Archive for the ‘Communication’ category

Pollyanna Pundit Predicts Pervasive Pandemonium

July 19, 2016


Early politicians had it SO easy. They literally stood up on a stump and gave a rousing speech to a couple hundred people, and reporters without a strong bias one way or the other reassembled it the best they could for actual “news” papers. It would take a few months for the story to reach the rest of the country and there was no critical blowback because readers did not have their own printing presses.

Instead, citizens discussed the issues facing their city, state and country in bars, places of worship and actual, not electronic, town halls. The trolls yelling insults from the back of the room were few and inconsequential. I’m sure they had spirited debate but didn’t shoot people over them, and the mainstreamers likely listened to others’ opinions before deciding how to vote.

Eloquent, positive and inspirational words travelled farther and faster than mudslinging, perhaps because people were looking for vision and strength in potential leaders… and could see past the rhetoric and dirty tricks. I don’t know it as a fact, but I imagine people even switched parties occasionally depending on the strength of the candidates and the most pressing issues of the time.

And now we’re doing this.


Only human

August 13, 2014

jonathan_RobinI’m grieving the tragic loss of Robin Williams and it reminds me of the time I met his idol and mentor, Jonathan Winters. You young whippersnappers may not remember Mr. Winters, but he had a frenetic, multiple-personality delivery style that inspired the young Robin to let go and play so hard on stage.

I was an extra in a Noble Roman’s Pizza commercial in Indianapolis in the late 70’s, and Jonathan was the celebrity spokesperson. He came in to the restaurant smiling and shaking hands. He was a comedy god to me, and it was so cool to be in his presence. We all sat at our tables pretending to talk and eat pizza while he delivered his lines to the camera.

Everything was all light-hearted and fun until Jonathan started having trouble with his final line. He kept dropping key words and transposing letters. “When a Roble Noman’s pizza truck comes up to your door…”

Time is money on a video set. The director was getting impatient and the star was becoming agitated. They even collected all of our silverware so the clanking wouldn’t be a distraction. Jonathan got frustrated to the point he had to leave for 20 minutes to collect himself.

They eventually got the shot after about 15 takes, but that scene changed my outlook on celebrities. We usually see their final, polished performances up on the screen, but rarely see the outtakes and struggles they go through. And I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, the comedy god is human.”

Like his mentor, Robin Williams was also human. He was extremely talented and generous and hard-working… but still human. He made us laugh for so many years and will never be forgotten for that work, but he also had an internal struggle we did not see. I can’t imagine the pain he must have felt to not be able to make it through one more day. I just can’t. I suppose being loved by millions does not ensure being loved by oneself.

The only silver lining I can see in this tragedy is the discussion on depression circulating throughout the socialsphere right now. Perhaps someone else’s struggle will NOT end in tragedy. Perhaps another human soul will reach out for help before it’s too late.

If you think you might be that soul, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for some free and confidential help. And above all my friend, hang in there… you are loved, and you matter.

Unforced Perspective

May 28, 2014

unforced_perspective2Things are not always what they seem. And to all young people reading this, regardless of your upbringing or environment… I’m telling you social status is a myth. The kids you label popular are mere humans with the same dreams, doubts and insecurities that you are feeling. That’s right, everyone has to struggle with something. It’s just not always readily visible.

I was NOT a “popular” kid in school. I went to a large high school with 1100 in my senior class, and felt fairly anonymous in the big scheme of things. What I DID have were several good friends who I trusted and who helped me feel like I belonged. When I needed someone to talk to, I reached out for it.

I have since reconnected with many of the so-called popular kids on Facebook and had conversations that revealed this truth:  Everybody hurts… it’s what you do about the pain that matters. I also know now that someday you will look back on your gigantic problems and realize they were relatively small in hindsight.

There is no permanent peace in a pill or a bottle. Reach out and talk to someone when you’re down. Join a team or club or volunteer for something that gives your life purpose. There are more people who love and care about you than you could ever imagine. Trust me… things are not always what they seem.

Please share this with another young adult if you find it valuable. Peace.

Who matters more?

July 6, 2013

phonesLet’s face it. We are not alone anymore. I don’t mean alien visitors. I’m talking about the smart phones in our purses and pockets, which carry around our best friends wherever we go. With so many friends there is no way to keep up, especially through old-fashioned live voice conversations.

So we drop asynchronous breadcrumbs… posts, comments, likes and private messages to let our friends know we care, ask for help or trash talk during the game. So much activity draws us down into our devices, even in public places that used to be known for talking face-to-face rather than face-to-Facebook.

It’s ironic that I am posting this in social media to caution against overdoing it with social media, and I must say I am an equal offender in all of these claims. But please bear with me for the point.

All people matter… the people in your phone and the people in your immediate physical proximity. You have to decide at any given moment who matters more, because you make a choice to ignore one when you talk to the other. Note: online people don’t always know when they are being ignored, but present company see it immediately.

Back in the day, I was taught to greet anyone I passed on the street or stood in line behind with a hearty hello. And to abandon a face-to-face conversation by looking down and away would be considered just plain rude. Yet this is commonplace behavior today.

If you are surrounded by boring or scary people in your physical proximity, I don’t blame you for diving down into your device to talk to your BFF’s. And yet I can’t help wondering if you may be missing opportunities to make new BFF’s by not looking up. One hello and a smile could change your life.

The quest for normal

June 28, 2013

normal2The quest for normal begins when you start school, with a large group of so-called peers who technically only have age and geography in common with you. You quickly scan the crowd looking for other commonalities that reveal if you belong or not. It’s a natural human instinct to want to belong to a tribe.

“Normal” is a relative term that is often used to single out “abnormal” in the rough and tumble world of playground politics. I saw my kids go through this in elementary school. “You can be in our club, but he can’t.” “I like her, but she doesn’t like you, so therefore I don’t like you either.”

The quest for normal is complete if you’re at least included by somebody.

Fast forward 40 years. I don’t give a crap if someone wants me in their club or not. I have accepted my own diversity and I will start my own damn club if you don’t like me. This is the perspective that age brings. You care less and less about what other people consider to be “normal.”

Now hang on… this may blow your mind. If everyone is truly so unique that it is impossible to be reasonably classified into categories, then “abnormal” is the norm, isn’t it? If everyone likes Alternative Rock, then it is just “Rock,” right?

I don’t care what age you are, embrace your abnormality. It makes you… you.

Disconnect the dots

June 24, 2013

constellationIt was one of those coloring book games we played in the car on long road trips to grandma’s house. “Use your crayon to connect the dots and complete the constellations” the instructions said. But just when I was about to begin, I saw something different in that complex swarm of dots and tiny numbers.

Instead of starting at 1 and following the intended sequence, I went my own way. I still connected all the dots, but I drew a super cool Chinese dragon face with horns and a forked tongue. And then I added shading and detail beyond the simple line drawing I was supposed to complete. And I liked it.

How many times are you presented with a pattern or template in your job that seems stale, predictable or boring? And how often do you take the initiative to improve on it?

Following a predictable process is necessary for stability and consistency in business, but connecting disparate dots from unrelated content is the soul of innovation. And sometimes the only way to make room for that new thinking is to have the guts to disconnect someone else’s dot pattern first.

Sharpen your Crayola and go for it.

It takes years to become a natural

May 22, 2013

naturalIt sounds contradictory, but it’s true: it takes years to become a natural. In Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, he claims it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at something. And many professional performers will tell you it takes a lifetime to become an overnight sensation.

I’ve been stretching myself lately as a comedian and MC. I’m still learning, but so far I’ve received several nice compliments from friends that I am a “natural.” While I graciously accept the compliments, I must set the record straight.

I worked for years as a nightclub DJ, both during and after college. I had specific coaching on how to hold a microphone, how to breathe and project my voice to grab attention. I had hundreds of hours of practice and watched others who were better to learn how to improve.

I have done hundreds of marketing and sales presentations throughout my career, persuading internal colleagues and external audiences to like what I was selling, be it a product or an idea. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed, but I always learned something.

I have faithfully attended Toastmasters for close to 7 years, and raised my game by entering speech competitions. With each contest I surrounded myself with coaches and friends who would give me honest feedback. I asked not for compliments, but for tiny adjustments that would make me a better speaker and writer.

And speaking of creative writing, I started blogging in February, 2009 and have since written 273 posts. You are reading #274 right now. They say if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Many of my stories have fallen flat, yet some have surprisingly taken off and been read and shared by thousands. I write at least one post per week, and join in comedy writing conversations in Facebook for instant feedback.

The one element of being a natural that is hard to define is “charisma.” I don’t know exactly what that means, but it has something to do with losing your fear of being judged. It’s about shedding layers of what you think the audience wants you to be and instead… having the courage to just be you.

And isn’t that what “natural” really means?