t disguise yourself as someone else. Despite the constant drum beat of STEM, STEM, STEM, there is a need for artists. Artists that understand the ratios of beauty but can push people like me to see differently. Social media seems to give us a sort of transitive property in our relationships. I guess a large point of modern society is prediction. There’s a Maslow’s-hierarchy-of-needs feeling to it. There is a “but” that comes with it in my mind. It happens in our judgement. There is so much information that many of us rush to judgement. Judgment stops all thought. So, to the new graduates push yourself to imagine what could be, then go out and build it. Stop telling yourself you can’t and ask yourself why not me?! It feels so good. Once you realize this hurry up and get out here in corporate America, I’m breathing through a straw here.
My wife loves me and occasionally gives me loving reminders. She says things like, “Your iPhone flashlight is on in your back pocket.” Or “You need to work on your diet.” The fact is that if you are slightly heavy, like me or even a little portly, there are a whole series of prejudices that come with it. We all know this. We caution our kids about it and sadly we caution each other about it constantly in society. There is one secret that we know that non-girthers do not know. We are better floaters. Not necessarily stronger swimmers but we can float like manatees and never get tired. I can think of a dozen lifesaving scenarios where this is important but I’m going focus on one. If you happen to enjoy going on cruise ships like me, then you know if the cruise ship capsizes, which is highly likely, the people that are heavier are going to outlast the skinnier folks. I will survive. This is provided that my flashlight mode is not on attracting sharks. At this point, you are probably asking, “What is the point?” The point is you don’t want to be a fat guy, floating in the ocean with your iPhone flashlight on. The larger point is this: as you get older, learning new skills like turning on your iPhone flashlight with your butt, is still possible if you can remember how you did it.
The case for college
The case for college. Occasionally my students will ask me if they have to meet the page count for a paper that is due. I tell them I put these parameters in to give them something to push against. It's more about helping students think deeper in the thought process. I remind them that judgement stops all conversation. Try not judge and you will be able to expound on your sentences. Of course, with the recent surge in artificial intelligence writing programs there's a risk to writing a lot of blather. So do your research. At a minimum write so that you entertain. Vary the lengths of your sentences, as Roy Peter Clark says. So why go to college? It takes time to learn the deeper skill sets like software development and systems thinking. College gives you that time. There is a difference between education and training regarding our skills and I encourage prospective university students to cultivate both as they move forward. Education and academia will often point us towards the existence of something. That something might be that a concept, a theory, or that a possibility exists. Without some awareness you can spend years hunting for a solution. Worse you can apply a bad design or overlook a well known programming flaw. Training on the other hand teaches us the "how to do it" type of skills. You have to have both in our modern society. If you don't know that something even exists than you will probably not think to use it. Our great universities teach us the fundamentals so we can adapt. If we choose to specialize later in life, we can do that. But learn the fundamentals well. College teaches us how to step back and recognize the conventions that govern our businesses and our lives. Our professors teach us the how to classify and determine existence of things. Don’t let money or motivation be a reason for not going to college. These can be overcome. Don’t fall into the pithy social media explanation of things. Most things require nuance in understanding.
Everything shows its age with time
Everything shows its age with time. Eventually it might slide into the title of “a classic.” It will most likely be labeled as “dated.” Nowadays this seems to be happening faster and faster. I recently rewatched the original “Transformers” movie that released in 2007. It looked dated to me, which surprised me because as someone that is on the back nine of his career, I could have sworn this was just yesterday. Maybe I’m dated?! No this can’t be, despite my brother-in-law telling me if any music is outside of the 1980’s I won’t like it. That’s not true, I love Hootie or uh..Darius Rucker’s Wagon Wheel song. I think it’s new. It’s for sure a “classic.” While I’m at it can I get a shout out for Rush? Greatest band ever. Don’t try to tell me you like Sammy Hagar over David Lee Roth. It will just piss me off. Now the noise is another issue. I noticed in the “Transformer” movies there is a ton of metal scraping and other digitally enhanced stuff. I thought ok this is a sure sign of showing your age if you complain about the volume. It was more than that though. I decided to test it and stopped watching cold turkey and went to read a book. My brain instantly felt better. I’m sure there are many neuroscientists working on the impact of stimulus or dopamine impact on our brains. It’s real and I think they are on to something. I noticed in some of my favorite modern movies the acting is crap. They cover it up with CGI and special effects. I don’t know what to do other than to wear my camel hair jacket, drink scotch and tell everyone the world is going to hell. But it is not. It is simply moving faster and forward. It’s really a question of our adapting to it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a do some research on Boston’s Hitch a Ride to determine who is playing those fantastic guitar riffs.