Friday, June 9, 2017

Are You Too Busy to Take a Vacation?

A Facebook friend posted a short video clip of himself and his young daughter sharing where they would be vacationing with their family this summer. Then they asked Facebook friends to share where they would be vacationing this summer. At last count, there were1,300 views of the video, 90+ "likes" and 65 comments!

The comments were good to great and interesting until I read the comment, "What's a vacation? It's been so long, I've forgotten."

Really!? That comment made me sad.

We seem to lift up and honor "busyness" as sign of strength, a sign of endurance, a sign of competitiveness, a sign of "they" can't do without me, I'm indispensable.

When I read a comment like that, I begin to think this person is a workaholic and perhaps a micro-manager. I wonder what its like to work with or for this individual.

Taking a vacation is as essential as getting enough sleep every night, eating a balance diet, getting exercise, being relational with others and learning as part of one's continuous improvement. 

I fall into bad habits and ruts. It's the way I've always done it. It's working, don't mess with it. That's not me. Faster is better. And... "I don't have time for that!" Vacations challenge this thinking.

Here is what I know for sure about taking vacations:

Vacations improve my health and well being. It usually takes me two or three days to unwind, but stress subsides, heart rate slows down, sleep becomes longer and deeper! Studies show taking vacations actually increase longevity and quality of life! 

Vacations improve relationships including marriages, family members and work cohorts! I know I can stand to make better connections with those I love and care about.

Vacations inspire my creativity and jump start my productivity. Vacations remove me from my ruts and offer new vistas and stimulation for ideas. The world gets a little smaller when I travel and experience new cultures and meet new people. My ignorance takes a hit!

All of this only works if I leave work behind including the office laptop and office smartphone! I unplug from my work world.

Planning a vacation and creating anticipation of going someplace new is part of the vacation experience! I begin to imagine what it will be like to experience the unfamiliar. 

When I travel, one of the things I do to keep a vacation alive after I return is to take a small blank journal along to jot down notes, thoughts, experiences, sketches and rubbings of what I saw and did as well as the people I met. With a glue stick, I paste ticket stubs and maps I used into these journals. I leave blank spaces so I can print out photos and insert them. I reference these travel journals and relive the moments. I find looking at these journals to be healthy and stress-reducing. They spark creativity and bring joy! These journals inspire me to dream of our next vacation! I don't leave home without it!

"The ant is knowing and wise, but doesn't know enough to take a vacation."                                            - Clarence Day

Friday, May 26, 2017

What Makes You Happy?

Mo Gawket, author of Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy and CBO at Google X, realized for all his success, he wasn't happy. In fact, increased wealth seemed to contribute to more unhappiness. After a lot of research, he came up with a mathematical formula for permanent happiness! Thirteen years later, he got to apply the formula with the unexpected death of his son.

Happiness is greater than or equal to your perceptions of events in your life minus your expectations of how life should be.

His algorithm seems accurate. I guess if you don't know how to be happy, or if you're not clear on what makes you happy, then Gawket's book might be worth a read. 

Without reading his book, here is what I know for sure about my happiness. First, a couple of self-discipline practices I have to contribute to my happiness:

The practice of being honest with myself. I continuously try to be aware and work on overcoming my self-deception. I ask for feedback from others beginning with, "How am I doing?"

The practice of avoiding comparing myself to others. I recognize I am one of a kind. I practice loving myself just as I am, but I don't stop practicing on improving! I celebrate my uniqueness and victories and overcoming my failures.

The practice of being mindful of the ordinary and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Running water out of the kitchen faucet is incredible! Duct tape, pocket knives and dryer sheets are life changing!

The practice of being mindful in the company of others. I try to be interested rather than interesting. I avoid judging others, especially if they have different beliefs, ideas or opinions.

I practice simplifying. Letting go of things and not owning means more living. I pay attention to how stuff impacts me. More stuff—more time I have to spend paying attention to it and its upkeep. More living space—more cleaning, bigger carbon footprint. More clothes—more closets. My one exception ... more books, more bookshelves!

The practice of Carrpe Diem! is gratitude. There is so much I have, so little I need. I practice being mindful of who and what is in my life. Being grateful for what I have brings me joy and happiness. 

The practice of Carrpe Diem! is also about forgiveness and asking for forgiveness. I am an imperfect, scarred, mistake-prone human being. I step on landmines of others and cause pain. To ask and receive forgiveness, is another start to happiness.
What makes me happy? 

- Waking up before sunrise, before the birds are singing and celebrating a new day of possibilities! 
- Watching my glass fill with water from the kitchen faucet and then drinking it! 
- Taking Jackson for a walk before the sun rises.
- Wrapping both hands around that first mug of delicious coffee, smelling its aroma, and taking that first sip. 
- Seeing people smile after I have smiled at them. 
- Hearing someone say or receiving a note telling me I made a difference in their life.                                                                       
Marion's Piazza
- Handwriting a note to someone (usually four per day!) and thinking about how our lives have intersected and the relationship we have. 
- Seeing a V formation in the sky. This reminds me of my father.                        - Watching a butterfly move from flower to flower. This reminds me of my mother.
- Coming home from work and being greeted by an always excited, unconditionally loving Jackson!
- Holding hands with Terri in a movie or watching television.  
- Long, delicious dinners with family and friends.
- Reaching over in bed at night to touch Terri and thinking how blessed I am to be with this woman.
- Living in Asheville, NC. The surrounding mountains take my breath away!
Carrpe Diem!
- Living in our home. It's a sanctuary of goodness. It offers sacred space.
- Penatonix, Vivaldi, James Taylor, Allison Krauss, The Piano Guys, Mozart, Diana Krall, Sting, Indigo Girls, Yo-Yo Ma, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Playing for Change
- Old hardware stores where the scent of linseed oil, turpentine and fertilizer mix with the bins of nails and and loose sheets of sand paper.
- Art by Monet, VanGogh, Degas, Rodin, Corbin, McNulty, Welker, Koch and Southerland.
- Rainy Saturday or Sunday afternoons, especially at the beach.
- Sitting in front of a campfire or our living room fireplace.
- The scent of the air after a thunderstorm. 
- The scent of Dial soap.
- Visiting the Carr family memorial in Charlotte, NC and the Privette memorial in Princess Anne, MD.
- Eating Cabot Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt.
- Hosting Final Fridays.
- Eating pan fried okra.
The Nubian Princess and Dr. Steel
- Eating Marion's Piazza with family and friends!
- Drinking Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Extra IPA with family and friends.
Breaking bread with family
- Sipping Stranahan's Colorado whiskey with family and friends, especially in front of a fire.
- Early Friday morning phone calls with Dr. Steel and the Nubian Princess. 
- Sailing. 
- The feeling after swimming a good distance.
- Hearing Terri say her "pet" name for me and "I love you."
- Hearing my children end a phone call with, "I love you, Dad." 

What do I do when I feel unhappy? 

I begin by moving my body. I focus on my breath. I close my eyes and meditate. I am especially fond of meditating on 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I journal my thoughts and feelings as well as for what I am grateful. I look at photo albums and recall how blessed I am, how much good is in my life. I look at PostSecret cards I have saved in a file on my computer. I get away from technology and go outdoors for a long walk or a hike. I hug my wife. I ask Jackson to sit in my lap. I look for something that is broken and repair it including a relationship. Ask for forgiveness. I go to Haywood Street Congregation. I give a panhandler a gift. I call a mentor. I call a friend and ask if we can meet for coffee. I go exercise. 

Part of living into Carrpe Diem! is the daily challenge of, can I be content with my present situation and optimistic about the future? ... 98% of the time ... YES!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Have You Got Great Questions?

My first adventure out of college was in sales, which lead to becoming a sales manager. One of the things I quickly picked up on was that great sales people were not great talkers, they were great listeners. Great listening sales people asked great, thoughtful questions and listened to the responses of their customers and followed up with more questions. Great questions lead to building trust which became the foundation of a good business relationship and increased sales!

Asking great questions has served me well.

When I left sales and became a facilitator of experience-based learning for adults, asking great, attentive, thoughtful questions became the foundation of my work. When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I put people in unfamiliar situations and ask questions!

Great financial planners begin by asking great questions. Great architects ask great questions. Great teachers are all about great questions. Asking great questions is the foundation of great lawyering! Great mentors know how to ask great questions of their proteges. Great leaders ask great questions. Their go-to question is "Why?"

Great questions are more important than the answers. In fact a great question is more important than a 1,000 great answers! Great questions lead to more great questions. Great questions challenge existing answers.

Great questions cause the recipient(s) of the question to pause, think, consider, ponder and wonder. Great questions can't be answered immediately. I've learned that when I ask an individual or a group a great question during a coaching session or a debrief, not to worry if there is not a quick or immediate response. I've learned to embrace pregnant pauses. I've learned to respect the silence and know marination is taking place. Thoughtful, unexpected, unpredicted answers will come!

The worst thing you can do after you've asked a great question and received a response is to tell your story, your truth, your opinion. The response to someone sharing their answer should be another question or "say more!" 

Great questions demonstrate humility. Asking great questions says, "I don't have all the answers! I need to connect with you." Great questions are at the heart of St. Francis' prayer, especially the line, "To be understood as to understand."

The opposite of great questions is certainty. Certainty thinks it knows THE answer and always gives the same answer, the right answer. Certainty is locked into black and white. Certainty fosters ruts, creates tunnel vision, stifles wonder and turns off curiosity. Certainty stunts growth and learning. Certainty is the sign of an uneducated mind.

Great questions lead to transformation. Great questions create new ways of thinking and foster possibility thinking. Great questions are at the root of science as well as spirituality. For me, the most important quality of the Bible is not answers, but the questions it generates! For me, the Bible does not end with a period, but with a comma or a question mark. Questions are the fuel for the journey called life.

While it may seem technology and artificial intelligence are taking over our lives, the one fail of technology and AI is the ability to ask to great questions. That is our work!

The root of being human is questions. If you are not asking great questions then you are a human doing!

Monday, May 1, 2017

To the Graduating Class of 2017 : Got Character?

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! Take a breath, but please, don't stop learning! If you do, you will become irrelevant! 

Besides your graduation, take a walk back down memory lane from this past year: 
- the United States changed presidents with what appears to be help from Russia, while Brazil and South Korea impeached their presidents; 
- Merriam-Webster added 1,000 new words to its dictionary including humblebrag and jiggery-pokery
- the Syrian civil war continues with over 500,000 killed and 11,000,000 people were forced from their homes; 
- North Korea, the proposed increase in US military spending and the hottest year on record has moved the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight; 
- the Panama Papers showed how the wealthy hide their money; 
- the Zika virus emerged as a global threat;
- terrorism abounds while we fuss over a wall to keep "bad" people out of our country.

Count your graduation as one of the bright moments of the year! 

Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz faced lions and tigers and bears ... oh my! You are faced with digital and wireless and downsize ... oh pfft! Neither I nor your parents worried about algorithms, artificial intelligence and robots impacting our work, but you need to understand how these forces are impacting your future. Futurists are forecasting the fourth industrial revolution. The core of this revolution is disruptive business models. Look at what Lyft is doing to the taxi industry. Look at what Airbnb is doing to the hotel/motel industry. Look at what crowdsourcing is doing to the lending industry. Look at what solar and wind energy industries are doing to the fossil fuel industries.

Consider taking stock of what is coming by reading Kevin Kelly's The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.

Whatever you do, learn to create memorable, positive, desired experiences. Learn to be THE memorable, positive, desired, experience. This will help you avoid becoming a commodity. In today's world, best experience wins. When you go for those job interviews, how can you be experienced in such a way that you get a callback over the other applicants? What is your overt benefit, reason to believe, unique difference compared to your competition?

I'd recommend you study David Brooks', The Road to Character, which I believe will help you navigate the future. It addresses something that is lacking bigly in today's world. It can contribute to your overt benefit, unique difference and reason to believe. I doubt if you took a class on this subject.

Spoiler alert, this is THE book I will be giving as a graduation present this year. If you want to get some idea of what this book is about, watch Brook's 2013 Baccalaureate address at Sewanee

IMHO, we have a lot of political characters like former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock, religious characters like Steve Drain, Westboro Baptist Church, tech characters like Ross William Ulbricht, pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts", sports characters like Johnny Manziel, and television host characters like Bill O'Reilly. What all of these "characters" have in common is that they lack character. 

There are many self-help books that offer a formula to successful moral living. Brooks shares with the reader the struggle to grow one’s character through the lives of Francis Perkins, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Dorothy Day, George Eliot, Augustine, Samuel Johnson, and Montaigne. All of these people grew their emotional intelligence through suffering and giving their lives to a higher calling. Brooks explores the formation of their souls.

The formation of one's soul is rooted in humility. Humility is also one of the outstanding characteristics of a fifth-level leader according to Jim Collins, author of the best-selling Good to Great. “A person is a product of cultivation. The true self, in this view, is what you have built from your nature, not just what you started out with.” page 147. 

What does character look like? According to Brooks, people with character "...answer softly when challenged harshly. They are silent when unfairly abused. They are dignified when others try to humiliate them, restrained when others try to provoke them. But they get things done.” Tough situations do not mold or create character, tough situations reveal character. 

Former President Franklin Roosevelt, a self-centered, rich, womanizer, learned character by contracting polio. Polio humbled FDR and made him more compassionate. Polio contributed to FDR becoming a better President.

Brooks' writing may help you discover the will to do right, the will to do what needs to be done, the will to be accountable and take responsibility, the will to suspend your ego and put yourself in the "other's" shoes, and the will to create a nurturing, sustainable world for tomorrow's child.

As you venture out into the next chapter of your life, consider a key question posed by Brooks. Are you living your resume or your eulogy? Do you recognize the difference? Your resume is about what you accomplished, the titles you got, the awards you received, the honors for which you were recognized. Your resume is about you.

Your eulogy speaks to your legacy, the difference you made in people's lives, the hearts you touched, what you gave, the connections you made, the "bridges" you built, your compassion, your kindness. Your eulogy is about the difference you made in other people's lives.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen.

Name the MVP of the MLB World Series last year. Name someone who won a Nobel Peace Prize last year. Name the person who won the Oscar for best actress last year. Name the a recent Pulitzer Prize winner. How did you do with the answers?

Let me change the challenge.

Name someone who made a difference in your life. Name someone who was there for you when you were down. Name a teacher who made a difference in your life. Name the person who makes you laugh. Name the person you enjoy holding hands with on a walk. I'll bet you didn't miss a name! Would you be named in someone else's answers?

My advice, focus on your eulogy rather than your resume.

Those characters I mentioned earlier, they all had good intentions, but "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Choose wisely, thoughtfully and carefully.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Can You Truly Give a Gift?

The Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs franchise, gave 1,908 World Series rings to everyone associated with helping the Cubs win the 2016 World Series. In order to discourage selling their World Series rings, Cub ownership asked non-players to sign an agreement giving the team the right to buy back the ring for $1.

Personally, if I had been a part of the 2016 World Series Cubs organization and received a commemorative ring, I'd find a nice glass case to put it in and place it on the fireplace mantel! I'd cherish the emotion and the passion of a great, long-awaited winning season. But then, not everyone is like me! (I can hear it now,"Thank God!")

Do you remember O. Henry's short Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi? It is a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving. It is a story about a young married couple and the gifts they give each other that neither can use. The story reveals how priceless love is. It is also a story about the paradox and lesson in ownership: do you own something or does something own you? If you truly give someone something, you let go of it. You don't own it. The gift becomes theirs to do with as they wish. If you give a gift with expectations, then the gift, the object owns you.

A gift given with an expectation, with control, is not a gift. If you cannot give a gift and let go, then do not give it. I know I have given gifts to people and discovered the gift was re-gifted, returned to the store for credit or exchange or was even thrown out. Maybe I was disappointed, but it was the receiver's choice of how they chose to use or not use my gift, not mine.

It does not matter how much the gift cost. (The Cub World Series ring is estimated to be worth at least $30,000.) A gift is a gift is a gift with no strings attached, or it is not a gift.

I know people who have received large sums of money as a gift for college or investment, who did not use it the way the giver intended. People fail all the time to meet our expectations. Let it go or don't give it in the first place.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer equated the gift of the ring to winning a Heisman and Oscar. "If you get a Heisman Trophy, they put that stipulation on it," he said. "If you win an Oscar, they put that stipulation on it." 

I disagree with Mr. Hoyer. The Heisman and Oscar are on par with the World Series trophy the Cubs now own. The World Series trophy is one of a kind, not one of 1,908. The Cub World Series ring was a gift, a token, a remembrance of a victory season from the Ricketts family. The ring was not a part of the trophy from MLB. 

Give the people a ring if you choose. Hope that they show gratitude in return by simply saying, thank you! That is their gift back to you!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Holy Week Reveals My Unholiness, My Humanness.

You don’t have to be Christian to acknowledge the challenges of Holy Week are at the core of whether it’s all about me or is about the community of which I am a part.

I realize I could have been a part of that crowd that cheered Christ riding into Jerusalem on that donkey. After all, I am attracted to successful underdogs. 

I realize I could be Judas. I, too, might judge someone as just too good for his or her own good and needs to be taken down. That's why we institute laws, rules and policy. 

I realize I could be like Christ’s disciples at Gethsemane and fail to support someone in need, falling asleep when someone needs me to be there for them.

I realize I could be like Peter and deny being associated with someone who was threatening the system, offering a better way of living together, creating community. I like my comfort zones.

I realize I could be gaslighted and follow the crowd yelling, “Crucify Him!”

I realize I could be like the Roman soldiers, wanting a piece of His clothing, nurturing my greed.

Good Friday is where I face my contribution to evil. It exposes the hatred I am capable of. It exposes my self-interest, my failure to love my neighbor, especially the neighbor who is different from me in so many ways. How God is willing to put up with me for my failures and short comings is beyond me. Yet, love gets the last word. Love wins. The message of Holy week is a call to act upon my faith, to walk-my-faith.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Do You Have a Leadership Philosophy?

I came across The Leader's Compass by Ed Rugggero in 2005. As a consummate student of leadership, this book was a call to action! I spent time thinking and exploring what I believed was important in leading myself as well as others. As a facilitator of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner's The Leadership Challenge, my leadership philosophy is based upon the five practices of exemplary leadership. It is a dynamic document that continues to be updated as I grow in my leadership. I've share my leadership philosophy with those I lead, my cohorts and coaching clients. I keep a copy of my leadership philosophy with me at all times in my journal. I refer to it regularly. I ask those with whom I've shared my leadership philosophy, "How am I doing?" I listen for feedback. I adjust and continue to work on my leadership. 

Do you have a leadership philosophy? Is it written down? Have you shared it with your followers and cohorts? Have you asked for feedback? 

David Carr’s Leadership Philosophy Based Upon the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership from The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner

I model the way.

    I will lead in the ways I would like to be lead. I will do my best to Be the Golden Rule. My core values and beliefs are linked to Micah 6:8 and bound in three words:
    - Compassion – compassion means continuously seeking to understand, before being understood. It’s being aware of my self-deception.     
    - Gratitude – gratitude directly affects my attitude. A grateful heart knows and reaffirms the abundant blessings in my life rather than wishful thinking and desires.
    - Humility – not thinking of myself much differently from the way I’d be apt to think of anybody else.

    I work at being patient. I know there are two sides to every coin. I push back and seek information. I work at not assuming and most of all, I try not nurture phantom rules. I work at avoiding creating ugly stories. I seek to be curious and continuously ask questions. I make time for sharpening my saw including, the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual.

I challenge the process.

    The number one challenge for me is to find and maintain balance. I find balance by continuously examining my life. I know I cannot be good for those I lead if I am not good for myself. Socrates wrote truth, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

    I believe stress is a major illness. I try to prevent stress by learning to simplify all areas of my life. I came into this world with hands and a mind free of stuff. I will leave this life taking nothing with me. In between its “stuff” that burdens the journey. There is so much I want, yet so little I need. People remember Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” and The Golden Rule. I believe core messages help me to avoid bad choices by reminding me of what is important. I seek to find ways to eliminate complexity and circumlocution throughout my life. I have learned to leverage. I know my strengths and focus on continuously developing these. I find followers whose strengths are my weaknesses and leverage.

I enable others to act

    I understand the difference between management versus leadership. Leadership is about effectiveness and doing the right things. Management is about efficiency and doing things right. I manage time, processes and things. I lead people. The only time micromanagement works is at a time of crisis, when people are emotional or fearful resulting in unclear thinking. There is no “microleadership.” I try to leave people and places in better condition than when I found them!

    I delegate. I give away the power. I give people the big picture, the expectations. I let them use their strengths, gifts, talents and passion to figure out the process that works best. I hold people accountable but give up control. I try to understand how much communication is needed to create a shared-mental-model for the expectations. I work to understand how people learn and communicate best. I know some people are visual learners, some are verbal learners and some are experience-based learners.

I inspire a shared vision.

    I believe I know what life is calling me to do: To help individuals, groups and organizations to learn, to live, to promote “seize the day” leading to reduced ignorance and reduced suffering and enhanced living.

   I am the author of my mission, the mountains I wish to climb the next several years. I have designed key initiatives to help me to focus on my mission. I set metrics and a timeline to measure my progress. My mission from 2008, was to announce to the staff of Joy Outdoor Education Center, Clarksville, OH, I would be leaving by the end of the year to work and live on purpose in North Carolina with my wife, Terri.

    I believe a leader who knows, who understands and is inspired by his/her vision is in a better position to lead others and to inspire others to a shared vision for the team and organization.

I encourage the heart.
    I know the only things a leader can control are the ABCs - Attitude, Behavior and Choices. Most of all, I know I cannot control others. I believe it is my responsibility to get to know others, my followers and understand them including their strengths, weaknesses, concerns, pains and worries. I know I cannot motivate, but I believe I can inspire by showing how much I care and cheering people on to bring their best, to be their best, to do their best for our team and organization.

These are the leadership questions I continuously ask of myself and of my followers:

What key functions can only I as a leader perform?
How am I doing?
Who is the customer? Am I/are we serving him/her well?
Do we know what our business is? 

Are we focused on that business?
What makes us good? What costs us at being good?
How can we break hierarchy and create networks?

I ask if you come to me with an issue or problem, please bring a solution as well so we may together resolve the issue or problem as quickly as possible.

Carrpe Diem!

David Carr

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Would You Fail Forward?

If you watched the final category at the Oscars on Sunday evening, February 26, 2017, you saw La La Land had won best picture. Many of us shrugged our shoulders, turned off the television and went to bed.  And then all hell broke loose! Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were given the wrong best picture announcement card by the PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) representatives. La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz handled the snafu with class and dignity and got it right, Moonlight won best picture.

We immediately went into finger pointing mode. Whom did we blame? At first, the finger pointing went to Beatty and Dunaway. Then the finger pointed at the PwC representatives. Brian Cullinan, PwC representative, who handed Beatty the wrong envelope was distracted backstage using his smartphone. The fingers got pointed at the Oscar's producer, Michael De Luca, for not having better oversight. Finger pointing went to whomever designed the Oscar announcement cards for poor design, layout and typography.

If you are in charge of next year's Oscars, what would you do?

Here is what I know for sure. People make mistakes. Great discoveries are made in pain, suffering and mistakes. I would act with grace. I would give everyone who was involved in the 2017 Oscars a "fail forward card!" 

I'd go back to the 2017 Oscar card announcement designer(s) and have them make the 2018 Oscar announcement cards. You can bet he/she/they will get it right! I predict the 2018 Oscar announcement cards will be the easiest cards to read and understand while on stage in front 33 million viewers and the Dolby Theater audience of 3,400. 

I would not only have PwC continue to oversee the tabulation of the Oscar voting, I would bring back PwC accountants Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz to hand out the announcement cards again in 2018. You can bet they will be on top of their responsibilities and get it right!

I'd bring back the 2017 Oscar producer, Michael De Luca, to produce the 2018 Oscars. I believe he will find the most creative, committed and accountable staff to produce an over-the-top 2018 Oscar program. I'd make sure Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were again co-presenters, if not for best picture, then for another category.

This would be a "Golden Rule" moment to transcend what we believe to be the worst in people to the belief that people can be better than they were when given another opportunity. It is a belief that we grow from mistakes and failures.

Grace is a powerful, healing force. Forgiveness is all about extending grace. Forgiveness is about giving another opportunity to correct and be better. It is the gift we need to extend to ourselves and others. It is the work of the soul, based in humility. Grace and forgiveness check pride and tame it. The finger pointing focuses not on others but the three fingers turned toward us. Forgiveness affirms we are human, and we are worthy of love rather than shame. Aren't we all called to extend this love to others?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Where I'm From...

You don't know me but you don't like me
You say you care less how I feel
But how many of you that sit and judge me
Have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

                                         - Homer Joy, Streets of Bakersfield

There is an exercise I facilitate with groups to help them understand the deep diversity among them, based upon George Ella Lyon's poem "Where I’m From."

One of the takeaways of this exercise is the discovery of connection. Contrary to Joy's quote above, we bridge the gap of not liking each other. Here is Where I'm from...

Where I'm from ... we are who we are because of where we’ve been including: the people we connect with regularly, the news, the books, magazines and papers we consume, the experiences we’ve had. Our echo chambers, comfort zones come from all of these sources. We try very hard to get out of our echo chamber, our comfort zone. In fact, we recognize our calling is to help others get out their comfort zones into their learning zones and growth zones.

Where I'm from ... we had a gay brother/brother-in-law who died from AIDS. We have a gay daughter who recently got engaged to her partner and we are looking forward to celebrating their wedding.

Where I'm from ... we work with a wide range of organizations including for-profit Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit including major universities, Building Bridges, and United Way and government entities including the E.P.A. and I.R.S. A couple of organizations have staff from all over the world. We got exposed to an incredibly diverse population that broke many molds, myths and assumptions with which we’d grown up.

Where I'm from ... we attend, support and work with Building Bridges, an organization that seeks to dismantle racism, respect diversity and encourage action. 

Where I'm from ... we attend and worship at a mission church that serves the homeless, underserved, veterans and abused. Needless to say, much of the congregation does does not look like us.  

Where I'm from ... our work has exposed us to our privilege including male privilege, white privilege, Christian privilege, leadership privilege, heterosexual privilege and American privilege. We are not ashamed of our privilege, but recognize the need to use our privilege to help those who do not have privilege. We’ve learned, if you can’t see your privilege, then you have privilege.  

Where I'm from ... we white males have the privilege of walking into our local big box grocery store past the security guard with no problem, but our black fire department cohort may get discreetly followed when he is out of uniform and in gym clothes walking past the security guard.

Where I'm from ... we Christians have the privilege of getting off work for Christmas and Good Friday, but our Jewish cohorts do not get days off for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) or Yom Kippur (Day of forgiveness). Our Muslim cohorts do not get off for Eid-Al-Aha (The sacrifice Abraham was willing to make of his son Ishmael) or Eid-Al-Fitr (The final day of celebration of Ramadan.) 

Where I'm from ... we heterosexuals have the privilege of not having to hide or lie about women/men only social gatherings. We heterosexuals have the privilege of not worrying about being asked by the school to send only one parent to "back to school night" so not to upset heterosexual parents with same-sex parents being present.
Not being asked by your child’s school to only send one parent to “back to school” night as to not upset the other parents by having two same-sex partners in the class together. - See more at:
Not being asked by your child’s school to only send one parent to “back to school” night as to not upset the other parents by having two same-sex partners in the class together. - See more at:

Where I'm from ... we are aware of our implicit bias and work to dial down our bias.

Where I'm from ... we don't read or watch USAToday, CNN, MSNBC or FOX. Not having cable television reinforces this practice. We don't listen to the talking heads including Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow. We get news from Reuters, AP, BBC, and NPR, which in our opinion offer balance. One of the segments on NPR Friday edition includes conservative David Brooks and liberal E.J. Dione, who talk about the news and events of the week. Their different perspectives are mind opening for us. We read The Week magazine as they summarize all the key news and editorial OP-EDs (liberal and conservative) each week. We listen to Fareed Zakaria's GPS podcast. He is intelligent and asks thoughtful questions from his guests who come from both sides of an issue.

Where I'm from ... we read mostly non-fiction books. Two books we recommend to understand the divide in our country, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop (4/5 stars on Amazon) and Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland, Duke Divinity Professor. (4.5/5 stars on Amazon). These two books give insight from a secular as well as religious point of view, the friction that is growing in our country. 

Where I'm from ... we check statements and "facts" especially with all the “fake news." We check facts at: Government Accounting Office, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, The National Priorities Project, Office of Management and Budget, Vera Institute of Justice, The U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Disease Control, United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, The Smithsonian Institutional Archives, The Library of Congress, PEW Research, Gallup Organization (neither poll made predictions on the 2016 election), National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Civil Liberties Union.  

Where I'm from ... we seek facts, truth and evidence from these sources and discovered since 2008:
- unemployment has fallen from 7.3% to 4.7% 
- gas at the pump dropped from $3.24/gallon to $2.24/gallon
- uninsured Americans dropped from 15% to 9.2%
- The U.S. imported oil has dropped from 11 million barrels per day to 4 million barrels per day. That number is expected to continue to drop as we are now exporting oil.
- The GDP has moved from -0.3% to +3.7%
- The Dow Jones was at 10,355 and now is over 20,000. Our retirement funds look a whole lot better!

Where I'm from ... we celebrate what people get right. We forgive when people do wrong and apologize. Obama wasn't perfect and neither was Bush. Obama made mistakes as did Bush. Affordable HealthCare Act was not perfect, but it was a start. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not perfect, but it was the right thing to do and continues to get better. We need to come up with a healthcare plan that is not tied to Wall Street and profit. Healthcare needs to be a right, not a privilege. The two things at the foundation of a great nation are good, affordable education for all and good, affordable healthcare for all.

Where I'm from ... we study leadership from The Leadership Challenge. The Leadership Challenge is about the five practices of exemplary leadership - model the way, enable others to act, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process and encourage the heart - they are what we use to determine the ability of a person to lead well.

Where I'm from ... we make the five practices the gold standard for holding the President of the United States or any leader accountable. Where I'm from ... these five practices are what is expected from someone who calls himself/herself a leader. They are what we are committed to doing and to what we hold ourselves accountable. Where I'm from ... the older we get, the better we should be at living into these five practices. 

You may not like Where I'm from ... . You may not agree with Where I'm from ... . But it is essential we get together for discussion about Where I'm from ... and where you are from. Discussion trumps argument. Argument is about finding out who is right. Discussion is about learning from each other and finding out what is right.