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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Laissez-faire Le Strand

When I've got a lot going on...well make that much more than normal going on...I sometimes experience this odd phenomenon in which I can't get a certain song out of my head.  This isn't an "earworm"; rather, it's more like my brain is trying to grasp at something to anchor itself onto, lest it is swept away in a sea of thoughts are firing like machine gun bullets in my head.

And so we now have The Strand.

I have to thank (and/or blame) my older brother Rich for the introduction to Roxy Music.  He always had far better taste in music that I did, at least when we were growing up.  I can remember him referencing "do the Strandsky" back when neither of us could drive.  And that was a very long time ago.  Anyway, I actually do enjoy Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry's work, although I just wish I could do a better job of pausing it in my head at the moment.

In other music news, I learned yesterday that ABBA has recorded two new songs.  In fact, two of my former HR co-workers actually made sure I heard the news.  I guess those impromptu renditions of "Dancing Queen" all those years ago made an impression.  It makes our summer trip to Sweden (and other Nordic places) all the better.

Lastly, I had a birthday this past week and was treated to many wishes and congratulations.  It's a blessing to have folks remember such a thing. 

Here's to the start of another trip around the sun. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

From the Anger-Avoiding Control Freak Lessons Learned Department

Something of a follow-up to THIS posting from February.

I've been thinking about anger lately.  Not as in "I am angry, therefore I am thinking about it", but rather how I feel and express anger.

Am I afraid of anger?  Part of the answer is, I think, yes.  Growing up, as I may have noted before, my Mother basically had two emotions:  Angry and not angry.  There would be some occasional happiness thrown in, but by and large, her predominant emotion that her children witnessed was that of being mildly pissed off.  To that point, my Mother never needed to do much in the way of disciplining her four sons, mostly because she was so very skillful at intimidation through anger.  We behaved mostly because we were afraid not to.  And we didn't know any better.  Anger was a kind of mental blunt-force weapon.

Fast forward to adulthood, and I tend to react strongly to anger.  While those reactions run a certain gamut, one isn't usually present:  Anger.  I don't get angry because someone else is angry.  In fact, and as I noted in February, I rarely now get truly angry.

In some respects it's a blessing:  I am truly at my best in times of crisis.  I am good at listening when others are upset.  I can be the voice of reason when chaos seems to be swirling all about me.

Like many good things though, there is also a dark side:  My being calm is, in some respects, simply a reflex reaction, an ability to withdraw when strong emotions are present.  I am calm in part because I learned to avoid strong emotions like anger.  For me, well, anger isn't a healthy emotion.  In fact, I have a tendency to view those who are chronically angry as being, in some respects, weak.  Out of control.


There's the pivotal word in all of this stuff.  Anger for me represents a loss of control.  And I can't lose control.

Anger = Loss of control.

Loss of Control = I can no longer rely on myself.

I Can't Rely on Me = There is no one else to rely upon.

Growing up, we were something of an island onto ourselves.  Knowing rationally that we can rely on someone is different than actually feeling that you can rely on someone.  For me, well, the feeling was just never really there, and that part has repeated itself throughout my life.  It influenced me far too much in my young adult years, and I'm fairly convinced that this obsessive need for control ended up driving more than just mental knots in my's likely also responsible for some of the physical ailments that face this "sooner to be an older" guy.

So what's the purpose here?  What's the "endgame"?

The latter, well, I guess within life we all know what the "endgame" really is, so no sense even mentioning it.  No, here it's the space between here and the "endgame" that's important.  All of this means that I need to/am working on a few things...

...authentically expressing my feelings
...not using guilt as a plug-n-play cop-out for failing to deal with my own feelings
...remembering that I do have truly good people in my life who I truly can rely on
...acknowledging that ultimately control is nothing but a sloppy (at best) excuse for insecurity

Heady stuff, I know.  With that, the psychoanalysis postings are (mostly) concluded.  For now.

The next posting will be about cats.  Maybe.

Friday, April 20, 2018

5 Essential Life Truths (that sound depressing but aren't)

The Psychology Today feed on Facebook is terrific.  Recently they posted this article that I enjoyed so much that I just had to share it with my wife.

It's worth the time to read the article.  By way of summary, the 5 Essential Life Truths are:

1.  Stress Happens
2.  There's No Such Thing As A Happy Ending
3.  The Cover-Up Is Worse Than The Crime
4.  There's No Magic Bullet
5.  There's No Elevator...You Have To Take The Stairs

In some ways, the article reminds me of one of my favorite books, Dr. Gordon Livingston's Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.

I think a lot of what the article (and the book by Dr. Livingston) says can be rolled up into one simple thought:  So many spend so much time looking for shortcuts in life that simply don't exist.

Yes, and to be blunt, there are no shortcuts.

What may seem like a shortcut that may even work at the moment...will almost always cost more in the long term.  Life is a bank where it always ends up costing you more if you delay putting the effort into making payments now.  Today's shortcut is tomorrow's balloon interest payment.

Part of why this is an issue is the fact that we live in a society obsessed with immediate self-gratification.  We get upset if we have to wait more than five minutes for fast food.  We see the seemingly carefree lifestyles of those in the media and delude ourselves into believing that they somehow "have it made".  Never mind how much substance and other forms of abuse are rampant among public figures.  We think we're entitled to instant happiness all the time, and we become depressed at the thought that we're being denied.  I firmly believe that it's all a mirage, designed to distract us from the simple, essential truths of life.

In life, I'm more convinced than ever that it's doing the simple, basic things well that matter the most.  Things like:

Show up on time.

Be polite.

Be first to compliment and last to criticize.

Work hard.

Put the effort into being prepared, no matter what the task.

Always do a little more than you are asked.

Be everyone...even those who aren't necessarily kind to you.

Be truly present in the moment.

(I fail at many of these by the way, but I do have a secret weapon:  Persistence.)

None of the above costs money.  None of the above makes for a very good television show plot.  None of this will generate many social media "likes".  But in the end, when we all, no matter our wealth or social status, have to look back at the realities of how we've spent...or squandered...our lives, all of this will matter.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Forever Young

I've never gone this nearly 10 years of writing this blog...without posting something.  Even now I'm somewhat iffy on this posting, but guilt is starting to creep in, so I best get a typing.

As a side note, I actually wrote a posting last week, but I just don't feel like publishing it.  Doesn't feel right for some reason.

Anyway, a lot is happening.

In news of the sad, one of our cats, Tiger, passed away this past Monday.  Tiger was very special for three reasons:

  1. He was the fluffiest cat I've ever seen, bar none.  He had fluff in abundance.  A surplus of fluff.  And for the record, I've seen some fluffy cats in my lifetime.
  2. He was one of the friendliest cats I've ever encountered.  In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there was only one person on this Earth that Tiger didn't like.  Most humans can't say the same thing.  Tiger lived for getting petted.  Absolutely lived for it.
  3. He was genuinely beloved by my youngest stepson, with whom he spent countless hours.

Tiger passed away by my stepson's side, a point of which is both heartening...leaving this Earth next to someone you love...and saddening (for my stepson).  He will be missed by all, with the possible exception of our two remaining cats, who, in the truest spirit of cats everywhere, seem more or less indifferent to it all.

Tiger, doing his "I want to touch your face" thing.

I do miss the fluff-monster, but I take some comfort in knowing that he was likely very sick before he passed, and is now free from all such flesh-laden liabilities.  

My youngest stepson has taken a liking recently to Bob Dylan, which, given all of the horrible music out there these days, is nothing short of wonderful.  Like most teenagers though, he has to face a world that's rapidly changing around him.  Some of those changes are incredibly sad, such as losing a pet who was your constant companion.  While none of us can avoid loss, we make the choice to not let it turn us into cynical old people well before our time.  Maybe part of us can stay Forever Young.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Radio Personalities/Imus Retirement

In his Tuesday (April 3rd) blog entry, WNEP's Andy Palumbo writes about the retirement of Don Imus (see HERE).  He also shares his listing of top 5 radio personalities.

quack quack

It's a topic I can't resist, although I'll preface what I'm about to write by noting that my opinions are completely those of a listener.  Put another way, I don't know much about the media business, and at age 53(1), that's not likely to change.  So if you want a professional's opinion, find another blog.  On to the amateur hour.

moby worm, coming to get ya

My list isn't in any order, other than the first one listed.  I'll also note that I've only listed broadcasters that I've actually listened to over the years.

Howard Stern
I've written about Howard Stern before on this blog over the years.  I first heard his show during the summer of 1986 while I was living in York, PA.  I've been a fan ever since.  I don't find everything he does funny; in fact, I find some of his bits to be cringe worthy.  However, when all is said and done, Stern will go down in history as someone who basically re-invented radio and who could be wildly entertaining.  His sound effects guy, Fred Norris, deserves special recognition for his ability to drop just the right sounds at just the right time. 

Rush Limbaugh
I hate what comes out of Rush Limbaugh's mouth, but I admire how it comes out.  If that makes sense.  He's entertaining and engaging.  What I find fascinating about Limbaugh is the fact that, deep-down, I don't think he believes half of what he says, in spite of the fact that his legions of "ditto-heads" take it as gospel.  I also admire the fact that he's not above making fun of his "character".

Art Bell
I've read where Bell was notoriously difficult to work with, but man, he could keep an audience mesmerized.  I know 98% of the stuff coming out of his mouth was outlandish, unmitigated nonsense, but man, it sounded good (and convincing).  He was kind of like an odd uncle that would tell you incredible stories.  "From the Kingdom of Nye..."

quack quack

Garrison Keillor
The only person on this list I've ever actually seen in person(2).  I was an occasional listener of A Prairie Home Companion.  The music for me was so-so, but I always enjoyed Keillor's ability to tell a story.  There was always something very comforting about hearing him on the radio.

Michael Feldman
I doubt many have heard of Michael Feldman(3).  His show, Whad'Ya Know?, was a companion for me as I made many trips back and forth to college in the mid-1980's.  Think of him as being Wisconsin's answer to Garrison Keillor, and his show as being basically "A Dairy Home Companion".  Back then it was fun and entertaining for a young man (me) who really had no clue what he was doing and was lonely as he cruised down I81 in a 1974 Chrysler.

(my actual college car)

how's your donkey kong?(4)

Papa Joe Chevalier
The only sports commentator that I ever found even remotely funny or engaging.  I loved his show when it was on locally.  He had the best theme song ever.  He also managed to talk about sports in a way such that you really didn't need to be a sports fanatic to "get it".  May he rest in peace.

So, what about Imus?

Don Imus was cranky and mean, be it to his listeners, to his staff, and some of his guests.  While many top-tier radio personalities have healthy egos, Imus has one that seems outsized by comparison.  Towards the end of his career, he was also unlistenable, mumbling his way through rants.  While I've listened to Imus over the years, I never found him to be entertaining.  He needed to retire years ago.

(1) Soon to be 54, for the record.
(2) Twice, for the record.
(3) More about him HERE.
(4) The stupid phrases were all things a listener would hear on the Imus in the Morning Show.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Leadership and Not Being Horrible

A friend of mine(1) recently shared on social media a bit of writing entitled The Church of Not Being Horrible by a gentleman named John Pavlovitz.  It's a nice read, and we can all use a bit less horrible in our lives these days.

The article also reminded me of something I've been working on for a while now, something that I really do need to finish one of these days.  That something is to more clearly define my own personal leadership philosophy.  I put a few minutes into it every now and then, but post some other things coming up in the next few weeks I'm going to really work on calling it more or less complete.

Anyway, at the center of my nascent leadership philosophy is a simple idea:

Be a decent human being.

Yes, I firmly believe that leaders, more so than anyone else in an organization, and regardless of who and what they lead, have a special obligation to be decent human being before anything else.

This doesn't mean that, for example, as a leader, you don't make tough decisions.  A leader can make tough and unpopular decisions, but still, do it in a way that holds to the spirit of being a decent human being.

Have to let someone who is performing poorly go?  Do it in a way that exemplifies being a decent human being.  That means, for example, making sure that the employee in question has been given ample opportunities to improve their performance.  That means that you have provided clear and concise feedback about what needs to be improved.  And you specifically ask them why they are not adequately performing.  That means when it's time to give someone their notice, you don't outsource the deed to anyone else, including Human Resources.

Have to reduce staff/lay someone who works for you off?  Be a decent human being and do it in person.  Explain the reasons behind the decision.  Show kindness and compassion.  Offer every opportunity available to you to help the employee find a new job (either in the company or externally).  Be fully present and accept responsibility for the decision, even if it wasn't yours entirely to make.  Accept the shock, anger and perhaps sorrow the person may be feeling(2) and demonstrate nothing but empathy in return.  Being a decent human being means that you don't "dump and run".

Dealing with a lot of change in your team/organization/company?  Being a decent human being means that you go out of your way to make yourself available to answer questions(3), even if you don't have all the answers.  It means that you have an information sharing switch that defaults to "share" unless there is a compelling business reason to do the opposite.  It means that you make dealing with your team's uncertainty a top priority instead of simply hoping it will go away.

Lastly, being a decent human being means that you are as friendly and respectful to the maintenance staff, cafeteria workers and all those others who serve you as you are to executives you want to impress.  Put another way, if you know the name of the highest ranking person in your organization but not the name of the person you see every day that empties your trash, well, I'm sorry but you're not succeeding in the "being a decent human being" arena.

By the way, if you think this is so simple that it doesn't need to be said, well, I'd say in return that you're not working in a typical organization these days.  As noted above, there's a lot of horrible going on.  This is difficult stuff, and I openly admit that I fail sometimes to be a truly decent human being.  That noted I do have one thing going for me:  I do keep trying (to be a decent human being).

(1) Michele; you can find her blog HERE.  You can find out more about her business HERE.
(2) Even towards you.  Note that they may want nothing to do with you, and that's their choice.  Your choice, however, is to be a decent human being.
(3) As opposed to avoiding questions.