Tackling it together

Why don’t we ask each other for help anymore? It wasn’t too long ago that barns were raised as a community, sheep were sheared as a group effort. When I was young we used to participate in the spring branding, immunizations and ear tagging for a friend’s cattle ranch. It was a time to get together, share experiences but most of all a way to get a huge job done in a short amount of time.

We seem to have lost both the ability to do things like this in our busy schedules. We still have large projects to tackle. It doesn’t even have to be big. It could be a simple favor. We rarely ask each other for help and we don’t offer either. Maybe it is a result of our individualistic tendencies in the US. In other countries people still rely on community. I think they have something figured out that we don’t. We can’t do it alone. I will go even further and say we are not meant to do life alone.

We are preparing to move to another town. In order to do that we need to sell our home and complete many projects to do so. My wife and I realized that we just can’t get it all done with out help. Over the past week we have had a handful of friends volunteer. We ended up getting jobs done that I expected to take weeks to finish. One of the best parts I have enjoying in receiving help is the uninterrupted time to visit and connect. I can’t think of the last time I spent an entire weekend with my friend Steve who helped power-wash and paint.

So let us put away our pride. Stop thinking and ask others to help you accomplish a task. Notice projects others are overwhelmed by and lend a hand. Better yet grab some friends and accomplish it together. After all, we not meant to do life alone.

Choose Wisely Mr. Cameron

Yesterday Britain’s Prime Minister announced that he has asked security forces to consider a way to limit the public’s use of social media sites as a way to curb or prevent rioting, looting and other thuggery. As soon as I heard this news I was at first shocked that a member country of the free world would even consider such a move. Yes, communication tools have been used to spawn horrible acts in the past, probably the worst in current history was the use of the media, both print and radio, to spread the Hutu’s message of ethnic cleansing across Rwanda in 1994.
Today with connectedness having become far reaching with tools like Twitter, Facebook and now Google Plus, we do have a greater responsibility in measuring the impact of our words and messages. But to go as far as limiting communication, in my opinion, turns what is a small event compared to genocide into a mark on the freedoms of the British people that will not be easily forgotten. Worse yet I think it shows a lack of understanding what social media really offers. For decades the media has been carefully controlled and even scripted by politicians and governments to execute policy-driven messages. The White house and Downing Street has for decades been very careful to share and suggest what images they wish the media to use and what sound bytes or speeches they wish to be publicized. The journalists that adhere to this policy are the ones given special access or first knowledge of breaking news. The ones that violate it quickly learn to adjust. (read more on how policy is shaped and controlled through the media. This article was written in 2005 and does not include the greater changes since the growth of social media). With new media though, there is no control over what is said. Large media companies no longer have the podium they used to have over blogs, celebrities and others that have risen in popularity. Events are reported as they happen through open channels of communication.

Before Mr. Cameron decides to give social media a heavy hand to curb thuggery, I hope he considers the true power he holds. Just as King George VI used the radio to calm his realm and prepare them for the battle that was before the nation, Prime Minister Cameron can choose to use the powerful reach given him just as it is given to every citizen he is considering silencing. I hope he chooses wisely.

Chattering?

The first thing I read this morning was “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 10:8 NIV). Then I went to Facebook and read a quote posted by my friend David Schroeder, “Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.”-Mark Twain. So, I decided to take pause and reserve all the things I had to say…. and say them another day.

LinkedIn got it right

It takes a lot to catch my attention through email. LinkedIn did it this week, and they did it well. They did a brilliant job in perking my interest in both my closest connections and their recent stories. As a professional networking site, most of us see it as an interactive resume. Users barely log in more than once a week or even once a month. On Wednesday I got a message that displayed a shot of several of my closest connections that have either changed jobs, started something new, or were promoted. During a time when bad news seems to be everywhere, LinkedIn got my attention by showing me something remarkably hopeful. Not stopping there, they made sure somehow that most of these people are more than just business connections. Each face in the picture comes with a great story.

I have posted recently on friends seeking jobs. I have created a twitter list honoring those who have left mediocre jobs to venture out into something new. I love stories about linchpins changing the world. Linkedin tapped right into that for me, and they even got me to click through “to find out more”.

The hard things that count

Recently three types of events have been more frequent than I like within my community: funerals, layoffs, and health issues. These are all issues our friends experience, and our response is critical. When I was younger, I avoided conversations with someone struggling or grieving. I felt helpless. However, as I mature, these events become more common in my circle of friends. So something has changed for me in the last decade. I feel more comfortable with …..the uncomfortable. I know the person in the difficult situation benefits when I navigate situations like these with discernment and sensitivity. Some are seeking a listening ear. Others are hoping for advice to move forward. Sometimes they just want someone around. Really it can be as simple as knowing someone actually cares. A packed room at a funeral shows the family and friends left behind that their loved one mattered to the tribe. Layoffs become an opportunity rather than bad news. Injuries and aging are easier to handle when we know we are not alone. These can only happen if we are intentional. When we resist avoidance and engage with someone who is hurting, we lighten his or her grief.

For more on a similar topic, listening well, see my Three Part Series on Listening.

The connector recharged

Humans are made to connect with each other. This is true no matter where you fall on the spectrum between introvert to extrovert . In order to do that well we have to have something to offer. No matter who you are, getting away allows refueling by both reflection and freedom to recharge.

I fall high on the scale toward extrovert but I find that I need solitude just as much as anyone else. Without it I lose both the desire and ability to build and deepen relationships.

This weekend I was together with close friends on an annual camping trip. For many of us it is the only chance we get to regroup and learn about each others lives. We all have kids now so most of the day is spent around activities like hiking, biking, swimming and such. The evenings, after smores and bedtime stories, are spent together gazing into the fire. This trip on one of the nights I ended up being the last one up. As I stared into the glowing embers of the fire now reduced to a pile of red hot coals, I realized that I often end up doing this alone on purpose. 11 - 1I love the reconnecting and storytelling that happens with all the friends but often the two to three days of constant interaction drains my reserves. The trip is really a connectors dream setting. Several good friends brought together for a few days in close contact is a precious time for me. But in order to offer who I am, I need to go back to a place of solitude. Mini retreats like this are essential for everyone. Some of us need it more of it than others. Seasonally I try to get away for an extended version. Call it a modern day example of what the desert fathers did in Christian tradition. I get away for one or two full days where I try to leave behind all technology and spend time hearing God and letting all the world’s bagage fall off my shoulders.

I always come back, whether it is an hour or a couple of days, refreshed and ready to continue connecting and contributing to the relationships in my life. I am able to offer a clearer perspective. How many of us though are spent, running on fumes in every interaction with have with others. People need us to have something to offer, something to give away. We only can when we refill our reserves.

You have time to read

An entrepreneur starting a new business was asking for advice on specific connecting tools this week. I gave him a few tips. Ultimately though, I told him there were a few books that would supply him with everything he needed to know. Plus they would cover the topic in greater detail. His reply was a simple “I don’t have time to read”. Really, I asked? Not even an audio book while you travel?

Reading keeps us sharp and helps us stay constant students not only of our own trade but the world around us. On average in the US Adults spend 2.73 hrs a day watching TV and an average of 23 minutes commuting to and from work*. Those are just a few segments of time that could be used. Books are available in many forms making it easy for the busy person on the go. I am currently reading three books with my kindle account on three devices that sync between each other. I can grab a section on my MacBook Pro, pick it back up on my Droid X sitting in a doctor’s office and then continue at the same spot as I settle into bed with my iPad. Some ebooks can even read to you while you commute (including two my company developed) and others can also be synced through your favorite audio program like iTunes, Spotify or Google Music.

If you tell me you are too busy to read I will tell you that you wrong. You are missing out on valuable information to help you not stagnate in an ever changing business world. Most of all though, you are missing all the benefits that a good book offers. Peace, perspective and a stimulated mind. If you still feel you don’t have time, my friend Tara can point out all the time you don’t know you actually have.

*figures based on US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gallup poll.

Dinner: It is more than a meal

I dine out a lot. I was raised by restauranteurs, and as we travelled we always enjoyed exploring new eateries. Dinning can be the connectors best tool. Because I travel a lot I try to do two things: leave time to explore where I am going and always make meetings over a good meal. This past week is a great example. My friend and business colleague Oliver Glenn (who is a Senior Account Manager at Openfeint.com┬áNow with GREE) invited Chris Skaggs and I to dinner before the Open Feint VIP party at Casual Connect, a gaming conference. Oliver had picked a great local restaurant featuring a unique and delicious menu. Our time at The Wild Ginger was filled not only with business dealings, but also with catching up on each others lives and just enjoying the company. So much happens over the course of a meal. You learn about your companion’s tastes and interests. I have learned that dinner is much more a meal.

Lastly, you never know what eating out might offer. I have had the surprise of dinning next to Elton John, and meeting new friends, like the greeter at San Diego Gas lamp districts Analog Restaurant and Bar. While at dinner with Oliver, we noticed Kenny G was enjoying a party with friends a few tables over. So don’t settle for fast food and dull dinning. Mix it up, from elegant dining to awesome street vendor. Dinning out, especially while travelling, can be one of the connectors most valuable tools.

For reference I am trying to post on my favorite haunts on Yelp. It is far form complete but hopefully will be soon. I hope it is helpful.

A good read as well is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

You are a reject

Here is an idea. Keep a file folder for the rejection letters you receive. It could be from a love interest or a college application. Want an easy source? Start applying to some dream jobs. Most will reply back.

We know so little about our future. Yes, you may have solid goals and dreams. They will take different shape as they become realized. Something we “have to have” at the time will one day point the direction to the path we ultimately take.

Then one day five or ten years from now open the folder up. As you read through them think of all the turns, changes and redirects you took to get to where you find yourself. The journey and story that will unfold will be fascinating. I bet you got there not because someone picked you (maybe one or two did). Ultimately you will reach your goals because you picked yourself.

Follow people

Does it really make sense to categorize people? Whether it is Google Circles, Facebook or Twitter lists, they have been used effectively by people for years now. Yes circles are somewhat different but really they are ways to categorize who we follow and read. One particular post on G+ and it’s resulting conversation caught my attention. Chris Guillebeau said he only had one circle called “Awesome People” which got me thinking. I follow people not subjects. Yes I focus on company culture, game and app development, technology, writers and publishing, business acumen and communication. What I have found is that I really am more interested in connecting with people and while they may show up on my radar because we share similar interests I am actually compelled to follow them because of the complexity of their interesting lives. In the past I have tried to categorize them into subsets but I finally resulted in a list like Chris’. You see it comes down to this, I like people. Whether they know it or not, all people are marvelously complex and interesting.

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