Showing posts with label Communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Communication. Show all posts

April 9, 2018

An Introverted Extrovert

I thought this was an interesting phrase someone used the other day to describe their personality.

They called themselves an "Introverted Extrovert."

I asked what they meant, and they explained as follows:

"I'm Introverted until I get to know someone then I am extroverted with them."

This actually made a lot of sense to me.

We may be reticent at the beginning when meeting new people, but once we feel comfortable with others and start to trust them, then we naturally open up to them.

The truth is most people aren't extroverted (social) or introverted (shy). 

Instead, people are on a continuum, which is generally a bell-shaped curve.  

In other words, most people are somewhere in the middle---either introverted extroverts or extroverted introverts. 

Well, what's an extroverted introvert?

It's someone who tends to be more comfortable and trusting and social with people, but they also need time alone to recharge, and perhaps they even get shy sometimes. 

Most people don't exist on the extremes--that's why they are called extremes!

So don't be so quick to judge yourself as an introspective introvert or an outgoing extrovert or anything else for that matter. 

We are "this" AND "that"--sometimes maybe a little more this or that, but that's all part of us and it's okay to be us! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 12, 2018

Tongue-Tied Silence

Sometimes in life, people are left tongue-tied. 

Too shocked, shamed, confused, or abused to speak or perhaps to even know what to say anymore. 

Maybe in the face of some horrible things that happen in life, there really are no words.

Instead, the vacant or crazed look in the eyes says it all.

People go through a lot--some of it is inhumane.

Sometimes, only tears can even begin to express what they are feeling. 

I think one thing that is important to do, even when we're not sure what to say, is to acknowledge that it is okay. 

Silence is often golden. 

Listen more, watch more, feel more, learn more, reflect more. 

Ask more questions. 

Usually, I'm told to ask at least 5 times (i'd say at least 3) to decompose to what is really going on underneath the superficial covers. 
"Tell me more."
"What else?"
"Can you elaborate?"

Sometimes, people have difficulty getting in touch with their true feelings or accurately diagnosing what's bothering them.  

It's more than okay to be thoughtful, be deliberative. 

Words are often cheap, but they shouldn't be. 

Our words should be truthful, meaningful, insightful, even righteous. 

Take all the time you need, your words are worth it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 12, 2018

The Culture Key To Organizational Success

As I continue to learn more about organizational success strategies, I am coming to understand that the underlying culture of the organization is so very fundamental to its success.

I believe this is especially the case in terms of three critical competency areas:

- Communication - needs to be timely, constructive, multi-directional, and with emotional intelligence.

- Trust - must be be based on honesty and integrity including consistently supporting the success of everyone professionally and as a organization. 

- Collaboration - must be be anchored in respecting, valuing, empowering, and rewarding each and every person for their views and the contributions, both individually and as team members, and in treating diversity and collaboration, as a true force-multiplier. 

If any of these elements are missing or broken then it does not seem to me that the organization will be able to be successful for the long term.

Organizational success is built on ingredients that strengthen the ties of leadership and individuals and that foster contribution as individuals and as team members. 

No amount of smart, innovative, and even hard work, in my mind, will make up for shortfalls in these critical organizational success factors. 

So when planning for organizational success, make sure to build these in from the get-go. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 20, 2017

I Got The Call

I got the call!

But not the one that I always wanted, which is to serve at the very highest echelons of government or/and industry for those values and things which I so hold dear. 

No, instead I got the call that my professor in college warned me about. 

He said:
"You will get a call one day from someone asking for a lot of cash--no questions asked! At that time, you will know who you're real friends are."

So I actually got this call (for real) and in the middle of my work day.

This person who contacts me is considered quite affluent and with an extensive network, and I know him/her for only a relatively short time

Person:
"You know you're like family to me Andy...I need $2,000--in cash--by 7 pm. I'll pay you back $500 on Friday and the rest by Monday."

Me (Stunned):
"What--is this a joke or something?"

Person:
{Repeats again the request}

Me:
"OMG. What's wrong--is everyone okay? Are you in any trouble?"

Person:
"Uh, everyone's fine...don't ask me any questions--there's no time for this now."

Me {Reaching for some humor in this bizarre situation}:
"Oh, only $2,000--I thought maybe you needed $2 million--that's no problem, of course."

Person:
"Please don't make jokes now Andy--this isn't funny!"

Me {Trying once again to get some more--any--information}:
"Can you just explain to me what's going on--I really want to understand, so I can help you."

Person:
"Do you have the cash or not?"

Me: 
"To be frank no. I don't keep any cash around. {Inquiring to learn more...} Could you take a check or something else?"

Person:
"No. Listen, can you go to the ATM now?"

Me {frustrated by the abruptness, lack of sensical communication, and pushiness, as well as more than a little suspicious at how this is all going down}:
"Well the ATMs have a cash limit. Also, I would really need to check with my {lovely} wife first,"

Person {seeing they weren't getting what they wanted when they wanted it}:
"Okay, well if you can't help, I'll just call someone else--thanks {hanging up on me}!" 

WOW!

Despite having trusted this person and feeling very hurt by all this, I still called the person back later that evening to follow up and because I truly cared, and they were still not any more forthcoming with me, and in fact, were quite attacking that they were sorry to have called me.

But I wasn't sorry...my college professor was right on, thank G-d--I do know who my friends are!

Whether its a lunch date, LinkedIn/Facebook contact, or social invitation, be discerning about the motives of people--outside of any sane and normal context--that are seeking to "friend" you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 26, 2017

Thank You Chaplain Berning

I read about this amazing "Spiritual Communications Board" that Chaplain Joel Nightingale Berning invented for New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. 

The board allows hospital patients who are intubated or otherwise can't talk to communicate their spiritual health and needs. 

The top part allows the person to say what religion they are. 

The bottom left, are choices for how they feel from afraid and lonely, to nervous, helpless, and hopeless, and even to identify on a scale of 0 to 10, the level of their spiritual pain. 

And on the bottom right, they can point to ask for spiritual help... from a prayer, song, or blessing to talk with me, sit with me, get my family or hold my hand. 

While hospitals have traditionally been focused on getting a person, with G-d's help, physically healthy again, it is wonderful to see people, like Chaplain Berning looking after the spiritual side of patients wellness and health as well. 

To heal, people don't just need surgeries and medicines, but they need to deal with all the emotions and pain surrounding their condition and their challenging life situations, and this is something that spiritual caregivers can make a huge difference with. 

The health of the soul and the body are linked in more ways than one. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chaplain Berning)
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December 3, 2016

Dysfunction Is The Starting Point

A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia. 

He connected to this week's reading from Genesis in the Torah.

It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us. 

As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families. 

Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:

- Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden

- Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers

- Abraham and Sarah's doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child

- Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)

 - Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau

- Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister

- Joseph's brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery

- Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn 

And so on. 

Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:

1) Context - There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on.  The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context. 

2) Dysfunction - Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional.  There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function.  However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow. 

3) Responsibility - Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do--our actions.  We can't just blame history or others.  Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do.  It our life and circumstances to make or break us. 

4) Communication - In dealing with life and it's challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc.  But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction. 

The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it's heroes and heroines--our ancestors--is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.

The bible doesn't sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with--it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 12, 2016

Oculus Rift Has My Attention

This picture is an older version of Oculus Rift--larger, heavier, more clunky than the streamlined version coming out this April for $599.

Zuckerberg's Facebook announced the purchase of Oculus virtual reality (VR) in March 2014.

I can't think of another piece of consumer technology that I want to try out more than this. 

Initially for immersive 3-D experiences in all sorts of entertainment, including gaming, movies, television, and more. 

But soon to follow are use cases for virtual meetings, classrooms, doctor's appointments, and anything requiring our interaction and communication. 

Hush-hush is the more intimate use for things like virtual sex. 

Also, there are opportunities for augmented reality where physical reality is supplemented with computer sensory input making your real-experience that much richer and informed.

With the Oculus Rift, I imagine myself immersed on a safari in Africa, flying into the reaches of space, relaxing at the most beautiful beaches, praying at the Western Wall, fighting my way through first person shooter and action adventures, and reliving biblical and other major historical events.

I don't see VR for myself as an escape from reality, so much as being able to experience many more of life's realities and possibilities out there. 

My only fear is that as VR gets better and better, it becomes easier and easier to fall away from our challenges in the real world, and just live inside a mask with a controlled environment where our virtual choices and experiences seem all too convenient and real. ;-) 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Weston High School Library)
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December 26, 2015

Can't Live With 'Em & Without 'Em

Remember the funny comedy show, Married with Children.

The theme song is playing in my head, "Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage."

Love and marriage--it's something we all aspire to. 

Like in Noah's ark, we all want to couple off and be with that special person that complements us, can finish our sentences, helps us grow and develop and reach our potential, and of course raise a family!

This last couple of days for me the overarching theme has been the importance of a good marriage.

First I saw this funny sign that said, "Get married once, and do it right."

Well, okay...

Then the wonderful Rabbi Kaplan of Chabad, here in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, spoke to us about the great joy and "naches" (pride and gratification) of marriage and family.

And once again, when my wife asked this classy lady she met in Florida, how she stayed so thin, the lady responded, "It's the divorce diet."

Ah, eat your heart out baby...that's not the best way to lose weight now, is it? 

Anyway, it's a true blessing to find that great match, and when there is an overall healthy relationship built on respect, trust, good communication, and of course being best friends. 

I wish I had that (just kidding...).  :-))

Perhaps a nice New Years wish is for everyone to find their soulmate and live happily ever after. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 12, 2015

Yeah, A Pat On The Back

Ah, this doodle says it all...

Some people deserve a pat on the back--truly great job, went the extra mile, great collaboration, communication, and results. 

Others deserve A PAT ON THE BACK (or a good kick in the behind)--nasty, dirty, selfish, do little, take a lot, backstabbers.

I only know people in the first category. ;-)

(Source Doodle: Linkedin)
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October 17, 2014

Time, Our Most Precious Asset

Albert Einstein taught us how this world is governed by space and time. 

Before we are born and once we are gone, space and time no longer apply--we are in G-d's realm.

Time is so important and precious, that even space is constrained by time--i.e. we cannot be in two places at the same time.

When it comes to time, we can never have enough and this pervades every aspect of our lives.

Here is a short list of how we are bound by time:

What Time Is It?

What Time Are We...?
Do You Have Time?
Can You Spare Some Time?
Who's Got Time?
How Many Times?
How Much Time?
Do You Remember The Time That...?
Where Has The Time Gone?

Time Is Precious
This Time is Different
Only Time Will Tell
If Only There Was Time
Wish I Had More Time
Time is Too Short
It is Time
Time is Ticking
Time Flies
One Step At a Time
Maximize The Time You Have
Stop Wasting Time

Decision Time
Time To Change
Timeless
Timeline
Time Bound
Time Heals
Time is Money
In No Time
From The Beginning of Time
Once Upon A Time
There Was A Time
Now's Not The Time
A Long Time Ago
Time To Getaway
Awesome Time
Great Time
Good Times
Bad Times
Marvelous Time
Excellent Time
Meaningful Time
Hopeful Time
Horrible Time
Depressed Times
Manic Times
Next Time
Time of My Life
Makeup Time
Time Out
It's About Time
The First Time
This is The Last Time
There Is No Time Like The Present
Between The Time
About That Time
Same Time
Different Time
Parallel Time
Past Time
Make Time
Use Time
Spend Time
Save Time
Best Use of Your Time
Take Your Time
Short of Time
Losing Time
Taking Time
Stealing Time
Don't Have Time
Some Time
No Time
Anytime
All of the Time
Every Time
Numerous Times
Exact Time
All The Time
At The Same Time
For The Time Being
Keep Time
Out of Time
Long Time
Short Time
Right Time
Wrong Time
Before It's Time
Now is The Time
Past Time
Present Time
Future Time
Spacetime ContinuumTime Travel
(Not) Enough Time
Most of The Time
It's The Only Time
Need More Time
Time is of The Essence
Tell Time
Local Time
World Time
Time Zones
Timetable
Timekeeper
Timekeeping
Time and Attendance
Overtime
Comp Time
Part Time
Full Time
Old Times
Modern Times
Wartime
Peacetime
Summertime
Wintertime
Springtime (wonder why there is no falltime?)
Setup Time
Time is on Your Side
Time of Redemption
Time of Mashiach (Messiah)
Time to Forgive
Time to Avenge
Judgement Time
Time Unfolds
End of Times
Confusing Times
Work Time
Busy Time
Down Time
Quiet Time
Meal Time
Bed Time
Nap Time
Starting Time
Ending Time
Almost Time
Happy Times
Sad Times
Holiday Time
Hopeful Times
Solemn Times
Special Time
Important Times
Tough Times
Structured Time
Lawless Times
Time of Doubt
Time of Birth
Time of Death
Time to Work
Time to Retire
Time Alone
Time Apart
Time Together
Me Time
My Time
Our Time
Family Time
Play Time
Party Time
Happy Hour Time
Game Time
Show Time
Movie Time
Real Time
Dinner Time
Lunch Time (no real breakfast time!)
Private Time
Time Stamp
Time Magazine

Thank You For Your Time ;-)

With special appreciation To Rebecca Blumenthal for brainstorming this with me--it was a fun time! 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 11, 2014

Okay For A Drive By

So, having grown up in New York, I've definitely heard of a drive by shooting, but never a "drive by meeting". 

Until a colleague asked me, "Okay for a drive by?"

A little taken aback, but I was available (and figured not in any imminent danger by his type of "drive by"), so I agreed to meet for a few minutes. 

The meeting was quick, like a car whizzing by, but we discussed what was needed and accomplished the immediate goal. 

Personally, I prefer when someone is driving the meeting, rather than having a drive by meeting, but we all need to be agile to whatever the day brings. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 2, 2014

Fruit Juice Want Some

I took this photo in the supermarket.

It is of these Good 2 Grow juice bottles for kids with cartoon sip tops. 

Everyone from Ninja Turtles to Scooby Doo is here on the shelf.

And peeping out in the middle from the back is none other than SpongeBob SquarePants. 

I guess if I were still a kid holding hands with my mom coming down the aisle, I would stop right here and start yelling and jumping up and down for these.

Juice Smuice...I just like these fun, happy cartoon characters. ;-)
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July 27, 2014

The Calorie Count Cookie

So we were out with family at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. 

And at the end of the meal, of course there were fortune cookies to be had.

As someone opened the cookie, and was about to plop it in her mouth, she said, "Ah, there goes another 100 calories!"

Then I thought for a moment, and said, "wouldn't it be great (for those of us watching our weight), if every food had an edible embedded chip and display that would flash the calorie count as you picked it up and were about to put it in your mouth. 

Rather than those esoteric calorie counts on the side of packages for G-d knows what serving sizes, you get a play-by-play count every time you reach, pick up, and are about to ingest the next big gulp.

I think having calorie counts tied to real portions and having these in your face in real time as you are eating could have a huge impact on portion size and weight control. 

It may not be sexy to see the calories in your face as you eat, but boy could it be healthy. ;-)

Copyright to Andy Blumenthal

(Source Photo: Me)
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July 16, 2014

Garbage In, Repair The World Out

I'm sure you know the saying, "Garbage In, Garbage out"--in other words what you put into something is what you get out.

In this case, I took a photo of a garbage truck--of all things--that had prominently plastered on its side, "Tikkun Olam - Repair the World."

That is quite a positive message to put on a garbage truck!

Maybe that is our challenge in life, to make good things happen from the garbage that life often throws our way. 

Make something sweet like lemonade out of something sour like lemons.

This is not easy without some sugar, but in life, we need G-d to supply the raw ingredients and we add the elbow grease. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 27, 2014

10 Keys To Influencing And Selling Anything


Brilliant video by Kendra Eash for McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

It is made entirely with stock footage from Dissolve.

What is amazing is how with some great video, nice background music, and a soothing confidant voiceover--we can sell, or be sold on, just about anything.

The 10 Keys to influencing and selling anything, including B.S.:

1. Vague words that show progress (innovation, hope, motherhod, and apple pie--I'll have some of that)

2. Beautiful footage and sound (who wouldn't want to be there type?)

3. High-technology and science (we can solve the world's problems and make money, yippee)

4. Research and development (we're investing in the future and you should invest in us)

5. Global and U.S. (we're beyond borders, but still "made in...", headquartered, or otherwise a U.S. entity)

6. Environmentally conscious (clean water, breathable, air, lush forests, who can argue with that?)

7. High-speed (movers and shakers, we don't stand still, join us or be left behind)

8. Attractive people (this is for real human beings, human kind, we care about you!)

9. Diversity and equality (we love and help everyone--including you and your family)

10. Inspiring (we're thinking big and bringing positive change--buy from us, support our cause)

Throw/superimpose any company, product, country, person, or cause on this video--and poof, you've got an awesome brand--whether you deserve it or not!

This is how we're manipulated one brand at a time, hundreds of brands a day. ;-)
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March 11, 2014

Be, Be Yourself

I thought this was a cute sign in the elevator at Safeway. 

"Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

Why they put this up in a supermarket, I don't really know. 

Anyway, gotta hate phonies, kiss-ups, and B.S. artists--in the store or out. 

My wife's grandfather used to say, "What comes from the heart, goes to the heart"--I really like that!

An ounce of sincerity is worth more than a ton of faking it--even if you're a good fake. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 23, 2014

Don't Let Debbie Downer Take You Down


Saturday Night Live has a spoof about Negative Nellie's and they call her Debbie Downer. 

We all know people like this who are the Voice of Doom and the Doctor No's.

Whatever the topic is--they've been there, done it, and have seen it fail--"We tried that before," "That's not the way we do things here," "You just don't understand," "It will never work."

They see danger and bad everywhere and in everything, even in the face of positive and promise. 

These are the people who are obstinate, the naysayers, and are against change at all cost--they fear it or just don't want to deal with it. 

BusinessWeek has an interesting perspective on this--how even these people can be employed to have a beneficial impact on projects--by having them tell you everything that can go wrong, so you can take steps to plan and mitigate against these. 

Some people only want to have positive people around them--"yes men," who only tell them how smart and right they are all the time. 

However, the best leaders don't want kiss ups and brown nosers, but rather value"truth tellers," who will provide them solid advice and guidance on issues, tell them when they think something is wrong or risky, and even take an opposing point of view or play devil's advocate.

I remember when I was asked about whether a certain project was going to meet a very near deadline, and I said point blank, "Do you want me just to say yes or do you want me to tell you the truth?"

I got a big smile to that and the appreciation that I was real and truthful and there to make a difference and not just be another lump on the log. 

The point is not to be a Debbie Downer or a brown noser, but to be an Honest Joe or Jane. ;-)
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February 17, 2014

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

No this is not an alert, but some strategic thinking about alerts. 

As a kid, we get our first alerts usually from the fire alarm going off in school and practicing the buddy system and safely evacuating. 

As adults, we are used to get so many types of alerts:

- Homeland Security threat alerts
- Breaking news alerts
- Emergency/Disaster alerts
- Severe weather alerts
- Smog alerts
- Transportation delay alerts
- Accident alerts
- Fraud alerts
- Economic and financial alerts
- Amber missing child alerts
- Internet security alerts
- Power loss alerts
- Home or business intruder alerts
- Fire alerts
- Carbon Monoxide alerts
- Medical/health alerts
- Chemical spill alerts
- Product safety or recall alerts
- Unsafe drinking water alerts
- Active shooter alerts
- Work closure alerts
- Parking garage alerts
- Dangerous marine life alerts
- Dangerous current or undertow alerts
- Air raid siren alerts
- Solar eclipse alerts
- Meteorite or falling space debris alerts
- Special sale or promotional event alerts

With the arrival of highly successful, mass social media applications like Twitter, we have alerts aggregated for us and listed chronologically as things are happening real-time. 

The brilliance of the current Twitter-type alerting is that we can sign up to follow whatever alerts we are interested in and then have a streaming feed of them.  

The alerts are short--up to 140 characters--so you can quickly see the essence of what is happening or ignore what is irrelevant to you. 

When more space is needed to explain the details behind an alert, typically a (shortened) URL is included, which if you click on it takes you to a more in depth explanation of the event or item. 

So alerts are a terrific balance between short, attention grabbing headlines and links to more detail, as needed. 

What is also great about the current alerting mechanism is that you can provide concise alert information, including:

- Message source (for ensuring reliability)
- Guidance (for providing immediate instruction on response). 
- Hazard (for specifying the type of incident)
- Location (for identifying geographic or mapping locality)
- Date/time (for implications as to its currency)
- Importance (for determining severity such as catastrophic, critical, etc.)

While we remain ever, hyper-vigilant, we need to be careful not to become anxiety-ridden, or at some point, simply learn to tune it all out, so we can actually live life and get stuff done.

It's good to know what's going on out there, but can too much information ever become a bad thing? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 25, 2014

I, U, Y Talk Like That

Already young children in pre-school learn that "Words have meaning, and words can hurt."

All through life, we refine our communication skills learning what works and what doesn't.

Here are three letter-words with which to beware:

- "I" (Use sparingly) - I is usually people's favorite word; they love to talk about themselves. I this. I that. I like. I hate. The problem is that "I" can also be selfish, egotistical, and narcissistic. Without tempering talking about I all the time, you run the very large risk of overdoing it.  All the I can easily end up boring other people to near death or simply make them want to run the other way to get some needed healthy attention for themselves.

- "U" (Use carefully) - U is most often used to criticize.  U should do this. U did something wrong. U are a blankety-blank. While it's also caring, loving, and empathetic to talk about U (i.e. taking a genuine interest in the other person), talking about U can easily go astray and lead to disapproval, denunciation, and censure. We should and need to talk about U, but more from the perspective of understanding U and how can I help U.

- "Y" (Use almost never) - Y is used to ask questions, but usually ends up being used judgmentally. Y did you do that? Sometimes we question honestly and with positive intentions to understand, but very often we end up using the response to evaluate their actions, and pronounce judgement on them. From all the interrogative questions (who, what, where, when, Y, and how), Y should be used the absolute least, if ever. 

 I, U, Y - are letter-words that can imply selfishness, criticism, and judgement.  

While, they can't exactly be banned from the alphabet or dictionary, they are dangerous words that can get you misunderstood, alienate others, and hurt people in the process, and therefore use them, but with extreme caution, please. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to id-iom)
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January 23, 2014

From Memorization To Thinking

Our education system continues to suffer as we rank somewhere between 17th and 20th globally. 

This means that our economy will assuredly suffer in the future from the global competition that strangles us.

Some prominent experts in the field, like Walter Isaacson, say that innovation occurs at the intersection of arts and humanities meeting science and math--and I really like that. 

Personally, this inspires me to think about whether education reform is perhaps focused too much on the teachers, tests, and core curriculum, and less on changing the way we are approaching education in the first place. 

For as long as I can remember (i.e. even when I was in school way back when), we based our education on lots of memorization--multiplication tables, periodic tables, vocabulary, history, and much more. 

For those with great short term memory, you could do very well to memorize, spit it out, and forget it, so you can start all over again with the next great wave of facts and figures. 

The emphasis on memorization of basics, is important in getting a foundation of knowledge, but seems to me to come at the expense of critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

From my own experience and watching my kids in school, I often see boredom at raw facts, and excitement and self-satisfaction at figuring something out. 

Yet, too often students are asked to do rote memorization and test accordingly, rather than really think. 

You can't memorize innovation, but rather you need to be able to apply learning. 

In this day and age, where facts are but a Google search away, memorization is less important and real analytical, reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills (all anchored in solid core values) are more relevant to our national and personal success. 

Yet, have our school caught up with this?

Unfortunately, it seems most have not, and perhaps that is one reason that many of our preeminent innovators are dropouts--from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc. 

Will we ever get away completely from memorizing the basics? Certainly not. Do we need to spend so much of K-12 education and even college years playing instant recall? What a waste!

The best experience that I remember from my younger daughter in school was her activities in the Ethics Bowl, where schools competed in analyzing ethically challenging situations and arguing the merits of the various sides. They learned to think and articulate their reasoning and conclusions and that is the best education that I can imagine. 

Until we stop using education techniques from the dinosaur age--memorizing species and trying to recall where the eggs are buried, I fear we are doomed to subpar educational performance--in a boring, memorizing, and non-thinking way. 

No wonder the kids want to develop the next great iPhone app and use their textbooks as a handy-dandy booster seat. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lansing Public Library)

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