From Musings

Occupy Wall Street’s Beef: Wall Street is Cheating

These people aren’t protesting money. They’re not protesting banking. They’re protesting corruption on Wall Street.

Matt Taibbi finally articulated what I have been trying to find words for. I don’t begrudge Wall Street, or anyone, their good fortune (I seek the same good fortune). I just begrudge the way a few people have rigged the system in their favor.






A Sense of Urgency

ur•gen•cy
1. importance requiring swift action
2. an earnest and persistent quality; insistence

The difference between a productive day and a non-productive day is a sense of urgency. Today was a good day.

 






“The Market” vs “The Economy”

With all the volatility in the stock market lately it is a good time to remind ourselves that “the market” is not the same as “the economy.” The best that I can tell — at least as of the last few years — “the market” has contracted to a relatively small group of:

  • professional traders
  • automated computer programs
  • institutional investors
  • hedge fund managers

This tight-knit circle trades amongst itself with very little relevance to what we think of as “the economy.” In contrast to this closed group, the economy is the vast sum of the creation and delivery of the goods and services we want and need.

It seems to me that the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 bears little connection to these things these days.

Don’t be afraid. Now is the time to be bold. If you don’t like the economy, let’s go out and make one of our own.






The South is a Place

The South is a place. East, west, and north are nothing but directions.

— Letter to the editor, Richmond Times Dispatch, 1995

I am reading the delightful book Confederates in the Attic. The quote above opens the second chapter.

When I lived in Colorado I took every opportunity to explore the magnificent hiking trails and striking mountain vistas offered by the Rocky Mountains. When I lived in Albuquerque I breathed deep to absorb the Native American spirit still alive in The Land of Enchantment. And when I lived in Princeton, NJ, I savored Washington’s Crossing and then immersed myself in the local history surrounding the Revolutionary War.






TV Ads – Too Many?

We are in the business of providing the material that prevents the commercials from all slamming together . . . that’s what we are doing here. That’s what we are doing on the West Wing set. We gotta deliver them twelve minutes of stuff to separate the Chevy commercials.

— Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. Executive Producer of the The West Wing. Quoted in an NPR interview, January 2006.

I counted forty-two ads in last week’s episode of Lost. And that does not include any that aired before the show started or after the credits started to roll. Just forty-two ads in five breaks squeezed between six seven-minute segments of content. There were almost nineteen minutes of ads in a sixty-two minute time slot. That’s almost 30% of the air time dedicated to noise from advertisers.






Be Interesting

If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song.

Carl Perkins, Rockabilly pioneer

I have been hesitant to post this quote because of its inclination towards banality. I mean, come on, how corny is “the stream would have no song?” But there is an underlying wisdom to this rockabilly adage. We do not grow if we are not challenged.

Lately I have been intrigued by the idea of what makes people interesting.




Gadget Distraction

What’s happening here, now, isn’t as important to me as what could be happening anywhere else.

— Renny Gleeson

I watched Renny Gleeson in a brilliant, short Ted Talk this morning talk about the sneaky, anti-social behaviors we demonstrate with our smartphones. When I am sitting in a meeting, or at an event, and I can’t resist the urge to pull out my iPhone and check my email or peruse my Twitter updates, I am actually telling those around me that what is happening in the here and now is not as important as literally anything that could come across that tiny screen.






Self-Confidence III

[A]s a few strokes on the nose will make a puppy head shy, so a few rebuffs will make a boy shy all over. But whereas a puppy will cringe away or roll on its back, groveling, a little boy may cover his shyness with nonchalance, with bravado, or with secrecy. And once a boy has suffered rejection, he will find rejection even where it does not exist—or, worse, will draw it forth from people simply by expecting it.

— John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Today’s quote is the third in a three-part series on self confidence. Wednesday Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.” Thursday Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No man can make you feel inferior without your consent.” These quotes are important to me because they underscore the fact that we are victims less often that we think. If I feel inferior, or intimidated it is because I have chosen to feel that way.






Trees

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man’s life only saplings can be grown, in the place of old trees – tens of centuries old – that have been destroyed.

John Muir

Like many in my generation, I devoured J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings with great relish. The metaphors, archetypes and stories from the rich world of Middle Earth continue to resonate through my mind many years after my last reading. One of my favorite creations is the sentient, intelligent, and wise race of Ents. These humanoid trees spoke too slowly and at a frequency too low for humans to perceive. They moved through the forest at a pace too slow to be perceptible.

Some years ago I hiked with a friend to a sacred Native American burial ground in the mountains of Northwest New Mexico…




Walk A Mile In My Moccasins

Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his moccasins.

— Source: my mom, although usually attributed to Native American sources but could be from ancient Rome and may have roots in Christ’s teaching in the Bible.

Even though this quote is an oldie but a goodie, it seemed fitting for my three day run with aphorisms on empathy. Loosely defined, empathy is the capability to share and understand another person’s emotions and feelings.

I believe that empathy is one of the most powerful tools in leadership, business, and life. By putting yourself in “the other person’s shoes” you can have richer interactions and make better decisions on every front. I am much more effective as a leader if I imagine how my style and actions are perceived by those I am endeavoring to lead. The products that I create or the services that I provide are much more valuable if put myself inside the mind of my customers as I create and deliver them.