Black Panther – something I’m looking forward to!

Yes, I’m a programmer and full stack developer, speaker, etc, but… at TAMU I minored in history. One of my focus areas was African history (the continent. Think 1000+ years of history.) Thus I’m really looking forward to watching Black Panther.

Let me count the ways:

First – I’ve heard it is a GREAT movie.

Second – I’m hoping to learn more from what is hopefully a historically “aware” science fiction movie that will open minds to the richness and culture. We must learn from our origin.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1825683/

Prince was a Trickster

Prince was a trickster, the best kind of god for social scientists and apparently the verge agrees as well. There are numerous books on this, the last I read was called Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art.

Tricksters have always been with us

Are they tricksters or merely pranksters? That is up to you to discern, but that is the point, right? They stole the sun and the moon while we “took the time to watch the flowers in the garden” while doing yoga.

As one review of the book Trickster by Lleu Christophe points out

Hyde gives equal time to the Native American Coyote, the Chinese Monkey King and India’s Krishna. At first glance, these characters are merely pranksters; humorous, sometimes annoying and occasionally dangerous ne’er do wells who disrupt the normal flow of things. As the title of this book suggests, Hyde believes tricksters are much more than this. He makes a convincing case that tricksters are essential in both preserving and transforming societies. Without their disruptions, cultural stagnation would result. He points out that tricksters can either help to maintain the status quo or bring about radical transformation.

To quote two of my favorite tricksters, Pablo Picasso and DuChamp,

Everything you can imagine is real. – Pablo Picasso

Now to quote DuChamp, an artist who “refused to repeat himself”, now that is a challenge. Every quote is subjectively abrogated by another quote from the past or the future like the a religious text – was it situationally appropriate? DuChamp stated this himself.

I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste. – Marcel Duchamp

To ponder that, if a trickster’s response is situationally appropriate is in and of itself a huge trick. Did in fact the Raven steal the sun and the moon, one, or both? Perhaps more importantly, we all know that Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.

As for DuChamp, you can reinvent, but it takes energy to constantly come up with a unique identity. DuChamp still needed a vehicle to wrap the thread around, a thread to follow back out of the woods if he got lost.

To begin to understand Duchamp takes someone way smarter than me. I choose to view his work like the bobbin of time.  We are just the blameless victim of observation. Maybe the thread broke, or maybe thread did not break. At least a cat didn’t die in the discovery process. right? Regardless like the genius before his time that he was, Duchamp gave us Rrose Sélavy to at least provide one example guide, like the math equations with odd numbers solved in the back of our calculus books, so that we might oddly enough, solve the evens.

marcel-duchamp-rose

These threads are strings. The strings are wrapped around bobbins of tricks and truth. And these bobbins are not the tiny bobbins that went in your parents’ sewing machines. These strings are the messy bobbins of someone working a weave. The bobbins are large with varied widths and inconsistencies from the vagaries of human behavior and therefore our resulting inconsistent craftsmanship.

bobbins for weaving
weaving bobbins

Damn the Industrial Revolution! Of course ManRay was there for DuChamp to accommodate the birth of the DuChamp’s trickster alter ego – Rrose Sélavy:

Rrose Sélavy, the feminine alter ego created by Marcel Duchamp, is one of the most complex and pervasive pieces in the enigmatic puzzle of the artist’s oeuvre. She first emerged in portraits made by the photographer Man Ray in New York in the early 1920s, when Duchamp and Man Ray were collaborating on a number of conceptual photographic works. Rrose Sélavy lived on as the person to whom Duchamp attributed specific works of art, Readymades, puns, and writings throughout his career.

Is the Trickster dead? Well one of the greatest tricksters of all time, we just lost in Prince.  I must point out the brilliance: Die Antwood, the collaboration between  “rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser (often stylized as Vi$$er) and DJ Hi-Tek” (source)

To get a straight stand alone “test-of-time quote” from DuChamp I imagine would be like  trying to get a straight answer from Die Antwood, some of the most brilliant tricksters to emerge in years.. Their collaboration makes no sense, until you realize they’re fucking with you.

They. Are. Fucking. With. You.

 

And the most guilty of all, of fucking with us, is Prince. So let’s go crazy because he already predicted it. Partying like it’s 1999 was stolen from us by a bunch of computer nerds warning about the two-digit date big. We have NEVER partied like it was 1999.

You know what we can do? We can and should go crazy. If you aren’t already there yet, join us, because we look the same as you, act the same, obey the law and act ethically, but I am told there is an ethos that emerges when you “go crazy”. I don’t know, I’m not there yet, but it is a worthy topic of discussion.

Lyrics to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy from

 

Falling Behind?

Hey I'm Jamie

From: Falling behind? by Jamie Varon

But, honestly, here’s the thing that nobody really talks about when it comes to success and motivation and willpower and

goals and productivity and all those little buzzwords that have come into popularity: you are as you are until you’re not.

You change when you want to change. You put your ideas into action in the timing that is best. That’s just how it happens.

falling behind
Jamie Varon on falling behind in life

And what I think we all need more than anything is this: permission to be wherever the fuck we are when we’re there.

You’re not a robot. You can’t just conjure up motivation when you don’t have it.

and

There’s a magic beyond us that works in ways we can’t understand. We can’t game it. We can’t 10-point list it. We can’t control it. We have to just let it be, to take a fucking step back for a moment, stop beating ourselves up into oblivion, and to let the cogs turn as they will. One day, this moment will make sense. Trust that.

Give yourself permission to trust that.

Full post on Medium by Jamie Varon is here:

Jamie Varon is a writer based out of Los Angeles. You can connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and at her Facebook page. Because we all need candid smart and fearless thinkers in our lives. This one impresses me.

EMAIL SUBJECT LINES, LINKS AND NUMBERED LISTS

The burden of communication is on the communicator; not the recipient.

Therefore proper email etiquette is to use strong subject lines, links, numbered lists and reasonably short paragraphs. Use these guidelines on how to write a decent email that might actually produce results.

Seals at La Jolla in California
Seals at La Jolla in California
Specifically emails must use:
  1. Email Subject Lines – all emails need a well articulated and relevant Subject Line.
    1. Examples of good email subject lines:
      1. Client X going live on Tuesday July 29 before Friday Board Meeting
      2. Training help file on email etiquette posted on schipul.com
      3. Feast with the Beast Presale Facebook AD text (sent to the zoo)
    2. Bad subject lines torture your coworkers with anxiety which lowers morale and greatly reduces profitability.
    3. Every time an email is sent with a bad subject line, a baby seal dies. This is sad. Save the baby seals! Use good subject lines!
  2. Links – ease of use changes behavior.
    1. Ease of use changes behavior. Without links people will NOT click through to see the work that has been done.
    2. It is rare that an email goes out that is truly not about SOMETHING that should be linked. Yes exceptions occur, but they are rare exceptions.
    3. It is not your coworker’s responsibility to overcome your unwillingness to copy/paste a link from a site you are probably looking at when you sent the email!
    4. Every time an email is sent without a link, a baby seal dies. This is sad. Save the baby seals! Use links!
  3. Numbered Lists – organize the information
    1. Bulleted lists are evil because they do NOT convey priority by the sender. Yet the recipient invariably starts at the top assuming this is in fact the top priority.
    2. The value of forcing yourself to use numbered lists is that the sender (you) must organize your thoughts before confusing everyone else. It has been my experience that most people do not “order” bulleted lists but numbering makes them think about it.
    3. Raise your hand if you like numbered lists! Now raise your other hand so things balance out. Or to put it another way – be kind to people who need this structure. It benefits you if people understand your message. Embrace diversity including “diversity of types of thinkers.” Structure and prioritize your content.
  4. Use Short Paragraphs – with rare exceptions
    1. Shorter paragraphs with strong subject sentences greatly increase reading comprehension.
    2. Speed readers tend to read the first sentence of a paragraph and use that to make a decision if they should bother reading the rest. Shorter paragraphs means more of your message is consumed regardless.
    3. They force you to organize your thoughts before wasting everyone else’s time!
  5. Don’t use Nickel words – save them for scrabble
    1. To repeat – the burden of communication is on the communicator, including in email, not the recipient. While it is possible to write in tongues, this needlessly reduces comprehension.
    2. But don’t oversimplify an email as that just make it more confusing. Just make it as simple as possible and no simpler.
    3. If you must use an idiosyncratic word – well – LINK IT!
We all value our time. You do. I do. Everyone does. So it frequently seems expedient to send an email quickly without thought. The problem is the person receiving these emails might be receiving 500 emails a day and there is no way to Get Things Done without more data.
For example assuming you – not putting a decent subject line – costs each recipient 1 extra minute of time to comprehend (if they give you this minute), then an email that saved you 1 minute, just cost a company of 30 people 29 minutes of billable time. This is very real money. And these are very real emotions on the part of the recipient.
Don’t be mean; take the time to write decent emails.
[Note: this was an internal company help file for years, I probably wrote it around 2002 or 2003. This is just me reposting it for public consumption.]

things changed between triple crowns

The digital divide is not only between the digital natives and the elders, between the digitally enhanced and the not, between the glassholes and the blind, but also over time. There is a time we cannot imagine anymore and those from the past could not imagine accurately the future. Hence our (my?) love of Steampunk, historical visions of the future (past).

american-pharoah-vs-secretariat-crowds

The big divide occurred when a third “item to be carried at all times” was introduced, an idea that I cannot properly attribute as it has sunk into our consciousness so deeply the origin is now a mystery.  The third item? The first two “items to be carried at all times” being (1) something of value (cash) and (2) a method of accessing something of value (key, credit card, secret code). Every human has had these two on their person at all times without fail since the great leap forward, to quote Guns, Germs and Steel.

Within 25 years it has changed entirely. Now we all have a third item. (3) Our communicator from Star Trek. We all carry a mobile device.

More importantly, these devices don’t just facilitate communication; they change how we interact at a systemic experiential level. We didn’t just watch American Pharoah (sic) win the Triple Crown, we recorded every second of American Pharoah trotting around Belmont Park. Because…

“If you don’t have a pic, it didn’t happen.” – anonymous

Further irony? Here in meta-meta-meta-land, I took a picture of the HD TV of people taking video and pictures as American Pharoah’s victorious Triple Crown bid was broadcast into my living room. Then combined it with an image from google image search on my mobile device while waiting at a restaurant. To capture the right image I used a Tivo (now a generic word like Kleenex) to rewind and jump forward prior to the start of the race for half of this cell-phone-crowd-picture I first posted on Instagram.

Here is to history and a wonderful victory for American Pharoah winning the triple crown after a 17 year drought. And here is to the amazing human which adapts and evolves in front of our eyes in real time. We don’t have hover-boards, but the revolution is here and indeed it will be televised; on periscope.tv.

Now get out there and record something and post it to prove it happened and let your devices consume you. Because that is the future. It’s your destiny kid.

human or systemic resistance to sharing knowledge

“The biggest impediment,” the commission warned, “is the human or systemic resitance to sharing information.” … “Intelligence should be processed… according to the same quality standards”

From “Garland terror case highlights intelligence-sharing impediments”, Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2015

micro blogs – telling a story on a dime

I have the privilege, although lately I’ve had my head in the code more than the pr and marketing side of the business, of speaking to communications groups on the power of social media. You can thank my PR team for that really, although the content and delivery have to meet professional levels or they wouldn’t ask me back. But I have help with that too. The myth of the solopreneur is just that – a myth.

This year’s public speaking in particular has been strange but amazing having been invited to the IABC International Conference and now speaking at the PRSA International Conference in San Francisco. Part of me knows I have content great relevant qnd can deliver it and save professionals hundreds of hours of time if they attend. Just seeing the data from 500 clients go by like the matrix you pick up on trends others don’t see. I have that privilege thanks to the work of my team. Yet it is still surreal.

Yet you should come. The PRSA International conference is Saturday through Tuesday in San Francisco. And my session is on Tuesday. Specifically I am speaking on Micro Blogs. The official description is:

Micro Blogs: How to Tell a Story on a Dime
Discover the next trend in micro blogging.
Learn the best ways to tell your story on micro blogs.
Learn the ins and outs of the hottest micro blogging platforms and discuss their brand storytelling potential.

There is an irony that the talk description doesn’t include a photo given all of relevant microblogs IMHO are visual focused. Yes there is twitter, but even the stats on twitter show that tweets with linked photos are much more popular. And I have to admit I am more likely to post to Instagram than twitter these days. You can’t describe a Lady Gaga Votive Candle and the correlation to DjangoDocs as easily as you can show it.

If you are going to be at the PRSA International Conference in San Francisco this weekend through Tuesday, please stop by by session. And I’ll be attending (not speaking as I’ll be exhausted, just attending) the San Francisco Netsquared Meeetup on Net Neutrality on Tuesday evening October 16th. Mainly so I can heckle @thisisnotapril cause I miss her.

gdrive on the mac refuses to let you change the associated account

Ah google drive. Not exactly a Drop Box killer in any way, but with the conversion of google docs to the google drive many of us inherited it if we wanted it or not.

The first strike against this new imposition of gdrive rules is that apparently it doesn’t work so well with Google’s own Cloud Connect Product which integrates with Microsoft Office. But that wasn’t our particular problem with gdrive this evening. My problem with gdrive was that I was trying to cascade a laptop to one of my sons and it refused to let him log into the Gdrive with his gmail address. Even though all traces of the former owner had been removed, or so I thought…. (yes we uninstalled, reinstalled, Chrome, gdrive, rebooted, software updated, etc, etc….)

Mind you this isn’t google apps for business. This is a regular blah@gmail dot com type of email account that is also used for itunes etc. We uninstalled Chrome. Removed my other sons name from anyplace it appeared in System Settings on the Mac (OSX Lion 10.8.3). In particular I was sure to remove the former owner from all services under:

System Preferences / Internet & Wireless / Mail Contacts & Calendars

At this point after uninstalling Chrome and Gdrive both. Reinstalling Gdrive numerous times and changing everyone’s passwords I have been reduced to adding new aliases in my /.bash_profile file and my youngest son is like “Dad, it’s not that big of a deal I can just access it on the web site.” But no….. now I’m ticked.

Here is the error message and then the solution.

And for the search engines the text of the dialog box reads

"Google Drive. The account you entered does not match. Please sign in again with your ______@gmail.com account to proceed."

The catch is that account doesn’t exist anymore. Google drive was uninstalled as was Chrome. And gmail and web services are working fine on the new account when logged in to the web using Chrome or Firefox. It is JUST the Mac locally installed G Drive that won’t allow access.

The solution cobbled together from various blog posts. Using terminal with a sudo prefix:

sudo cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Google/Drive
Password:

and you will see something like this:

LOCAL:~/Library/Application Support/Google/Drive
[Drive]$ ls -a
. CrashReports lockfile sync_config.db
.. cacerts snapshot.db

Just kill it all. From there is should be a matter of doing

cd ..
sudo rm -rf Drive

and then launching Gdrive on the mac again. This time it should prompt you to login with the new account associated with that computer. I can’t recall if we did a reboot in-between this step or not so consider that as well. And empty your Trash before you reboot because you probably need to do that anyway.

Two side notes learned over the years dealing with the Mac-n-Cheese-version-of-shiny-BSD-Aqua-Unix we call Macs (?rant? POSIX absolutely SHOULD be acceptable in WWF. Grrrrr.).

1) Do not EVER change your primary user admin home directory. Ever. You can change anything else on a Mac, but it will be a living hell trying to find every reference to the home directory baked into the OS. So if you buy a laptop from bob smith and his home directory is ‘bsmith” then either get OK with it, or rebuild the machine.

2) Gdrive, and google docs, are fine for personal use IMHO. So is DropBox. But neither have scaled for us at work even using google apps. Two alternatives I would encourage you to look at for business file sharing and syncing are SpiderOak and SugarSync. We are testing both although I am leaning heavily towards SpiderOak because it is lower cost and has better security. Of course like TrueCrypt or 1Password if you lose your key there is no plan B, but that also means your data is truly secure and you should invest in a lock box at a bank and (gasp) right down the authentication.

I don’t think I am focusing where I need to focus

Focus is a problem of mine. Or rather controlling focus – when I am focused on a subject I am very very focused. This video on meditation has great content from what I heard. And I need to meditate to chill out. Alas, while watching I think my focus was on the wrong thing.

 

Is it just me?

“You’re asking if he is a Sicilian.“

The Don had not seemed surprised when Hagen returned from California late tuesday evening and told him the results of the negotiations with Woltz. He had made Hagen go over every detail and grimaced with distaste when Hagen told about the beautiful little girl and her mother. Had had murmured “infamita,“ his strongest disapproval. He had asked Hagen one final question, “does this man have real balls?“

Hagen considered exactly when the Don meant by this question. Over the years he had learned that the Don’s values were so different from those of most people that his words also could have a different meaning. Did Woltz have character? Did he have a strong will? He most certainly didn’t, but that was not what the Don was asking. Did the movie producer have the courage not to be bluffed? Did he have the willingness to suffer heavy financial loss delay on his movies would mean, the scandal of his big star exposed as a user of heroin? Again the answer was yes. But again this was not what the Don meant. Finally Hagen translated the question properly in his mind. Did Jack woltz have the balls to risk everything, to run the chance of losing all on a matter of principle, on a matter of honor; for revenge?

Hagen smiled. He did it rarely but now but he could not resist jesting with the Don. “You’re asking if he is a Sicilian.“ The Don nodded his head pleasantly, acknowledging the flattering witticism and its truth. “No,“ Hagen said.

That had been all. The Don had pondered the question until the next day. on Wednesday afternoon he had called Hagen to his home and given him his instructions. The instructions had consumed the rest of Hagen’s working day and left him dazed with admiration. There was no question in his mind that the Don had solved the problem, that Woltz would call him this morning with the news that Johnny Fontane had the starring part in his new war movie.

At that moment the phone did ring but it was Amerigo Bonasera. The undertaker’s voice was trembling with gratitude. He wanted Hagen to convey to the Don his undying friendship. the Don had only to call on him. He, amerigo Bonasera, would lay down his life for the blessed Godfather. Hagen assured him that the Don would be told.

The Daily News had carried a middle-page spread of Jerry Wagner and Kevin Moonan lying in the street. The photos were expertly gruesome, they seemed to be pulps of human beings. Miraculously, said the News, they were both still alive though they would both be in the hospital for months and would require plastic surgery. Hagen made a note to tell Clemenza that something should be done for Paulie Gatto. He seemed to know his job.

Hagen worked quickly and efficiently for the next three hours consolidating earning reports from the Don’s real estate company, his olive oil importing business and his construction firm. None of them were doing well but with the war over they should all become rich producers. He had almost forgotten the Johnny Fontaine problem when his secretary told him California was calling. He felt a little thrill of anticipation as he picked up the phone and said, “Hagen here.“

The voice that came over the phone was unrecognizable with hate and passion. “You fucking bastard,“ Woltz screamed. “I’ll have you all in jail for a hundred years. I’ll spend every penny I have to get you. I’ll get that Johnny Fontane’s balls cut off, do you hear me, you guinea fuck?“

Hagan said kindly, “I’m German-Irish.“ There was a long pause and then a click of the phone being hung up. Hagen smiled. Not once had Woltz uttered a threat against Don Corleone himself. Genius had its rewards.

Jack Woltz always slept alone. He had a bed big enough for ten people and a bedroom large enough for a movie ballroom scene, but he had slept alone since the death of his first wife ten years before. This did not mean he no longer used women. He was physically a vigorous man despite his age, but he could be aroused not by only very young girls and had learned that a few hours in the evening were all the youth his body and his patience could tolerate.

On this Thursday morning, for some reason, he awoke early. The light of dawn made his huge bedroom as misty as a foggy meadowland. Far down at the foot of his bed was a familiar shape and Woltz struggled up on his elbows to get a clearer look. It had the shape of a horse’s head. Still groggy. Woltz reached and flicked on the night table lamp.

The shock of what he saw made him physically ill. It seemed as if a great sledgehammer had struck him on the chest, his heartbeat jumped erratically and he became nauseous. His vomit splattered on the thick bear rug.

Severed from its body, the black silky head of the great horse Khartoum was stuck fast in a thick cake of blood. White, reedy tendons showed. Froth covered the muzzle and those apple-sized eyes that had glinted like gold, were mottled the color of rotting fruit with dead, hemorrhaged blood. Woltz was struck by a purely animal terror and out of the terror he screamed for his servants and out of the terror he called Hagen to make his uncontrolled threats. His maniacal raving alarmed the butler, who called Woltz’s personal physician and his second in command at the studio. But Woltz regained his senses before they arrived.

He had been profoundly shocked. What kind of man could destroy an animal worth six hundred thousand dollars? Without a word of warning. Without any negotiation to have the act, its order, countermanded. The ruthlessness, the sheer disregard for any values, implied a man who considered himself completely his own law, even his own God. And a man who backed up this kind of will with the power and cunning that held his own stable security force of no account. For by this time Woltz had learned that the horse’s body had obviously been heavily drugged before someone leisurely hacked the huge triangular head off with an ax. The men on night duty claimed that they had heard nothing. To Woltz this seemed impossible. The could be made to talk. They had been bought off and they could be made to tell who had done the buying.

Woltz was not a stupid man, he was merely a supremely egotistical one. He had mistaken the power he wielded in his world to be more potent than the power of Don Corleone. He had merely needed some proof that this was not true. He understood this message. That despite all his wealth, despite all his contacts with the President of the United States, despite all his claims of friendship with director of the FBI, an obscure importer of Italian olive oil would have him killed. would actually have him killed! Because he wouldn’t give Johnny Fontane a movie part he wanted. It was incredible. People didn’t have any right to act that way. There couldn’t be any kind of world if people acted that way. It was insane. It meant you couldn’t do what you wanted with your own money, with the companies you owned , the power you had to give orders. It was ten times worse than communism. It had to be smashed. It must never be allowed.

Woltz let the doctor give him a very mild sedation. It helped him calm down again and to think sensibly. What really shocked him was the casualness with which this man Corleone had ordered the destruction of a world-famous horse worth six hundred thousand dollars. Six hundred thousand dollars! And that was just for openers. Woltz shuddered. He thought of this life he had built up. He was rich. He could have the most beautiful women in the world by crooking his finger and promising a contract. He was received by kings and queens. He lived a life as perfect as money and power could make it. It was crazy to risk all this because of a whim. Maybe he could get to Corleone. What was the legal penalty for killing a racehorse? He laughed wildly and his doctor and servants watched him with nervous anxiety. Another thought occurred to him. He would be the laughingstock of California merely because someone had contemptuously defied his power in such arrogant fashion. That decided him. That and the thought that maybe, maybe they wouldn’t kill him. That they had something much more clever and painful in reserve.

Woltz gave the necessary orders. His personal confidential staff swung into action. The servants and the doctor were sworn to secrecy on pain of incurring the studio’s and Woltz’ undying enmity. Word was given to the press that the racehorse Khartoum had died of an illness contracted during his shipment from England. Orders were given to bury the remains in a secret place on the estate.

Six hours later Johnny Fontane received a phone call from the executive producer of the film telling him to report for work the following Monday.

– from “The Godfather“
Mario Puzo

goldman-sachs’ toxic culture

From the article: Exec slams Goldman Sachs and the original Goldman Sachs Op Ed in the NYT:

“I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it,” wrote Greg Smith on his “last day at Goldman Sachs,” capping 12 years with Wall Street’s gilded firm.

and

“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off,” he wrote. “Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets,’ sometimes over internal e-mail.”

and

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

To be fair, here is part of Goldman Sachs response:

In a company of our size, it is not shocking that some people could feel disgruntled. But that does not and should not represent our firm of more than 30,000 people. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But, it is unfortunate that an individual opinion about Goldman Sachs is amplified in a newspaper and speaks louder than the regular, detailed and intensive feedback you have provided the firm and independent, public surveys of workplace environments.

While we expect you find the words you read today foreign from your own day-to-day experiences, we wanted to remind you what we, as a firm ““ individually and collectively ““ think about Goldman Sachs and our client-driven culture.

 

Toxic cultures are bad. Don’t talk bad about your clients. Business 101 stuff.

youth, ideas, and bureaucratic resistance

kebabI received two very interesting questions from a young man I met several years ago, passing through Houston on the way to some romantic big city (go ahead, get the whole NYC/LA/SanFran/Boulder/places-you-can’t-eat-but-feel-sexy/thing out of your system.) He asked for lunch and had two questions for me:

1) How do you personally influence people to take ownership of your ideas in order to gain support and momentum to implement change?

I’m going to try to answer that one in a future blog post as my notes for our meeting were a bit too direct for public blogging.

Question number 2!

2) What advice would you give me, a high-energy, optimistic, and idea-generating young guy, operating in a inefficient, bureaucratic, and change-resistant large corporate company?

Listen. Listen. Listen. For both the employee and the employer, almost all of this tension is eliminated if BOTH groups master the art of listening. So to the questioner, my first question is are both you and your managers TRULY listening to each other? If yes, keep reading. If you aren’t actively listening first then none of this matters. Listening is a beautiful thing. One of my favorite quotes.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” – Jimi Hendrix

OK, so you are listening. Then here goes a two part answer from different perspectives.

From the Employee perspective:

Q: What advice would you give me, a high-energy, optimistic, and idea-generating young guy, operating in a inefficient, bureaucratic, and change-resistant large corporate company?

An answer for the employee with the company’s best interest at heart perspective:

As a young employee I found great resistance to my ideas. I read like crazy. I love learning from the mistakes of others. But at 25 few 50 year olds wanted to listen. They had 20 years + experience but I believed had been ingrained in 20 years of outdated experience. So I had a problem. I tried. I pleaded my case. I used logic. No luck. I was a very frustrated employee trying to do the best for the corporation.

I found three magic solutions that worked for me.

1) Accept the burden of communication and go 100% to make your case.

So you are saying youth is a handicap in getting your ideas heard? Well tough. Deal with it. People have burdens and it is their job to overcome the burdens. And in this case the burden of communication is on YOU. The burden of communication is always on the communicator, not the listener. Have you created visuals to explain your point? Have you done dry-run-explanations to others to practice and prepare to communicate your point? Have you created a prototype to prove you believe in the idea so much you will invest your own time on behalf of the company? If you do those things, and back it up with short but direct facts, most ideas, even in a big bureaucracy will be heard. If you aren’t a good communicator, document your idea and recruit a stronger communicator to make the case for you. Still not enough?

Join Toastmasters. Study Tufte for visual communication. Ask your parents how they would handle it even if you are 35. (Seriously, who else besides your parents has your best interests at heart no matter what?) My point is if you give up on trying to express the idea, well, you didn’t believe in it very much either so why should the higher-ups listen?

They shouldn’t because you are the communicator and you aren’t committed to it. Weak. Man up and accept the burden of communication even if it is a taller order for your age group. Or as Covey says; “Any excuse no matter how valid is still an excuse.”

If your response to the above is “Ed, I promise I did all of that and I’d like to show you what I showed them.” then I’d love to see it. And if it really is a good idea. And you really are fighting for the corporation as you should. And you have exhausted every other option of making your point with data and rationality and visual communication then you do have a few more options. These linger near the line of machiavelli, but they do work and if your goals are pure can be executed ethically.

2) Quote old dead people.

Yes, really. I found so much resistance to my ideas from reading Demming and TQM, and getting Microsoft Certifications before my peers, for my constant study. So I found out pretty quickly that you can overcome the prejudice against youth (it’s there, it really is, and sometimes for good reason) by QUOTING PEOPLE. (It was an Excel file that became a database. True story.)

If I said “I have some ideas that I think the corporate office hasn’t taken into consideration” then my store manager heard a punk-25-year-old saying he knew more than the 60 year old CEO of a multimillion dollar publicly traded company. That wasn’t going to happen. BUUUUUUUT, if I said,

“wow, I really like district-manager-x’s ideas. They remind me of a quote from Total Quality Management on systems defining quality. Like the marble experiment. Can I show you the marble experiment and see if you think it might apply to our problems? I could really use your help and I’m not sure I understand Demming completely. I’m just curious and really want to help the company. Can you help? Meet Thursday?”

– if I did that. I had a shot. It worked. It is true that with a good management team you should not need to do this. You should be able to make your case logically above and beyond politics. But if that fails, you do have a plan B. You get no credit, but the company and therefore you benefit. It ain’t perfect, but it works.

3) Convince someone else it is their idea.

This is manipulative and should be avoided. But if you must, it does work. And it is clearly plan C. And if you are executing plan C either your communication is poor (see “1” above) or you didn’t integrate “2” with “1” above. Or maybe you just have a bad management team. But if you must, here goes.

Find a manager or a “chosen one” among the employees. Take a slightly similar idea or remark they made and emphasize it to make them think the primary idea is their idea. Then reinforce it. Whenever you mention that change it is

“I really like Tracy’s idea to improve the warehouse systems and improve on-time delivery for our customers.”

– this worked for me because I didn’t care who got credit. I wanted my employees working in an efficient system. I owed that to them. If my employees were happy who got credit for the idea was irrelevant to me.

If enough awesome stuff happens AROUND you some of the glory gets applied to your personal brand regardless. So get over your ego and give others credit even if you think you guided them to the point. And isn’t it possible they were already headed that way and your reinforcement just pushed them over? Listening for thoughts aligned with your idea might break YOUR bad habit of not listening too. So, good for all, right?

In modern times with programs like Google Desktop or Copernic, I’d probably search my emails until I found one from a higher up that made a salient point along the same lines and use that as my launching point. And to be fair, quite possibly that executive DID have the idea and the company (YOU!) didn’t execute on it. Regardless, get in front of the cart, give credit to the exec if she is ego driven, and start pulling in the same direction.

Again, who cares? You get no credit, but the company and therefore you benefit.

But to be clear. Using this method in anything other than as a last resort will out you as a manipulative bastard and is a CLD. I recommend you focus on (1) and add a few quotes (2) in your arguments for greater persuasive power.

From the CEO perspective.

If you are close minded in your youth, stop reading now. But let me flip this around and point out that you may not be the only person with a brain and the higher ups may not be fools. So here goes.

Q: What advice would you give me, a high-energy, optimistic, and idea-generating young guy, operating in a inefficient, bureaucratic, and change-resistant large corporate company?

1) Listen

Leaders got there because people are willing to follow them. They are usually right. They inspire confidence. Sadly this can also lead a leader to think their ideas are always the best. They aren’t. Frequently the person closest to the customer has the best data and therefore may make better decisions or have better ideas than you. So listen. Listen carefully and don’t just “hear” the idea, but be sure you “see” the employee and truly “see” what they are proposing.

Take the time. Be respectful. And listen at a level that causes you to almost wince at the intensity. This is hard for me. So I work at it. I try hard to be Mindful.

The exception is if you know an employee has not studied, worked with, has no domain knowledge, and they are emphatically arguing a point they know nothing about (ie haven’t done their homework) then perhaps listening isn’t a good use of your time. Remember, they aren’t your only employee so your time is valuable. The idea might be good but the employee can’t express it.

A derivative of listening is to TELL EMPLOYEES HOW TO TALK TO YOU. Be explicit. For example, I like facts. I tell employees this right up front so I don’t get a fully wishy-washy this-might-work-kind-of-hug-a-thon email. But even if they don’t express the idea perfectly, I still make sure I focus on listening. That is a HUGE part of my job. And it’s fun. It is awesome when you find a diamond in the rough who is willing to take risks within your own ranks. It is truly humbling. And it starts with the leader’s obligation to listen.

2) Second – hire on attitude and intelligence.

A person with the right attitude can learn. It sounds funny, but do NOT hire on skill. Skill is over rated and can be learned. Yes there are exceptions for people who have put in their 10,000 hours of mastery of a subject and those people are very valuable. But if some applicant has 50 hours of learning in technology X you are best to ignore it. 50 hours is insignificant. 50 hours is little more than a week and they might have had a bad teacher. 50 hours of learning and they have a “great idea” and it is probably crap. Maybe not, but probably. Skill is over rated.

No, you should evaluate hires on attitude and intelligence. (And ethics, but ethics are baseline so lets assume evil people are out from the beginning.) Young employees don’t get this. They feel you should hire skills first. But if I wasn’t prevented from discussing HR issues about former employees, I could show them the trail-of-tears of promising people who knew technology but didn’t truly understand the client comes first. Their attitude sucked and it ruined any advantages of their “skills.” Keep toxic people OUT of your company. If they sneak in, fire them fast.

OK, so you’ve hired on attitude and intelligence. Now you have people with the possibility of a decent canvas. In six months, you are wrong. Yup. About half of these folks will start saying things like “we’ve always done it that way” after a mere six months. Yes really. They were “open minded” during the transition, got a partial view of the company, locked on to either a bad process, or a process that needs to change and they fight letting go. First have them read Who Moved My Cheese. Then, sadly, educate or terminate if they can’t adapt.

I have never said “gee, you know, I should have waited a few more months to terminate that guy who is pissing everyone in the company off with his refusal to change, his negative attitude and snide remarks.” Nope. Get the bad eggs out NOW. I don’t care if they are profitable for you as an individual. A strong leader must be willing to terminate their top salesperson if that salesperson doesn’t live up to the company vision, mission, values and honor code. The collateral damage is greater than what they bring in. Get the negative-nelly’s out and your profit WILL go up. Maybe not this month, but it WILL go up when the bad karma is gone.

2) Understand that Change is Risk

You now have just the good eggs. Good. Yet they still resist and fear change. That is human nature. And it is HEALTHY. Remember that change is risk and if our ancestors all decided that storing water in lead pots was a good idea we’d all have lead poisoning and crooked spines. Change is risk. It is healthy and natural for people to resist risk. Thus it is up to you the leader to make the case. THIS IS YOUR JOB AS A LEADER. If this fails, it is your fault.

As far as convincing people, younger employees have the most energy but also have a lot of trouble with change. While they think they are more flexible, this has not been my experience. They do things differently, but are locked in to these “different” ways just as much as your team is locked into their “different ways.” Experienced people have seen change before and frequently adapt more willingly.

Millennials want to know EVERY reason for a change to be bought in. In fact they challenge you with

“OK, but just explain to me all of the reasons why we are doing this?”

The leading “OK” means they think it is a negotiation. And frankly to a CEO it is a request to brain dump 25 years of business experience so they can feel better about your decision. And they couldn’t consume the info that fast anyway. (Nero meet Morpheous. It took you a while to beat him in the arena.) This transfer of knowledge might be a great conversation while you pay them to listen to you for months on end, yet they don’t believe you anyway until they relearn the same lessons. That is no way to run a business. That is how to raise a child, but it isn’t how to make a profit.

As a leader you make the best call with the data you have. And you never have enough data. And the employees work for you. Sometimes you just have to be like Nike and say “Just do it.” The employees that can’t handle it will be the same ones who fold in a crisis anyway so best to have them gone too. (sorry, but it’s true.)

For a loyal employee, try saying “Trust me on this one. Put your shoulder into it 100% and lets talk about it after the plan is implemented. I believe you will see then.”

For the pups – try explaining. I typically try asking

“So you are pretty smart and a great employee now. Right? If you were debating with yourself, current-you debating you+20+years, who would be smarter?”

Of course they say “well, future me is just as smart but with more experience so they are probably right.”

Now, if I am feeling sarcastic, I say “so just how amazingly much stupid-er must I have been at your age for me+20+years to be less knowledgeable than you right now?” I don’t mean it disrespectfully, and save this for the really belligerent-you-are-thinking-of-firing-them employees. But it is a shock-treatment that just MIGHT save you a truly valuable employee who can’t see through the fog. And YES, it is better to shock an employee with potential than lose them.

If you are a weak leader you can just let them walk. But I’d rather try hard to get them to see the light before letting them go. They have to fight for the company. But YOU also have to FIGHT FOR THEM! And sometimes that includes tough-love I guess.

The bottom line  if you lose someone is that IT IS YOUR FAULT. You are the leader. You controlled the hiring. You controlled the training. You controlled the leadership. You controlled the management. The one thing you absolutely can NOT do is blame the employee. Nope. It is your fault. If you made the mistake you still have to fix it. But no excuses. LISTEN TO THEM! Who knows, the young bucks idea might be your next million dollar product!

Closing thoughts

This is a natural tension between younger employees, businesses, leaders and knowledge. It’s OK. The key for the employees and the leaders both, the one thing that will reduce this tension 90%, is to first master the art of listening.

Your question, to the young man who asked me, was specific. I gave you specific answers. But as I said at the top, my one wish is that all of us would listen to each other more. If we listen. If we “see you” and truly “hear” your idea, much of this tension dissolves like sugar in water. And you have indeed made a brilliant cup of lemonade.

the guilt of a confessed pre-prayer

Guilt. Guilt is a major factor for me. It is something we Catholics specialize in. Sin is human. You must confess your sins. This is ingrained in you. mary and jesusYou step out of the confessional and you glance at a young woman in your seventh grade class and her breasts are pressing up against her blouse, purchased by her parents a year before she bloomed, not replaced because it was all they could afford, nicely pressed of course, and seventh-grade-you notices perhaps too much. This is followed quickly by the realization that “damnit, now I have to get back in line. shit. it’ll have to wait until next week when we all wait in the freezing church on a wednesday morning in connecticut for confession.” And you prayed. Not to be forgiven for looking at breasts. No, you prayed that next week would not be a week when the Monsignor was working the confessional. The girls in your class were probably just as curious, although all parties too innocent to ever verify any of that. But the Monsignor, while a good and blessed man (see what I did there) did not seem so innocent on these matters. No, in fact he scared the ever living shit out of us. Me in particular I believed. I knew.

I killed time waiting for my turn in confession (never go first. you don’t want a fresh and energetic priest. you want a tired-and-i-wanna-go-back-to-the-rectory-priest) by pre-saying my prayers. I mean, I had time. You knew it was going to be some combination of Hail Mary’s (mostly) a few Our Fathers (the old-reliable) and if you were particularly bad you would get an Apostles’ Creed. And the prayers were doled out as if they were the same. (For the record, they are NOT. To say a Hail Mary, even speed-talking in your little brain can easily take 20 minutes. So the penance of “Say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys” kind of made you mad at the lady of the house.) But back to the point. I never asked if pre-saying prayers for penance counted because I didn’t want to know. I figured nobody ever told me that pre-praying explicitly was not allowed. Surely every other kid had thought of it, right? So I ran with it. I pre-prayed. This worked well and sometimes reduced post-confessional-penance to one or two prayers. I thought this must impress my teachers because they would think I was a really good kid so the priest didn’t give me much of a penance. Who doesn’t like the kid who got one Our Father and could scoot?

But I felt guilty about it.

You get over it.

No, actually you don’t.

Guilt is permanent.

Bless me Father for I have sinned….

 

easy to fall into negativity

From Meg’s post “Girl”:

I told the girls that it is easy to fall into negativity, I told them that this is often something I am guilty of. I get frustrated with people. The first instinct we have to vent. Although every now and then we need to get it out there, venting doesn’t really help. When we vocalize that negativity, it spreads.

For those keeping score, mark me down as “guilty” on this one. I wish it wasn’t true, perhaps we all do it, but I disappoint myself frequently.