Category Archives: Personal Perspective

The Eulogy: 2014

The Eulogy: 2014

Over the last few days I’ve witnessed so many who’ve cursed or eulogized the last year; yes 2014. Instead of rejoicing in the 365 days of life God allowed them, they dismiss the gifts of grace in hopes of happenstance instantly or magically changing their circumstances.

What makes a person believe that the tick of a second-hand tock is going to erase the hardships, the failures, the could-have-beens, the should-have-beens and the never-have-beens?

Good things happen, bad things happen, terribly horrible things happen and yes; wonderfully fantastic things happen. This is what we call “Life.”

Were there hard times in 2014? Sure. After 15 years I still miss my mother. After 8 years and counting, I still cheer-lead for my son with Down syndrome to live an amazingly fantastic life. Day after day I still watch my dad as the effects of diabetes and dementia take their collective toll.

This is called “Life” and it’s a gift; rejoice in it. Psalm 118:24 – This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

While attending a funeral recently, an 89-year-old gentleman graced me with conversation. In sincerity and optimism he looked squarely at me and said, “Chief, life is too short. Enjoy it.”

What do you say to that?

I thought about the many who hurriedly stowed away 2014 in hopes of better times, the comment I could not respond to on life’s brevity, and my own take on the passing of one calendar year to the next.

I’m going to be honest with you; am I where I wanted to be on several levels at the end of 2014? No, not at all.

– I wanted to increase my walk with Christ

– I wanted to be a better father

– I wanted to be a better son and brother

– I wanted to be a better friend

– I wanted to be thinner and healthier

– I wanted to not be so guarded

– I wanted to cycle more, and eat ice cream less (debatable)

Am I bitter? Have I plastered Facebook with admonishments over a 2014 unlived, have I darkened others’ days with tales of “unfairs” over the last year? No. Not at all. It was a fantastic year. It was a 365 day blessing of mercy that God gifted me. It was yet another year in my life well lived.

This is not an admonishment for pessimistic postings. It’s a reminder that if you think back over the course of the last year you will find;

1. The bad things that could have been avoided, possibly required more of our time and attention.
2. The horrible things that could not be avoided, we should be thankful that we’re still in this life to grieve, learn or recover.
3. The good things that happened probably resulted from our hard work and dedication.
4. The fantastic things that happened probably included someone else’s support along the way.

If you sat on your thumbs in 2014 waiting for what you thought owed and were disappointed, then sitting on your thumbs in 2015 will probably only result in much more soreness and even more criticisms come next New Year ’s Eve.

Don’t be so quick to eulogize the passing year for its failures, as they represent the “you” who experienced it. Instead, embrace the positive and learn from the each opportunity.

Failure is not getting knocked down. It’s refusing to get back up.

See you at the end of yet another superhero’ish calendar year 2015.

Scott
Originally posted at scottsilverii.com – The Eulogy: 2013

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Want To Be More Creative? Don’t Sleep

NOTE: I’ve often said that sleep is for the weak. Actually, I’ve been quoted and sometimes criticized for saying it. In my life, doing without it is a necessity for accomplishing the personal goals I’ve set. While not for everyone, the following article discusses how fatigue and creativity compliment each other. Believe it? Read on.

Want To Be More Creative? Don’t Sleep

Wednesday, famed sportswriter Bill Simmons released a podcast where he interviewed Lorne Michaels, the man who created and still runs Saturday Night Live. In the interview, Michaels said something particularly interesting about the creative process.

Simmons asked him about the grueling nature of SNL, where Michaels and his staff have been putting on a live hour of television each week for the past 40 years. Specifically, Simmons asked if that sort of schedule was too difficult, if there would be a benefit to cutting back.

Michaels’ answer: no.

“There’s a mantra that I have, which is fatigue is your friend,” Michaels said. “There’s a point at which, in anything artistic, at least from my perspective, the critical faculty can overwhelm the creative faculty… When you’re tired, you just write it, and all sorts of different kinds of work comes out.”

Michaels, who developed talent like Will Ferrell, Chris Farley, Eddie Murphy and hundreds of others, went on to say that when creative types are tired, they lose their filter. And then, “someone takes a chance that they would never, if they were cautious or they were smart, would have ever attempted.”

“And those kinds of things are what you remember now as hits,” he continued.

Simmons, who has built himself into one of the world’s most-famous sportswritersand an ESPN “heavyweight” thanks to his own creativity, agreed.

“That’s so funny you talk about that because that’s how I usually write my column,” Simmons told Michaels. “I either do it early in the morning or late at night because I don’t want to be fully awake. As weird as that sounds, I take more chances when I’m groggy.”

Does this phenomenon make any sense? Well, believe it or not, science says yes.

What The Science Says

There have been several scientific studies into the exact issue Simmons and Michaels talked about. And while there are some splits in the findings, the majority say that, indeed, sleep deprivation can actually increase creativity.

One study by Mareike Wieth at Albion College probed into this issue by giving people problems to answer at their non-optimal time of the day; i.e. times when they were tired (morning people were given problems in the evening and evening people were given problems in the morning).

What Wieth found was that people answered math questions better when they were well-rested. However, for problems that required more creative thinking, the people who were more tired did better.

“The findings indicate that tasks involving creativity might benefit from a non-optimal time of day,” Wieth wrote in her study.

Additionally, Italian researcher Marcello Massimini found that the brain becomes more sensitive throughout the day, as it continues to form new synapses for as long as you stay awake. When you finally sleep, those synapses are pruned down.

Therefore, it makes sense that basic math problems become more difficult to solve when you’re tired, because you are, quite literally, more scatterbrained. But it also means that the longer you stay awake, the more unique connections begin to form in your brain – a recipe for creative thinking.

Takeaway

By no means should you adopt a lifestyle of little-to-no sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to higher blood pressure, obesity and an increased chance of stroke, among other things.

Engineers or scientists wouldn’t benefit from sleep deprivation either, as it essentially inhibits logical thinking. But, for the creative type who needs to get something out, an all-nighter might just do the trick.

 

Want To Be More Creative? Don’t Sleep

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Ferguson & Public Engagement | What are they good for?

media

What’s the best time to plant a tree?

– 30 years ago.

What’s the next best time to plant a tree?

– Today

In general, law enforcement has made for horrible horticulturalists. We’ve not tilled the soil of community engagement as a practice. Now we wonder why no one understands us.

When an incident like Ferguson erupts, the pundits hurry to fend off allegations from a civilian population incessantly asking for answers. I’ve had so many tell how they’ve unfriended people on social media streams because of the content post-grand jury decision.

When a public service organization adopts a “No Comment” paradigm over the course of a few centuries, is it any wonder why questions and misinformation arises during societal flash points. While operational confidentiality is vital to an agency’s mission, the majority of daily operations and information processed by law enforcement fail to meet the level of classified materials.

Social media allows public agencies an opportunity to manage their own message. If an agency fails or refuses to engage in the often free mediums available for informing people, then they should expect to face the accusations of pent up frustrations.

This is a great opportunity for Chiefs and Sheriff’s to re-examine their public relations practices. It has to be more substantial than a few handshakes with kids at the high school ball game. An ongoing, open dialogue with the community we swore to serve builds bridges and breaks down walls.

A few suggestions:

  1. Balance the “official” tone of agency social media accounts. If you want the public to relate to the humanity of your officers, then present them as such.
  2. Not every public event has to be public. People distinguish “photo ops” from sincere neighborhood engagements.
  3. Proactively pursue the media for establishing mutual credibility. Yes, mutual.
  4. Ensure the designated “Voice and Face” of your agency is representative not only of the community, but of the vision and ideals for serving the public.
  5. When wrong, say “I’m sorry.”
  6. When right, give credit to the persons responsible. Whether it’s the rookie cop or the shop owner who dialed it in, give legitimate thanks.
  7. Don’t wait until a crisis to introduce yourself to the public you vowed to protect.
  8. Don’t take it person. Negative public comments are born out of the frustrations of not being heard. Re-evaluate practices to ensure you’ve not shut your community out.
  9. When times get tough, don’t be a prick.
  10. In all situations, be yourself – a single human being placed in extraordinary circumstances trying to handle unimaginable calamities. People understand if you trip, and if you do, refer back to #9.

Ferguson & Public Engagement | What are they good for?

Us versus Them | A Ferguson Outcome

If Not Us, Who?

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Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

Tom Kelly, general manager of IDEO, the world-renowned design firm, likes to quote French novelist Marcel Proust, who famously said, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” What goes for novelists goes for leaders searching to craft a novel strategy for their company, a new product for their customers, or a better way to organize their employees. In a world that never stops changing, great leaders never stop learning.

Today, the challenge for leaders at every level is no longer just to out-hustle, out-muscle, and out-maneuver the competition. It is to out-think the competition in ways big and small, to develop a unique point of view about the future and help your organization get there before anyone else does. Which is why a defining challenge of leadership is whether you can answer a question that is as simple as it is powerful: Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

Of course, learning new things is all about exposing yourself to new ideas. So if you want to learn faster, you’ve got to think differently about where new ideas come from. Here are a few ideas I’ve developed over the years about what turns leaders into learners — three “habits of mind” that will help you keep learning as fast as the world is changing.

First, the best leaders (and learners) have the widest field of vision.
After Steve Jobs died, I, like everyone else, read and watched as much as I could about his life and work. One of my favorite sources of insights was an old PBS documentary called “Triumph of the Nerds,” in which luminaries of Silicon Valley talked about what inspired their innovations. As Jobs talked about the original Macintosh computer, he talked less about semiconductors and software than he did about painting, music, and art.

“Ultimately it [creativity] comes down to taste,” he explained. “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then trying to bring those things in to what you’re doing…I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

Translation: You’re not going to learn faster (or deeper) than everyone else if you seek inspiration from the same sources as everyone else. Educators know that we learn the most when we encounter people, experiences, and ideas that are the least like us. And yet, we spend most of our time with people and in places that are the most like us — our old colleagues, our familiar offices, our reassuring neighborhoods. If you want to learn faster, look and live more broadly.

Second, and more tactically, the best source of new ideas in your field can be old ideas from unrelated fields. A few months ago, after I gave a talk about innovation to a gathering of executives from the world of food retailing, one frustrated member of the audience asked for some advice about dealing with her boss. “My boss likes to say, ‘I want a totally new idea — and three examples of where that idea has worked before.’” The audience roared in recognition of the oxymoronic absurdity of the boss’s sentiment, as did I.

But then I got to thinking…Often, it turns out, a powerful source of “totally new” ideas in one industry can be standard operating procedures from another industry — well-established practices that look downright revolutionary when you simply move them from one place to another.

For example, leaders at Lexus identified all sorts of new ideas to reshape the customer experience for luxury cars by searching for clues at brands such as Four Seasons and Apple — companies that were great at what they did, even though what they did had nothing to do with automobiles. Physicians and administrators from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children redesigned many of their surgical procedures by studying how Ferrari’s Formula One racing team handled pit stops.

Sure, there’s always a place for R&D as research & development. But there’s also a place for R&D as rip-off and duplicate. Ideas that are routine in one industry can be revolutionary when they migrate to another industry, especially when they challenge the prevailing assumptions and conventional wisdom that have come to define so many industries.

Finally, and most personally, successful learners work hard not to be loners.
These days, the most powerful insights often come from the most unexpected places — the hidden genius locked inside your company, the collective genius of customers, suppliers, and other smart people who would be eager to teach you what they know if you simply asked for their insights. But tapping this learning resource requires a new leadership mindset — enough ambition to address tough problems, enough humility to be willing to learn from everyone you encounter. Nobody alone learns as quickly as everybody together.

We all want to be better leaders. And the best leaders, it turns out, are the most insatiable learners. How are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

80-bill-taylor

William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself. Follow him on Twitter at @practicallyrad.

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

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The Best Leaders Are Insatiable Learners

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Nearly a quarter century ago, at a gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, John W. Gardner delivered a speech that may be one of the most quietly influential speeches in the history of American business — a text that has been photocopied, passed along, underlined, and linked to by senior executives in some of the most important companies and organizations in the world. I wonder, though, how many of these leaders (and the business world more broadly) have truly embraced the lessons he shared that day.

Gardner, who died in 2002 at the age of 89, was a legendary public intellectual and civic reformer — a celebrated Stanford professor, an architect of the Great Society under Lyndon Johnson, founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector. His speech on November 10, 1990, was delivered to a meeting of McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm whose advice has shaped the fortunes of the world’s richest and most powerful companies. But his focus that day was on neither money nor power. It was on what he called “Personal Renewal,” the urgent need for leaders who wish to make a difference and stay effective to commit themselves to continue learning and growing. Gardner was so serious about this learning imperative, so determined that the message would get through, that he wrote the speech out in advance because he wanted “every sentence to hit its target.”

What was his message? “We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit,” he said. “Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day ‘How can I be so bored when I’m so busy?’ I said ‘Let me count the ways.’ Look around you. How many people whom you know well — people even younger than yourselves—are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits?”

So what is the opposite of boredom, the personal attribute that allows individuals to keep learning, growing, and changing, to escape their fixed attitudes and habits? “Not anything as narrow as ambition,” Gardner told the ambitious McKinsey strategists. “After all, ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die.” He then offered a simple maxim to guide the accomplished leaders in the room. “Be interested,” he urged them. “Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalizing thing is to be interested…As the proverb says, ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’”

In these head-spinning times, even more so than when John Gardner offered his timeless advice, the challenge for leaders is not to out-hustle, out-muscle, or out-maneuver the competition. It is toout-think the competition in ways big and small, to develop a unique point of view about the future and get there before anyone else does. The best leaders I’ve gotten to know aren’t just the boldest thinkers; they are the most insatiable learners.

Roy Spence, perhaps the most interested (and interesting) advertising executive I’ve ever met, recently published a book called The 10 Essential Hugs of Life, a funny and moving take on the roots of success. Among his wise and folksy pieces of advice (“Hug your failures,” “Hug your fears,” “Hug yourself”) is a call to “Hug your firsts” — to seek out new sources of inspiration, to visit a lab whose work you don’t really understand, to attend a conference you shouldn’t be at. “When you’re a kid,” he says, “every day is full of firsts, full of new experiences. As you get older, your firsts become fewer and fewer. If you want to stay young, you have to work to keep trying new things.”

Spence cites as one of his inspirations management guru Jim Collins, who, as a young Stanford professor, sought advice and counsel from his learned colleague John Gardner. What did Spence learn from Collins? “You’re only as young as the new things you do,” he writes, “the number of ‘firsts’ in your days and weeks.” Ask any educator and they’ll agree: We learn the most when we encounter people who are the least like us. Then ask yourself: Don’t you spend most of your time with people who are exactly like you? Colleagues from the same company, peers from the same industry, friends from the same profession and neighborhood?

It takes a real sense of personal commitment, especially after you’ve arrived at a position of power and responsibility, to push yourself to grow and challenge conventional wisdom. Which is why two of the most important questions leaders face are as simple as they are profound: Are you learning, as an organization and as an individual, as fast as the world is changing? Are you as determined to stay interested as to be interesting? Remember, it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

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