It’s Not (Always) Easy

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Sometimes, we see people–especially on social media these days–and they look “all that!”–so happy, so loved, so rich, so with everything–so it seems (superficially). 


But there is definitely another reality out there, and that is that everyone has problems:


– Family

– Health

– Finances

– Work

– School

– Conflict

– Spiritual


Like Helen Keller said: 

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”


I remember as a child, if I felt sad about something, my dad at times would remind me about the children in the hospital, and to think about how we can help others less fortunate–and he was right!


What I see in life is a lot of people trying, but also so many challenges, failures, and suffering along the way…unfortunately, it’s part of the learning and growth equation, and in why we’re here. 


In college, I always remember one (English) professor who taught me from Henry David Thoreau:

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”


Sometimes, in our solitude or when we speak quietly from our heart with our closest loved ones, we feel and express some of those deep feelings of hurt, pain, and suffering from our lives.  


Those experiences, memories, and feelings are not all that there is of us, but it is certainly a part of all of us–although maybe only the brave will admit theirs.


It’s not shameful to feel, to cry, and to be human. 


It’s certainly not what Facebook and Twitter are all about. 


But it’s a genuine and critical part of us which recognizes as my dad also taught me that–life is not easy–and that we have to fight every day to do our best and to help others to do theirs. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Breaking The Bounds Of This World Thinking

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Coming from the Metro, someone stopped me and gave me this card for meditation, and I thought it was really insightful. 

“Changing the human mind to infinite universe mind”

Our minds are constrained by our mortality, materialism, and physical limitations of space and time. 

But if we free ourselves even momentarily from these, we can enter into a sort of limitless universal mindset.


“Human is incomplete because human are living inside human mind world which is one’s lived life and thoughts.”

We are beset by a near endless barrage of life’s fears and worries–like that we can’t fully perceive the metaphysical and spiritual world that is the real and meaningful one for us. 

“One can live forever and [when] he has escaped pain, burden, stress, and the countless kinds of agonies; his old self has disappeared and so it is great freedom.”

Through mindfulness, centered and balanced thinking, we can go above the “false world” and enter the “true world.”


Doesn’t this ring fundamental and true?


What an amazing approach to thinking that we can use elevate ourselves above what we live and see every day. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via Rockville Meditation)

Overcoming Resistance To Change

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So have you heard of the 20-50-30 Rule when it comes to change management?


20% of the people are open and friendly to change–they are your early adopters.


50% are fence sitters–and they hold a wait and see attitude. 


30% are resisters–these are the people that will be the roadblocks to change. 


_____


Total 100%


Some will resist openly and loudly. Others will disguise their resistance in a politically correct way.  And finally some may work subversively to block change. 


The keys to overcoming the resistance is by working through the head, heart, and hands model, helping people to understand the following:


Head (Intellectual) – What is changing. 


Heart (Emotional) – Why it’s changing (and what’s in it for me–WIIFM).


Hands (Behavioral) – How is it changing.


This means changing the mindset, motivating people, and shaping behavior to effect change. 


Change and resistance to change are facts of life, but how we approach it can either mean failure or amazing transformation. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Can You Do No Right?

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Do you ever feel like you can do no right?


That whatever you do or choose, you are opening yourself up to criticism by others or more importantly from yourself.


That’s because in life every moment is a choice and each selection of what you do with your time and efforts means by definition that you are not doing something else important then.


– Take the mother or father who chooses to spend time raising their children, but then are not focused as much on their career.


– Take the student who is working really hard on getting those good grades and SAT scores, but then are not doing as much or well with extracurricular activities like sports or socializing. 


– Take the spiritual or religious person or clergy who chooses to focuses their life studying and performing holy speech and deeds but not so much other earthly and material matters. 


– Take the athlete who works out and eats right focusing on toning and honing their body and physical skills but doesn’t spend as much time and effort on intellectual interests or more standard career pursuits. 


– Take the extrovert who focuses on building and maintaining relationships and networks–family, friends, community, colleagues, others–but are not putting the same time and attention to enhancing their other knowledge, skills, and abilities. 


So you say, but why can’t we just do everything we’re supposed to do, and simply balance?


Well, that is what we all try to do in our own way, but still each time and every moment you are doing one thing, you are not at that moment doing something else or being somewhere else. 


So that causes tension, perhaps a tug-of-war within ourselves, stress, and even guilt. 


The impact is that we often run from one thing to another or we get distracted in what we are doing–“Honey can you answer the phone?”


Some classic examples are when we race home from the office to pick the kids up from school or while playing with sweet little Johny or Suzie, the phone rings and and we have to pick up that call from the boss at work. 


As they say, you can’t be–physically or mentally–in two places at the same time!


Hence, now the movement for mindfulness, being in the moment and focused.


But as the demands in life forever ask more of us–even amidst ever greater technology and automation to assist us–somehow we can never do enough because of course, the bar gets raised for ourselves and the competition gets tougher from those who make choices to focus on specific areas that we are not as much. 


So say that you are splitting your time between work and family, but someone else is single or doesn’t have kids and they are full in with work, staying late, going in weekends, getting those extra credentials, and just putting in every extra effort there…well, how do you think you will stack up?


Yes, some of us recognize the importance of work-life balance and even focusing incrementally across the many important areas of our life: physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.


Never-the-less every moment, in a time- and space-bound world, we are forced to choose this or that. 


There is no one right answer for everyone!


And every choice in every moment is the opportunity for you to criticize yourself or for others to criticize you that you weren’t paying attention, focused, doing your best, etc.


But who cares–it’s our life to live and we can live it as we want?


True, however as inevitably important things or relationships break down or fail, have mistakes or errors, or aren’t going as we would ultimately want or dream they should–we ask ourselves, could we have done things differently or somehow managed our time, efforts, and focus better.


(Source Photo: Online Advertisement provided by Dannielle Blumenthal)

Your Score Is Your Life

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Absolutely fascinating article in the Washington Post

China is working on a plan to use big data to score people on their social behavior. 

Every interaction you make in life either increments or decrements your social score. 

You social score determines how trustworthy you are. 

The social score would vacuum up data from the “courts, police, banking, tax, and employment records.”

People in service professions like teacher, doctors, and business could be scored for their professionalism. 

Doing positive social actions like caring for the elderly earn you added points and doing negative social actions like DUI or running a red light subtracts points from your score. 

As the score includes more and more data feeds over time, you could eventually be scored for doing your homework, chores in the home, how you treat your wife and children, the community service you do, how hard you perform at work, how you treat people socially and on dates, whether you are fair in your business dealings and treat others well, whether you do your religious duties, and so on. 

People can get rated for just about everything they do.

And these rating get aggregated into your social score. 

The score is immediately available to everyone and so they know how good or bad you are on the scale of 1 to a 1,000.

If you think people are stressed out now, can you imagine having to worry about everything you do and how you will be rated for it and how it can affect your score and your future. 

If you have a bad score, say goodbye to opportunities for education, employment, loans, friends, and marriage prospects. 

Imagine people held hostage by others threatening to give you a bad score because they don’t like you, are racist, or for blackmail. 

What about society abusing this power to get you to not only follow positive social norms, but to enforce on you certain political leanings, religious followings, or policy endorsements. 

Social scores could end up meaning the ultimate in social control. 

Personal scores can manipulate your behavior by being rewarding or punitive and rehabilitative to whatever end the scoring authorities dictate. 

Moreover, hackers or the people who control the big data machinery could destroy your life in a matter of milliseconds. 

So this is what it comes down to: You are your score!

Play along and do what you are told to do…you are the Borg and you will follow. 

Conform or you are dead by number!

Transparency is everywhere. 

Pluses and minuses every day. 

What is my score today? 

Today, I am desirable and successful, and tomorrow, I am disregarded and a loser. 

Please don’t kill my score.

Please don’t destroy me. 

Please, I will be socially good. 

Please, I will not resist. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Driving Your Organization Off A Cliff

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So life is generally supposed to be a series a peaks and valleys. 


There are highs, but also lows.  


No one and nothing can perform at peak all the time. 


Like the commandment to keep the Shabbat, everyone needs a rest. 


And studies have shown that getting a healthy dose of sleep, pause, and rest in life is healthy.


When we force ourselves or others to perform past their “designed” limits, then we risk a breakdown. 


Machines break and people can break. 


The risks are either explosion or implosion: some people can frighteningly “go postal” and others end up on psychiatric medication or even sick and in the hospital. 


What is key to remember is that you can push the limits of performance so far, but then no further without a healthy, recuperative rest period and down time. 


If you want to raise the bar on yourself, others, or your organization, you need to do it strategically so there is a surge forward and then a normative recovery and energy buildup again. 


As we all know, life is a marathon and not a sprint, and the journey is as important as the destination. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Alan Levine)

Compassion Instead Of Anger

Compassion and Anger

So I was speaking to someone recently about how angry they were with some stressful things and people in their life. 


I listened carefully and tried to empathize–also in full transparency, it got to be a lot and I at some point was begging them to stop!


At one point, I just said, instead of being angry maybe try to be compassionate. 


And I could see in other person’s reaction that they thought perhaps that I had hit on something a little eye-opening here. 


We can get angry about all the stresses and injustices that we perceive in our lives. 


People blame us, attack us, don’t appreciate us, talk down to us, disrespect us, even bully us or try to hurt us.


Also life throws some pretty stinging to earth-shattering circumstances upon us.


And maybe we have every right to feel angry.


But usually the anger, unless we need the adrenaline-rush in fighting for our survival and for our core beliefs and values, doesn’t help us achieve what we really want. 


What we want most of the time is to resolve things!


But getting angry and lashing out often only makes things worse. 


We act rashly, we overreact, we say and do things we may regret afterwards, and the consequences of our reaction can be severe to us afterwards in terms of alienating and harming others, escalating the situation and making it worse, creating hurt and destruction in our own wake, and even losing jobs or getting yourself in trouble and sent to the pokey.


If instead of getting angry and flinging arrows, we look at things from eyes of compassion, we can listen to others more carefully, understand the situation better, and try to rectify bad relationships or cope with stressful life events by employing emotional intelligence and a soft hand/skills. 


This is not to say that we should excuse really bad behavior or truly unforgivable misdeeds, but rather that we should look at things in a larger context, the role we play, and as part of our our life challenges to make things better and overcome.


Anger and the associated response is appropriate when the little devil is doing their misdeeds (lashing out severely and/or repeatedly with harm and intent), but compassion can help to see everything else for what it is or isn’t and gives us an opportunity to react with a level head, a stable hand, and humanity as a first resort. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Letting It Out

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We hit the boxing gym last night for a little tour. 


Guys and gals working out on the punching bags, mitts, and pads. 


It was great to see the energy–push ups, sits ups, weaving and jabbing, kicks, and more. 


They even had an Israeli self-defense class, taught by what I believe was a non-Israeli–that was a little strange.  


I asked one guy who looked like he’d been around the block there, if he was one of the instructors, and he told me how he’s been boxing for 30 years. 


Curious, I said “What did you do before boxing?” He said, “Fighting! I’ve been fighting my entire life.”


Anyway, whoever is laying around the house in front of the boob tube day and night–you need to get out and try some moving and shaking. 


Great stuff, and right in the mold of my role model, Rocky!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Outskirts City Life

Outskirts City LifeLiked this piece of art, which I am calling Outskirts City Life. 


In the background, under cloudy skies, the tall city buildings–sort of wobbly with all the people and goings-on, which in a way we want to leave behind for some peace and quiet. 


In the foreground is a bridge and park with some sun and trees and people talking, sitting and laying in the grass and a lonesome car driving by.


The colors are vibrant, the shapes are almost like three-dimensional cut-outs making a sort of fairy tale feeling to the whole landscape. 


The picture is overall one where we balance hectic life in the city with the restfulness and tranquility of surrounding nature. 


It’s a life where harmony is made by conscious choice and actions to promote a healthy body and mind amidst what we seek to do and accomplish and all that which we are asked to bear for it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Work-Family Is A Word

Team

This week I learned something about “work-family.”


Yes, work is not family–it’s your job.


But on the job we meet people that influence us, change us, and sometimes inspire us. 


Not everyone has a positive impact on us–some people we work with are bad, unbalanced, selfish, biased, and abusive–they bring their personal craziness into the office. 


But some are truly good people out there–and they leave a lasting impact. 


This week was the first time I experienced someone in my group passing away suddenly. 


She was at work Monday and Tuesday–we had talked and joked.


I remember she wore pink on Tuesday and it matched a pink stuffed animal on her desk–she looked happy or at peace. 


By early Wednesday morning, I was getting texts then calls that she had passed away (I simultaneously let my boss know). 


One day she was there in the office (and had been for some 30 years) and the next day she was gone.


But there was something special about this lady and how she interacted with the team. 


She seemed to touch people far and wide with her outreach, caring for others, joking around, and good spirit despite whatever challenges she herself may have been going through.


When she passed this week, people were in my office and the halls crying–they loved this lady, their coworker and friend.


At 9 AM, I gathered the broader team to announce her passing. “One of our own has passed.” I spoke and then went around offering others to say a few words, which some surely did. 


At 10 AM, I sent a notification of the passing to the people in the entire building (and others associated).


Later in the day, there was a toast to her and more speeches from up and down the chain to remember this good lady as well as to pull together as a team to support each other.


By the next day, things had quickly moved to care for the family, packing her office things and memorializing her, as well as provisions for some grief counseling. 


[Note: I am blessed with an extraordinary high-performance team, and this passing was not only a shock but added to the intensity of the work we do and how much of it there is.]


Once we have all the funeral arrangements, then next up is sending out an broader department-wide notice–and a large attendance for her is expected. 


What I learned is that while work itself can be productive and meaningful, through doing good to others and sincere personal interactions on the job, there can be bonds formed that can have a personal impact on people and bring tears to their eyes. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)