Thank You

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for the time you served, the work you did, the sacrifice you made.

Thank you for putting your life at risk.

Thank you for doing things that most of us cannot imagine.

Thank you for the worry over a loved one, the grief over a lost soldier.

Thank you for the time your mom or dad spent fighting for us instead of  being with you while you grew.

Thank you for the hardship of moving from base to base, leaving old friends and having to make new.

Thank you, all of you, for your service.

Punchbowl Cemetery Honolulu, HI

 

How do you play?

 

We’re re-watching the Sopranos right now, old school style on DVD. In one of the episodes from the second season, Livia Soprano (Tony’s mum) asks, “Why does everything have to have a purpose?” The overachiever in me wants to claim that everything DOES have a purpose but, really, I totally agree with Livia, that we are not always purposeful nor should we be. If you’re Type A, you probably disagree. I would have been in your camp a decade ago but these days I realize that some of the best times and best ideas come from playing. It doesn’t matter what you play, only that you enjoy yourself.

Sometimes the value of play is in taking a moment to rest your mind, taking a breather from the stress we all carry. When I play, I lose myself in what I’m doing. I often laugh and I’m never cranky. Isn’t that a gift? Even better, when I play, I’m encouraging others to do so, too. This means we connect with each other, even if we’re strangers. Southwest airlines gets this, why else would they encourage their employees’ to show their senses of humor? (Go to http://tinyurl.com/oo3sdu6 for an example of their funny approach to life.) Southwest is recognized for its leadership practices, which rely heavily on relationships between its employees, between its business units, between leadership and front line and between their employees and customers. This has put them on top in a very competitive industry. For more on Southwest management practices, see Jody Gittel’s book, The Southwest Airlines Way (reference info below).

Play can be powerful when you’re trying to innovate. It is inherently creative as you are using your imagination to make something, to see beyond what is and into what could be. Jay Silver recently gave a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design, “ideas worth spreading”) talk on his method for inventing. He said, “Sometimes what we know gets in the way of what could be. We think we already know how it works so we don’t see how else it could be.” Watch his video at http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_silver_hack_a_banana_make_a_keyboard.html; it will make you laugh and look at pencils, pizza and bananas differently.  Doesn’t it make you want to play?

Further evidence of how what we know gets in the way of what could be is in the art world. My first drawing teacher had us turn pictures upside down so that we wouldn’t interpret the lines into something familiar. When we try to draw something we recognize, our brain gets in the way. By making it even a little bit unfamiliar, we disrupt the assumptions our brain makes and we see things more clearly. I don’t have my textbook from this class and I’ve long since forgotten her name but I’ve included a reference below about this.

I play at home – I love to write, photograph, paint and knit (that’s being a ‘textile artist’ for you who think knitting is an old lady skill and I’ve been doing it since I could read). I also play at work. This includes writing but my favorite work activity is playing with data. I know, I know, you imagine someone hunched over a computer who hasn’t seen daylight for weeks and you can’t imagine it as play. However, in playing with data, we find patterns or anomalies that provoke us to think about our business and what’s happening. This leads to investigation and oftentimes, to a change in our strategy or tactics. I think this is why we have beaten our sales targets for four years running. I tell my team, “this is what we do well, we study the data and it tells us what to do next.”

Play keeps us fresh. By seeing things with an open mind, I learn something new every day and I spend every day joyfully. I sometimes create but I always enjoy. How do you play?

The water plays at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. I imagine a water engineer somewhere is smiling at all the oohs and ahhs when the fountain runs. (April 2013)

The water plays at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. I imagine a water engineer somewhere is smiling at all the oohs and ahhs when the fountain runs. (April 2013)

References

Chase, D. (Producer) (2000). Do not resuscitate [Television series episode]. In Chase, D. (Executive Producer), The Sopranos. HBO.

Free, D. (21, Augus 2006). Have you tried turning it upside down?. Retrieved from http://seedsofgrowth.com/have-you-tried-turning-it-upside-down

Gittell, J. (2002). The southwest airlines way. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Silver, J. (Artist). (2013, April ). Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_silver_hack_a_banana_make_a_keyboard.html

Optimism & Jalapeños

I’ve started a new adventure. Actually, I started it sometime ago but I’ve recently taken a new and more public turn. Many of my friends know that I’m working on another degree, this time a Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation from Abilene Christian University. The program is 2 years long and I’ve arrived at the final stage, known as Practicum. This is the self-directed portion of the degree and includes work on a project of my choosing (that would be the self-directed aspect).  As part of Practicum, I decided to become a volunteer mediator. Forty years ago, this would have meant approaching the local courthouse or churches to see if they needed me. I’m doing this but, in 2013, it also means using social media to raise awareness of conflict resolution techniques, including both the informal and formal techniques available. Now for the part about optimism. Starting new things means taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone. It also means asking others for support. I’m good at the first (taking risks) but not so much the second. My mother says I was always independent and didn’t like asking for help, no idea why, just that it is well outside my comfort zone. So, optimism. It means that I believe I will prevail, that I can handle the risk. It means I start nearly every day thinking I can handle whatever life throws at me. I once had a boss tell me that, and I quote, “my problem” was that I thought “I could do anything”. I didn’t (and still don’t) think of that as much of a problem. He was right, I think I can do nearly anything, just that it will take a little practice. And I’m ready, ready to practice mediation. Untitled