Conversations and Listening

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and friends lately. I’ve mentioned a few times before about this, but it has been been and remains on my mind.

A couple of weeks ago I flew to SF and had an evening catching up with some dear friends that I used to work with at STX. We had a great evening catching up and talking about the past and the future. Most have moved on to new adventures and it was a great evening. One is lucky if some of the people you work with become your friends.

One of my friends recently wrote about learning to listen better on her blog. and it deeply resonated with me because I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately and trying to be a better listener (put that phone down). I’ve read from several places how important it is to deeply listen to others and listen to understand, not listen to respond. I’ve been trying to be better at this in the last weeks and months. I think she spoke somewhere on this recently and I would loved to hear what she said and has learned.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations with people that I’ve not known before and they’ve not known me. I’ve just been in some new situations and traveling and other so I’ve had the chance to meet and visit a lot of new people. In almost every conversation the other person has proceeded to do almost all the talking about themselves; about their situations; interests, and about whatever was on their mind. The conversations have been tilted way towards them and their lives. In fact, it has gotten to where I’ve been conducting an experiment, after a while, to see if at any point they ask anything about me or what I do or what I think about X, Y or Z. I’ve been amazed by this! Is this the norm and I’m just now noticing it or am I just meeting a skewed sample of people lately?

Someone wrote that if you want to be come an interesting person, then be interested in others. I’m trying to be more interested in others.

Hope you have a great week. And I hope you are surrounded by good friends. Blessings.

Underwhelmed, Connections, Overwhelmed and Peace

Amazon Prime Day has completely underwhelmed me. One of the things that I think about for events like this is how well the vendor (Amazon) has dialed into what I consistently buy or look at over time and then how well their smart analytics and data mining tune offers to match what I’m likely to be interested in and I might want to buy. I’ve seen nothing interesting so far. I’m surprised and underwhelmed.

Yesterday I was contacted about a Dean position at a University a few states away. I declined because I’m not interested in moving. I’ve never really considered such a position but it might be fun. However, it got me thinking about LinkedIn and recommendations on LinkedIn which I’ve never really cultivated. In a weak moment, I sent requests to some former colleagues at different places asking for recommendations in case I might need or want them in the future (before they forget me). Several have since called me and several have sent me recommendations already. If nothing else, I at least re-connected with some friends.

These past two months have been a time of reflection and reconsideration about many things. Church, organizations, growing older and what is ahead. Going to be a grandfather soon which is hard to believe. Talked to two different friends yesterday and had great conversations about things in the past and things ahead. Some other friends have moved away and I don’t see them as often which makes me sad. Some other things are not unfolding as I might have hoped or thought. Have been re-impressed with the value of friends and cultivating friends and connecting with those around.

On a really bright note, my wife and I had the chance to take a quick vacation this past week when we visited Alaska. Lots of great sights and times. And I got to experiment with a new camera, a Nikon Coolpix B600, which has quite a zoom lense capability. Really enjoyed working with it and realized I have much to learn.

The zoom…

Wherever you are and whatever your situation, I wish you well. May peace be upon you.

On My Mind

I read an article this week that really struck me in describing the current times. It was entitled The Weaponization of Feeling ‘Unsafe’ and it struck me as very true. We are in an era where ‘The new McCarthyism requires that everyone bow to demands of “victims.”’ People expect everyone else to bow down to their opinions and affirm their beliefs and nobody is entitled to hold a different viewpoint or opinion. I have to think about this further.

And then there was this article called Why Men Don’t Have Friends and Why Women Should Care which caught my eye. I think there is a huge amount of truth in this. I’ve had two friends move out of town/state this past year and I’m still processing the loss.

I just finished the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by Epstein and I have to say this is a book the resonates deeply with me. I like to think of myself as someone who reads widely and is interested in lots of things: “a reader of much and an expert on nothing” and this book exactly talks about this idea. It just resonated with me and I recommend it.

Finally, I was talking with a friend this afternoon who told me about a recent family wedding weekend where the family nearly broke into fist fights. One family member had to step in and tell those who were feuding that the weekend was about the wedding party, not them and they needed to cut it out. I know of another dear family where there is conflict and one family member is spreading hatred and false narratives about another family member. Such huge hurt for some. Why do we do this to each other? Why does family do this to family? Really, why does anyone do this to anyone?

Be kind, for you do not know what battle others are fighting. Here is an idea, decide to be kind and gracious and give the benefit of the doubt. Life is short.

Grace

The last few weeks have been some of the most intensive thinking weeks I’ve had in a long time. I’m working trying to understand some problems and challenges and then trying to figure out the best path forward given those challenges. During these times, I’ve had many important and deep conversations with some colleagues as we’ve talked through these challenges and how to best move forward.

During these discussions, and some side discussions, I’ve been repeatedly reminded about how so many of us tend to think we are right in our viewpoints, directions, and opinions and anyone thinking differently is wrong. Of course we are right, we’ve considered all the facts and made a decision and it fits our worldview perfectly. Plus we are invested in that viewpoint and the idea of us being wrong is nearly inconceivable. Furthermore, the other person and viewpoint are evil.

There is a passage in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament that I’m mindful of these days where in Micah 6:8 where it says:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly

This simple passage in Micah says so much to me.

I’m so tired of people who do not extend the “benefit of doubt” towards others on matters where they have no real understanding. People are critical of things via sms or email across hundreds of miles when they weren’t there to see what they are complaining about. Where is walking humbly? Where is loving mercy? Where is trusting the people you know there at the scene?

I’m tired of people who can not extend grace to others.

Everything in Washington (and on Twitter/Facebook) is black and white and the other person is evil and wrong and should be smashed and obliterated. Where is listening and trying to understand? Where is walking humbly in your thinking?

I’m tired of people who are not invested in a solution, being critical of those who are trying to do the right thing. If you are not willing to be in the arena, then you don’t get a vote.

On April 23, 1910 Theodore Roosevelt said the following famous lines:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Life is hard people. Be kind, for you do not know what battles others are fighting. Let’s learn to listen and try to understand first, second and third.

One day you might need grace from someone. One day you might need someone to listen to you.

Three Interesting Reads

Relax, Ladies. Don’t Be So Uptight. You Know You Want It is story on Medium with lots of things to consider. The article is about so many cultural norms of the past that now seem so out of date about women and men and their relationship in society and work and home.

Here’s a fun game. Ask yourself: What strongly held opinion of mine will my grandchildren one day struggle to understand?

and

No one thinks of themselves as a byproduct of a generation. Your parents and grandparents, sure, they’re byproducts. (Exhibit A, your grandmother’s helmet-shaped perm.) But not you. You’re aware of the trends and social attitudes of your generation, but your thoughts, proclivities, and the votes you cast are entirely your own. Or are they?

Every generation is a slop-sink of prejudices, norms, and ideologies, and since we humans are more sponge-like than rock-like, we naturally absorb our share of generational sludge. Tobacco-smoke enemas were all the rage in the 18th century. Stomach ache? Heart stalled? Typhoid? Doctors blew smoke up your ass. The United States performed over 40,000 lobotomies between the 1940s and ’50s, more than any other nation.

I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life is the second read to consider. A person who feels they’ve wasted their life so far and have no hope writes a letter which is then responded to by Heather Havrilesky.

The letter written is about shame and loss of hope and second guessing life decisions and the response by Havrilesky is thought provoking. I’ve decided to listen to one of Havrilesky’s book right now on Audible.

As I opened the front door, I turned around and told her how nice it was, talking to her. She smiled. “You’re a human being,” she said. “A real human being.”


“I am,” I said. “I wasn’t a few years ago. But I am now.”


All you have to be is a human being, … That’s success. When you’re a human being, life feels satisfying. Everything adds up. Every little thing matters. Look at what you have. This is where it all begins. All you have to do is open your eyes.


Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women at All Cost is a tragic and obvious followup to the #MeToo era.

Some problems are very hard to solve. We need good people of character and integrity. Related, we need to be elected people of character and integrity to government offices. Duh.

Three Great Reads

I’m considering doing a once per week post on three great things I’ve read during the week. Just considering it. Here are three for this week.

Why You Should Trust People First is a terrific post on why you should take that risk and speak up, ask, be vulnerable, greet, welcome, help that other person. In general, it is so worth it. Highly recommended.

Add Value To One Person’s Life Per Day is another great post suggesting that every single day, we need to find someone to help. Your help of that person will further help and compound as they likely then go on and do something good for someone else. Just get into the habit. Every single day.

You might be thinking that adding value to one person’s life is not enough of an impact. I once thought that too.

Until I realized that adding value is contagious.

When you do it once, the person you help passes it on. The second part happens in secret, though.

“You don’t see the significance of the value you’ve given to someone because the person you helped does it without thinking”

It’s natural that when we’ve seen the power of adding value to one person’s life, we want to pass it on. We collectively end up mimicking the behavior and just forget to label it as “I helped add value to one person today.”

Adding value to a persons life is contagious. Helping people is contagious too.

Tim Denning

The Simple Power of Showing Up is a great reminder that just showing up and just being consistent makes all the difference in achieving one’s goals.

It’s time that people start realizing you can’t be the noun without doing the verb.
You can’t be a writer, if you don’t write.
You can’t be a cook, if you never cook.
You can’t be an athlete, if you never train.
In what areas of your life do you call yourself the noun without doing the verb? It’s time to get consistent.

The Simple Power of Showing Up

Reading Recommendations

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I’m currently flying through The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact on Audible by Heath and Heath. It is perhaps the most interesting and thought provoking book I’ve read in quite a while on business or organizational (or personal) excellence. It is full of examples and ideas that could be applied in all kinds of situations: schools, churches, organizations and even in your personal life as you interact with others. Highly recommended. Likely to go through it again.

Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better by Hansen is a Christian view on not taking offense, forgiving and just being humble.

We humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims and rewriting narratives that put us in the center of injustices… And we can repaint our anger or hatred of someone—say, anyone who threatens us—into a righteous-looking work of art. And yet, remarkably, in Jesus’ teaching, there is no allowance for “Okay, well, if someone really is a jerk, then yeah—you need to be offended.” We’re flat-out told to forgive, even—especially!—the very stuff that’s understandably maddening and legitimately offensive.

and

Forfeiting our right to anger makes us deny ourselves, and makes us others-centered. When we start living this way, it changes everything.

In this age of everyone taking offense at everyone else and as the author says, “Everybody’s an idiot but me. I’m awesome” we need to be more patient, tolerant, understanding and forgiving. Much to process in this book and I will likely go through it a 2nd time shortly. Thanks SL for the recommendation.

And I listened to the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis again. Amazing.

Currently working through The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World by David Deutsch but at 20 hours on Audible, it will take a while…

Also appreciate recommendations from any of you. Best wishes.