Category Archives: Simplicity

TEDx ChapmanU–August 20, 2015

TEDxSoldOut

Be curious. Open your mind. Challenge yourself to listen and learn. Respectfully explore new perspectives. Discover your own inner Icon\Genius\Maverick.

Great advice in any setting. Prerequisites for attending a TEDx event.

Here’s a summary of this year’s talks:

Stella Young—I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much. Stella was born with a disability that limited her growth, and confines her to a wheelchair. Is it difficult being disabled? Yes. Is she special because she’s disabled? She doesn’t think so, and her goal is that you won’t either.

Stella told a story that happened when she was about thirteen. Her parents received a call from a representative of their town council saying they’d like to give Stella an award for her community achievements. That was puzzling to her parents (and her), since she hadn’t really achieved anything for the community. She was more interested in watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dawson’s Creek than actually doing anything for someone else.

The real reason for the award was that she was disabled and could be an inspiration to others. But that’s just it. She says that being disabled shouldn’t be something special, or an inspiration. After all, isn’t the inspiration we feel based upon the silent (and instant) comparison we make to that disabled person’s difficulty…and our relief that it isn’t us? By comparing ourselves to someone we think should have lowered expectations, we give ourselves permission to have our own higher expectations, at their expense.

Stella can’t wait for the day when being disabled isn’t special: the day when we take our inspiration and lessons from the good within people, whether they’re disabled or not.

Dan Pallotta—The way we think about charity is dead wrong. How much should a charity spend on fundraising? How much overhead should they have? Is it better to have a bake sale and raise $375 with no overhead, or spend $350,000 to produce an event that raises $5,000,000? If you’re an MBA graduate, should you go to work at a for-profit company, or a non-profit?

Dan says the way we approach these questions, and the ethical standards we put on charities and non-profits, is shackling them and reducing their ability to grow. We should be focused on what they are raising, how successful they are at providing their services, and not their overhead rate.

He provided a number of examples of the ways we apply different standards to for-profits, compared to non-profits. And yet, for all the advantages that for-profit organizations have in terms of access to capital, access to talent, permission to make mistakes, and their ability to focus on growth; they are not equipped or motivated to provide the type of assistance (economic and otherwise) that’s required in the lowest 10 percent of our society. Philanthropy is the marketplace for love. We need a robust and well-funded non-profit community to meet the very real needs of those less fortunate.

To get there, we need to upend the way we think about non-profits. We need to remove the shackles and give them the room they need to grow and succeed.

Mina Morita. What you value is defined by what you risk. Mina’s mom risked everything to come to America from Japan when she was 20. Mina gave up her corporate job to pursue her love of theater. Through many twists and turns, she is now the Artistic Director of Crowded Fire Theater. She’s fulfilled and happy. Not because her life is perfect. It’s fairly messy.

She gets to tell stories and create unique moments that can only happen in theater. Theater fulfills dreams. It’s a place where failure and judgment are in the flesh…every night. She has missed a lot of life’s joys, sacrificed special moments with family and friends. But, she’s happy because her life is what she wants it to be. What you value is defined by what you risk.

Brian Vellmure. Brian is a management consultant, but his talk wasn’t about that. It was about how to prepare our next generation for the challenges that lie ahead. What does he recommend? Team sports and adventure travel.

Team sports show us how to work with others, how to rise to a new challenge, how to go beyond what’s expected. Most importantly, team sports show us how to respond and bounce back from failure…and the fear of failure.

Adventure travel makes us all kindergarteners again. We don’t know anything. We don’t know the language, the customs, the food, or the geography. Outcomes are uncertain. It’s perfect practice for dealing with the challenges that our future will bring.

Why do some people succeed while others fail? Brian says successful people have three things above all else. Curiosity. Grit. Character.

Ryan Gattis. Ryan is an author, but more than that, he is an explorer of life. In 2009, his life had bottomed. He boiled it down to a series of numbers and stats, and none painted a good picture.

As a storyteller, Ryan told us that every good story has five elements:

Hooks

The Unexpected

Cause & Effect

How did it feel?

Concrete specific detail.

All of these elements are nothing if the story (and the author) lacks authenticity. Authenticity is the invisible power that makes a story matter.

Ryan weaved three stories together that contained all of the elements. We heard about the depths of his despair in 2009 and the course he charted to climb out, followed by an intense meeting with a Los Angeles area gang leader, asking permission to do research for his next book, All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 L.A. Riots. The third story, and also an unexpected element within the first two, was something that happened when he was seventeen. He wound up on the receiving end of a punch from a football player named Lump. The punch destroyed and relocated all of the cartilage in his nose to an area on his cheek, without breaking a bone. Two reconstructive surgeries later, he was fluent in pain.

It was that pain that gave his stories their authenticity, along with all the other elements. He discovered that once he opened up to his pain, his prose opened up as well.

Doug Woo. Doug is the president of the Smart Display Division at FUHU. FUHU focuses on providing digital solutions for families and kids. They have a line of tablets, aimed at the unique needs of families. Their Big Tab displays are as big as seventy inches. They resemble large flat screen TV’s, but they act like tablets.

Their innovation was to create a whole new category, based on something that everyone thought they already knew. Tablets. Innovation is practical change, driven by desperation or inspiration. FUHU went “big,” and focused on how to connect the family with their technology. Their cause was bigger than just the technology. Togetherness, collaboration, sharing. These were their motivation, and the Big Tab displays are the result.

These tablets don’t isolate family members. Instead, the entire family shares in the immersive experiences that only the Big Tab can provide.

Dotsie Bausch. In the first minute of Dotsie’s talk, we learned that she was a fashion model, a cocaine addict, bulimic, and attempted suicide twice. This was all before she entered three years of therapy. As she made progress, her therapist recommended she take on a new activity, and she chose cycling on a whim.

By 2012, she had become an Olympian track cyclist. She won a silver medal in the team pursuit event. She says that she has a voracious appetite for winning.

But, that wasn’t the subject of her talk.

Her talk focused on the benefits of a plant-based diet. It all started when she watched a documentary about factory farms, and witnessed the cruelty that animals face on their way to slaughter. She considers it an act of Olympic-level compassion to eat a plant-based diet.

She says that a person who eats only a plant-based diet is consuming 200,000 less gallons of water per year than someone who eats a meat-based diet. Athletes who eat plant-based diets recover 50% faster than their meat-based counterparts.

She asked each of us to go meatless for one day to start down the path toward a plant-based diet.

Todd Irving. Everyone is someone’s child. Todd says this should be the dominant thought in education at all levels. Parents send their most precious possession to school, and they should be treated that way. Todd is the teacher, now principal, that we hope all of our kids get. What makes the most difference to a kid? Taking time to make a connection with them. Getting to know them, their dreams, and their fears…one-on-one. Every child needs to have hope, and that’s the job of every educator, and each of us in the community.

Lesley Fightmaster. Yes, that’s her real name. Lesley is a yoga instructor. She led us in a short, guided meditation. We started by focusing on our breathing and our posture. With our eyes closed, breathing a little more deeply, she guided us through a series of peaceful thoughts that we directed out to the world and then back within ourselves.

Meditation helps us focus on the present moment. This moment is great. Be there. Namaste.

Dr. Anthony Chang. Dr. Chang started his talk with some sobering statistics about the relative happiness of physicians in the US. Nine out of ten physicians wouldn’t recommend their profession to others. Only 6% are happy with their careers. We are creating a perfect storm for reducing physician morale. They are under pressure to see high volumes of patients in a short amount of time. They are inundated with data gathering, data entry, and billing challenges.

Dr. Chang gets his inspiration from his patients. He told us about three of his patients, Hanna, Elsie, and Shirley. Hanna helped him renew his idealism for his profession. Elsie showed him how important it is to take all the data we have and somehow turn it into wisdom for patients…intelligence in medicine. Shirley reminded him about the importance of innovation in medicine.

Dr. Chang wants to integrate artificial intelligence into the practice of medicine. When we were learning to fly, we watched birds. Our first attempts tried to mimic their method, and didn’t work. Only by learning the underlying characteristics of flight, were we able to solve the riddle of flight in our own unique way.

It’s the same with artificial intelligence. Rather than attempting to mimic the way our brains function, the best approach is to extract the lessons we can learn and create our own unique methodology for bringing intelligence to various fields, like medicine.

Dr. Brenda Wiederhold. Dr. Wiederhold is a clinical psychologist and entrepreneur. She uses virtual reality to create transformative therapies for her patients. Therapies that free her patients from the bonds of fear and anxiety, and help them regain control.

Virtual reality is an excellent tool for transporting a patient into another reality. A reality that scares them, paralyzes them, or holds them hostage. Once the patient enters this reality, Dr. Wiederhold can work with them in this safe environment, showing them how to control their emotions, and ultimately their subconscious mind. This frees the patient to use what they’ve learned in the virtual reality environment, in the real world.

Phu Hoang. Build your dreams over time. Phu is the co-founder and CEO of Virtium Technology. He says there are two types of entrepreneurs. One is the “reckless abandon” type that makes a breakthrough and dives into it without really knowing which way he’s going. We’ve heard of many of them, yet there are only a few of them.

Then, there’s the rest of us.

Phu’s advice is to always have a dream, but also a belief in ourselves. He always believed that if he put time into learning about something, he could master it. By continuously improving, he could become the best. Choose a niche in something that is already growing rapidly. Look where the big guys aren’t looking and take that bite size niche. Become number one in that niche and build from there.

It’s okay to build someone else’s dream while you’re building your own. When you’re ready, make the leap and work full-time on your own dream.

Rob Seitelman. Rob is the speaker coach for Chapman’s TEDx. His talk was a letter to his daughters on the power of failure. Everything worthwhile has to cost something. Sometimes that cost is failure. Create a fall-through plan, not a fall-back plan. Sometimes you can do everything right and it still doesn’t work. The reality is that life is all about family, friends, and most importantly, love.

Never let someone else dictate your happiness. There is such a thing as best, but it’s only what’s best for YOU that matters. What’s best for someone else isn’t necessarily best for you. Think about the “why” of things. The most important “why” is: for the benefit of those who will come after us.

Ahmed Younis. Ahmed is an Assistant Professor at Chapman University. He focuses on the architecture of social change, youth employment in the Arab World, global Muslim public opinion and Islamic reform for social change. He started his talk by saying that he’s been working on terrorism for the past fifteen years. But, he hit a wall about a year ago.

He began to lose faith. A vessel can only pour what is within it, and he feared that his vessel was empty. It’s his job to articulate hope, and yet he was out of hope. He went on a search for hope and found it in a surprising place. He found hope in graphic novels and comic books. His favorite comic books? Pride, Cairo, Captain America, Black Panther, and Ms. Marvel.              

Each tells a story where hope triumphs amidst tragedy and conflict. Each is a story of heroes rising up from nothing to take on a world of ugliness and darkness.

How we engage the ugliness determines our hearts, and gives us hope.

Mandy Len Catron. Mandy published an article in the New York Times in January of this year, titled, To Fall In Love with Anyone, Do This. It highlights a study done more than twenty years ago by Dr. Arthur Aron. It’s an experiment built around the intimacy that comes from sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self disclosure.

Here’s the premise (from the article): A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.

Intrigued, Mandy tried this experiment with an acquaintance. After they had asked each other the 36 questions, they stepped outside the bar where they were for the evening, and onto a bridge. They then stared silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

Did they fall in love? Yes, but that’s not the whole story.Her story received over 8 million views. Suddenly, she was an international news story. Unfortunately, so was her new relationship. The most asked question she receives is, “Are you two still together?”

She doesn’t think that’s the question we should be asking.

When you admit to loving someone, you admit to having a lot to lose. What she wants from love, and probably what most people want, is a guarantee that this love will last forever. That’s why everyone asks if they’re still together.

Falling in love and staying in love are two different things. Love is terrifying, and there aren’t any guarantees. That’s part of the deal.

Are they still together? Yes.

 

If there was one overarching theme from all the talks, it is that hope is precious. Without it, life becomes ugly. With it, everything else becomes possible.

Past Chapman TEDx summaries:

2013

2014

 

Finding Your Authentic Swing

BaggerVance

 

“Yep… Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing… Somethin’ we was born with… Somethin’ that’s ours and ours alone… Somethin’ that can’t be taught to ya or learned… Somethin’ that got to be remembered… Over time the world can, rob us of that swing… It get buried inside us under all our wouldas and couldas and shouldas… Some folk even forget what their swing was like…”

-Bagger Vance

The Legend of Bagger Vance is filled with good stuff.  It’s a movie that moseys along with a subtle, southern rhythm.  It conveys a depth of meaning without trying.  The movie challenges each viewer to look at themselves as much as the characters.

I do agree that our authentic swings can get buried under the wouldas, couldas, and shouldas of life.  They can just as easily be uncovered by the leaps, possibilities, why-not’s, and I’m-in’s.

That being said, I must disagree with Mr. Vance’s notion that we each have one true authentic swing.  I rather think we have more than one authentic swing, if we choose to search.  Not only that, we have a lot of clubs in our bag.  We have an almost infinite number of authentic-swing-and-club combinations to choose from when our time comes to stand over the ball, and deliver.

What about the inevitable shanks, worm-burners, wicked slices, massive hooks, and just plain misses?

The best among us are the ones who find a way to recover, and swing again.

Will Smith at his best…

 

 

 

Photo Credit

Life is…

As we end one year and prepare to begin another, it’s a great time to reflect.

What have I completed, and what will I begin?

How did I fail, and how will I succeed?

Who did I help, and who will I help?

What is my true mission?

I found this great reminder (as I often do) in a quote from Mother Teresa:

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.”

 To this list, I’d add:

Life is a journey, explore it.

Life is failure, learn from it.

Life is service, give it.

Life is a gift, share it.

Life is a celebration, enjoy it!

© 2014 Bob Dailey.  All rights reserved.

Your Life’s Mission

I don’t remember the exact year, but it was probably around 2003. My boss invited a couple of us to attend a leadership meeting that he attended monthly. Each meeting had a keynote speaker, and he thought we’d like to hear the talk.

The speaker’s topic was how our life’s mission impacts our leadership style, and ultimately what we’ll drive ourselves to accomplish professionally. He made a compelling case, and then asked each of us to state what our life’s mission was…on the spot.

I hadn’t given it much thought. I was pretty focused on the day-to-day challenges of making a living, trying to save money for our daughters’ college education, trying to find time to run and exercise, maybe finally furnish a couple of the empty rooms in our house.

Luckily I was toward the end of the line, so I got to listen to everyone else’s. There were lots of lofty and admirable missions mentioned. Most were brief. A couple of the missions took some time to explain.

A mission is a promise to yourself. A mission is a set of principles that guide your actions. We may not always fulfill our mission, but it’s always there, pointing the way.

As each person stated their missions, I faced the reality that I didn’t really have one.

My good friend and co-worker went just before me, and he said that his life’s mission could be summed up in two words. He smiled and said, “Have fun!” An awkward silence came over the group. They were probably wondering if this guy was serious, or was he just mocking the exercise.

The awkwardly silent room’s attention shifted to me.

I said something about creating opportunities for personal growth, challenging myself to push past my limits (whatever that meant), and I summed it up with, “Have fun.” Given the fact that I didn’t have a life’s mission when I arrived, it was a decent start.

Definitely not my final answer.

Over the years since that day, I’ve had this question about my life’s mission rolling around in my head. Now that I’m about halfway through life (that is, if I’m lucky enough to live until I’m 94), I think I’ve finally figured it out. I can sum it up with nine words:

Serve God.

Bring joy.

Help others.

Explore.

Have fun!

The room is looking at you now.  What’s your life’s mission?

The Presence of a Toddler

I read an article today about the “busyness bubble” that exists in society today. The author described a world where everyone is over-worked, over-stimulated, over-committed, rushing from one place to another, distracted every two minutes by emails, texts, and Twitter and Instagram feeds on their smartphones.

This continuous busyness and distracted lifestyle hampers creativity, and prevents real human connection. There isn’t time to think beyond the next two minutes, the next errand, the next meeting.

Take a walk with a toddler. Trust me, it won’t be a long walk. Watch where they focus. Notice they aren’t worried about their smartphone (since they don’t have one). They have no destination in mind when they start their walk. They’re too busy looking at the pebbles, snail shells, and cracks in the cement to think about anything else. They have no errands to run, no meetings to attend. They aren’t worried about what they said yesterday, or what they’ll be doing tomorrow.

Toddlers are the ultimate expression of being present. Nothing interrupts their train of thought except the next shiny object in front of them. Their walk is a time of new discovery and new experiences.

Busyness is self-inflicted. It’s the result of a series of decisions that we control. Each decision makes sense at the time…or, seems like the only choice we have. We decide to pile commitments on to our schedule. We decide to worry today about next week’s deadline. We decide to dwell on injustices of the past. We decide to look at our phone every two minutes.

Don’t know any toddlers? Take that walk anyway. Leave your phone behind. Count the number of snails you see. Look for the most colorful pebbles. Take some time to smell the roses in your neighbor’s yard. Appreciate the sun’s warmth on your back.

Enjoy the clarity of being present, and enjoy the fulfillment that comes from deciding to be less busy.

The choice is yours.

Diary of a Competitive Stairclimber

I’ve been a competitive stairclimber for about five years. This means I train on a StairMaster pretty much year-round for one or two stairclimb races each year. Races generally start on the ground floor of a skyscraper, and end at the helipad. The Willis Tower race (formerly Sears Tower, in Chicago) finishes on the 103rd floor, where they have crazy observation windows that allow you to step out into “space” outside of the building. [Note to self: next time I compete in the Willis Tower climb, don’t spend the prior day tourist walking with Janet all over Downtown Chicago. Do that after the race!]

Like most sports, there are elite competitors, and then, everyone else. Elite climbers make it to the top in amazing time, often climbing a floor every 8-9 seconds. I’m usually in the top 15-20% of my age group (40-49), with a 12-14 seconds-per-floor pace. Unfortunately, I can’t say my lack of speed is an age thing, since more than a few of the elite climbers are in their mid-40’s.

During my first stairclimb race I was lucky enough to get passed by an elite climber. He had raced earlier in the day, and was taking a “leisurely” training run during my race wave. I took note of his technique as we approached the 40th floor of a 63-floor climb. He took two steps at a time, pulling himself up hand-over-hand on the handrail. He made it look pretty easy as he passed, so I gave it a try.

It was definitely much faster, and got my upper body into the climb. It also meant more muscle groups would need oxygen. I lasted about three floors before going past my personal “red line.” I was forced to stop and catch my breath, before soldiering on with the standard one-step-at-a-time method. I had seen the secret, and knew I’d have to train differently to prepare for the two-at-a-time technique.

People have asked me how I’m able to climb without hurting my knees. Climbing stairs is great for your knees, lower back, and hamstrings. It’s a low-impact, heavily aerobic exercise. We only climb, and never descend. That’s what elevators are for. Climbing creates long and stretching strides, focusing the work onto your muscles and soft tissue, and away from your joints.

Which brings us to today. My fifth year climbing the Aon Tower in Los Angeles, benefitting the American Lung Association. After the question about knees, the next question is some variation of, “Doesn’t it get boring, just climbing stairs? What are you thinking about during a race?” I suppose it’s the same things other endurance athletes think about during their races.

To definitively answer this question, here’s a brain dump of what I was thinking earlier today as I “raced:”

Only three runners in front of me to start. Ten second intervals.

“Good luck on your first race. Do you want to start in front, or behind?” Steven answers that he will take off behind me. I put in my earbuds and fire up my iTunes StairList (thanks to Jennifer for creating this list many years ago).

Ten seconds to start. Remember that I am starting on the 20 minute mark.

I love the quiet just before the start. Go!

Save Ferris! Nice choice, Jennifer!

The start is different than previous years. We entered a different door and hit stairs immediately.

No rhythm for the first 3 or 4 floors, until we get into the main stairwell.

Fifth floor. First person passed.

Two steps at a time. Nice rhythm.

The first ten floors are always the hardest, even though I just did about 20 floors of warm-up before the race.

Tenth floor. Steven is right behind me. Awesome! How cool is it that my son-in-law is running this race with me! He’s gained ten seconds on me already. Stud!

Move to the outside! Why do slower climbers never move to the outside like the instructions say? There goes my nice rhythm.

Back on track. Water stop!

“Sorry, we ran out of cups.” Well, that’s a real mind-f***. It sure is dry in this stairwell! I take a quick swig of water from my hand.

That’s not a very sanitary thing to do. 100’s of climbers are touching these rails, sweating on them, and you just took a swig of water from your hand after using those same rails.

16th floor! Where’s Steven? He must have slowed up.

18th floor! Focus on two-at-a-time.

I wish I hadn’t forgotten my gloves. I’d have better grip on these handrails.

Nice mandolin. Perfect time for a little string quartet music. Nice choice again, Jennifer.

21st floor. One-third done. I wonder how my pace is. I’ve passed a bunch of people.

It would be great if the stairwell would change direction. Turning left over and over is making me dizzy.

Deep breaths. Focus on two-at-a-time. This is comfortable. Passing more people.

30th floor. Nice cheering section. Is that a clapping toy? Cool. It sure is dry in this stairwell. My lungs are burning!

Water stop! Amazing what one Dixie cup of water does. Quick back stretch.

Two-at-a-time. Steady pace.

Takin Care of Business. BTO! Rock on!

1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Two-at-a-time still working!

45th floor. This thing is almost over. Look at that crowd of people ahead…all in pink shirts. That’s a big team!

I see an elite runner as I turn. He’s not close enough to pass yet, but he will be in another floor. Just doing a training run…two-at-a-time, of course. There he goes. Stud!

50th floor. Mark Anthony. Not my favorite song right about now. A bit too slow. Two-at-a-time is still working! Awesome. Only 13 more floors!

52nd floor. My lungs are burning. They named this race right. Fight for Air!

Last water stop before the finish. Big crowd here. Only ten floors to go.

1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Two-at-a-time still working! Not as fast as the elite guy. I’ll just have to train at a higher level. He’s gone.

59th floor. Only four to go. Two-at-a-time working! Move to the outside! What’s the deal? A whole bunch of people all of a sudden. I wonder if I can get past all of them in four floors.

1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4.

Color change. 61st floor! New direction on the stairwell. Push to the finish!

Last turn. Bright sunlight. Here comes the roof!

Stay focused. Push to the finish. Man, my lungs are burning!

Finish line! Clock minute is 34. What was my start minute? Oh yeah, 20. 14 minutes. Dang it. Slower than last year. Hey, that’s Garth Brooks. The song is almost over.

What a view! First time I can remember it being clear and bright at the finish of this race. Look how clear the Hollywood Sign is.

Next event is in late-September. The US Bank building in Los Angeles. It’s about 75 floors. That event has always conflicted with something else. I plan to climb it this year. Time to ramp up my training. More StairMaster, more trail running, more rope climb, more squats, less ice cream (hey, let’s not get crazy!).

Bring it on!

Bob_and_Steven

Hollywood_Sign

View from the helipad

The Joy of Quiet Listening

The world can be a noisy place. It can also be a quiet place.

Consider a street corner in a busy city. The sounds can be overwhelming. Honking horns, revving engines, the crazy person yelling at the sky, pieces of ten conversations you overhear as people pass by, music from that guy’s headphones that are turned up way too high, the beeping of a delivery truck as it backs into a parking space. And yet, there can be quiet, if your mind allows it.

Family gatherings are loud. I’m blessed to be part of a huge family. Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings have forty-plus attendees. At any time, there are two or three kids barreling through, laughing and screaming, a bunch of discussion about how best to prepare and serve the family meal, and a ton of conversations peppered throughout the house. I do my best to add to the noise, but I purposely take time at these gatherings to quiet myself and appreciate the moment. I listen, and enjoy.

It can be the same on a trail run. The sounds of birds chirping, the crunch of the ground, the rustle in the leaves as a critter runs away, the wind whistling through the trees, the buzz of a rattlesnake I just startled (it’s as if a big rattlesnake alarm clock went off this week, alerting all rattlers to wake from hibernation), the music in my Pandora feed (Beach Boys, lately). I stopped running with ear buds long ago, simply so I can hear more of the trail. I still have some music playing, but, it’s in the background. The sounds of the trail, and my own rambling thoughts are what I hear the most on a run.

Consider the last meeting you attended. How many people were in the meeting? Were there side conversations? Was anyone checking their phone or laptop during the meeting? Were real, meaningful, and actionable ideas discussed? Were you the one checking your phone? Were you listening, or merely thinking about your next response? Was anyone listening? Who was the quietest person in the meeting? What did they think? Did you take the time to find out?

Meaningless noise can creep into just about any environment, whether it’s measurable on a decibel meter or not. Meaningful quiet can enter any environment, no matter how much noise there is.

You control the quiet.  You control your listening.

Embrace your silence, and enjoy the power of quiet listening…maybe for the first time.

The Perils of Over-thinking

To demonstrate how over-thinking can produce results that are the opposite of stated goals, here’s a little over-thinking on the topic of touch-free paper towel dispensers.

There are two main goals associated with touch-free towel dispensers in public restrooms:

  • Dispense a pre-defined quantity of paper towel, minimizing paper use.
  • Allow patrons to get their towels without coming in contact with someone else’s germs.

Simple, right?  Well, not so fast.

How much paper does a patron need to achieve proper hand drying?  If we use inches of dispensed paper as the measure, is three inches of paper enough?  Six?  Twelve?  What’s too much?  If the goal is to minimize waste, one could set the dispenser to only three inches.  Theoretically, this would minimize paper use.  But, if it’s not enough, the patron will stand there and dispense another three inches.  Possibly, another six inches.

To get the additional inches of paper towel necessary to achieve proper drying, the patron must wait for the machine to cycle.  This second-and-a-half cycle time can seem like an eternity.  After all, we’ve all got other things to do with our time.  The patron vigorously swipes their hand under the machine.  After one or two wand-like swipes that yield no additional paper, they often resort to hitting the machine where the sensor should be.  Oops, there goes that goal of not touching someone else’s germs.

Which setting will yield the least overall paper use (our first goal)?  The first-level thinker would say the lowest setting will do the trick.  But, we’ve established that the lowest setting is probably not enough. The patron will merely wait for at least one more cycle to get the paper they need.

The second-level thinker would say that dispensing more from the beginning will yield less overall paper use and waste.  If the proper amount is dispensed from the beginning, the patron will be less likely to wait for another cycle.  Don’t even get me started on battery use differences associated with the two options.

Why does any of this matter?  Why think so deeply about touch-free towel dispensers?

To illustrate how easy it is to get wrapped up in meaningless minutia and forget about providing the patron (our customer) with an excellent experience.  How much minutia are you focusing on while ignoring your customer’s experience?

We Are All Mountain Climbers

AlanAroras--Mt Everest 2013

There it is…Mount Everest from the air.  Each year, about 150-200  climbers attempt to reach its summit, 29,029 feet above sea level.  There are thousands of other mountain peaks in the world, but Everest is the highest, and most challenging.  Of course, from this angle it looks pretty tame.

That’s the thing about mountains.  Perspective is everything.  Until you face a climb yourself, you can never fully understand what it takes.  Watching others make the climb, or hearing their stories about what it was like, are no substitute for taking on the climb for yourself.

Look around you.  If you look closely, you’ll see that each of us are climbing a mountain.  Some mountains are short and easy, while others are as high or higher than our friend, Mr. Everest.

This is the point where I could wax on poetically about striving for the highest peaks in life, chasing ever higher summits, new vistas, and new challenges.  Yes, do all of that.  Don’t let anyone stop you…especially yourself.

No, I’m not going to talk about the standard, inspirational mountain stuff.  Instead, I’m going to talk about weight.

When embarking on a climb, is it better to carry twenty pounds, fifty pounds, or one-hundred pounds of gear on your back?  Obviously, all things being equal, less weight is better.  Gravity is not your friend.

How much weight are you carrying on your climb?  Only the essentials?  Anything extra?  Are you carrying baggage that won’t be used?  Why?  Carrying all that extra baggage isn’t helping you reach your summit.

What about your fellow climbers, especially those closest to you?  How much extra baggage are they carrying?  How much of it is yours?

The best strategy for extra baggage (and its unnecessary weight) is to avoid packing it in the first place.

 

 

Photo Credit:  Alan Arora, who owes me some details on how he was able to be in the cockpit jump seat of an Airbus A319 at the perfect time to capture such a beautiful shot of Mount Everest.

The Last Mile

The last mile describes the final leg of a telecommunications network.  It’s the part that actually reaches the end customer.  It’s often the most difficult and uncontrollable link in the network.  This is where most of the bottlenecks occur.  The simplest of networking processes can be complicated by the wiring and equipment in the customer’s home.

Telecommunication networks exist to serve end customers.  Without the end customer, there’d be no one to pay the bill, or finance the network’s creation and maintenance.  The telecommunication provider has a tremendous amount of control over everything in their network…except the last mile, where the end customer is.

The customer’s experience comes from the last mile.  They don’t need to know or understand the engineering and infrastructure that goes into operating the massive network.  They don’t care about the traditions and history of the telecommunications provider.  They only care about the cost, speed, and ease of use they experience in their home.

The same is true for nearly any business.  The last mile drives the story your customers will tell.  How much attention are you paying to the last mile?