Saturday, November 11, 2006

The World is Flat?

Old school has truly become just that, old school. As a grade schooler I was taught that Columbus sailed the great seas to prove the world is round. And, until now, I really believed that the world was round.

In his book, "The World is Flat", Thomas L. Friedman starts by giving Christopher Columbus credit for discovering a round world. The author very quickly turns the table and provides his reasoning on why today's world has actually gone flat.

I am only about 50 pages into the book but I believe the author's reference to the world being flat relates to how much business and action taking place through the use of computer screens, cell phones, teleconferencing and the like. The book starts by describing the outsourcing of services from American companies. No, not to other American companies but to other companies in other countries.

Outsourcing is a growing phenomenon that's been taking place since the year 2000. Did you know that some fast food restaurants are taking your drive-thru order through a computer then sending the order to another computer in a country thousands of miles away and then that computer processes the order and sends it back to the restaurant so the preparers can prepare, pack, collect your money and send you on your happy, hurried way?

The percentage of error reductions that this type of outsourcing has saved the fast food chain (which is nameless in his book) is phenomenal in itself but it also gets the people through the drive-thru line faster. Now take a minute and think about this. A computer takes your order at the drive-thru, it (the computer) sends the order to another country and the order gets returned to the food preparers faster than a person can take your oder, type it into the computer and get it to the food preparer. And, there are fewer mistakes in the orders. Amazing.

The outsourcing from the U.S., according to Friedman, has created entire economies in countries that most of us will never visit or even imagine exists. There are accounts of how some of the outsourcing companies teach their employees how to speak several languages and to speak without their native accent.

Friedman also has a recurring theme of the U.S. falling behind all of the other countries in our flat world in technology. It is a big book but it seems to read fast. I am looking forward to reading more of his research.

But, I really want to root for Columbus's round world. It took such great courage and unyeilding belief to jump in a big old wood boat and sail into the unknown, the world has to be round, it just has to be....

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Demise of the Written Word is Highly Overstated

I read a lot. I do a lot of research. I read news, fashion, entertainment, scientific, business, technology, pets, home, gardening, photography, political, historical, art and antique magazines. You name it and I've probably read a sample of it at some time.

In all that reading, I can't even begin to relate how many times I've read about the demise of the written word. Yet, the written word or words still hold so much power and meaning. True, the spoken word or words can often do the most damage, but in general , living in such a visual, fast-paced world as we live in today, words still hold meaning. Which is a good thing.

Think about words used in advertising. Toyota's new print ads have the words "All Science. No Fiction." Pretty strong and convincing stuff. Or, HP's new print ad slogan, "It's not expensive to look expensive."

Promotional words you read and hear everyday such as 'the best', 'the newest', 'the safest', and 'the surest' are words that effect your buying decisions whether you realize it or not.

Think of the difference in the words used in negotiations. 'We want, we'll take, we'll give' all have strong meanings and have unimagable results.

How about words of departure. Does 'F... off ' mean something different than 'take care'?

I heard a good phrase in the workplace recently. What is the difference between the statement "I make a lot of mistakes and people will just have to get over it" versus "I make a lot of mistakes but I'm trying to do better. Hopefully, people will be patient with me."?
Stop yourself the next time you are buying electronics or technology based items such as cell phones or flat-screen televisions. Ask yourself if the words standard, excellerated, enhanced, fastest, newest or latest make a difference in the product you actually buy.

We continually have to take notice of the words we speak and write and the words spoken to us and written about us. Words do matter. The right words are just that, the right words. Wrong words, on the other hand, can do damage beyond our control, they can end relationships, get you fired, end a career and even get you sued.

Do you think Toyota means it when they advertise their cars as being based on science and not fiction or fabrication? Sure they do. Can those words hurt them if they are wrong? Sure they can. What about HP's claim that you can print expensive looking materials at inexpensive prices?

Do you think HP charges too much for printer ink? If so, those words may turn you to another printer company.

I would much rather work in an environment where employees know they make mistakes, take responsibilty for those mistakes and then try to better themselves which in turn betters the work environment. Getting over someone else's mistakes is not conducive to the way I want it to be in my work place.

So words still do count. That's good news to me because I like to think of myself as a writer. If words no longer hold any value, my writing no longer holds any value to others.

P.S. All the editors in the world take notice, word counts should be dictated by the fact that words count.

P.S.S. Sometime in the near future, I'll demonstrate how not only words count, but the emphasize you put on word or words count.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Yet Another Write On Phrase About Women

This time I'm writing about the over-used and undefined phrase "What Women Want". The particular article that sparked my commentary is an article from Laptop magazine. The author got paid to do four full-color pages to detail what women want from their technology.

Technology such as laptops, BlackBerrys and mobile phones. The inset for the title entices us to read on by saying "Three movers and shakers sound off on what turns them on when it comes to mobile tech. Hint: it's not pink."

The piece goes on to describe faceplates for earpieces that come in leopard print. It details pink Milano handbags used to carry mobile tech and one interviewee has the nerve to say that tech companies have made electronics sexier and that women don't feel as masculine when using mobile technology.

Wow. I have used technology since before it became sexy or popular. I pick my technology according to features and speed first then how the computer or phone or whatever it may be electronic fits my lifestyle.

I have never considered technology to be sexy. I do pick my phone by the way it looks and I have purchased more than one laptop case by the way its design and style made me happy. I know many men who pick their cases because of the way they look too.

But, once again, we have taken a move for women in the workplace and in all the professions that require the use of technology and boiled it down to appearances or feelings or of all things emotions. I am not and will never be emotionally attached to any non-human item.

My laptop serves a purpose. My cell phone serves a purpose. My electronic calendar serves a purpose. All those purposes add up to helping me get my job done better or faster or easier.

Why, why oh why make it about sexy or leopard skin of all things. Women, have fun buying leopard skin and sexy for the bedroom or for your shoes, purses, underwear or bathing suit.

Leave sexy out of your technology purchases.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Things That Women Should Know

What a topic to write on. How many magazines have you seen with that headline? "What women should know about..."

Men, sex, sports, cars, money, investing, cooking and my personal favorite, what women should know about having orgasms.

I recently read a piece about why women should know why men prefer long, shiny hair. According to the researcher, long, shiny hair provides a greater surface area for releasing human pheromones into the air which then attracts potential mates.

Plus, long, shiny hair also indicates good health, good genes and fertility. Don't get me wrong, I like long, shiny hair on women and actually on some men but I'm not sure why women need to know why they should love themselves with long, shiny hair.

The fact has an underlying tone that if you have anything other than long, shiny hair, you are doomed to bad health, come from bad genes and generally will never be mated with your species.

I know hundreds of women with short, shiny hair that are married or have partners and are in good health and actually enjoy their sex lives and love the freedom of short, shiny hair.

Here is an important fact that every women needs to know. Men have a preference for processing everyday information by physical contact or movement. And, that is why men can not stand or sit still while talking on the phone.

Women also need to know why ants turn up at picnics. It's because ant colonies have foragers that travel around finding food sources. When found, they call all the other ants to the area to eat.

Granted, these are interesting facts and many women do need to know this stuff. But, don't women also need to know how to manage money, raise children, program VCRs or DVDs or ocmputers for that matter?

How about reporting that women need to know how to invest using the stock market or understand life insurance or how to avoid bankruptcy when your mate makes serious mistakes. Or, how about the fact that women need to know how to recognize when their spouse has made serious mistakes?

I may be taking the high ground on a seemlessly harmless and meant to be humorous article, but after all the strides made by women in the past few decades, we still don't make the money, we still don't win the politics, we still are not the sex that people turn to for someone to fix a crisis.

Could it be that women should know why we are still coming up short? Could it be because we think too much about why men prefer long, shiny hair?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

None, too much or just the right amount

If you believe in fairy tales, Goldilocks found her perfect fit in a bear cave. If she can find just the right temperature and just the right chair, we, those of us living other than in a fairy tale, can find just the right amount of empathy.

Remember empathy? It's when you or I feel what others are feeling without the others explaining to us what they are feeling. Those without the proper level of empathy are the messed up ones.

If you don't feel any empathy, you could be a sociopath. If you feel too much empathy, you may not be able to fire people or let them know what is best for them because you feel too sorry for them.

Just the right amount of empathy can make one a better person, a productive and happy manager, a good listener, a best friend and a world leader.

Excerising just the right amount of empathy can make you a great leader, a great influencer, a great communicator and one who can easily and effectively resolve many a conflict.

Let's think about famous leaders in our world and compare their levels of empathy. Donald Rumsfeld, does he have the rigt amount or too little or none at all? How about Mother Theresa, what level of empathy did she display? What about our current Pope or the the last Pope?

Dr. Phil or Oprah, do they really exercise empathy or does someone script it for them?

Let's look at happenings in our daily lives for signs of empathy or lack of empathy. Would empathy make a difference in road rage incidents? A Florida woman recently pulled a sword on a motorist at Wal-Mart for taking her parking spot. Just a few weeks ago, a local teen fired four shots into the air at a man and his wife when he, the teen, pulled out if front of the couple, but the man blew his car horn at the teen, who then fired four gun shots into the air as a threat.

What's up with that? Does the kid not realize how he jeopordized the couple's lives by pulling out in front of them just so he could get somewhere two seconds faster? The teen obvisouly could not empathaize with the couple's fears of losing their lives to a non-feeling teenager. Maybe we need to also empathize with the teenager. He obviously does not feel any empathy, so let's ask him why. Then let's teach him that it is better to feel for others than it is to shoot guns at others.

Let's show him we care about the couple but we also care about what he is feeling and we want to help him not shoot bullets into the air but to stop, listen and care.

If we can change one teenager, we can change a million teenagers. It's not too late. We can change the problems with the lack of empathy. We can all take the time to stop, listen and care. Wake up every morning, actually look at people as you go through your day and ask how you can practice empathy.

Not too much, but just the right amount of empathy...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Empathize With Ya

I hope that you are still capable of feeling empathy towards those inside of your cirlce of the world. Empathy as it turns out has many sides to it and is a deeper topic than has been appreciated of late.

After some minor research into empathy, I've found that there is a condition called empathy distress. I've also read about empathy avoidance (boy do I know alot about avoidance). Plus, there are politics attached to practicing empathy in the workplace.

And, but of course, there is tough empathy. Now if none of these apply to you, rest assured, you can take many a workshops to try to learn empathy.

My question to you would be, do you really believe that empathy can be taught? Doesn't one just feel empathy, or not?

Let's look closer at the many facets of empathy. Empathy distress is experienced by persons who can't detach themselves from those they feel empathy for. Nurses, social workers, child services counselors are examples of persons who can become empathy distressed. Feeling too much empathy for someone can inhibit that person's ability to provide adequate and objective care.

Empathy avoidance, is just that. Someone is avoiding feeling any empathy, again to help them aid another person in a proper manner. Police officers would be a good example of a profession that might practice empathy avoidance on a daily basis. It's not that a person cannot feel empathy, they just want to avoid any semblane of empathy.

Tough empathy on the other hand, becomes a situation where you can feel empathy but still take the appropriate action which can be reprimanding or firing a person. Donald Trump for example shows tough empathy on his show "The Apprentice". For television camera purposes, he cares about those that he fires for millions of viewers enjoyment.

Next we need to know about the politicts of empathy. Those in positions of power want persons for which they hold the power over, to show them empathy, instead of the person of power showing empathy to those lower on the power pole.

Empathy can be used as a manipulation tool. If empathy is shown but is an untrue empathy or a faked empathy, a person is more than likely trying to manipulate others into doing what they want done all in the name of really caring about the person doing the doing.

Can empathy be taught? I don't think so. Regulating empathy is a skill that can be effectively taught, especially to leaders, supervisors, managers or even politicans. But in its rawest form, people either care about other people enough to really listen and to really care or they just don't give a damn.

Why should I care or for that matter why should you or anyone care about empathy? Because I believe the lack of empathy to be the one true thing missing in today's I don't care, you don't care world.

While searching for answers to why kids are graduating high school or not, without a clue as to what it takes to be a caring and productive person in the grown up society or why kids are killing kids at alarming rates, or why adult men continue to setup dates on the Internet with children of all ages but legal age, or how one half of a marriage can literally kill the other half for money or revenge, we seem to overlook what the lack of empathy has created.

If you can't teach one to feel empathy, then how can we fix the lack of empathy? It is so simple and so obvious that we have all missed the answer.

We can all take a vow to stop doing just for ourselves, listen to those around us and start caring about what happens to them.

Hey, what can it hurt?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Empathy; This week's 'write on' word

Empathy, the ability to realize how someone else is feeling.

Webster's defines empathy as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully commincated in an objectively explicit manner".

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, reports, "Empathy builds on self-awareness; the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings."

To be without empathy or the utter lack of empathy, says Goleman, can be found in the minds of molesters and the in the morals of sociopaths.

This word empathy is powerful. The reason I'm writing about it is because either through aging or life shattering experiences or my total loss of innocence, my ability to empathize has diminshed. I have no intention of becoming a sociopath or any other type of unmentionable degenerate that exists in this world today.

So I am bucking up to the fact that I have to reenergize my ability to know how others are feeling.

Look at all that the power of empathy has done for this world. There are organizations all over the United States that help people deal with abuse, hunger, homelessness, illness, death, preventative health, continuing education, building or rebuilding lives, addictions, predictions, lack of, too much of, contructing new homes, giving away free makeovers for homes and faces, research and the list goes on forever.

All of which would not exist if a group of people lacked the power of empathy. A person really needs to be able to feel how bad another person feels about losing a home to fire or flood or how a person feels while trying so desperately to fight an addiction. Such empathy is what generates and grows organizations such as Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

My background, ok, I am about to blame my childhood or child rearing for my adult actions, has been that of survival by my own means. Which all boils down to spending most of my adult life doing things that will propel ME, just me, forward both in monetary and nonmonetary ways.

I volunteer my time to organizations that will make me feel better about myself. I choose jobs that will make me look good to others. I have, in a real sense, cheated those I have helped because I didn't really feel what they were feeling.

Well, maybe in my younger years, somehow I related my feelings of helplessness and needs to those I was trying to help. But, lately, my helping has been purely to help me feel better about me. I have never intentionally hurt another person for pleasure, gain or for revenge. But, I'm not sure I have truly helped someone feel better because I don't believe I have taken the time to really let empathy play a part.

Knowing another's feelings without that person communicating directly about those feelings. Wow. That is powerful.

Empathy is part of everyone's emotional intelligence. As such, according to many years of research, empathy can be learned or relearned. So as I write about empathy this week and maybe part of next week's writings, I will be teaching myself to stop, listen and feel what those around me are experiencing and hopefully will find a way or ways to sincerely help someone in need.

Hopefully, you'll empathize right along with me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Avoidance of Fear

Avoidance has been my theme for the past week and it would appear it is going to remain my theme for this week. I had to give that one minute speech last night and I did ok, not great, but not embarrassing either.

Nonetheless, the entire day before the little speech, I could not eat, talk, think or relax. I got a fortune cookie at dinner the night before that said that "Fear is really just excitement that needs an attitude adjustment."

Not bad. I tried to think of my fear of the one minute speech as excitement. Then I remembered that I try to avoid getting too excited, so I had to continue to avoid facing up to my fear. Remember this was fear of a one (1) minute speech.

Really I think it boils down to all of my avoidances. Avoiding the truth that I avoid success, I avoid taking care of my future, I avoid facing up to my past and all of that brings me to avoidance of action, avoidance of feelings and of course I have to be avoiding writing.

I can't not be avoiding writing at any time of my life.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Avoiding the one minute speech

I have to get up in front of 60 people next Tuesday and give a one minute thank you speech. It is only Thursday and I'm already fretting about the whole ordeal.

I've been a computer teacher since 1985 and have no problem standing in a room full of people as long as they can look at the computer screen or the overhead screen and not directly at me.

This speech, one minute otherwise known as an eternity, is one that I would rather just avoid. Two of my bosses and one of my co-workers will be there to show their support, or to hear me make a fool of myself for one minute.

I'm thinking of avoiding the whole thing by calling in sick. I never call in sick, I usually avoid using any of my sick days, but maybe it is time to throw off the avoidance robe and get on with life.

Really, avoiding the one minute, feels like an eternity, thank you very much speech is the best solution. I think. I'll let you know. I just can't keep avoiding the decision. We'll see....

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another take on avoidance

My 'write' on word of the day came back to me in another way this afternoon. What's it mean when you see someone in a store, oh let's say the bookstore, and you or they quickly duck around the corner to avoid seeing you or you seeing them?

I have been the avoider and the avoidee at times. Today, I was the avoidee. When I do the avoiding, it makes perfect sense. I don't want to be seen in battered clothes that I've been wearing to wash the car or paint the stairs. I really don't want to talk to someone because I'm not in a very good mood and don't really want to make small talk or big talk for that matter. Sometimes, I'm just in a hurry and don't want to spend time catching up with someone.

But, when I am the one being avoided, now that makes me angry, sad and I daresay, depressed. Why would someone want to avoid speaking to me, even just a quick hello? The person looked dressed perfectly and did not appear to be in any hurry, until she saw me, which made this person quickly exit the store. By all appearances it was a complete and utter avoidance (snub).

The bigger lesson here, even though I'm looking for the answer to why someone would purposely avoid speaking to me in public, is avoid and avoidance hold much more meaning in life than the act of avoiding to write or the act of allowing oneself to actually be oneself, if that oneself really knew who they were or are.

Yes, indeed, avoidance.
My 'write' word for today's posting is avoid and all forms there of such as avoidance. I am a great practioner of avoidness. I avoid many things in life such confrontation, action, success (oh yes I have much practice at avoiding success), fear and most of all I have avoided writing.

I have had this tumultuous relationship with writing since the ripe age of 13. Being much older now, ok being 47 now, it has been a relationship lasting 34 years. It has been on again, off again, love, hate, hard work, no work and committment, renewed committment and failed committment. But, I digress and I avoid.

The world is filled with people practing avoidness. People avoid paying taxes, going to work, falling in love, getting married or getting divorced. Our entire country is avoiding the truth about 9/11 and the fact we could be attacked and killed again on our own soil.

So what are my feelings about the word avoid? And, why would I want to write about it, especially so that the entire Internet world could easily read about my feelings about the word avoid?

Let's take a path away from the word avoid for a moment so that we can come back to it with a little more background and substantiation. There are several books that have been around since at least 1995 by author Danial Goleman that describe emotional intelligence and how it affects our personal and professional lifes. The research and the presentation of the research are very good and have opened the door for me personally to determine who I am and why I have made the choices that I have made.

Because of my almost lifelong struggle with the need to write, I have moved through several different careers including teaching and educational administrator. Although the careers I continue to fall back on have been in the educational arena, I have worked in public relations, sales and marketing, freelance writing (the lowest paying job ever there was), computer programming, software trainer, technical writer and a brief stint at photography.

So because of all this avoidance of the truth, I have also spent much of my time being self-centered and perfoming endless soul searching and trying to find the methodolgies, if you will, to allow me to admit that I am not really a writer but a dedicated educator who can write fairly well. I've tried meditation, hours of prayer, reading all of the self-help books, talking and rationalizing for hours and hours to family and friends.

I love being in education, especially higher education. When applied properly, education can be a terriffic life changer and many times a life saver. So I do recognize the true benefits of a good education and truly appreciate the opportunities I've had to participate in those life changing and life saving activities.

But, I continue to avoid the truth of my inner soul which is that of a writer, I think. My problem is and has always been is that I'm not sure I have the deep down talent that propels the most successful writers to keep trying, giving up all the outside forces of life such as food, travel, expensive cars and so on to give themselves to the art.

The emotional intelligence theory explores the power of emotions over IQ and looks at how empathy, hope, optimism and knowing theyself make up the master aptitude for success in any job. The first book also looks at flow, the state of self-forgetfulness. I am currently reading all three books on emotional intelligence concurrently so I will continue to post ideas and opinions about the topic as I finish each book.

For now, these particular theories have finally reached me and seem to be providing a way for me to look at all of my avoidance activities. Maybe I don't have a true writer inside, maybe I do. But for now, if I can stop avoiding letting the real me emerge, I am convinced I can stop avoiding some semblance of happiness.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

This is my first time -- where have I heard that before

This is my first posting. Does anybody really care. I do. It took a lot of thinking and actual soul searching to decide to blog. I am a want to be writer that has actually made a modest (very, ok extremely modest) living for a number of years as a freelance writer.

Making your way in this world as a freelance writer is not for the meak or the weak or for those that like to pay the electric or buy your children shoes on a regular basis. So I quit and went back to working in education.

I like working in education. The only thing I like doing more for a career is, you guessed it, writing. But, believe it or not, education pays more than freelance writing.

I have written two books. Business related topics they are and deep in storage they probably will remain.

Anyway, all of that has led me to this blog. My big plans for my blog include writing all kinds of brilliant, funny, thought provoking and just plain marvelous thoughts and opinions. They will be my opinions. All of the words will be my words. And, most important, I will be writing.

So, stop by anytime if you are interested in an opinion or two on a topic or two. If not, I'm still going to stay here and write away.