Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Problem with Resolutions

I love the beginning of the new year. I love how people treat each other with pleasant civility. We come together and believe the best possible scenarios for the future. A clock strikes 12. We sing a song. We share the moment of endless possibilities.inevitably we think about the past and plan for the future by setting plans to be better. We fall asleep with wonder and awe of tomorrow …

Then we wake up. We look over the list of what we want to accomplish and start crossing off the ones that don’t make sense. Who wants to run a marathon? Who wants to lose weight? Who wants to start saving for the future? The realization of the moment happens and we start to give up on ourselves.

Or even worse … we try and don’t immediately succeed. We buy the new running shoes. We invest in a gym membership. We open a savings account. The weeks go by and all that momentum generated in preparing for something great slows down. We attain the plateau of regularity. Or worse we decline slightly because we think of ourselves as semi-failures.

This is my hardship. This is the path I trod. This is my destiny. With one exception …

There has been much written about the idea of goal setting. Plans of attack that people can use to accomplish their dreams. Some have clever acronyms while others just layout a simple 5 point system. The whole idea is to allow you to internalize a pattern that makes the goal meaningful to you: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely, Goals, Opportunities, Accountability, Limitations, Synergy. For some people they need to share their goals with friends to keep them motivated, while others tell no one so they don’t get demotivated. But ultimately there is a flaw within the simple design of the resolution/goal, and it lies with the underlying desire. In one word … motivation.

What happens with most people, and a main reason why we break our resolutions, is the lack of understanding of why we set the goal in the first place. Why do you want to run the marathon? Why do you want to go to the gym? Why do you want to save for the future? If the underlying motivation is whimsical, for instance “because I heard it was a good idea”, then you most likely will result in giving up on yourself. The truth is something else will take importance over the whimsical. Time may get in the way of training. Fast food may get in the way of the gym. The immediate expenditure may get in the way of savings.

However, if you were to ground your desires in a deeper virtue you will hold on to your goals longer. Removing the whimsy to give space to the poignant. And there are several virtues to choose from: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility, etc. I want to run the marathon to prove to myself that I won’t give up (diligence).I want to go to the gym to get better in shape so I am around for my children and family (charity). I am saving now so the future will not hold financial difficulty for my loved ones (prudence). When you think about the action of the goal now there is something else there then just “you.” Do you want to give up on your diligence, family or future?

As you venture down the new year keep in mind your “why” you want to accomplish something. It is this deeper meaning behind the goal that will ultimately drive you to success. Sure the mantras, acronyms and steps are fine, but if you can internalize a deeper meaning to what you want to accomplish then the achievement is yours. I know you can be excellent in your resolution keeping if only you discover a powerful motivation. Oh … and get yourself a copy of the Theme from Rocky. It’s a huge help as well.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Texting While Driving–A Distraction Story

A while ago a friend of mine told me a story he heard during a presentation. It was about how a young girl was texting and driving and ended up getting into a car accident that killed a family and community friend. She felt ashamed, sorrow and great guilt for what she had done. The family of the man who was killed took compassion on this young girl and asked the judge to be lenient. The judge was and gave the young woman a light sentence as per the victim’s family’s plea. It was an accident.

However, this young girl, unchanged from the original experience, once again was texting and driving and once again got into an accident that killed another individual … almost identical to the first situation. This time the consequences were not so forgiving. The judge was not lenient and the sentencing was for the full amount of time required for the crime.

When the story was told it was more of an instruction to the younger members of the audience about the perils of texting and driving. But something has been nagging at me since I heard the story and I’m not sure the dangers of texting and driving are the only lessons we should learn from this tale. As I have driven these past months another thought kept coming into my mind.

I think the problem isn’t with texting and driving, but distraction while doing something important. All too often we lose site of events that are common place in our lives. Driving, for instance, is about going from one location to another. usually the mode of transportation is a large 2000+ pound vehicle that moves at killer speeds even when slow. Getting behind the wheel of such a machine deserves respect and reverence. But we don’t care about that. It’s a device that is a part of our life. It isn’t something worth respecting and it certainly isn’t something of importance we need to mind.

So the mass of people get behind the wheel and move from point a to point b without thinking that today is the day I could hit something or someone, ignite into a ball of flame, have shards of glass tear through our delicate skin, get mangled by pieces of metal, or a dozen other damaging events that could occur. We drive moving from one lane into another without looking in our rear view mirrors; speed through red lights without stopping; and drive faster than posted speed limits because point b is so important to get to. We forget (or worse we don’t forget) that we are in a machine that deserves respect for the pure awe of it’s existence. We forget the importance of how dangerous this blessing of modern technology truly is.

So we distract ourselves. We talk on the phone; We text people what we are thinking; We prepare for our arrivals at point b. And in doing so we abandon the importance of presence. We take our eyes off the road ahead and lose sight of where we are going. And in that instant the world changes without our knowledge and we succumb to the consequences of that change. A car swerves into our lane; Our vehicle turns too sharply one direction; A person walks out in front of us.

I can’t help but think about this distraction in another light. What important directions in your life were you headed that have been altered? Was it because the change was required or did the change occur because you got distracted?

We all have a direction in life that is an “ethereal point b.” Some believe it is a heavenly eternity others the joining of energy to the cosmos. The question which needs to be answered then is not “What is the meaning of life?” but rather “How well am I progressing towards my ‘ethereal point b’?” If your goal is to be a good person and you live in a world of frustration then what needs to be accomplished to remove the frustration? If you are trying to return to a sacred state and you live in a revolving life of profane then what can you do to change? If you are searching for meaningful relationships with people and you are not a meaningful individual how can you start living a life of worth?

Our “ethereal point b” is important, and we need to stop getting distracted from that path. Put down the cell phones, televisions and other distractions. Pay attention to the road ahead of you. At times it may be long and monotonous. Other times it may be frustrating. It is in times of great struggle that it is most important to stay focused. Diligence during these times will always yield positive results and get you to your destination safely. Most importantly as you travel towards your “ethereal point b” you will appreciate the actual journey itself for what it was: an opportunity for progress.

It may seem like a stretch to leap to life’s progression from texting while driving, but I assure you it is not that far off. The power of the automobile and the power of your potential are very similar. Both can take you to places you’ve never imagined. Both need direction to get to point b. And both are easily distracted by the individual operators. Remember: It wasn’t the texting while driving that was the error, but the being distracted while doing something important. Your life is important. Your potential is important. Your “ethereal point b” is important. The distractions are there, but it is you who makes the choice to pay attention to them. Choose wisely, because the consequences may never be lenient.

Happy Journeys and Travel Safely!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Being Memorable–Creating Events that Stick

It has been mentioned to me repeatedly that I have a unique view on the world at large. I am frequently asked by clients, friends and the occasional strangers advice because I “think-outside-the-box”. Besides the fact that I think the box doesn’t exist (that’s for another post) I truly do believe the reason why I get some of this attention is due to an underlying principle I to which I subscribe: Leave people better than when you met them. How does this equate to being memorable? Let me explain.

Our past is dictated by emotions

Think about your memories. What comes to mind? Are you remembering the mundane activities of life (i.e. getting a drink from 7-11, reading the morning paper, sitting in a meeting) or do you remember the feelings of the activities (i.e. the refreshing feeling of the drink after a workout, reading about a momentous event that changed your world, getting praise for a job well done in front of your peers)?

The majority of what we “recall” in our past is controlled by the emotional contexts we attach to those memories. Sure we recall facts and information so we can traverse our daily activities, but when we think about “Memorable Events” the emotional link is incredibly stronger than the factual link. It’s one of the reasons why people say purchases are “emotional”. It is because when you purchase something one of three emotions can occur: excitement, depression or indifference. And yes … indifference is an emotion.

The two controllable regions of memories

When looking at the emotional context of our past two controllable regions appear. The first is the ability for gratitude and second is the ability for forgiveness. Each one tackles a different area of the emotional cortex that makes up our memories.

Gratitude allows us to ruminate on those activities and events that excite us. When you think about a past event that makes you smile or brings you joy often a feeling of gratefulness for being able to participate in that event occurs as well. This feeling may be large or small. Usually it shows itself by some comment like “That was fun” or “We should do that again”. It is this grateful feeling that allows us to not only think about the past, but ruminate the emotions we had with the event.

Forgiveness allows us to change traumatic events into forgotten memories or, if extremely successful, into Gratitude. When forgiveness occurs between two or more parties then the emotional depression created by the event can begin to dissipate. Ultimately the emotional context of the forgiveness event can surpass the past tragedy. This is where powerful customer service can really shine (but again … another post topic).

When we start to understand these two controllable areas we can start to understand how memorable events can occur.

Anchoring the common into the emotional

When I think about events to put on for a client (either promotional, training or just gathering) I try to look for those emotional moments that can anchor the event into the memory of those attending. The goal is to create an event where the participating parties can ruminate afterwards about the time they had and feel grateful for participating. And if that fails then to jump on the forgiveness train and turn those feelings around so they bind that emotion to the client.

Think about your past memories and the times where you had great joy. Remember the feeling you had during those times. Are you the only person who can have those feelings? If you’re not then that might be a great event to try to host for your business. Here are some random ideas to try:

  • Opening day movie premier
  • Camping, Fishing, Hunting parties
  • Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over open fire pits
  • Dinner and Dancing date night
  • Occasional drop-in to say hello and see how things are going
  • Lunch (and it doesn’t matter where)

The key to being memorable is to provide a memory that is emotionally joyful. The problem I find with many businesses is that they anchor the clients to the wrong thing. Money is important, but it is not emotional. The spending of money is. Ergo “everything 50% off” doesn’t mean as much as you would think to someone not in your store. The 50% off is not emotional, but if you had someone come into your store and they got a surprise 10% off just for being there now you have tied into the emotional spending with a surprise. That is an event people will talk about and come back for more.

Remember my underlying principle: Leave people better than when you met them. Think about that for your next event. Then create the event around the memory. When doing that you start creating clients for life instead of clients for the moment.

Many happy successes on your next memorable events. And of course if you ever need any help, I’m just a lunch time meeting away.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Odd Cyber-Philosophy: One-to-One-to-Many-to-One

I was having a conversation with a new friend of mine, Paul Baltes, about Social Interneting and we stumbled upon this thought. It’s been something that I’ve been trying to understand fully for a while, not the concept, but the interpretation. I call it the “Rule of One-to-One-to-Many-to-One”. Let’s try to understand.

Facebook is a great example of this phenomenon. Someone puts an activity on Facebook inside of their personal stream which they only have access to share (“One-to-One”). That stream gets posted for everyone to see who is connected to them, or, based upon security rights, the world (“One-to-Many”). This hopefully evokes responses from others to comment on the original activity (“One-to-One”). Which is usually publically visible to everybody (“One-to-Many”), but is generally thought of as a response back to original poster (“One-to-One”). And the circle continues.

The problem I have is when the “One-to-One” is mistaken by the “One-to-Many” or even worse, the “One-to-Many” infers something in the “One-to-One”. Because the “posted” world that we exist is a very public exposure (even if you only have 3 friends you are still exposed to those 3 people) we need to consider how this type of communication is received. Or at least implied …

If I’m going to post some stream of conscious thought out of my head to myself (“One-to-One”) I should realize that it will be seen by the “Many”, at least the “Many” who are listening to or care about what I’m doing. And worse, I don’t know who the “Many” could be because I never know who is listening at any given moment. Because I live online I am no longer able to call it the meanderings of a delusional mind. The “Many” will interpret their own meanings of my thoughts and diagnose accordingly. Is this important to the world? It all depends on how heavy you weigh the idea of inference.

Take a great example of positivity: Comcast. When Frank Eliason started utilizing Twitter the company had a poor reputation in customer service. So Frank decided to go to the Twitter community and try to help out. Questions got answered. People got helped. Customer Service was handed out in droves. Why? Because Frank, in serving a particular community, stumbled upon this “One-to-Many-to-One” phenomenon. A customer posed a problem to the cyber-ether (“One-to-One”), Frank listened to people complaining (“One-to-Many”), responded to the problem (“One-to-One”), and publically made it known that a problem could be resolved (“One-to-Many”). Each of us then interpreted that action in our own minds as good or bad (“One-to-One”). For the most part, the response of his actions made Comcast look like they cared about their customer base. And people started realizing if they wanted quick customer service they could jump online and talk to Frank. A win-win-win situation.

This is one angle overlooked by many people when we post things in cyberspace. It’s not just us sending something, but there is an interpretation of that something, which can lead into an active posting dialog. That dialog can be seen by many, many people which makes them internalize meanings whether they want to or not.

So why was Paul Baltes and I talking about this nonsense of a topic? Because we were talking about Social Media and some of things I see as items some Social Media experts overlook. There is power in knowing your audience interprets ideas from your “One-to-One” posts. And this power is great to use in a central strategy for your business.

Or … at the very least … it can help keep the name calling down to a minimum. You never know when your mom is going to be listening. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Packrat of Provo

I have been working at cleaning out my house for the past couple of weeks. I know that most people out there go through the cleaning process and don’t worry about it or think about it in the same way that I do, but as I’ve thrown out items that held value one time in my life a couple realizations came to me. First, I’m a packrat; and Second, I’m a collector.

I think probably the collector is the reason why I’m a packrat, but there has to be something else, some other drive. I grew up learning from my parents that you never throw away a gift. I remember my mother telling me that a present was someone taking a moment to think about you. “What if they came over and asked ‘where is the thing-a-ma-jig?’ What would you do if you couldn’t show them?” Now I know I could probably break the habit, but what do I tell my mother if she asks me, “Don’t you keep the gifts? What did you do with the lesson that I taught you?” So I keep things … everything … that people give me whether I need them or not. And I have a lot of things I hold dear just because people have given them to me. It makes for quite a mess in the house at times.

But the collector, now that’s gotten me into more trouble than my mother’s voice in my head. Recently I’ve discovered the collector mentality that I have. When I get into a music group I have to buy all their CD’s. When I get into an Author, I have to buy all their books. When I get into a Director I have to buy all their movies. <sigh> It makes me sound like a compulsive personality, and secretly I know I am. But these compulsions are only driving focuses when the opportunity arises. Sometimes these compulsions have made me spend lots of money on items that really aren’t fantastic, but because they complete the series I need to get them.

I have many items in my house that are completions and not items of worth. This thought came to me when I was organizing a set of CD’s I have been working on for over 15 years. Sony Classical created a series of classical music called the Royal Edition in 1991 & 1992. They are all conducted by Leonard Bernstein and the covers are all water color paintings by Prince Charles. There are 100 CD’s, most single discs, some double and some triple, of which I have 87 of them. Now the CD’s are out of print and can’t be found anymore, but occasionally one appears and I have to search desperately for the money to buy it.

So this realization popped into my head while organizing my set: “I collect things and get quietly obsessed about these different collections!” My greatest epiphany was not the collection of items, but my obsession for the collection of ideas … the collection of thoughts.

I collect memories. This act is not horrible, but at times these collections make me think life should always be the way of the past. There are the outlooks and thoughts about life that I have loved. There are the dark moments and mistakes that dwell there as well. It is these moments in my history that can occupy my life and make me think I am doing better or worse that the reality of the present. The trick about these collections is knowing what is important and what doesn’t matter. It’s taking the time to clean out my head’s attic so that better things can occupy my mind.

I heard from a person I admire, Ron Zeller, about a trick to getting your house in order. Clean a drawer in your dresser like God, Buddha or Jehovah himself was coming over to inspect that one drawer. The mere thought of doing that helps you start down the path of organization and cleaning that can put your life in order. So now I take that one step further for me as I have been cleaning my life, I mean house. Clean your collections so that Heavenly Father is coming to inspect them. The tangible collections and the collections of your mind, the memories, the mistakes. I’ve found out that those things I dwell, those things that have held me back are dissipating. All because I’m starting to break-down the packrat that I am.

Of course I still have the robot dinosaur that was given me by my friends. But those friends are important collections that I don’t think Heavenly Father wants me to give up. Plus … the best thing I can say to my mother when she asks “Why do you have a robot dinosaur?” is "You told me never to throw away a gift!” Gotta love mothers. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

When I turned around 33 years had past

When I was a little boy I remember dreaming about what I was going to be when I grew up. I thought I wanted to enter the world of robotics, electronics and cybernetics. Even as a 6 year old I thought that the idea of cyborgs were so cool that I needed to be a part of that field. I needed to build a robotic dog pal that would travel the world with me. I needed to be a part of something that could not only benefit mankind, but could create an entity powerful enough to make the world tremble. That power shouldn’t just be left to mad scientists, but should be in the hands of mad children as well.

Then something happened. I entered High School and started singing. Almost everything I did after freshman year was centered in vocal music. I fell in love with Chorales, Oratorios, Musical Theater, et cetera, et cetera. The infatuation of servos and electrodes were replaced with intonation and breath support. My peers in High School would know me as the “vocal” guy. Behind the scenes I was still a techno-geek. I still played with computers and attempted to take over the world in “mad” style, but usually humming show tunes as I did it. (Maybe that was the truest sign of being mad).

Then I went to college … University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music. Luckily, I went to school on a vocal performance/music education vocal scholarship. My computer joined me on the journey and I was able to start composing (using MusicTime, a program that doesn’t exist anymore) and singing using electronics. I wasn’t taking over the world, but I was trying to utilize technology. Most of my “music” friends didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But I was ok with it. I had my music friends on one side and my computer friends on the other. Sure we didn’t tread on the same road, but I wasn’t worried.

But that didn’t last. Something broke in me at Hartt. I needed to take a break. I dropped out of school and headed out west. Who knows what I was trying to pursue …. certainly I didn’t. All I know is that when I got out here I ventured into computers again. I got back into programming and started developing systems for people that now have become common place, but at the time … was very new. I stopped singing. Most of the “singers” I met in the west made me so frustrated that I completely lost the desire. And the hope of cybernetics? That was left to the child back in New Hampshire that was bright eyed and bushy tailed.

What happened to the dream? I think it was the strength of necessity that made me stop. I needed to pay the bills and I ended up falling back on a skill that was worthwhile … the skill of knowledge. I still dream of working in robotics, but for now it’s a dream. I watch science fiction in hopes of living near the reality, but unfortunately my current skill set has not lead me in that direction … except …

I use computers on a daily basis, and I show how others can utilize those computers in their daily activities to be more efficient and successful. Granted it’s not an implant in the body or a “little buddy” that they can converse, but it is pretty close to that idea. My days are spent looking at the weaving melodies of needs and wants, dreams and realities and multiple personalities of clientele. Interwoven with those melodies are the underlying themes of “efficiency” that electronics can contribute. So possibly, my original hope is not entirely out of my reach. Or even better … it’s there in another insight and moment.

When I feel a little down in my life for not achieving as much as my friends of old I think of that little boy wishing for his robotic dog to pal around the world with him. I think of him; tell him what I’m doing now; and hope that he smiles just a little. Sure my robot dog is a laptop computer. And my building of cybernetics is the building of successful infrastructure. But in the end we both are doing what we wanted to do … Benefiting mankind by being slightly “mad”.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how I’m taking over the world.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Overcoming the Realm of Distress

There comes a point during times of great duress that I look at traveling back to my old homestead. I love New England and, yes, even New Hampshire. I miss the trees, the foliage, the humidity (I know I’m crazy for saying that) and the ocean. Living in the schizophrenic weather of Utah makes me pine for the days of green and wet. It is so easy to live here in torrential downpour one minute and then bright daybreaks the next.

Interestingly enough, my moods and mindset seem to lean more towards the nature of Utah weather than my old NH. Since I was very young I have had problems with “dark moments” in my life. I know that people term my condition “depression” but I tend to disagree. I don’t feel depressed … I just feel tired. And almost beat down and worn out. My tendency during these times is to look at the bleakest outcome and think that is the most likely situation I’ll find myself. (I know this is typical “depression”, but I don’t like labels.) And it’s interesting that during these times of duress I look at returning home and thinking that will solve all my problems.

Home … I still call NH home, even though I haven’t lived there for over 13 years. I guess I’ll never get the thoughts of fresh air and trees out of my mind. I like where I live, but I think back of days at Beaver Lake, Adam’s Pond, Crystal Avenue and Shaw’s as fond moments in my life. And when I sit in a “dark moment”, those moments of reflection in the past will usually bring me out into the light.

Why write about this? Because something happened over this past weekend that made me see the error of my ways. And the simple resolve was this … nothing can get you down unless you give allowance to bring you down. Pardon me while I get spiritual, but if all good things come from Heaven above, then this “depression” is the work of a vile source to hold me stagnant. Only through my trials and tribulations will I be able to become a stronger person that is needed in this world. Isn’t that what growth is? And only by growing and progressing can I truly become that person the world needs me to be.

So, I’ve held myself back. Not only because I have been in this great funk for the past couple of weeks, but because I have held on to dreams of the past as realities of the present. I have let myself find the morass of pity feel more comfortable than the pains of strength. I have found it easier to sit with apathy than to well up in myself the fountain of power I know I have. I have lived in my mind instead of introducing myself to the world.

Memories are moments to treasure, but I need to remember that they are also the past that will never be relieved again, even if I could orchestrate the same people and situations. The present needs to be full of new moments to treasure. Either with friends, family or just being by myself. I will never forget my past memories. Sure they are gilded with gold when I look at them, but now … what is needed right now … is for me to gild the future.

Look out world … I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m sure it’s something memorable. Even if it’s just me falling on my face again. :)

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