July 2, 2020 – Deciders and Doers

Today I had two very interesting conversations with people. The first occurred at the end of a round of golf. The second occurred at the end of the day. Both have put me in a reflective mood.


deciders and doers

Today I was at the golf course at 5:45 AM because it is the best time for an older guy like me with underlying health conditions to play safely. At the first tee I joined up with three other men and we played together. I did not know any of the three as is often the case at the course where I play. It is one of the most interesting and diverse golf venues I’ve ever played. It is racially diverse (nearly equal part Asian, Black, and White players) and professionally diverse (auto mechanics, doctors, Secret Service and CIA agents, etc.).

Of the three men I played with today, two were twin brothers (unfortunately for me they were identical and even dressed similarly in two shade of the same blue color and have similar sounding four letter names – Kyle and Kirk). The third, Paul, lives not far from me, as it turns out. We were not the fastest people on the course so we let people play through several times. However, we were quite likely the safest. We maintained at least a six foot distance and all four of us wore masks.

The two brother had to leave early so the third guy, Paul, and I finished the round the together. Just off the 18th green we chatted for a while about the unique nature of golf.

Paul observed, “The thing I love about golf is that every time you take a shot, you have a series of decisions you need to make – club selection, how to strike the ball, where to strike it, how to aim it, and so on. You can’t play golf without making a lot of decisions.”

Then I said, “That’s right but then the tricky part is that you have to execute the decisions. It would be great if all I had to do is make the decision and then let someone else execute the shot. So here’s an idea…if we play again, how about if I make all the decisions about your shots and you just do the shot and then you make all the decisions on my shots and I just do them?”

We both laughed.

Paul said, “You know, that’s why the pros have caddys. The caddy’s know the skills of the pro better than anyone else and know the course, too. Often they tell the pro how to hit the shot and the pro just executes it.”

That brief conversation has been stuck in my mind all day. At one level it is a fun and funny idea for a golf tournament. (Much better than playing night golf with only a glow-in-the-dark golf ball to guide you, which I’ve done once and will never do again. Too dangerous.) Here’s how it would work: You play as a team and you each make the game decisions for the other. Because you are competing as a team, each is going to make the best decision for their teammate they can. At a minimum, everyone would need to have a great sense of humor about the experiment. Now, I need to try to sell that idea to my golf course management. Hmmmm…

At another level the conversation is useful for understanding how we work with others. One way can be very hierarchical and uses heavy positional power: one person decides, the other person executes without questioning. This is the way things have been for a very long time in many organizations. The boss decides, the workers execute. Of course, if things go wrong it is usually blamed on the workers because they didn’t execute very well. Heaven forbid the decision making might have been poor, right?

Another way to see it is for understanding collaboration. Collaboration has to do with syncing up and working closely with at least one other person and usually several others. It is important for both (or all) collaborators to assume a collaborative posture. Pragmatically, even in collaboration, one person (or small group of people) may take the lead in assessing the situation, providing analysis, and offering solutions. The other person(s), with primary responsibility for “doing,” offers feedback, suggestions, and additional information the “decider” needs. In the end they actually make a decision together and the decisions are executed. In this approach, both share success and both share responsibility and accountablility.

In fact, this is actually how collaboration happens on the golf course between a caddy and their pro golfer. Ironically, the pro is often just the “doer” and the caddy is more in the “decider” role. The pro has extraordinary talents in execution and the caddy has extraordinary talents in assessment, analysis, and decision making. At the heart of the pro/caddy relationship is a phenomenal level of trust and respect. Of course, the pro gets all the accolades and the money. The really wise pro makes sure she or he pays the caddy very, very well.

Remember when we used to travel? Sometime last year when I was traveling for work, I found a film on Netflix that was delightful and very interesting. It is called Loopers: The Caddy’s Long Walk. I need to re-watch it now that this conversation is rolling around in my head. Check it out. I think you might like it too.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I like the caddy and pro golfer example as a pretty powerful illustration of collaboration. What do you think? Maybe I should spend a bit more time on the golf course developing it, eh?


missing hugs

I’ve been meeting each Thursday afternoon with a group of friends via Zoom for the purpose of simply maintaining human connection during the pandemic. Each week we have a “conversation starter” to kick things off, though, actually, we usually don’t really need one. This week the conversation starter had to do with maintaining connection during these times of social distancing. More specifically, we wondered how to respond when someone wanted to shake hands or give a hug? Or, even, if we wanted to give a hug to someone. As has become the norm for this close group, it was an interesting and wide-ranging conversation…and it is always difficult to end at just an hour.

Today I had an “aha” moment in the conversation. Since February I have not seen my son in person more than twice. Both times I dropped something off at his front door, rang his doorbell, then quickly stepped away to sthe idewalk to maintain appropriate distance. He would come outside and we’d talk from about 10 feet apart, still with masks.

The “aha” for me was the realization that both of these conversations ended in a way that they have never, ever ended before. From the time my son was born, I decided I would never let a day pass without telling him that I loved him and giving him a hug. To the best of my memory I never missed a day for as long as we shared a roof. Now that he is grown (soon to be 36), I don’t see him everyday anymore, however, each time I do see him our time together always ends with “I love you” and a hug. When we ended those conversations in front of his hous on those two times, the “I love you” was there but the hug was not. Today I figured out why it felt so strange and what was missing. I have a hole in my arms it puts one in my heart, too.

a holiday break…i think…maybe

Not that I’m obsessive or anything, but I have become a bit so with writing The Daily Drivel. I undertook this as personal therapy back on March 16 to help me manage my stress about the COVID-19 pandemic. After 109 (or is it 110?) consecutive daily blogs, I’m realizing four things:

  1. I really enjoy writing the blog. It has been an amazing exercise to try to create something each day that makes some sense and that people will actually read. The readership has grown, remained steady, and continues to grow, for which I’m really grateful.
  2. It really has helped me manage my own stress during this time. I can put down on virtual paper the things that are on my mind – whether they are rational or not. Then something magical happens: they vanish and, for the most part, are no longer stressful to me.
  3. I enjoy it so much that I don’t want it to become a chore. I don’t ever want to get to the point it it feels to me like I “have to” put out a blog. At that point it is no longer a joy but a chore.
  4. As much as I enjoy it, it is a lot of work. Plus, I also have a full-time consulting practice that takes about 8 to 10 hours each day, usually six or seven days a week and it is only getting busier. I usually take a writing break in the middle of the afternoon or I write at night when my other work is done.

To ensure that I continue to enjoy writing the blog and that it is relieving, not contributing to, my stress, I’m going to try to give myself permission to take an occasional break. “Try” is the operative word in that sentence because truly, I enjoy it.

The Independence Day long holiday weekend is a perfect time for me to experiment with trying to take a break for a few days. Therefore, I may be taking a break from writing The Daily Drivel over the Independence Day long weekend and will plan for the next one to appear on Tuesday. The operative word of this sentence is “may.” I will do my best but if I get inspired or bored or Clemencia needs me to get out of her hair for a while, you may get one on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

See you Tuesday…or maybe before…we’ll see.


chickenman – episode 75

Chickenman attaches himself to the passing airliner and tries to make pitstop on the plane.


This is that day

Today is July 2, 2020 and World UFO Day. Oh, wow, I love this kind of stuff! I grew up under the dark starry skies of the American Midwest. Each summer my friends and I, through 7th or 8th grade, would sleep out under the stars as often as we could to watch for UFOs. It was the era of the Bomb and UFO’s so anything was possible. We stay awake as long as we could hoping to see one. Never happened but we did, one night, cause an explosion so loud that it brought out the local fire department. But that’s a story for another day. Keep watching the skies!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

Day 58 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

He’d select the craziest of the conspiracy theories it parodies and then pass that theory off as fact just for fun. Did I mention he loved to mess with people and pick fights?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 – Live to Blog from Atop a Harley-Davidson

#alongtogether

Is there an unlimited supply of drivel? Apparently not because I’m still delivering it. Occasionally I wonder if I’m running low. Just when I think there is nothing else to write about my mind wanders and – boom! – there it is. So, dear friends, you have no reprieve. Let the drivel flow!


I Was a Biker Baby

I know very little about the family into which I was born. I know my dad was born in 1913 and my mom in 1916. I know little about their their lives prior to their marriage in 1935. I know even less about their lives between 1935 and 1954 when I came along. Apparently we weren’t big on talk story…or stories…or talking.

For me the history of my family begins in 1953 when my oldest sister married Boomer. Boomer is one of the most memorable and influential characters in my life for two reasons. First, he lived a far more interesting and dangerous life than most people I knew in my hometown. Second, he was a father figure to me. From as long as I can remember, I spent as much time, if not more, with him and my sister as I did with my parents. In fact, my oldest sister likes to remind me that she practically raised me and often says she tends to think of me more as her child than as her brother. Seems reasonable. Her daughter, my niece, is barely three years younger than me.

Boomer came roaring into my sister’s life on a motorcycle. He was a biker. Not a biker like you’d see in Born Losers, the movie that introduced the character of Billy Jack in 1969. His time and style was definitely early 1950’s, Marlon Brando, and The Wild One.

Boomer was the wild one in our lives. He even looked a little like Brando, especially in his biker outfit. Boomer was four years younger than Marlon Brando. Both were born and raised in Iowa (Boomer) or near Iowa (Brando). Brando was from Omaha, which would have been in Iowa if weren’t for the Missouri River. Oh, and they were both commonly known by only one name. Actually, “Boomer and Brando” might have made a good name for a pair of tag team wreslters.

After seeing me atop his hallowed bike dressed like this, Boomer made sure I was properly attired. Dog unknown.

I have a vague memory of having my own leather biker jacket, leather hat, and “motorcycle boots” – compliments of Boomer. I don’t remember what happened to the jacket and hat, but, man I loved those boots!

A less vague memory – probably because of the sheer terror of it – is riding the Harley with Boomer and my sister but inside a rear saddle bag. My niece was placed in the one on the other side, probably to make it easier to balance the bike. Boomer really liked to lean low into the corners which gave me a spectacular view of the ashphalt.

Boomer with his #9 dirt track “stock car,” circa 1959. I spent many Saturday nights in the summer with my sister at the dirt tracks in South East Iowa where I grew to love the sounds and smells of dirt track racing.

Even after Boomer got into dirt track racing, he loved and rode motorcylces. Of course, for him, there was only one – Harley-Davidson. He loved to “mess with” people and did it constantly. When Yamaha and Kawasaki motorcycles began to make their way onto American highways he loved to irritate their owners by imitating their bike’s high-pitched “ERRRING-ding-ding-ding” sound and laughing derisively at it. He often suggested, to the riders, that such a whiney, pathetic sound was indicative of their manhood. (Oh…did I mention he was also very good at picking fights?)

So, why am I writing about this drivel today? While the sheltering-in-place orders means automobile traffic has gotten less around our home, the motorcyle traffic has picked up, especially as the weather gets warmer. The sound of high pitched motorcycle engines seems to surround us at times. I can’t help but think of Boomer and his “ERRRING-ding-ding-ding” everytime I hear one.

If Boomer were still alive, I think he might be a COVID-19 conspiracy theorist. Even if he really wasn’t one, he’d love reading this Facebook posting I got from my friend Beth Howard today. He’d select the craziest of the conspiracy theories it parodies and then pass that theory off as fact just for fun. Did I mention he loved to mess with people and pick fights?


A Conversation: Leading In Crisis

In late March, as the Novel Coronavius pandemic was triggering a plethora of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, I began to collaborate with a group colleagues. In record time we produced blogs and videos to encourage, support, and, hopefully, guide nonprofit leaders through these difficult times. On Friday, May 8th we met via Zoom to film one of our conversations about leadership in the midst of crisis. That video is now ready and can be viewed below.

There may be some additional collaborative work that emerges. For this moment, though, I just want to say thanks to Forrest Alton and Cayci Banks of 1000 Feathers, Charles Weathers of The Weathers Group, and Patrick Jinks of The Jinks Perspective. Each entered this collaboration with spirits of giving, caring, and conviction that we needed to do all we could to be of service to nonprofits and their leaders right now. If you haven’t already done so, please stop by their websites to learn more about them and how they help nonprofits accomplish the greater good in their communities.

The video below is a conversation among the five of us, facilitated by Forrest Alton. It is about 50 minutes in length but it moves quickly. I hope you enjoy and find it useful. Please feel free to forward it on to others whom you think would benefit from it. You can also find this video, the previous ones, and links to other free resources in the special section, Work in the Time COVID-19, on this website.


The Adventures of Chickenman

In Episode 27 Chickenman stops a robbery, only to discover he may have also shattered a man’s dream and caused the world the opportunity to have an irving.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep wearing a helmet if you are a biker of any kind.

Tom

Day 8 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Monday, March 23, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Blanket

Why, you wonder, am I under a blanket? No, I’m not sick. I’m COLD. We had an unnaturally warm winter – I even went golfing in February a couple of times. Now it is Spring, it is supposed to be warmer, and it was cold and rainy all day. For the first time in about three weeks, we turned the furnace back on today.

Did anyone else notice that last week seemed rather surreal and disorienting? My son said it quite well yesterday: “It seems we are living in a really, really bad B-horror movie.”

Yes, I agree, and, yet, I’m not sure any horror movie has ever been as bad as Plan 9 From Outer Space. Be sure to click on the link and watch the trailer if you have never seen it. It was directed by Ed Wood, Jr., a movie director so terrible that he even got his own biopic in which he was played by Johnny Depp. (In my biopic I want to be played by Matt Damon, whom I am convinced is going to be my doppelganger when he is turns 66.) Seriously, the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards names Ed Wood, Jr. as the Worst Director of All Time.

To understand how he earned this distinction, all you have to do is watch Plan 9 From Outer Space. But, wait, save time. Just the watch the trailer at the link above. If you do watch the movie, though, here some things to watch for:

  • The black paint on the pilot’s “steering wheels” of their airliner comes off on their hands.
  • The tomb that every ghoulish character emerges from is so small that it really isn’t possible for even a single body to be placed it…plus, it looks like it was made out of plywood.
  • Look for the strings suspending the flying saucers in the movie – you don’t actually have look that hard.
  • The famous horror film star Bela Lugosi (who is forever etched in our memories as Count Dracula from the 1931 film), is in the movie, although, he really wasn’t because it was mostly filmed after he had died. A taller, younger, blond actor played his character through most of the film (which you can see even in the trailer).
Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula

Say what?!? Yep. Here’s how that happened. I’ll give you the first part of the story and then I’ll let Wikipedia bring it home. Lugosi’s success in Dracula, both on the stage and in the movie, was so extraordinary that it forever type cast him. Overall, life was not good to Lugosi in his last years. He was living nearly in poverty and had developed a drug habit. Ed Wood, Jr. found him and offered him work in some of his films. At one point Lugosi sought treatment for his drug addiction. I’ll let Wikipedia give you the rest of story:

During an impromptu interview upon his exit from the treatment center in 1955, Lugosi stated that he was about to go to work on a new Ed Wood film, The Ghoul Goes West. This was one of several projects proposed by Wood, including The Phantom Ghoul and Dr. Acula. With Lugosi in his Dracula cape, Wood shot impromptu test footage, with no storyline in mind, in front of Tor Johnson‘s home, a suburban graveyard, and in front of Lugosi’s apartment building on Carlton Way. This footage ended up in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), which was mostly filmed after Lugosi died. Wood hired Tom Mason, his wife’s chiropractor, to double for Lugosi in additional shots. Mason was noticeably taller and thinner than Lugosi, and had the lower half of his face covered with his cape in every shot, as Lugosi sometimes did in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Under Ed Wood and Final Projectshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bela_Lugosi

Really, if you have never seen Plan 9 From Outer Space, you just gotta see it. It has no real plot but is so unbelievably bad you just can’t stop watching. Let yourself laugh out loud. It may be the only time you’ll ever laugh at a “horror” movie.

Sock Offensive update: Bert (left) and Ernie (right) have now been on my feet for seven days, except for when I take them off for bed. Then, I sneak them out to the deck where they spend the night so they do not become obvious to Clemencia. So far, so good. And no neighbors have complained…yet.

BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour Thursday, March 26th, 5:00 PM Eastern. Join us if you can. If you’d like to meet up with us, check out the connection information below.

You know, though, I really do think my son has it about right. It does seem like we are living through a bad B-movie right now. Over the past week I’ve been reaching for the remote and punching the buttons to try to turn it off, but it isn’t going away. This week, as I’ve come to realize that it is not a movie at all, I’m shaking myself out of my shock and stupor, hitching up my big boy pants, and trying to figure out what the new normal is and will be in the future.

In this past week Clemencia and I have rediscovered the importance of being connected with people and, even more, helping them make connections with others. That’s what this blog has been doing, slowly but surely. It is gaining more followers and readers. I’m not sure why, because it really is an exercise in maintaining my own sanity and perspective. Still, I’m grateful, glad, and humbled. Our BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour made connections among nearly a dozen people from across North America, all of whom were meeting each other for the first time. We attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship that had 17 people connected by Zoom early Sunday morning. I learned today that there were 45 Zoom screens, some with multiple people on them, connected at the 11:00 AM Meeting for Worship that followed. We’ve shared virtual meals with each of our children, one of whom is in NYC dealing with everything happening up there. Clemencia, who has been teaching conversational Spanish to active older adults and others at the local library and local community college, invited her students to join Zoom classes last week. Today she had her first three classes. But wait, that’s not all. She will actually have five, maybe even six classes, with nearly 70 people. That is one and a half times more than she had in her on campus classes a month ago. What we realized today is that we have not only connected with about a 100 different people during the past week, but we’ve also facilitated connections among them. For this reason, it has been a good week.

For a number of years I have made a point of trying to teach each of my clients this axiom: It is all about relationships. It is always about relationships. The process of building relationships is our most important work. I believe this with all my heart. I also believe this moment in time is the most important moment I have ever known to be in relationship with others. We will make it through this bad B-movie known as COVID-19, but only if we stay connected to one another – even if it is only a virtual connection.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and remember to stay connected.

Tom