Listen Better, Empathize More

So I am working on myself to improve and be a better person.


Recently, I had a number of experiences with people telling me of some very trying circumstances.


And at first, I found myself listening and talking to them about it, but then my mind started to get distracted by other things going on and other problems in my life that I needed to deal with.


So after we finished speaking about their respective family, work, and even health problems, I felt that I may have cut off some of these conversations too early or without enough empathy. 


After clearing my head, I thought to myself, I really want to listen better and empathize more. 


And so I went back and did just that. 


I found each person (in person, by phone, or email), and I said that I felt sorry for what they were going through, and I asked more questions and tried to really just be in the moment and there for them.


They seemed to each really appreciate me taking the time and effort to come speak with them and that I cared. 


I know that I am human and make mistakes, but I want to continually grow and do better in life. 


In this case, listening better and empathizing more–it felt great and I learned to listen to my conscience and do more when I think it’s right! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who Won The Election? Russia

Russia.jpeg

So it turns out that the all important election of 2017 for the 45th President of the United States…


Was not between President Trump and Hillary Clinton at all.


Oh no.


Because who really won the election is Russia!


From the dossier to the uranium deal, charges of collision and stealing the election, the investigations, special counsel, weakened White House, chaos, confusion, misinformation, fake news, and alternative facts.


This is called INFORMATION WARFARE. 


All of these serve not only to weaken our elections and political system, and unnerve the trust of the American people, it wastes the time and efforts of our elected officials and media chasing ghosts. 


When you can’t win an election fair and square, you pull out the McCarthyism card invoking fear of Russia and provoking political repression here at home. 


It’s the “Commie bastards,” of course that are interfering in our democracy.


But really it wasn’t!  


Unless you count a hundred thousand dollars or so of political ads and botnets in a billion dollar plus election as serious meddling–not

Basically, we are talking a self-inflicted national wound–that keeps bleeding and bleeding. 


Our country is going on a wild goose chase–looking for something, turning over stones, but what they find–how significant is any of it?


The real winner again is Russia.


They are strengthening themselves in the world. 


They have the West on edge.


Our politicians and system of government is weakened.


We waste time, while Russia takes over Crimea, wins big in Syria, militarizes the Arctic, partners with China, and advances their world agenda. 


We are distracted with eyes off the ball–spending days, weeks, months, and years in a tizzy pointing fingers at each other, seeing shadows, scared of ghosts, and punching into the air. 


Russia won the election for sure. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

7 Mind-F*cking Arguments

Because I Said So

So my daughter took a training class in critical thinking at work. 


And she brought home an excellent handout from the instructor, Haywood Spangler, about how people try to get you to their point of view, but without any real solid reasoning behind it.


My mother-in-law calls this concept in blunt terms, mind-f*cking!


Here are some examples:


1) Genetic Fallacy – Rejecting an idea based on where or who it comes from, rather than the merits of the idea itself.  I call this one, you’re an idiot, so your ideas are idiotic. 


2) Circular Reasoning – Restating the conclusion, rather than proving it. I call this hammering or going no where fast. 


3) Red Herring – Diverting from the real issue as a distraction. I call this the shell game. 


4) Ad Hoc Reasoning – Coming up with a reason to simply reject your every objection. I call this just say it isn’t so. 


5) False Dichotomy – Oversimplifying a complex situation and making it into only black and white. I call this my way or the highway.


6) Slippery Slope – Supposing that if one thing happens then something else terrible must necessarily follow. I call this following the false causality. 


7) Band Wagon – Everyone is doing it, so you need to also.  I call this classic groupthink or be careful not to stand in front of a moving train. 


Basically, when someone is not taking with you, but at you and trying to make you just do what they want, period, then watch out, you are probably being gloriously mind-f*cked. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Death To PowerPoint

Death By PowerPoint

Ok, we’ve all heard of “Death by PowerPoint” (well, I’m advocating death to PowerPoint). 


It’s the unfortunate occurrence that happens when a speaker presents a wad too many slides (OMG, some people seem to go on and on forever –get them off that podium)!


Or when they present too much information, too little information, or just don’t know what or how to present at all. 


Their (slide) presentations leave the audience basically wanting to just kill themselves, if not the inconsiderate S.O.B. speaker.


But aside from lousy speakers, you have a crappy presentation mechanism, which is PowerPoint slides.


Hello out there, tell the truth…


Can any of you remember much of a darn thing that anyone has ever conveyed to you by PowerPoint?


Think of webinars, conferences, and meetings galore with slide after slide of 2-dimensional boredom.


Is your head hurting you yet or are you just glad you can’t remember any of it–natural selection of memory saves you the pain…why thank you.


Then consider what someone has told you in great thoughtfulness, confidence, or with genuine passion, caring and sincerity.


– Perhaps, the wisdom of a parent or teacher who took you aside to tell you a life’s lesson.


– Or a Rabbi or Priest who shared with you something spiritual and uplifting to guide you on your path.


– How about someone in the office who was passionate about an idea or project and who motivated you as well.


Most of the communication between people that really means something never makes it to a PowerPoint slide.


Imagine for a moment, if something meaningful was conveyed to you by slide presentation–you would think, how ridiculous it is to use PowerPoint for that?


– I love you–will you marry me?


– We’re having a baby, how wonderful. 


– Just got that promotion, yes!


– So and so is sick or just passed away, how terrible. 


PowerPoint just doesn’t happen here in real life–thank G-d!


And no matter how much organizations such as TED would like to make a (show)business out of presentations using PowerPoint…(ah, nope).


Real communication happens when one person talks from the heart to another person who receives it in their heart. 


The greatest orators in history…never used a slide presentation.


Other presentation products like Prezi tried to take slides to the next level with a storytelling format using a virtual canvas, but that didn’t pan out to well either…see many Prezis lately (and without getting dizzy)?


PowerPoint slides, and the like, are for distraction…now I don’t have to pay that much attention to the rambling, numbnut speaker anymore.


The bottom line…we don’t listen with our eyes!


Rather, we hear words of wisdom and see when someone is genuine, sincere and worth listening to.


The rest is PowerPoint… 😉

Who Can Resist

Cigar
It’s the age old image of an angle sitting over one shoulder telling you to control yourself and do what’s right and a little devil hanging over the other telling you to indulge and do whatever you want. 



The New York Times says that regardless of the push and pull of these two forces in our lives, we can learn to show restraint and stay goal-oriented.



By seeing the long-term rewards of good behavior, we can avoid pigging out in the moment. 



With Kids, it’s called the Marshmallow Test–those who can resist eating a marshmallow for 15 minutes, get two marshmallows to enjoy later!



For adults, it may be that those who avoid the cake and ice cream today will live healthier and longer in the future. 



In Yiddish, there is the term sitzfleisch that refers to our ability to sit still and get our work done. 



The point is that if we can distract and distance ourselves from the indulgences of the moment, we can focus on the important things we really want to achieve with our lives. 



Of course, this is always easier said than done, because the two forces are both powerful and can be convincing.



For example, how many times can you hear, “Enjoy life a little, you aren’t going to live forever” or “You’ve worked so hard, you deserve a little break”, or “Come on, no one is perfect”…before you give in to a little excess? 



We are all tested in life, and we must try our best to pass as many as we can with flying colors–probably success is a healthy balance between living a little today in the here and now and working and saving abundantly for tomorrow’s marshmallows.



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Cell Phone?

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Cell Phone?

Some people are averse to change and to technology–and then there is Gary Sernovitz.

This guy in the Wall Street Journal today boasts how he is one of the last 9% of American society that goes without a cell phone (let alone a smartphone).

At 40 and as a managing director of an investment firm, he says if he needs to make a call he uses one of the 30 working remaining payphones in Manhattan or borrows his wife or a strangers phone–so much for personal independence and self-sufficiency. Does this guy (and wife) live at home with his mommy too?

He calls himself a “technology holdout” and actually goes on to says that he is scared of getting a cell phone because he is afraid of losing himself.

While admittedly, many people do go overboard with technology, social media, and gaming to the point of addiction, I am not sure that getting a cell phone is alone a major risk factor.

Sernovtiz says he adheres to Henry David Thoreau’s philosophy of simplicity–and that inventions “are but improved means to an unimproved end.”

Thoreau went to live in the woods to “live deliberately” and focus on “only the essential facts of life,” perhaps like many ascetics and spiritual guides before him have. And as such, this is not a bad thing when done for the right reasons.

But Sernovit’z One-sided message is a negative one, because technology as any tool is not bad in and of itself–it’s how we exert control over the tool and ourselves, balancing productive use from misuse and abuse.

If Sernovitz is so afraid of using technology, perhaps he should question himself as an investment manager and disavow use of money–which can be used for many evils from greed, hoarding and selfishness to financing terrorism–and instead go back to bartering forest lumber and chicken eggs?

When I asked my 16-year old daughter what she thought of Sernovitz’s article, she said he can’t differentiate “simpler from easier.”

Don’t mind me if I pass on this guy’s book, “The Contrarians.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re All Digitally Distracted

We're All Digitally Distracted

Focus, focus…forget it!

With smartphones, social media, email, texting, phone calls, meetings, and more…it takes a lot of discipline to not get distracted and actually get things done.

The Wall Street Journal (11 December 2012) laid out half jokingly that most people wouldn’t even be able to finish the article because of all the technological and people interruptions in our daily lives.

There are various aspects to this problem:

1) Digital Addiction–We love and are addicted to the information, connectedness, convenience, and entertainment that computerization, digital communications, and the Internet provide. Loneliness be gone!

2) 24/7 Expectations–Employers, family, and friends expect that we will be available to them around the clock. We are tethered to our jobs and each other with computers, smartphones, Blackberries, telework, social media, and more. If I can’t get to you, it’s because you don’t want to be gotten!

3) Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)–One of the concerns we have about getting off our devices is that we may miss out on something–that critical phone call or email may be regarding an important event, a special sale, a job interview, a long lost friend or lover, someone who needs help, or whatever. But if you shut yourself off, then you may just be missing the opportunity of a lifetime!

For most people the smartphone is the last thing they look at before going to sleep and the first thing they look at in the morning…assuming your significant other doesn’t intervene.

Even going on vacation, for many, means checking work and personal emails and voicemails…a vacation is no longer a real vacation, just perhaps less work than going into the office.

On one hand, we have more information and connectedness at our fingertips than ever before, but on the other hand, we are living in virtual, and not physical, reality.

One example is how we sit with our families and friends, but every one is on their device and no one is interacting with each other in the room.

No wonder there is a movement now to “Turn it off!” or “Leave it at home (or work)!”–We are desperately trying to balance between cyberspace and personal space.

We can’t afford to be distracted or to distract ourselves, incessantly–we need to focus on what’s important, what needs to get done, and on those who love and need us.

Whether you do a zero email day or just leave it all behind vacation–everyone needs some time be human with each other again. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)