Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Praise of Doing Nothing

We live in a culture that prizes busyness -- as if, the more busy we are, the more important or valuable we are. That's a fallacy.

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. You can be busy doing almost anything. I know one woman who managed to make cooking and cleaning a 3 bedroom apartment a full time job -- for over a decade. And that worked for her.

But if you are continually doing something, and you'd rather be doing something (anything?) else, then you need to compare how you are spending your time, to see if it matches what is important to you. Try keeping a diary of how you spend your time for a couple of normal (i.e. non-vacation) weeks. You can do this easily by keeping a small (2"x3") notebook with you, and noting the time that you changed activities. You might learn some really interesting things about yourself.

At a minimum, you might figure out what to let go of. Do you need to change the sheets every week? Would every other week be okay? Do you have to do the laundry? Can someone else do that?

On the other hand, productivity can look very lazy. Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, TV's The West Wing) recently said that when he writes, he spends a long time, months even, pondering all aspects what he's going to write before he puts pen to paper. And that pondering can look like a lot of watching ESPN.

Even when you're not pondering, sometimes there's just nothing to do. You've done all the prep you can, you've made all the calls, and you have to wait for an answer, whether it's from a huge potential client or the universe. You can make yourself crazy while you wait -- or you can relax and do nothing.

So what looks like doing nothing can be a precursor to something big.

Learn Different Models of Communication

Today's workplace demands more communication skills than ever before. 

Considering the sheer quantity of information, communication media, generational and cultural factors, and pace of change, communication competence is crucial.

Traditionally, how we communicate has been seen as a function of our culture, personality, upbringing, and maybe even intellect. We have informal models of how to communicate, as well as formal models we may have learned along the way.

While businesses have long recognized the need to improve communication and develop people, and have used a variety of approaches to do so, few know how to leverage Communication Modeling to serve their enterprises.

Intended for both users and providers of communication modeling, this panel lays a foundation for thinking about modeling communication and highlights the benefits and distinguishing features of several widely used models, including Compassionate / Non-Violent Communication (NVC), 5 Dynamics, and Neurolinguistics.

This is in Santa Clara, CA on Oct. 4, from 6 - 7 PM. Sign up at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Future of Privacy

Are you upset about the lack of privacy on the web? About how current or potential employers can see those photos of you from college, or worse, high school, of you doing the stupid things you still can't believe you did back then? Perhaps a little historical perspective is in order.

Back when humans lived in small clans, and even when we lived mostly in villages, everyone knew everyone else's business, all the time. You couldn't have an adulterous affair, and expect not to be branded with the letter A. If your acts were too outrageous, you had to leave the tribe or clan, which in some cases meant certain death. Consequently, people moderated their behavior to suit the norms of their society.  Yes, it was stultifying, and you can read about that in countless Victorian novels. (There are still places like this, places where entire extended families sleep in the same room, and so nothing is private, not even sex between a husband and wife.)

Towns and cities grew. More people moved away from their farms and small towns to live in these cities. Living alone in a city, you began to feel that what you did was private, and largely anonymous. (Please note that anonymity is often conflated with privacy here.) The result of this privacy/anonymity is the feeling that you could indulge in all sorts of debauched or nefarious behavior without anyone knowing, which is to say, without consequences. And you feel the strongest privacy/anonymity within your own home, your refuge from the outside world. (In the US, this is partly because of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, in part, that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated".) 

Along comes the Internet, and especially Facebook, which has made it ridiculously easy for you to document your own life if you have access to a computer and/or a smartphone. Unfortunately, all your friends can do this, too. So now, any unguarded, embarrassing behavior, even done in your own home, can now be opened up to the scrutiny of the entire world. Global village, indeed! We are, in fact, coming full circle. Or as Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, says, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Now imagine that the internet is a precursor for humanity's development. Envision a world where the internet is unnecessary because everyone can tap into the same knowledge base, where everyone has internal access to all knowledge all the time. Envision a world where everyone has fully developed intuitive abilities -- especially external clairvoyance (the ability to see everyone's energy fields), clairsentience (the ability to feel other's emotions) and telepathy (the ability to know what others are thinking). This is where I think we're headed.

You'll have to modify not only your behavior, but also your thoughts, which cause your feelings, or everyone will know. The good news is that you'll know everything about everyone else, too, so they'll have to modify their behavior and thoughts, as well. This will result in more fair trade, because everyone will be aware of the consequences of their purchases. It will also result in a lot less crime, as it will be intuitively obvious to everyone that a crime is about to be committed, and people will choose to intervene gently. People will eventually be easier on themselves, too, because they'll have example of how to change their thoughts, so they don't have to beat themselves up.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Prayer for the Year

The Jewish New Year, 5771, begins tonight at sunset. Beginning the year in the fall, when the harvest comes in and school begins has always made more sense to me than when we celebrate it on January 1. Anyway, a few years ago, I came across the following prayer, and want to share it with you. Please read all the way through -- the good stuff begins at the fourth paragraph. 

Rosh Hashanah Prayer

On Rosh Hashanah it is written 
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

How many shall leave this world; and how many shall be born; who shall live and who shall die, who in the fullness of years and who before; who shall perish by ire and who by water, who by sword and who by a wild beat; who by famine and who by thirst, who by earthquake and who by plague, who by strangling and who by stoning; who shall rest and who shall wander, who shall be serene and who disturbed, who shall be at ease and who afflicted; who shall be impoverished and who enriched, who shall be humbled and who exalted.


Each of us is an author
Writing, with deeds, in the Akasha
And each of us has the power
To write lines that will never be lost.

No song is so trivial,
no story is so commonplace,
No deed is so insignificant
That it is not recorded.  

No kindness is ever done in vain
Each mean act leaves its imprint
All our deeds and thoughts, the good and the bad,
Are noted and remembered in eternity.

Remember always
What you do lives forever.
The echoes of your words
Resound until the end of time.

May our lives reflect this awareness
Mar our deeds bring no shame or reproach
May the entries we make in the Akasha
Be ever acceptable to You.

[Note: I have changed a the words "Book of LIfe" to Akasha and "Him" to "You" to make it feel more personal.)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Work Ethic on Tour

Q: What do you do when you're the headliner at a music festival, and you're sick?

Yesterday was my annual day of being a roadie at the Sausalito Art Festival, which actually has a huge stage and features live performances by formerly huge acts. This year's lineup included The Bangles, The Fixx, Pablo Cruise and Dave Mason. Dave Mason was the headliner yesterday, filling the last slot from 4:30 - 6PM. I heard that Dave Mason wasn't feeling well, that he was recuperating from some bug.

I was working security to backstage, which basically means making sure no one goes back there without a pass. This is a bit tricky, because the performers have to walk back and forth from the real backstage across a public walkway to the dressing room area, they don't wear their passes because that would look silly on stage -- and although I know the music, I wouldn't know any of these people if I fell over them. In addition, the bartenders keep their booze back there, but are not given backstage passes. So you have to watch faces, and I do.

Right before Dave Mason was supposed to start, one guy without a pass, muttered "I don't wanna go to work today" as he walked from the dressing room area to the true backstage. I figured it was one of the musicians -- who else would be saying that?

A few minutes later, I was watching the show from back stage -- and the guy who 'didn't wanna go to work today'? Dave Mason.

A: You show up, give it your all anyway -- and leave the crowd happy.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Does Your Language Shape How You Think? -

Anyone who has ever studied another language has probably wondered about this. I remember thinking about the English word, 'well', which is translated into 'bien' in French. 'Bien' has many more shadings of meaning than the adjective or adverb 'well' -- and 'well' is also something you get water from in English, while the French word for that is 'puits'.

Does Your Language Shape How You Think? -