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    Entries in life (7)

    Tuesday
    Jun202017

    Life at 2.0x Speed

    I was talking to some folks I met recently at an event about the HR Happy Hour Show, and the cool things that are happening there with the other HR Happy Hour Network Shows, (I admit to talking about this a lot. I'm sorry). During the conversation, one of the persons at the table indicated that she would love to listen to more podcasts, but she (like many of us, I suppose), felt like she just didn't have enough time in her day/week to fit them in. With work, family, friends, community involvement, etc, spending a couple of hours a week listening to all the great podcasts that people tell her about just seems not doable for her right now.

    At that point another person who was sort of half-participating in the conversation chimed in that he had the same challenge finding time for podcasts too, but he's 'solved' it by now listening to his favorite podcasts at 1.5x or sometimes even 2.0x speed. For those who don't listen to podcasts regularly, or who just may not be familiar with the speed adjustment feature of podcast apps, all of them allow you to increase the speed of the podcast stream to 1.5x or even 2.0x the normal speaking rate. So at 1.5x speed, a 30 minute podcast could be listened to in 20 minutes. At 2.0x you could cover it in 15. It just speeds up everything you hear. It is kind of like the old speed reading craze, except with audio.

    But, and this could be just a personal issue for me, listening at 1.5x or 2.0x speed is really unsettling. The podcast hosts and guests all seem really amped up on six cups of coffee, everything about the conversation feels nervous, and listening to people talk that fast for that long, never taking what would seem to be natural pauses or breaths is just really off-putting. But technically you can listen that fast if you, as our friend above, are so pressed for time that turning 30 minutes into 20 is important in your day/life. But I still think you shouldn't do it. It's too weird.

    Why do I care about this enough to blog about it?

    I probably shouldn't care, but I have thought about that conversation and mister 'I listen at 2.0x' guy a few times since it happened a couple of weeks ago. And I kind of felt bad, (and a little guilty too).

    Bad for a guy who is just a representative of our hyper-focused, productivity over all, 24/7, 'more-more-more', professional climate that seems to value doing as much productive work as possible at all times. And in this instance, turning the concept of time itself into something that can be bent to the gods of productivity.

    And guilty for the fact that I don't speed up the listen rate when I play back podcasts, I do, often, find myself trying to make people get to the point faster, cut to the chase in emails, and text me instead of calling me - lest an interaction that can be reduced to 16 seconds actually take 3 minutes.

    I don't speed up my podcasts, but too often I (try) and speed up lots of other things. And that is probably as unsettling as listening to sportswriters talk about the NBA draft at double speed.

    NOTE: I spent 28 minutes writing this post. With any luck, next time I can get it down to 21.

    Thursday
    Mar302017

    Career and Life Advice #1

    New series on the blog, (calling it a series in case I decide to try this again, if so it will look like it was some kind of a plan all along), titled 'Career and Life Advice'.

    What makes me qualified to give either career or life advice?

    Nothing!

    That's why the plan is to share career or life advice from folks who have had  pretty demonstrable career success or plain to see amazingly cool lives. Ok, maybe I will try to sneak in some of my own thoughts down the line, we will see.

    First up, some career and life advice from San Antonio Spurs head coach, and noted curmudgeon Gregg Popovich, from an article where Pop was discussing the coaching ability of one of his assistants Becky Hammon, who many NBA observers feel will one day become the first female head coach in the NBA.

    What is one of Hammon's qualities that contributes to her success according to Pop, (and here comes the advice part):

    "She's been perfect," Popovich said. "She knows when to talk and she knows when to shut up. That's as simple as you can put it. A lot of people don't figure that out."

    Boom.

    Solid career and life advice in three sentences.

    And advice we can all learn from.

    Know when it is time to talk and perhaps more importantly, when it is time to shut up.

    In trying to follow said advice, I am going to shut up now.

    Have a great day.

    Monday
    Jun202016

    Reunion

    Yesterday was Father's Day here in the US and I hope any Dads reading this had a fantastic day basking in the adoration of your kids and the rest of your family. I am sure you deserved all the gifts and accolades you received.

    I am a Dad myself, and I had a great day with my son even as he was applying a pretty comprehensive beat down on me in tennis. I chalk it up to a slightly injured shoulder. Let's not quibble about the fact that the injury is to my right shoulder and I play tennis as a left hander.

    Father's Day naturally makes you think about family, and the value and importance of taking time to get away from the grind and spending time with family, friends, and even just doing the things that make your happy, and that help you remain energized to come back to the office on Monday ready to kick some butt.Maesta - Sean Scully

    I don't think we, as individuals and as organizational or HR leaders think about that as much as we should. I mean consciously thinking about how what we do and how we spend our time outside of work (usually) matters far more than the 36 new emails we are going to have in our inbox by 8:40 Monday morning or whether or not we got invited to the 'big' meeting on Thursday.

    In what might be classified as ironic, I spent a decent amount of time over the weekend reading and thinking about a recently published study titled Overworked America, by Heather Boushey and Bridget Ansel. In the paper, Boushey and Ansel report that average working hours, particularly in many higher wage, professional occupations continue to climb, at the same time as hours for many lower wage and hourly positions are falling.

    You really should read the entire report, but here is the overview so you can get a feel for the research:

    Hard work is part and parcel of the American Dream, but at a certain point, working excessive hours can be detrimental to families, businesses, and the U.S. economy. While there are federal laws that govern work hours, these legal protections have slowly eroded, and some Americans are putting in more time at work than ever before. What's more, the United States has seen a polarization in working time, meaning that some segments of the labor market have seen a rise in work hours and others are working much less.

    This report looks at the rising number of employees working long hours—sometimes earning high salaries or overtime pay, but too often not—and the implications for individuals, families, businesses, and the U.S. economy.

    There's a lot to take from the report - not the least of which is the really interesting theory that the job roles where people tend to work the longest are also the one with the most supply ready, willing, and able set of lower-paid replacement workers. But the big takeaway from me as I read the report was that we all probably should be doing more to find better balance - as individuals that often should be more available and present for our families and friends, and as organizations who should realize that working people excessively is bad for business and for employees too.

    I have to admit I did not think about or do any 'real' work on Father's Day. 

    I hope you didn't either.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    May132016

    Nothing but our own fear

    I was at the Globoforce WorkHuman Conference earlier in the week, and one of the more interesting aspects of this conference from the many that I attend in the course of the year is Globoforce's willingness to showcase speakers and topics that are not necessarily 'on the nose' with their specific set of technologies and solutions.

    Most conference, especially vendor user conferences, tend to be super-focused on product - what's happening with the product, what new features are being developed, which companies are adopting the product, how can you learn to use the product better - you get the idea. And that makes perfect sense for vendor user conferences since the one unifying element that generally is the purpose and the binder for the event itself is the actual product. No products, no users, no user conferences. Pretty simple.

    And while there was certainly some of that product related content at the Globoforce event, it did not seem at all like the primary reason for the event, and the driver for most attendees to take the time to be there. Globoforce and the community of folks at the event did (mostly) seem to be there for a more general, conceptual, and different reason - the idea of making work more 'human.'

    What can make, or should make work more 'human' is at the same time a simple and kind of complex topic, (and not the same for everyone). I wrote about my ideas on this a couple of weeks back, so I won't go into them again here. But by making this non-product centric concept the central theme of your user conference, it frees up the organizers to make some interesting choices in terms of speakers and topics.

    For me, one of the highlights of the event was a wide ranging Q and A session with the legendary actor Michael J. Fox. In the Q and A, Fox shared really openly and passionately several stories from his long acting career as well as his well-known and continuing battle with Parkinson's disease.

    The conversation was full of gems, (like Fox lost out to Matthew Broderick for the lead role in one of my favorite films, 'War Games'), but the below quote, (which I tweeted of course, because that is what you do), was for me the idea that I am pretty sure I won't soon (if ever) forget.   

     

    For some context, Fox was asked about if was ever scared or afraid of his condition and the ongoing battle with Parkinson's when he made the observation about fear - his lack of fear and the fear he senses others see when they talk with him about his condition.

    This observation also reminded me of my single favorite Star Wars quote. Yes it is from Yoda, and no it's not the worn out 'There is no try' line.

    The one I am thinking of is from The Empire Strikes Back from the part of the film when Luke is on Dagobah to train with Yoda and learn about the Force. 

    Here's the setup and the line from Yoda (thanks IMBD).

    Luke: There's something not right here... I feel cold. Death.

    Yoda: [points to a cave opening beneath a large tree] That place... is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.

    Luke: What's in there?

    Yoda: Only what you take with you.

    The 'fear' Michael J. Fox talked about was our fear, not his.

    The 'evil' in the dark side cave wasn't really in there, rather it is carried in there by the seeker him or herself.

    I think we often forget that most of our fears are within us. Not a product of some scary, external circumstance.

    We choose what we see. We choose what we carry with us into that cave.

    And what is really remarkable that what led me to think about these things for the last two days was something I heard at an HR conference.

    Have a great weekend.

    Tuesday
    May192015

    Fear

    Note: This week on the blog I am trying out a little experiment - writing on the first five (or so) subjects that popped out at random from a cool little app called Writing Exercises. The app provides suggestions for topics, characters, first lines - that kind of thing. I tapped the 'Random Subject' button a few times and will (try) to come up with something for each subject I was presented. It may be good, it may stink - who knows? But whatever the topic, I am taking like 20 minutes tops to bang something out. So here goes...

    Today's subject: Fear

    First of all, thanks a lot to the Writing Exercises app for following up yesterday's uplifting topic of 'Regret' with another pleasant subject, namely 'Fear'. Well, I am committed to this silly endeavor now, so plow on I shall. (19 minutes left on the clock...)

    Fear comes from a few places obviously. The most urgent and primal kinds of fear are ones that are around physical safety, security, 'Will I have enough to eat today?' kinds of things. The next kind of fear that is probably more common among most of us is fear of failure. What if I don't hit the ball or know how to spell the word in the spelling bee or the client decided to award the business to my competitor? Those kinds of fears, fears of losing, while interesting to some extent, at least to me aren't the most compelling to think or write about. Anyone, heck pretty much everyone, has plenty of experience with competition and thus with losing. And most of us, eventually, tend to avoid the kinds of things that are likely cause us to lose, (saving for a moment the Powerball players out there), and consequently our fear of losing is addressed by avoiding competition and confrontation. Said differently, over time we gravitate towards things we are 'good' at.

    I'd say the same things about the entire category of 'experiential' fears like fear of flying or of tall buildings or of public speaking. Eventually you get up the onions to conquer those kinds of fears or you don't. I just don't think in the big picture they matter all that much or are all that life-altering in most cases.

    But the more interesting and sad kind of fear is the fear of not being needed or of being rejected and unwanted. The idea that no one really needs you whether it's in a workplace context, with family or friends, or in a relationship is pretty daunting and scary. Probably the saddest thing that one can hear is 'We won't be needing you anymore.' 

    I think most of us want to be successful at what we do. We want to have good relationships with our families and a set of close friends that we can share experiences with. But behind most of those desires is one fundamental one - we want someone to need us. 

    And waking up one day only to discover that no one out there, anywhere, really does need us is probably many people's greatest fear.

    So tell the people in your life that you need and that you count on how much they mean to you today. You'd be surprised I think how important that is.

    Dang, this content is kind of heavy, look for something more fun tomorrow.